#ALB 64 – Paul Burton
Paul Burton, was the youngest ever editor of the Plymouth Herald. In this episode, you’re going to hear Paul talk about how some cardboard sunglasses persuaded the people of Plymouth to queue around the block to buy a printed newspaper.
Paul is also going to talk about the future of printed media, the rise of influencer marketing, and how businesses can write better copy and more effective headlines.
Ambitious Lifestyle Business Podcast #64
Paul started his career in Bristol around the turn of the century. In his own words he “kind of worked as a reporter for about seven or eight years”.
Do you remember the 2015 eclipse?
Paul certainly does! He decided to have a load of branded cardboard sunglasses made, in order to receive them you had to buy a copy of his newspaper of course.
This resulted in people travelling from all areas of the country to Plymouth to buy a paper, just so that they could get a pair.
In this episode, Paul talks about strategic marketing, how to write a good headline, working with microinfluencers, and why Sundays are the best day to post on social media.
Let’s Meet Paul…
John – Welcome to the show, Paul.
Paul – Hello, glad to be here.
John – It’s good to see you. So, I introduced you there as the youngest ever editor of the Plymouth Herald. Now, did I get that title right? ‘Cause this newspaper’s changed it’s name so many times. Evening Herald, Western Evening Herald, Plymouth Herald, The Herald, which is the correct one whilst you were there?
Paul – When I was there, it was called, I think, I should know that really, it was called The Herald whilst I was editor. And I must say, I have been superseded as the youngest as well now, I think. The fact that it’s still , but at the time it was true.
John – So, is this like policemen, that they’re always getting younger? Newspaper editors are getting younger?
Paul – Generally, like the rest of the world, everyone seems to be getting younger as we get older.
John – Yeah. When you say to me newspaper editor, I just immediately go Daily Planet, it’s the big fat guy shouting at Superman. Clark Kent was the Daily Planet, wasn’t it? Don’t wanna get my superhero movies mixed up, or else we’re gonna get some angry, angry letters. So, how did that come about, Paul? How did you become the youngest editor of The Herald?
Paul – So, without giving you too much of an in-depth career history, I started my career in Bristol around the turn of the century. I kind of worked as a reporter for about seven or eight years, and then the industry went through an enormous amount of change about 10 years ago, and then every year seemed to get even more enormous, and every year we felt like we were getting sort of over the tipping point and back into growth, and that kind of thing. And every year new challenges would present itself.
Things like Google, Facebook etc, and continue to disrupt the industry just like they disrupted most other industries. And in that, during that period, I guess I always used to say I was in the right place at the right time when opportunities presented themselves.
I’m a little kinder to myself in retrospect now, I did work hard, I did try and position myself as someone who wanted to kind of get on and that kind of thing. But, one way or the other, the opportunity to become editor in Exeter presented itself about eight years ago, I think, and then shortly after that the company was, so the company that owned The Herald, also owned the paper in Exeter and many other papers around the country, it was all the talent reinvented, and there were lots of opportunities available.
I was asked if I would like to come down and help in Plymouth, and at the time The Herald was in a sort of state of flux, the paper’s sales were in decline, in quite steep decline, but it did have quite a loyal audience, and certainly digitally there was clearly a big opportunity, it was just defining how we were gonna seize that opportunity, I suppose. And that was my brief really.
John – How did that work then, as part of a larger organisation? Did you have ideas forced on you or how much autonomy did you have?
Paul – In the time that I worked for The Herald, they had three different owners and I had different experiences to be honest with you, under each different ownership. I would say that each owner still did trust editors to make business decisions and editorial decisions. I don’t think I ever really felt that we were ever straight-jacketed by any ownership model really.
I think in the end, in the journalism industry and the newspaper industry, editors are still given reasonable levels of autonomy. Obviously, when I was a junior I worked for a newspaper called The Western Daily Press in Bristol that had in the past sent journalists around the world investigating this, that or the other, hence spending a lot of money in the process. That world no longer exists so there’s no open chequebooks anymore ’cause newspapers don’t really print money like they would have done 15 years ago, or probably longer than that now to be fair. Yeah, we still had a good level of control over certainly the editorial direction.
John – How do you see the future going for newspapers? I know a lot of them have transitioned now into more, a lot more, online. They are more web-based, social media based. But there has to be, you mentioned loyal audience just now, there’s still a portion of people, and I’m thinking about my in-laws for example, who’s like their daily newspaper is part of their routine. If you ask them, at the moment we’re recording this, they are just about to lockdown for 12 weeks, and one of the biggest concerns they’ve got is how am I going to get my daily newspaper? You do have that loyal audience, they don’t want Facebook updates, they don’t want Twitter news, they want a printed newspaper everyday.
Paul – Yeah, I suppose there’s three things I would pick out of that. One is routine and habit. Routine and habit are, in my opinion, two of the most unappreciated drivers in buying decision.
Jason – Somebody should write a book about routines, I think.
John – Let me write that down.
Paul – Yeah, so printed newspapers do rely a lot on routine and habit. If you break routine and habit either through price increase or even due to the fact that the paperboy grows up and gets a proper job, anything that disrupts that routine and habit, are likely to disrupt the buying decision and that’s a real battle for the printed press. And there’s a lot of those kind of unseen factors that disrupt the way that people buy the paper.
