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Jon Buchan: On how to secure leads and meetings by disarming – then charming – your prospects

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It’s 9am on a regular working day, sometime around 2012. The computer has just been fired up, the coffee is starting to cool, and you ease yourself into proceedings with a cursory scan of your inbox. The vast majority of what you find is not to your taste. Emails that are full of jargon, with a cliched call to action, and so lacking in personalisation that they all blur into one dirge of dullness.

It certainly doesn’t pique your interest, nor does it anger you. In fact, it commits the cardinal sin of email marketing; it simply bores you. Yet one email you see, from an address which hasn’t entered your inbox before, is a comparative oasis of calm.

“I’m going to cut straight to the chase – no bullshit or pretence,” it reads, with a picture attachment of – for no discernible reason – a ferret in a dress by the name of Colin. Following this, a more than reasonable partnership offer is outlined. The recipient responds, hopefully with humour and good grace, and it all goes off from there.

Six years on, the man responsible for this seeming act of heresy has built up a roster of customers and an ethos focused around subverting traditional copywriting and lead generation rules and ‘getting the attention of busy people.’ Colin may have since slipped into semi-retirement with the arrival of more up-to-date campaigns, but Jon Buchan, director at Charm Offensive, remains laser-focused on sharing his success story and teaching his methods.

Get drunk, make leads

Buchan’s story all came about, he admits, through desperation. “I got hellishly drunk one night and wrote a completely absurd cold email,” he explains on the Charm Offensive website. “I was still tipsy the next morning and decided it was still a good idea to send it to pretty senior marketing directors at big brands. To my astonishment, it worked.”

I had a recent reply saying ‘congratulations, this is the worst sales and marketing email I’ve ever received’ – before adding the irony was not lost on them that they replied

The next steps worked, too. “When I sent it first, I remember getting the responses and then I remember thinking ‘let’s try that again,’” Buchan tells MarketingTech. “When it was repeatable, that’s when I realised I can just keep doing this forever, and I can always get meetings.”

The Charm Offensive template ‘formula’ is based around four steps for pitching; get attention, disarm your recipient, communicate your message, and finally charm them into submission. It all sounds straightforward enough – but you need to get the wheels in motion first and have the confidence to do it. “I think you offend more people by sending these boring, formulaic emails,” explains Buchan. “That’s more insulting. You’re not even trying at that point.”

The overriding concept of adding a dash of humour to the corporate world plays on two constants. There is the continually overstuffed inbox – despite the articles which crop up from time to time claiming email marketing is dead, it’s not going anywhere soon – and the fact that it deals with human beings, in spite of seniority. “No-one becomes the CEO of Red Bull and says ‘do you know what, I don’t like to laugh now – that’s something I did when I wasn’t successful,’” says Buchan.

Job titles and industries that appear to have been ‘dehumanised’, in Buchan’s experience, include IT directors, finance directors and, perhaps bizarrely, luxury brands. “The reason why it works is not everyone will do this,” he says. “It stands out because it is daring.”

Naturally, there’s by no means a 100% success rate, and Buchan has received his fair share of disgruntled replies. But sometimes it can work to your advantage. “This is not that long ago – I’d already had five years of being bashed around the head – but [a recipient] said ‘Congratulations, this is the worst sales and marketing email I’ve ever received,’” he notes. “And before I could even reply to inform him of his error, he replied back within two minutes saying the irony was not lost on him that he replied. Then we got into a fun little conversation.

“It’s a qualification device as much as anything,” Buchan adds. “It attracts the people that you love. Self-important, stern people can go and work with competitors.”

The rule of about three in the morning

Of course, subverting the rules is only possible if you know the rules in the first place. Prior to Charm Offensive, Buchan was running his own digital marketing firm having bounced around various agencies beforehand. Yet marketers, aside from the legendary figures of Rory Sutherland and Dave Trott, are noticeably absent from his list of influencers. “The influence on my writing was watching stand up comedy and sitcoms until 4am when I was a child,” Buchan notes. “That was my 10,000 hours of experience. I didn’t know then that I was working – if I did, I’d have put it off.”

