Guest post by Tom Albrighton
The other day, a client facing a big marketing setback confided to me that he was going to go home, have a glass of wine and try to think it through.
I nodded sympathetically. Many’s the time I’ve combined work with leisure by doing some copywriting over a drink in the evening. A drop of something can often loosen up the flow of words, particularly when something expressive or colourful is required. (However, it can also cloud the judgement, so I always wait until the morning to send the results to the client.)
No-one who enjoyed Under Milk Wood, Sgt. Pepper or 'Kubla Khan' could deny that alcohol and drugs can enhance the creative process. Some of our greatest cultural works had their genesis in altered states. And they reached even those who never touched anything stronger than tea.
Yet I’m not sure how my clients would react if I revealed that their copywriting had been done under the influence. Even those who liked a drink themselves might be disquieted. And if I told a client I was going on a week-long acid binge to get ideas for their slogan, I’m pretty sure they’d be looking for another copywriter. (Not that I ever would, I hasten to add.)
The serious point I’m making is that although we know of many factors that boost creativity, we often deliberately exclude them from the workplace. We might grudgingly allow a few pictures over a desk, or a radio on in the background, but these are intrusions of leisure into the world of work, not deliberate attempts to stimulate our minds. Even something completely wholesome, like spending some time in a natural environment, is only allowed in the rigid structure of the corporate ‘away day’ (if at all).
Those in the creative industries often make more effort to stimulate creativity through the working environment (although one suspects that it’s also partly for show). In my view, all work is creative – not just marketing, but every other business function too. We all have innate creativity that we use in solving the problems of our day. Why don’t we do more to let it flourish in the workplace?
My digital footprint is sizeable and I can twit, stumble, blog and flickr like there is no tomorrow. I am even writing this blog post on my phone on the train in to work. Yesterday, for one brief moment, it looked like there would be no tomorrow in social networking terms.
Yesterday, when Twitter, Facebook and other social networking resources went down, thanks to a coordinated and malicious Distributed Denial of Service attack (the name of a seemingly brilliant unmade Will Smith blockbuster), I was bereft and pondering a question. What did small businesses do to market themselves before the Internet?
At the Marketing Donut, as a web based resource, we do focus a lot on the modern marketing mix of online complementing the traditional. So while there may have been people out on the streets walking aimlessly like zombies, many carried on regardless.
Anecdotal evidence from fully fledged professional marketers came through on Twitter after the down time. Twitter for Business expert, Mark Shaw and one of our very own Donut experts both reported their ignorance of any Twitter downtime and relief they were away from their computers as they were at actual face to face meetings with clients.
If yesterday highlighted anything to me and the small business owner, it is that all the new online get up is brilliant when it works but should not be relied upon as a sole means of marketing activity. Of course, there are a whole variety of simple and effective ways in which small business interact with their customers in the 'real world'. Despite the rise of social networking, businesses still push for coverage in their local media, they still distribute promotional leaflets to target customers, they still concentrate on friendly and professional customer service as a way of generating word-of-mouth recommendation. These - and many other marketing techniques - are practices that have stood the test of time and will always be immune to the impact of malicious denial of service attacks like the one that took Twitter down yesterday.
What is spam?
It doesn't matter. Definitions or legal views of what constitutes spam don't matter. Your personal interpretation of spam doesn't matter. What does matter is people's reaction to your marketing activities. Because the moment someone calls your marketing 'spam' it becomes spam.
Can the Spam to Spare the Ham
Your email campaign or brilliant Twitter strategy may be legal, legitimate marketing efforts with every opt-in box ticked, but if people start shouting 'spam!' then you've got a problem. Even if you can rightly argue that you're on the right side of spam laws, you shouldn't waste your breath. Apologise, stop the campaign and come back with something less offensive.
A Brighton-based business recently discovered how this principle works in reality. They were using Twitter to push a new web directory, when people starting crying 'spam!'. The company argued that they were using Twitter reasonably to promote their directory. No, argued many in the local Twitter community, they were abusing Twitter and generating spam. Enough people flagged them as spam and within days their account was suspended. A brilliant social media campaign? No, it was a disaster. They managed to alienate the very people they should have been trying to woo.
Listen to your audience. If you hear even a whisper of 'spam' then be wary. Be prepared to change your approach in the face of criticism. And don't bother arguing the definition of spam. If someone feels that you're spamming them then you are. So stop.
The art of selling can be looked at in two ways. Either it’s persuading someone to buy something that they neither need nor want – “selling coal to Newcastle” – or it’s about discovering customer needs and finding the most appropriate way to meet them. Newcastle no longer mines any coal and frankly, the ram-it-down-your-throat sales approach is about as up-to-date as the expression. That said Newcastle in Australia, named after the UK one, is actually the biggest coal exporter in the world.
In contrast to the US, the UK doesn’t see sales as a profession, and popular culture places all sales people into the cowboy pen. This can be seen from the euphemisms used for sales roles here in the UK. Sales people are called account managers, business development executives, consultants, customer service representatives - anything except sales.
In fact, if a prospect ever tells someone they are good at sales, it probably means they’re not. People need to feel that they have a choice in order to buy. If they feel pressured, they react badly.
Selling the right thing means fewer returns. It also means happy customers who buy again, and tell their friends. Alternatively, selling the wrong thing gums up your phone lines with complaints, increases your cost of doing business, and leads to you being denounced on social networks right across the internet.
I don’t know how many people have consciences, and how much they apply them to business. Whatever the answer, it’s good to know that honest sales lead to better profits, even while letting you sleep at night.
Recent articles in the media and marketing trade press, are hotly debating the question of whether outdoor advertising has had its day.
For the record, we say the answer's 'no'; but I wanted to explain why we know this is the case. A quiet revolution is going on in out-of-home advertising. Small businesses are really starting to tune in to the medium's benefits, and we are seeing ever-increasing numbers – around 250 per week, in fact - signing up to Signposter.com to run out-of-home campaigns in their local area.
I believe that if small businesses are prepared to invest hard-won capital into an outdoor campaign on an ongoing basis like this, it’s because of hard evidence - such as sales increases or increased footfall to their business - of the medium's effectiveness. When every pound counts, they won't do any promotion without the confidence it will work.
This says to me that 'on the streets', where it counts, outdoor is working; it’s picking up more converts to its impact and effectiveness. And if it works like this for small businesses and local campaigns, I'm confident it'll continue to deliver for the big players as well.
In his article 'Why 8% of sales people get 80% of the sales' Donut expert and founder of Marketing Wizdom, Robert Clay reminds us of the importance of good 'follow up'. His research shows that only 2% of sales occur at the first meeting; the other 98% will only happen once a certain level of trust has been established. Incredibly, only 20% of sales leads are ever followed up - that's a shining pile of potential opportunity lost without a trace. For small businesses, what is the best way to keep contact with prospects after sales meetings? What communications strategy can you employ to show customers that your proposed approach is the right one for them? Effective follow up does not mean pushy closing and constant demands for orders or appointments. It's a different mindset: an ongoing dialogue; gently building rapport and proving your expertise, not bashing down doors. At the heart of this approach is good content - meaningful, useful communication that helps to build trust in the eyes of your potential customers, keeping you top-of-mind. Here are 5 examples of useful content you can send to prospects when following up sales meetings:
This is where marketing can really help sales. Produce powerful, customer-focused, helpful content that your sales teams can use to keep contact with customers until they are ready to buy.