Big Numbers: A Marketing Challenge

One of the biggest problems we have in doing ComicBase (or for that matter, Atomic Avenue) is trying to make big numbers meaningful. It’s the downside of running the biggest, baddest comic book database in town—at some point, you start to feel like you’re just babbling when you try to convey the sheer amount of information involved, or how much it’s grown from year to year.

For instance, ComicBase 1.0 contained some 20,000 issues from 297 titles—all the issues from every title I owned at least one copy of at the time. For the past fifteen years, we’ve worked tirelessly to add to the database, both in scope and in the amount of detail on each issue. First, it was hundreds of titles and a few thousand issues per version. Then it was thousands of titles and tens of thousands of issues per version. Within a few years, ComicBase had become the largest database of comics ever published, but we kept right on adding issues (and adding more detail to each issue as well). But how to put a face on this?

ComicBase 12 just added some 25,000 new issues (for a total of over 325,000!), and involved changes and updates to over 100,000 more—all since the previous year. It sure sounds like a lot (and it was!) but what if we’d settled for doing half the work: say, adding just 12,500 new issues, or making “only” 50,000 updates? Without some sort of context it all just seems like a bunch of large numbers are being thrown around, and there’s really no additional sales appeal conveyed by all our extra effort.

One place where I think we’ve done a reasonable job of it is on Atomic Avenue where, as I write this, some 610,000 comics are available for sale. The relevant comparison is that it’s almost seven times the number of comics available in all of eBay’s auctions, combined. Here, at least, it seems easy for folks to figure out that if you’re looking for a comic—any comic—there’s an awfully good chance you not only can find it on Atomic Avenue, but you’re likely multiple copies for sale in whatever condition you need (and you’ll also experience a lot less hassle in the process!)

But we could really use your help: What comparisons would you suggest if we wanted to talk about, say, the addition of another 15,000 cover images to the Archive Edition (for a total of over 200,000)? Is it meaningful to say things like, “It’s like discovering 75 long boxes full of comics that you’ve never set eyes on before!” or “If you looked at each comic in ComicBase 12 Archive Edition for just 10 seconds each, you’d need to spend over 277 hours to view them all!” Anyone got something more punchy or vivid?

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2 responses to “Big Numbers: A Marketing Challenge

  1. I think the reason the Ebay comparison is so meaningful is because it’s an actual competitor. So when thinking about how adding issues is a benefit, we have to think about what competitor this will be compared with.

    I see you as having three competitors – a)other programs that list all of the issues and allow users to check off what they have, b) other programs that enable one to keep track of their comics, but where you have to enter your own data c)not using any kind of software tracking system at all.

    a) is the best comparison if you want to brag about how many issues you’ve added, if you can keep up with how many issues the competition has added. I’d suggest getting a copy/subscribing to your competitors, and keep an eye on what they are doing in that area. Even if you don’t give them by name, you can say “we’ve added X comics – more than any other comics inventory program.”

    b) is the tough part. I think to your targets, Comicbase is supposed to have all of the comics in it already, and add all of them every week. You’re supposed to have all of the covers in there already. So it’s not impressive that you’ve added a bunch of comics – to this audience, that’s what you’re *supposed* to be doing.

    c) is similar to b) – that audience’s barrier to buying the program is the fear that it will not already have every issue in their collection in it, and that they are not going to be able to keep track of everything in their collection. By putting a number to what you’re adding instead of just saying “all”, you’re saying this is a possibility.

    It’s rather like what you had said about adding new fields. The new user doesn’t appreciate the fact that this is a new field, and just wonders why the field isn’t filled in for all issues. Saying “We’ve added Colorist information to over 5000 issues!” just points out that you don’t already have them all in there.

    So at the end of the day, I’d suggest not mentioning how many comics you have in there (or at least, it’s not the main selling point) or how many you’ve added. I’d rather focus on statements like “tracks every comic in your collection, with weekly updates for new issues.” Which is true – because if it’s not in your update, you have given us the ability to submit it. Or talk about how many thousands of comics there are that “you” (the audience) might not know exist.

    By the way, does Comicbase have more issues than the Grand Comics Database? Obviously you can’t track your comics with the GCD, but it is a “database”. Perhaps “inventory program” might be a fairer term.

    If you do want to talk about the number of issues added, I would compare it to the other database programs, or quickly move past it to “making it easier than ever for you to track your collection…”

    That’s my 2-cents…

  2. At this moment, ComicBase has some 20,000 more comics than GCD lists (342,000 vs. 322,000). More to the point, perhaps, all but 112,000 of the GCD entries are “skeleton” entries — placeholders with no real data. That said, I think the GCD is a terrific resource, and they’ve contributed a great deal of information (particularly covers) to our project. In addition, many of the GCD folks are customers. When you keep in mind that GCD is an all-volunteer effort, it’s a terrific achievement.

    My own take for ComicBase is that our #1 competitor is nothing — i.e., the folks who really don’t use anything at all to track their collection (or tried something once, but didn’t stick with it). Granted, a great many comic collectors don’t have enough comics to have a problem (a perfect statement of the ComicBase demographic if I ever heard one!), but we certainly want to be the solution for everyone who does!

    For new customers, I find we find ourselves repeating the same basic sales points again and again, since the basic appeal of the program (making it possible to very easily manage large collections of comics) is much what it always has been. That said, our progress from year to year is largely a numbers game. I.e., we’ll devote X many person-years to adding Y amount of content to an already vast database. Talking about X doesn’t seem like a winner to me (who wants to hear how hard you’re working?), so we constantly try to make Y meaningful to people in a way which carries emotional appeal.

    Maybe all our marketing really comes down to is for new customers to be able to grasp that “If it’s got word balloons, and it’s written in English, it’s almost certainly in ComicBase,” and for existing customers to know that we’re going to always be working hard to keep on top of the game. Still—even if it’s only to make our progress more tangible (and marketable!), I’d love to come up with a way of summing up the value of new content in a way which goes beyond just throwing big numbers around…

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