Secondly, like at the moment I’ve seen a lot of papers offering kind of long term discounts for subscriptions, we’ll get it delivered to your door, a lot of those kind of things that so you can still there is a lot of effort and innovation going in to try and get the paper to the sort of people you were talking about. Of course, there’s sort of like a more existential risk is that although they don’t necessarily want Twitter and Facebook updates, they ain’t gonna be around reading the newspaper forever, sadly. I know it sounds a little bit morbid but that is a demographic that is always getting older and, as terrible as it sounds, you can’t sustain a business unless your business is able to convert people who are turning 65 into buyers. But is 65 plus. So, that’s a difficult thing to balance.
John – Yeah, it is ’cause if you open up the Mail on Sunday and you look at the advertisers in the back, and it’s basically cruises, stair lifts and pharmaceutical companies.
Jason – And comfy trousers. Don’t forget the comfy trousers, they’re important too. Elastic waistbands.
Paul – And I suppose that is why the sort of level of investment in digital from the big newspaper companies, and I’ve been out of the industry now for a few years, so I can’t really speak with authority any more, and I know from the people that I’m friends with that are still in the industry that it is a fast moving world and many things have changed since I left, but it is clear that the investment and innovation are kind of top of the agenda and no one is giving up without a fight, and there’s an extraordinary level of resilience among the journalistic community. Which is important, in my opinion, in a wider societal view but also what we’re gonna move on to talk about, businesses and entrepreneurship, and that kind of thing. I do think that local media still has a role to play in, it has a very prominent role to play in supporting that kind of enterprise.
Jason – I think it needs to become a community hub of information and I think it gets dragged down the wrong path sometimes in terms of all the bad news, and all the bad stuff like that, and there’s very little positive which manages to find its way into there. And actually if it was a paper that promoted all aspects of the community, or any of the media really to be fair, is promoting a whole lot of, you’d then get a loyal base of people who are interested in all of that good stuff that’s happening in the community.
I know we’re not talking about the current things that’s happening but actually the paper today was all about actually we want to give back to our community by promoting the positive stuff that’s going on. When it’s like that should have been the something you’ve been doing forever, as the community source of information, that’s something you should be always doing, and not just doing it ’cause we’re in a crisis.
So, when you kind of joined the One Percent Club, ’cause you’re a One Percenter, we send you out a onboarding survey and in that we ask for your best piece of marketing ever, and that came from the time when you were in the paper, so how does that work?
Paul – I don’t know if in hindsight it was my best piece to be honest. It might turn out to be one of the worst. Depends how you look at it really.
At the time of the eclipse, don’t know why I said the eclipse, there have been many eclipses in human history obviously, but the most recent one where it all went dark, and not like a half moon job. So, at the time, I remember the one from around about the turn of the century, and at the time, but those like classic pictures of the Google sunglasses.
Do you remember the ones?
We got a load made for that eclipse and it was probably one of their first big branding exercises I guess and, whenever it was, 2015 I think, did a similar thing. We managed to import a load of cardboard sunglasses and we had people travelling, well you had to buy a paper in order to get your free sunglasses and you had to buy them from certain outlets and that kind of thing, and we had people travelling from all areas of the country to Plymouth to buy a paper so that they could get it. So, we did gain an enormous amount of sale on that day.
We had people queuing around the block, and we obviously tried to turn that paper into a bumper super special edition so that people had thought oh bloody hell I didn’t realise that paper was this good, and it’s obviously evolved a bit and all the rest of it. A lot a lot of effort went into it and we sold out in hours. It was actually really tough because my poor newspaper sales manager at the time was trying to get these glasses from anywhere really.
And then the things that I learned from that is strategy marketing is always trumpeted as one of the best illusions that you can construct, and that was certainly what was at play that day, and I don’t think everyone who bought a Herald to get a pair of cardboard sunglasses actually wanted a pair of cardboard sunglasses.
John – They just thought they did because everybody else wanted one.
Paul – Quickly there was a lot of my child is gonna watch the eclipse tonight with me because they managed to get a cardboard sunglasses and then so and so’s parents at the school gate then thinking I don’t want my child to miss out, and there was a lot of that at play. And so it told me a lot about the constructing even if things aren’t scarce, constructing that kind of illusion of scarcity and how you do that, and how you signal the scarcity and that kind of thing.
But also the big flaw on that day is that it all happened so fast that we didn’t capture all of these new customers, we didn’t capture them, they didn’t have to fill in a form, they didn’t even have to, do you know what I mean. We got no details. And you know, if with what I do now, so we work with a lot of e-commerce companies, and I think that we would absolutely capture every piece of data that we could get, so that we would be able to market to them in the future. I suppose that’s the kind of best piece of marketing but also kind of one of the worst things.
John – The idea was fantastic, the execution maybe let you down a little bit there.
Paul – Yeah, but at the time–
John – And it’s hard to repeat as well I guess ’cause–
Jason – Well, there’s another eclipse in 25 years.
Paul – Yeah, that’s the issue I guess. Without the data and without actually giving them a reason to then go and buy the paper again the next day, or the next day, then actually it’s a kind of pitch I guess.
John – I don’t know, I could repeat it today. So, you go out today, you buy a copy of The Herald, Plymouth Herald, whatever it’s called today, I’ll give you a free toilet roll. Scarcity marketing.
