Understanding the dangers of short-termism in marketing

short-termism in marketing: short term or long term sign

Most of us have likely heard of short-termism in terms of markets, investments and even as one of the causes of the recent economic crisis.

For a long time, business leaders have been focused on delivering immediate profits to shareholders without thinking about the long-term impacts of their actions.

Unfortunately, short-termism has become an ‘entrenched feature’ of British business, according to a recent report for the Labour Party: it has become so pervasive that it now influences the way most departments act within businesses – even those not directly connected to accounting or investment.

Short-termism in marketing

Marketing is a prime example of where short-termism – a focus on quarterly budgets and monthly lead conversion – rules even at the risk of long-term costs.

The problem is that the narrow focus of short-termism does not maximise profits by thoroughly tapping customer loyalty and satisfaction opportunities, but instead leads to customer churn, which destroys loyalty and strengthens competitors while raising customer acquisition and maintenance costs and lowering profitability. – The Marketing Century

Trust takes time to build

The aim of marketing shouldn’t be to make a quick sell; rather it’s about establishing yourselves as trusted advisors. You want potential customers to come to rely on you for advice and answers so that when they come to search for the product or service you sell, you are the obvious choice (and continue to be so as they upgrade or grow).

‘When customers can share their experiences electronically with millions, customer trust becomes a business necessity—and a divining rod for any company‘s long-term success,’ argue Peppers and Rogers in their recent battle-cry against short-termism, Rules to Break and Laws to Follow.

Thinking purely about getting in enough leads to convert this quarter means you are focusing too much on those customers near the bottom of the sales funnel and ignoring all those potential folks that could be filling up the top of the funnel. Of course, ignoring them means each quarter it will become harder to fulfil those conversion quotas as you’ve built up no real base to nurture them from.

Relationships have to be maintained

Short-termism in marketing also tends to mean you are focused on luring customers in and pay no attention to them once they’ve signed on the dotted line. In fact, it is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, meaning if you were to look ahead a little you’d see that today’s customer could be tomorrow’s repeat customer, or upgrade opportunity. That’s when you’ll realise they’re worth paying attention to.

Delighting customers with relevant educational material and targeted advice means investing in copy and collateral that may not bring a return for a few quarters, maybe even a year or two, but when it does come, that return could be a lot higher than any short-term customer acquisition tactic’s return.

Content marketing combats short-termism

‘The grandees of marketing, people like George Day, Philip Kotler and Ted Levitt taught companies how marketing must create value for customers before it can create value for shareholders five decades ago,’ says Graham Hill.

The increasingly popular practice of content-driven inbound marketing brings the focus back to value for the customer and potential customer. Content isn’t created with products or features in mind, but education, advice and a genuine interest in making your buyer personas‘ lives easier, more productive and more profitable.

It’s about relationships, trust and loyalty.

Gradually broaden your horizons

Switching from short- to long-term thinking in your marketing strategies won’t be easy. Most likely it will be a gradual process of building up collateral and starting to track your leads and customers over the entirety of their research and buying journey. It will also require a stronger, more collaborative relationship with sales and developing reports that detail return on investment on a longer (but ultimately more profitable) timescale.

Take comfort though: it might sound hard, but overcoming short-termism in marketing is worth it. As addiction specialist Chris Johnstone says:

Addiction is a pathological attachment to something attractive in the short term, but destructive over time. Recovery is about looking where we’re going and choosing a path that can last.

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Articulate is looking for a marketing intern

Five guys in suits and one guy standing on his hands in jeans

Articulate Marketing is looking for a paid marketing intern. We promise rapid development of your writing and research skills, lots of mentoring and the possibility of a full-time job.

Previous interns have joined us as permanent employees, returned to their studies or moved on to editorial positions at other companies. What will you make of the opportunity?

We’re offering

  • Initially, three months’ real-world experience.
  • Responsibility for real client work.
  • Regular mentoring.
  • A chance to work with big-name clients such as Microsoft and LinkedIn.
  • Great experience and a great reference for your CV.
  • The possibility to apply for a permanent position.
  • A stipend of £1,000 a month.

Typical assignments

  • Writing case studies, white papers, emails or web copy.
  • Social media marketing.
  • Writing articles for company and client blogs.
  • Marketing plans for various projects.

