“So what? It’s just a typo.”

I once applied for a job as Marketing Manager for an up-and-coming software provider. In the interview, I was really put through my paces. In military style, every aspect of my capabilities were scrutinised, questioned and battered. I came out of the room feeling slightly downcast, knowing that I had not convinced the manager that I was a good fit.

Two days later, I was offered a more senior role working for a different vendor. As expected, the other job went to someone else. However, in the application process I had signed up as a newsletter subscriber of the first company, which meant that I started receiving email updates from them a couple of months down the line. I took some interest in reading them, as I knew they would have been written – or at least approved – by the role I had applied for.

In the same vein as looking up an old school mate on Facebook, I suppose I wanted to check out how good they were and compare myself to them.

The first spelling error was in the subject line. A little bit unfortunate, but not catastrophic. It did, however, make me scan the rest of the text a bit more closely to see if there were any more mistakes. Shockingly, I found another two errors in the same newsletter, one of them being a misspelling of their own product. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit amused by this discovery!

I read the next monthly newsletter with the expectation that any quality issues would surely have been rectified by now. But embarrassingly, this issue too was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. As was the next, and the next. It got to the point where error-spotting became a bit of a game for me. How many mistakes will there be this time – and how quickly can I find them?

Almost a year after applying for the job, I happened to be having lunch in the same restaurant as the gentleman who conducted the interview. We had a brief chat, in which I mentioned I still received their newsletters. I hesitated at first, but then asked if he was aware that not a single one had been fault-free in the last year. At this, his face went very pale. He wasn’t aware. (He obviously didn’t read them himself). As amusing as it was to me at the time, particularly as it brought me some level of vengeful pleasure, this became a vivid reminder of how important spelling and grammar can be in communications.

It only took one mistake for me to start subconsciously scanning for more mistakes, and every one of those mistakes would impact the credibility of the brand.

Rather than focusing on the content, I was spotting spelling mistakes. And rather than building a trusted brand, they were turning into a joke – while senior management were none the wiser.

I recently ran a poll in a group of entrepreneurs in my network, and 81% agreed with the statement that “Spelling and grammar mistakes cause a brand or author to lose some credibility”. 38% also stated that they felt “frustrated or annoyed” with the lack of quality that errors like these denote, while 19% of them even expressed that mistakes in written communications “could cause them to choose an alternative brand in the future”.

When it comes to social media updates, users tend to be a little bit more lenient as these are often done on the fly and without proper spell check support. But marketing emails, website copy, adverts and printed materials are the vehicles that carry your brand – which should be flawless.

My guess is that your business doesn’t quite fancy the idea of sending 19% of your prospects to your competitors. So how about investing some time in copy editing and proof reading for your next campaign?

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Why content marketing is like a baked potato in a sushi restaurant

Content marketing is an extremely powerful approach to lead generation, brand building and advocacy. So why aren’t more businesses successful at doing it? The simple answer is – in many cases – because their marketing agency isn’t providing what they need.

In a previous life, when I was working as a Marketing Manager in the tech industry, I would often take a transactional approach to buying marketing services. There would be a defined need, most commonly a lead target, and a limited timeframe in which it had to be met. And more importantly, the agency would look to me to provide the materials required, around which to build the campaigns.

This is a very common scenario across the B2B market; the agency simply becomes the delivery point for leads and opportunities.

What if we were to compare this to dining in a restaurant?
A hungry guest (the client) sits down at the table of a restaurant (the agency). The guest is now required to choose from the items specified on the menu. If sitting in a sushi restaurant, they will get a wide range of options for sushi – but they probably won’t be able to add a baked potato. (I’ve tried that one. It’s seriously frowned upon.) The options have been defined by the restaurant, to suit the majority of their customers. If the guest wants something else, they have to bring their own food in a Tupperware dish. (I know, most restaurants wouldn’t allow this. But just bear with the analogy here, OK?)

Now, imagine this. What if the waiter instead would take the guest by the hand, and lead them into the kitchen? What if the customer was allowed to speak with the chef, choosing their own favourite ingredients, seasonings, style and composition, for an epic seven course meal? My guess is that the dinner itself would be a much more satisfying experience – not to mention value for money.

We’ve found a winning recipe for content marketing by helping agencies provide more than the “set menu”. If a customer comes along with lead requirements but not much in terms of quality content, the agency has a choice. They can either build campaigns from the few bits of information available, or they can work with the client to create new content that will support their lead generation for years to come – and become a strategic partner in the process.

What will your agency choose?

 

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Don’t fear the Marmite

Love and hate - credit to Baro24If you’re anything like me, you have an inner drive to be accepted, listened to and loved, especially by the people who really matter in your life. When it comes to business, the same applies. We want our customers – the people who really matter to our business – to accept us, listen to us and love our brand. But does that sometimes mean that we play a bit safe, become a bit bland – or even boring?

A fellow marketer at a creative agency told me about a recent direct mail campaign he had carried out, targeting prospects within the pharmaceutical industry. The letter itself was laid out in the form of a doctor’s prescription sheet, ordering the “patient” to take a hefty dose of the agency’s services. So far, all is well and good. Clever, but nothing too controversial.

However, for the envelopes, he chose to use a red ink stamp with the official-looking statement “Important medical documents inside”. This, as it turned out, stirred up a few emotions! The phone started ringing. Some were congratulating him on a cool, eye-catching and fun campaign, but others had a few bones to pick. Some felt it was unethical and deceptive – and one person even explained how she had hand-delivered the mailer to her colleague who was at home on sick leave, thinking it was crucial that she received it.

Now, regardless of whether the recipient loved or hated the campaign, it’s likely that they will remember it.

Some may place the agency on their wish list for future creative work; some may blacklist them for the foreseeable future. So – does this mean the campaign was successful or unsuccessful?

Some would argue that this is “natural selection” in the marketing world and that the unhappy targets weren’t a good match for the agency in the first place. Others might say that a campaign that aggravates part of your audience is inherently flawed.

In my personal opinion, I think the campaign was risky – but that was also what made it great! Some of the greatest artists, creators and leaders of our time have been both loved and hated, because they refuse to play it safe. So why can’t businesses do the same? You may face some tough commentary, but you may also gain some superbly dedicated advocates along the way.

Allow your brand to ruffle a few feathers!

(Image credit to BaRo24: baro24.deviantart.com)