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Graeme Roberts Writing


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Graeme Roberts writes for digital media, including websites, apps, blogs, newsletters, and social media.

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Graeme Roberts Writing

  1. 1. GRAEME ROBERTS Writer and strategist  Consummate storyteller in truth or fiction. Good at making up stories.  Clear, simple, elegant prose.  Free of jargon, unexplained technical terms and acronyms.  Flexible in style—from friendly and easygoing to formal and precise.  Thorough in research to ensure accuracy and precision.  Logical and process-driven to articulate and achieve goals.  Creative, innovative and ready to try new approaches.  Powerful and punchy or lyrical and poetic at will.  Revels, as a poet, in the rhythm, rhyme and shape of words.  Direct, honest, friendly and reliable. I write websites, blogs, newsletters and presentations with few words but great meaning. The digital discipline. I also write articles and speeches. Trained and experienced as a filmmaker, I think of words in concert with still and moving pictures, because the newly ubiquitous technologies of distribution and display give us that power and demand diverse content. In addition to the samples below, please check out the Flying Fish Mobile Motion Video that I wrote for Dumbwaiter Design. WRITING FOR NEWSLETTERS Long Newsletter Article—GrowMotor ..........................................................................................................................2 Long Newsletter Article—GrowMotor ..........................................................................................................................4 Long Newsletter Article—GrowMotor ..........................................................................................................................6 Short Newsletter Article—GrowMotor .........................................................................................................................8
  2. 2. Page 2 of 8 LONG NEWSLETTER ARTICLE—GROWMOTOR THE HUNGER OF A DESPERATE WOMAN Adrift, wallowing dangerously in the stormy North Atlantic. The periscope of a German U-boat rises at 500 yards. A torpedo slices the brine, tracing a turbulent promise of extinction. With all the hunger of a desperate woman, you clutch both lapels of my sodden Navy greatcoat, looking deeply into my eyes. “Ernest,” you murmur hoarsely, “What is the single most-important secret to great marketing?” We gasp, as the magnetic torpedo speeds right underneath our rubber liferaft and continues toward Brest. Warmth suffuses my frozen garments. I enfold you tenderly in my arms, and whisper, “Just think, my darling. Just think!” JUST THINK! Look, if you THINK DEEPLY (more than a few seconds) about the marketing decisions you make, and discuss them openly among yourselves, you will be amazed at the results. A less scrupulous consultant than I would surely write a book called Think Your Way to Marketing Greatness, and charge $50,000 a pop for inspiring speeches, in which he made you close your eyes and imagine that you are Steve Jobs. Not me! This is simple and easy. So if thinking is so great, why do people do anything else? Because it’s also easy to be lazy and lazy can be fun. FIVE EASY WAYS TO AVOID THINKING 1. Embrace the Familiar Why think when you can do the same thing that you did last year? And the decade before that. This is a special problem with success. Toyota climbs to the top of the world automotive market, basks momentarily in the glory, then circles the wagons to defend its position, while the Korean Indians whoop, holler and shoot flaming arrows, and the American cavalry comes charging back. The company known for quality stumbles on success. Even if your company is not so successful, the marketing experiments of yesterday become the formulas and habits of tomorrow. In as much as marketing is a science, it is a practical and experimental one. In business, we leave theory to the professors. Keep trying new approaches, measure the results and adjust course. 2. Best Practice Bingo Best practices are approaches that have succeeded in other companies. Whole books are written about this. Acme Valve tripled sales while communing with an Indian yogi who mumbled mantras and giggled. Bingo! Best practice! Get the entire sales team down to Yoga and Pilates World, for lotus positioning. As Michael McLaughlin, coauthor of Guerilla Marketing for Consultants, arguably one of the best marketing books of all time, points out in his blog post Why Best Practices Are Losers: Starting any project with a canned solution narrows your focus to how you will implement that solution, instead of broadening your thinking about what should be done.