What we are looking for

  • Fluent written and spoken English.
  • Good writing skills. Perhaps you already write a blog, worked in student journalism or you’ve written a thesis.
  • Tech-minded – you’ll feel at home with social media, comfortable with computers and curious about tech, although you don’t necessarily need to be a geek.
  • Analytical skills – you can assess the reliability of different sources, dig out useful information and draw interesting conclusions.
  • A strong interest in marketing or writing as a career choice.
  • Personal attributes including attention to detail, self-organisation, curiosity and quick thinking; evidenced by a track record of academic success.
  • (But a degree in marketing itself isn’t necessary. Previous interns have studied history, architecture, English and mathematics.)

What you should know

  • Articulate is a small, entrepreneurial company so this is an informal programme that will suit a rugged individualist rather than a corporate clone wannabe.
  • We expect you to work (very) hard but this isn’t an office job. You will be working remotely – at home, if you like. This requires a high level of maturity and self-motivation.
  • It would be helpful, but not mandatory, if you were able to come to London from time to time for meetings.

How to apply

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How to use social media to delight customers

Use social media to delight customers: delighted baby

Loyalty exists when an existing customer chooses to do business with you even when a cheaper, more convenient or even higher quality option is on offer from another company. – Simon Sinek

There are plenty of cute cats, and indecipherable hashtag campaigns out there, but not all social media is white noise. Channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all rich sources of customer information and provide brilliant communication tools for supporting and delighting customers.

In other words, social media is a serious business asset for building and maintaining customer loyalty.

So why delight?

Consider the following:

  • It is six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one
  • 89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service
  • Only seven percent of consumers report experiencing customer service that exceeded their expectation

Delighting your customers means you continue to benefit from the investment you made in obtaining them in the first place as they renew licences, upgrade and cross-buy from you.

You also benefit from free media as happy customers turn into promoters.  92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than all other forms of marketing. Delighting customers to such an extent that they undertake word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf provides you with the kind of marketing that money cannot buy.

Building trust and love

There are several specific ways you can use social media to delight customers, which we’ll get to shortly, but first it’s important to understand the spirit in which you undertake these activities.

More than what you do, delighting customers is about how you make how you make customers feel.

Hubspot highlights communication and education as core ideals for delighting customers:

Personal is better than impersonal

Teaching is better than neglecting

While the benefits are good for business, delighting customers shouldn’t come from a purely mercenary place. The idea is to build lasting, trusting relationships by being personable and likeable, or even better loveable, as both a brand and as individual members of the company.

Pick your place, tailor your tone

The first thing to consider when delighting is your buyer personas. You need to know where your customers are likely to be, and what sorts of conversations and questions they are having.

It’s important to pick the right place for different strategies of delighting people. Facebook is great if you have lots of followers already interacting with you on your page. However, if you are only just building your community, achieving personal interactions might be easier on Twitter where people can respond quickly and easily and find topics with hashtags and mentions.

You also want to consider your style of interaction. LinkedIn is professional and business focussed making it ideal for industry-insider tips, whereas Instagram is better if you’re looking to post pictures of your office Christmas party and develop a personable brand.

Eight ways to use social media to delight customers

  1. Responsive customer service. Twitter and Facebook in particular have become the first port of call for many customers when they have a complaint or problem. Be sure to monitor any social media accounts you have for customer service queries and respond as fast as you are able. Ideally, you should include your operating times and ideal response times in your profile in order to manage customer expectations.
  2. Proactive problem-solving. Use social media listening tools to watch out for comments or concerns around your brand, product or even general area of expertise. Customers won’t always mention you directly in a post, and may not even be expecting anyone to solve their problem – so if you can spot their issue and jump in before they even realise you can help, you’ll be creating a very happy customer.
  3. Listen and learn. ‘Stalk a little bit,’ as DigitalRoots suggests. Social listening can also be useful for doing a little bit of research into the frustrations, needs and interests of your customers to help you tailor your delighting actions better.
  4. Share in their success. Promote your customers and celebrate their success. Respond to positive mentions of your company, and help your customers to expand their reach through your social media channels. After all, their stories are likely to resonate with similar buyer personas who may be earlier in the sales cycle and still deciding whether or not to become a customer.
    Hubspot customer-tweet
  5. Disseminate custom content. Inbound marketing isn’t just about getting people into and through about the sales funnel: it’s also about keeping them coming back even once they’ve made that initial purchase. Create content like webinars, training guides and how-to blog posts that help customers get the most from their purchase.
  6. Go above and beyond. Delighting customers can often mean surprising them. Aim to exceed expectations and offer more than the minimum. How you do this depends on your business and your customers, but WestJet offers a great example.
    Lost toy tweet from WestJet
  7. Own up and update. You might curse social media for its always-on, instant reaction culture, but when it comes to problems, it can actually work in your favour. Owning up to mistakes or technical issues straight away and keeping customers regularly updated as you solve the issue helps to minimise criticism and upset. 37Signals is a great example of this – just look at the comments below their update about a recent DDoS attack.
  8. Solicit feedback. Ask questions and find out from the people who are actually using  your product or service how it can be improved. And be sure you intend to respond and react to that feedback and show you respect your customers’ opinions.