Paul – Lots of, what we used to call sampling exercises, in the city centre where we would give away certain products, and often these were products that you know companies that were looking to brand, they’d give to us for free and we would use them . Toilet roll, honestly, even in the best of times, toilet roll would sell the paper like nothing else.
John – Wow .
Paul – Toilet roll is expensive for a lot of people, and if you can give, I’ve always been a firm believer, we never discounted paper unless you need , we always gave something free that added value. But toilet roll added an enormous value for .
Jason – And there were no negative connotations about the paper and running out of toilet rolls?
John – If you run out of toilet roll, then yeah.
Paul – Inevitably, but we sort of played along with that, and got .
John – Yeah, if nothing else it got people talking about the paper. It’s interesting what you said about the lead capture there. I think one of our quite early podcasts we talked about when I went to the Devon County Show. Remember, I’d been recording it the week after and saying how impressed I was with this I think it was a butcher, or it was a farm shop or something, and they were giving away eggs. It was basically they had this massive sign, get free eggs, and you walk up and it’s basically there’s a lady there, and she’s dressed up in kind of like farm–
Jason – Clothes?
John – Not a farmer’s outfit but like she’s working in a farm shop at the trade stand, and she’s got these massive piles of boxes of eggs there, and she’s like do you want a free, completely free, dozen eggs?
I’m like yeah, brilliant, absolutely, and I know it’s free range farm eggs, brilliant.
And she said in order to do that, in order to give you your free eggs, I need you to fill in this postcard with your name, address, email, tell me a little bit about yourself. It was probably seven questions on an A6 postcard. And I just thought that’s brilliant. You know they’ve basically, they could sell those eggs for one pound 50, cost is probably in the region of 35 to 40p.
For 35 to 40p they’ve just bought a lead. And I said that’s brilliant, that’s fantastic.
Never heard from them again.
So, I gave them my data, they did capture the data, they spent money on the trade stand, they spent money on the eggs, they paid the girl to work there all day long, they captured my data, they paid for the postcards to be printed, and then they chucked them in a draw somewhere and never contacted me.
So, you can have the best idea in the world but you’ve gotta actually execute it and see it through. And I know this is one of the things we wanted to talk about today, is not just doing one thing but actually having a joined up multimedia campaign thought through. As we move away from The Herald, when did you leave there now?
Paul – January 2018.
John – Cool. So, what was the catalyst for you leaving? Was it just a strong desire to set up on your own?
Paul – Partly. If I suppose the title of this podcast, I am ambitious, lifestyle, so lifestyle being the keyword. So, I think that working in newspapers you don’t go to newspapers thinking that you’re gonna work nine to five.
And I don’t want to work nine to five either, now, to be honest with you, but I do want to be able to design my work around my life, and I guess it’s that recognition that I am naturally the sort of person that will if there is work to do and there are opportunities to be had, I will just keep going and going and going.
In a newspaper environment where you’re creating a different product every single day, and there are constantly bright and shiny things flashing around all the time for you to go and sort out and firefight, for my sort of personality that is sort of not a sustainable environment to work in. And having done it for 15 years, I just needed a bit of a break to be honest with you.
And I was luckily enough that I had managed to work so I could provide myself with a month off. Took about six weeks off I think in the end, and thought about what I wanted to do, and I knew that I was good at helping creating content, I knew that I was good at planning content, and I knew that I had helped lots of businesses in the past, lots of advertisers basically, and I’d had spoken to lots of advertisers about the future of their business and how they weren’t gonna be able to take a quarter page ad on page three anymore, they were gonna need to think more broadly about how they market themselves.
And so that sort of germinated really into the business that I run today.
John – What does that business look like?
Paul – So, we are a marketing agency. We are specialised in exactly what I’ve just talked about. So, we specialise in content marketing and content strategy. We plan strategic content campaigns for clients. We basically look after your website, your social media, and your email. We try and we create words, pictures and videos for those channels.
We prefer to work in an integrated fashion, so if we can do all of that the clients get a lot more out of it. They don’t all want all of it, some of them just want one branch of that, which is obviously fine. We try and market ourselves as providing that integrated service because I’m a great believer in that if you create content for one of those channels it might as well be repurposed for the other ones.
John – More effective as well is if you’ve got that one voice in your marketing, isn’t it?
Paul – So, unfortunately, if you try it, one you’re gonna duplicate effort if you’ve got different people doing different things, sorry, different people doing the same thing across different platforms, and two, tone of voice consistency and a sort, I guess, channeling the direction of all those campaigns, so I tend to when I talk to businesses about content strategy we tend to say every three months you need to have some sort of goal in mind, something even if it’s just we’re gonna try and get 50 more subscribers to , because we know that if we get 50 subscribers that means we can convert them to new customers.
If you work backwards from that point then we can say okay, so we’re gonna gear up the website not to necessarily promote the products, but actually the first thing that’s gonna come out is the email newsletter because we know that that’s probably where we’re gonna get more conversions. So, we’ll regear the website that way, the social media will have brand awareness at the top still, and it will kinda still be basically funnelling towards the newsletter and then obviously the email marketing side of it, then goes into a sort of 100% conversion activity.
So, we try and do all of that together. If we’re trying to do one element of that and there are other people at that organisation doing the other bits, we can work as an extension of a marketing team or what not, but tends to be less effective.
