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!

 

Why So Emo, Copywriter?

You know, as a copywriter I have always felt that my profession very much resembles our day-to-day, emotion-filled lives.

I mean, the copywriting art of creating intent and thereafter convincing is certainly a skill that is needed in everyday life.

This starts very early in our lives, and right up to our senior years. Some examples:

Asking our parents to let us stay up a little longer
Convincing our siblings that there’s a monster under the bed
Influencing the teacher that it’s the other kid’s fault
Telling your friend that it’s cool to smoke this
Sweet-talk a girl/guy to go out with you
Get an employer to hire you
Persuade the bank that you’re good for it
Warning your kids not to stay up a little longer
Making your kids to get to the bed before the monster does

And these are just broadstrokes. There are countless little acts of convincing that needs to happen every single days of our lives – be it with ourselves or others – to have some semblance of being a functioning human being.

Just like convincing people to purchase, we don’t always get our way. There are failures and rejections to contend with – and most of the time it depends on the emotional connection with other person.

Emotions matter, because we want the recipient to be in a trusting, comfortable and accepting mood if we were to have any success.

Emotional Copywriter
Make the right emotional connection, or it’s eggs on your face!

Think about the last time you willingly agreed to do something.

Let’s say for instance you were asked to dine in a place that you know is average, yet overpriced. But you still agreed.

Did you feel compelled to say yes because you’re such a nice person? Or was it because you were emotionally invested to the person making the request?

Like if my wife asked me to do something I don’t really want to do (don’t get any funny ideas), I’d still probably do it – that’s being emotionally invested, and also so I can earn extra brownie points.

Apparently, being emotionally invested makes you less critical and objectively observant. Love is the greatest emotional investment – think about all the things you did for family, good friends and loved ones… it probably didn’t take too much convincing.

Buying gifts for your nearest and dearest is an emotion-filled task as well, where budget or inconvenience are not prime concerns.

But what if there is no emotional connection, as with life’s other activities? As a copywriter, convincing strangers to purchase a product or service is often devoid of any emotion.

Perhaps chemistry has the answer.

You see, there are a few chemicals we can try to trigger – in our intended targets’ brains – that can alter their emotional state to be more, well, ‘receptive’.

Be it from a copywriter or a salesperson, inducing these chemicals can be the difference between ignoring the message or taking action.

  1. Dopamine
    Improves focus, motivation and memory with an all-round, feel-good factor. Induced by building suspense and leaving things to the imagination with a cliff-hanger. Think teaser ad campaigns and movie trailers as real-world examples. Good e-Mail marketers also use this strategy – where a potent, well-crafted prose leads to a video or landing page. 
  1. Oxytocin
    Builds trust, nurtures generosity and improved bonding. Induced by weaving empathy into the storyline. Those UNICEF, WWF or SPCA campaigns usually take this route, to get you feeling all warm and fuzzy, making you more willing to donate. 
  1. Endorphin
    Makes people laugh and automatically puts them in a good, open and comfortable mood. Think ice-breakers in client presentations or a funny quote to start an e-Mail copy. This funny business is a bit mischievous though, use sparingly or you will end up looking not-so-credible. Great for memes, but not always for marketing communications.

So the next time you encounter a marketing content that spoke to your soul – be it a sponsored post, blog article or video – it’s probably one of the chemicals above at work.

And possibly thanks to a copywriter going all emo to make that soul-warming connection.

The key ideas for this post was based on a TedTalk by David JP Phillips on the science of storytelling. Pretty interesting if you’re into that kind of stuff.

Marketing Automation Fail

Have you guys encountered the talking parking fee machine?

You know, the one that keeps repeating the obvious to oblivion.

“Please insert your parking card”

“Please pay your fee by cash or coin”

“Press the receipt button if you require a receipt”

“I have been programmed to say this until a pandemic wipes out all of humanity, which is currently in progress”

“Please insert…”

Yeah that damn parking machine! Now you remember. I do have two baseball bats, I’m game… let me know when.

So that’s automation in its extremely basic form. Automated to guide or in most cases annoy the crap out of you.

And for a very long time that machine was at the top of my personal automation fail list. Why I have such a list is none of your concern.

And then one fine day this happened.

Lazada 1 Sen Coupon
So thrilled to receive a value that’s not even in circulation anymore. Rare indeed!

