Marketing Housekeeping During CMCO – 5 Tips for SMEs

So here we are again.

Another lockdown, albeit less restrictive, yet still is a cause for concern for the majority of businesses in the Klang Valley.

The economy is being pummelled with the 3rd wave and quite frankly the numbers are scary. The only positive is that the hotspots are isolated, but only time will tell if they are under control.

It’s strange that less than a year ago we were nonchalantly shaking hands, socialising in packed restaurants and jetting-off on our well-deserved vacations. And now we just sit around wondering if this sore throat was from too much iced water, or something more sinister.

But we shouldn’t wallow in despair. Even in a CMCO, which invariably results in some downtime for most business, it’s important to have a routine – no matter how pointless it seems.

Marketing Housekeeping

If it’s not business-as-usual, perhaps we can take the opportunity to do some marketing housekeeping, especially for cash-strapped SMEs that need to make full use of their resources.

There are countless initiatives that can be undertaken from a marketing perspective to clear the cobwebs, re-direct and refresh. And here are the top 5:

Optimise Your Website
A lot of businesses just build website, launch it, and then forget about it. But serious businesses in the digital age are constantly tweaking and improving, because they know web optimisation is neither an overnight nor finite process. Start a blog, work on backlinks or at least refresh some of the content, lot’s can be done.

Create a Social Content Backlog
In the era of too much content, we often struggle to develop engaging content for our own social media channels amidst chaos of daily demands. Use the downtime to create a stream of relevant content – customer pain points and specific needs are thought starters. And you don’t need to use them right away, it’s a content backlog for future use when things recover

Sync Your Sales & Marketing Teams
If you have a Sales and a Marketing team, then there’s always room to get them working together towards a common goal. The efforts of these two teams need to be aligned; leading to a peaceful, results-oriented coexistence. I have written at length about this in a previous post that you can read here.

Revamp All Business-critical Comms
How often have you received an e-mail – especially in B2B engagements – that felt like it was written by an 8-year old? Audit all your typical outward communications to customers, suppliers and associates and make sure they are all well-written and free of typos. This is important to exude credibility and gain confidence; there are no two ways about it.

Explore an Alternate Customer-base
If your regular leads channel or customer stream seem to have reduced to a trickle, don’t sit around waiting for miracles. No enquiries or orders on your website? Go into social media group and engage in discussions. Walk-ins all but non-existent? Do deliveries, allow to order and pick-up or reactivate dormant customers. Move on, or risk being moved over.

The list above is basic but can get you started right away with little or no outside help. Often it takes just a bit of cleaning-up to help your business de-clutter, envision with clarity and uncover untapped markets.

For now, let’s hope there will not be an extension of this darned CMCO. Happy marketing housekeeping!

 

The Sales and Marketing Misalignment – 5 Trouble Signs to Lookout For

Inter-departmental clash of characters in any industry is unfortunately the norm.

In my days in the ad business, we creatives were constantly at odds with account executives. Glorified dispatch riders we used to call them, and some really lived up to the term.

Next up in the list of creatives’ enemies were coders and programmers. They could never understand why proper paragraph spacing was such a big deal. Needless to say, it drove us copywriters (and designers) to the verge of insanity.

Good times!

But these were mainly harmless feuds and competitive banter. Besides, there was a far more vicious common enemy – the client. Ok I’ll stop now.

Sales & Marketing Stat

In a typical company, the lack of synergy between Sales and Marketing departments, however, can have detrimental effects on the bottom line of a business. Misaligned direction and lack of transparent communication between the two teams can result in a nasty work environment and disjointed customer experience.

Until very recently, I was managing a sales team. Don’t ask me how or why. But in doing so – especially with more of a marketing background – I realised that the marketing and sales sync is imperative now more than ever.

A shared vision working towards common goals, along with clear understanding of each departments’ pain points results in peaceful, results-oriented coexistence that can lead to improved bottom lines and customer satisfaction.

If you suspect that your marketing and sales department are not in sync, look out for these 5 trouble signs, along with quick tips to get them back on track.

