Online sales can reduce your revenue…


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A couple of years ago my agency created catalogues for an office supplies company – different catalogues for different areas of their business and different types of customers.

They had a catalogue for typical office stationery, another for bulk purchases of products delivered on pallets, and other specialty catalogues. They did some sophisticated testing, with the objective of moving clients to order via their website to reduce the dependence upon the call centre, as it took the majority of the orders. They also believed they’d make more money with online ordering.

The test results revealed some interesting insights. When the company migrated customers to online orders, they lost revenue. The average order size via the website was much less than the average order via the call centre. The reason is simple and one which any salesperson can explain.


Online sales reduced average sales value and revenue…

Once the customer was on the phone, the customer service person could upsell via questions and sell even more products than the customer might have bought if they simply went to the website. The customers who did use the website for orders, usually only bought a small number of items.

Another insight they discovered was that most customers had the catalogue with them when they called to order by phone. This gives the customer service person another way to engage with the customer, by referring to the catalogue pages and discussing them together.

Woman reading magazine at coffee shop

customers have the catalogue with them when they call…

The grim discovery was that the move to online ordering had the potential to damage the business and reduce sales. While website sales can possibly cost less to process, the average sale value was less than telephone sales.

The company had to work a delicate balance of telephone and website sales and eventually hit on a strategy of telephone follow-up to online sales. As online orders were received, the outbound telemarketers would call the customer and upsell based on the products in the online order.

This became a productive use of the call centre staff, giving them options for inbound and outbound selling. Customers appreciated the ‘service calls’ and nearly always increased their order value.


let me help you spend more money…

So don’t believe everything you hear about the marvels of digital disruption – it can damage your business rather than improve it.

The old adage continues to apply – just because you can doesn’t mean you should…

Your aspiring customers can be more valuable than your paying ones…


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My recent article about the Koala team’s overzealous belief of their brand awareness reminded me of a story about one of my first bosses, Sir Peter Abeles.

Sir Peter built the TNT global transport and logistics empire, which at one stage owned Ansett airlines. I was the National Marketing Manager of TNTGroup4, which was where I got loads of hands-on experience building databases and using direct marketing techniques for B2B and consumer marketing.

Sir Peter Abeles

Reg Ansett, the visionary founder of Ansett Airlines, bought Hayman Island in the 1950s and turned it into Australia’s most luxurious island holiday resort. Of course, the only way to get to the island back then was with Ansett Airlines. (BTW this was many decades before I eloped to get married on Hayman Island)

Back in the 1980’s after TNT bought Ansett – and consequently Hayman Island – the company made a huge investment in refurbishing the Hayman Island Resort. Those in the hospitality industry will know that all resorts eventually get stale and require deep pockets to bring them up to date.

After completion of the refurbishment, Sir Peter flew to Hayman Island to inspect his heavy investment. He attended the soft launch to the travel trade and left the island feeling comfortable about its new direction. Upon landing in Sydney, Sir Peter would normally be collected by his personal driver, but on this occasion his driver was unavailable.

Hayman Island Resort

So Sir Peter took a taxi. The first thing the cabbie asked Sir Peter was “where have you been?” Beeming proudly, Sir Peter said “Hayman Island.” The cabbie immediately replied “where’s that?

Suffice to say, Sir Peter politely explained where and what Hayman Island was, while discreetly seething under his breath. As soon as he got back to work, he demanded to see the Hayman Island marketing team, to get an explanation as to why a taxi driver at Sydney Airport hadn’t a clue about Hayman Island.

The mistake the team made was simple. It had micro-targeted a “luxury audience” by advertising exclusively in the Ansett magazine, upmarket lifestyle, fashion and travel magazines, as well as through media releases to travel writers. The problem with this niche-tactic of course, was that only those who could immediately afford to go to Hayman Island saw the advertising.

Nobody who aspired to go to Hayman Island, or who would save to go for a holiday there, had seen the advertising. They were not aware the Hayman Island Resort existed. So when Sir Peter said “Hayman Island” when answering the cabbie’s question, he didn’t get affirmation from the driver about his decision. Sir Peter was expecting something like “wow you’re lucky, I dream of having a holiday there.”

Holiday envy…

Part of the process of a considered purchase, such as a luxury holiday, home, car, camera, bed, lounge etc is the reinforcement by colleagues that your decision is a good one. Or even one they envy. It’s part of what drives our ego.

