Marketing strategy fail – show, don’t tell is an important rule to remember

lightbulbIf you want to ‘Writer Better, Get Published’ (this is the tagline for Writer’s Digest), proofing your work for spelling errors is a good place to start. Agents, editors and any gatekeeper assessing applicants get tons of queries they need to sift through quickly. You can be sure to miss the first cut by submitting a pitch with spelling errors. What’s so laughable about the text below is the purported expert feedback provided. Really? You’d think part of Writer’s Digest’s marketing strategy would include engaging competent proofreaders to vet their newsletters before they’re distributed. Heck, even a flunky familiar with spell check would have caught these faux pas.

This promotional message is a cut-and-paste from the Writer’s Digest January 25, 2013 online newsletter:

Get Professional Feedback on Your Query Letter!

For most writers, the book was the fun part. Writing a query letter that captures the attention of agents and editors and gets to the heart of your work can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night. After all, you only have a few short paragrahs to convince an editor to pick your manuscript out of the hundreds they may receive.

Before you send your query letter into the hands of unforgiving editors, get professional feedback on your query letter from the experts at Writer’s Digest. A 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique gives you clear feedback to help you improve your query!

The 2nd Draft editors will provide an overall evaluation for your one-page query letter, as well as a detailed focus on your query’s opening, biographical info, logline, hook, referral informationn and closing.

Make sure your query letter is flawless and pitch-perfect before you send it to literary agetns, publishers, or aquisitions editors.

Four spelling errors in four short paragraphs! I get the occasional miss (I’m guilty here too) when you’re churning out blog posts and personal e-mails, but making these gaffes in an ad for professional services? The number one turn-off to the people they purport to prepare you to pitch is being careless with spelling and grammar. How much confidence can you have in the quality service from a provider who offers ‘flawless’ edits, yet fails to practice the most basic industry tenets?

Irony always grabs me. Granted, this is not typical of Writer’s Digest, but to do it in a promotional message designed to persuade people to buy a query critique is so wrong. Who could read this and believe what’s being offered is a quality service?

In case you missed the transgressions (it’s hard not to), here they are:

  • Paragraphs (not paragrahs)
  • Information (not informationn)
  • Agents (not agetns)
  • Acquisitions (not aquisitions)

This is simple stuff to catch. Addressing the backlash from putting this out there is likely to be more complicated.

Walking the talk with marketing strategy

What you do is always more important than what you say as a small business owner. Studies have repeatedly shown people talk a lot more about a bad experience than a good one. Brilliant marketing tactics or prospect appeals will be quickly dismissed as hype if you don’t back it up with what you claim – and supply. When you’re pressed for time or challenged with a client request, it’s better to fess up and miss a deadline or decline an assignment than to produce a bad result. You’d be surprised at how understanding and accommodating clients can be when honesty prevails. Most are less forgiving when you deliver dreck.

Be cautious about how you delegate your most important communications tasks. Sometimes, you may not be the right one to do this. Other times, you may put too much confidence in a careless vendor. Regardless of how you manage or assign such a task, it’s important to ensure what you say reflects what you do. The most inventive marketing strategy won’t work if you can’t back up the claims with performance.

Being real and careful is more important than being clever or quick. It’s not hard to stand out as exceptional, but sometimes, it can be easy not to. Why not commit this week to ensuring what you say is consistent with what you do?

Do you have stories of big wins or fails with marketing tactics gone right or wrong? Please share in the comments below. Also, big thanks to anyone who chooses to click on the easy links to the left of this post to broadcast this blog to their friends and business associates.



4 responses to “Marketing strategy fail – show, don’t tell is an important rule to remember”

  1. I am guilty of not catching my typos. I also notice sometimes that my guests who comment on my blog posts sometimes make typos. I fix them for them before I hit publish. I usually find my typos or someone for the most part will tell me in a kind way. Which I welcome. But when I get those grammar snobs.. then it’s another story.

    But I agree with you that Writer’s Digest should of been a little more aware..

    • Me too, Eleanor. Never thought of fixing typos for guests. Guess my years as a journalist still have me hesitating to alter the text (or words) of someone else. That’s a kind thing for you to do. Agreed on the grammar snobs, but when you’re pitching a proof reading product, it’s important to proof. Of course, this post wasn’t specifically about clean copy – more a cautionary note on ensuring what you’re doing reflects what you’re saying.

  2. That’s a classic! I’m terrible at catching typos – especially in comments when I’ll type straight in and hit reply without over thinking.
    But on a promotional piece offering a service like that? The irony…

    • I hear you, Jan – guilty here too. Right – that was the point – typos are a bigger issue when you’re promoting a professional service claiming to help writers get past gatekeepers. Submitting a query letter with these type of errors wouldn’t work very well :-).

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