 

1. They Don’t Hang Out Together

Hey, we all need to de-stress after work. Gathering a bunch of colleagues and heading out for a bit of R&R is a great team-bonding activity that can result in improved empathy, teamwork and patience. But if your sales team does not socially mingle with your marketing team and vice versa, it is a clear sign of an invisible barrier of egos, discontent and misunderstandings.

Team Bonding

TIP: Organise a monthly social gathering that includes all team members across all departments, especially sales and marketing. Make sure it’s out-of-office and with minimal management intervention so they can be themselves and open opportunities for discourse.

 

2. Marketing Work Lacks Insights

Ask marketing and they say not briefed properly. Ask sales and they say it’s not their job. In the end, it’s the business that suffers as marketing communications that lack insight is not optimised to convince and convert.

No Insight

TIP: Include marketing team members in sales meetings – albeit just as observers. Understanding the customer journey – from a prospect to repeat purchaser – along with their pain points will help with crafting more relevant, timely communication.  

 

3. Dismal New Leads Generation

The lifeline of any business is not the products, resources or even sales. You can have all the sales pouring-in now, but what about in the medium to long term? Properly aligned sales and marketing teams work together to create a lead generation, optimisation and conversion system so that every opportunity is given due attention. It’s the recipe for a successful, sustainable business.

Lean Gen

TIP: Make it rewarding – set a desired lead conversion ratio, say 20 customers converted from every 100 new leads. Reward both the sales and marketing teams if achieved. A simple trick to get the team working together towards a common goal.

 

4. Recurring Misunderstandings

Salespersons are relationship builders who like to be in the thick of things. Whereas marketing team members are generally methodological, focused and outcome-driven. Naturally, the differences in mindset and personalities can trigger the occasional clash of characters. But if there is more clashing than problem-solving, then it’s possible there’s a deeper root cause.

Misunderstanding

TIP: Usually there is only one or two persons causing the friction, which unfortunately affects everyone. Identify the ‘troublemakers’ and do an intervention to establish a transparent, respectful culture with open communication.

 

5. Group Meetings are One-sided

Well-synced sales and marketing divisions often contribute, comment, and even disagree equally in meetings, all for the greater good. But if only one side is doing all the talking and the other side look like they rather be elsewhere then this could be a sign of animosity and divisiveness.

Group Meeting

TIP: Let the quiet lead the way – let the quieter of the two sides run the meeting once in a while as an avenue to be heard and add value. This also provides the alpha side a different perspective to things and may lead to increased collaboration and inter-departmental teamwork.

 

According to stats from the Precision Marketing Group, companies with good sales and marketing synergy can expect up to 208% more ROI from marketing efforts. Pretty eye-opening.

Especially now, with the global economy ravaged, ensuring your sales and marketing teams are aligning their efforts could be the best way to get more from existing resources. Every little effort counts, especially when both sales and marketing skills are needed at every stage of the customer journey.

With bottom lines at stake – it’s truly time to sync-up and quite possibly sink the competition. Good luck!

 

Rest or React?

The one lesson that us marketers should learn from this pandemic is this:

Nothing is guaranteed

No matter how well-strategised, thoroughly planned and carefully crafted your marketing efforts are, external elements are only a sneeze away to put a bug in the system.

Over these few unprecedented months, I have personally seen businesses fold, budgets dry up and projections cut. It’s all doom and gloom with lowered optimism and rising depression. I guess the only comfort (in a way) is knowing that no one is spared as the impact is far and wide across the entire world.

Lesson one is learned, yes? Fortunately, there is also another lesson from all of this:

Reaction is everything

Yeah, we’re down. But definitely not out. In this same few months, I’ve also seen businesses (and average folks) rise to the challenge. One of the clients I work with pivoted to a completely unfamiliar territory of selling face masks and PPEs – a reaction that was needed to keep salaries and overheads taken care of.

While most of us were ‘zooming’ during the lockdown, many people began their journey into online and social selling. I’ve been asked to join so many Facebook groups and pages that all I see in my newsfeed now are products that can be delivered to my doorstep. A small price to pay for supporting acquaintances I suppose.

Then there are those with reduced or sudden loss of income that have become e-hailing drivers, food deliverers, personal shoppers, home-based caterers, part-time bakers and the most novel yet – magician turned durian seller.

Such resilience, adaptability and dogged persistence is something that we can emulate as marketers.

