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7 Thoughts on the Hellraiser Comic Launch from Boom Studios

I’ve said it time and time again, Boom Studios is one of my favorite modern comic book publishers. They, along with IDW Publishing, put out almost every comic I currently buy (outside of the amazing Legion of Superheroes book from DC Comics). Because of that, I spend a lot of time talking about their sales and marketing efforts here on my site. For me, the worst thing that can happen is they go out of business and some of my favorite comics go into limbo for a bit before being picked up by the next small comic company that’ll go out of business. I don’t want them to become another DDP.

One of the things that Boom and its marketing guru, Chip Mosher, do exceedingly well is market to the current comic book crowd. They are masters at working comic retailers at comic book events and are great at gaming the comic book press. They know the comic book direct market and can work it as well as, or better than, anyone else in the game.

They’re even incredibly active on the Internet. For the most part, they have no idea what they’re doing on the Internet, but they are trying. It’s cute.

Kind of like when my 1 year-old daughter plays on my laptop when I forget to close it.

It's great to see a company as active online as Boom Studios and they seem to be trying to learn more everyday!

Anyway, since today is new comic day and the Boom Studios guys are working like madmen on promoting the series launch of their new Hellraiser comic series by Clive Barker, I thought I’d take a look at some of the stuff they are doing for that product launch.

(Before I get started I’d like to say something.  This article is not about what Boom is doing “wrong.” Really, they’re doing exactly what has been done in comics for decades…and they are doing it well.  What the article is looking to do is talk about things they could or should be doing to grow their sales & product exposure AND to have more successful product launches in the future.)

Let’s see what the boys from Texas are up to:

7 Thoughts on the Hellraiser Comic Launch from Boom! Studios

1. Twitter-Storming the Castle:

If you follow any of the Boom guys on Twitter (@chipmosher, @rossrichie or @boomstudios if you aren’t already following them, please go do it now) then you’re probably well aware of their fondness for Twitter marketing. Generally, on the day of a big release the Boom Studios group attack Twitter like a fat man at Las Vegas buffet. They are Tweeting about whatever the new series release is (in this case: Hellraiser), they are Tweeting links to every new review that has gone up, along with links to PDF reviews and anything else they can think of. From past experience, Chip Mosher also hits a lot of the local stores to drum up excitement (sometimes along with video!) and will Tweet about those trips as well.

Boom Studios uses very effective Twitter storm techniques to help build the energy level on the day of a new release.

This is all great strategy for getting “day of release” excitement going. For other industries it is standard operating procedure, but for the comic book industry it is amazing to see done as well as Boom is doing it.

What this sort of Tweeting does is to fake a lot of movement or drama or excitement and try to have others get caught up in it. In other words: they’re attempting to build excitement that may or may not be there, at least with those already following them online. This is a great technique for motivating those already inclined to be your customers. It’s sort of like holding a republican rally – keep your current fan/customer base excited.

What it doesn’t do is increase awareness or excitement with new customers. As a piece of your marketing pie it is great, but as the focus all it does is limit your sales efforts.  I’d love to see them add a few more Internet marketing tools to their arsenal in the future.

2. Hellraiser Prelude PDF

As part of their Hellraiser comic promotion, Boom Studios released a Hellraiser Prelude PDF. This should be standard practice for any comic book publisher out there — some sort of PDF preview for websites to post. In Boom’s Hellraiser Prelude, one thing that was nice to see was the use of hyperlinks in the PDF. I do think the choice of link may not have been the best. Instead of going to a product page for the new Hellraiser series, they opted for a customer/reader survey and sign-up form. As a marketing guy I love sign-up forms, but don’t promise free comics and send your traffic to a bland sign-up form without any sort of comics attached. Remember, the more clicks you require from your web audience, the more of that audience is going to go somewhere else.

Taking that a step further, there were no other links to either a Hellraiser product page on the Boom site or the Boom site itself (outside of the survey/sign-up form). It seems like a bit of a waste to produce your preview in a hyperlink-able format and not take advantage of it. Going even further, I’d have tossed in an “Easter egg” or two within the comic pages themselves as something for readers to discover and get excited about.

3. The Serial Product Issue – Give Us a Schedule!

Page 8 of the PDF is an interesting piece for me. Having spoken with Boom’s marketing director, Chip Mosher, on a number of occassions, it makes sense why this page is present. He is a proponent of the idea that normal people aren’t used to periodic or serialized entertainment. I don’t 100% agree (aren’t TV shows perdiodic or serialized entertainment?) but it is a valid thought for sure.

With that being said, the page doesn’t give people a schedule for when that periodic entertainment is going to be delivered. Saying “monthly” is pointless out in the real world. Give your customers a schedule of specific dates the books will be out for the next year (call it a “season” if it makes you feel better). TV works because its audience knows exactly when the next installment is going to be delivered. For comics it’s “monthly” – Really, it’s “monthly-ish” for most publishers – and its audience is never completely sure when the next issue is going to be out.

Here was Boom’s chance to reinforce their message and it was missed.

