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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

I have two left feet. Dancing lessons, anyone?

This is reproduced from something I wrote for Clayton Makepeace's Total Package. I thought you might like it

Anyone who buys this rubbish (some fools will, believe me) deserves what they get

Among my favourite politicians is Lord Salisbury, a Prime Minister under Queen Victoria.

A splendidly conservative chap, when anyone suggested change, he would say "Aren’t things bad enough already?" (They don’t make them like Lord Salisbury any more. He was extremely absent-minded. At a dinner party he turned to the man sitting next to him and asked, "Who is that gentleman sitting down there on the right?" "That is your lordship’s eldest son," was the reply.)

But something else he said has long stuck in my mind, "One thing long experience of life has taught me is that you never should trust experts."

I was reminded of this by an e-mail I got a few days ago from a firm claiming they could improve my marketing. Why they singled me out for their tender attentions, I have no idea – but then e-mails are so cheap that people bang them out pretty much at random.

This e-mail was such an excellent vindication of Lord Salisbury’s view that parts are worth analysing. Almost everything about it was wrong. So many things, in fact, that it is almost the perfect guide to what to avoid.

Start with a lousy subject line

If you wish to write a bad e-mail, the subject line is where to start – though I doubt whether many people did in this case, as it read, with soporific calm: "Improve Your Marketing with XXXX Marketing.co.uk."

To be fair, it did mention marketing, rather than garbage disposal, so I guess that told us what they were talking about. 2 out of 10 for that, then.

The e-mail itself was a very neatly laid out HTML design, like a glorified leaflet. So we can assume these marketing experts don’t know cold e-mails should look like text. No doubt they also think the secret of good direct mail is to stick a few leaflets in an envelope.

They addressed me "Hello Drayton Bird" – so I also assume they don’t know that if you want to be personal, use first names alone.

The copy itself was a sort of magical mystery tour through all the dreary marketing clichés you ever came across – and was all written from their standpoint – with little about me.

Don’t try this at home

Here is a sprinkling of stuff to avoid like the plague, starting with:

"We are writing to inform you of XXXX Marketing Co’s exciting new venture."

I have long wondered why anyone should imagine I give so much as a plaintive hoot about their ventures when I find my own so much more fascinating, but we shall let that pass and press on to find:

"As a full service Digital Marketing Agency based in the Midlands, XXXX Marketing.co.uk offers a wide range of Online Marketing and Consultancy Services alongside Digital Marketing Training.

At XXXX Marketing.co.uk we are a team of dedicated Marketing Professionals who always ensure that our clients’ wants and needs are a priority so that we can develop a bespoke strategy that will achieve if not exceed their goals and objectives."

It’s almost uncanny how they managed to cram in so much dreary stuff. I guess you could hire a corpse to write something duller than that, but I’m not at all sure of it.

I was delighted to learn – under the heading "Our bespoke marketing services" that "Our Marketing strategies accommodate all types of business, small or large, new or old but all with the same aim in mind, to bring high quality targeted traffic to your website, increase your brand awareness and to bring you the best ROI possible."

But there was more:

Our digital marketing services include SEO, E-mail Marketing, Social Marketing, Online PR, Pay-Per-Click and Affiliate Marketing and by combining these channels we can offer a solution to your every need.

And so it dragged on – page after page of it.

You get the experts you deserve

I thought this sort of thing died out in the late 1940s, but no: it lives on, like a sort of stumbling promotional zombie.

What is saddening and sobering, though, is that this firm, if it persists, will attract clients.

It will do so not because of its dire copy or total ignorance of what works best, nor even the fact that it gets the e and i in "receive" the wrong way round and has no idea of the role of the apostrophe. No: it will succeed for two reasons.

  • Most of the people who buy marketing services haven’t taken the trouble to find out anything about the subject and are gulled by meaningless jargon.
  • If you are selling something people want, even the worst approach will do pretty well – whereas even the best will fail if people don’t want what you offer.

For example, people aren’t that interested in direct mail right now, so no matter how well you sell it, you have a pretty tough job. What they are crying out for is anything to do with the Internet.

In this wonderful world where like cleaves unto like, this firm will get the kind of clients it wants: the kind who are as clueless about what they are doing as the agency.

And they, in turn, will get exactly the kind of agency – and results they deserve.

Rough justice, really.


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