Of ill repute
What happens when the meeting place of Rutland’s wildest gangs becomes a dance club?
Many years back there was a public house of ill repute not far from my offices, sitting resplendent on the wild borderland that marks the co-joining of the county boundaries of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.
Called “The Toppled Bollard” for reasons that will not become clear at this point, it was the scene of many an unsavoury conspiracy as often as not involving retailers of second hand 45rpm records, Ofsted school inspectors, criminal headteachers, and senior officials from the Liberal Party.
But times move, and such wild and jolly days are long behind us. The Bollard is still there, but it now has about it a serenity that belies its explosive past. The machines that made fake ID cards for the more dubious members of Parliament have been demolished, and the floor has been mopped clean.
And now the Toppled Bollard has a new role in life - as a modern jive dance club, where members of the Rutland aristocracy mingle with Corby’s lower orders in nights of jollity and attempts to learn the double arm reverse switchback, a dance move that has reduced many a retired gangster to tears if not downright penury.
I mention this as, with so much of the excitement of the borderlands now but a fading memory, I myself have returned to the old haunt to take up the occasional caper, cavort, frisk, skip, prance, romp, gambol, jig, bound, leap, jump, spring, bob, hop, trip, bounce, and, if I may be so bold, rollick.
And to my surprise, yesterday an esteemed customer of Schools.co.uk found her way to the Bollard and asked me to dance.
After a jig to Ed Sheeran’s “Castle On The Hill” she turned to me and said, “You’re very good.”
I smiled graciously, admitting the truth of what she said.
“How long have you been dancing?” she enquired.
“A long time,” I replied shortly for it is not the done thing to talk too much about the past while in the Bollard.
“You mean like five years?” she asked.
My smile faded a little. “Longer than that,” I said.
“How long?” she persisted.
“I taught the Warner Brothers to dance,” I said.
“Who are they?” she said.
If you really think you can take more of this, Tony Attwood is on Facebook.
My script writer is sacked
The headline in an email is as important as the first line in a conversation
I mentioned earlier this week that the infamous Toppled Bollard public house, seated proudly in the wild border country where Leicester and Northants collide with ancient Rutland, has of late been restored to some of its former glory and reopened as a dance club.
Being something of an aficionado of the Terpsichorean Muse I have, of course, re-acquainted myself with the establishment that is still only spoken of in this region in hushed voices behind closed doors.
And yet that reluctance to re-embrace the old place is a shame, for it makes a perfect place to which one can “boogie on down” as we regulars say, and one that I have been pleased to re-acquaint myself with.
Thus it was that last night I returned to the venue, and indeed forthwith a woman asked me to dance.
Wishing to thank her for a most perfect experience of trips, sways, spins, whirls, twirls, and even at one point a pirouette I said simply, as the music stopped, “What a superb dancer you are!”
She replied at once, “That’s the corniest chat up line on the dance floor.”
I said, “I’m not trying to chat you up.”
She said, “Oh, so you think I’m not good enough for you.”
I said, “My script writer is getting sacked in the morning.”
I shall explain a little further tomorrow.
The old rule
In direct marketing one should always grab the reader by the throat, and ensure he/she can’t escape.
I recently visited the Toppled Bollard dance club (of which it has been said), and a woman asked me to dance.
She was, to put it mildly, utterly, amazingly, incredibly, amazing.
At the end of the dance I said to her, “That was staggeringly brilliant. I could dance with you forever. When we dance it is as if we are one, we are the same person. You seem to be able to see exactly which move I am about to make before I even raise my hand. That was perfection.”
She looked at me for a long moment before replying, “Sorry what did you say? My friend was waving at me. Tell me again in a minute”.
Which reminded me of the old direct marketing rule: never get going until you’ve got attention. Grab the reader by the throat, shake him or her around a bit, tighten your grip, and then start selling.
It seems to work for me.
Confused? You won’t be after reading The Toppled Bollard Explained
Want to know what we do? It’s www.schools.co.uk
She asked me to dance
Why, when you are being experimental in your advertising, you should not panic at the first negative response.
Last night at the Toppled Bollard a woman asked me to dance - as was appropriate since the Bollard is now a dance club.
As we started she said, “Go easy with me, I’m a beginner.”
I said, “That’s ok, I’m a beginner too.”
She said, “No you’re not – I’ve watched you dancing, you’re amazing. And my friend told me you taught the Warner Brothers to dance.”
I said, “That was just a joke.”
She looked terribly disappointed, which made me think, “It doesn’t matter how clever-clever one’s comments are, it is always possible for someone to draw exactly the opposite conclusion from that which you imagined.
So I quickly added, “But I did work with Fred Astaire” and that seemed to sort things out.
And the moral of that is, apart from being careful when boasting about one’s dancing ability, if you are experimenting with your advertising be ready for things to go wrong. But don’t panic when they do.
Just because the first person who calls or emails after you’ve posted an experimental advert is negative, absolutely don’t panic, remove the ad or apologise. Negativisits are always the quickest to respond. But there are probably also lots of people chuckling away in the background.
I’ve been experimenting with “A woman asked me to dance” stories for months on Facebook. The first one got a great reaction, but then there was more or less silence - plus the odd complaint. So I did a bit of forthright research asking people if they read the pieces and what they thought.
In response to that a lot of people said yes they loved them, but as one person said, “But I am certainly not going to tell you how clever your writing is after each post. You’re head’s big enough as it is.”
