The Marketing Word | Differentiation Marketing

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.


1 comment

  • Michele Anderson · 03/29/2013 at 10:44 am

    Go Barb! I’ve been watching the ‘Amazon best selling’ claims and I knew it was ‘somewhat’ bogus and being used to boost promotion. I totally agree that success and failure are not scientific measures and are usually based on totally different set of variables from person to person, and from things to things. For the most part, all we you can do is interpret our results. I say, always be positive about it, too.

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