Social media is one tool among many

Finally, remember that while social media is an incredibly useful and versatile tool, it’s not the only one at your disposal for delighting customers.

Be sure to pick up the phone now and then, or, even better, send a hand written note. Above all, find out how your customers want to be loved and delighted and do just that.

(Hat tip to Nadia Hatoum for the photo)


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Are you an entrepreneur or a manager? Take our 30-second test!

entrepreneur and manager stereotypes

A couple of years ago, I asked if you were a Looney Tunes person or a Disney person.

(Clue: Disney people like rhyme, Looney Tunes people like rhythm.)

More recently I asked if you were a geek or a creative (how or why?).

This got me thinking about the difference between managers and entrepreneurs.

Both alike in dignity, as the saying goes, but with very different outlooks on life. Which one are you? 

Instructions: tick all the boxes that apply to you and then compare the total number of ticks in each column.

Manager Entrepreneur
Wants to be somebody Wants to do something
PC Mac
Excel PowerPoint
Consistency Spontaneity
Competitive Innovative
Orchestra conductor Jazz pianist
Brains Guts
Metrics Results
Status anxiety Cash flow anxiety
Tries to impress the boss Tries to impress VCs
Reads The Economist Reads Fast Company
Studies Machiavelli Studies John Boyd
Evolution Revolution
Process Context
Starbucks Monmouth
Engineering Architecture
Writes reports Writes blog posts
Classification Prioritisation
Golf lessons Flying lessons
Welch Branson
Motivational Inspiring
96 hour week 96 hour week

Did we miss anything? How do you tell the difference? Which one are you?

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Deadlines don’t replace planning: how to get your copy on time

Man looking at watch for deadline with whip in hand

Handing over your content creation to an agency and hoping something good crawls out of the morass of the copywriter’s mind can be scary, as Clare has said before, but with the right approach and the right copywriting partner, letting go needn’t mean losing control.

Setting a deadline

As much as copywriters love to hate deadlines, we thrive off them.

A realistic and definite deadline helps us plan what needs to be done and when we can do it. Being vague about the deadline suggests that you haven’t got a clear objective and plan for the content, so when you really do need the work, it’ll be a messy rush job.

Just setting a deadline, however, is not enough.

Contacting your writer at the eleventh hour and expecting ‘In Search of Lost Time‘ by Sunday will leave you with nothing but limp, tardy copy.

Writers are human – we can only do so much each day. And writing isn’t just ‘writing’; copywriters need time to plan, think and edit.

Also, if you’re asking for more copy, it will take longer. A couple of 200-word emails won’t take long, but if you’re looking for an in-depth 3,500-word ebook you need to allow time for more research and editing.

So, while word counts and deadlines make us move faster, good planning is the key to quality, timely copy.

Hatching a plan

This means a good brief. The better the brief, the better the copy and the faster the turnaround.

You need to be clear about what you want, when you want it and how you want it. It also helps having style guidelines and buyer personas to guide the messaging and tone of the content.

You can draw this up yourself before you engage the copywriter but ideally, you want to involve the writer in your planning process as early as possible so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet from the get-go.

The more involved in your thinking we are the more effective we’ll be. There’ll be no nasty surprises and we’ll know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Any resources or collateral you have also smooths things along, particularly if you want the copy to touch on specific products and services. Product brochures, internal sales sheets, slide decks and previous examples are all useful fodder for the writer.

Giving great feedback

The final step is deciding and agreeing on who has responsibility for edits and the final sign off.

Ideally this should be the job of one person – editing by committee tends to suck the life right out of copy – but if it does need to be reviewed by multiple people, you need to collate the feedback yourself before you send it to the writer. If we get feedback in dribs and drabs, we don’t know which feedback has priority and the content gets strung out, being pulled in too many different directions.