This is why your brand advertising should not just reach those most likely to buy, or those who buy regularly, but also those who might buy occasionally or dream of buying. Sales growth comes in distinct ways depending upon what you’re selling. Fast moving consumer goods such as groceries for example, have different buying patterns to high-value considered purchases.

Growth for high volume (often unconsidered) purchases comes from:

  • Convincing current high volume customers to consume more of your product
  • Converting high volume customers from a competitor to your brand
  • Getting more occasional users to buy your brand when they are in the market

Read Byron Sharp’s book; How Brands Grow for more detail.

Growth for low volume considered purchases comes from:

  • Additional purchase by a current customer
  • Converting a customer from a competitor to your brand
  • Getting first-time buyers to buy your brand

So, regardless of your product category, when marketing to consumers, you want as many people to know about your brand as possible. This includes those who will buy your brand and those who wish they could buy your brand. It’s why brand advertising, publicity, social sharing and review sites are all important tactics.

B2B is a different kettle of fish – you can often put every customer in the category on a floppy disk (ask your parents if you don’t know) and communicate with them based on where they are in their buying cycle, often driven by contractual arrangements or tenders. That’s for another article.

So don’t forget your aspirational customers, they help your paying customers justify their purchase and may eventually become your customers too.

Hmmm, it’s almost 20 years since my bride and I eloped. Maybe I should plan a quiet family celebration at home? Not likely. I suspect my bride aspires to at least a week back on Hayman Island.

I wonder if the resort has a past customer deal…

What does Uber Eats have in common with all these retail brands…


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Regular readers will know I’ve written about this before – (see below)

But given the increased amount of television and outdoor advertising that Uber Eats is doing lately, I thought I’d revisit it. Curiously, I’ve not seen any Uber Eats advertising online…yet. (now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ll probably be chased around the web thanks to cookies)

By way of background, I’ve owned a suburban supermarket and a travel agency – in different suburbs in different centuries. For both businesses, one of the most powerful media for generating retail store traffic and sales, was unaddressed mail. I’ve also produced loads of retail catalogues and other letterbox collateral for my agency’s clients.

Yet despite the fact we live in a ‘digital world’ the letterbox is still one of the most profitable channels in which retailers can promote their wares. Truth be told, most retailers would struggle to survive if this channel was not available.

Just this week, that most uber of digital disruptors – Uber Eats – dropped an offer in my letterbox.

And so did the following brands:

  • Aldi
  • Woolworths
  • Coles
  • Big W
  • JB Hi-Fi
  • Chemist Warehouse
  • First Choice Liquor
  • Pizza Hut
  • Priceline Pharmacy
  • Telstra
  • Baby Bunting
  • Plush Furniture
  • A couple of local small businesses too

So if you’re under the delusion that we now only live in a digital world, get off your screen, go outside and check your letterbox.

You’ll be surprised what brands are using this channel – you might learn something and possibly even rethink where you spend your budget…

Gotta go and do the shopping now – where are those catalogues?




A marketer’s love of their own brand can cost them sales…


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In most western countries the mattress and bedding industry is highly competitive. The tactics usually involve retailers creating loads of different brands and price points, so it’s confusing and not easy for consumers to compare apples with apples, so to speak.

If you’re interested in just how weird and corrupt the industry can be, check out this story from Fast Company about the online mattress industry in the US. But I digress.

Recently I tweeted (a rare thing for me to do) about a cheeky outdoor poster by a company called

Here’s the poster:

It is located on a main road a few hundred metres before an Ikea store. The copy on the poster is:

no tools, no worries,

There is an accompanying image of an Alan Key and screws, like those you use when assembling Ikea furniture.

On the face of it, it’s quite a clever execution.

In marketing parlance; my unaided recall of the brand was zero. So I naturally assumed was a company that provided a service to assemble Ikea furniture.

I decided to check it out – only to discover supplies mail-order mattresses. They are very good at it too – very similar brand personality to the Dollar Shaver Club.

So I tweeted the following:

I suspect this cheeky outdoor poster from Koala only works if you know that Koala is a mattress brand. Otherwise, you probably assume Koala is service to put together Ikea flat packs. Marketers think everyone knows their brand as well as they do

The response from Koala was interesting to say the least:

have you been living under a rock? if you’d like check us out here Ps. Koalas are terrible at building Ikea furniture

The response is a dead giveaway that the Koala marketers are in love with their brand way more than the general public. They live their brand every day – it’s their job. They have been very successful, so assume that success translates to every (non-living under a rock) potential mattress-buyer, knowing all about them.

