Stupid Advertising Mistakes: How I Threw Away $597 and Earned a Negative 79% ROI with One Ad

Not long after I published my first ebook about Sublime Text I found myself getting impatient with the slow growth in my sales.

At the time I was earning maybe $1,200 a month or so from the book — not bad for a side project, but I wanted to build a little publishing empire and quit my day job.

Nothing I was doing seemed to move the needle though.

One day I had a thought (the same thought that occurs to every entrepreneur at some point):

What if I took some of the profits from my book sales and “reinvested” it into advertising?

Maybe that would finally let me scale up my income.

My audience was mostly web developers, so I started poking around some of the bigger sites where I knew they hung out.

Lo and behold, I discovered that one of the biggest sites had a HUGE email list — and as luck would have it, they accepted advertising.

I reached out to their advertising department to find out their rates.

And I learned that for “only” $1,500, I could promote my book to their in their email newsletter, which reached nearly 300,000 subscribers.

In hindsight they must have been a little desperate for advertisers at the time, cuz the rep immediately offered me a 50% discount to lock me in.

$750 was a lot of money to put on the line for me, but no guts, no glory right?

The math seemed promising — if only 0.02% of those 300K subscribers bought my book, I’d make a profit, and if 0.1% bought, well… I’d be taking my wife out for a little celebratory dinner.

I gritted my teeth and paypaled over the cash.

The day the ad was scheduled to drop, I was so nervous I was queasy.

I can hardly focus on the code I’m supposed to be writing, I’m just refreshing Google Analytics over and over and waiting for the traffic spike to begin.

And around 10 a.m. EST, I see the hits on my sales page start rolling in.

It’s working!!!

Only… People weren’t buying.

In the first hour, I maybe made 2–3 sales.

By the end of the day I’d sold a grand total of 9 books.

My total “return on investment” for that ad ended up being something like negative $597.

Looking back I can see that I made just about every rookie mistake in the book on this one.

I’ve since learned that spending your hard-earned cash to send people to a sales page is almost always a complete waste of money.

Losing all that money really stung at the time.

But I learned a valuable lesson about how to buy advertising the smart way.

These days I’m back to buying advertising space in other people’s newsletters — and making a profit right out of the gate too.

The difference is, instead of advertising our products directly, I advertise one of the free email courses I’ve created.

In the last 3 months, we’ve grown the Simple Programmer email list by something like 5,000 subscribers this way while turning a profit within a few days.

And while it’s hard to project, I’m estimating that long term we’ll eventually earn back 5–10X what we’ve invested in the ads.

The lesson I took from throwing away almost half of the monthly revenue from my side business was:

It’s easy to buy “clicks” — there are a million advertising reps who will happily take your money.

Whether you have a good day or a bad day all hinges on your ability to turn those clicks into customers.

In a couple of weeks I’m presenting a private online class called:

Behind the Scenes of a Six-Figure Email Course

In this class I’ll show you the inner workings of an email course sales funnel that has generated $101,096 (and counting) over the last 9 months.

I’ll walk you step by step through the emails themselves…

Detail the technical setup…

And answer any questions that you can throw at me.

This is a one-time only event.

There is a fee to attend, but it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

(And in case you’re wondering, yes I will be selling the recording afterward. However price will be *higher* — and you won’t get the benefit of getting your questions addressed live and on the spot.)

To reserve your seat, click here:

https://joshuaearl.com/products/six-figure-email-course


Originally published at joshuaearl.com.