4. Making Product Easy To Buy

I was also a bit confused by them pushing the ComicsPRO retailer organization almost to the exclusion of other retailers. ComicsPRO is a great organization, but it makes up a small part of retailers in the US. More importantly, it isn’t made up of online retailers. The reason that is important is because it causes Boom (and the online retailers supporting its product) to lose immediate sales from online shoppers. If you’re putting together an INTERNET-based PR campaign and not taking advantage of picking up impulse buys from customers, then you’re making a MONSTER mistake. The fact that they didn’t, at the very least, include a link back to their own online store is definitely baffling to me.

5. Timing of Product Launch Pieces

My biggest quandary about the Hellraiser Prelude PDF is why on Earth it was released the morning the books are on the stands. I completely understand the thought behind trying to push hard on the day your book is out on the stands — drive as much excitement as you can on the day of release. It’s great, basic sales technique and something I’d 100% do. What I don’t understand is why the prelude wasn’t released well in advance of the actual product release. It was obviously put together with that thought in mind (there are multiple references to the series starting in March and building up to a March 23 release found within the PDF itself). Why there was no build-up to product release is a bit confusing to me, especially from a team as smart (and that is said with 100% sincerity) as the Boom marketing guys.

For a huge property like Hellraiser, a proper product launch plan and schedule needs to be put together to build up the excitement for its release. Otherwise, you’re forced to try and build that excitement all on the day of release. Now, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be going crazy with promotion on the launch day, that’s a given. What I am saying is: make sure to build up excitement to that day. If you do it properly, you’re launch-day activities will give you a much bigger bang for your buck.

Marketing the new Hellraiser series from Boom Studios is an interesting study in Internet Marketing.

6. The Product Page…or lack thereof

Boom’s lack of a real product page for the Hellraiser series is one of their biggest missteps, at least in my opinion. If you want to control what people are seeing about your product, or see it at all, then you need to set up an information/sales/marketing hub for your product. You need to give people as much information about and as much reason to buy your product as possible. You need to make sure there is enough content on that page to rank (and dominate!) search engine listings for your product’s keywords. This is where you close the sale on your product.

Another, often overlooked, role the detailed product information page performs is as an introduction to and explanation of your product to potential new customers. Comic book publishers almost universally forget that there are customers out there who may have never heard of their company or creators, may not know about the series or may even know comics exist! For Hellraiser, pulling in Horror fans who don’t read comics is one of those “duh” concepts and Boom may be missing out on doing that by neglecting their Hellraiser product hub page.

7. The Wrap Up

Overall, Boom Studios is doing a great job at getting the word out to current comic fans through the use of PR. If you’re on a comic or genre site on the day of a Boom release, then there is a good chance you’re going to stumble across their information. What I’d love to see is them taking the next step and doing more structured, planned product launches for their titles.

I do wish the Boom guys had read my articles detailing a Dungeons & Dragons comic book launch for IDW Publishing from back in December 2010. If they had, it might have helped them tremendously. There is nothing like than a good, solid product launch strategy.

My closing tip for the Boom guys is: since you’re going out so hard with the preview PDFs to every site on Earth, then do some follow-ups on those sites. Since you don’t have any real linking in your PDF (aside from the sign-up form link), go back to every single one of those sites offering previews and “game” the comments sections. Go in, talk a bit about the product and link back to the Hellraiser product page on the Boom site. Not only will this give you some additional sales but it will also increase your number of backlinks and, if you use proper anchor-text techniques, will even improve your search engine results for your targeted keywords.  And, for the love of God, make it easy for your fans to buy the book online!

From my perspective, Boom needs to decide what kind of marketing they want to do and what results they want to get from it. Right now they are very much doing short term marketing — marketing aimed at a quick turn around. They do their PR blitz on the day of a new property’s release and then, just as quickly, stop. While this is the worst way to build long term sales or benefits, it can be a great way to get spikes, especially in a periodical environment like the comic book industry. They take their shot and then move on to the next week and the next new product. What Boom is specifically missing out on is in the opportunity to funnel that spike of interest into sales. If you have a large amount of people hyped on your product RIGHT now and realize you aren’t going to be building on that hype, then you need to give those people an outlet for their impulse buy. In doing an Internet campaign, the way to capture those sales is online.

Online promotion is all about adding sales and not taking them away or ignoring potential ones.

Now, before brick-and-mortar comic retailers get crazy with me for suggesting a publisher only send potential customers to an online store, I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is there are a lot of potential buyers who will not go to a comic book store while they are excited about a product and won’t pick it up when they are there. There are a lot of potential customers who don’t frequent comic shops at all. These non-comic shop customers need an outlet for purchase and a publisher who wants to stay in business needs to grab as many of those sales as possible by making them as easy as possible to convert.  Besides, the more a company like Boom can do to expand its presence and grow its sales, the more chances there are for ALL retailers to take part in that sales growth.

That’s it for today. Down the road, when I have a bit more time, I may put together my thoughts on what would have been a more structured product launch strategy for Boom! Studios and the Hellraiser series. I think it has a lot of potential for bringing in outside sales, but I feel like Boom Studios has ignored a lot of that potential.

-Mat Nastos, Super Genius

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

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