And while I can appreciate the enthusiasm of successful youthful marketers, it’s no excuse for poor manners.

woohoo we’re a success…

I responded to Koala explaining that because I was in marketing I was aware of their brand. But it turns out I was wrong. Again in marketing parlance; my aided recall kicked in, and I remembered an advertisement I’d seen with Serena Williams flogging mattresses and thought it was a Koala ad. Turns out my recall ain’t what it used to be, as Serena flogs a competitor.

The reason I’m writing about this is simple. In the last 12 months I’ve bought four mattresses – a king-size and three queen-size. I suspect that’s a reasonable sale, even for a company as successful as Koala appears to be.

I cannot tell you what brand they are and I was obviously living under a rock that had no Koala advertising, because I never considered buying a Koala. The Koala brand wasn’t on my radar and unlike most consumers, I actively watch advertising.

I just checked the mattress brands. The King is similar in style to the brand Serena is flogging, while the queens are a different brand again. In case you’re interested, my bride and I negotiated a bulk deal with a pleasing discount, after a bit of shopping around – we like the social aspect of shopping and discussing our requirements with salespeople.

Marketers must remember that customers don’t really care much about brands, except when they are in the market to buy, or when something goes wrong with the product or service they’ve bought. That’s why marketers need to advertise consistently and reach as many people as often as possible, as they cannot predict when people will buy. They must also not assume that their own attitude for their brand represents the typical consumer atttitude – the respective attitudes are usually vastly different.

Though I have been keeping an eye out for Koala advertising online and on TV, but alas nothing sighted yet. I suppose I’d better take that insightful advice from Koala and get out from the rock under which I’m living – I might get lucky and see a Koala advertisement and really live a fulfilling life…

Gotta go now, am off to have an afternoon snoozzzze…

Nothing fails as badly, or regularly, as a marketing automation fail (continued)…


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Continuing from my article published last week about poor old Adobe’s problems, here is another example of computers getting in the way of sales because humans aren’t involved. This time it involves SMS – plus a late addition to the Adobe issues.

The sad part about this error is how easily it could have been avoided, as the perpetrator, Vintage Cellars, has my purchase history on file. Each bottle of vino I buy is linked to a loyalty card/app.

I do like my wine – in fact I enjoy both colours (red and white) in almost equal measures. Over a six year period in the Hunter Valley, I made wine as part of my membership of a wine club (now defunct). One vintage even won a trophy and my team also made a semillon in steel, not barrels, in the true Hunter Valley style.

If you’re a friend of mine, you’ll know I regard sauvignon blanc as a crime against humanity. It tastes like a batch of your neighbour’s lawn clippings, filtered by a garden hose through an old pair of your grandmother’s stockings. But that’s just my palette – others do enjoy it.

So last October, I received a text message from Zoe at Vintage Cellars – trying to flog me some sauvignon blanc:

Why I received this message is beyond comprehension. I’ve never bought sav blanc in my life, let alone from Vintage Cellars. Isn’t marketing automation messaging supposed to be linked to customer purchasing data to ensure the fabled “personalised customer experience/journey?”

I suspected Zoe was a fake customer service person, or possibly a bot, but I replied to her regardless, sharing a couple of my thoughts on sav blanc:

I assumed (wrongly) that the marvels of marketing technology would automatically process my message and stop the computers from trying to flog said sav. But unfortunately, the Vintage Cellars computers aren’t very smart. Even worse, it appears the humans in the marketing team don’t bother to check what their customers say to these computers. I know this to be true because a couple weeks ago, the computers sent me this message:

It would be funny if not so sad – well it’s sad that humans assume marketing automation works all the time, like a set-n-forget TV dinner in the microwave. It has obviously failed this time. But it’s sad for other reasons too:

Firstly, there is no way they could have missed me, given my wine buying in the last six months. I know this because I get my discount vouchers physically mailed to me each month and they are based on my household purchase history. And lately I’ve received a few vouchers – mostly linked to my bride’s champagne drinking I’m sure.

Secondly, because the message that was from Zoe, is now from “we” and is not signed off by anyone except the disclaimer.