Your feedback should give praise where it’s due but be direct and specific in its criticism. Just rewriting the copy yourself or saying, ‘We don’t like this bit. Please change,’ doesn’t help the writer to do a better job next time.

Getting to know you

Of course, the best way of consistently getting good copy on time, short of whip cracks and death threats, is to pick and stick with an agency that you trust and get on with.

You might be able to get cheaper copy elsewhere, but with it comes risk and unpredictability.

Building a lasting relationship with copywriters who understand and deliver what you want allows you to feel out one another’s idiosyncrasies and styles, making the planning–writing–feedback process that little bit faster and more fluid.

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16 go-to sources for copyright-cleared images

Statue of a man taking a photo for copyright-cleared images blog

The Internet isn’t short on images. But finding copyright-cleared images for your marketing content can take extra time that you don’t have.

The site design, the quality of relevant photos and how well the search tool works can determine whether an image site is truly useful. Plus, the terms of use can be tricky to navigate.

Instead of worrying about whether the copyright on an image will cause trouble for you, check out these sites to find your go-to sources for usable images that enhance your marketing content.

Creative Commons and Public Domain

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr is a bottomless repository for amateur and professional photos alike. Many of those photos are available for use as long you credit the account the image came from. You may have to sift through a few random images, but you will find unique photos to set your marketing content apart.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia contains hundreds of thousands of images under the creative commons license and in the public domain. You can find historical and current photos with licences spelled out on each page.

Pixel Perfect Digital

This site is run by a single photographer and the site design and photos are high quality. All photos are available under the Creative Commons licence which requires attribution.


This website has a simple design and is recommended by more than a few bloggers. While there are some low quality images to sift through, it allows use of the ‘free photos’ without attribution.


The site offers many high quality photos with different licences such as Creative Commons and Public Domain for each photo. The search tool works well, but the photos are also sorted into a wide range of categories.


Again, this site requires attribution under the Creative Commons licence for its images, but offers high quality photos that aren’t your typical marketing stock photo. The search tool produced somewhat random results, but the clear categorisation of images on the site makes up for it.

Unrestricted Stock

Limited to Photoshop files, the site provides simple, appealing and free icons in a number of categories. The terms of use are simple and easy to understand.

Search engines

Google Images

Of course you can’t take any old photo from Google. That’s asking for trouble. But you can single out photos available for commercial use in the Advanced Settings. Many of the images returned are sourced from image sites like the ones in this list, but with the power of Google behind the search.


This organisation defines the Creative Commons licence, but also allows you to search individual image sites for images which fall under those terms.

Registration required

Freerange Stock

The sign-up is free and grants access to free stock-quality photos. The majority of the photos are high quality with a few random shots in the mix.


This site has easy to understand terms of use and the photos are a consistently higher quality. The search tool is effective and the photos appear to be curated by the site administrators.


Pixabay promises that all pictures uploaded to the site are in the Public Domain and free for personal and commercial use without attribution. Signing up grants you access to a wide variety of photos and clip art.

Subscriptions and royalties


The site does offer the occasional free photo, but their main inventory of stock images is subject to a monthly fee. Their terms of use are extensive, but if your content requires standard stock photos, the site is worth a look.


Free Digital Photos offers free photos in small sizes, but larger sizes are available for a one-time fee per image download. The site contains a wide variety of standard stock and clip art.

Icon Finder

The site offers icons and social media symbols at a small fee. The images are high quality and would look great next to your copy, in an eBook or on a website.


This site offers pay-as-you-go and subscriptions at a lower cost with up to twenty downloads per day. The images are high quality and available for multiple industries and categories.

Your marketing content may contain some excellent turns of phrase and truly illuminating ideas, but without images, your marketing content won’t attract the kind of attention you want.

You might stick to the standard stock photos or get a little creative with the images in your marketing content. Either way, find the site or sites with the style, quality and type of images that will complement your content or campaign and catch the reader’s eye.

(Hat tip to David Goehring for the photo)

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WTF???!!!! Lean punctuation in a world with too many exclamation marks

Excessive punctuation – OMG with too many exclamation marks

Have we hit peak punctuation?’ asks Megan Garber in The Atlantic. She highlights a growing trend towards excessive, almost epic, levels of punctuation.

