Core Concepts · · 2 min read

Return On Attention (ROA)

Your business is a complex system with a lot of moving parts. There's a quote about systems from W. Edwards Deming that I think about a lot:

"Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets."

The results your business achieves are the result of a system that's perfectly engineered to achieve them. If you're unhappy with your results, you need to alter your system.

Attention is just one piece of that complex system. Most creator businesses look like this:

  1. You create value (in the form of free content)
  2. An audience rewards you with their attention
  3. Once you've captured that attention, you can make an offer. Some number/percent of people say yes and transact.
  4. These transactions add up to your total revenue

Step three – the step where transactions happen – is what creators tend to gloss over.

Most creators are successful in generating some revenue. But when revenue is lower than desired, they fall back on their strengths: creating more content and capturing more attention.

This works, but it's inefficient and leaves a lot on the table.

There are actually two ways to increase revenue:

  1. More attention
  2. A higher average return on attention

There are many ways to measure attention (impressions, views, followers, subscribers, website traffic), and each form of attention can be analyzed to see how well it converts to revenue.

But most creators don't think that way – they accept their current conversion ability and focus on more attention instead.

But attracting attention in 2024 requires constant effort. Our means of getting attention are often ephemeral – that short-form video you just published may have attracted a lot of views this week, but it may be completely unproductive a week from now.

System improvements, on the other hand, tend to be more enduring. If you can improve your sales page conversion by 2%, that's a 2% increase in revenue (without requiring a 2% increase in attention).

And then, if you DO attract more attention, that's a 2% higher conversion rate on all that incremental new attention, too.

There are tons of ways to improve your average ROA:

These are just a few examples. They can each be improved, and those improvements can build on one another, resulting in more revenue (without requiring more eyeballs).

Both strategies are valid, and the best creators do both: attract more attention and improve their average ROA.

But if you're already attracting attention, I'd focus on improving your return on attention first.

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