The lady on the left is called Elena Salvoni. She is London’s most famous Maitre – or rather Maitresse - d’Hote. On the walls are hundreds of photographs of her with her customers.
For 40 years I have followed her from one restaurant to another - Bianchi’s, L’Escargot, L’Etoile. So have people like Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole - everyone from Princess Diana to Sean Connery. We didn’t go for the food, which was good, but not outstanding. Just her. She is charm itself.
She has been in the trade for 70 years, and recently celebrated her 90th birthday, which got a big feature in the Evening Standard. So they’ve just fired her. There is now absolutely no reason whatsoever to go there. They should shut up shop now and save themselves some money.
For years I bought clothes at Reiss. Then a suit got rumpled in a shower and stayed wrinkled when dry cleaned. It was clearly a bad lining. They refused to give me a refund – and lost thousands of pounds’ worth of future business. I still like their clothes – but I’m damned if I’ll spend a penny with them.
Three days ago I bought some fish at Tesco in Soho which was off. When an hour later I took it with the receipt to my local branch in Chelsea for a refund they refused. I wrote an email about my “shopping experience” as they suggested on the receipt. They never replied. Why ask if you don't care?
Screw them. We've been buying snacks at lunch and stuff for the office from them for 5 years now. I’ll go elsewhere, probably to Sainsbury, because one of my staff had a similar problem with them – but they paid up.
They say organisations have no soul. They certainly have no commonsense. The people who run them sit in their fancy offices, have pointless meetings and don’t meet the customers – or try being a customer. Nor do they understand that one sale is not what it’s about.
I relish a quote from Jeff Bezos of Amazon who replied to a questioner: “Are my customers loyal? Absolutely. 100%. Right till the moment someone comes along with a better service.”
WELCOME TO THE DRAYTON BIRD BLOG - Commonsense about marketing, business and life
If you like, I'll e-mail you each new dollop of drivel when I publish it. Just
Saturday, 31 July 2010
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Not long ago I did lots of short videos featuring wonderful, fabulous M-E-E-E-E-E ... and one very long one of my partner Al, who's put up with my quibbles, tantrums and peskiness for 8 years.
The one featuring him was the best. It's here . If you can bear to watch about 10 minutes (most people now have the attention span of goldfish) they could be the most profitable 10 minutes you spend this year.
The graph and figures I've illustrated show you one of his little conjuring tricks. You can see how three very small changes lowered the cost of conversions for one client - a world-famous name - from £225.16 to £2.73.
It took Al less than an hour's study to spot this, and just a few minutes to carry it out. Their Google "experts" hadn't suggested it. Nor had their well-paid in-house guy.
This was not a one-off. Another client who sold loans off-loaded their business to a big fat bank for tens of millions partly because of my copy but also because of one tiny change to their application form that Al suggested which increased applications from 2.2% to 4.7% without adding a word or a syllable.
Unfortunately God created only one Al, and only 24 hours in the day, so I don't promote his skills much. However, today I hired someone to take some of the grunt work away from him (like spending a day on the phone to some people in a mysterious land about our bloody affiliate links) so he can do stuff that really matters.
His magic is mostly but not entirely to do with AdWords, though he is an uncannily good judge of copy. But he does for thousands what agencies with fancy glass offices charge big fat stupid corporates tens of thousands for.
With a little help and the odd nudge from me, he does three things.
1. He gets you a whole lot more enquiries.
2. He shows you how to convert more of them into sales.
3. He usually saves you a ton of money as well. And of course anybody who can put up with my nagging for 8 years is an angel.
So if you want to get markedly better results on line, just email me, Drayton@draytonbird.com, with one word "Al".
If I were you I'd do it now, the minute you finish reading this. Al and I can only take on 3 new clients at the moment.
NEXT WRITING WEBINAR: in one week, next Friday at 2 p.m.
It includes a check list for evaluating your work, plus a free copy of my General Briefing Template, which doesn't write the copy for you - but gives you all the right ammunition.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 07:33
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Not so long ago my partner wanted to contact someone at Google to ask them how to get incentives like AdWords packages. It was utterly impossible to do so.
When eventually, through a friend nothing to do with Google, she did get through to someone there and asked to be put through to the person whose name she had ferreted out, the reply was, “I am not at liberty to give you their telephone number.”
This is the arrogance of idiots, and it is depressingly commonplace.
We have spent days trying to move a server from Windows to Linux for the benefit of EADIM affiliates, a task that should take little more than pressing a few buttons and the odd key.
