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When all you want to do is to stick 2 fingers up at your marketing

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OK. I get it. There are some days (maybe even some weeks) when you get so totally peeved off with your marketing, all you want to do is scream, “Sod it, I’m just want to be honest with my customers.”

I’ve been there. Got that Tshirt. I remember I went “off the rails” and threw away my webinar scripts a couple of years ago; but more of this later.

You’ve been working hard, slaving away on a sales page or an autoresponder sequence. Perhaps you’ve got a webinar coming up, or you’re in the middle of a promotional campaign. No matter how brilliant a marketer you are, there are ALWAYS going to be days where you just get the results that you were hoping for.

You probably guess I love marketing. But the reasons I love marketing is that I see it as a puzzle to solve. Because you are ultimately selling to human beings (and we know how unpredictable human beings are, yes?!), you have no control over the exact results. Sometimes you think you’ve found your sweet spot, run the campaign or promotion again and it falls flat. Whaat? It worked the first time, why did it not work the next?

And then there’s all the perceived manipulation around marketing. Trying to “trick” your customers into buying at a special offer price.  If you hate being sold too, then there’s every chance you don’t want your customers to feel the same.

So yes, I get it. There are days that all you want to do is stick two fingers up at everything you think you know or have been trying to learn about marketing, and you just want to have honesty between you and your customers.

Now, before I continue, I must state for the record that I believe all marketing should be honest. Something doesn’t sit right with us when we see a scarcity campaign for a digital product with the headline “Limited availability” or you get on to a webinar to be over-pitched at and, if you do buy, get something that’s under-delivered. Yes, there are plenty of unscrupulous marketers out there whose only goal is to make a stack load of cash.

Marketing in it’s simplest form is communication; it’s building and creating Know, Like and Trust with potential customers. And, let’s be honest here … without marketing doing its job (AKA selling your product or service), you’ve not got much of business.

But I get that, sometimes, you lose faith in tried and tested marketing tactics and strategies, and you just want to keep it simple.

I was prompted to write about this when I got a letter from the fabulous Riverford Organic. I’ve been an on/off customer with them over the past 5 or 6 years. And I’ve always been impressed with their marketing. They’ve always come across as a hard working business who want to serve their customers, rather than just build a global empire and avoid tax.

At times, I have had door knockers; usually, I don’t open the door and can’t abide being interrupted at home in this way but the couple of times they’ve done it, they did it well. And I think I remember I signed back up again once in this way. Other times, their letters and emails have always been entertaining and enjoyable to read.

But this weekend, I got a letter through the post from their found, Guy Watson. Photo below.

When I first read it, I loved it. It was so honest, and I even posted it a photo of it on my Facebook page as a great example of marketing. However, a few days later, I still haven’t taken action. The letter is now buried under my kitchen “admin files” and what initially made me laugh and connected with me, it hasn’t created a desire to take action.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair of me to criticise this letter without knowing exactly what results Riverfood have had. It may have just been me who didn’t take action and their phones have been ringing off the hooks since the weekend. But I’m not sure.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. “Marketing is expensive; I would much rather spend the money on growing better vegetables, so I’d like to get you back, for free.” Here’s my problem with this opening line of my letter. Marketing is only expensive if it doesn’t generate results. If you knew you’d get £1,000 back from £500 spent on marketing, you’d probably do it each and every day (OK, crude example … I know you’ve got to consider operational costs, raw materials, etc, etc … but you get my point, yes?)

Secondly, this is all about Riverford and nothing about me. Why should I care if their marketing is expensive? All I really care about is that my organic veg is good quality, grown ethically and I have a good selection each week (and not a tonne of root vegetables week in, week out).

2. “The normal approach would be for us to lead with an offer … but we don’t want to discount because we believe in fair pricing … other customers will bay for in one way or another” Hmmmmmm … you’re telling me that you don’t believe it costs you to attract new customers or bring old customers back? Making a lead offer … a discounted trial or % off your first order … is critical in today’s marketplace. When we, as consumers, are given so much choice from the high street and a click of a mouse, I believe this “fair price” tactic is incredibly risky. Without new customers coming in or re-engaging with past customers, your current customers are going to suffer long term because you’ll lack the cash flow for growth.

3. “Our website is vastly improved … said goodbye to a load of overpaid, underperforming consultants and have our own team; it’s not difficult after all.” Bravo. A wonderfully brave decision. However, the pressure this puts on recruiting high enough skill level to keep that website working effectively is going to be tough. The founder has obviously got stung from his poor outsourcing. I hope he has a long-term strategy to keeping his PAYE team up to speed with the latest online developments and changes to platforms, as well as being able to hire new members as old members move on, that an external consultancy often has the advantage of.

4. “If any of that does it for you, please give us a ring”. And here lies the big problem I have with this letter. Even with no lead offer to take up, there is no urgency or need for me to take action. This letter, as funny and refreshing as I found it when I first opened it up, is now buried under my kitchen admin. At least, they could have carried on with the honesty approach and asked me to call by a certain date just so they know whether this letter has worked … that would have been an interesting time specific call to action to take.

I’m sure there is so much more that could be stripped apart in this letter. And, as I mentioned already, we can’t because for all I know, this letter may have “worked” (and of course, worked means that the revenue got from x number of customers exceeds the cost of the letter printing and sending out, etc). But the big message that I got from this letter is that the founder was probably having one of those “Two Fingers” moments when he decided to do this. I’m guessing from his tone, he’s had a re-think about what marketing he’s doing and he decided he would throw all marketing principles out the window and just have an honest conversation.

As mentioned above, when I decided to do this in my webinar marketing, it failed dismally. I threw my webinar scripts out the window, decided my slides would go and ran an interactive Q&A session which had great feedback and engagement … but as a marketing campaign, it failed.

So I know how easy it is to want to stick two fingers up at your marketing … but before you do, take a breath and connect back to what’s going on for you. Because honest marketing where you simply write to someone with a “please come back” maybe worth a shot … but don’t be surprised if you don’t see any results.

Have you got something juicy to add? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

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