Is Informal the New Formal in Copywriting?

November 26, 2010

There are Times When Copywriting Should Wear a Suit

As is evidenced by this blog, I’m all for informality in copywriting. Informality brings people together, it suggests that we’re not too stuck up. It sounds more like the spoken word. As a result, it builds bridges.

Informal copywriting styles were initially used with care. Now it has become a fashion and as a fashion, it has been adopted unthinkingly by the marketing masses. In fact, it’s very much like fashion. The first time anyone wore flares, or cigarette pants, or tricorn hats, it would have appeared daring, on the money, energetic. Then the style was adopted by everyone, and even those who looked bad dressed in the fashion of the day had to wear it too.

It’s the same with copywriting. There are times when it’s just right for the job. Some brands cry out for informality – Innocent Drinks, for example, American Apparel, Gap. They crave snappy sentences that aren’t necessarily grammatical, ‘isn’t’ instead of ‘is not’, exclamation marks, directness.

Yet last week I received a letter from a well respected financial company. They started their letter with ‘We’re pleased to send you…’ Did this make me feel that I had my money in the right place? No. It really didn’t. Where are the trusty, suited individuals looking after my money? It reminds me of the poorly assembled marketing for the Abbey building society before they were purchased by Santander.

Certain organisations should be formal. I’ll give you some examples. Banks, financial institutions, government departments, solicitors, barristers and lawyers, hospitals,  educational institutions, museums, libraries, funeral directors. By formal, I don’t mean stuffy. There is no reason why a copywriting style cannot feel warm, but at the same time reflect certain formalities. These are institutions that we respect, that we rely on to educate our children, uphold the rule of law, care for the vulnerable or the deceased. They’re not selling us snackpots or jeans. They’re there to help us at the most important times in our lives. Quite simply, their writing style should reflect the importance of their role in their lives, and frankly, I don’t care if they come across as formal, or even stuffy. I want them to do their job and do it well. Formal language is a signifier that the doctor has read her notes, the bank has counted to the last penny, and the solictor has remembered that clause we discussed last week. Let’s remember that there are times when copywriting has to wear a suit, and times when it’s OK to wear jeans.


How to Market in a Recession

November 19, 2010

Let your Business Grow in Recessionary Times

Yesterday evening I attended a dinner which included a speech by the Chief Economist of HSBC, Stephen King. A personable and interesting speaker, King also writes for The Independent on Economics. Whilst his speech was wide-ranging, and drew much on the history of economics as the present day, it is clear that the route out of recession will be made up of careful steps.

In the meantime, here are some tips for marketing in a recession.

1. Explain the value of your goods or services

2. Give something for free, whether it’s a physical product or even information or a white paper. People appreciate free gifts even more when the economy is tight

3. Be relevant. Now is not the time for extravagant gestures

4. Use the best possible data to shape your campaign

5. Measure ROI from your campaign

6. Use partnerships to achieve more coverage without increasing costs

7. Use free media such as social media and blogs

8. Work on your Search Engine Optimisation skills – it will generate extra leads at no extra cost to you than your time

9. Keep in touch with your network

10. Demonstrate an understanding of financial constraints in your communications with potential customers

It’s a time for us all to embrace the new order. It’s certainly true that after this period, marketing will be very easy indeed, and we’ll be much better skilled as a result. Feel free to post your own best strategies for marketing in a recession too.


Why Marketing is an Engine for Growth

November 17, 2010

 

Winners Only Need to be Slightly Better than the Competition

Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details of marketing – why one strategy works better than another, whether to print a brochure or deliver it on line – when the true purpose of marketing is forgotten. The true purpose of marketing is to drive a business forward and act as an engine for growth.

So why would you use marketing at all? Why not be purely sales driven?

1. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to you but they don’t mind reading about you.

2. You cannot always reach the key decision-maker. They might be looking for your services online or in a trade magazine, for example.

3. It’s important to have materials that explain your offerings in support of your sales effort.

4. In a crowded market, it’s necessary to develop branding that sets your company apart.

Marketing can take many forms, from branding reflected in stationery, advertising, signage and even workwear, to direct marketing using email and print, and through to organising a company’s presence at a trade show.

Whilst marketing is changing, the principles remain the same and involve careful planning, budgeting and implementation. Research should show that any activity targets the right audience and that its costs are justified. Implementation should be professional and timely. All activities should be followed up and measured. Simple really.

Marketing needn’t be complicated. Just find yourself an expert who can help you through the basics and watch your company grow.


How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

November 14, 2010

Strategy Should Define Marketing Spend

It’s not always simple to define the appropriate level of marketing spend for a business. However, here are some considerations that should make it a little easier to analyse.

1. How long has your business been established? If your company is well established with a good market share, it may be possible to operate marketing at a stable, but not aggressive level. However, this depends on:

2. What are your competitors spending on marketing? Although these calculations will never be 100% accurate, you should aim to spend more than your competitors.

How is Marketing Spend Calculated?

The most common method of calculating marketing spend is a term coined by IDC called ”MBR’ or Marketing Budget Ratio. MBR is essentially, a ratio of your marketing spend to sales revenue.

So What is Normal Marketing Spend?

Marketing spend varies by sector, type of business and other factors such as product lifecycle and competition. Technology companies’ marketing spend ranges from 1.1% MBR for IT service companies, to software companies who spend an average 6.5% of sales revenues. Yet there are some quite dramatic exceptions even within this band. Dot com startups seeking rapid growth and market share can spend as much as five times their annual revenues on marketing, although this is only sustainable through investment and with a view to establishing their market position as quickly as possible.

