Why I swapped my MX5 for a station wagon, Jon Maxim, Freelance copywriter

Why I swapped my MX5 for a station wagon

MX5 driving along road

I loved my MX5.

Bright red. Bose speakers in the headrest. One of the first mobile phones in Australia to be installed into a convertible. Separate hard top, as well as soft.

Polished within an inch of its life.

Why would I swap it for a station wagon (or estate, for my UK colleagues)?

You guessed it. The birth of my daughter.

Two seats just wasn’t going to work. I needed a bit more room. So, a station wagon it was.

Now, what I found interesting is that car companies started marketing to me after my daughter was born.

Too late.

The new car was already bought, sitting downstairs in the hospital carpark. With the baby seat I could never work out…

My purchase decision had been made months before. The car companies missed the clues.

What’s that got to do with copywriting?

Synchrographics. The timing of messages.

Find the triggers

Finger hovering over red button trigger

Our audience don’t just wake up one morning, and decide to buy a car.

No. There’s a journey before they get there. Triggers that lead to, shape and define a decision.

The smart marketer (and writer) tries to pre-empt the actual decision. By looking for those triggers.

My car, for example. What triggers (or behaviours) would give the potential station wagon-seller a clue?

Pre-natal classes. How about a poster there?

Doctor appointments: some promo material in the surgery, perhaps?

You might think about a bigger home. Can we do a deal with a real estate company?

‘More room to live? More room to move.’

Blogs. Videos. There are a whole load of triggers.

As a writer, I’m not just concerned with understanding what I’m writing about, or the audience.

I want my copy to go to the right person with the right message. But at the right time.

I worry about the synchrographics.

Pre-empting the decision, and getting in ahead of the competition.

And it all starts with the data.

Target targets pregnancy

Pregnant woman

Of course, the most famous (or should that be ‘infamous’) story about preemptive marketing is the one about Target.

A father complained to Target that his teenage daughter was getting coupons for baby clothes and cribs. ‘Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?’, he said.

A couple of days later, the father apologies. Turns out his daughter was pregnant, after all.

Target had used data to find patterns. Pregnant women bought certain products. They identified a list of 25, in fact.

Unscented lotion. Supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Extra-big bags of cotton balls.

So, Target targeted them (forgive the pun) with baby products.

(Interestingly, they were too targeted. It creeped people out. So, they made the baby stuff look random – mixed it in with other products.)

As I sit down to write, I want to work out the triggers (if they’re not already in the brief).

What timing will give my message a better chance of success?

There’s plenty of data out there. But sometimes it’s a question of just listening to yourself.

Days of our lives

Calendar days close-up

I think one of the most effective skills of a copywriter is to be an amateur psychologist.

To understand why people do things, how they feel, and what drives them. To do that, I’ll draw on my own life experiences.

Take something as simple as the days of the week. How do I feel on each day? Work days, at least.

Monday. Well, for me it’s catch-up day. Getting the stuff done I should have finished last week. Don’t interrupt me, cause I’m up against it.

Tuesday. My planning day. New briefs. Client meetings. WIPs.

Wednesday. Feeling good, the week’s half done. I’m into projects, ploughing away.

Thursday. Still got time to get things done. Feeling positive.

Friday. Well, the morning is spent desperately trying to get things finished. The afternoon, admitting defeat: and moving everything to the following Monday.

Sound about right?

So, what chance does a marketer have of engaging my attention on a Monday? Very little.

Friday? Nope.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are your best bet.

So, it won’t surprise you to know the highest open rate for email is Tuesday, mid-late morning.

(By the way: I’ve used Tuesday for many of my client campaigns, but I know that might not be true for all industries. In fact, here’s a breakdown of best time and day of week, by industry.)

And there’s data on synchrographics for just about everything.

Getting social

Social media icons

What about social media?

We’ve got some research to point us in the right direction. As well as my insights into how I feel on certain days.

LinkedIn. Well, it’s a great source of information. So I’ll engage on my planning day (Tuesday). And that’s what the research says: Tuesdays are best, between 10am and 11am.

(The other insight could be that you’ve had a terrible Monday. So you look for a new job on Tuesday…)

Facebook? Connecting with friends, planning the weekend (or late night shopping). Thursday and Friday, according to Hubspot. Weekends are big, too. Makes sense.

Twitter? A day I’m busy. Don’t want to get bogged down in long posts. Quick scan over lunch or on the commute home. Yep: Wednesday, 12 noon, 3pm and 5-6pm.

See? Synchrographics at work.

But wait: there’s more.

Judges granting parole

Judge's hammer and legal books

In 2011, a study looked at over 1,100 parole rulings by eight judges on two different parole boards in Israel.

Decent sample size.

They were testing the old saying that justice is ‘what the judge ate for breakfast’.

At the beginning of the day, and right after a food break, 65% of prisoners were granted parole.

Just before the breaks, almost none were granted parole.

Here’s the chart from the study:

Judges parole decision chart

Scary. Your chance of being released has little to do with the merits of your case: and more to do with how tired or hungry the judges are.

What does that mean for you?

We can use that – and the synchrographics (timing of messages) – for things like presentation and meeting times.

Judges were more likely to take a risk (by granting parole) first thing in the morning, or after a break.

Your clients and colleagues are more likely to say ‘yes’ to something first thing in the morning, or after a bite to eat.

Stuck with a presentation or meeting time at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon? Take some snacks to get the energy level up.

No-one will know why: but they’ll just feel more positive.

Timing is everything

Timing - watch faces

One of Australia’s big banks has changed the day they retrench people.

Used to be Friday.

You go home, your partner leaves you. You hit the bottle. Suicide risk.

They now retrench on a Tuesday. They thought about the synchrographics, and picked a more positive day.

As a writer, think about what time will give your message the greatest chance of engagement.

I do it a lot. And find my clients are – generally – open to delaying campaigns until a more appropriate time.

(Of course, I suggest the idea first thing in the morning, or right after lunch…)

And test this stuff. Pick different days and times for your newsletter. Or a job interview. Or to give bad news. Or good news.

Try it, and see.

Right. Things to do. Better go. Off in my station wagon…

Image sources: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.