Every possible obstacle, no matter how petty, has been painstakingly placed in our path to stop us doing so.
I’ve said it God knows how many times: nothing fails like success.
And nothing in my lifetime has succeeded so fast and so utterly as the internet, or spawned so many inept oafs.
What has happened is that a few smart people got in on the ground floor and made millions or even billions, sometimes deservedly, often not.
Then they lost interest, and employed platoons of underlings – the sort who used to get jobs as counter clerks in post offices, though too often without the ability to read and write – to run things.
Such people are completely unaware that they are supposed to be offering a service – and the people above them are functionaries who have no clue either; they would do just as well in a large insurance firm or bank.
One problem – not just with the Internet, but generally – is that far too many people who succeed don’t realise how much of it was due to luck. Another is that the qualities it takes to build something are often useless when employing or managing large numbers of pretty average people in a big, fat organisation.
It happened with Microsoft. It’s obviously happening with Google. In fact yesterday my partner Al noted that Google are fast becoming as hated as Microsoft. Yahoo clearly lost the plot some years ago. Unless an unusual person with that rare, grounded sense of the real - like Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffet - stays on it always happens.
Mind you, I’m not saying I’d do any better. I’m clueless at pretty much anything beyond deciding where to go to lunch.
P. S. I was just about to stick this up when I saw this piece of emetic tripe from the Firefox welcome page: "Thanks for supporting Mozilla's mission of encouraging openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web!"
I can tell you, as sure as God made little apples, that a group of time-wasting, navel-gazing "executives" sat in a room debating that little piece of corporate hogwash, word by dreary word.
Lets face it, neither I nor any of your customers gives a flying fuck about your "mission" - which we all know is to make as much money as possible as fast as possible. I just want to get stuff done quickly on the web - a mission you totally failed to assist me in fifteen minutes ago when I wanted to edit this.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 17:02
Three weeks ago in my first webinar on how to write and persuade, I said "good writing starts with good reading".
This 80 year old piece by Bruce Barton - left, one of the best-ever copywriters and advertising men- sent me by a friend makes the point well.
"THE other night my friend Ferrero and I spent a few years with Julius Caesar in ancient Rome.
We went with him on his campaigns in Gaul. Those were wonderful battles — wonderful fighters.
From a hill-top we could watch the whole battle — thousands of men driving at each other with their swords, hurling their javelins at short range. No smoke, no trenches; just primitive, hand-to-hand conflict.
We came back to Rome. The city was in a turmoil. Our great chariots thundered through the streets in triumph; our captives, our spoils, our banners made a magnificent procession. The crowds cheered wildly.
Another evening my friend Green and I had a great time together in ancient Britain.
We went down to Runnymede with a group of English nobles. They were powerful men, each a petty king in his own section; but every one of them took his life in his hand on that expedition.
And there we gathered around King John, and forced him, against his will, to put his name to the Magna Carta, the Great Charter which is the foundation of English liberties — and our own.
I had a fine time with Napoleon a few nights before.
I met him when he landed in France, after the escape from Elba.
Up through the southern provinces he came, gathering a few troops there, winning over by the force of his eloquence the regiments sent to capture him.
We arrived in Paris. Hurriedly, but with supreme confidence that the Little Corporal could never fail; we got together a makeshift army and set out to strike the winning blow at Waterloo.
That battle — I shall never forget it.
Another day I went over to old Concord, and spent the whole afternoon with Emerson.
We talked about Representative Men. Well, well, you say, what foolishness is this? What do you mean by saying you lived with Caesar and Napoleon and Emerson — all centuries apart, all long since dead?
If you do not know what I mean, then I pity you.
Have you never come home tired from your office, and with a book transported your foolish little mind clear out of the present day?
Have you never learned the joy of surrendering yourself to the companionship of the great men of the past?
Have you never sat in the little London Club and heard Sam Johnson thunder his philosophy of life?
Have you never sailed up and down the American coast with Captain John Smith, dodging the Indians and opening up a new continent?
Are you one of the wretched, poverty stricken souls who have never learned to escape from yourself through the blessed magic of good books?
Have you contented yourself all your life with the companionship of good pinochle-players, when you might have been a familiar friend of Socrates and Milton and Napoleon and Cromwell and Washington and Columbus and Shakespeare and Lincoln and Rousseau?
If so, cut out this from a great man and paste it in your hat:
I would rather be a beggar and dwell in a garret, than a king who did not love books.
