Brashly Stupid?; When Marketing Doesn’t Work…; a Magical ChatGPT Prompt and a Cool Cap

Friends and colleagues,

I was young, brash, stubborn, and irresponsible to the point of stupidity. But I was right. Tell me more, Jay, asked no one…

I once bet a client – a senior marketer at a major software company you all know well – our entire fee that the campaign we developed would beat his in-house team’s in an A/B test. He accepted the bet gleefully, calling what he thought was my bluff. Long story mercifully shortened, I wasn’t bluffing and we “won” which is to say we performed over 25% better, got paid, and then got our wrist slapped by the client’s rightfully and righteously indignant procurement lead. Looking back on this episode as a not-young, still brash, occasionally stupid, less stubborn, often wrong agency leader, I recognize that I should not have risked Crossbow Group’s reputation or finances. That noted I must admit, even in my 25th year at the helm of this still sea-worthy battleship, I’d do it again.

Ok, you’ve been patient and kind, as you often are. So here, friends (and you too, my sometimes-cranky colleagues) is your just reward: A bevy of tips and trends, not one of which was written by a robot.

Tips and Trends

1. If you’re not mailin’, your’re failin’. You know what works again? Direct mail. You know what always worked? Direct mail. Do you know why it works even better? Because so many of you pivoted too aggressively, but understandably to digital, the shiny red toy in the window. But here’s the straight dope (yep, I know no one cool says that): You have MUCH less competition in the mailbox. The media targeting is more precise and accurate. B2B direct mail works again in part because an increasingly large % of businesses are bringing employees back to work at least part-time. Lastly, digital marketing fatigue is a real, pervasive threat. The risks: It can be expensive (postage cost is up). Lead times can be longer. And the pool of direct marketing talent is much more shallow than it used to be. One solution? Well, you know…

2. We see you, EU. The European Union has beaten its distracted American counterparts to the proverbial punch on legislating artificial intelligence. They have passed the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. And since the internet is largely borderless, these rules, like GDPR before them, will sometimes apply to you and your firm, even if you’d rather ignore what my business school professor once called the “multi-lingual muppets.” Need to learn if you should consider registering your efforts with the European Commission? Reach out to an archer and/or search “AI Act.”

3. Search and Ye Shall Find… a Robot. Organic search is changing at light speed. Google and Microsoft are integrating generative AI into search frighteningly fast (emphasis on frighteningly). The reality for firms focusing on the traditional, labor-intensive organic search activities like backlinking and keyword clustering is that you should, well, slow your roll since these innovations will likely obviate the need for activities designed to optimize your site for yesteryear’s algorithms. What will not change and even become more important: The need to consistently generate distinct, differentiating, dynamic content that engages your target personas. So make sure your content teams – whether internal or slick, Westport-based agencies – are up to the task.

4. One thing to do when digital marketing doesn’t work. Last year, one of our B2B clients was investing heavily in paid social media placement, but the costs were getting prohibitively high, and conversion rates were falling. So, acting as the marketing fiduciary we are, we suggested they pause their efforts, so we could recommend course corrections and/or alternatives. One option they adopted with admirable gusto was the development of creative concepts that didn’t sell a darn thing, but rather told the stories of the good people who’d worked at the firm in some cases for more than 25 years. We did “boost” these posts, but at a cost that was a small fraction of the cost of the media it replaced. The result so far: Engagement rates have quadrupled and conversion rates have stabilized.

5. Itchy Trigger Linger(?) Yea, I know, not the best subhead, but stay with me, folks. CRM systems give you the ability to generate and automate follow-up communications based on specific actions that prospects and customers take when they receive an email, visit a landing page, or navigate your site. This is a very useful capability but here, my digital doyennes and dons, is the rub: Once set up these triggers are rarely revisited and updated. That’s a problem because behaviors change, decision-drivers diverge (alliteration intended) and the funnel-specific content needed to respond to those changing behaviors must change with it. So, may I suggest you audit your automations at least every six months? There, done.

6. Things worth testing in email. You are testing, right? If not, scurry into the marketing doghouse ASAP. For those who ARE testing before rolling out emails, let me share our recent experience with A/B tests that were worth doing, moving the needle by double-digit %s. First: Offer testing. Obvi, I know. But there is nothing that will improve your performance more than an offer that nudges your customers and prospects off the fence. Second: Text vs. graphics/HTML. In B2B, text is winning big right now. In B2C, the frilly graphics still carry the day. Third and final: Length with CTA (call to action). In B2B, longer copy is, surprisingly, beating shorter. In B2C, short, sweet and supercharged with an offer is victorious by <10%. On all of this, I strongly recommend you trust, but verify. 7. Do a daily wellness check. Departing from my sometimes flippant tone, to urge you all to reach out every day to one colleague who, for whatever reason, work and/or family stress, seasonal affective disorder, health issues, doesn’t seem themselves. You can see these folks in your mind’s eye now. So, may I suggest you make a quick call, send a short email, or text to say hello and ask how they are doing? That’s all. You may not get a reply immediately, or ever. But you know, you’ve done a good, simple thing by reminding someone going through a hard patch that you are thinking about them.

Not So New News

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