  3. 3. Page 3 of 8 3. Read All About It! Business books are perennial best sellers, but then so are diet books. The parallel is more than skin deep. People keep buying diet books, not because the ones they have read don’t work, but because they expected a miracle, a formula that didn’t require eating weird food and exercising a lot. Hope springs eternal. It is the same with most business books. Don’t read about the latest miracle cure for marketing, based on fads and fashions that will soon be as dead as Dr. Atkins and his diet. Instead, find the few that are original, insightful, and worth reading. Read the ones that espouse hard work, discipline and process. There is no shortcut. 4. Listen to Consultants Look, we are consultants, but we have no illusions about it. We work with clients who want to learn from our expertise, experience and insight, so that they can become better marketers. Not with clients who are too lazy to think and learn, or too timid to take a risk, so that they hire a consultant to tell them what to think and take the fall if it goes wrong. How seductive it is to hire expensive consultants (not us!), the more expensive the better, so that you can shift your brain into neutral and coast along behind the super-intelligent, 25-year-old Ivy Leaguers from McKinsey or Bain, fully confident that you can blame them when you don’t make your numbers. 5. Bury Yourself in Daily Urgencies Marketing departments are full of great doers. People who can organize a trade show booth, get the new brochure printed, or publicize the wet T-shirt competition far and wide. They are invaluable, but they are not enough. Every company needs marketing leaders who think deeply. They can diagnose problems, devise strategies that are longer term than a month, and make well-reasoned decisions. They get the need for important but not urgent, as well as urgent but not important, in Stephen R. Covey’s words from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Often, the emphasis on daily doing over thinking big is simply an easy evasion or a lazy convenience in itself. Peggy Noonan laments the same problem in Washington, in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece: Our political professionals cheapen everything they touch because they are burying themselves in daily urgencies in order to dodge and avoid the big picture. If all your marketing people start to melt when you mention positioning or segmentation, or quote common knowledge without insight or imagination, you have a doer/thinker imbalance. Your leaders must also be thinkers. And your thinkers must not take constant refuge in the emergency of the hour.
  4. 4. Page 4 of 8 LONG NEWSLETTER ARTICLE—GROWMOTOR THE FIVE SECRETS OF A GREAT WEBSITE by Graeme Roberts What makes a website great? Let me show you an excellent example. You are probably thinking that I will use Apple or some other hip Fast Company style website to set the standards. Some astonishing amalgam of cool, cutting edge design and Web 2.0 technology. That is not what makes a website great. Let’s talk instead of the HiHo Home Market and Antique Center, in the tiny hamlet of Gardiner, in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley. A few months ago HiHo Home’s proprietor, Heidi Hill-Haddard (great galloping aspirants—an emphysema sufferer’s nightmare!) became a fan of our GrowMotor Facebook page. She told us that she “needed to learn more about marketing.” I hope that she has, because we have learned so much from her! Secret 1—Think Deeply The HiHo website looks casual and homegrown. Don’t be fooled for a moment! Heidi knows what she wants the site to accomplish and how to make it happen. If you haven’t yet looked around the site, do it now. Before we develop websites for clients at GrowMotor, we write a detailed Website Marketing Action Plan or MAP. HiHo has thoughtfully addressed every single element of our Website MAP. We can’t talk about all of them, but let’s look at a couple: Know your audience—HiHo customers are women of all ages and some means, from the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. Heidi and her team understand them because they are them. I have seen the customer and she is me! The warmth, style and content of the site accurately reflect the taste of the audience. Entice visitors to come back—Heidi refreshes the photographs of antiques and displays frequently, so that customers come back to see what she has. Friends also tell friends about the things they have seen there. You may have noticed Facebook, Twitter and YouTube icons on every page, and a blog, called Heidi’s Diary on the site. Her diary is warm and interesting; so many women will read it regularly. Heidi is also very disciplined about publishing frequent, interesting posts on the social media sites that then bring people back to the website. It is no surprise that she will soon open an online store! Secret 2—Seeing Was Invented Before Reading Everyone looks at pictures because they are captivating and you can absorb thousands of impressions and details in a fraction of a second! Twelve photographs, colorful and feminine, do most of the work on the HiHo home page. There are even pictures of the dog and the team, not necessarily in that order. And because antiques, furniture and decorations are a feast for the eye, the rest of the website has lots of photographs. Not just any old pictures will do! Stock photographs say nothing about your company. They need to be real photos of your products, people, customers and truly interesting stuff. We all have digital cameras now, so there is no excuse. By “pictures,” we also mean diagrams, charts, video, animation and illustrations. Just keep it visual!