And thirdly, it’s just bad marketing. Vintage Cellars has my data. They contacted me on a personal channel. I replied to them in the same personal channel. Yet they lie to me about missing me, are too lazy to check my sales history and are too lazy to write a decent message. It’s a bloody disgrace and enough to drive a man to drink.

But wait, there’s more – and it’s just arrived from Adobe as I type…

It’s an invitation to a webinar on mobile marketing, by the people who brought you “epic fails in marketing automation“. The image is of a human hand writing a WORD CLOUD in reverse on a glass screen. Why anybody would do this to their wrist is beyond me?

It appears the creative idea here, is to make the most prominent words the same as the topic of the webinar – enterprise, mobility, business, technology. Genius stuff. The first two sentences are:

Your customers, your business, your market are mobile-first. But 80% of all workflows today are at least partially paper-based. This is expensive, time-consuming and not very user friendly.

Don’t get left behind! Best-in-class companies leverage digital and mobile-first workflows to eliminate clunky, manual steps, removing inefficiencies, increasing revenue growth and improving customer experiences.

You can imagine dear reader that I may be a tad sceptical. After all, it’s the very fact that Vintage Cellars and Adobe didn’t have manual steps involving humans that caused their marketing technology failures. It was their very investment in digital marketing technology, with complete disregard for the compulsory layer of human intelligence, that cost them dearly.

The copy appears to be written by a typist, not a copywriter. After all, if your business is mobile-first (whatever that means) yet your workflow is 80% paper-based, how can your business be mobile-first? It’s obviously paper-first! The writer is contradicting themselves. This strive for marketing mediocrity is giving me a headache.

I’m off to medicate with a drink. Hmmm, red or white…

Nothing fails as badly (or regularly) as a marketing automation fail…


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As robots and “automation software” increasingly take over the tasks of humans, the number of customer service problems and technical glitches seem to be increasing. Yet ironically, in most cases, the simple reason for the failure is the lack of human involvement.

Here is the first of a couple of examples I’ll share with you:

Adobe is a very successful company and makes some great products, some of which I use. They were a client years ago and I also have friends who work there. On 14th May Adobe sent me an email with the subject line: “Gartner Magic Quadrant names Adobe a Leader in Multichannel Marketing Hubs“. Now as I’ve owned an email SaaS business, I thought I’d see what the Magic Quadrant had to say, though I wondered if I was supposed to be puffing on something when reading stuff by the Magic Quadrant?

The email is an image with the ridiculous headline: “Your customer has many sides. Engage them all.” There were no images of customers, just technology.

I laughed so much I just had to click on the link to see how many sides my customers now have – apart from the obvious backside. And as I’m already married I don’t want to engage any of them.

The link was for a report titled: “Connecting with People Across Their Every Dimension” so I was a tad confused given the subject line. The link took me to this page:

It’s not immediately obvious what to click on for the report. There is a “request a demo” button but that’s not the report button. Eventually I realised the headline “Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs” was the link, so I clicked on it and it opened to this:

The page simply says: Access to this content has expired

So I went back to the email and tried again – same result.

I scrolled through the email to see how to contact Adobe. But like most marketing automation brands – they don’t want to provide customer service to customers or prospects. They force people to do everything themselves via (often useless) websites, rather than provide humans (or at worse, chat bots) to help. It’s the equivalent of going into a retail store and asking the salesperson if they have a product in stock, and getting told to go look out the back in the storeroom yourself.

The email fineprint tells me not to reply to the email, even though it was personally addressed to me (well to my subscription email name – Ted). I have to go to a damn website and search for the contact information:

PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. To obtain information on how to contact Adobe, visit the web at:

This is so wrong on so many service levels, not to mention the language: “To obtain information on how to contact Adobe” – I don’t want to obtain information on how to contact Adobe, I just want to contact Adobe.

Apart from the link not working and not being able to contact Adobe without opening up a website, the message itself indicates what’s wrong with many digital marketing businesses these days.

Like so many of these companies, Adobe obviously doesn’t employ copywriters or art directors – it employs graphic or industrial designers – people who know how to design, but not how to communicate. And they employ typists not copywriters.