Lazada has become a behemoth in online retail these days, and I have been an occasional customer for many years. As with all customer-conscious, competition-wary online marketplaces, Lazada decides to reward me for loyalty with a wallet-busting sum of 1 Sen.

Talk about making it rain!

Now I’ll be fair, the intention was laudable. In fact, I’ve received better valued coupons from Lazada before. Like 2, 3 or 5 Ringgits that didn’t make me feel like a complete broke-ass loser.

And that’s what you want a loyal customer to feel, like they’re getting extra value once in a while.

But this was just bordering on insulting, as unintentional it was, is still was insulting. They might as well just click-bait me and tell me I have RM1 million in credit waiting, and then make me enter a contest that I will never win.

Which I think they have done, oh never mind.

So my take is that this is not an intention fail, but an automation fail. While the talking parking fee machine is mainly just annoying, this automated 1 Sen coupon is marketing automation gone awry.

You see, this coupon was issued probably because I hadn’t bought anything for a few months. And so, an algorithm calculated my previous spends and decided that MYR0.01 was the best amount to convince me to return and go cart crazy.

All fair and good. The only part that they completely missed is setting some rules for the algorithm, just a bit of filtering that doesn’t allow anything less than 1 ringgit to be issued as coupons for example.

Educate Your Automation

While we surely can’t expect someone to review all coupons issued, there surely must be some checks and balances built-in to educate the automation and avoid making a mockery of customers. Because we all know how important it is to maintain customer loyalty, I mean just look at these stats by AnnexCloud, a prominent customer marketing platform:

  • The chances of converting a new customer are just 15-20% compared to 60-70% with existing customers
  • Acquiring a new customer can cost up to 16 times more than retaining existing customers
  • Up to 80% of future profits will potentially come from just 20% of existing customers
  • 46% of customers will potentially increase business with a company for offering loyalty rewards – anything more than 1 sen will be encouraged
  • Existing customers can contribute up to 65% of a company business, whereas only 35% comes from new customers

As a copywriter who has been involved in direct marketing and loyalty programmes from the time of print ad coupons and SMS vouchers, let me tell you this:

Reward appropriately and often to build a loyal, consistent customer base.

So Lazada got it right, until they didn’t. And often, all it takes is one misstep to undo years of trust and relationship building.

Maybe I should send Lazada a physical 1 Sen coin as a token of my appreciation for bestowing a content idea for this blog.

They can use it for the talking parking fee machine I suppose. And it wouldn’t even be accepted. Tough luck!

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?

 

Life Took Control

Well hey, it’s been a 3-year hiatus since my last post.

I blame myself to be honest, for not keeping this sorry excuse for a copywriting blog up-to-date. You see, I really, really meant to continue writing, but circumstances of my own doing somewhat halted my drive and determination to keep the posts coming. My bad, to say the least.

Yet everything has a reason (or many reasons), and mine are very much to do with family and everything that goes along with it. In addition, I’ve had a full-time J.O.B over the last couple of years or so, which meant penning my thoughts was not high up my priority list. I slacked for a few weeks, which became months and eventually years… so here I am, ashamed of my lack of effort and motivation to, just, write.

SEO Writer
I chill for a few years and this is what happens to copywriting… damn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s let bygones be bygones shall we?

Essentially, life took control. And now I am in the midst of setting in motion the plans of what I hope will culminate in regular thoughts, insights, observations, advise, and the usual nonsense (or sense) from yours truly.

This is not a false start and I am determined not to falter. But as with all things that is being reconstructed, it may be a while before you hear from me again. It has been a whirlwind past 3 years, and I hope the trend continues in this domain, positively of course.

Before I end, it is only fitting for me to apologise to all those whom have enquired for my services in the past few years and got turned down. I must say I was very busy and would not have done justice to your company, brand or marketing plans had I taken up your project.

Hopefully soon, I will be available again to assist in achieving your marketing aims and aspirations.

Cheers!

 

Copywriter Turned Consultant

Well, as eventful as it was, 2015 whizzed by like a speeding train.

In fact, my almost 5-year stint as a fulltime freelancer has gone by as if I was in a 100 metre dash.

And yeah, while I’m at it, my 18 or so years as a wordsmith in a creatively constipated industry now feels like a vividly twisted dream.

So here I am, awoken from what seemed like a pseudo-comatose state of mind – anxiously wondering where my career is headed as I approach my 40s.