John – It’s strange ’cause you must get a lot of clients coming to you and say, Paul, can you do Facebook for me? Or can you send an email and newsletter for me? It’s almost that man with the hammer syndrome of I’ve heard hammers are good, can you build me a hammer please?
Well, actually a hammer might not be what you need, you might need a screwdriver. Why don’t we look at what you actually wanna achieve? Well, I wanna put a picture on the wall. Okay, we could do that with a hammer and a nail, we could do it with a drill and a screwdriver, but how about I look at how sturdy your walls are, how heavy the picture is, and what you actually want to achieve first?
Paul – So, we get a lot of people ask that very question.
And to be honest with you, some of our best clients started with that question, and I think we try not to be too, I’m not sure arrogant is the right word, but we try not to, we kind of understand that sometimes people need their hands held through that process, and it’s as much about education as it is about doing a service for them necessarily.
Some people do not want to learn that, they just want you to run Facebook ads.
And sometimes actually their business just needs Facebook ads, and it will basic benefits them, so, you know, more than happy to do that. But a lot of the time the client will kind of appreciate the journey that we’re trying to guide them down, and that journey normally starts where an exclamation is, you can’t just do social media, you need to have some kind of content strategy behind that. Sometimes your just riding sales purchase sometime, and they’re reaching 10 people or whatever.
John – It’s an interesting time to be recording this because we just finished our Cheltenham Festival campaign for our sports betting business.
So, in the very early years of us promoting Cheltenham it was very much oh, we’ll send an email out saying yeah, we got Cheltenham Festival coming up next week, do you want some tips for that? And that was the extent of our campaign.
This year, so, we started writing SEO content back in December for the website, we then put Facebook ads live in January for some lead capture for a printed magazine that we created that went out digitally at the end of February, and in order to get that you had to give us your email address, so we captured email, which we then created a nurture sequence which put you on that. The week before we then did a live video call, we then put things back into the Facebook group, we did Google ads, and it was this complete multimedia campaign that I, as somebody who doesn’t like to spin plates, I’ve spent the last six to seven weeks just spinning plates furiously.
Jason – Getting better at it, he just doesn’t like it .
John – I just need to spin plates routinely, that’s the secret.
Jason- Keep going back to each one and make it move.
John – But, I mean that campaign now is so much more effective because that’s the 12th year I’ve run it and I know that it works better as a multimedia because I could just say well, I could just do Facebook ads, and just you know sell via Facebook ads. But, it works so much better as a complete thought through because people don’t sit on Facebook and that’s the end of it, you know.
Paul – No, and there’s lots of famous quotes along the lines of you need five, seven, eight, 12, 15, 25 touch points before someone buys from you, depending on your sector.
So, I am great believer that you need to capture people in different moods, as well as different platforms, and each platform has a different mood associated with it, print included, you tend to be quite relaxed when you’re reading print, you tend to be in a totally different frame of mind to when you may be more intent based, when you’re on search, and kind of looking for the best price possible.
When I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter I’m in different kinds of frames of mind and capturing people in those different frames of mind and tailoring content accordingly. I mean, there’s only so much time in the day, so there’s only actually so much time you can do this, and sometimes it’s better to just whack it all out across everything because that’s better than nothing at all.
John – I was at an event last year and there was a presentation from one of your successors, the current editor of Plymouth Live Herald Reach Plc, whatever it’s called now, and he was presenting exactly what you just talked about there.
He said look, here’s the data we’ve got on how people digest our content.
6:00 a.m. they are on their mobile in bed looking for weather news, travel news, what’s happened over night.
9:00 a.m. they’ve done the school run, they’re possibly back on their phone again or they’re on their work computer now, they’re in work and they’re looking for a bit of a pick me up, they’re looking for some different news.
Lunchtime, again, they’re back on a different device and they’re looking for updates. Middle of the afternoon they’re back on the phone again and again they’re looking for travel, they’re looking for entertainment for this evening, they’re looking for celebrity stories.
Gets to 5:00 p.m. and all of a sudden the work computer crashes, no ones on a desktop any more. 7:00 p.m. everyone’s on an iPad, tablet device, sat on the sofa watching TV with the tablet next to them. Then 10 o’clock they’re back in bed with they’re phones again and they’re looking for, and it’s different devices, different content, different context at any time of day.
There’s no longer can you say I’ve done a quarter page ad in The Herald, that’s my job done, the customer is aware of me, because the customer’s attention is so fleeting and you need to capture them at that exact moment. You try and sell someone a shiny new car at half past seven in the morning on their mobile device they’re not looking to buy a new car then. They’re looking to get to work, find out if it’s going to rain, do the school run, and get on with their day.
Paul – Absolutely. And as a business, you’re unlikely to be putting out that sort of volume of content from six until 11 at night, obviously. However, you can kind of learn from that flow of how people are treating their day.
And I often tell people that don’t get too hung up on when you’re putting stuff up necessarily because you can’t really control through most social platforms how that’s going to hit. The algorithms are going to work out what the user is most interested in and then serve them that content.
Sometimes you can sort of over-analyse that a little bit. However, there are some things that you can control in that. When you put your email marketing campaigns out is pretty crucial because that can mean the difference between being deleted on site and actually being read. There are bits of intelligence that you can think about, you know, when you turn paid ad campaigns on, what sort of peaks of the day you choose them to hit, that’s when you need to be paying attention to that flow.