There are some marvellous experiences coming to you.
You can in the evenings to come jar yourself out of the petty rut where circumstance has placed you, and become a familiar of the immortals.
You may learn to face the world with a new confidence, a new poise, a new self respect, because you have made yourself a citizen of the ages.
Do some real reading.
Do it for the joy it will give you: Do it for the good it will do you.
“Show me a family of readers,” said Napoleon, “and I will show you the people who rule the world.”
Posted by Drayton Bird at 11:40
Thursday, 22 July 2010
There is a humbling passage in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer - no I'm not THAT old - that I recall from my early years at school, when I was subjected to year after year of organised guilt.
It ran, "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us."
This sprang to mind because from time to time kindly souls write to point out that I have screwed up one way or another, and sometimes both.
Is this, you may wonder, because I am senile, stupid, forgetful, idle, useless or all five?
If I explain, you will sorry for me. At least I hope so.
The older I get the more I believe this - but the less time I have to do things. So I have FAR too many things on the go.
I'm preparing for the next EADIM residential course in London - but shamefully haven't quite finished duplicating the 40 plus hours of video from the last.
I'm revising the structure of my Commonsense Learning Programme which may have greater stamina than other similar things, but should be restructured and simplified.
I have a programme aimed at Corporate Marketers - a £20,000 investment that has been lying around - but needs fully reviewing.
I have a new book drafted that I must go through - with a cover design I don't like.
Anyhow, some mysteries are beyond even the keenest intellect.
A client who watched today's webinar said he couldn't on Firefox, but could on Explorer.
Odd, because two of my colleagues were watching on Firefox at that very moment
Some other oddities are maddening to someone as un-teccie as me. For instance, lots of you get these blogs by e-mail, which is just wonderful and much appreciated - but not much help if I try to embed a video.
Anyhow you can see the video mentioned in my last post at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKdeuqFabhQ. Don't ask me why my face is squashed. I have no more idea than you. It just INFURIATES me.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 12:04
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
I'm working on the next writing webinar - and thanks for all the kind comments.
To join me justplay this video.
Just to tell you what it's all about ...
Getting started is the biggest nightmare, so I shall give you 20 helpful ideas for beginnings, plus some of the brilliant letter openings by my late friend Bill Jayme.
Bill was widely seen as the best direct mail writer in the world - and was certainly the wittiest and most civilised. He and his partner Heikki also gave me the perhaps worst hangover I ever had (among stiff competition) last time I saw him in his beautiful house on the Russian Steps in San Francisco.
When Bill and Heikki retired they were charging $20,000 - $40,000 a direct mail pack - equal to at least 3 times as much now - I guess. They had a queue 18 months long and clients had to come to them - not the other way round. He was very kind to me, and really kick-started my speaking career.
I shall also take apart one of two letters I wrote for the Arsenal Supporters Trust to prevent the club being taken over by a dodgy Russian billionaire (is there any other kind?).
This letter doubled their membership - then I wrote another, which I have already dissected for subscribers to my Commonsense programme.
They may have helped save the club. To be honest I haven't kept track, but they certainly helped for a few years. Funny thing is, I did them for nothing. And during the webinarI shall answer a question one subscriber asked about how to make sure your copy flows logically.
I hope you can join me.
Here's how to do so (and save £18).
Here's the link!
Posted by Drayton Bird at 12:56
Monday, 19 July 2010
"I have said this many times before, but nobody listened, so I shall say it again," was the start of a speech by Jean Cocteau.
Honouring his name, I have quoted him a few times.
Anyhow I was reminded of him when I saw one of those fatuous headlines beloved of the marketing press in Australian AdNews.
"Suzuki in hunt for digital agency" it read. How bloody stupid. You only have to mention you're looking for an agency and every smooth-talking tosser within a thousand miles will be on the phone.
What they mean is they want the right digital agency, which they will waste a lot of time choosing, ending with the right decision - if they do - by accident.
The Adnews story explains why.
"Suzuki is gearing up to review its digital ad account and is in the process of drawing up a long list of agencies.
Suzuki Australia national marketing manager, Andrew Moore, told AdNews he planned to brief eight to ten agencies and then shortlist three or four."
O. K., turning away reluctantly from the temptation to comment on the phrase "gearing up" let me tell you about these costly, time-wasting beauty parades.
They have a long list of possibles all of whom invest time and money in fancy presentations. Then, based on who they like the look of, they have a short list, who invest even more money and time on even fancier presentations.
