Tuesday, April 2, 2024

ROI Ouch

This Week's Topic:  Worst ROI Ever 

The list of low/bad Returns on Investment (ROI) in which I've engaged is long. Whether the returns I'm measuring are cash or brand awareness, there have been some painfully wasteful lessons learned. In some instances, the investment of time far exceeded the returns (hello, social media, looking at you). In others, the hundreds of dollars in cash investment earned less than $5 of return. Those instances can be split between CPC Ads and email-blast companies. 

ROI on ads is a struggle for anyone selling anything, from indies to MNCs, so I don't weep over those losses. Curse? Yes. Sadz? No. I expect losses there; I even budget for them. 

Email-blast companies, on the other hand, I expect more from since bumping up my sales is their core business. The leader in the space, BookBub, is worth the investment for free or $0.99 books in my genres. Higher than that, and my ROI becomes a loss. There are other, smaller blast companies whom I've paid and received nothing. Not one sale, not sales page hit, not one website hit. Not even crickets were aware of the promotion. Sometimes I've had to go eight clicks deep into a blast company's site before getting to a sales link for my purchased placement. Ooof. Yeah, yeah, the blame's on me for not investigating that better before purchasing. Because I'm generous, I'll share my mistakes to save you some $$ and heartburn.

Before buying placement in an email blast, do a bit of due diligence. Check for reports of:

  • Crappy Creative
    • Are they using your book's cover? Are they using the image with proper ratio/sizing (or is it cropped, stretched, blurred, etc.)? What about the accompanying text? Is there any? Who is writing it? Who approves it? 
  • Inflated subscriber numbers
    • They're not outright lying about how many accounts have subscribed (though unscrupulous businesses could be), but they're not including how many accounts are bots or how many unsubscribes they have.
  • Email open-rate is lower than the industry average
    • Few blast companies report their open-rates under the protection of proprietary info.  Anecdotal information should give you a clue.
  • Expanded inventory w/o notification and cancellation options
    • This is a problem because it lowers the value of the purchased placement--aka instead of placement as 1 of 5 promotions in the email, the placement is 1 of 25 promotions.
  • Misleading Marketing Messaging
    • They promote themselves as an email-blast company, but the fine print on their website never explicitly states that your book and its buy link will be in that email. Instead, your book's info is lumped under a larger promotion (e.g. This Week's Fantasy Discounts) and buried more than 1 click off the email.  
    • They upsell additional placements within their brand (social media pages, website, genre-bundles, etc.) with the classic "increase visibility up to XX%." That "up to" is a deliberate vaguery meant to disguise that what you're buying isn't worth bupkiss.
  • Non-Consent Backblast
    • The absolute worst sitch is buying placement with a blast company whose email list is built on harvested and/or non-opt-in addresses. Not only do you lose money, but you also lose reputation. This can happen with startups and companies under new management, so triple check before buying.
Admittedly,  I have eagerly supported the underdog/new businesses competing against the big guys and lost money (but not reputation).  Yes, I knew the risk I was taking equated to my purchase being on par with a charity donation. However, those risks were ones I could afford to make. 

As always, adhere to the golden rule of marketing and investments: 
Never spend more than you can afford to lose. 

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