4 Tips for Small Marketing Teams

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The small marketing teams we work with all have the same problem: time. It’s impossible to do it all, but in today’s world, you kinda have to: inbound, outbound, social, experiential, trade shows, content, blah b’blah b’blah. And every day, the list grows because every day there’s a new way to get the message out. Keeping up during the day is what’s keeping them up at night — mostly because they don’t leave the office.

So how does a marketing team of one or two stay ahead? By doing these four things:

Setting SMART goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic and Timely. And doing anything else will put you in hot water with everyone else in the company. Let’s look at them in reverse order.

Timely’s important because it’ll keep the momentum of your efforts going. If you don’t give yourself hard deadlines, you’ll push everything off. Timely will also keep your organized, which, if you’re running lean, is so hard to do especially with everything you have to juggle.

Realistic keeps you from promising the moon and only delivering a few clouds. They key here is to know what’s possible in a given timeframe. This’ll be different for every marketing team depending on their size, experience and contacts, but the approach should be the same: don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.

Agreed-upon is the CYA portion of SMART goals. Once you get organizational buy-in, no one can come back and accuse you of under-delivering — unless, of course, you do, which shouldn’t happen if you stick to timely and realistic.

Measurable gives you a target to strive for. Without it, you’re just firing arrows in the air and hoping for a bullseye.

Smart comes from having time to sit down and think about things. Which is the one thing you don’t have. This leads us to the second thing all small marketing teams should do.

Making the most of free social media

Small marketing teams are usually saddled with small budgets. Sound familiar? It should. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average company spends 7.5% of their revenue on marketing. Once you factor in salaries, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for anything else.

In this way, social media can be your best friend if you use it right. This means offering clever, thought-provoking content on a regular basis. Does this mean you have to blow your brains out on every social media channel out there? No! In fact, the opposite is true. You want to pick one or two channels that make sense for the audience you’re targeting and kill it. Spreading yourself too thin will lead you back to the “no time” conundrum you’re trying to avoid.

In the interests of time, you’ll also want to schedule your posts in advance so you’re not scrambling for something to share. Booking a block of time every week to do it will save you a ton of time throughout the week.

Before you pick your channels, it’s important to know what channels your ideal customer frequents. And they may not be the most popular ones. That’s okay. Twitter’s not for everyone. And if it’s not for you or your customers, don’t waste your time on it, especially since best practice is tweeting 10 to 15 times a day.

Once you pick your channels, get to know everything about them: how they work, how people on them like to be engaged and spoken to, and how to get your content out there organically. The most successful social marketing isn’t about outspending —  it’s about outsmarting.

Thinking about problems

It’s easy to market the solutions your company offers. You know them like the back of your hand, you can recite them to anyone who asks. But unless you present a problem your ideal customer can relate to, presenting the solution is a waste of your time.

And problems evolve over time, even for the same customer. In our case, for example, our editing service used to exclusively solve the “I don’t want to have to spend money reprinting misspelled materials” problem. It since evolved into “I have so much content to pump out that I don’t know if any of its good anymore” problem.

The only way you’re really going to know your customers’ problems is to ask them. We suggest bi-annual check-ins. Literally ask them what’s causing their hair to turn grey. We do it all the time and our clients are more than happy to tell us.

Knowing what you don’t have on your team and outsourcing it

Even the marketing teams at billion-dollar agencies farm out their work — mostly to hot-shot ad agencies. But if you’re a small team at a small to midsize business, you probably can’t afford the big boys’ price tags. Fortunately, the streets (and the Internet) are lined with small, specialized companies that can do what you don’t do. We’re a good example of that. Our clients hire us to write what they don’t have time to write, edit what they barely had time to write so it doesn’t feel rushed through, and translate what needs to be translated because they don’t speak French. The benefit of looking outside is both qualitative AND quantitative: the work gets done by experts in their field and you have more time to do what’s actually part of your job description.

 

Good advice for parents buying children’s books

Children’s books are written and illustrated to be read over and over again. Some colleges have courses dedicated to teaching the best ways to drill letter and pattern recognition, phonics, syntax and basic communication through repetitive reading of the same book. And if you read a book enough times, you’ll see your little one start to memorize some of the pages and recite it with you. It’s so much fun when that happens.