Some of the obvious giveaways:

  • Centred headline across more than one line
  • Widow or orphan in the headline
  • Full stops in the headline (these tell you to stop reading)
  • Two full stops in the headline (stop reading or else)
  • Centred body copy – with widows
  • Breaking a publication title across two lines, with the final words hanging as widows
  • Reversing white out of black type in a sans serif font – significantly reduces readability and comprehension
  • Use of the jargon-monkey button on the keyboard – this message is full of it:

Let’s deconstruct:

Today’s customer expects personalised content when it matters most” In simple terms, this is complete B.S. Today’s customers are no different to yesterday’s, last week’s or last century’s customers. They just want good service – if it involves personalised content so be it. But they are not “expecting personalised content” – most don’t want any more damn content. Marketers are the ones who want to create content – not consumers. Read more below.*

And when you understand all the human complexities that drive customer decisions,” “understand the human complexities???” It’s not brain surgery – it’s marketing. Maybe this refers to a complex customer decision like “I think I’ll buy a cup of coffee” or “I will click here to download the report” – definitely need to understand the associated human complexities for such decisions. We’ll fail otherwise and never be able to “deliver experiences that speak to them, get them to click, and make a lasting impression.

#changehands #fingersdownthroat

These types of messages are contributing to the reason the majority of people don’t trust online content as much as they trust printed content. It’s why the marketing industry is ranked near the bottom on the consumer trust barometers.

But wait – there’s more…

A week later on the 21st May, Adobe sent me this message:

The message has a report attached, a week after I had tried to download it. How long did it take the humans at Adobe to realise the link didn’t work? Didn’t a human test the link when it went live, so to speak?

This message also demonstrated the wrong people are creating the emails:

  • The Adobe team is singular not plural – so ‘we mistakenly linked you” cannot be. An individual created the email link, not a team of people.
  • Teams don’t send emails, individuals do – did a bunch of marketers sit around a send-button each waiting anxiously to push the button together as a team?
  • “We care about the quality and relevance of our communications and have taken measures to fix the issue.” No. No. No. Stop the passive language. There is no need to say “we…have taken measures” just say “the problem is fixed.”
  • Stop talking about yourself – there are numerous ways this message could have been written with more relevance so it delivered in Adobe’s words, “experiences that speak to them, get them to click, and make a lasting impression.”

BUT WAIT, there’s even more…

The report that I tried to download on the 14th is titled:
Connecting with People Across Their Every Dimension.”

The report the Adobe team sent me on the 21st May is titled:
Analysts Report Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs“.

So now I’m confused. The report I was sent reflects the subject line of the email. It talks about SaaS that delivers messages in many channels to customers. But it doesn’t talk about the many sides of the customer, as per the headline in the email message, or the title of the report I tried to download.

So is the subject line and the landing page correct, but the email message incorrect? Or is the report title in the email message correct, but the subject line and landing page incorrect? It’s enough to make a simple marketer reach for the Magic… I suspect you get my drift.

This is so typical of what happens when technologists pretend to be marketers. What is going on at Adobe? Where are the experienced marketers? Where are the people who care or are accountable?

If you would like to learn some facts about readership, comprehension and designing to communicate, read the brilliant book by Colin Wheildon – “Communicating or JUST MAKING PRETTY SHAPES.” If you contact me on I’ll send you a FREE PDF of the book – no downloading or teams involved.

Gotta go now – am going to download a definitive guide to downloading definitive guides…

You can read more here:




Ignore the Personalisation Paradox at your peril…


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Personalised marketing messages have been around for centuries – think mail-order catalogues posted to individuals, using those individual’s name and address data. The personalised customer experience, including face-to-face customer service, is not new to the world.

Personalised customer experiences are not new…

But now in the digital age, we can personalise almost every communication we have with consumers. We can use names, images, facts, charts and other data linked directly to individuals, to customise our communications – be they email, landing pages, websites, ads, SMS and more.

We can go even further by using cookies to chase individuals around the web, based on their behaviour on a landing page, website, email or other digital asset. I’ve written about the remarketing problem of leaving cigarette burns on your customers before.

But here’s the rub…

When you use direct mail and write a letter to someone, it is common courtesy and good manners to personalise your letter with the correct name, address and other relevant details of your relationship with the recipient. In fact, if you don’t personalise correctly your recipients are offended or lose respect for you the writer. Your lack of good manners can damage your brand.

Dear John…

Conversely, in the digital world, the holy grail of a “seamless personalised customer experience” can be disastrous for a brand. The more a marketer uses personalisation and demonstrates they are using digital surveillance to track an individual, the more the marketer offends the individual and possibly damages their brand.