John – I saw one guy did like a social media matrix, and he basically said right, I do five types of piece of content, I do educational pieces, I do Facebook Lives, I do long form copy, I do checklists, I do a bit of click baity stuff, I do a personal story, that’s more than five, I know. But he said I do these different types of content and then I’ve got 9:00 a.m, lunchtime, 5:00 p.m, 7:00 p.m, 9:00 p.m, and he just had this matrix, and he just said right, I’m gonna try this piece of content at this time of day, and I’m just gonna, for two weeks,
I’m gonna try everything and then I’m gonna look back over the numbers and see well, actually, Friday afternoon isn’t the time for a long form 90 minute video, people aren’t interested in that, that’s the time for the click baity, let’s have a bit of fun, let’s have a bit of banter post. And you optimise based around what your audience are doing.
Paul – Yeah, that’s the crucial change in mindset, thinking about what your audience wants rather than what you can do, and there’s obviously a balance between the two.
We tend to find that one of the most neglected areas will be Sunday afternoons or Sunday evenings when digital usage is peaking. You can’t be necessarily 100% authentic if you schedule content for a Sunday night, however it is better than not putting anything out on a Sunday night, and you’ll find that you will get an enormous amount of pickup.
Even if like, say you run a restaurant, and you’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so you think there’s no point putting anything out on Sunday night.
If you post pictures of Sunday roasts on a Sunday afternoon, you will get bookings for next Sunday, I absolutely guarantee it. Normally people don’t do that, or neglect that kind of audience peak, and it’s totally understandable because you’re in down time, but you can on a Tuesday afternoon you could be prepping for Sunday afternoon and scheduling all that out and the rest of it.
John – That’s a great takeaway, I’ll have that. It is a completely under-resourced idea ’cause I think so many of us think well, Saturday and Sunday, that’s the weekend, that’s not my time. Even for us as a sports betting business Saturdays are huge for us, that’s our big day. Sunday, yeah, day of rest, not a lot happens on a Sunday. Yeah, there’s some football, we’ll do something for that, but actually–
Jason – Some football?
John – Yeah, not at the moment there isn’t. There will be in the future some football on a Sunday. But people don’t do enough with that I think.
Paul – Most businesses that we work with they almost all, maybe not all, but Sundays are massive time for traffic and conversion.
John – So, there you go, that’s a challenge for anybody listening. Get some content out there this Sunday, and let us know how that went. Let us know all the rewards you’ve had. Paul, you work quite a lot now with influencers as well.
This is something that’s a growing trend here in the UK, influencer marketing.
For those that aren’t familiar with it, do you wanna walk us through kind of how that works and how to make it effective. ‘Cause I think a lot of people have heard it as a buzz word and they think it’s just getting Mrs Hinch to promote you for 20 grand or something.
So, how can us proper small business owners leverage influencers, and I know I used that with the almost quotation there, but actually, it’s people with an audience isn’t it?
Paul – It is! So, influencer marketing is kind of almost become a bit of a dirty word in some respects. The way that we look at it is it’s not Ariana Grande charging 3,000,000 to promote a new hair product.
For us, it’s identifying people in your community that can help you either through collaboration or just because they’re happy to help because they know you’re a small business and that it helps build their audience. You know, identifying people that you can work with that can promote your products for you essentially or your service.
So, we offer a service where, so we have like a lot of people locally, a lot of them are kind of parenting groups, and that kind of thing, where we will kind of go to them and say look this person, there’s an offer code, or has a trial, or this person wants to give you a product, would you mind posting about it in your group.
And these would be reasonably small niche audiences really, and sometimes they can be groups of 100 people, but they are the ones we get more out of, and this has been the really interesting. I wouldn’t say we do loads of this but we probably do it without even realising half the time, and it’s definitely something that if you were to put a couple percentage points of your time, a little bit more effort into you would definitely see a result.
And quite often we’ve had clients that we work with, we don’t have hundreds of clients, but we have enough in a sort of similar geographical area that quite often we will put them in touch together and they will collaborate and help each other out. And I think that, particularly amongst the sort of small business community, the sense of collaboration is greater than it’s been for a long time.
So, there are huge opportunities to do like if you reach out to people. But what we’re essentially talking about is finding social media groups and reaching out to them and asking for their help basically. Sometimes they’ll say no, sometimes they’ll say only on Mondays, sometimes they’ll say yes if you send it to me in the post, sometimes they say only if we do it as a competition, etc. But it’s well worth exploring this opportunity.
And my biggest takeaway from the last 12 months is that when we’ve done it with big groups it hasn’t worked as well.
When we’ve done it with same amount of effort but maybe say three smaller groups, the returns are much much greater. Because in the big groups your voice is sort of lost, it’s more diluted, it’s more effort to get in them, ironically.
But those smaller, what is known in the industry as microinfluencers, they’re the ones to try and identify.
I’d rather have five smaller influencers than one big one.
And the nice thing is if you build kind of relationships with these people, they will help you for years to come. And if you pivot into other businesses, if you know a mate who’s got a business that needs a hand, they’ll be more than happy, and often they’re looking to just build their audience.
So, if you find a baby and toddler group, and you sell baby and toddler products , there are many, say you sell soft toys, they will love the fact that a local business has come to them with a local service that other people in their group will be interested in, it makes the group more relevant, essentially. So, huge opportunity.
