trading floor

Who Is Listening to Your Brand and How Good Writing Makes It Happen

Ever enjoyed an awkward moment in a meeting? Years ago, I was a young financial writer interviewing a guy who had gone from peddling beer to selling securities and found myself being yelled at by him behind a closed door just off a trading floor.

We sat on chairs facing each other, exposed without a desk or table. I fidgeted my skirt to ensure modesty. The air between us felt thick with tension and my eyes were fixed on my notebook as I tried to keep up with his rapid-fire comments. “Look at me when I am talking to you!,” he bellowed. The criticism was so sharp, I didn’t pause to come up with a polite response. I went Jersey on him. “What, would you prefer I not take good notes and misquote you?” Yes, I had a recorder (pre-smartphone age), but note-taking makes for a better use of time when writing for a daily newspaper.

He fell at ease, if only for a moment. He realized I was not an adversary. I wasn’t there to be his best friend either, but I wasn’t out to get him. Just then, there was shrieking coming from the trading floor by a man who evidently had messed up a client trade and was issuing a mea culpa. He couldn’t take back the error and no one could resolve it for him, so he opted for a form of primal screaming. My interview subject stood up and strode to the door. As he opened it, the shrieking man happened to be right there and immediately became stunned to be inches from the boss’s face. The boss man quietly seethed that the employee should cease all verbal emanation. This was quite effectively expressed with pithy, graphic language.

While I was amused, I wasn’t sure how to get all that into my story. After all, it’s not like I would be able to get confirmation as to how exactly the trader messed up and what was the underlying deal. And, I wasn’t sure I wanted to immediately alienate my new subject. Besides, haven’t we all had one of those days? At least, I witnessed instant karma: you snap at me, and then you look like you’re running a circus instead of a business.

Why do I tell you this story? Well, if you got this far, then you liked the writing. Moreover, I wanted to illustrate the importance of attention to detail. A writing professional is assiduous with note-taking, whether the act of writing or observing. A writer shows you rather than tells you what is happening. Now, ask yourself, how is the story of your business being told. Your marketing narratives needs memorable details. Is your marketing staff or agency listening and observing what is happening with your business and market? Does the marketing, in turn, reflect your core competencies and speak to your target market?

Good storytelling is a craft. It takes experience. And, in the digital realm, it requires strong writing skills. If you want Adroit Narratives to take care of your writing and editing, contact Katharine for information on hourly rates and monthly packages.

Doorbells, Drip Campaigns and Delivering Value

If you live with dogs, you undoubtedly are frequently jarred by doorbells in television commercials. I’m going to name names: thank you, Walmart and Stouffer’s, who insist on multiple doorbell sound effects in their ads. No doubt the creators of these ads know that dogs will go bonkers each time they hear them and, ergo, dog owners will remember the ads.

But that certainly backfires when your target audience finds your ads incredibly annoying. I have other choices and do not need to go to Walmart, and I certainly wouldn’t serve guests frozen lasagna.

Analogously, are there certain retailers who send you multiple emails each week? If it is for the same offer, this practice is called a drip campaign. If the campaign is promoting a sale from a store I like, such as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft, then yes, I rather like the email reminders. But, if the email is from an entity I find mildly interesting, then I really do not need two to three emails per day.

Who wants to be touched by digital marketing that often? Some email marketers seem more aligned with robocallers in practice than storytellers. What are you trying to tell your prospects and customers? Too many drips can feel like Chinese water torture for the email recipient.

Also, too much frequency can suggest desperation. Better to go with one to three emails a week, not several per day (you know you have seen that in your inbox).

And only talking about products and offers can get boring. What value are you bringing to people?

For example, if you are selling clothes, your newsletter could include an article about how to dress up or down with key pieces. And, sure, include sidebars with special offers as well as high-end items.

If you’re selling a professional service, include articles that are useful to your target audience. These are articles should be written by your company and posted to your website. The articles should describe how you solve a particular problem. You can illustrate your expertise without giving away the farm.

With storytelling you are inviting prospects to learn something of value from you. Think of it this way: if you ring someone’s doorbell in real life, they would appreciate if you are bringing something of value. (I’m waiting on the UPS truck as I type).

This is why guests bring hostess gifts to parties. You wouldn’t show up, ring the doorbell repeatedly and then try to sell your wares. So, why would you do that with email marketing? The Pavlovian response you are likely triggering is getting people to click delete, or worse, unsubscribe.

Instead, relate something positive and inviting. Did you hire someone new who is a standout in the field? Share that. Do you have an insight about some current event or controversy? Share that. Can you open with an anecdote about yourself in your business? Share that too. Let your customers and prospects get to know you and appreciate you.

Katharine Fraser is a communications consultant, social media marketer and freelance writer and editor.

Teddy key fob

What’s the Story? Anything Outrageous?

The best way to define your business is to tell customer stories. The main categories include problem-solving, above-and-beyond and humorous.

Your most compelling and memorable story might just be all of the above. Another category is the composite story: this combines several customers’ similarly situated stories into one. In essence, what is a common pain point you resolve and how do you do it.

A Little DRAMA

Still, everyone secretly loves a little drama. I’d love to know the details of how the rental car company in this scenario solved a problem created by the customer. My late, great Uncle Bob was an itinerate salesman who was one of those people who is so super smart that they kind of space out with the little details of life.

He was in downtown Chicago for a successful dinner meeting and then had to get up super-early for a flight home the next morning. The parking garage attendant swung his rental vehicle around and Bob headed to the airport in darkness.

Sliding into a parking spot at the airport rental lot, he pulled the keys out of the ignition and noticed the key fob had an awful lot of keys hanging from it.

That’s when it hit him. He had inadvertently stolen someone’s car from the hotel garage. Or rather the attendant stole the car and he was an unwitting accomplice. Or, no one intended to steal anything and Bob needed to catch that plane to make it to his young daughter’s birthday party.

Grand theft auto?

He had a clear choice: make the flight. Did I leave out the car dilemma? Not his problem!

He ran to the company’s customer service counter and slapped down the car keys. The rental agent took note of the personal key fob and protested it wasn’t the company’s rental car keys. The customer shrugged, gave him the name of the hotel and took off for the plane. Perhaps surprisingly, he never heard anything about it from the rental car company. Now that’s great customer service!

Imagine this story was featured in a car rental commercial or blog. You’d remember which company, right? Granted, they probably wouldn’t want to encourage such a thing, but how often to people accidentally commit grand theft auto?

If you have an outrageous customer story you can share, by all means, do it. Ideally, with the cooperation and input of the customer. One crucial requirement: it must have a good ending!