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Where have you been, Copy Bitch? I need a good marketing lesson!

—Amy D, Key West

Well, I haven’t been in Key West, Amy, sipping margaritas with you, that’s for sure. I’ve been surviving the winter from hell with its Polar Vortexes and mile-high snowbanks. I’ve also been busy the last few years getting a fiction career off the ground (ask me how THAT’S going, I dare you).

So you want a marketing lesson? Here’s one that I observed this week after the shocker (spoilers ahead) regarding the hit TV show The Good Wife.

One of the lead actors, Josh Charles, decided he wanted out at the end of his contract last season. The producers and lead actress, Julianna Margulies, convinced him to stay for 15 more episodes so that they could give his character a proper send-off. And by send-off, I mean killed off. Yep, the show pulled a Downton Abbey and killed one of its beloved characters.

The fallout from the send-off has been dominating social media and mainstream media all week. Regardless what you think (if you even think anything) about the decision to kill a main character, there’s a huge marketing lesson here: The Good Wife has been in control of this story since the beginning.

So if you’re going to do something BIG like this in business — change a product or service or (gasp) kill a beloved product or service — be prepared for the backlash and have a plan for handling it and getting the most out of it.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things the producers and network had lined up before the big reveal last Sunday night:

  • Over the last few weeks, the show had been promoting a huge “twist” that would change everything.
  • An official video was produced (in advance) that interviewed actors from the show, including Charles, describing the decision, their own reactions, and their thoughts about how the show will move forward. This video was deployed throughout social media right after the show aired, and it helped provide context and allowed fans to get a better understanding of why this happened. (This is a smart strategy and more and more TV shows are doing these videos; I loved the one Jim Parsons did a few weeks ago regarding the big kiss his character had on The Big Bang Theory.)

So what’s the marketing lesson? If you’re going to do something big and potentially disturbing to your customers and fan base, PLAN IT THE HELL OUT. Think of every reaction imaginable and have an answer ready. Have different media (videos, graphics, texts, PDFs) with information that explains the decision, acknowledges people’s disappointment, and so forth. If it’s truly newsworthy beyond your little world, make it an event and see if you can get some press out of it.

But start with the planning. It’s obvious The Good Wife has been planning this since last year…every step they took, every video and interview they shared was perfectly timed. Learn from it.

Seth Godin brought up this thought-provoking question in a blog post. My answer? Yes, I treat different customers differently. I treat all customers with respect and in a professional manner. But the customers who take responsibility for their marketing and who are willing to be a partner with me in the process — those are the ones who get top priority.

By the way, those customers are not always the ones who spend the most money with me either. When it comes to working with people, I’m like a blood hound. I NEED to see the customer succeed — it’s more than just a want. In order for that to happen, though, the customer needs to be a part of the process, at least for the type of work I do. This is why those customers get top priority.

How ’bout you? Do you treat different customers differently?

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OK, Copy Bitch, I’ve got one for you: Is it proper to use “a” or “an” before the acronym LGBT? I am a firm believer that “an” should only be used before vowels, so “a” should be used prior to LGBT.  But everywhere I look, people are writing “an LGBT.” What say you?

–Rob F, NYC

It’s the vowel or consonant sound that’s critical, not necessarily what the actual letter is itself. So, because you’d say “el” for the letter “L” (which is a vowel sound), “an” is appropriate.

Grammar Girl explains it quite well in this post.

Hope this helps!

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The Best from 2010

It’s that time of the year again when you can’t escape “best of” lists. I actually enjoy looking through these types of lists and reliving moments from the last 12 months or catching up on something I might have missed. So, below, I’m sharing some of my top posts from 2010. I’m including ones that received the most traffic/comments and also ones that are my faves because I feel they provide the most help.

Enjoy, happy new year, and see you in 2011!

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I got an interesting note from a client the other day:

I just got an email from Awesome Propsect that they went with another vendor. I’ve asked for feedback but suspect I won’t get much but if I do I’ll send to you.  I do know that the other two vendors I had never heard of before so it wasn’t a major competitor they went with.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: Just because you’ve never heard of the person or company you’re losing business to doesn’t mean the person or company isn’t a major competitor. Heck, there was a time when most people had never heard of Google (yes, really). Anybody you lose business to is someone to watch, to consider, and to see what they’re doing right.

Don’t dismiss. Pay attention.

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While it’s important to show gratitude every day of the year, it seems fitting that the month of November is devoted to giving thanks.

I don’t think it’s just because of Thanksgiving, either. There’s something about this month in particular — the increasing darkness, the grayer days, the quiet. It’s a time for reflection, a time to pause, and a time to look around and say, “Thank you.”

Which brings me to this blog post (and also the subject of my November newsletter): The Gratitude Edition. I’d like to personally thank you for reading this blog. I’d like to thank my clients (many of whom are devoted readers) for trusting me with their passions, dreams, and desires. I’d like to thank my colleagues for providing encouragement, support, and sympathetic ears during rough moments. And last, but not least, I’d like to call out three organizations that are important to me. They do great work every day of the year, and I applaud them for it.

Heifer International
Heifer’s approach is to help people obtain a sustainable source of food and income. According to its website, “Heifer helps empower millions of families to lift them out of poverty and hunger to self-reliance through gifts of livestock, seeds and trees and extensive training, which provide a multiplying source of food and income.” Give a sheep, a llama, chickens, bees — the gift catalog is extensive and will likely fit most budgets. One Christmas about five or six years ago, I gave gifts in the names of my (then) 12 nieces and nephews. This organization has helped more than 12 million families in more than 125 countries since 1944.

The Smile Train
Did you know that it takes only $250 to surgically fix a cleft lip/palate, which gives a kid a chance at a normal life? And did you know that over 4 million kids in developing countries are afflicted by clefts, and most are too poor to afford the surgery on their own? Enter Smile Train, which was founded in 1999. According to its websites, Smile Train is “an international charity that provides cleft lip and cleft palate surgery to children in need, as well as providing cleft-related training to doctors. If you’re not familiar with Smile Train, check out the site. The organization is also featured in the Oscar-winning documentary short Smile Pinki.

Samaritans
The holiday season can be a tough time of year for many people. Luckily, the Samaritans is an organization that’s available year round. According to its website,
Samaritans’ purpose is to alleviate despair, isolation, distress and suicidal feelings among individuals in our community, 24 hours a day; to educate the public about suicide prevention; and to reduce the stigma associated with suicide. We accomplish this through services that emphasize confidential, nonjudgmental, and compassionate listening.Sometimes all it takes is a compassionate ear. If you or someone you know needs that, keep this worthy organization in mind.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season.

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I’ve been writing email newsletters since I’ve been in business. But for some reason, I’ve overlooked this obvious and easy email marketing tip. So I thought I’d share.

Send your email newsletter TWICE in one month. The first time should be to your regular list during your regular ship date. But then schedule it to send on the last day of the month to only those who’ve subscribed since your last newsletter went out.

Constant Contact makes it super easy to do this (and I’m sure the other major vendors, like MailChimp, do as well). In Constant Contact, simply do the following:

  1. Select your email campaign.
  2. Click on “Resend Options.”
  3. Select “New contacts since email was last sent.”

Done!

Two things to keep in mind: to make it easier, do any data entry of email addresses to your “Contacts” list before you go through this process. And if your newsletter is dated in any way (e.g. you wish people a Happy Thanksgiving), you’ll need to copy your email campaign, remove dated references, and schedule a send to yourself only. Then, you should copy the list of new email addresses and then follow steps 1 and 2 above. For step #3, you’ll select “Enter email addresses Info” and paste the list of new email addresses.

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