marketing communication

Writing for the Blocked, Bored & Balky

I don't get to work at 6:00 in the morning so I don't get to leave around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. If I'm not out at meetings, my late afternoons are a struggle between "I CANNOT begin a new writing project at 3:37!" and "I CANNOT putz around and waste time just because I don't have it in me to start something new right now."

What ta do, what ta do?

Submitted here in all their practical glory, are some of my late afternoon go to's for when you have to get stuff done, but can't BEGIN to get big stuff done...

Block. Outline. Plan. Maybe you can't plunge into your copy and get it all done in one fell swoop as you might at the beginning of your day, but you can certainly draft an outline and get a little good concepting time in. And when you're not forcing yourself to work a project from start to finish, this actually frees you up to explore some new ideas and get a little freakier than you might otherwise.

(SIDEBAR: "concepting" is a word, Word. Quit autocorrecting me.)

Headlines. Subheads. Callouts. You know that brochure that's due this week will need them. Consider this your copywriting amuse bouche. They are small, manageable and you'll be that much farther along when you come in tomorrow morning and start on that 16-page behemoth all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. See also, "get a little freakier …" from above.

Reach Out & Touch Someone. Not literally. At least not where I work, but I don't know how you roll where you are, so … maybe? What I'm talking about in my 1970s, AT&T metaphorical way, is tending to that correspondence you're always putting off. Set up some coffees and lunches with contacts and friends you haven't seen in a while. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter and comment. "Engage" as the marketers like to say. It's writing/work that needs to get done and if you can't be billable, you may as well be sociable and get yourself and your company out there.

What do you do when you start getting pouty and still have several hours left in the day, friends?

A Marketing Discipline

A friend and periodic (okay, maybe sporadic is more accurate) client manages a niche division of a much larger, international company.

We began talking nearly a year ago about how email marketing could help his sales efforts. Late last fall, after a few false starts, an inaugural product alert went out. He was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Our next communication – this one a postcard intended to build his file of email addresses – has been languishing in the months since, somewhere between initial copy and layout.

I think it’s a great example of how a marketing effort can benefit from a healthy dose of discipline.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “discipline” as:

1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.

2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.

3. Control obtained by enforcing compliance or order.

4. Punishment intended to correct or train.

5. A set of rules or methods, as those regulating the practice of a church or monastic order.

6. A branch of knowledge or teaching.

Consider marketing from that perspective …

1. Marketing is a mindset; a mental predisposition that sees relationships as a pattern of behavior. Mutual exchange. Communication. Information sent and feedback received. In the process, those relationships can improve from prospect to customer (or donor) to advocate.

2. Self-control is imperative. Focus. Commitment to the end goal. New opportunities do arise, but that grass isn’t always greener … especially if launching your next initiative means abandoning the current one.

3. There are rules to live by. CAN-SPAM compliance, for example. Some marketers grew up on mail's spray-and-pray; in the online world that may well become spray-and-pay. If list integrity is important to you, or you’ve considered data synchronization, you know that order isn't left to chance!

4. Have you ever uploaded a shoddy list into mailchimp or some similar email service? You can get your message out. Once. But brush up against their threshold of bad addresses - or worse, recipient complaints - and your service is over. Promptly!

5. Clients and prospects have certain expectations of your brand. The more entrenched the relationship, the more those expectations are like rules. Live by the rules and you reinforce the relationship; violate them and you risk undermining it. Of course, if you never establish a pattern to begin with, there are no rules to live by!

6. I was at a KCDMA conference this past week. And the AFP 2011 International Conference is just around the corner. There are numerous opportunities to expand your knowledge (sharpen the saw). Capitalize on them!

Marketing is a discipline. And, if you're going to be successful, you'd better be, too!