Jason – And it’s content for them, and that fills the group and things, and it becomes appealing for them to get more members into their group. Just remember that their aims are aligned to yours in the same way really.
Paul – It’s a new way of thinking about it. We don’t advertise PR as a service, but effectively we are talking about PR in a different way.
John – It’s almost like a joint venture, collaboration isn’t it? It’s again thinking who’s got my customer? So, us as a sports betting business we can’t go to Ariana Grande ’cause that’s not our audience, she hasn’t got our audience.
But again, everybody’s going to her because she’s gonna have the volume. She’s got the millions and millions of followers worldwide, what is the percentage engagement though, that she will have with her audience versus your local pub band that’s got 150 people that go to every gig they perform no matter where that is within a 50 mile radius, that buy every record they’ve ever made, that buy every T-shirt from every tour.
I’d rather work with those guys because if they say hey, this guy is, you know, if you like our music, you’ll like this guy’s music, then I’m gonna get much more engagement as a percentage-wise, and as a return on investment-wise, which is ultimately what we want from this, by going to the small engaged audience that we know is our type of people, rather than oh, well, I’ve got 3,000,000 people on my Twitter follower list. Well, that’s great. Just because you like Ant and Dec, doesn’t mean that you can buy baby products. .
Paul – I think there’s two things there. One, building your own audience is the ultimate goal in all of this, and the audience that you own which is often any basically. But the truth is it’s really hard, and it’s harder than it was five years ago when you could build a Facebook audience really quickly. You also don’t own that Facebook audience, Facebook does at the end of the day.
John – Oh yes, we know all about that. 127,000 fans we had on our Facebook page before Facebook took it away.
Paul – So, although you want to be building your audience, it is hard, and so through this sometimes it’s easier to hijack other people’s audiences in order to build your own. I guess in the same way as paid ads accelerate that process for the business.
John – Yeah, I’ve had that exact conversation with Sarah, she’s doing things with online tutoring now, and thinking that you could build your own audience and that’s great, long term you probably should do that, but the short term, this person over here’s got 3,000 people of your target audience now, they’ve already engaged, they’ve done the hard work, why don’t you leverage that?
Paul – Yeah, and spotting opportunities for audience as well. So, we’re sort of pivoting this year into trying to build our own audiences rather than build audiences exclusively for clients. For a wealth of purposes really.
But I’m a great believer that if you have audience then opportunities will present themselves. So, yesterday or the day before we started a home schooling group on Facebook just because we figured or least things to do at home with the kids because of the current situation, and overnight 250 people became a member of it, and so it’s spotting the opportunities.
Opportunities like that will be coming up all the time, particularly in the next three months, and so it will be interesting to see where that group is in a week’s time. We’re not trying to sell to anyone, we’re just collecting ideas of what you can do from other places. Basically in sharing them into the group, and then people are contributing their own content into it. And so, I would think in seven days we’ll probably have quite a useful audience that in months to come we will be able to do something with.
John – Yeah. Again, it’s very similar to the eclipse story there. You’ve taken something that’s of the moment and you’ve capitalised on it.
Paul – Yeah, we haven’t turned it into a business yet.
John – Don’t forget the data capture. There’s a lesson from before there. So, Paul you’re a trained copywriter, you know a thing or two about headlines, having, I would imagine, written, rewritten, edited quite a few front pages in you time.
What constitutes a good headline?
Paul – Well, it can depend on the content as to what sort of headline you need to write.
However, the sort of overarching rule with all my clients, in my opinion, is that it talks to someone.
So, it’s not a label. It should be active, it should be doing something.
It should be giving to the reader in some way. It should be persuading them to read the copy, and it should tread a fine line between telling people what this is about, and not giving away everything.
So, it needs to balance those two things together and that’s a fine balance that takes, you know, it’s hard to teach people in a podcast how to write a good headline because it takes a long time to learn how to do that.
However, that is the most important factor, I think.
Because if you try and tease people too much, if you try and click bait people into it, people are too wise to that these days, just find it annoying. So, you do need to tell people what is going on but you need to make it feel appealing, you need to make it feel like you’re not giving away everything.
And I think then once people click on it as well don’t hide everything in pass 72, like give up. So, there’s another fine line there as well. When we used to write copy for print, we would always try and front load as much information as possible into the first sort of three or four paragraphs because you know that most people are gonna give up reading a story after the first column.
So, most of the information in the second half of the story wouldn’t even get read, so we would just leave that. Writing for digital, and particularly writing for SEO, there’s a different, it’s more intent based, so people are coming to you because they want that information, so you can afford to kind of pace it differently, but I still think you’re there to serve your reader at the end of the day, and so don’t make it hard for people.
Jason – Good advice really, and also you don’t want to disappoint them. If the headline’s really good but you get to the story and it’s not so great then actually you start disappointing people over and over again.
Paul – Small businesses, funny enough, they don’t really get that problem so much because they’re not really focused on.
At larger businesses there will be a marketing team in a large business that is targeted to get as many people to the website as possible. And the temptation is to disappoint people in order to get them to the website. tricks in your Google analytics are in my opinion more important. So, whenever we report to clients when we’re managing websites we report on sessions, bounce rate, time on page, all of that kind of thing, and we tell them to we less caught up in the sheer volume of users because that doesn’t really tell the story. What tells the story is how people are using your website rather than just you wrote a really good bit of click bait copy.