Marketing Reaction

But first, you need to have a strong brand foundation, insightful market knowledge and a sound communication strategy that considers every aspect of your business. Because I am pretty sure the ones that are surviving in the face of the current adversity, are those who are firmly grounded and strong in character to begin with.

While click-through-rates or the number of likes and shares do provide great metrics, they are not the end all be all. Building a synergistic and holistic marketing blueprint – though time consuming and tedious – is an investment that all businesses must consider, especially in these lean and uncertain times. I know, budgets may be as slim as the government’s majority in parliament, but there are always methods to do more with less.

Granted, we may not see pre-Covid levels of economic activity for at least a year, or possibly two. So why bother? It may seem logical to take a cautious approach until things somewhat recover and only then start to pay attention to your marketing efforts again.

But while you rest, there may be others in your market segment that are building alternate lead generation, sales and fulfilment channels. They perhaps may be putting efforts into improving page rank by revamping and optimising their websites. Essentially, they could be seizing the opportunities that are abound in the digital, social and interactive ecosystems.

These efforts may not bear fruit now. But once the market is mask-free, those who made a head start will be the ones to reap the rewards first.

One of the largest pharmaceutical companies Pfizer just a couple of days ago announced that they have successfully concluded initial trials for a Covid19 vaccine. In fact, there are 8 other vaccines being developed independently by other countries and pharmas, all showing good promise.

It seems like it is only a matter of time before the pandemic ends – I know, this sound like bold optimism because we have acclamatised to all the doom and gloom.

Nevertheless, the question now is do we rest and recuperate or react and take charge?

 

More or Less…

We’re well into the New Year. And everywhere I turn, the air of uncertainty smacks me in the face. I’m pretty used to uncertainties; freelance copywriting is full of unknowns, surprises and WTF-moments.

These days, the uncertainties are external. The impending GST, falling Ringgit and steadily ascending inflation have concocted an aura of economic doom and gloom here in Malaysia.

The signs ignored, voices hushed and belts further tightened.

The situation seems out of our control, with our captain-less ship at the mercy of global economic winds and undercurrents of mismanagement. We need to fend for ourselves; work harder, spend less and save more. Yes, I’m venting a little here.

But they say necessity is the mother of invention. In marketing communications, a flourishing economy and big budgets does not automatically translate to great work.

Less is More
Have less > think different > get results > put some clothes on…

I know, because I’ve worked on campaigns for big brands with big budgets; only to see the work often become needlessly complex and hopelessly off the mark. And when budgets are cut, it is used to rationalise ineffectiveness and less-than-desired results.

These days however, I work mostly for start-ups, entrepreneurial businesses and SMEs. They usually don’t have a marketing budget or even a marketing department. But what they do have is the willingness to try new things, allow creative incubation and exhaust all strategic avenues.

The money is then spent to expound and execute a good idea, and not to bombard the media with a scratched-up campaign hoping for a miracle.

Perhaps the economic doom and gloom presents an opportunity to revamp our preconceptions of marketing. In today’s marketing there are no set formulas, cure-alls or guaranteed results, brands need to spark conversations, have a social persona and navigate the wilderness of technology.

Budgets may be trimmed, but we’ve got to roll with the punches.

Less is more, more or less, yes?

Feels Two Good

Two years ago, with no serious planning whatsoever, I decided to become a full-time freelance copywriter.

24 months, that’s a pretty long time to go without a pay cheque. And the fact that I’m still standing is a miracle of sorts… almost too good to be true.

VictorySign
Two good years, but nothing peaceful about them either...

But it was not like I didn’t have to work my butt off to get to this stage. Obviously finding clients was among my major headaches when I started. Eventually, this blog (yes, this very sorry excuse for a blog) became my number one lead generator, and still is.

Now, all my clients I work with and the projects I handle are the direct result from the enquiries I get from this website. Of course, I still had to convince these leads to become clients, which wasn’t easy nor was it always successful.

Sometimes, I get a barrage of enquiries within a space of a week, which is great. The downside to this is that I can’t work on turning all these leads into clients, without creating a backlog. And recently, I had to let go many opportunities that came my way.

This is something I hate to do. It feels like I’ve let myself down.

