Friday, 23 July 2010

Breaking through the pain barrier letter by copy written letter

Newsletters have been around for ages. The first I remember was based around a multi-user game played by my older brother called Green Sun. The difference with this game was that it was paper based and mailed in the post and was about 30 years ago. That’s scary I can remember that far back. I’m sure it took an incredible amount of energy and effort to coordinate and maintain this method of client interaction.

As Managing Director of Assembly I’m gradually working my way around areas of our business that need attention on both a system level basis and content creation basis. I’m working in the business on both a strategic level and tactical level which basically means I get a little time to think about what needs to be done and quite often because we are now a much smaller and more focussed and specialised team I get to actually do technical work of the business too – at least until the systems and designs are in place.

One of the first areas in Marketing I’ve been looking at is Newsletters – in themselves a very simple and innocuous piece of marketing collateral. But oh how very difficult it has been to actually create, systemise, coordinate – it’s a classic case of your own company being the last place you actually practice what you preach.

It’s amazing how many doubts creep in when you are creating a piece of external communication. You of course want it to work (keep your suspects, prospects, and clients informed and maybe trigger a few enquiries and who knows maybe a sale or two) and you want it to be ‘on brand’ and communicate your offer in the best light but there’s always a worry it will fall flat and your list will unsubscribe in droves. There in lies the rub – we struggled with the purpose of a newsletter – does it just ‘sell’ and communicate how great you think you are so a prospect will agree the same on a regular basis? The only value for the readers here as I see it they may remember how capable we are and that may solve an immediate problem for them – all well and good but my ambition for our first newsletter from the outset was to attempt to make it more educational at the same time as having a voice and opinion about the subject matter for which we profess to be experts.

To be on-brand the newsletter (which in this case focuses on our Visualisation and Animation expertise and is targeted at Architects and designers) had to communicate our values as well as something useful and educational. Given the nature of the 3D work undertaken by the team and our constant strive for perfection in everything we do led us to name the newsletter Virtually Perfect (perfect in the Virtual world – or almost perfect in the real world – never quite there as there’s always room for improvement!). The strap line caused us more difficulty. Although showcasing latest work we want Virtually Perfect to evolve into a piece that educates and comments. To honour this sentiment the strap line shouldn’t be about the company Assembly, or the Visualisation Team, but it should be about the newsletter and what it does. The distinction is subtle but important.

After much re-working we arrived at ‘Exploring the moving image of communication.’

We all believed this reflects the exploration inherent in any creative work and also played on the moving image or animation (3D, movies, animation) vs. the moving image of communication as an ever-changing and evolving medium. We think the content of our first newsletter lived up only in part to its purpose. In future issues we hope to develop our voice and that of the team to enrich the content beyond a simple show-and-tell. No matter how beautiful your work may be you still have to keep a reader engaged. In essence you can’t ignore the fact that you have to communicate with them not at them.

This leads me nicely to the tactical issues one faces pulling together and issuing a newsletter. Once you’ve herded your creatives, marketing consultants, and copywriters (this may be one person or many!) it’s all about creating the HTML document and issuing it. We’ve adopted Salesforce CRM with Vertical Response as an App that integrates nicely with Salesforce to allow you to issue and track all sorts of valuable data. Once you have this kind of control and information you start to ask yourself the oddest questions at the oddest times….

When’s the best time to send an email newsletter? No I mean when EXACTLY is the best time?

Will architects be doing all nighters and just delete or click?

If I send it twice will they think they’re subscribed twice and unsubscribe?

If I’ve sent an email once and the recipient hasn’t opened the mail (computer says so) is it acceptable to send it again…and again….and again…and again….

It’s still early doors on our newsletter – suffice to say that it’s absolutely needed – along with social media. However I do know how many of you have opened and clicked and as a result for the first time in my life boy do I feel powerful. Beware! Our next project is our Agency wide newsletter - names on an e-flyer please.

I’ll finish with a comment about company, business and office culture. I believe any outward communication is a reflection of what’s going on inside your business – ‘you don’t say’ I hear you cry – but wait – if there is no cultural habit of communicating, writing, debating, documenting, analysing, critiquing, educating, your prospects, clients, employees, staff, management, board, department, company, group, no matter what size you are will not have a voice or opinion. Habits are the unseen mechanical subconscious processes that lead to meaningful communication that helps you and your customers solve problems and move forwards. Once you’ve developed the habit, a newsletter that actually has something to say may be in sight!

So to all you unsubscribers out there (9 of you as of 14:07) I say ‘watch AND read this space!’



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