  5. 5. Page 5 of 8 Secret 3—The John Wayne Rule The Duke was a man of few words. The HiHo home page has very few words, but every single one of them counts. The name, which also describes the business; the very precious words: Winner Best of Hudson Valley Magazine 2009; links to Shop HiHo and Heidi’s Diary; and the address and phone number. That is it! People don’t read much on websites. You have 15 seconds for visitors to “get” your Home or About Us pages or 60 seconds if your page REALLY has a story to tell. And the few words that you do write must be simple, clear, strong and understandable to your audience. No jargon, no nasty acronyms and certainly no self-important corporate flatulence. Secret 4—Easy to Find Your Way Around You are walking through the HiHo store in Gardiner, whistling How Much Is That Doggie in the Window under your breath, and you happen to glance into the next room. Wow! It is full of dog and cat things. As a pet lover, you stumble runningly red-faced through the door. A website is just like a store! You see the photograph of the little dogs and wham the mouse button to enter the doggie page. If you are not quite sure about clicking through, a little typed label saying, “humphrey’s headquarters” pops up when you roll over the doggie picture. Humphrey who? You can’t resist! So here is a pictorial main menu with prompts if you need them. Navigation at its best. Secret 5—Be Yourself Even if you are kind, friendly, funny and open, and tend to love people, it is quite permissible to be yourself on your website, and even to be nice. Frankly, we encourage it! So the HiHo Hospitality page (I love that name) shows the entire smiling HiHo team. Seeing the team helps us to know and trust them. How can we do business without relationships and trust? They even show us how to get to the store, and what the place looks like! On the other hand, if you are a snarling cur, a mean, loathsome, cowardly pimp, a person whose mother moved to another country and didn’t leave him her forwarding address, you are probably best to have an entirely anonymous website that doesn’t reflect your bright shining personality. Porn sites and swindles to relieve elderly widows of their money are well advised to avoid personal details and eschew warm relationships with their clients in favor of complete anonymity. Black backgrounds and flashing neon colors are also helpful, they tell me. How amazing it is, though, that many perfectly respectable and legitimate companies prefer to hide the fact that they are real human beings. They want to “be professional” or “create a professional impression!” Look, the hard part is to let your light shine through, without being familiar or corny. Who Gets to Be Snow White? Only one question remains. When the team marches around the store at 10 AM, singing “HiHo, HiHo, it’s off to work…” are there arguments over who gets to be Snow White? But then Heidi appears to be the tallest…
  6. 6. Page 6 of 8 LONG NEWSLETTER ARTICLE—GROWMOTOR WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO ARTICULATE by Graeme Roberts My wife, Cindy Roberts, loves to cook and really loves to bake. She has wanted to start a cooking business for years, but now she is actually doing it. Cindelicious, as we named her company, faces all the marketing challenges of any startup, whether it is selling cakes and cookies or iPhone apps. We can learn from her experience. Starting a Company is a Messy Business In the Marketing Performance Process™, we believe that the third step of the entrepreneurial marketing process is always to Articulate. In other words, to describe, in clear, simple, unequivocal terms, your product, customers, competitors, value, reputation, delivery channel, and price. The MBA textbooks would have you carefully planning each step, researching the market, building complex spreadsheets, and contemplating the far horizon, while touching your lips with an arm of your round tortoiseshell glasses. Not so simple in the real world. Starting a company is a messy business, even if you are not diving into fifty-pound bags of flour. Cindy had the one thing that every entrepreneur needs—an unshakeable belief in herself. She got it by cooking and baking every day, sometimes failing, but working out what went wrong and fixing it. She got it by tasting dishes at restaurants and then recreating them without a recipe. She even worked in the patisserie at Wegmans’ flagship store for a year. She just knew that, sooner or later, she would be a food entrepreneur. If You Can’t Say It, You Can’t Sell It So Cindy’s first big decision was settling on a product to sell. That is every entrepreneur’s toughest decision. Most of us are confident in our talents and passionate about our business, but when asked what it is we are selling, we start mumbling, waving our arms, or talking about technology. So, first articulate what your product is! It took Cindy half a lifetime to do this. It All Started in a Garage Twenty years ago, we moved into a new neighborhood and Cindy heard about the huge garage sale that brought thousands of people to the area every two years. Being Taiwanese, she decided to sell Chinese