Then they choose the winner. Maybe because they like them - the cliche is "personal chemistry". Maybe because (this happened to me) someone bribed them. Maybe because they liked the creative idea. Maybe because they were drunk. Maybe because they were tired. Maybe because it was a nice day. Maybe because the presenter had big tits. Maybe because someone played golf with someone else (true of one client I know) . Maybe because they had a silly check-list. Who cares why?
But hardly ever do these numbskulls pay attention to the words of the greatest advertising man ever.
"There is only one answer to every advertising problem. Conduct a test."**
So said Claude Hopkins.
But ninety nine times out of a hundred these people haven't even heard of Claude Hopkins. And it's not their money anyhow.
God save us from bloody amateurs.
** You don't know how to set up a test? Tear your goo-goo eyes away from those big tits. Ignore the spotlit glory of their offices. Forget about who bought you the biggest lunch, had the fanciest charts or used the most incomprehensible jargon about social networks.
After talking to their existing clients without telling them, take three agencies who got good reviews from their clients and have proved they get measurably better results. Then make them run head to head tests to see who gets you the most test drives. (You are more interested in selling cars than strategic bullshit, right?)
That should take about a month, save a lot of wasted time and make you a lot of money.
But will you do it? I somehow doubt it. Even amidst the greatest recession in 80 years, sanity has yet to prevail over woolly thinking.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 08:08
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Ocado (a home delivery service) is trying to float its business, which has never made a profit and lost £25 million last year, for £800 million to 1.2 billion.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 10:10
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Yesterday one of my favourite clients rang me and askd me a question.
"How long have you been giving me advice, Drayton?"
"Eight or nine years."
"Have I ever given you any advice?"
"Er ... no."
"Well I am now. You are seriously undervaluing those writing webinars."
Well gentle readers, please don't assume this is a highly unsubtle way of telling you the damn webinars are the grestest deal since free wine at one of the Emperor Nero's more imaginative orgies.
I'm just telling you what the man said, and since he runs webinars himself, who knows? - he may be right.
Anyhow you can decide for yourself (assuming you want to write stuff that persuades and you don't just come here for the bad jokes).
Just go here and sign up. There's a money-back guarantee.
In the first webinar, which lasts just under an hour, I will:
- Suggest one simple (and enjoyable) habit far too many copywriters ignore that I believe makes the difference between O.K. writing and great writing
- Advise you on how to manage your time effectively
- Reveal what tests and research have discovered about how to write so well that people can’t stop reading.
- Analyse a letter and ad I wrote for a top business school which sold a previously unsaleable seminar to some of the world's leading executives
Why not sign up now?
Posted by Drayton Bird at 06:11
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
An apology to Chris Newton - and the answer to a question about copy length that you may have asked yourself
I'm afraid I was not at my best and brightest yesterday.
Besides my usual slapdash approach to things I had advanced jet-lag after getting off the plane from New York and going straight to the office, so as a result I re-christened Chris Newton Dave. Sorry, Chris.
This morning I got a question (and a welcome compliment) from Deirdre O'Kane in Ireland who gets my helpful ideas. She wrote:
Thank you so much for the ideas. They are terrific. Some of what you propose, I was already doing, but honestly, I had never analysed WHY those ideas worked. And on particular campaigns when I have tried to be too bloody clever by half and been much less successful, I hadn’t identified the reason. I look forward to learning a great deal more.
I’m quite sure you don’t have time to read all the responses you must get, but I have one question (well actually, lots but I won’t push it!) : if I write a sales letter that is designed to be followed up by a sales call, it works to keep it very short and attention grabbing. In fact, it seems to be more effective than a longer pitch. Is that your experience or have I just been dealing with very good telephone sales reps who have made the sale regardless of the length of my sales letter?
People are often pretty surprised that I do try to read and reply to every message. I miss a few, but I just think auto-responders lack a certain charm.
This was my reply to Deirdre's question:
"The shorter copy will usually get more, but less qualified leads. And vice versa. Sales people often prefer the former; more to go at.
Incidentally, I am coming to Ireland to speak to a load of accountants later this year."
NOTE "How to write proper" webinar series. This should start this coming Friday, technology permitting.
Besides talking about how to manage your time and what makes for better writing I will include an analysis of a letter and ad I wrote for a top business school which sold a previously unsaleable seminar aimed at some of the world's leading executives.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 07:45
Monday, 12 July 2010
I got off the plane from New York this morning, took the tube to the office- and was infuriated by an ad in the paper before I even got there.
