Why Booksellers Must Become Destination Marketing Oriented

What is Destination Marketing?

It is creating your business in such a manner that people want to come to it to have fun and be entertained. Whole downtowns can band together to create fun-to -shop places as a theme for their business community. There are plenty of stories about the big box chain bookstores driving the Mom and Pop bookstores out of business. How can the little guys compete and survive? By becoming a shopping destination.

My bookstore, The Book Barn, is a small store. It is literally a Mom and Pop operation, since 1979—just my wife and myself. It was 10 years or so ago that we first learned about destination marketing. We began having many more events at our store—author chats & signings and historical events such as The America Girls. We got better at these until we began to win national and State Governor awards for our events. More importantly, the word of mouth started getting around. The Book Barn was an interesting and fun place to be. Despite the economy, the price of gas, and 3 big box bookstores within 15-20 miles, our business began improving. Just as important, businesses around us began to understand what we were trying to do and started working on their events.

Two plus years ago, we decided to expand the scope of our next Harry Potter release party. It was difficult, but we talked the businesses on our block to work with us to create a Diagon Alley experience. The newspaper printed a special edition of the Daily Prophet and handed them out at the event. We had a HP movie playing outside. Over 2,000 people, many in costume ,came. Click here to see many pictures of people having a very good time. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If they had a really fun experience in our downtown, would they leave with a good impression?
  • Are they more likely to return to shop?
  • Are they going to tell others about the fun time they had?

By putting this together and succeeding, the businesses around became more likely to join us in future events and have done so

In addition we have author book chats and signings, music & poetry events, and finally, we have historic events where we talk about a time frame, play & sing music from that time, play games from then, work on art/craft projects centered around the theme, and eat snacks common to the time and culture—a surround sound context. The kids and the parents love it. We ask for food or school supply donations for our local social care organizations

We have a wonderful Yellow Lab, Tucker, who greets everybody and loves up to them. Some bring in their dogs to meet and play with Tucker. We have had both dog and cat theme events featuring animal books and activities. We ask for treat and food donations for the animal shelter and the new dog park the city is building.

Do you see a pattern here?

We want people to see our store as a happy, happening place. We are not alone in this. Look at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. They have stupendous lecture/signing events in cooperation with the Unity Church near their store. They draw huge crowds for national and international-level speakers and authors and sell a lot of books. The Wild Rumpus, a wacky children’s bookstore in Minneapolis, creates a wonderful, child-appealing atmosphere. There are live chickens and rabbits running around the store. In the middle of the mid-level book section, there is a small log cabin. Inside, there is a foot-wide plexiglass covering of a 10′ long trench which is lit up and contains white rats running back and forth under the floor. When you go into the unisex bathroom, watch what happens to the mirror over the sink when the light goes out—whoa, there is a beautiful aquarium filled with colorful tropical fish behind the mirror showing through.

The Bottom Line

For the smaller stores to compete there a number of things they can do; however, becoming a destination for people who want to come there is absolutely critical. The same can be said for websites. Make them interesting and fun to come to. People tend to share two things with their friends: great experiences and terrible experiences. Be sure you’re in the first category. Providing a good time while giving great service is essential.


This is a cross-posting from Bob Spear’s Book Trends blog.