Being a self-employed copywriter, I tend to wear multiple hats. Often the writing itself is only a small portion of my daily routine because there are meetings to attend, clients to lunch with, brainstorming sessions to go to, materials to pick up and quotes/invoices to send.

There is only so much I can handle without compromising my quality of my copy, which is often how I’m judged on.

It’s a case of keeping existing clients happy vs. bringing in new business. I suppose I’m a loyalist rather than a capitalist.

Anyway, I would like to thank all my clients and readers for making the past year a great one. I’ve learned so much over the year that no book, classroom or even job can ever teach.

Finally, for those of you who enquired about my services, and in turn received a very polite message saying that I was very busy, please accept my sincere apologies. I truly hope our paths will cross again.

Whoa! Top 3…

A lot of things have been said – by many people – about Search Engine Optimization or SEO for blogs. Now is my turn, and here they are:

  1. Content is really king, especially if it is shareable content. Also, please stick to your context or keywords and never ramble.
  2. Never, ever employ black or grey-hat techniques. Goggle is extremely smart these days, you’ll regret it.
  3. Be persistent… keep those blog posts coming. If you write insightful, relevant and shareable content, your ranking will rise.
  4. Have patience. It takes time to get onto the first page… usually years. And years more to have Top Half presence.
  5. Believe in yourself. A lot of people will laugh at your efforts, sometimes to the point of ridicule. Give them the finger!

Now, I am not an SEO expert. But I have been running a blog close to 3 years. And truth be told this blog has generated more leads that anything else for my copywriting business.

Although I’m not the type to trumpet myself, check these out:

Google Ranking 1
For the keyword 'Copywriter' in Google.com.my - Click to Enlarge >
Google Ranking 2
For the keywords 'Freelance Copywriter Malaysia' in Google.com.my - Click to Enlarge >
Google Ranking 3
For the keywords 'Malaysia Copywriter' in Google.com - Click to Enlarge >

And that’s my 2 cents about SEO. Cheers to micro businesses!

Funny Business

Advertising and humour often go hand-in-hand. But do funny ads actually work?

As you may be aware, I am a fan of comedy. I just love being humoured; by comedians, sitcoms, friends and sometimes, ads too.

For a copywriter like me, humour offers a much-needed respite from all the mind-numbing chaos.

So here’s a recent ad from Maxis that I thought was really funny. Yes, I am amazed at myself for showcasing a Maxis ad positively, considering how I whacked them the last time. But credit is due where it is due I suppose.

But wait. On with the ad first…

Now, if you are like me – someone who absolutely hates online videos that go into buffering mode – you may have found the ad funny. But did the ad compel any kind of action from you?

Again, if you are like me – someone who can be a real lazy arse sometimes – you didn’t take any action. As in call Maxis, look for more info online or run to the nearest Maxis outlet to register for this wonderful fibre internet.

Clowning
Don't clown around, unless you are promoting a clown...

This is the problem with funny ads. While they may steal your attention and be memorable; it doesn’t guarantee a response from consumers.

And don’t for a moment think being funny improves brand awareness either.

People usually only remember that a particular ad is funny, but often struggle to remember the brand or product. Think about your favourite funny ad; do you remember the product?

Ace Metrix – a television and video analytics agency – studied funny ads in the US for over a year and drew the following conclusions:

  • Funny ads were memorable and appealing, but were less likely to increase desire or purchase intent
  • Humour in ads work better when it is used as a supplement rather than a replacement

When consumers are not compelled to take action after seeing your ad, it usually means money down the drain.

So be funny at your own peril, or risk becoming a joke.

Marketing the Manchester United Way

If you don’t know already, then yes, I am a fan of the greatest football club in the world – Manchester United.

While some will argue about the ‘greatest’ statement, this post is not about glorifying my beloved team, but more about what it takes to be a winning marketer.

ManUnited Crest
May your marketing be as successful as Manchester United (bro, thanks again for the jersey!)

But still, there is this little fact about Man United being the most successful English football club. And they didn’t get there just by playing awesome football. There are other elements at play, based on my humble opinion:

1. Leadership
Manchester United’s most successful period have been under Sir Alex Ferguson. He is a manager, mentor, tactician, dictator and most of a believer. The person leading any marketing effort must not only be good at what he does, but also believe in the product or service.

