The Black Art of Marketing, Better World Books Style

People’s perception of Better World Books’ marketing success, or lack thereof, always surprises me. Some people are stunned that we have established a nationwide college book drive campaign, partnerships with the nation’s top libraries, and millions of customers, while not having a marketing budget or even a marketing staff until the spring of last year. Others tell me, “wow, it’s awesome what you guys do, you really need to start telling people about it because I’ve never heard of you before.” The funny thing is, they’re both right.

People are so used to bad marketing that they often don’t recognize good marketing as marketing at all. Every time someone walks into our office, that is marketing. Every time they meet a member of the Better World Books team and have a positive impression, that is marketing. Every time a customer is flabbergasted, they are going to tell people, and that endorsement won’t cost us a dime. It’s awfully tough to fake authenticity and passion,and that’s why I believe that everyone in a company is working in marketing, whether they like it or not.

That being said, we need to do a lot better. We need to wear our hearts on our sleeves and show people why they should care about us every day. We do need to do a little more traditional advertising to let the right people, who are already predisposed to like us, know about us. We need to get better at communicating to all of our supporters, and let them know the impact that they are creating. And if we do that well enough, I hope that before too long, we will be much more of a household name.

With that, here’s a short list of a few things I’ve learned from my experience with Better World Books.

1. A great customer experience makes marketing a lot easier. Get your customers in a room, have them fill out online surveys, and ask what you can do better. Thanks to my friend Mark Hurst of Good Experience for being a tireless evangelist of customer experience. Check out his book Bit Literacy in our bookstore. Looks like we’ve got a used copy for 40% off as I write.

2. There’s no substitute for just getting out there in the world and talking about what you do. As Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing up”. For Better World Books, that takes the form of dozens of events every year, from the Green Festivals, to the American Library Association.

3. Manage your relationships, they are one of your company’s most valuable assets. We heart, which has made an incredible commitment to B Corporations (For Benefit Corporations, in which Better World Books is one of the founding members).

4. Word of Mouth is the king of all marketing mediums. The more clutter there is in people’s media environment, the more they trust their friends. We assiduously cultivate word of mouth around here. Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz is the finest book on this that I’ve read.

5. Guerrilla Marketing is free and people generally love you for it. Check out Chris, Rudy and Dustin promoting the Great American Book Drive.


  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. Pingback: topwebbusinesses » Blog Archive » The Black Art of Marketing, Better World Books Style

  3. Xavier –

    Thanks for the kind mention. I’d love to help more. Drop me a note and we can come up with some ideas.



  4. BWB’s is going about marketing organically, which I believe so many small companies appreciate, as well as the customer base behind it. Everyone wants to have a secret business they rely on… I see how you want to get out there more.
    What about radio? Like 92.7?

  5. Kudos to Andy – that was a shrewd test on my part to see if the guy who literally wrote the book on word of mouth marketing would have his name on google alerts. As you can see, he passed with flying colors.

  6. Pingback: Week in Review, October 6-10 | Better World Books Blog

  7. Enjoyed this Xavier and thanks for the book tips. One for you (and anyone else with an interest in this) is The Green Marketing Manifesto by John Grant. A UK twist but some quirky thoughts, progressive ideas and generally a great read.

  8. Pingback: Word of Mouth Marketing Jobs | Top Social Media Optimization

  9. Pingback: Better World Books Thrives Despite the Recession | TriplePundit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *