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Sunday, 31 July 2011

A free marketing lesson – just a short walk away

I’ll explain why I wrote that heading in a moment, but it’s about why some businesses thrive and others flop.

First, let me ask: do you ever find yourself being infuriated by something stupid?

I do, all the time. It’s not just old age. I’ve always been like that. But it’s particularly aggravating when you’ve wasted your time and effort.

Two weekends ago I wrote some email copy for some people who wanted more responses.

Got the brief on Friday, delivered first thing Monday.

I did it as a favour to a client I like for way below my normal rate - and frankly my emails pretty much always get more responses.

The people in question had a meeting and decided it wasn’t right because it wasn’t in pretty html and they didn’t think it would work. I made a few snappish comments and told them I wouldn't charge them.

As the great Claude Hopkins observed 85 years ago, you won’t find the answer to your marketing problem in a meeting. You must conduct a test.

And as tests have revealed to the not-so-great Drayton Bird, sending what are really just leaflets through the ether is almost invariably beaten hollow by what looks like text – but is actually html so you can put in links and so on.

Few big businesses know this, because they waste countless hours in meetings talking tosh about strategy, missions, visions and other substitutes for thought.

You will learn little or nothing sitting in your office, but you can by going for a stroll, as I did yesterday.

In fifteen minutes I saw one business I bet will go broke and one that will make a fortune.

Would you like to know why?

In my area quite a few people have given up – especially bars and restaurants. Pubs are closing by the thousand all over Britain. I find it very sad. I was brought up in a pub – and I’ve had businesses go broke. I know how awful it is.

These pubs include one of the oldest in Bristol – been around for over 200 years. 30 yards up the road from them is another pub, with a big sign outside saying “Be your own boss – come and run this pub”.

That is coded language for: “We’re not making any money here – why don’t you try, sucker?”

Only a cock-eyed optimist would open a pub now, right?

Well, some folks have taken over the pub that went broke and refurbished it beautifully. But they have done precisely nothing to promote the place round here. No leaflets. No grand opening night. No special offer outside. Nothing. I only know about them because the pub’s next to a local supermarket.

I have a phrase for this folly. It is marketing by osmosis. Do they think people will come in because they put out thought-waves?

They chose a dodgy business to go into. They are at the less prosperous end of the street. They have a telling lesson 30 yards away. There are at least 5 pubs within 3 minutes’ walk of them. They offer meals: so does the best fish restaurant in Bristol, directly opposite them - with a very good lunch and early evening deal. So does the small but very good place one minute's walk from my flat.

I shall be sad to see them go.

10 minutes’ walk away from them a new butcher has opened.
They are in a better location than the pub, next to a small shopping centre. They are owned by the restaurant next door, which does a very good trade - specialising in steak. So they must have great buying power.

There is no specialist butcher nearby.Only a big Sainsbury’s supermarket with a very ordinary meat department, poorly trained staff and an average to poor display.

Many people going to the shopping centre will go past the new butcher. They may be drawn there, because there was a barbecue stand outside. It was impossible to ignore. The smell was enticing. There was a queue. I tried a hamburger. Home-made. Excellent.

The shop front had its name in stylish type, Ruby & White
(from the colour of well-hung beef, I guess). Inside everything was spotless and well-designed. The meat was well displayed. The people were friendly, trained and helpful. There were marinated cuts I shall certainly try. Interesting wines. Herbs. Good cheese.We spent £24 on beef and pork within 5 minutes. All unplanned. The carrier bag was smart enough to have come from a fashion store.

There are many, many lessons to be drawn from this contrast. If you want to know about marketing, get out a bit, take a walk, look around you. And if you want to pick my brains, and know a lot more than I covered here, come join me in October, here.

I will introduce you to some of the cleverest marketers in the world. They will reveal all they know. You will get a year’s free training and advice afterwards.

I only do this once a year.

The cost is below what you could end up paying surrounded by hundreds in a cavernous ballroom somewhere - then to be sold to when you came to learn.

We only have 40 attendees. It is in one of London's finest boutique hotels.

12 places have already gone (maybe 14: to be honest I'm not certain).

You won't be sold to by the speakers. There is an offer of free attendance at another seminar that covers one of the most important topics in business – featuring one of the world’s leading experts.

I'll tell you more about that shortly.

I only have room for 28 more people, maybe only 26.



Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Startling glimpses of the ludicrous and incompetent

During the time of the South Sea Bubble, Britain's first great financial collapse, people would fall for anything. My favourite example which I recall from my school-days was a scheme to import jackasses from South America.

This was not necessary as all the jackasses needed were freely provided by the gullible. When Sir Isaac Newton was asked about it all the great scientist said he could not calculate the madness of people.

Nowadays nobody is taught history - one of the great criminal acts of recent governments - so I get the impression that as a result these speculative lunacies are repeated with greater frequency.

Thus it is only a decade or so since the last flood of dotcom follies, yet people are putting astronomical values on a thing like Groupon which has yet to make a penny, whilst the wily Mr. Murdoch lost S500 million on MySpace. At least he seems to have learned from it. He thinks Twitter is a bad investment.

On a smaller scale I am constantly amused by the dodgy schemes put out on the internet to beguile the gullible.

One that got a good laugh yesterday was "Guru Incubator Training" being offered by someone called J. P. Maroney, which rhymes rather fortuitously with Baloney. One has this vision of morons going into a vast hutch on a conveyor belt and coming with massive brains at the other end. Another I got a laugh from was an offer to "explode" my fan page from Robert Grant of Crowd Conversion. Is it dangerous? Will anyone be injured? Only in the region of the wallet in both cases.

More deserving of injury is whoever is on charge of what passes for marketing at Littlewood's, a big mail order catalogue. One of their dresses has been featured in Grazia, Britains top selling fashion'n'gossip magazine. Their sort of cheap tat rarely gets coverage like that. Was it given prominence on their web page as any competent person would have insisted? No way. You had to search for it. Clueless.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Today's news: one remarkably stupid statement and one indefensible waste of public money

Pretty much everything that can be said has been said about what happened in Norway and poor Amy Whitehouse. Apart from the fact, in the latter case, that drugs should be legalised.

In Portugal hard drug use (alarmingly high when I had a business there) has gone down since they did so. But enough of that. Politicians always say this should happen - until they get intio power. I wonder why.

Let's move onto other curious aspects of crime and punishment.

Two convicts were caught whilst breaking back into prison after visiting their girlfriends and family.

The prosecutor said "One of the reasons they escaped was because they were fed up with being in prison."

Well, would you ever? I wonder that the others were. A crusade for world peace?

Which naturally brings to mind that fearless crusader whose tireless efforts in the Middle East have brought so much fruit. Yes, folks, it's The Bliar.

I see it cost just short of half a million pounds to provide protection for him when he came to
deny everything at the enquiry into how the Iraq got going.

This prompts two questions.

First, why would this saintly person need protection? Who would want to give him a right good kicking? Surely all the relatives of those people who died in Iraq would want to kiss his hand.

Second, since he is worth God knows how many millions, why shouldn't he pay for it himself. If, God forbid, I have to go into a nursing home in my declining years assuming they haven't all been closed down I will have to pay for it out of my savings.

But of course Ephraim McToad stole half those back in the late '90s.

Incidentally, did you know there is a Blair War Crimes Foundation which you can sign to petition the United Nations General Assembly and the UK Attorney General, to uphold the UN Charter, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and International Law, and to indict Tony Blair for war crimes?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” - Karl Marx

Karl Marx was a much misunderstood man whose teachings have probably been responsible for more deaths than anyone in history, but that remark of his occurred to me when I spotted the front page of The Daily Star half an hour ago

For overseas readers I should explain that whereas readers of Murdoch's Sun move their lips when reading those who favour the Daily Star lick their lips when looking at the pictures. Like the Daily Express it is run by a successful pornographer. (And in case you're wondering, yes indeed: Desmond who owns the Express was entertained in Downing Street by The Bliar or Hoots McBroon - I can't recall which. Take my word for it, no Press Baron can be any lower than the self-righteous pricks at the top in politics.)

Anyhow, it came to pass that the big news in the Star today is that the professional trollop Jordan, aka Katie Price, claims her phone has been hacked into in order to find out details of her sex life.

This is the funniest thing since grandma caught her tits in the mangle and brought to mind Marx's observation. Ever since she had her tits (Katie's, not grandma's) stuffed with kapok or whatever they use to make them bigger Jordan has made a point of telling the whole world who is or is not fucking her and for that matter who else they might have been fucking.

What a splendid piece of work she is, to be sure!

By the way, I was chatting to a man from the BBC last night and we were wondering whether the man who got bashed by Wendy Murdoch was there by design to make us feel sorry for the old scamp.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?

That question is one of the best examples of the shameless - even shameful - use of emotion I can recall.

It shamed many thousands to their deaths between 1914 and 1918 in one of the most pointless, bloody wars ever.

I doubt if whoever wrote it called themselves a copywriter, but it is a brilliant if macabre example of emotional blackmail.

It came to mind because a new client asked me a few days ago, “What can you do for us?”

I answered, “Practically anything” – remarkably vague, but true

One example is worth a ton of waffle. So here if you interested is a random selection of what we do and who we do it for. If you aren’t interested, don’t read another word. I don’t want to waste your time.

I’ve restricted it to examples of work we are doing now or have in the last three months, as otherwise you be even more confused than I am.

We help people all over the world. They vary enormously. Some are household names – the Pru, Nielsen Research and The Royal Mint, for instance. Others are much smaller . Actually some of our best, most satisfying work has been done for pretty small businesses. Less red tape and bullshit.

We help with marketing online or off. I write a good 90% of the copy and pretty much always rewrite the rest.

We help clients who sell to businesses and ones who sell to ordinary folks (“consumers” as they call them). We help sell stuff that costs hundreds of thousands and stuff that sells for under a fiver. We don’t care if you sell services or products.

We comment and advise on people’s marketing – recent examples include a firm in Hong Kong selling training and one in the U.K. selling office design.

I myself do a lot of in house and public seminars, sometimes with colleagues I respect. I also do video interviews about once a month - and people interview me, too. If you want to see an example of the latter, go to http://leadersin.com/gurus/drayton-bird

In the creative area we don’t just do copy. We do pictures too. For over thirty years my partner on the visual side has been Chris Jones, widely regarded as the best direct marketing art director in this country, and quite possibly the world.

We can help you with just about any kind of marketing for results. Brand-building, media buying, database, understanding customers, Search Engine Optimisation, lead acquisition and conversion online or off, direct mail, e-mail, letters, brochures, ads, commercials, videos, websites, landing pages, Adwords. You name it.

Here's a quick run-down of recent work (last three months):

  • Corporate Pensions, using direct mail, email, ­­­­­­­­­­seminars etc.
  • Language Courses sold on the internet
  • Research on the internet - consumer and business
  • Collectables sold via direct mail and on the internet
  • Property sold all over the world, via the internet
  • Insurance of several kinds
  • Buildings, temporary and permanent
  • Religious artefacts (Really. I'm writing about them this very day)

Those who get the best out of us tend to be doing well but would like to do better.

We cannot usually help people down to their last dollar, because there is usually a reason for that.

We cannot help people who are not totally open (in strict confidence) about their business, or people who will not do what we suggest.

We very rarely fail.

What we do not do: attend lots of meetings. I suffer from MSD: Meeting Surplus Disorder

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Beware the curse of -ing

Yesterday I walked past (as I often do ) the splendid offices of Ofsted here in Bristol and scowled (as I always do) at the line outside which reads with boastful falsehood: "Raising standards, improving lives."

Ofsted is a quango, which stands for quasi governmental organisation, or as we would call it, a gigantic wank at the expense (entirely unnecessary and far too great) of the tax payer. Quangos are one of the things the liar Cameron said he would sweep away and hasn't - one more reason why the country is in shit.

On the 7th July 2009 a Guardian writer revealed that there were 1162 of these deformed creations in this country which cost us £64 billion, or £2550 per household. Cameron, I read, has actually created 17 more. But why bother about such petty sums when we're busy sending billions in aid to fill the boots of criminal politicians all over the globe?

When I was younger they used to say these parasitical organisations were there to provide Jobs for the Boys. Earlier they were called sinecures. And back in the 17th and 18th century when they were a little more open about these things, they made no bones about it. It was an accepted way of rewarding your supporters or keeping your enemies quiet. Rather in the same way that Gordon Brown created lots of new public service non-jobs. There is a lot about it in Pepys Diary, which I am re-reading.

The great thing about the sinecure was that it required you to do nothing, so you couldn't cause any trouble. But Ofsted is supposed to be helping education. I cannot entirely ignore the fact that every year educational standards, far from being raised, are going down; nor that as a result lives are worsened, as people who have not been properly educated cannot count or read and write, which makes it much harder to get jobs. This in turn is making and will continue to make this country less and less competitive until eventually we sink into the North Sea, a nation of obese, tattooed, drunken, illiterate, mindless slobs.

In the same way The Financial Services Authority has done nothing much to improve (invariably too late) and a great deal to worsen the way financial services are sold. One could go on, but it's too depressing.

My mind is beginning to fashion new golden rule: that wherever you see a statement that starts with a word ending in -ing, you can be sure what will follow is complete tosh, with no meaning to anyone except the fools who drafted it.

For example, builders are putting up signs that say "Improving the image of the construction industry" which compels the reaction, "Why should I care about your image, you buffoons? If you want to improve it, stop ripping people off and get belts to keep your workers' trousers up and cover up their hairy arses."

I was going to write about the dreaded plague of !!! which I see on so much bad copy. With frightening rapidity they spread all over the page and eventually you die a miserable death caused by of lack of response. But enough grumps for today.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

How to go broke – a beginners’ guide

Did you smile at the title?

After all, nearly all new businesses go broke anyhow. Who needs a guide?

There are two reasons.

First, if you’re going to fail, why waste time? Why spend more sleepless nights that you need? This handy guide is a helpful public service.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to fail, this will tell you what not to do.

It is called a beginners’ guide, but don’t let that fool you. It will work not just the first time you want to go broke but every time.

I should explain that it is not a frivolous exercise or work of fiction.

It is prompted partly by recalling some of the stupid things I have done myself, but enriched by the depressing spectacle of watching a firm with a good business but a quite remarkable ability to do the wrong thing.

It is written from a marketer’s perspective, not just because that is what I know about, but because besides having a good product or service, good marketing (or bad) often makes the most difference in business. I call in evidence firms like Procter & Gamble, Virgin, Google and Apple.

So here’s what to do – or avoid. You choose.

1. Whenever possible put things off. Never do today what you can do in three months or never. If it looks like something is about to be done, have a meeting.

2. When you do have a meeting, make sure as many people are there as possible, especially those who know nothing about the subject. The aim should be a) to avoid making a decision and b) to fix the time of the next meeting. This works very well in government so it should be good enough for you.

3. Don’t measure boring things like what results your advertising produces. True, it will tell you what works or what doesn’t, but it really does take far too much time and discipline. Why not just do what you like, or even better what your wife and friends like?

4. Don’t test before you invest, because you will remove the thrill of gambling. Just spend away and wait to see if your efforts have worked afterwards. What fun if things seem to work! And if they don’t, well, you’ll go broke even faster.

5. If by chance you do get cajoled into testing, for God’s sake don’t test one approach against another, because you might find out the best way to invest your money. This will delay your bankruptcy no end.

6. Don’t waste your time studying marketing, and discourage your staff from doing so. It’s deadly dull, and you are probably a natural marketer anyhow. It’s just commonsense, after all. Be strict about this and get your priorities right. If someone offers to teach you about it for nothing but it clashes with your holiday plans, go on holiday. You’re bound to have more fun. If you see any books about marketing in the office, burn them.

7. If you decide you do want help in marketing, get some people to come in and do presentations. Choose the ones you like. They can pick up what your business is about as they go along.

8. If they talk to you about awareness, rebranding, CRM, SEO, social media or anything else they promise will solve your problems at a stroke, take their word for it. Don’t ask them what they mean or how they can prove it. This would be a foolish admission of weakness on your part and even if you insist you won’t know what they’re talking about.

9. If by chance you end up with competent people, when they ask you tricky questions like why you’re doing things ignore them. Let them work it out for themselves. They’re the experts, aren’t they? Why should you reveal your business secrets?

10. Always take as long as possible to pay them (and haggle with them as much as possible). This will conserve your cash but this will be more than counterbalanced because instead of working for you they will a) prefer to work for someone else and b) spend too much time justifying their charges to waste much on you.

This does not purport to be a complete guide to all the ways you can screw things up. I have not considered the consequences that flow from hiring too many people or getting a fancy headquarters building, but it should just about do the trick.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

How to get paid more. Lessons from a fishmonger

Today we went up the road to order some fish.

We went to a place called Rockfish. It's so tiny more than three customers make a crowd.

Also you have to be patient. When we came in the man there was explaining - in considerable detail - the difference between grey mullet and something else to the man ahead of us.

While we were there a man came in with a box full of live lobsters. Eventually it was the turn of my beloved, who is planning a vast feast for Thursday.

There then ensued something of a discussion between her and the man about shrimps, prawns, what is the right size for pasta and (because he was curious) what is the right kind of pasta to go with what she's making.

She takes this kind of thing pretty seriously. Although I'm happy to discuss what the menu should be I try to keep out of the way when she's in the agonies of preparation. It's a perilous time.

Clearly the nice man at Rockfish takes what he does as seriously as she does. And he was happy to tell me that what looked like Dover sole was another kind that doesn't cost as much.

If we go down to my local Sainsbury's supermarket we can get fish cheaper than from the Rockfish place up the road. A hell of a lot cheaper.

But that's not a good idea. Their people can't fillet fish properly. They have no idea how to clean squid. They're pleasant but clueless. Not their fault - just bad management. Sainsbury's can run TV ads till clams learn to dance the tango. It won't help.

What people want more than anything else is to deal with folks they can trust who care as much as they do. Not all the management bullshit in the world can buy you that.

If you want to get paid a lot more, that's the secret. That's why giving people lots of useful information pays.

Incidentally Sainsbury's are crazy to have parted company with Jamie Oliver. Crazy. He cares, and it shows.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

"Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue"

Nobody was better placed to define hypocrisy than Oscar Wilde. At the very time he was imprisoned, the prime minister, Lord Rosebery, was widely believed to be homosexual

I wonder what Oscar would have thought of the great phone-bugging hoo-ha.

The newspapers have always used any and all means to get information. Think of the late Diana. Or Prince Charles' phone calls. Or going further back, the Profumo scandal.

Forty odd years before Wilde, when the Victorians were busy inaugurating the great age of hypocrisy, Macaulay wrote, "We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality."

But the public have nothing on the newspapers themselves. The News of the World was built almost entirely on weekly dollops of false indignation.

So there is something pleasingly ironic about the way non-Murdoch press is busy whipping itself up into a frenzy of false indignation - whilst licking its corporate chops.

Cosi fan tutte.

Monday, 11 July 2011

When I come back as an insect ...

... I will go into financial marketing and become a giant in no time.

Almost all of it is
staggeringly bad.

An ad for Societe Generale in
Money Week is headed NEW SUPER 10s.

Just right for introducing a new cigarette - or maybe a tampon.


This witless line is obviously aimed at idiots - what other explanation can there be? How many read
Money Week?

But then again, maybe it was created by idiots.

More to the point, what will the overpaid drones at the Financial Services Authority do when they read it?

(Overpaid? Last time I looked their boss was on £800,000 a year for doing what I consider a remarkably bad job, the disastrous consequences of which we are all now paying for).

Regardless, that headline is what is known technically in English as
a lie.

What do you mean when you promise "Super Returns are Super Simple"?

If Societe Generale has a Compliance or Marketing Department or Advertising Agency with one tenth of a brain between them they should be shitting themselves.

Because at the bottom the ad reads:
Super10s are suitable for sophisticated investors in the UK, who have a good understanding of the underlying market and characteristics of the security. It even says you should consult an Independent Financial Adviser - which won't help because hardly any of them have any qualifications.*

Do all those statements about being sophisticated with a good understanding etc., mean this is a "Super Simple" investment? What do you think? What would any normal person think? How well do you understand the underlying market?

But what puts icing on this turd masquerading as a cake is that below the dreary, cliche-strewn copy is a big picture of the back of a baseball referee/umpire/whatever they're called looking at a big sign that says STRIKE 10 OUT 0.

Well, we all know how familiar the British are with baseball, don't we? About as familiar as the French are with cricket. And we all know how utterly relevant baseball is to finance. I mean, when I say "baseball" you instantly think "Ah, investment" - right?

Wrong. Wrong. A thousand times wrong.

Did someone get
paid to produce this garbage? Did some fool approve it?

Who finds these people? Who hires them? Who lets them loose?

God Almighty!

* Don't get me started on Independent Financial Advisers. That's a good indication of how appallingly the aforementioned Financial Services Authority has been doing its job.

Until recently anyone with a plausible manner and a good suit could tell you they were an
Independent Financial Adviser - and they are being allowed to continue doing so.

An exam has been introduced for them - but the vast majority are not taking it
. Too much like hard work. They're just scuttling off with their winnings.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Jam yesterday - shit tomorrow ... the trouble with democracy

"For this relief much thanks" - Hamlet.

I had an uneasy feeling that you might find not hearing from me for over a week is rather like a holiday, but a friend wrote asking what had happened.

Well, I've been thinking (as maybe you have) about the state we're in.

The State We're In was a book that tried to prove that Tony The Bliar's New Labour Project was going to solve all our ills.

But as we all now know, he landed us in bigger trouble than ever.

How come I wasn't surprised to read that the little cockroach was busy trying to stop the man who blew the whistle on the great phone hacking drama?

He seems to be fond of cover-ups; we are all still waiting to find out about the miraculous "suicide" of Dr. David Kelly, which by all accounts was physically impossible. And now it looks like the way his death was reported seems highly irregular - with details locked up for 70 years. Why?

The other day I read that the Bliar blames his successor, Gloomy McToad, for the collapse of his "third way" - a mystical creation clouded by jargon that neither he nor any of his cronies could explain coherently.

However, I now realise that the third way only had one objective: to make sure its inventor made millions out of all the fools who gobble up bullshit on an operatic scale.

True, McToad 's chief contribution to affairs was to hire drones by the million for the public sector, most sure to vote Labour, and all now worried about their jobs and pensions, but the Bliar was in charge while it happened.

But will Bliar's admirer Cameron (one of a tiny minority) do any better? He isn't as good at winning elections, that's for sure. Faced with the most unpopular Prime Minister I can remember he and his "brilliant" strategist Steve Hilton still couldn't win a majority

Like the Bliar Cameron made big promises and is failing to keep them. He said he would sweep away all the useless committees stuffed with the greedy and ghastly. He is actually creating more. He spoke of sorting out our finances - and sends even more billions in "aid" to be stolen by kleptocrats around the world (40% is stolen on the way - and unaided countries do better than the other way round).

And he has the balls of a gnat. The first whiff of criticism and he backtracks.

The trouble with democracy is the same as the trouble with big corporations. The people who get to the top are good at getting to the top, not at getting things done. And once there, they have only two things in mind: feathering their nests and staying in the job. To get to the top they make big promises. To stay there they mortgage our future.

Not just our future. Our children's future.

All the easy money given away in the past twenty five years is going to have to be repaid. It's just beginning.

Maybe I should have kept quiet.