Peak punctuation

Even as we exhort writers to use fewer, shorter words, people are using more and more punctuation and quasi-punctuation. For example:

  • Why use one exclamation mark when three or four shouts even more surprise? (‘Prime Rib Saturday!!!!’)
  • The humble ellipsis (‘…’) is now a dramatic pause worthy of the Royal Shakespeare Company. (‘OK……..’)
  • Multiple question marks have become the equivalent of an arched, ironic eyebrow (‘WTF????’)
  • Then there are smileys, emoticons and emojis. ;-)

I think all this has evolved from informal email or chat where there is a desperate need for emotional context. We’re adapting to new electronic media. In fact, Garber argues that new technology – in particular video chat and embedded images – will reduce the need for all those exclamation marks.

Alternatively, try ‘some sort of mood stabilizer’, suggests the ABC…Silly blog (also the source of the OMG image above).

Punctuation danger

There is, however, a huge danger for writers in becoming too formal and starchy.

But, while we strongly believe in a relaxed conversational tone of voice for almost all businesses, there is an equal and opposite danger in becoming too relaxed. Businesses should avoid over-punctuation and embedding too much context in public copy.

You don’t want to sound like a bank manager or lawyer but equally, you don’t want to sound like a textually challenged teenager.

Lean punctuation

At Articulate, we’re punctuation minimalists. Lean punctuation means using as few speed bumps as possible in your text. Our writer’s guide has the following advice:

  • We don’t capitalise internet or website.
  • We use percent not per cent or %.
  • We use sentence case for headlines and subheadlines.
  • No comma before ‘and’ in a list, eg ‘One, two and three’ not ‘one, two, and three’.
  • Leave one space after a full stop.
  • We put full stops at the end of bullet points unless they are clearly not sentences in their own right (eg a list of single words).
  • Do not use full stops in abbreviations such as Mr, Dr, eg, ie, etc.
  • Spell out numbers from one to ten and anything that is already a number (eg Chapter 7) and percentages (eg 6 percent). Use figures from 11, except at the start of a sentence when they should be spelt out.
  • Dates are written like this: 12 March 1969.
  • We avoid acronyms unless they are very familiar (eg DVD, PC) or a client product name and we spell out the meaning very clearly.
  • Avoid italic text apart from foreign words, unless they are so familiar that they have become anglicised eg status quo, carte blanche, déjà vu, etc. But you probably shouldn’t be using unfamiliar foreign words anyway.
  • We use ‘single quotation’ marks for speech and double quotation marks for nested quotations: ‘and then he said “that’s a good idea” all of a sudden’.
  • Punctuate the quote as required by the quote and punctuate the sentence as required by the sentence.

Our job is to write for our readers and make it as easy as possible for them to read, enjoy and remember our copy. Punctuation gets in the way like small Lego bricks in the carpet when you want to walk around barefoot. Use it sparingly.

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Free Articulate events in London: Introduction to content marketing

Introduction to content marketing event

Attract, convert, close, delight customers

Get a free introduction to content marketing from Articulate’s CEO, Matthew Stibbe.

  • Create compelling content that brings in visitors
  • Get more traffic to your website
  • Cut the cost of lead acquisition
  • Integrate your website, social media, email and CRM
  • Monitor key marketing metrics and ROI

Grab a beer, spend an hour or two and get inspired.


This talk is for anyone involved in marketing: entrepreneurs, managers, marketing managers and agency account managers.

The speaker is Matthew Stibbe, CEO of Articulate Marketing. He brings 12 years’ experience working with clients including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, LinkedIn and Symantec.



6:00PM Arrival, drinks, chat

6:30PM Getting started with inbound content marketing

7:30PM Drinks and networking

How much

Tickets are free. (Also priceless.) There are three talks and locations to choose from:

Where and when

Book tickets for Chiswick 3 June

Book tickets for Clerkenwell 4 June

Book tickets for London Bridge 5 June

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Hemingway: the app that makes you a better writer

Hemingway app

Hemingway highlights complex sentences, complex words, adverbs and passive sentences.

We love tools that help writers get better. We’ve written about lots of them in the past, including:

We even created a few writing tools of our own, including a concentration timer, a readability checker and a set of inspirational marketing cards. And we’ve given away our proofreading checklist and our our briefing checklist.

But now we just discovered a really cool online app that embodies many of the lessons we try to teach when we do writing training for clients. It’s called Hemingway and it visually highlights:

  • Hard to read sentences
  • Mischievous adverbs
  • Opportunities to use simpler words
  • Passive sentences

If you’re not sure your writing is concise, confident or clear, following Hemingway’s advice will help a lot.

Hemingway feedback

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