The Marketing Word | Differentiation Marketing

Archive for March 2013

Measuring Success

Success or FailureSomeone asked in one of my groups if a book “qualified” as a failure if it didn't sell. And, he asked, what makes a book a bestseller anyway?

I had a book that broke the Amazon/Kindle bestsellers' list in a couple of subcategories. It stayed “on the charts” for a couple of days, then faded in sales and rankings. But I would definitely say it was NOT a bestseller. I think I sold about 30 copies. (No reflection on you, my faithful friends and readers -- definitely a reflection on my lack of marketing effort.)

Here’s the background: Last summer, I put together a little ebook collection of 21 of my marketing tips (yes, the ones you can get for free, each week by signing up for them on this site). I use it as a lead generator to help bring people to my site and get “my name out there.” In short, it’s a marketing tool.

It was an “unintentional” bestseller. I was in my Kindle back office one day and noticed that the ebook had never been published. Yes, I uploaded it and did everything I was supposed to do… except hit the publish button. (Brilliant, I know.) So I hit publish, then made a FaceBook post about it. Then I decided, what the hell, I’ll announce it’s up there on Twitter, too. How’s that for marketing genius?

Then a friend reposted on FaceBook and Twitter and Google + and maybe even on Pinterest. And another friend. So I posted it in a Kindle publishing group and a couple of my FaceBook marketing groups. And I sold a few copies and then for fun I checked the stats. I had broken into the bestsellers list in a category (actually several, but I didn't know how that category stuff worked at the time and I'm still fuzzy on it). So I posted that I was on the bestseller list and more people bought and spread the world. (There’s a marketing lesson in that sentence, isn't there? Hint. Hint.)

Eventually I got to around #30 or so on a couple of the categories.

Was that book a success?

In some ways, yes. I guess now I can say I am an Amazon or Kindle “Best Selling Author!” but I would feel pretty cheesy saying that. Thirty copies is not exactly setting the world on fire. I think I made about $20 or so on the book so I can’t really say it was a financial success. Did it create some buzz and some publicity for me? Yes, it did. So that’s a partial success. It's all relative. Success is partially measured by how close you come to achieving your goal. In this case, it was a very small partial success.

But here’s a different kind of success. I wrote a free (giveaway) ebook for one of my clients to use as a marketing tool to sell his course. It converted at a great ratio (over 50%) but it didn't get seen by many people. So, it was a great success in its conversion ratio, but not in the total number of sales. HOWEVER...

He sent the free ebook out to a person who was interested in his course on private lending. The man didn’t buy his course. He asked for an appointment with my client to find out more about how he ran his business. That meeting led to him investing a couple of million dollars with my client.

Is that a success?

It was not the end result my client thought he was looking for. It was a result that came out of left field and brought him something that was, as he would say, “more better” than selling a $700 home study course. In terms of dollars in the door for his business, which was his goal in creating the initial course, it was a rousing success.

Success is relative. Sometimes success is partial, fractional.

Failure is relative and fractional, too. Put aside all those uplifting, motivational memes that flood social media feeds. (Because really, when you've had your ass handed to you, do you really care that Edison went through 10,000 light bulbs?) Sometimes failing tells you that you are in the wrong business. Sometimes it tells you that you have to change your approach or you will assuredly fail again. Sometimes it really is complete and total rejection and the marketplace has spoken.

More often, failure is a sign that something needs to be tweaked. That’s where being able to track and measure comes in. How many people actually visited your site? How many people stayed for more than 15 seconds? What search terms did they use to find you? Did they spend five minutes reading your sales page and not even give you their name and email address? Did they give you their name and email address, but not buy?

It’s harder to track how many people saw your book on Amazon, read about it and said, “Pass.” But you can measure how much marketing you did of your book. You can look over what groups you posted in, what social media sites, whether or not it was shared. You can see if people watched your YouTube video on the book or how many people are searching on your name specifically. You can certainly measure how many books were sold.

So was the book a failure or a success? Is your marketing working or not? Failure gives you insight and a foothold that can lead you to a future, perhaps different success. But all in all, full-on, unmitigated, absolute success is more better.

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Aluminum Foil Phrases

Man Wearing Tin Foil Hat -- NOT Steve!

Man Wearing Tin Foil Hat -- NOT Steve!

There are some phrases that are the literary equivalent of biting into aluminum foil. Most writers have their pet peeves when it comes to certain aspects of the language. (Yes, it’s nitpicky and elitist, but that’s why we’re writers.) Misplaced and misused apostrophes spring to mind. I recently revoked a client’s right to use a semi-colon again. EVER. (“You are not allowed to use semi-colons. Eventually, yes, you might randomly place one where it actually belongs, but with global warming, I don't think we will live to see the day.”)

I started thinking about this because of a comment my friend, master juggler and uber-funny man Steve Russell posted on Facebook the other day. (Find Steve and his equally talented wife Kobi at SteveRussellJuggles) Here’s what Steve posted:

I was writing some copy for a website of an illusionist, recently. I was encouraged to "think outside the box." Two thoughts on that: 1. If, in 2013, you are still using that phrase, YOU ARE STILL INSIDE THE BOX! and 2. Do you realize the irony, given what an illusionist does for a living?

After I stopped laughing (hard to do when you’re around Steve), I thought how much the phrase “outside the box” irritated me. As does “paradigm shift.”

The phrases, once “cutting edge” (another phrase on its way out if not already gone) are “old school” (a phrase that needs to go) now. They scream 1980s (no apostrophe, thank you) management seminar.

Yet they are instantly recognizable. They carry more meaning than just the mere words. When someone says “outside the box” we know instantly that they want something creative, striking, inspired and innovative. A paradigm shift infers such a major change that things will never be the same or looked at in the same way again.

Words and phrases can be charged – filled with meaning that conjures up emotion and experiences. When I give talks on copywriting, I go through various words copywriters use to elicit responses from men and women. And yes, I can always count on big laughs when I flash the phrase “private members forum” on the screen.

But there comes a time when words lose their oomph. (Oomph is a word that will never lose its oomph, by the way.) Over-use and incorrect use wear a phrase out. It loses its meaning and therefore its power. While clients may still ask that you create something that is “out of the box” if you use the phrase (or any of the other tired phrases) in your copy, you are doing them a disservice.

It’s lazy.

I can write long page sales copy all day long (usually while watching NCIS re-runs) that incorporates all the phrases and facets that marketers want to see on their sites. I could charge big money for it. But I don’t. (Proof that I am a complete IDIOT.)

If you are writing copy for yourself or others, maybe you should use all those phrases. People still respond to them. They are known to work. But it gives me a bad feeling in my stomach.

Words are precious to me. I like the way they sound. I like their rhythm. (A very cool word, rhythm. Look! No vowel in that second syllable!) I like that they can mean more than one thing. I think they should be honored and respected.

I also think they should be played with. Come up with new combinations. Create new meanings. Words are meant to communicate, to convey information and emotion and to connect humans with each other.

So the next time a client asks you to think “outside the box,” slam him with it. Rupture the atmosphere, bamboozle reality, cupcake the deal. Most will, of course, come back and ask you for something that looks like everything else that is already out there, i.e., inside the box. But every so often, you will find someone who goes with it, who gets it. And at that point, you will be able to stand and point and say, “That day, I used words well.”

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