John – So, the headline for this podcast then isn’t going to be you won’t believe the one weird trick that Paul uses to grow his business.
Paul – No, that’s not going to work.
John – Avoid these three things.
Jason – You won’t be disappointed if you watch it, would you? Unless you gotta wait 20 years for another eclipse.
Paul – The thing that about remember about copy is that it ultimately needs to be useful.
If the copy on your website solves a problem for people or when I do seminars and stuff like this, I always say, if you’re entertaining or useful then that will get people to use the sight. It’s really hard, as you may have discovered, from listening to me, to be entertaining.
Much easier to be useful.
So, you concentrate on being useful and solve problems for people.
And the other thing that people get caught up with copy is that it has to be like super super useful.
Useful might be telling people how much it is.
I know that sounds silly but how many websites have you ever been to and the prices aren’t published or you have to make an enquiry in order to get it. It makes you wonder how many people are bouncing out of those websites and going to find other websites to find out how much whatever it is you sell is.
A piece of copy that says this is the price of soft toys for people, sorry that’s a terrible example. The classic example is River Pools and Spas in America, which I’m sure many people have heard many times over, where one of their most successful pieces of copy was this is how much a swimming pool costs, when every other swimming pool provider in the US was making you fill in the enquiry form so they could give you a bespoke quote with a load of mark up in.
Paul – Yes.
John – I think we talked about that. Wonder if it was the book of the year, wasn’t it?
Jason – It was the book of the year one year.
John – I think it was, yeah. It’s a fantastic process to go through. We’re just going through redesigning or, overhauling our website at the moment, and one of the big things that I’ve been studying and researching, trying to make sure that we’re doing.
Just imagining a user looking at any particular webpage and just thinking what are the little thought bubbles that are going above their head?
Which will be, “Where’s the price?
“How do I find out whether this is for me?
“How do I know what you do?”
I was on a website yesterday, one of our One Percenters actually. I’ve just launched this brand new website. I was like that’s brilliant. And I looked at it and I thought, “Well I think I think I know what you do, “but your website doesn’t tell me what you do”.
And then I managed to kind of navigate around a little bit, and I found this link that had some description that roughly matched my expectations as a user of oh, that’s what they do. Therefore, I went to that page with the expectation of this will explain more about it. No, I ended up in a members-only area which all the navigation menus were stripped away and I was just left with a login box. So, the thought bubble above my head is, “I’m lost, I’m stuck, I’m going back to Google”.
Paul – Yeah.
John – You got to think through that user, it’s hard to not know what you as the business owner already know about your business and your website. You know what the prices are, you know how it all works, you just want them to just buy the thing, why don’t you?
Paul – Sometimes when we get asked to look at, so, we work with other agencies quite a bit, so if a web designer or developer is building a new website for someone, there’s normally a gap, where they get asked, the client gets asked can you send over the words for it please.
That’s one of our niches is to kind of fill that gap. And one of the really interesting things is when we’re doing copy for a home page sometimes it can be about doing less copy rather than more copy as well. So, if you sell a really obvious product, actually you don’t need 300 words of copy, you just need to make the products as visible as possible, and make the shortest possible user journey to buying those things or at least enquiring about them.
So, sometimes it can be as simple as just when someone lands on your page this is what we sell, it’s in your face as much as possible, it’s really clear to understand. Actually we’re not going to tell you about the fact that we started the business 150 years ago and we still go and pick the onions every morning, I don’t know. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.
John – Yeah, I think so many business owners think the template needs to be hello, welcome to my website, I am John Lamerton Limited, launched in 2000, I live in Plymouth. It’s like oh, do you wanna know any other facts about me before you go into like, what do you do John? What is John Lamerton Limited? Oh, I haven’t explained that have I? And then, what’s in it for me as the user?
Paul – Yeah, absolutely. And that funnily enough, really is the same principles as good ad copywriters used to follow, in New York, in Manhattan in the ’60s or whatever. That is exactly the same thing. Making it as easy as possible to understand what the product is.
Sometimes say less, but crucially talk to, just like we were saying with writing good headlines, talk to the person, and put yourself in their shoes, rather than talking about yourself and getting caught up in wanting to promote you. Works in contradictory to the other thing I was probably going to mention about, the importance of personal branding and all that kind of thing. Actually, when it comes to buying the products and landing on your website you just need to make it as easy as possible for people to figure it out.
John – Yeah, I think copy’s a slippery slide. We’ve talked about it before and I think web is very much the same. You need to grease the wheels towards conversion, and the more you talk about yourself and the more wordy you are, the more friction you actually apply to things. And for me that’s very backwards because I’ve come from the background of oh, more words equals Google likes that therefore that’s great for SEO, they’re going to love that, particularly if I can stick a load of keywords in there, and let’s have a keyword in the title, and more content more content more content.
But actually, if users aren’t going to read it ultimately Google are going to penalise you for it because they’re going to look at your baits rates and say our users, they belong to us, don’t like your website, therefore they like your competitors website, we’re going to send our visitors to your competitor instead.
Paul – Absolutely. And that kind of for me is the importance of the endearing power of the blog, so that the reams of copy that you were talking about, there probably is a place for that, just isn’t on the page that you’re trying to get everyone to land on, necessarily.