It was a full page with no picture and maybe 100 or so words of copy.
The headline was “Be an ingredient.” Really. “Be an ingredient.”
Can you guess what that was about? Can you detect the slightest speck of the one thing that makes people read ads: news of a benefit? Can you imagine what kind of clueless drones wrote it – or approved it?
More to the point, can you surmise what the ad was selling? Or who paid for it? Or why I was outraged?
I was outraged because I helped pay for it. It was run by EDF, the French energy firm that gouges money out of me every month, the grasping rogues.
Why didn’t they say “Be a warthog”? It would have made as much sense.
Compare that with what Dave Newton wrote to me about this morning. In his very first copywriting job in Johannesburg one of his first projects was for Rank Xerox.
Let him tell the story.
“I thought, wow!! ... This is going to be a big account, and maybe an ostrich feather in my cap.
When I got to the account manager’s office, I was eagerly awaiting the wheeling out of the new super duper photocopier for us to promote. Instead, he handed me a piece of white paper.
OK, I thought, he wants me to take notes. But then he told me this WAS the product!
What they wanted was a direct mail campaign to promote their new copy paper.
Back in those ‘dark ages’, photocopies broke down with monotonous regularity. This amazing new paper had a new weave, so that the fibres wouldn’t curl in hot and humid conditions.
Well, as any good Ogilvy-Hopkins-Watkins-Caples-Reeves et al trained copywriter would be, I got really excited at the potential for this piece of white paper.
I wrote a direct mailing piece that went out to all buyers of stationery across South Africa. The letterhead we used was this special type of bond paper.
Can you guess the opening sentences on my letter? It said,
“Hello ... Right now, is anybody watching you? Because I want you to do something very unusual.
I want you to LICK the corner of this page.
Did you see what happened?
That’s right. Nothing! ...
You see ... (which then went on to extol the virtues of this new breakthrough paper).
Happily for me, the campaign was a roaring success. And one I’ve had an enormous amount of fun with talking about in seminars over the years since. Although these days, we get so caught up in the electronic media, some of the foundational examples get lost. Or forgotten.”
Good copy, if at all possible, quickly demonstrates the benefit of the product, rather than squandering the money of the customers who, ultimately, fund the advertising. (EDF also run a great many fatuous TV ads, too - all on money people like me work damn hard to earn).
Oddly enough, Dave’s story reminds me of a mailing I wrote around the same time to sell a flame-proofing product which asked people to set fire to a letter. That did so well the client then ran it as a magazine insert.
And just to boast, we just heard from a client that they are “flooded with phone calls.” So the aged quill has not lost its cunning ... yet.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 13:03
Sunday, 11 July 2010
After a board meeting in Frankfurt, Lord knows how many years ago, David Ogilvy told me over dinner that "Rosser Reeves and I were talking one day, and we agreed that everything we knew we had learned from John Caples."
Rosser Reeves, who was Ogilvy's brother-in-law, coined the initials USP that everyone now uses with such gay, and often inaccurate abandon.
John Caples, besides being a very good copywriter - They laughed when I sat down at the piano is one of the most copied lines ever - popularised systematic testing, though not enough to penetrate the thick skulls of most corporate drones.
When a Wall Street Journal interviewer asked Caples if the principles he had discovered still applied, he replied: "Times change. People don't."
In the early 1900s, A. Joseph Newman, General Sales Manager, Bayuk Cigars, Inc., Philadelphia, had an original method of helping his company’s distributors.
Under a pen name, Frank Trufax (true facts) he wrote a series of letters to imaginary salesmen in which he discussed very real problems. Here’s one example
To My Salesmen:
I was looking over the orders the other day and I saw one from a dealer whom we had not been selling for at least a year.
I was tickled pink to see him back on our books once again.
Our little selling-fool, Billy Keepatem, put it over—yes, he did. Hats off to Keepatem, boys!
“Well, Bill, how did you do it?” said I to Bill at first opportunity.
“Nothing wonderful about it, Mr. Trufax,” replied Bill. “That dealer sells a lot of stuff and I thought if he was worth going after, he was worth keeping after. I’ve been calling on him regularly once a week for nine months and – well, I landed him. That’s all there is to it.”
Did you get that one pithy phrase Bill pulled: “If he was worth going after, he was worth keeping after?”
24.4% made 2 calls and quit
14.7% made 3 calls and quit
12.7% made 4 or more calls
Go over those figures once again, boys, they’re intensely interesting.
Then clear your mind to get full shock of this body-blow of an answer to the second question:
Sixty per cent of the sales made were on or after the fifth call!
This investigation, of course, proves very little conclusively but it does emphasize this one thing:
Eighty-eight per cent of the salesmen automatically eliminated themselves from consideration of sixty per cent of the business because they quit before the dealer had been brought up to the buying point.
Boys, I don’t want you to waste time watering dead plants but I do want you to keep digging around the live ones.
You can never tell when the “No, not today” will change into “Yes, send ‘em along.”
It may be on the fifth call; it may be on the fiftieth call; but as Billy Keepatem says:
“If a dealer is worth going after, he’s worth keeping after.”
Posted by Drayton Bird at 10:19
Saturday, 10 July 2010
I thought nothing could depress me more in recent months than all the witless boasting in the British garbage press about what England would do in the World Cup - followed by the depressing charade they put on.
But then I opened yesterday’s New York Post to read about “suave Brit” Adam Lyons,”famous in the U.K. as a teacher of pick-up artistry”. He’s running 3-day Pick-Up Boot Camps for desperate males at $1,400 a kick, together with his newly found American Mate Amanda.
Never having heard of this man with a face like a grinning chipmunk – probably because he’s married himself a Green Card - I wondered if, even at this late date, I could pick up the odd hint.
He suggested that “If you’re watching the ice-skaters at Bryant Park and someone takes a fall, you could turn to the girl next to you and say, “Wow, that guy just totally wiped out ... how embarrassing, right?”
Well, I guess you could. And if she was even remotely intelligent she would be well within her rights to give you a quick, but vigorous kick in the balls.
They used to have those initials, FILTH – Failed In London, Try Hong-Kong – for all the braying twats who went there to Lord it over the far more intelligent Chinese.
Could anyone suggest something based around Fucked Up in London, Loser in New York?
Forget it. Maybe the kind of people who take the New York Post seriously will eat up Mr. Lyons. They’ll get food poisoning.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 14:52
Friday, 9 July 2010
Being, as they say in the North where I was brought up, "as cheap as chips", I am ever alert for a bargain, so I read this from a man called Phil with some interest.
We would like to offer DraytonBird Associates Ltd the opportunity to fill any two roles for only £995. With a massive saving of approximately £400 off our single vacancy price can you really afford to miss it?
The answer was "yes"- and I shall explain why - but I thought it was a good e-mail, because the copy mentioned they'd filled 92% of vacancies in the previous month.
I think people are the most important asset for any business, and I would never, if I could possibly help it, let them be supplied by a recruitment firm. I feel pretty much the same about "human resource" people.
(Stop me if you've already heard this).
My then PA at the time, Denise, suggested I could get the perfect girl - a bright 19 year old she had already spotted - from a recruitment agency for a mere £2,000 plus.
Well, the last thing I needed was a bright 19 year old, and I resented paying that much to people who are little more than body-brokers.
So I wrote an ad in 20 minutes which we stuck on Gumtree. It cost us £19, and I got 82 replies in 24 hours, and found nearly twenty likely good people. Choosing the right one was the only problem.
And what was her background? She was running a hamburger restaurant. "I've never been a PA, but believe me, there's nothing you can throw at me that' s as hard as what I do now."
She was fantastic until she went and got pregnant. She even wrote some good copy - though her native language was Brazilian Portuguese. But what recruitment agency would ever have been able to spot she was perfect?
Here's a good one from my pal Glenmore:
Don't spank potatoes in front of The Bitch
Joan Collins was being served dinner in BA business class and one of the potatoes was so hot it burnt her mouth. Ms Collins called over the steward and told him the potato had burnt her mouth.
The camp flight attendant was a little over-excited to be serving the star so took the potato and proceeded to spank it and say "Bad potato! Bad potato!" much to the mirth of fellow passengers. Joan, however, was not amused and made a complaint.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 13:57
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
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.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 10:22
Sunday, 4 July 2010
I am better than most at grizzling and feeling sorry for myself, and among the things I moan about most are holidays - and how few I get. Maybe it's because I'm an old man in a hurry, but forgetting the time I was marooned in Brooklyn during the Great Volcanic Ash Farce I have not had more than 10 days off at a stretch in the last 7 years. So I was cheered up by something Rory Sutherland just drew my attention to. A behavioural economist** at Duke University has been studying the benefits of vacations. It seems that how long we take off probably counts for less than we think, and in the aggregate, taking more short trips leaves us happier than taking a few long ones. We’re often happier planning a trip than actually taking it. And interrupting a vacation — far from being a nuisance — can make us enjoy it more. How a trip ends matters more than how it begins, who you’re with matters as much as where you go, and if you want to remember a vacation vividly, do something during it that you’ve never done before. And though it may feel unnecessary, it’s important to force yourself to actually take the time off in the first place — people, it turns out, are as prone to procrastinate when it comes to pleasurable things like vacations as unpleasant ones like paperwork and visits to the dentist. I certainly did something I'd never done before on a vacation during my Brooklyn stay. I had a couple of costly visits to a Mauritian lady dentist. Pain kills procrastination, and it was indeed memorable - but it didn't make it more fun. The best thing on that trip was the birth of my latest grandchild, Rowan - whom my son Phil insists on calling Baby Bingo, to his wife's fury. I shall see him again this week, when I shall also do something I've never done before: go to 6 Flags with my youngest daughter, Chantal. I LOVE rides. ** A silly new "profession" obviously dreamt up in order to sound important and mysterious - and make more money.
I am better than most at grizzling and feeling sorry for myself, and among the things I moan about most are holidays - and how few I get.
Maybe it's because I'm an old man in a hurry, but forgetting the time I was marooned in Brooklyn during the Great Volcanic Ash Farce I have not had more than 10 days off at a stretch in the last 7 years.
So I was cheered up by something Rory Sutherland just drew my attention to.
A behavioural economist** at Duke University has been studying the benefits of vacations.
It seems that how long we take off probably counts for less than we think, and in the aggregate, taking more short trips leaves us happier than taking a few long ones. We’re often happier planning a trip than actually taking it. And interrupting a vacation — far from being a nuisance — can make us enjoy it more. How a trip ends matters more than how it begins, who you’re with matters as much as where you go, and if you want to remember a vacation vividly, do something during it that you’ve never done before. And though it may feel unnecessary, it’s important to force yourself to actually take the time off in the first place — people, it turns out, are as prone to procrastinate when it comes to pleasurable things like vacations as unpleasant ones like paperwork and visits to the dentist.
I certainly did something I'd never done before on a vacation during my Brooklyn stay. I had a couple of costly visits to a Mauritian lady dentist. Pain kills procrastination, and it was indeed memorable - but it didn't make it more fun.
The best thing on that trip was the birth of my latest grandchild, Rowan - whom my son Phil insists on calling Baby Bingo, to his wife's fury. I shall see him again this week, when I shall also do something I've never done before: go to 6 Flags with my youngest daughter, Chantal. I LOVE rides.
** A silly new "profession" obviously dreamt up in order to sound important and mysterious - and make more money.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 04:50
Saturday, 3 July 2010
I've just finished reading a cri de coeur from that excellent journalist John Sweeney which we can all learn from.
He was lamenting that fear of the laws of libel first stopped a book of his - Rooney's Gold - being published. Then when he did find a publisher with the guts to go ahead, the big bookshops lost their nerve.
The biggest U.K. chain - W. H. Smith - won't stock it, and the next biggest - Waterstone - won't display it (they will sell it if you go in and ask; rather like buying contraceptives in the 1930s.)
Yet, coming out at the time of the World Cup, it should have been a best seller, for it has the following ingredients.
- How the New York representative of ex-pornographer Richard Desmond (now publisher of two national newspapers with eyes on a third) had his testicles cattle-prodded, courtesy of the Gambino family, over a porn deal that went tits up (that seems an appropriate expression).
- How Rooney's agent was connected with notorious British crime boss Tommy Adams
- And (rather cheering) Rooney did not pork the old slapper the press stories said he did, and has turned out to be an all round good guy, which must be damn hard in the world of football.
When I read all this, I thought one thing immediately: why the hell didn't Sweeney (or his publisher) go ahead and sell on the Internet?
The reason takes us back to the old adage: if the railways had realised they were in the transport business not the railway business they would now own the airlines.
If the publishers realised they were not an adjunct to the printing business, they would all be in better shape. (As would the newspapers).
My publisher asked me three years back if I had anything they could sell. "We will publish anything you write."
I said I would have a book of 51 helpful marketing ideas eventually.
When I said I had it ready, they didn't want to do anything. Why? Because they have no idea about the realities of internet marketing - and very little about marketing generally.