Business to business companies also vary significantly from business to consumer companies. In the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector, it is common to spend 50% of net sales in the first year of a new product, reducing this to 8-10% within a few years. Conversely, B2B companies will typically spend a few percent of their sales revenues on marketing.

Although it only covers media spend, you may enjoy Paul Dunay’s excellent blog on how major technology companies only spend 0.2% of their revenues on media. As he explains, the bigger the company, the smaller media spend becomes as a percentage of overall revenues, making it harder for smaller companies to compete.

I’ve mentioned the importance of tracking competitors’ spend. It is also wise to think about the platforms on which you will need to promote your company. The online space is becoming increasingly crowded; competition for certain keywords is high. It is best to consult with an expert in online marketing before setting marketing budgets if these areas are important to you.

Finally, rather than allocating marketing spend on the basis of what is affordable, it’s perhaps important to take a step back and consider what will really move your business forward. How can you flourish in the competitive landscape? What are the important promotional routes to gain exposure? If the budget is not available, it’s worth considering outside investment or a change of product offering. Unfortunately a good product is not enough. It’s about making sure the market knows you have it.


How To Grow Your Presence Through Co-Marketing

November 10, 2010

Partnerships Can Help You Grow Your Business

There are many ways to increase your presence within your target industry. However, co-marketing is often overlooked and can be extremely valuable.

What is Co Marketing?

Co-Marketing comes about through a partnership with a complementary business. For example, if your company sells printing services, it might be in your interests to form a co-venture with a finishing company so that both sets of services can be presented to a potential client.

This form of marketing is particularly popular in the IT and software industries where it is expensive and time consuming to create additional related technologies but where related software could be particularly useful to customers.

Benefits of Co-Marketing

  • Co-marketing allows you to present another company’s services alongside your own, giving your clients a more useful package of services
  • Your company can gain insights from working with another, non competitive partner
  • The industry is likely to find your partnership of interest, leading to increased marketing and PR opportunities
  • You may be able to share marketing budgets with your partner company, enabling you to promote your business at more, and possibly more expensive, events
  • Your venture, if well chosen, will demonstrate expertise in your industry

How to Explore Co-Marketing Opportunities

  • Carefully research any company with whom you are considering a partnership. Check their financial status, their market positioning, their products and their marketing
  • Ensure there are no areas of competition or anything which would conflict with client agreements
  • Discuss how you will present your partnership and agree protocols for joint marketing and press work
  • Ensure that both parties check all promotional literature that is issuedin their name
  • Look at long term objectives – decide how you want the partnership to develop and work out how to achieve this
  • Create a detailed marketing plan that you are both happy with
  • Ensure that the sales and marketing teams in both organisations fully understand the services delivered by their partner company
  • Use PR – press releases and social media – to spread the word about the partnership and generate additional publicity for both organisations

Co-marketing can be a very successful route to new sales for both your company and your partner’s. If it’s not something you have explored in the past, it’s definitely to be recommended.


10 Tips for Planning an Exhibition

November 3, 2010

Good Planning Makes Exhibitions Easier and More Successful Too

It’s exhibition season and this is the final in a series of posts to help you plan your exhibition presence. For further information on How to Buy a Trade Show Display or Designing Trade Show Displays, please consult previous posts.

This article gives some useful tips on areas to consider when planning an exhibition.

1. Consider your target market. Who do you want to attract to your booth and what do you want them to do when they are there? It is important to set clear objectives and ensure that everyone who will be present on the booth understands the exhibition goals.

2. Contact your contacts. Plan activity in advance of the exhibition to notify key customers and prospects that your company will be there. Get the sales team working to set up meetings. Design competitions and offers to draw people to the booth. Use emails and Twitter to keep prospects and clients up to date with your plans.

3. Use all forms of PR and social media. If you’re not using Twitter yet, you should be! Use Twitter to connect with your audience and link up with visitors to the show using the event hashtag. Use LinkedIn and TripIt to ensure people know you will be at the event. Find out from the organisers about promotional opportunities and use any that you can.

4. Use your website. Set up a special page or area dedicated to the show and direct traffic from your marketing directly to this area or page. This will help you assess the results of your exhibition marketing. Make sure there is a clear path from this area to the next stage of asking for further information or speaking to your sales team. Set up this area as early as possible to help with SEO.

5. Design your booth. Design your booth well in advance of the exhibition and use the most cost effective and secure way to ship it to the location. If you are using an existing booth, make sure that all content on the graphics is completely up to date and order replacement banners if necessary. Order any necessary furniture and lighting. Well lit booths always look better.

6. Plan your AV and electronic requirements. Where will you display any video content? Is there enough electricity for your AV and IT requirements? Do you have a countertop or kiosk for your computers? What about internet access?

7. Review marketing collateral. What are you going to give visitors to your booth? Do you have enough copies? Think about brochures, leaflets, DVDs, and business cards.

8. Organise product samples. Do you need to show any product samples on the booth? Are they available? Do you have permission to display them? Do they need any special display conditions or temperature control?

9. Plan your data capture. How will you capture leads? A simple lead form or a data capture wand? These can usually be hired from the organisers. Who will input the data into a spreadsheet or CRM system? Can someone do this at the event for speedy lead followup afterwards?

10. Plan travel and accommodation in advance. These get more expensive and difficult to procure the later you leave it. Be an early bird.

Every exhibition is different, but I hope that the suggestions above help you to successfully plan your trade show presence and achieve successful results. Have a great time – it’s the closest you’ll get to being on stage 🙂