Jason – So, we talked a bit earlier about your reason for leaving the print. It was to get an ambitious lifestyle business. So, what does that look like for you?
Paul – Being able to do what we’re doing right now, I guess. Being able to sort of organise your life around work and I wanted a weekend, and I still work the odd weekend when I don’t want to, but I do it. I do it now knowing that I’m doing it for something that is going to serve me in the future, if that makes sense. I’m doing it for me. I’ve worked a lot of hours for a very long time and I know that there are probably, that there are, I know for a fact, there are many many other people who are exactly in the same position, I just didn’t want to do that anymore.
And I wanted to be able to try and build something that required me to work less time basically, and around my life. I wasn’t under any illusion though that when you start doing that you have to build it, it’s hard work to begin with, it doesn’t just magically happen, but now, two years later, I’m starting to see the benefits of that.
John – Starting to reap the rewards.
Paul – Hopefully.
John – And it means you get to do wonderful things like we’re going to be doing after this podcast, and go out and play golf.
Paul – Yeah. Now you sort of learn about how the best way for you to work, and I’ve obsessed over this quite a lot over the last couple of years, trying to refine that process. But I tend to work best in sprints and only the first sort of three, four days of the week. I tend to work pretty long hours and then Friday I just kind of find another. You know, you can make your business work like that. People know not to ring me on a Friday afternoon. And rest of the world isn’t fast on Friday afternoon about content strategy and all the rest of it anyway.
John – Paul, now that you’ve figured out, I mean obviously it’s no longer your dirty little secret, but now that you’ve figured out that Sunday afternoons actually provide you with the greatest ROI, sack off Friday afternoons, which is probably your lowest ROI, and just do half an hour on a Sunday afternoon. That pays for your Friday afternoon playing golf, doesn’t it?
Paul – Absolutely, it absolutely does. That’s the way to think of it. And it’s definitely when we talk about putting effort into weekends, most people sort of then go ah, I just can’t work Sundays. But you don’t have to work Sundays, just work a bit more on Tuesday afternoon. Or, even better, delegate whatever it is you do on a Tuesday afternoon, and do this instead.
John – I love it, sounds good. So, Paul you’ve been a One Percenter for a while now, how has the One Percent Club helped you with your business?
Paul – Well, principally on my very first meeting, whether or not to hire someone, and you told me to hire them, well you didn’t–
John- In no uncertain terms I think it was, very much like the next day, wasn’t it?
Paul – I had basically got myself back into the problem that I wanted to avoid, which was working too much, trying to do everything, firefighting every other day, trying to serve too many clients. I wasn’t breaking but I could see that I was going to start letting people down if I didn’t do something. And I didn’t want to turn people away, I didn’t want to say, go to clients and say, sorry but I’m going to have to scroll back on my service. So, this would have been my second hire actually, but it was a significant hire because I was taking on someone with quite a lot of experience.
And I think for any business owner when you come to do that, when you’ve started your own thing, that big hire, those first couple of hires are a massive leap of faith because you’re kind of like, how do you going to pay for this person, what happens if I do this and I lose two clients? And I think you guys really, you kind of, you need to have a plan basically, is what it boils down to. So, if you carry on the way you’re going to go it’s going to fail anyway, in the long term, you’re going to burn out. Or if you do, if you lose a couple, then where are you then?
So, take someone on and identify how many more clients you need or what other income streams you need in order to support that and it’ll put you on a much stable footing in six months time or whatever. We are now pretty much six months down the road and we are much more stable, and I have no idea how I would have survived the last six months if I hadn’t taken someone on.
John – Well, the thing is you said you work best in sprints. Now, if you’re working at capacity you cannot sprint at capacity for any prolonged period of time.
Paul – No you can’t. The other thing I learned as well is that you need people that are different to you in your business. So, the two people that I have that work for me, and then we have some freelancers as well, the two people who are on the staff, they work quite kind of steadily and consistently through the week.
Rather than kind of randomly and fast and slow like I do, which I imagine is like terrible for them. They make sure the business has a grounding and they make sure things get done when they need to get done, and they make sure that the social schedules are always full, and all of those kind of basic stuff that I don’t want to have to be catching up on at six o’clock at night. It’s done for me.
John – I think the entrepreneurs need the operations guys, the managers in to do the nice sensible things, whilst we’re off building parachutes whilst jumping out of buildings.
Paul – Absolutely, yeah. Entrepreneurs are obsessed with so many things. I am forever fleeing from one thing to another, but you need people that make sure that the day job gets done in the background so that if you can, and I think it’s important to be attracted to shiny new things sometimes.
Like, you do need to, it’s sort of a really tough balance for me because I know that some of the things that have been most successful over the last couple of years were because I went down a rabbit hole and actually just it was worth doing. But equally when you find something that’s good sometimes you just need to do it consistently.
Jason – Don’t let it consume you. The rabbit hole is great but it doesn’t consume you. It’s got to lead somewhere as part of the plan. And so you kind of made that time to do it. Paul, I’m going to kind of come forward at an end if that’s all right, to our broadcast today. Fantastic for you to come along. If anybody wants to get in touch with you mainly to talk about more about what you’re up to, content strategy for their own businesses, what’s the best way of getting in touch with you?
John – Thank you once again for joining us, Paul.
Jason – Thank you, Paul.
Paul – Thanks for inviting me up.
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