But there comes a time in every book’s life when the thought of gouging your eyes out with lemon-doused oyster shells is far more preferable to reading it again. And to be clear, this has nothing to do with the quality of the book. We’re HUGE Nick Bland fans. We have every book about every bear he’s ever written about. But even those started to wear.

The good thing about quality kids’ books is that the quality always shines through a second time around. So when you get to the oyster shell point with a book you know is good, just put it away for a bit. Don’t give it to a friend because you’ll never get it back. But think about making a book bin where your favourites go. Every so soften, do a swap and bring a few of them back into rotation.

What you’ll see clearly is how well your kids retain the information from a good book. They’ll remember the dancing Wild Things, the details of Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day and roughly where Waldo is on every page.

And if we could be so bold as to recommend a new book for your rotation, check out The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. You might get sick of it a bit quicker than other books, but it’s totally worth it for the first read.

On a related note, B.J. Novak is also an actor and co-starred in Inglorious Basterds — one of the greatest movies ever made. That’s him on the right. You probably know the guy on the left.

B.J. Novak and Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds

 

A shout out to the WWE scriptwriters

We belong to the fortunate generation that got to experience the best eras of wrestling at exactly the right ages.

In the mid-eighties, we were pre-teens and no one was cooler than Hulk Hogan. No one was friendlier than Andre The Giant. And no one was more dastardly than Rowdy Roddy Piper. And the story lines were simple with easy-to-recognize good guys (faces) and bad guys (heels). That’s really all ten-year-olds need.

Then, in the late ’90s, we were in our early ’20s, questioning authority and looking for anti-heroes — people who stuck it to the man like we all wanted to. People like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker.

And the savvy marketers they are, the WWE creative team gave us disorder in spades. The line between heel and face was blurred. Stone Cold was a good guy, but he was an asshole. Triple H was a heel, but he was so over-the-top charismatic that we loved hating him and found ourselves cheering for him, even though he represented everything we hated. And The Undertaker was just so goddamn cool.

So who cares? We do because the scriptwriters and story editors made it all happen. The catch-phrases. The story arcs. The interviews. The build-ups to big matches. No one does it better than the WWE on a more consistent basis. They know their characters. They know their performers and they write to the strengths of both.

Now, of course, it all rests on the mic skill of the wrestler because no amount of good writing can save a crappy performance. But when you get a natural like The Rock (you might know him better as Dwayne Johnson — today’s highest-grossing action movie actor) and give him a few well-crafted lines to throw down, well…

Side note: The WWE is a dream client of ours. We’ll work with them one day.

 

 

Speechwriting tips from a speechwriting expert

A picture of Rick Kotick, head of competitive intelligence at RBC

Rick Kotick

We write our fair share of speeches, but Rick Kotick, Head of Competitive Intelligence, RBC Global Asset Management, writes more. He speaks at least twice a month to investment advisors and mutual fund wholesalers across the RBC network, MBA students at York University’s Schulich School of Business and members of the Junior Achievers of Central Ontario. And he’s a Toastmaster. He sat down to talk to us about his process, managing stage fright and how he overcomes what he thinks is the hardest part of speech writing.

Re:word (RW): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Rick Kotick (RK): It’s my pleasure.

RW: First off, how long are your speeches generally?

RK: My presentations to advisors are generally 20 to 30 minutes with Q&A at the end. The workshops are 90 minutes and when I give speeches at my local Toastmasters club, they are 5 to 7 minutes long.

RW: What’s your research process like? Where do you go for content and inspiration?

RK: Online sources are my first port of call. As part of my job, I also regularly read industry research reports on market trends. In general, you can get inspiration on content from anywhere. YouTube videos, chats with friends and family, etc.

RW: So once you have your angle and your information, where do you generally begin the speechwriting process? Do you go sequentially or do you sometimes start in the middle or the end?

RK: I’m sure everyone’s different but I’ve found that the best way for me to write a speech is by creating on outline first. It helps me organize my ideas, set the material in a logical form and shows me the relationships among ideas.

Once I have the outline, I list the key points, arrange them in order and expand on each one. Then I develop the intro and the close. Once you have a well-structured outline, with key points listed in a logical order, you’ve got 80 percent of your speech already written. The introduction and conclusion should flow naturally after that.

RW: Do you have people look at your speeches before you give them? If so, who?