You offend more people by sending boring, formulaic emails. That’s more insulting – you’re not even trying at that point

It is this hybrid approach which has fuelled Buchan’s marketing and copywriting style. Get the basics of marketing nailed down, and then learn as much as you can about the rules of comedy, from the rule of three, to the reverse, and everything in between. These are of course all included in the Charm Offensive subscription package, of which new templates and cheat sheets are being added on a regular basis.

Before you start launching into spicing up your email campaign however, there is one caveat. It is worth noting that different countries’ business cultures – take certain parts of Asia as an example – may see this approach flounder and, in some cases, cause offence. Yet Buchan notes subscribers who have tried his methods with success in various countries, and even various languages.

The fact remains that the Charm Offensive method can work on just about anything, whether it’s cold pitching, getting back in touch with previous clients, or lead gen, whether you’re a one-man band, an agency or a consumer business. “It’s more of a methodology than channel-specific,” says Buchan.

“For cold pitches it makes a great first impression, which is good. The first time you’ve come across someone they’ve made you laugh and [have] cut through in a clever way,” he adds. “It won’t sell on its own, it won’t sell a shit offer, but if you’ve got a good offer it will potentiate a persuasive message, such as being self-effacing, and making you more trustworthy.

“Just being upfront and honest – it disarms people, and it makes you more likeable.”

You can find out more about Charm Offensive here.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Who should take advantage of IGTV first?

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YouTube has had a near monopoly on the long-form video space — until recently. Instagram’s IGTV is here and it looks like it could be a formidable competitor. IGTV is the popular social media platform’s very own vertical video app, which is designed to allow brands, influencers, and creators to post longer segments; allowing for videos up to one hour in length, compared to the previous length of only one minute.

IGTV will almost certainly develop as a bona fide YouTube competitor, at a time when YouTube may be in its most vulnerable state. Here are the most likely reasons why:

IGTV could be a brand safety oasis

YouTube is especially sensitive to IGTV at the moment due to brand safety concerns. For the past year, YouTube’s biggest challenge has been assuring advertisers that their buys will be safe. At one point, 250 brands stopped advertising on the platform altogether. And, while almost all brands have returned, and YouTube has invested heavily in being a better partner, half of advertisers say YouTube has done a poor job with brand safety and managing inventory quality.

For IGTV, this is a gift. Though it has been careful not to say so explicitly, Instagram will likely be positioning IGTV as a more curated and brand-safe environment than YouTube. Brands want an alternative in light of safety concerns, so they’re looking at options from Snapchat and other premium publishers. We see this in our own spend data, with YouTube ad growth almost completely flat; increasing by just 0.2% from January to May.

So, what can brands do in the interim, whose main concern is brand safety? The instinct is to be cautious. But that may not be the right answer. Instead brands should be clear and firm with expectations. Brands first to market will be able to push Instagram to be brand safe – to demand it – and IGTV has the opportunity to challenge Google Preferred by providing brands with a transparent, brand-safe solution to YouTube’s shortcomings. However, the platform has to prove it by example first.

YouTube has made significant strides in showing advertisers that they are taking brand safety concerns seriously (e.g. the implementation of whitelist and blacklist technologies, partnering with DoubleVerify). IGTV has to be brand-safe out of the gate — or at the very least, safer than its competitor — to draw those advertisers away from YouTube.

Advertisers will like IGTV for performance

Beyond brand safety, IGTV could beat YouTube on performance. Over the past two years, the demand for performance by digital media has exploded. Last year, brand frustrations culminated when P&G and Unilever, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, dramatically cut ad spend due to concerns around transparency and ROI. Ad budgets are being scrutinized more than ever and a growing number of operations are being taken in-house.

This ties back to IGTV and YouTube in a few ways. First, according to ANA data, influencer marketing has surged. Seventy-five percent of brands are spending on influencers and nearly half will increase spending in the next year. Why? Sixty percent say they’re happy with the performance they’ve seen, with Instagram being the second-most popular channel for influencer programs, just behind Facebook.

Instagram has established itself more strongly as a performance channel than YouTube and it offers an unmatched ability to drive purchases. That’s an advertiser’s dream, of course. A recent study, reported by RetailDive, and conducted by Dana Rebecca Designs, revealed that 72% of users have made a purchase decision as a direct result of something they saw on Instagram. YouTube, by contrast, has helped with purchase decisions already planned. If Instagram can deliver similar performance through IGTV, advertisers will come calling.

