Tracy Higley

Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#10 here.


So, on to Principle #11… Track your ROI – rigorously.


In case you’re not familiar with the term “ROI” – it’s a marketing term for “Return on Investment.” When we put money into any kind of savings or stocks, we expect a certain return on our investment, or the investment was not worthwhile. If next month’s bank statement showed that your savings account had yielded a negative interest rate, actually costing you money, you’d be looking for another bank, right?

Somehow when it comes to the investment of our time and energy we are far more willing to see a negative return. But just like money, time and energy are valuable, limited commodities.


If you’ve been following my monthly blog posts or doing any research into book marketing yourself, you’ve probably amassed a list of ideas that seem overwhelming. Where to start? How much should I do? How much can I do? Where is the best place to focus?


I want to share a little strategy I use when it comes to evaluating marketing ideas (and it’s a strategy you could apply to other areas of life as well). 


Get out your lengthy list of marketing ideas, or “should-dos” that you’re feeling guilty about not having done yet to promote your books. If you’re comfortable with spreadsheets, I’d suggest putting the list in a column of a spreadsheet, because it will make the next step easier. But you can do this on paper, too.


Create four columns in front of your list. Label these columns Time, Money, Energy, and Potential. Then go through each idea and give it a score, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest.  How much time will this idea take to implement? How much money? “Energy” refers to that more subjective factor of how draining this particular idea will be on you and your creativity. Does the thought of radio interviews make you sick to your stomach? If so, it’s a high energy drain. Does sending out postcards seem easy and fun? If so, it’s a low energy drain. While intangible, energy is still something we have in limited supply.  Lastly, score the idea’s potential to affect book sales.  How likely is this idea to cause a significant spike in book sales?


When you’ve got your scores all completed, use this simple formula:  Potential / Time+Money+Energy.  In other words, take the Potential number and divide it by the sum of the other three.  Then sort your ideas according to this overall score, from highest to lowest.  A simple truth will surface: the higher the number, the better the idea is for you.  That “energy” score makes this personalized. Someone you know might be doing a great job promoting their book in a certain way, but you can’t even stand thinking about that idea. That means it’s probably not right for you.  You also may find that some of the ideas you might have picked up first will not have the greatest ROI. Your investment of time, money and/or energy is not likely to have a good return.


And here is where our Principle comes into play.  Be rigorous with yourself. Do not waste time on ideas that sap your energy, drain your bank account, or suck up your time, with very little to show for it. If the potential is very high, you may be willing to invest more of those three things. But make sure that the investment you make in marketing pays you back. If not, stop doing it!


It would take another blog post to get into details of the best ways to track your ROI from each activity. For now, be proactive in choosing your marketing tasks wisely from the beginning, and get creative about the ways in which you can mark their effectiveness.


Remember, your time, money and energy are all limited. Spend them wisely.

2 thoughts on “Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

Sally Bradley

July 8, 2010 - 10 : 35 : 01

Tracy, I love the formula, and it makes sense. But how do we know the potential on things like blog tours and giveaways, social network marketing, and some of the other intangibles like that?


Tracy Higley

July 8, 2010 - 16 : 48 : 23

Good question, Sally. That’s why I mentioned it would take another blog post to get into all that. My best advice: make sure you tie the intangibles to something that you CAN track – like new signups for your mailing list, comments on posts, downloads of free stuff, etc. While you may not know exactly what a “good” response is, you can at least compare one type of effort to another, to see which is more effective.


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