dumplings, beef sticks, and fried rice, because our friends loved them. I looked at her wisely, positioned my tortoiseshell glasses, and ventured the professional marketing opinion that she might sell a little, but certainly would not make a profit. By early afternoon on the first day, I was rushing to the Asian food store for another twenty-five pound bag of rice. People came back two or three times over the course of the weekend. Perhaps Cindy could start a business, because she had a product that customers of all kinds loved, at a price that gave them great value. But it was not so simple. A delivery channel that brings customers to you every two years for two days is clearly not enough. A few people placed telephone orders, but demand soon waned. Bread at $15 a Loaf Later, Cindy began baking breads—crispy French artisan breads, robust organic multigrain loaves, even sweet, shiny Chinese breads that brought a tear to the Asian eye. Again, customers loved them. But bread takes a long
  7. 7. Page 7 of 8 time in the mixing, proofing, rising, kneading and baking. Huge mixers and enormous ovens make it practical, but Cindy could only handle two loaves at a time. She might have made a profit by offering the bread at $15 a loaf, but customers would have had a poor opinion of its value. So she made a few, made a loss and did it for love! Building Reputation One Failure at a Time Over the years, Cindy’s enthusiasm soared briefly for bubble tea, pulled pork barbecue, Chinese sweets, and even selling fried rice from a the back of a van, but each sputtered and fell to earth in the face of business reality. At every step, however, with every setback in finding a product to sell, Cindy was building her reputation and her brand. She had been making cookies and cakes for years. She would find recipes from many sources, try them, and then experiment with modifications. She would routinely reduce the sugar and substitute whole grain flours, to make them healthier, but would never sacrifice taste. Tasting them all was a tough job, but someone had to do it, and my personal sacrifice was so great that I ended up at Weightwatchers®. Her lemon-anise biscotti, mocha- chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, cheesecakes and carrot cakes started cults and inspired deviant behavior among solid, churchgoing folks. Cindy, Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos The happy ending in Cindy’s product pilgrimage, is that she found, like Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos before her, that people love cookies and cakes, and that even a small-scale baker can make lots of them, sell them at reasonable price, and make a profitable living. If the product is excellent! Cindy worried about competitors at first, but her fears proved groundless. There are many bakers, professional and semi-professional, but there is also a great abundance of hungry gourmets. Some bakers have become her unwitting mentors. Blogging amateurs in Taiwan have given her as much inspiration and information as the websites of famous pastry chefs. Social Media Meets Word of Mouth Now, Cindy’s first instinct was to sell the cakes and cookies through cafés, a ready-made delivery channel. This was not a good idea. They don’t sell that many and they demand a substantial discount, since they are in business too. So she went back to the basics: selling direct to local customers. She photographs everything that she bakes, with a simple studio setup, and displays photographs of all her baked goods on Facebook—on both her personal page and the Cindelicious page. She plans to Tweet that new batches of cookies and cakes are afoot, so that her followers on Twitter can call for a fix. There is no more powerful marketing tool than word of mouth. Friends are spreading the word for events like weddings, graduation parties, and birthdays, so her calendar is full. Cindy plans to teach me a thing or two about marketing. I am all ears.
  8. 8. Page 8 of 8 SHORT NEWSLETTER ARTICLE—GROWMOTOR MARKETING IS AN 80/20 GAME by Graeme Roberts Remember how the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, showed that 80% of consequences stem from 20% of causes. Getting 80% of potential customers takes 20% of the total effort and expense, while the last 20% of potential customers take 80% of the total effort, and destroy your profits. This is the fundamental argument in favor of effectiveness over efficiency. You should be thinking 80/20 in every marketing decision:  20% of your advertising will account for 80% of sales.  20% of your Web pages will account for 80% of visits.  20% of trade shows will result in 80% of leads. This is why it is so important to measure and track results! When it comes to market research, we believe in JER—Just Enough Research—call it 20% if you will, but don’t waste your time on details you don’t need. Or you can turn it around the other way:  80% of your marketing costs will come from 20% of your team—not including GrowMotor, of course. In some fields, you don’t have the choice. “We have treated 80% of the typhoid cases, but the other 20% are out of the town and down dirt roads, so we won’t bother.”