Here’s one example I’m still experiencing. In January I searched online and visited a couple of retail stores before buying some gym equipment. Almost three months later, I am still being chased around the web via remarketing, by one of the companies from which I bought some equipment and one that I didn’t buy from – I just looked at its merchandise.

I’ve written before about how this type of remarketing mistakenly tried to sell breast pumps to a granny. It seems marketers are not learning from their mistakes – which is the best way to learn.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

Marketers have fallen in love with technology and the various tracking tools now available to monitor customers. And it could be argued it’s costing them more in negative attitudes toward their brands and lost sales, than positive results.

After all, you don’t see a greengrocer chase a customer out the store and into the carpark, throwing a free banana and special deal through the customer’s driver-side window, just because the customer fondled the fruit but didn’t buy it?

Don’t leave, I’ll give you a free banana and a discount of you buy more now…

Marketers need to consider if the marketing tactics driven by their online surveillance tools pass the pub test. If they don’t, then don’t use them – simple.

Most marketers I’ve asked about remarketing and digital personalisation use words like “creepy”, “sleazy” and “not on” when describing how they feel as recipients of surveillance-based marketing. So why do we do it to the people who pay our salary – our customers?

Mind your manners

If you are writing directly to a customer or prospect, by all means personalise your message – be it mail, email, or even a PURL. It’s good manners to do so.

But if you are going to use surveillance-based marketing tools to “personalise the online customer experience” you need to ask yourself if it is worth doing. Would you like to be treated the way you are treating your customers? Are you practising good manners and respecting them?

The reason you consider your options is simple. The marketing industry is among the least trusted in the world. The last ten years has seen its reputation trashed by the digital marketing practitioners. Your surveillance-based marketing will only reinforce this negative attitude and reduce the effectiveness of your marketing budget.

Trust me, I’m a digital marketer…

And this is the Personalisation Paradox that marketers face. It’s a delicate balancing act and you need to take it seriously – particularly if you want your customers to take your brand seriously.

Gotta go now – I was going to search for some lingerie for my bride’s birthday, but am concerned by what might follow me around the internet afterwards. Think I’ll just visit the store at the mall instead….

Will electronic payments and selfish humans eliminate small retail businesses?


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If you’re like most of the population dear reader, you’re probably using less cash these days to pay for goods at your local retail stores. I certainly am. Apparently here in Oz, we’re one of the highest per capita users of electronic “tap n go” payments. Cash is declining rapidly.

This is causing problems for local retail stores, particularly those for which a website is not essential for business – dry cleaners, cafes, bakers, butchers, clothing stores and the like.

Now before the trolls attack me for claiming a retail store doesn’t need a website, what I’m saying is that online sales are not a major part of the revenue for these businesses. If they have one, it’s purpose is more for customer service, providing information and in some cases selling products.

These businesses make most of their money from passing foot traffic, not from customers driving from distant suburbs to buy their wares, or ordering goods remotely. I’m not going to order a coffee online and have it delivered by a bloke on a bike. I’ll go to the café and sit there to enjoy my cuppa and company.

I’ve owned and worked in a local family supermarket (many years ago) and a travel agency (only a couple of years ago), so have some hands-on experience. I’ve even been robbed of our weekly cash takings, which is not a nice experience.

One reason small business owners work the long hours they do – both at the store and after hours with stock and bookkeeping – is the undeclared cash they take from the business. Quite simply, if small business owners had to declare all their income, they might as well get a job working for someone else, as they lose too much in company and personal tax. The hourly rate of return is just not worth the effort. The less tangible reason for owning a small business is the “joy” of being your own boss.

One of my mates is the son of Greek migrants who moved to Australia after WW11. They fled the oppression of post-war Europe and opened one of the first espresso coffee shops in Sydney. My mate said his parents didn’t trust banks after their experiences back in the old country. When he was growing up, he thought everybody was like his family – when they wanted cash, they went to the garbage bags stored in the roof cavity of their home. That’s where his parents stored the financial takings from their café in which they worked 7 days a week.

Am going shopping will just get some cash from the roof…

I’ve recently been talking with retailers about the cash, or should that be, cashless issue. Another mate of mine owns a surf clothing store and is about to close its doors. He has spent a lifetime of more than 50 years in the rag trade. He said the reason for shutting up shop is threefold. It’s a perfect storm – lower cash income, online discounting and human nature.

The human nature is interesting. He said it is astonishing the number of people who use the store as a catalogue, trying on clothes, then photographing them and going online to buy them cheaper. Just confirms the old adage that people only care about one thing – themselves. This is why those two words “You” and “FREE” are still the most powerful words you can use in marketing communications.