Retail brands, specifically those that are significantly reliant on online shopping, should realign their budgets to make IGTV a priority, as IGTV will be a great resource for driving the right type of customers toward a purchase.

Instagram is growing, while YouTube is not

Unfortunately for YouTube, brand safety isn’t the only major challenge it has grappled with recently. In addition to ad growth, viewership numbers have begun to slow down. A few months ago, major channels and influencers on YouTube saw their monthly views stall. An analysis by eMarketer echoed this pattern, noting that YouTube’s audience growth was 13% in 2016 but only 9% in 2017. According to the report, “YouTube viewership is nearing saturation in many markets.” Those numbers are likely to continue to erode.

IGTV, by contrast, is only just getting started. Its growth prospects are bright. Instagram’s user base is growing by 5% each quarter. The company recently announced 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has more at 1.8 billion, but Instagram hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing. Also, consider that consumer tastes have shifted towards vertical video as mobile viewing has exploded. IGTV is a vertical video-first platform, while YouTube only added vertical video compatibility in January. The viewership trends are in Instagram’s favor, whereas YouTube is playing catch up.

YouTube could wonder about its ability to maintain audience numbers if top stars and influencers desert it. At its core, Instagram is a social network. YouTube, by comparison, is not. Most come to YouTube for personalities like Smosh and Jenna Marbles. But if the personalities go away, so do the viewers.

In recent months, some influencers haveeither left the platform or chosen to diversify their content across challenger services such as Twitch. As YouTube tightens brand safety and copyright controls in an effort to calm advertisers, creators are concerned that the cleanup is leading to “viewer suppression” and demonetization. IGTV has already partnered with popular influencers such as King Bach and LeLe Pons for its launch, and any blowback among YouTube’s community of stars will only help it attract more creators.

Tread cautiously

IGTV’s opportunity to become a brand-safe, performance-driven, vertical video alternative to YouTube isn’t just hype. That being said, brands should remain vigilant during this time, and not act on impulse once IGTV decides to monetize. Some may be tempted to dive right in, due to the influencer-heavy list of content creators on the platform, but IGTV will have to prove it has learned from the woes of its competitor, before it can truly outshine YouTube.

Todd Krizelman is chief executive officer of MediaRadar

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Group Nine centralizes branded content team with launch of an in-house studio

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Group Nine Media is bringing its branded content strategy under one roof with the launch of in-house studio Brandshop.

The digital publisher announced today (11 December) that Brandshop will bring together the creative services teams across its four brands — NowThis, Thrillist, Seeker, and The Dodo — and the branded entertainment piece of its production studio Jash.

Group Nine president Christa Carone said centralizing everything will better inform the outlet's editorial strategy.

"The campaigns, the videos, and all of the programs we're developing are entirely informed on the insights that we're seeing from the audiences that engage with our editorial content. So, when an advertiser asks what young are people interested in, [we have a] robust set of data to be able to answer that question in an informed way," Carone told The Drum.

According to Nielsen, Group Nine reaches over 80% of US adults in their 20s. Group Nine brands earn more than 140 social engagements each month, per Listen First Media.

Yosef Johnson, senior vice president and head of Brandshop, will lead the new studio. He called it a "holistic new shop" across Group Nine's four brands.

Group Nine is the latest media company to push a brand content strategy. Condé Nast recently set up its own agency and brand consultancy in the UK.

Carone said Group Nine is seeing "very healthy, double-digit growth" in the area, and that as a social-first publisher it has a unique position in offering branded content.

"We lean very heavily into the social platform. It's one of the reasons we know advertisers want to work with us, because we are known in the marketplace as being one of the most robust social-first publishers, so our learnings from that are helping advertisers better understand how they can engage with younger audiences on social," Carone said.

Digital media currently stands on some shaky grounds as it competes for advertising dollars with giants such as Facebook and Google. BuzzFeed's chief executive suggested a merger among media companies could help publishers better compete.

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Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace

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Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:

The post Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace appeared first on Marketing Land.

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