RK: I practise my speech in front of friends, colleagues and/or family members. I’m fortunate enough to have people I trust and whose feedback I value. There’s no such thing as a perfect speech so I try to incorporate their feedback before I go “live.”

RW: Interesting that you say there’s no such thing as a perfect speech. But some must be better than others. How do you know when it’s killer?

RK: I never know until after I deliver it. People aren’t shy about giving you their feedback or sharing their views on your topic. During your speech, though, you can tell if your audience is engaged and listening to your every word. That’s a pretty good indicator that you’re holding their attention and haven’t put them to sleep.

RW: Speaking of audience, is there anything specific you like to know about them as you prepare?

RK: Other than the basic demographic information (age, male/female ratio, occupation and education), I like to know things like political orientation and what they generally like to do for fun. It helps me weave in some anecdotes I can use to connect with them.

I also like to know what they know already so I don’t waste their time. That’s probably the worst thing you can do in a speech. Especially these days when it’s so easy to lose people’s attention to their phones.

RW: Well, you’re clearly doing something right, given the profile you have. Is there something notable you’ve learned over the past few years on the speaking tour?

RK: It seems intuitive but practice makes perfect. It’s exceedingly rare to find someone who can wing a speech or prepare it the night before and pull it off with ease. Effective verbal communication is rare yet essential in any line of work.

I’ve also learned that soft skills are a differentiator. Many people have the right mix of technical skills and education but they can’t effectively convey their ideas to a general audience. The best way to set yourself apart is with the ability to communicate smoothly, succinctly and effectively.

RW: Does the practice and prep help you get over stage fright?

RK: I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anyone who tells you they don’t battle their nerves before giving a speech is lying. I’ve read about and researched famous orators, stand-up comedians, politicians and musicians and the one thing they all have in common is a feeling of nervousness before they perform. Having butterflies before giving a speech is not a bad thing. Everyone has them. But making those butterflies fly in formation can help you harness your nervous energy.

RW: Speaking of nerves, what’s the hardest part of speech writing in your opinion?

RK: Getting started is without a doubt the biggest obstacle for many people. But using a simple structure like an outline can get you over that inertia. The outline is also a way to beat the procrastination bug ¾ and that’s something that every speaker battles with, no matter how much experience they have.

RW: We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you this one last question: does having a well-written speech make giving the speech easier?

RK: It’s not what you say but how you say it. Delivery will determine how good your speech is. One study on communication effectiveness that I reference often states that tone of voice accounts for 38 percent of your speech effectiveness, and non-verbal cues account for another 55 percent. In other words, your spoken words only account for 7 percent. Again, it’s not what you say but how you say it.

RW: That’s not exactly the answer we were looking for.

RK: Fair enough. But I can tell you this: you can’t hide behind crummy content. If a speech isn’t well-researched, if it doesn’t have strong salient points and if it doesn’t leave the audience with something to think about, it won’t matter how well it’s delivered.

 

A word is worth an infinite number of pictures

What’s more powerful, a word or an image? It’s a hotly debated topic in creative circles and cases have been made for both. Here’s our case for words:

When you read a word, your mind pictures the subject. Take “horse,” for example. Are you picturing a white horse or a black horse or a brown horse? Is it a stallion? A mare? A Clydesdale pulling a Budweiser stagecoach? Is it a racehorse? And if so, is it a thoroughbred (jockey on top) or a standardbred (jockey in a chariot behind)? Or maybe you picture horse the basketball game or horse the slang for heroin?

Point is, a word activates the mind and lets it go in any direction. An image is designed to contain no ambiguity. Yes, it’s helpful. But is it more powerful? Sure, everyone experiences an image differently, but they see the same thing. With a word, everyone sees something different.

So what can a good copywriter do with words?

In a word (two, actually): thought guidance. We use these words to elicit the right picture in the reader’s mind and the right emotion in their hearts. We get them to see the ideal state: the easier life, the better day, the more productive hour, the prettier date, the larger boat or the better food.

And then we use our words to create action. Pictures can’t do that — they can attract eyeballs but they can’t move hands. Only words can do that. The right words. At the right time. Arranged in the right way. And shown to the right people.

Think about this the next time a banner ad,  brochure or billboard catches your eye. Think about how it made you feel, then think about what made you feel that way: the way it looked or the message it delivered.

Here are a few that caught our eye over the years. We wish we wrote them all:

A print ad for De Beers that reads: Remember when you got that variable speed hammer drill? It'll make her feel kind of like that.