I’ll see if I can buy this online – bugger the shopkeeper…

He is smart – he owns his building. So he has an asset he can sell or rent for income. But as he said, “every retailer used to carry a wad of cash in their pocket. Suppliers would always offer deals for cash, particularly if they wanted to offload remainder or excess stock. This made it easy for the retailer to make a decent profit on those goods, or throw in a bonus to loyal customers.

His store has a website, but it is not as good as it could be and like all retail websites, is not cheap to update and maintain. Yes, it generates additional revenue, but it also adds costs that didn’t exist previously in the P & L. It doesn’t pay for itself. So the more his business has moved to cashless payments, the less it is worth to him.

I suspect this small business closure trend will continue and the side effect will be the loss of convenience stores and other local retailers. Either that, or we will accept paying more for goods. Recent research revealed that humans pay more per item and spend more frequently when they use electronic payment devices, than when they use cash. Apparently we value cash more.

By nature, humans are lazy creatures – we prefer the path of least resistance. If the easiest way to buy something is to do so electronically with a swipe or tap, we will do it that way. Nothing new here:

Interestingly, a café I frequent in Brisbane still offers a discount for cash payment, while many restaurants in Chinatown only take cash. To save my teenagers carting cash around (and losing it) they now carry debit cards. My bride and I control the amount on the cards. My teens use them in the school canteen, or when out with friends at the beach, mall or movies.

But now one of the most frequent requests I get, both verbally and by text message is, “how much do I have on my card?” These “notifications” force me to check the accounts and top-up as required. And you guessed it, my teens relish the habit of “tap n go” and are spending more using these cards than if we restricted them to cash-only. Not sure I’ve done the right thing here?

Have to go now – need to top-up my daughter’s card so she can buy something like sushi rolls for lunch. It’s a long way from my once-a-fortnight vanilla slice treat when I was in high school…

Mmmmm, vanilla slice…

How digital marketers destroyed one of the most profitable media channels…


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As many of you will know, one of the major weaknesses of digital marketers is their lack of knowledge of marketing history.

They naively assumed that just because a technology was new, all previous technology was useless, all existing media channels no longer worked, proven techniques suddenly failed, and human DNA changed forever. So they ignored everything that had worked pre-internet.

The nature of technology is to constantly evolve. Experienced marketers have lived through a constant stream of technical innovations – in television, radio, outdoor, mail, print, sponsorship and of course online. So for most, the digital channels just offered additional media options for marketing purposes.

One of the most profitable channels – for both the media owner and marketers – was the humble mailing list. Mailing lists existed for every consumer and B2B category. You could rent them or create your own and reach every person on the list. Many list owners rented their lists both for profit and to keep the list current.

But then the marketing toddlers in their digital nappies arrived. When they realised the power of direct marketing via email, they really went to town – spamming, abusing privacy, ignoring unsubscribe requests and generally operating without any ethics. They were so appallingly bad at the use of email lists, governments around the world were forced to take action to stop them.

In countries across the globe new laws banning spam, banning the sending of unsolicited emails, and protecting the privacy of consumers, were legislated. These were the direct result of digital marketers abusing their privilege – to communicate directly with consumers.

The backwash from these bans was devastating. Here’s why:

The new privacy and opt-in laws, spilled into the databases of mailing list owners, not just email list owners. These new laws meant once-compliant mailing list owners had to comply with laws designed for email list owners.

So, if you owned a list and it contained contacts from more than one country, you now had to comply with multiple privacy and spam laws. The cost of this compliance became prohibitive. When coupled with the reduction in subscribers to printed magazines, the cost versus revenue for list ownership and maintenance became unsustainable. The penalties for non-compliance were too high and not worth the risk of human error.

For the uninitiated, prior to these new laws, any marketer could rent a mailing list and send direct mail for business purposes. Let’s say for example, you wanted to reach IT professionals. You didn’t have to advertise and hope you reached them. You could rent a list and mail them anything from a letter to a white paper, even include an involvement device. Then you managed responses and followed-up the non-responses by phone.

Here’s one of the world’s most successful B2B campaigns from a pre-internet age. It paid for itself within 4 hours of delivery.

But that simple way of doing business has been severely damaged. Thanks to the spam and privacy laws, there are way fewer lists available to rent – particularly in niche markets.

