Getting the basics right. Lessons from my three year-old son’s hated daycare.

My son hates his daycare.

But he’s tough. He tolerates it. We asked him if he liked his teachers, and yes, he likes his teachers. Does he like the lunches and happy feet? Sure, that’s ok.

So what don’t you like about it? His bottom lip trembles and a little tear wells in the corner of his eye. They don’t have any CARS or DIGGERS.

There’s the problem. And it’s a lesson for us all.

It’s our fault. We were sold on the healthy food options and the French classes and all the other guff that comes with a Sydney Eastern Suburbs daycare. (Don’t judge. They’re all like that nowadays. Even if we did have other options, my wife would have won that argument anyway). When we did the tour we looked at all the puzzles and construction blocks that adhere to the latest early childhood theories and nodded.

We simply assumed cars and trucks would be there. But no. We were seduced by the flashy stuff and ignored the basics.

Marketing plans are the same.

There’s an incredible amount of sophistication brought to bear in modern brand building. All glittery and enticing. A fancy film shoot, PR launches, influencer outreach, brand pillars and dabbles in the latest TikTok-y thing whatever it may be. All beautifully integrated to trigger an action from a prospect.

E-mail design is the basic thing you must get right in your project.

It is where the rubber hits the road. Where lapsed prospects come good. And where once-purchasers become thrice-purchasers.

It’s not flashy. It’s not something that draws gasps at dinner parties, and knowing winks at conferences. But if you don’t get this basic right, your brand is a sparkling, sleek V8 beast sitting on cinder blocks.

Just because we’re familiar with it doesn’t mean it’s easy

We all think we know how e-mail works.

It’s one of the earliest mass-market inventions of the digital age, and it’s certainly the most pervasive. But the number of emails that are discarded from inboxes without even a glance are astounding.

Having your messaging firstly recognised as being distinct from spam, and then opened and engaged with, is a major challenge. It requires just as much strategic and creative thinking as any other part of your marketing mix. But it’s so often neglected as an afterthought by creative thinkers.

That’s why we design customer journeys backwards

Everyone likes to see the shiny website and sparkling comms strategies and layouts. And that’s how they’re usually presented. But e-mail design has an outsized influence on your bottom line. That’s what we do first.

Increasing engagement with email by 10% is more valuable to your business than a 10% lift in people liking an ad or following your social channel. Because the chances of getting a sale from it is much greater.

To maximise results we have to resist the temptation to begin designing at the beginning where a customer is first intrigued. Design thinking starts at the bottom.

A customer journey is not a road trip where the journey itself forms a magical part of the overall experience. It isn’t the Ghan. It’s a plane flight. You want your customers to get to your destination with a minimum number of transfers, minimal hassle and as quickly as possible. The final result is everything.

A final anecdote to bring it together.

A great friend of mine just bought a business. A mechanic shop in the Sunshine Coast.

He’s a really solid marketer. He gets business.

The business was doing very respectable numbers already. It was clean and well managed. But the previous marketing was being done by the owner’s daughter who had set up fundamental socials and a workable website and that was about it. Which is why he sniffed the opportunity.

The first thing he tackled was e-mail.

He set up service reminder calendars, created referral incentives and a series of cross-promotions of the different aspects of the business. For example, if a customer had booked a service he’d follow up with an automated email a few weeks later. The e-mail would offer a discount on a full detail package.

He wanted to do it right and put the business’ best foot forward. Not a small task at all. It’s early days, but results suggest that this alone has boosted revenue significantly over the same period last year.

Remember this.

E-mail is the door-to-door salesman of the modern sales funnel.

It’s hard graft. You’re not going to get through every door. But the doors you do get through makes it entirely worth it.