The Internet is full of helpful advice on building your author platform. Create a website. Jump on Social Media. Get out there and do a virtual book tour or cover reveal. Great ideas, but how do you know if they’re working? Or are you just wasting your money?
Baseline is a project management term defined as “a starting point for comparison.” One of the first steps a project manager takes when starting a new effort is determining the “current state” of the “thing” they have been assigned to improve. It could be anything from a software system to a marketing campaign.
The next step (after meeting with her team and her clients) is to determine what the “future state” of this “thing” looks like. For example: The project manager is handed an A-frame cabin kit (baseline). It’s pretty boring and too small (current state). Her client wants a wrap around patio and two bedrooms added (future state). Oh yeah. And the client wants it completed in six months (time frame).
Let’s take it from an author’s point of view. You’ve just signed a contract to publish your first book (hooray!), but your publisher told you to beef up your website. Oh boy. You’re not a web developer. What now?
Baseline. Baseline. Baseline.
You’ll definitely put effort into the new design whether you pay someone or DIY. Hopefully, you’ve chosen a web hosting service that offers analytic tools. They’ll tell you how many (unique and returning) visitors have visited your site and how long they’ve stayed. These two data elements are a great place to start.
Example: Current State
Sally Author’s current website gets 10 visitors per week and they stay an average of 12 seconds.
Example: Future State
Sally Author wants her website to get 10,000 visitors per week and they should stay five minutes.
Reality Check: I’m all for dreaming big, but this is Sally’s first book and her last name isn’t Kardashian. It’s more effective to take baby steps with a set (and realistic) time frame.
Better: Sally Author wants her website to get 100 visitors per week and they should stay 30 seconds. She wants to reach this goal within the next three months.
Sally has set her goals with a realistic time frame. Now she can do the research on how to achieve those goals. After the three months are up, Sally can check her results against the baseline to determine what worked and what didn’t.
Last piece of advice: If you can’t baseline something and/or can’t gather data on the effort’s effectiveness, then you are most likely wasting valuable time and money.