Now B2B marketing for example, has become much more complicated and open to abuse. It is reflected in the growth of the fake influencers and fake thought leaders. Instead of renting a list or building one, marketers are being told they have to do social selling. As against anti-social selling? What sales process isn’t social?

Here, according to the digital marketing experts, is what you have to do today to reach a B2B prospect.

  1. Connect to as many executives as possible on LinkedIn or other social channels.
  2. Pay a third party, usually in a third-world country, to create a white paper, or ‘content’ for you to send to every contact you have, via the social channels.
  3. Don’t use proven sales techniques in your messaging, as selling is evil.
  4. Just hope the contact has nothing better to do but read your content and love it so much they contact you.
  5. To convince your connection your ‘content’ is worth consuming, call it “thought leadership” and call yourself “an influencer” – for no reason other than to big yourself up in your own eyes and hopefully fool some poor sucker that you know what you’re talking about.
  6. When your social selling fails to work, use the KPI of “thought leadership” and “content marketing” to fool your boss that things are OK. One way to do this is to send your boss all your content when you send it to your connections.

This process takes way longer and costs much more than simply mailing your prospects and customers with relevant information and reasons to respond (known as selling). But hey, it has digital buzzwords attached to it so it must be worth destroying a profitable media channel.

I’m not saying that contacting people on LinkedIn and gradually converting them to a customer doesn’t work. Though most social sellers don’t practice what they preach. Instead, they connect and start flogging their wares immediately, without any credibility, using puff-words like “awesome”, “killer”, “secrets”, and “mind-blowing” in their message.

Here’s an example of one I received this week from a person who asked to join my network, I didn’t invite him. It arrived courtesy of marketing automation: “…5 killer LinkedIn tactics we used to generate 50 appointments and 13 closed deals in 2 months” I have no idea why he thinks I’m a prospect, these killer tactics are the last thing I need to grow a business. The message has zero credibility.

Interestingly, many of the thought leaders on social selling have never used direct mail, so they have no credibility when claiming social selling is the solution. You can prove it too – do a split run test. You might be surprised at the results.

In my experience, using mail supported by the digital channels will get the best result – but I’m only speaking from experience. Given current marketers don’t care about marketing history aka “experience” the message will probably fall on deaf ears.

Blatant Plug…

If you live in Brisbane and want to know how to make your mail work in a digital world, here’s a blatant plug. Join Steve Harrison, the man Campaign magazine described as “The greatest Direct Mail creative of his generation“. He’s won more Cannes Lion awards for direct mail than anyone else. You’ll learn how to do award-winning, effective direct mail at this event on 11th March 2019:

Who ya gonna call when you want users for your UX testing…


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Well not ghostbusters that’s for sure.


I’ve found the whole rush by marketers to become “customer experience” experts quite amusing. Why, just because people use hand-held computers, do marketers believe customer experience is a new phenomenon?

The customer experience has always been at the heart of everything marketers have done since the invention of marketing. If customers enjoyed their shopping experience (that’s marketing jargon BTW, not customer language) they returned to buy again. Simple.

If they didn’t enjoy it, they didn’t return. Simple.

Stores were designed to make it easy to find what you want, while order forms were also designed to make remote ordering as easy as possible. Staff were trained to assist customers and were known curiously as “customer service staff”. Call centres were established to provide customer service. The customer experience has always been standard marketing 101.


the customer experience wasn’t invented yesterday

So given that online sales are less than 10% of total retail sales, why are marketers faking a new essential requirement of marketing – the customer experience? Cue the acronyms – UX (User Experience) and CX (Customer Experience).

It’s damn obvious that using a website or an app, on either a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, has to be as easy as possible. It’s called “common sense”. Make life difficult for your customers and you’ll quickly lose them. Make it easy and they’ll keep buying from you.

Does it really need a whole genre of marketing for such a simple and obvious element of commerce? Me thinks we marketers do tend to navel gaze and play with ourselves too much.

But if you do need punters for your user testing, so you can fine tune your common sense service, who are ya gonna call? Well you don’t have to call, rather you visit an Australian start-up providing the goods.

It’s called askable and it is a platform where you can recruit people who fit your customer profile (sorry, persona) to attend your user testing sessions. It’s a service whose time has come. Check it out and mention my name for a special deal.

I have to go on a customer journey now. I need to convince askable to give you a special deal for your UX…