Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 2 October 2018. In this issue:
If you want to improve just about anything, deal with the bottleneck
Last month Oliver Burkeman wrote an article in The Guardian that resonated on at least three levels.
- He cited the work of ‘legendary business scholar Eli Goldratt’, an author whose books I promoted many years ago, but which were essentially about how to deal with bottlenecks. Rather than focus on improving performance the answer was to identify and address the weakest link in the chain which is always the limiting factor. I didn’t buy into all of Goldratt’s ideas but that one made me see problems differently.
- There is a wonderful example of solving a bottleneck at Houston airport, which may or may not be an urban myth. Passengers complained about waiting too long for bags to arrive. Even after more baggage handlers were hired the complaints continued. It turned out that it took on average one minute to walk to the baggage area and seven more for bags to arrive. The problem was solved by re-routing the walk from the gate so that it took longer, thus shortening the waiting time at the end. Not necessarily a tactic we want to deploy on a regular basis but a great example of lateral thinking.
- We may curse our systems or processes, but for many of us the bottleneck is often the speed with which our brains can tackle tasks that require thought. It is physically impossible to concentrate with the same intensity for an entire working day, and yet the list of things on the to do list seems to require it. The way to get clever and deal with this particular bottleneck is to apply ourselves when our brains are freshest and therefore at their speediest. That will be at different times for different people, so tune in to your brain’s preference.
One of the most common topics participants on Copywriting Workshops want is ‘how to write copy faster’. Well, this is the answer.
Read Oliver Burkeman’s article in The Guardian for yourself.
This quirky report on US retailer emails is quick and interesting reading
Oddly this report from US marketing platform provider Oracle Bronto turned up via a SmartInsights email last month, but is a review of marketing emails sent by US retailers in the 2017 holiday season. That said, it’s free to download, it’s a quick and visual read, and there are some excellent points about what those retailers did well – and badly.
We’re all competing in the inbox not just with other publishers’ emails but with retailers like these, and there’s plenty of food for thought here.
Download Oracle Bronto’s Holiday Email LookBook: 2018 Edition for yourself (21page PDF).
Our Email Marketing Workshop is the place to be if you’d like to work out how to apply this in a publishing context:
Fast Company’s ways to make Mondays more fun for your team
I’m always sceptical about articles like this, but I’m persuaded by this one, especially by suggestion 1 which is to guarantee an hour of uninterrupted time to catch up on the previous week’s tasks on Monday morning before the onslaught of the new working week begins.
A business author of a time management book I worked on once recommended scheduling meetings for 4pm on a Friday afternoon, which can be a fantastic way of keeping the pace up and finishing on time.
Read Fast Company’s article for yourself.
And still on the subject of fun, when drawing up marketing plans don’t be afraid to plan for some light-hearted campaigns too. They may even be your best performers. Something we always recommend on our Impressive Marketing Plans on a Small Budget Workshop.
On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook
- Two examples of copy, one fantastic, one awful, neither from publishing.
- Read something that hit the spot in this eBulletin? Click through and like the item or add a comment on Facebook
- Watch the Wall for postings of new jobs, or feel free to add to them.
Visit The Marketability Grapevine.
Tip of the week: When writing copy, look for gifts like Mao’s dental hygiene
On a Copywriting Workshop at I.B. Tauris/Bloomsbury last week we were talking about storytelling in copy and Publisher Tomasz Hoskins recalled working on a biography about Mao Tse-Tung and finding out that Mao famously never brushed his teeth. “What’s interesting is how this titbit ‘broke through’ when pitching the book – something about it stays in the mind.” And it’s still there, years later, leaving us all squirming in our seats at the thought.
The tip is never to under-estimate the power of quirky details at grabbing attention when writing copy.