Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is It Advertising Or Marketing: Analyzing Ad Results

I've seen a number of folk who whine about an ad for their book not earning back the cost of the ad. Is it fair to whine?

I've seen a number of other folk step in to say, "Suck it up. Ads only build awareness, not sales. People saw your ad so it was a success."

We've all heard the adage: It takes being exposed to a message 5/6/7 times before someone makes a purchase. These are wise words for garnering patience from executives but are they true? Or are they a fallback for the marketer/promoter/advertiser whose campaign is failing?

"That was just the first exposure! We need to do this 4/5/6 more times before you, Ms. CEO, can expect a return on your investment. Click-through/mail-back/purchase-contemplation success generally doesn't exceed 5% anyway. My team and I of highly paid professionals will get right on it. Should only take another 6 paydays before we're done and you start seeing some effect."

This is, of course, old-school, pre-technology thinking. This is thinking from an era that required effort on the consumer's part. This is thinking that might still be true for marketing and promoting efforts where raising awareness is the reason for the campaign. This is thinking for high-end purchases.

But advertising in the digital age? Especially advertising for books? Banner ads are NOT all about exposure. Banner ads, especially 1-day ads, are about driving instant behavior -- impulse buys. Can you be assured a consumer will see an ad of yours more than once, much less any marketing or promotional efforts? No. You need an instant response, instant click-through. You're not going to turn every click-through into a sale, but you CAN base the effectiveness (or failure) of an ad campaign on an uptick in sales.

Sure, an ad adds to your overall marketing campaign where you are looking for multiple exposures. You can treat it as one incident of eyes-on where marketing is concerned. But if your ad's main purpose is to capture impulse buys -- just like that candy bar from the bins at the checkout line gets tossed onto the checkout counter or that magazine with the sizzling headline you didn't know you even wanted ends up in your purchases -- then you can't ignore sales or lack of them.

Collateral awareness is great, but it's not the purpose of advertising; it's marketing -- or promotion, if it's free. The best thing you can understand is that online buying behavior is not the same as a mail campaign or a billboard or even TV placement, and that the expected results are, and should be, different for each venue.

A banner ad can fail miserably as part of an advertising campaign yet still be a positive result within the overall marketing campaign. For that to be true, though, you have to have a clear marketing plan to begin with. If you don't, and if an ad doesn't pay for itself with purchases made during and shortly after its run, then you've wasted money. You can only absorb those costs within a greater plan.

It's not unprofessional to point out when an ad doesn't bring in the revenue someone expected it to. That's a needed data point for the next person to decide whether that ad fits into a short-term advertising campaign or a longer-term marketing plan. I want to hear people whine.

So, if you're at this point, do you distinguish between advertising and marketing? How?


Chrystalla Thoma said...

Thanks for this post. I admit I'm ignorant on these matters - regrettably so since I need to know them. I'm still not convinced ads help with the overall sales and I'm hesitant to pay for one since I'm not able to foresee if it will pay off in the short or long term. I'm hoping to learn more about this from you. :)

Sarah Laurenson said...

It's been my limited experience that word of mouth works much better than almost anything else. Of course getting word of mouth started is the problem there.

Take Naomi Novik's series. I only picked it up after you recommended it. After I finished the first three books, I realized I already had book one for free through Kindle - liked the look of it and downloaded it, but never opened it.

Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why was given little help in the publicizing area and yet it made it to the bestseller lists and stayed there for a very long time. Might still be there for all I know.

What I find counter effective are the people who constantly tweet a quote from their book and give the link. As if one short line taken out of context is so compelling that people will click through.

At least your banner ad gives the main gist of what the book is about as well as the cover art.

Rachel said...

Red sent me.

corey1971 said...

“Trick or Treat! Thanks for playing Red’s Trick or Treat Bash! I’m looking forward to reading your book on my new Kindle!, Red sent me!” (

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Chrys and Sarah: I think ads can work in the advertising/selling sense but only in certain instances. If they're on a high-traffic site that is all about books in your genre (such as reviewing) they can get click-throughs. And if they are on non-genre sites that are all about bargain books they can get sales (only two come to mind there: Kindle Nation Daily and Pixel of Ink) as people are hitting those sites with the idea of buying.

One other possible venue is high-traffic blogs that are about topics in the book and that don't have a host of other books being advertised on the site to compete.

The free route (offering one book for free) seems to work for a lot of people if the book is in the same genre as at least one other title. But, as Sarah notes, the trick is getting people to read it first, although if it's part of a series some folk will snatch up part 2 at the same time they get the free one. This only seems to work on Amazon as the other venues haven't yet caught on to the value of free and don't make free books visible like Amazon does.

I'll have some observations about how Ken's short story going free has affected the Extinct antho and the other titles he quickly put up in a week or two, after the initial download flurry dies a bit.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Rachel and Corey: Welcome! Good luck in the contest!

Landra said...

I truly believe it's about ad placement, but you can't put all your eggs in one basket. Whine and crying is one thing, informing is also another. Whine for one sentence and then give the why. I agree Phoenix that knowing the why is all-important to authors (self-pubing or traditional).

I think advertising is welcome in scenerios that fit the book. I would be a little more pickier about them, just because of the money factor.

Marketing or spreading the name is good anytime and all the time. A popular marketing tactic I've seen is bookmarks with the book info plastered all over. You can't help but read the bookmark.

(I hope I understand your question correctly with this final thought)

Ultimately I believe that marketing should come before advertising.
Advertising is great if you have the connections and the ability to get good deals. If bookmarks are advertising go with this option or similar affordable ones that will get the word out about your book in larger quantities. IMO it's difficult to gurantee success with a one day ad costing you upward of $50 or more, plus the design of the ad. When a bulk purchase of pens and bookmarks can get you leaving those babies in bookstores, restaurants, and all over the place. Again, no gurantee but you'd be surprised the number of people willing to check into a book on something like that. Plus the object has a use and will stick with that person longer then an ad.

As I learned a long time ago, and I think this applies even to our situation. If you can put something in someone's hand their less likely to say no. Lol! Similar to a free book.

Holly S. said...

Trick or Treat! Thanks for playing Red’s Trick or Treat Bash! I’m looking forward to reading your book on my new Kindle!, Red sent me!