A marketing director of a midsize company recently reached out for a potential project.
Actually, he needed several projects and admitted the agency he usually worked with didn’t have the resources to meet his needs.
We talked about the project, a sell sheet, which would require both copy and design. Since I do both, he thought I could help.
After he sent a template and some brief bullet points along with a few suggestions for the direction of the copy, I followed up with an agreement with my quote. This process actually happened out of order, since usually the prospect and I agree upon the terms of the project before any resources are sent.
However, since we had connected on LinkedIn and found common ground with our marketing philosophy—and had a great phone call where we discussed a few working details—I thought the agreement and quote was just a formality.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, my new prospect rejected my quote. It was out of his budget. This, from a fast-growing company that employs 250 and made close to $57 million in revenue in 2018. It was a bit of a shock. My quote, by the way, was mid-priced by industry standards.
This also was after I had given my contact a range of quotes for various projects, which is between $500 – $2,000+, depending upon the project. I mistakenly believed he was familiar with the fees of a professional copywriter. Evidently not.
“Red Flags” of Corporate Marketers Who Outsource
This experience has opened my eyes in surprising and unexpected ways. At first, I felt genuine disappointment because I thought our rapport was solid. I found his marketing insights provocative and was looking forward to our collaboration. He has a lot of passion for marketing.
However, there were “red flags” at the beginning that this wasn’t a good fit for what I do and I failed to notice them.
First, he sent a template. This should have alerted me immediately that what he was looking for was not originality but duplication. He wanted a factory worker, willing to take Part A and fit it into Part B (cookie-cutter solutions)—no questions asked.
In other words, very little creative would be involved. It was simply a matter of “plug and play.”
Second, he wanted short copy and felt it would be easy to do. Again, if something is easy to do, I will guarantee you it won’t be interesting.
He had no buyer personas or avatars to target. No psychographics or firmographics. Without such key information, the copy is guaranteed to be bland because there is no focus on a particular audience’s need.
… if something is easy to do, I will guarantee you it won’t be interesting.
Third, he admitted he wanted to be “hands off” regarding completion of these projects. Again, it was assembly-line language, not creative. He trusted that once the person who wrote the copy got the hang of the company’s objectives, then they could just churn out content all day long.
Let’s step back and examine the purpose of marketing.
Marketing refers to activities undertaken by a company to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Marketing includes the advertising, selling and delivering of products to consumers or other businesses.
The goal of marketing is to capture the attention of a buyer. Once that attention is captured, then the prospective buyer is directed toward ultimately making a purchase. You want to be on the mind of the prospect so when the time is right for a purchase, they think of you first.
The goal of marketing is to capture the attention of a buyer. Once that attention is captured, then the prospective buyer is directed toward ultimately making a purchase.
Cognitive Dissonance Creeps In
Now here’s where it gets interesting.
This marketer recently posted his thoughts on LinkedIn about email marketing. He observed that marketing automation might be doing more harm than good for SMBs because without personalization, you’re basically spamming people. I agree.
Although this marketer didn’t want to create spam email, he wanted to outsource his marketing with the requirement that the contractor use a template approach to create content, essentially generating a “Spam Marketing” asset.
And that’s exactly what most mid-size and large companies do. They create marketing collateral that is a template because of their urgent need to scale. They have little time to actually develop anything worth paying attention to.
As a result, you have marketing copy that is filled with corporate jargon that uses all the right words and phrases yet really doesn’t communicate much. It fails to impress anyone and doesn’t connect with the reader.
There is a cognitive dissonance with such an approach.
On one hand, I hear many marketers say they want marketing that resonates with their audience. They want marketing that is compelling, intriguing, and captivating.
Yet whoever is pulling the strings (not necessarily the marketers) don’t want to wait for that kind of marketing. Sales copy and content marketing is now required to be created at warp speed.
The end result is website pages, blogs, reports, brochures, and more that says pretty much what everyone else is saying. There is no differentiation. Nothing remarkable. And it’s completely forgettable.
It’s taken me some time but I finally realize that such a philosophy is not a good fit for me.
I cannot do my best work within a “plug and play” infrastructure. I’m committed to creating marketing assets that are full-course meals, not fast food. Many of my copywriting peers feel the same.
But this scenario paves the way for small business owners to take the field. They have the advantage.
Why Small Businesses Can Make Marketing Great Again
Because they don’t have departments that often produce more “red tape” than anything else. There is no marketing director to placate, no marketing manager to persuade. No board of directors to please or shareholders to cajole.
Instead, small business owners can take some risks and do something different that will get them noticed.
They can create marketing and advertising that has more originality and more heart than anything mid-size and larger companies produce.
… small business owners can take some risks and do something different that will get them noticed.
Consider www.kidsbowlfree.com. They have testimonials on their site and a helpful video that explains the service. Or the Duluth Trading Company. Everything they do is aimed specifically at the man or woman who wants durable clothing that looks good. It’s all about the experience. Their customer service page is one of the friendliest I’ve seen.
SMBs have a huge advantage over larger companies. They’re closer to the customer transaction and because of that, can easily track customer experiences. Connecting with a new customer regarding their purchase or the service they received is simpler than if you had a larger company with several layers of product or service deliverability.
Red tape can hinder progress toward your main goal—which is to get more sales. So can large committees. Many companies, when publically traded, become beholden to Wall Street. The more they’re concerned with pleasing stockholders, the less they focus on the customer experience.
You can have the most skilled captain in the world but if the ship is headed in the wrong direction, his skill really doesn’t matter unless it’s to turn the ship around.
As for me and the value I offer to my clients, working on templates so I can create something “fast” is like asking Leonardo DaVinci to complete a paint-by-numbers fresco. I have much more to contribute to marketing than creating a “one size fits all” asset.
Bottom line: I want to create quality work for my clients. And sadly, most of the marketing I see from businesses is not high quality. And when it’s not, it’s a quick race to the bottom.