Saturday, January 07, 2006

Solutions and Theories: How To Change The Comic Book Industry Part Three

Here is the next installment in my long winded diatribe!

3. “ Install a no-hassle program. Examine every aspect of your business, and remove all barriers and obstacles, e.g.
Remove all negative signs – no credit, cash only, etc.
Build a sincerely friendly, caring atmosphere
Make it easy for others to do business with you

This might not seem to fit the comic book industry at first reading, but it makes a great point. My favorite line is ” Examine every aspect of your business, and remove all barriers and obstacles, e.g”. How true is that? In business, we have to remember that the customer is our boss. Flat out, if the industry wants to cater to a certain demographic, let customers know. As a blatant example, Hustler doesn’t want to interest small children and women. It wants men of a certain age and a smaller percentage of women to buy its products, from the magazine to the adult store extras. I really think that if comic books focus is men of a certain age, the industry should be more open about it. Hey, we put big boobies on the cover to get GUYS to read the book! The old cloak and dagger doesn’t cut it in this day and age. You would think that with the introduction of Vertigo and Max it is already known that there is a certain market being targeted. Why not is that way with other books?

“Make it easy for others to do business with you.” We are missing that boat in the comic book industry for sure. It is a pain in the ass to buy product. If my store decides not to order something I want and I miss the deadline on my Previews, I am out of luck. What kind of comfort level is that going to give me? If I want to read a new book from a certain author, I can likely walk into Borders and buy it. If they don’t have it, they try and special order it. If I miss a comic book for whatever reason, chances are I can’t find it or have to scour the internet looking for it. That just plain sucks, folks. Why if it is so hard for us, do we expect casual fans to do the same thing? It just isn’t logical.

4. “Nobody talks about “good” service. You need to exceed customers’ expectations. Here are the five main things customers are looking for when it comes to service:
Reliability – the ability to provide what was promised, dependably and accurately.
Assurance – the knowledge and courtesy of employees, and their ability to convey trust and confidence.
Empathy – the degree of caring and individual attention provided to customers.
Responsiveness – the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.
Tangibles – the physical facilities and equipment and the appearance of staff.”

Wow, that’s a concept. “You need to exceed customer’s expectations”. I have to do it at my job, why is the comic book industry any different? Let’s take it a step at a time, okay?

“RELIABILITY- the ability to provide what was promised, dependably and accurately.” Because comic book creators are considered “artists” they are allowed to miss deadlines. We all know who is chronic about it and instead of kicking their asses out of the industry and hiring people who can deliver, we cater to their bullshit posturing. What kind of crap is that? At my job, if I can’t perform the tasks assigned, I will get fired. It is plain and simple. If my name is Joe Blow and I know that it takes me six weeks to draw a book, I need to be upfront with my editor and have him solicit that way or else have my work done prior to solicitation. Quit coddling the “rock stars” and get performers. It will get Mr. Hot Crap’s attention or he is gone.

“ASSURANCE- the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence.” Get someone who is good at public relations and marketing and make them the public face of your company. Keep Sally Crabby out of the forefront, and for God’s sake, don’t let the company’s biggest PSP addict give the big interview. It isn’t sincere and it alienates big time. More importantly, give your employees the knowledge and courtesy tools. Don’t assume they have them.

“EMPATHY- the degree of caring and individual attention provided to customers.” I don’t see it, folks. To me, it is "buy my stuff if you want, I don’t care". Some comic book shops fight this and do a great job, like Excalibur Comics in Portland, Oregon for example. It is one of the best examples of how to market comic books that I have ever seen. These folks care and take care of their loyal customers.

RESPONSIVENESS- the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.” I don’t know if I can even go here. This is more comic book shop related, so it is a gray area. I do know that shops are the first line of defense. Can we have training devoted to making these places more mainstream friendly? My mother is afraid that every comic shop she has been in is a fire hazard. Why not hire regional representatives to do training and work with owners and employees? This is what my industry does, and it really helps on every level.

"Tangibles – the physical facilities and equipment and the appearance of staff.” Man, talk about VITAL to the industry. If you are involved in comic books at any level this is the most important commandment in general. You are the first line of defense, and if you are not professional and clean, it helps perpetuate our hauntingly horrendous myth of stinkiness and sloth. Get some new clothes, keep them clean, bathe, and wear deoderant. Also brush your teeth for good measure. I can't stress it enough.


Meredith said...

After about 1 year of reading mainstream comics I stopped bothering to try because 1) They were a paint to get. They came out at irregular intervals and skipped months and stores would not order what I wanted. 2) The constant switching of artists because somebody didn't get something done. I do not want to read a book with alternating pages by 3 artists whose skill levals are completely different.

Graphic novels are so much easier to buy.

Heidi Meeley said...

You bring up my biggest frustration as well. Life is so busy that trying to remember what we might have read six months ago just doesn't cut it. Also, the nature of collecting isn't orderly in the sense that a person can get behind on organizing into their main collection and not want to pick through random boxes to find the last issue in order to catch up.

It seems that the industry is pointing towards a trade mentality at times. It will be interesting to see where things go in the next five years.

Thank you for your great comments.