2. Persistence
The ‘never say die’ attitude that is legendary of Manchester United players have brought them back from many lost causes. When you think your marketing efforts aren’t working, you got to persevere. Employ different tactics, ask the right questions and take some risks.

3. Patience
In this hurry-burry world of instant success and overnight miracles, it seems there is no time for patience. Alex Ferguson was appointed manager in 1986 and will take 4 seasons to win his first trophy, the FA Cup. And another 3 seasons more to end a 26-year league title drought. Don’t expect your marketing efforts to bring you instant results. Time is your ally; monitor, enhance and tweak constantly.

4. Perfection is an Illusion
Man United have played a total of 4,318 leagues games as at 11 March 2012. Of that they have won 2,061, drawn 1034 and lost 1223. That’s not even a 50% winning rate, and yet they have a record 19 league championships. Don’t strive to get everything perfect on your marketing plan, but fine-tune along the way to achieve success.

5. Money Isn’t Everything
In 2006, after losing the league to Chelsea for 2 consecutive years, United only spent 16 million pounds to bring in Michael Carrick. Chelsea by contrast spent over 60 million pounds and will go on to lose the league to Man United for the next 3 seasons. Having a big budget is great, but spending it on nonsense is not.

Go Online, or Go Under

More than 12 million Facebook users. National broadband penetration is over 80%. Almost 17 million total internet users. And how much are Malaysian businesses spending on online advertising?

A measly 1% of their total advertising budget.

A report released recently by Google and McKinsey & Co shows that Malaysian businesses hardly see internet advertising viable. In fact, Malaysia is placed at the bottom 10% of the 57 countries surveyed.

Cars on Key
You can reap unexpected rewards advertising online... kacching!

Look, I’m no advertising genius. But doesn’t this seem like a severe case of head-in-the-sand ignorance?

Just 10% of Malaysia’s Facebook population is still more than the total daily readership of The Star, which is at about 1.06 million.

But that’s not all. We Malaysians spend more time on the internet than on watching television or listening to the radio combined.

If you ask me, I think we spend more time online than even talking to our spouse, family and friends combined.

If anyone out there thinks online advertising is crap – it can be annoying if improperly executed though – here are 5 good reasons why you should take your next campaign online:

  1. Costs a fraction of TV, Print or even Radio ads
  2. You can measure results and effectiveness almost immediately
  3. Internet allows for almost pin-point targeting, bases on niche interests
  4. Those in their 20s and 30s are active internet users; a consumer goldmine!
  5. Almost 40% of purchase decisions are made on the net; making online presence critical

In times of dwindling marketing budgets and an ever-evolving consumer landscape, please feel free to double or even triple your online marketing efforts this year.

If you still want to spend RM40,000 or upwards on a one-time-only print ad (I’ve got some tips for that too) instead of a highly-targeted, response-oriented online campaign; then go right ahead.

So We’re Bashing Up Customers Now?

If you can’t serve your customers, bash them up. A method practiced by a certain KFC employee; allegedly of course.

But you can’t refute the video evidence. Even if he was provoked, this is still no reason for an employee of a global fast food chain to get all Bruce Lee with anyone; let alone a customer.

But strangely, I wasn’t all too surprised.

That’s because I’ve been noticing the lowering standards of customer service in Malaysia for many years now. I’ve also written about my own experiences and the possible reasons behind such dismal customer service.

The KFC tagline these days is “So Good”. I guess they are not only referring to the chicken (again, allegedly), but also to the whacking that one would get from disgruntled employees.

But that’s the problem isn’t it. The brand spends millions to say something and the employees – who are probably working long, unforgiving hours for pittance – say another. There is hardly any synergy between what you see and what you get from Malaysian businesses these days.

KFC is Smackin Good
He was, after all, a Colonel... don't be charmed by that smile!

And the worst part, no one is bothered.

Like the many customer service mishaps of the past, this video will be forgotten and conveniently dismissed as a one-time-only incident beyond the company’s control.

But I would really like to see is Ronald McDonald kick someone’s ass though… that would be awesomely funny!