Directed at men. Celebrating the way men think. Perfect.

 

A Porsche ad that reads" If you could choose between world peace and a Porsche 911, what colour would you want your Porsche to be?"

Fantastic subhead. Full of attitude, but classy. And you’re probably picturing your new ride right now.

 

A print ad for Avis rent a car that reads: "Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So why go with us? We try damned hard. (When you're not the biggest, you have to.) We just can't afford dirty ashtrays. Or half-empty gas tanks. Or worn wipers. Or unwashed cars. Or low ties. Or anything less than seat-adjusters that adjust. Heaters that heat. Defrosters that defrost. Obviously, the think we try hardest for is just to be nice. To start you out right with a new car, like a lively, super-torque Ford and a pleasant smile. To know, say, where you get a good pastrami sandwich in Duluth. Why? Because we can't afford to take you for granted. Go with us next time. The line at our counter is shorter.

122 words to completely change the way people saw Avis — and the now former #1 Hertz.

 

An ad for Hoover vacuums with an image of an airplane window and the line "For a product demo, break the glass".

The image sucks you in. The copy gives you the feeling of being sucked out. And you get it. 100%.

 

An Economist ad that reads "To err is human. To er, um, ah is unacceptable."

The Economist is the best for clever. It’s true in their magazine AND their advertising. No image necessary. You can picture The Economist reader and their level of intelligence. And you want to be like them.

The Suzanne way

We get back to people promptly. We even allude to it as part of our email signature, which looks like this:

Re:word Communications
Choose your words wisely™
416-800-9257 • 1-855-800-9257
Visit the new reword.ca. It’s a fun read.
If you don’t think this email is for you, please let us know. We hate to keep clients waiting.

It seems like a no -brainer, but yet we get so many people thanking us for a quick callback as if they’re not used to it. It strikes us as odd that more companies don’t follow the first rule of customer service:

Treat every customer like the first customer.

We remember the day we published our first website, which looked like this:

This is the old Re:word website.

 

It wasn’t awesome but we didn’t know any better. We were happy to be out there living the dream. Then on day 3, a request came in from Suzanne who needed her company’s shareholder report edited. We were ecstatic. We were about to make our first official dollar. We called her back right away, took the brief and ran with it. The final product was delivered on time and it was “perfect…so much better!” — Suzanne’s words.

There’s the work. And then there’s the experience.

Responsiveness. That’s what made Suzanne feel better about choosing us. Because, if we’re honest, any editor worth their hourly would have been able to do the work well. But she was our first, and more than making a good impression with the work, we wanted to show her we really wanted her business. Because we really wanted it. So we took the four calls she made in the six hours we spent editing her piece. We delivered when we said we were going to deliver. And we explained the choices we made.

And as for Suzanne, we wound up doing three more projects with her at that job. She’s since moved jobs twice and continues to reach out for copy editing from time to time. And we always call her back promptly — every time she calls.

Write on

Even professional writers get stuck from time to time. It happens. And when it does, it’s positively terrifying.

Imagine, if you will, a terrible, horrible bully staring you in the face, mocking your every move. He blocks every path you can think of to get around him. And just when you think you have the way, he pulls you by the back of the shirt and drags you down.

That bully is a blank page, and he’s relentless.

So what’s the answer?

Well, it’s the same answer you’d give a ten-year-old confronting a bully in the school yard: whatever you do, don’t back down.

In our world, that simply means “keep writing.”

It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to make sense. And it doesn’t have to be on brief. Because the more we write, the more ideas we generate. If they’re bad, we’re flushing them out of our system. If they’re half-baked, then it could be the start of something. But the more we write, the more likely we are to come up with something worth running with, exploring and eventually sharing.

One of our favourite scenes from any movie is towards the end of Braveheart when William Wallace is talking to his buddies about taking a meeting with Robert The Bruce. They know it’s a trap — and deep down, so does he. But he says to them: “We’ve got to try. You know what happens if we don’t? Nothing.”

The same’s true of writing. So we push on. We pepper our walls with headlines and subheads, first thoughts, fragments, inklings and ideas. Most of them end up in the bin where they belong, but the ones that survive blossom into something more. They’re the start of a master brand positioning, a killer message or a paragraph of body copy that seals the deal with the reader and gets them to act.