I'm damn glad I have never given them the copyright of the three books they have published.
Look at the economics of all this, by the way. The author generally gets only 10% on sales - even less on overseas rights - from a conventional publisher.
When you publish on the Internet it's almost exactly the reverse.
Oh, and if you're wondering, yes: the 51 ideas book is almost ready, and it is indeed based on the helpful ideas series I send out.
P. S. Thanks to those of you who expressed interest in EADIM. More news on that shortly - I have another very interesting speaker.
Please forgive me for being so damn disorganised, everyone. I take on too much - but it usually turns out well in the end.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 13:17
Friday, 2 July 2010
Things happen so fast that I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night.
But if you cast your mind back, I put out a survey a few days ago asking what interests you - besides how to write better (The first webinar for that is drafted - it'll last about 30 minutes .)
At the last minute I added one question to the survey: would you like to spend 3 days with me? The last person I said that to slapped my face, but these were the results.
I was astounded. Most people will pay good money to avoid being with me, but it seems 63% of you like the idea. I empathise with the 37% who don't: I find myself terminally boring - but wonder how the hell 37 + 63 = 96.46. Isn't research wonderful?
Before we go any further, I promised the survey would be anonymous ... then the people who ran it insisted on having your email addresses. Crazy!
But don't worry: the replies are not linked to the names - it really is anonymous. So the unkind person who said I'm a dreary old creep can relax and stop worrying - and any of you who do join me can find out if it's true.
Saying you'd like to do something and paying for it are very different, so let me tell you a little more.
Every year I run a marketing business school called EADIM - The European Academy of Direct & Interactive Marketing.
This kicks off with a residential seminar in a very beautiful boutique hotel in London, followed by a year's webinars. Previously the residential part has lasted a week, but people find it hard to get away for that long. This year it will be just 3 days - and I may offer one day options for people who get bored quickly.
I speak for about half the time, but I have guests, so you're not stuck with me incessantly. No bores are allowed. And nobody sells you anything. My guests are:
1. People I respect and often admire.
2. Entertaining (sometimes hilarious).
3. People who tell you simple things you can do immediately to make more money.
The cost is £2,000. Work that out in $ if you can!
If you are among the first 30 to book for the 3 days, I will either a) pay your air fare up to $700 or b) give you an equivalent early bird discount
I will probably ( but not definitely) offer single days at £695 each.
Included in the price is one year's webinars, usually costing $1,164, and if you want an academic qualification, you can take an exam at the end that gives you a certificate.
Speakers are not finalised yet, but acceptances so far include:
Howie Jacobson, author of Adwords for Dummies,
Steve Harrison - the world's most awarded direct marketing creative director
Ben Moskel, who makes obscene amounts of money out of affiliate marketing and explains how he does it so clearly that even I understand.
Martin Chilcott - a former client of mine at American Express, who's laugh-out-loud-funny about understanding customers.
Yesterday my friend Ken McCarthy, the Godfather of Internet marketing education, said he will be there if he can (he was last year) but he's a bit "crook" at the moment, as they say in Australia.
WARNING: I've been busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest this year, so if you go to the EADIM site it will give you an idea - but is not really accurate. The one thing I will tell you is that so far we've had more testimonials than attendees - another mathematical mystery.
Let me know if you like the idea now you know it's not free! Just whiz back the usual e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org saying "Interested" and I'll keep you informed.
In two or three days an accurate site will be up. The venue is a boutique hotel - very small numbers.
Don't expect any more discounts. This is already absurdly underpriced because I'm a commercial idiot (as you will realise by adding things up!)
Posted by Drayton Bird at 09:38
Thursday, 1 July 2010
This video may sound a bit like it was recorded in a municipal swimming baths (actually it was my partner Al'S quaint West Country residence) but once you've got over that, you may find it useful.
That's because it deals with something I must have been asked a thousand times: how often should I mail/email my clients?
This reminds me of another hoary old favourite: how long should the copy be?
And both remind me of the philosopher Bertrand Russell's remark that "What men seek is not knowledge, but certainty."
Some people think they should be talking more often, lest their customers think they are being ignored; others think they should talk less for fear of boring them.
The truth is, as so often, that it depends on a myriad things. In this 2 minute 6 second clip I get pretty excited about the subject - but don't let that put you off.
By the way, I have just finished putting together the examples for the first How to Write Proper webinar.
Posted by Drayton Bird at 15:20