Freaking 40s, nuts!

But to be honest, it hasn’t been as delusional or convoluted as I’ve made it to be. Yes, putting 18 years of your heart, soul and neck into something ought to be paying dividends.

And it has, for the most part.

pulpSEO
Pulp Optimization…

Strangely, something else has begun to happen over the last couple of years. I have found myself doing much less writing, while being thrust into situations where my overall know-how in marketing began to take the lead. I’ve gone from churning copy after copy after copy; to work on strategic, conceptual and the business side of marketing.

For a long time I thought I would be just generating content till the day I slump over my keyboard, or at best overseeing other lost souls churn out mindless garbage, and then set myself on fire on a pile of badly written client briefs while screaming “no more reeevissiooonnnsss!”.

Yes, people have mentioned I have a warped mind.

So, in essence, I am not just a copywriter anymore. I am somewhat in transition, or maybe I have already transitioned to become a marketing consultant of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, writing is still my first love, and I will continue to be a keyboard slave for a long time to come.

Maybe, just maybe it’s time I pursue my other writing interests. After all, no time to waste as 40 approaches in haste.

Oh…  better late than never, so happy new year!

Seeing is Convincing

Okay. Sometimes, I can be quite biased.

Just because I’m a copywriter, I tend to dismiss the other critical element of a great piece of marketing communication – the visual. Hey you can’t blame a writer who is defensive of his craft.

So why this sudden affinity towards visuals? Well you can’t refute facts, especially when they make a whole lotta sense. According to research by some geniuses, it is proven that:

People remember 80% of what THEY SEE
Compared to only 20% of what THEY READ

Pretty eye-opening stat, if you will. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. I would most likely remember the opening scenes of my favourite movie as opposed to the opening lines of my favourite book. Yes, we humans are intrinsically wired to prioritise visual information.

Eye is for the Brain
Roughly half of the human brain is devoted to processing visual info. That explains a lot about our half-brained politicians…

So that’s how people consume data, but here’s the more important stat part of the same research:

90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years.

Yes, the last 2 frigging years! And we all have access to virtually most of it thanks to accurate search platforms and social media.

So what does this mean for developing marketing communication content?

1. Target
Find out everything you need to know about your audience

2. Focus
Don’t ramble, keep it simple and concise; made easy when you know your target

3. Visual-ise
Take on an infographic mode wherever possible; icons, charts, graphs and illustrations

In essence, don’t add to the mindless drivel that’s growing exponentially every second. Say enough to evoke curiosity, compel action and you’re done.

The sad thing is, apparently only 28% of words in a webpage are actually read, which means 72% of this post just added to the mindless drivel.

The Secret

The secret to become a successful copywriter? Write less.

Yes, it means being able to get a message across in the shortest, most concise and most engaging manner possible.

But that’s not all.

Writing less is also about, well, actually having less writing to do. Think of it from the context of ‘Quality over Quantity’. Having attention divided by five different projects will invariably result in inferior work compared to when if I just had two projects. And if I could just focus on just one project at any one time, I think the work delivered will only get better.

writer@work
This writer is at home, so how would I work? Hmmm…

“But hey… you’ve been doing this for donkey years, shouldn’t you be able to work faster and maintain consistent quality at the same time?” Asked an asshole.

Yes, of course. If it’s the usual marketing drivel laden with mindless superlatives and catchy buzzwords, then yeah, I could whip something out with relative ease.

The thing is I’m fed up actually; fed up with writing junk, tired of BS layered over more BS and often feel sick reading stuff that I’ve written in a rush just to meet a deadline.

If only I had more time. Truth be told, these days, I do.

This is my fourth year of being a fulltime freelance copywriter, and I feel that I’m writing less, but delivering more value to my clients that I ever had in my career.

Firstly, I’m fortunate enough to work with clients that allow for the critical incubation period. And secondly, I have made a conscious choice to take in less work.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, it might sound downright counter-productive. But do my existing clients appreciate my dedication, incisiveness and insights? I sure hope they do.

I could be wrong though, some writers let-fingers-fly on intensive and continuous word-spill, and only then go on to pick what’s good and relevant to be included in a piece of work. I guess I’m just more deliberate and patient with my approach.

And to be honest, there’s no secret really. It just takes time, provided you’ve already done a bit of hard time in the industry to start with.

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?