Some people are appalled by the amount of paper we use (especially since we don’t like using both sides). But for us, it’s all for a greater purpose: to get to awesome.

And when we do, we slay the bully. And if you’ve ever dealt with one of those, nothing feels better.

 

Braveheart

Slay the beast! Defeat the bully!! Put down the enemy!!! McYolluch!!!!

What we look for in a copywriter

Of course you have to be a good writer.

You have to be able to string sentences together and keep us reading them.

But that’s just one part of it.

The other part of it is an insatiable need to know.

When you’re writing about something, you have to want to dive deep into it and learn everything you can about it.

You have to instinctively understand that the more familiar you are with something, the more likely you’ll be to find a unique angle that’ll make your audience go “hmmm…” and want to know more.

And you have to believe that there’s something interesting about everything if you’re willing to put the work in to find it.

Yes, copywriting is about style. But it’s more about substance and research.

We can tell if someone’s mailed in that part of the job. Not because we’re professionals. Because we’re people who read. We know when our time’s being wasted with things we already know. And we hate that, because time’s ultimately all we have.

Want to write for us? Keep this blog post in mind. Then jump on the Google and check out the DDB Volkswagen ads from the 1960s. Read them over and over again. Enjoy them because they’re so well written, but also because they’re so well researched.

We can teach the craft. We can suggest techniques to get writing punchier and tighter. And we can edit the hell out of a piece until it sings like a boys’ choir. But we can’t teach someone to want to learn more. That’s instinctive. Either you have it or you don’t.

So, yes. We want writers. But more than that, we want learners.

Sound like you? Great. Let’s talk. We’d love to know more about you.

 

 

 

 

 

The best answer ever

We just started working with a client who has offices in Bogota and Athens. In our initial interview, for our own curiousity, we asked him why he chose those two cities. His response: “salsa and island-hopping.” It made us so happy.

Our dream’s a bit different. Eventually, we want to buy a boat and run the business from wherever we are. Right now, we’re toying with “Capital Sea” and “Write Full Rudder” as names. But we’re open to suggestions if you have any.

We’re also debating where to go first. Gina says Sardinia. Dan says Portofino. We could probably do both. But for that to happen, we need to staff up. So if you know any copywriters, copyeditors, proofreaders or translators, please send them along. “Decked out” (ooh..) isn’t gonna buy itself.

Greek Island

Our new office.

The comeback

ClownBilly’s grandfather took him to the circus when he was eleven years old. When they got in under the big top, Billy’s eyes lit up. The sounds. The colours. The energy. He could hardly contain himself. But then his grandfather showed him the tickets. Front row! Heaven.

They sat. The lights went down. And out came the clowns. The crowd erupted, but no one cheered more than Billy. So much so that the head clown took notice. He walked over to Billy. The music went down. The spotlight flipped on and shone down on Billy. The clown pulled a fuzzy microphone from his over-sized coat, put it to his mouth and cleared his throat.

“Hey, kid…are you the horse’s head?”

“No!” said Billy with a grin.

“Then you must be the horse’s ass!”

The crowd roared with laughter, but Billy was mortified. The clown put the microphone to Billy’s mouth, almost daring him to say something. Billy froze. He had nothing but a single tear rolling down his cheek. He ran from the big top to the sound of a mocking audience.

The next day, Billy’s grandfather enrolled him in a kiddie improv class where he learned the art of zinging quickly. Grandpa vowed to bring Billy back to the circus so he could confront the clown.

Five years later, they went back. Same big top. Same seats. And the same clown came out. This  time, Billy was ready. He made sure the clown saw him. And sure enough, the clown came over, and pulled out the microphone.

“Hey, kid…are you the horse’s head?”

“No!” said Billy confidently.

“Then you must be the horse’s ass!”

Billy took a deep breath in…and froze.

He had nothing.

The derision in the crowd was palpable.

Billy ran out in tears.

Being sixteen now, Billy was able to make his own decisions, and he decided to enroll in the International School of Comebacks in Denver. For eight months, he practised. And he got really good.

He came home and was ready.

This time, he bought the tickets and invited his grandfather with him. Same big top. Same seats. And yes, same clown.

“Hey, man…” said the clown. “Are you the horse’s head?”

“No.”

“Then you must be the horse’s ass!”

“Hey, clown…”

“Fuck you.”