Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

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Hello all,


T.L. (Tracy) Higley here, with my very first CAN blog post! I’ll be posting on the first Wednesday of every month, and for the next twelve months I’m inviting you on a journey, through an experimental year for me, and one that I hope will prove helpful for you as well.


Before we get to the experiment, a bit of background:  Currently, I am writing historical suspense for B&H Books. The third book in my Seven Wonders series, Guardian of the Flame, releases in a month.


But as with most of you, I’m sure, the majority of my income comes from elsewhere. For me, that income is generated from a retail business I started about five years ago, selling craft and hobby supplies online. The business started as sort of a fluke, but as I learned more about retail, it grew, and within two years was doing well enough to be our family’s sole source of support. We have continued to grow in the three years since then, and I feel very blessed by the success there, as it has allowed me to pursue writing with more freedom.


Over these years of retail marketing, I’ve learned quite a bit. And yet until now, I haven’t done much to seriously implement what I’ve learned about marketing craft and hobby supplies to the marketing of my books. I’m about the change all that.

Recently, I have identified twelve basic principles that I believe have been the most significant factors in the success of my retail business. In the coming year I plan to take each of these principles and translate them to my book marketing efforts. I’ll be returning each month in this blog post to report the successes and the failures, the numbers and statistics, to you, and to invite your feedback along the way. We all hear about “great ideas.” But what are some actual results of these efforts? It’s my hope that we’ll learn together through this “reality blog” in the coming year. I intend to be as open with the stats and details as is appropriate, and would love to hear about your similar efforts and the results as we go along.


Through the year I will probably refer to my online retail business from time to time, to provide examples of what I’ve learned about marketing. Please understand that I offer this information to provide a real-world example, and not as an advertisement!

So, enough background. On to Principle #1 from the world of retail marketing: 


Create a Plan. 


I’m sure that sounds simplistic, and in one sense it is. But creative people have a challenge when it comes to planning, don’t we? We think of zillions more ideas than we can ever implement. Add to that all the connections you have with other authors whose ideas always sound stellar, and if you’re anything like me, your list of marketing ideas is long enough to cause hyperventilation if you stare at it too long.


If the inability to implement all your marketing ideas has caused you guilt in the past, I’m here to say – STOP!  Busy, creative people will always come up with more ideas than they can complete. And that’s good! Some of those ideas are great ideas for you. Some of them probably stink. Having lots of them means you can weed out the lousy ones to focus on the best.  Create a Plan.


So, how is this marketing plan created? How do I figure out which ideas are best? Let me give you four pointers here, things I’ve learned from evaluating my own ream of ideas over the years.


1.    Good marketing ideas are not “one-size-fits-all.” A great idea for one of your author friends may not be great for you. Even if the idea is working for him/her, it may not work for you. More on evaluating ideas in point For now, erase from your mind the “everyone seems to be doing it so I probably should be too” accusation.


2.    All marketing efforts have an inherent factor of Time, Money and Energy needed to complete them. Time and Money are obvious, but don’t forget the Energy factor – by Energy I mean how much the action, or even thinking about the action, drains your energy. It may not be related to Time. There are time-consuming things that don’t drain us, and draining activities that don’t use much time. Energy is a different factor than Time. 


The reason that ideas are not “one-size-fits-all” is because different actions take a different amount of Time and Energy for each of us, and we each have a different definition of “a lot of Money.”






3.    All marketing ideas also have an inherent Return, or potential for Return. This is only a guess on your part, of course, but you can make an educated guess as to how much potential any marketing idea has to increase the sales of your book. Might it result in ten more books sold? A hundred? A thousand?




4.    To Create a Plan: evaluate every idea you have in terms of the Time, Money and Energy needed to accomplish it, related to its potential Return. This doesn’t have to be a complicated mathematical equation; use your common sense and your gut.  The best ideas are the ones with the biggest potential to increase your sales and the lowest commitment of Time, Money and/or Energy. Only you know how much of those three things you have to spend. But don’t be fooled – they are ALL commodities you are spending. Think about them all.  If something is too big a drain in any of these areas, unless it has a huge potential for return, toss it!




Want some homework?  Start collecting ideas. Brainstorm for all the ideas you have floating around in your head. Start adding to the list as you see/hear things that others are doing. Then remember, this is not your To-Do list!  When your list starts to get hefty, use the principles above to cull out the best ideas for you – the ones that won’t drain too much of your Time, Money, or Energy but still have a good potential for return.


I would love to hear comments from those who have implemented some sort of individual marketing plan that works for them, and from those who have felt overwhelmed by too many ideas. Until next month, Create a Plan!



Coming up next month: the #1 sales tactic that has grown my retail business…