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Marketability eBulletin

Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 7 July 2020. In this issue:

When automated goes badly wrong, and why we should still embrace it

I recently placed a large order to be delivered by DPD. Current protocol is that they take a photograph of the boxes in the porch, ring the bell, and run away. Only part of my order was delivered, but there’s a chat function on their parcel tracking website. Here’s how it went:


DPD: Hi, how can I help you with your parcel today?

Me: This is a small part of my delivery. Pls advise when I can expect the remaining 4 boxes.

DPD: Your parcel is waiting for you in your safe place, it was left today at 13.02. (With a photo of 2 boxes in my porch)

Me: Does this look like 6 boxes to you?

DPD: Sorry, you will need to contact the sender. DPD is not authorised to change the delivery address of a parcel. (???)

Me: What’s the point of a chat function which throws up random automated answers to questions that haven’t been asked?

DPD: I’m not sure I understood. Try asking another way?

Me: Try reading my original question.

At which point I realised the inherent stupidity of arguing with an algorithm.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of appalling automated customer ‘communication’ – in fact, please share with me if you have as it’ll brighten my day. The exchange above came about because DPD had only anticipated a couple of scenarios and had programmed them to be ‘answered’ whatever the question. If you’re going to offer a chat facility you need to be able to do it well or you’d be better simply giving customers a list of FAQs.

But when automated goes well it can be spectacular. Automated email marketing consistently delivers open rates of at least 40%, often much higher. If email success is all about relevance, then automated is a fantastic tool. Work out the trigger points and write a really excellent, personal, automated email. For example, a follow up one week after a customer has downloaded a sample report or article. Or, for that matter, the welcome email when someone signs up to your newsletters.

At its best, it shouldn’t even occur to recipients that an algorithm is at work. They simply see relevant customer service. And you reap the rewards each time, after initially setting the process up. That’s a great ROI in prospect.

Automated emails are always covered in our Email Marketing Workshops.   


In-company tailored training online works, and there are even some upsides

Over the last couple of months we’ve been adapting our courses to meet the needs of in-company training clients, and so far it’s been a lot more fun that we thought. Full day courses are converted to two or more modules of 2-3 hours, a week or more apart. Practical work is set and completed individually in between the modules by participants who then meet again online to swap their approaches, ideas and questions. Sessions (usually) take place on Zoom, and this is proving as close to natural group interaction as any of us could hope for.

I don’t think online training can ever match the organic interaction of face to face, and a training room is definitely more comfortable. But offset against this is the (obvious) convenience of not having to travel, ‘and not having the hassle of trying to book a meeting room’ as one current client pointed out this week. And the biggest benefit is the fact that colleagues based in different locations can take part together. I’ve already been part of some really useful conversations as different teams shared their ways of approaching things. And those exchanges may never have happened if they hadn’t been triggered by the training.

If you’d like to find out more about us running an online training course for you, just drop me an email on


Sound copywriting advice from Stephen King

Thanks to Estelle Albertyn from Macmillan Education for bringing this quote to my attention:

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”  
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Love it, this will definitely feature in future courses! There’s more where this came from, too, another favourite being “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”.

Estelle was attending an in-company online Copywriting Workshop. Read more about the course, which can be tailored to meet your needs.

Read more Stephen King quotes.


On The Marketability Grapevine on Facebook

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Tip of the week: ‘Normal’ routines all over the place? This helps

Talking to friends over the last few months has made me realise that my emotional reactions to our extraordinary times are probably shared by us all. On that assumption, I’m sharing this personal tip. Exercise has always been essential for my wellbeing, and I realised that ad hoc wasn’t working for me. Everything in life had become ad hoc and it made me feel rudderless.

For a couple of months now I’ve been cycling for an hour before work, the same route, rain or shine. It’s easy to think ‘maybe not this morning’, but I never regret that I’ve done it. And now I’ll fiercely protect it, whatever the other demands on my time. This hour is for me, and I need it for my own personal equilibrium, to help me to meet all the other physical and emotional responsibilities. So if you suggest a meeting at 8.30 and I politely decline, this’ll be why.

I guess this tip is a variation of ‘Be kind to yourself’, but that’s worth repeating too.


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