Remember, you’re advertising. That’s how it goes.
Why you need to say
If you want to sell something to someone, you need to make them believe that you know.
As I may have mentioned, my hobby is dancing, and with the Toppled Bollard now reopened as a jive club, I am in my element.
And indeed, a woman asked me to dance last night.
As we danced she said, “You told my friend you worked with Fred Astaire.”
I said nothing and waited for her to continue.
At last she said, “I don’t think that’s right.”
I gave her a couple of quick twirls before replying. “You’ve found me out,” I said.
She looked straight at me. “Fred Astaire worked with Ginger Rogers,” she said, “And you’re not ginger.”
And the moral of the story is - with advertising someone is always going to misunderstand what you say. Some respond by making their adverts dead simple, but that tends to make matters worse.
Making the advert interesting is by far the most important part of advertising, and if someone misunderstands, that is compensated by the extra sales.
Teachers and Strictly
In what way does Strictly Come Whatnot inform us of how we should write our adverts?
At the Toppled Bollard Dancing Emporium a woman asked me to dance last night.
After the dance she said, “Were you on Strictly Come Dancing?”
I smiled and shook my head. “No,” I said, “I was in Strictly Ballroom”.
“Was that on ITV?” she asked.
I said “No, it was a film, made in Australia. We had to dance upside down.”
“Oh” she said.
I think she was quite disappointed about me not being on ITV.
And the moral of that is, you can’t assume that everyone will understand what you are talking about. However, if you always go back to basics in each and every advert then you will alienate those who do know about your subject, for then what you say will appear too simplistic.
So, you need to judge what your readers already know, and what they want to know, and build from there.
Remember teachers generally consider themselves experts, so you need to dangle an idea in front of them at the start which at the very least makes them think, “I probably already know this, but I’ll glance through anyway.”
This is why I love headlines that are open questions such as “What is the most effective way of…?” They suggest there is good information below, and get even the most self-opinionated recipient to start reading.
Don't say, do say.
Why one should not always say exactly that which is expected
Yesterday, at the Toppled Bollard night club, situated as it is in the less opulent regions of the Northants, Leicestershire and Rutland borderlands, a woman asked me to dance.
After two rather pleasant dances she said, ‘You never notice me.’
I said, ‘That’s an omission on my part. I will try harder.’
She said ‘That’s not good enough. Tomorrow I’m going to throw myself under your car.”
I said, ‘But I only had it cleaned yesterday.‘
This, I feels, shows that sometimes one needs to say the unexpected in order to gain attention. Advertisements and responses which simply follow the line of thought that the reader expects rarely (in my experience) lead to a sale.
The difficult issue of yachts
How not owning a yacht can be a matter of deliverance, and a guiding light in writing advertisements.
Last night at the Toppled Bollard dance club on the Southern Reach of Rutland, a woman asked me to dance.
After the dance she said, “Wow you are good. Do you own a yacht?”
I confessed I did not, but added that I had lived in Poole for 8 years and had done a lot of boating at that time – as most people living in that area do.
“Such a shame,” she said. “If you owned a yacht I’d have to marry you.”
I must confess to being rather taken aback by this conversation, but it served to remind me that it is always possible to think one is engaged in one activity (in this case dancing) when in fact the other party considers this to be something quite different (such as a proposal of marriage).
This is why I always recommend that one should not run the same advertisement over and over again, but rather keep changing the advert - just in case one’s message is being a trifle misunderstood.
Then when you find an advert that truly works, you can come back to it and either run it again or, better still, tweak it slightly so that you keep the readership (which will vanish if people think “I’ve seen that before”) while retaining the successful style and approach.
(Incidentally, in case you are wondering, not all of these little tales about women asking me to dance are reported with 100% accuracy, but curiously, this conversation did actually happen.)
Offers of violence
There is only one way to measure the effectiveness of an advert, (unless of course it is an advert like this).
On Saturday night just before midnight, at the Toppled Bollard Dance Club in the rather lawless Rutland / Leicester / Northants border country, a woman asked me to dance.
I naturally agreed, and we had a really good jive together.
At the end she said, “That was lovely. Just like my friend said, you really are good. If you ever need someone’s throat cut, any time, day or night, you can find me on Facebook.”
It made a change from being asked how long I’d been dancing.
And it also makes the point that one can, on occasion, get responses that one doesn’t expect.
I think one should always remember that, as with responses to adverts, just because one person offers to work for me as an assassin, that doesn’t mean all the clientele of the Bollard are this way inclined.
The only measure that matters are the broader figures. For example, if you send out an email you should be asking...
- What percentage of people click through from the advert to your website (an indicator of the effectiveness in the email)?
- What percentage of people go from the website to making a purchase (an indicator of the effectiveness of the website)?
- How can I get those percentages higher?
- And if the assassination gets bungled, am I likely to be implicated.
The perfume dilemma
Sometimes the way to raise sales to schools is not what you might expect
Last week, at the Toppled Bollard Dance Club on the Rutland / Northants border, a woman asked me to dance. I said, “that’s gorgeous perfume you're wearing.”
She said, “It’s French. My firm flies it into Mexico, it is smuggled over the border into the USA, and then we drive it into Canada and export it to England.”
I said, “What’s the point? The UK and France are in the EU so there is no tax.”
She said, “We’re getting ready for Brexit in two years' time.”
Which just goes to show that people’s responses to plans and ideas are not always what one might expect in advance.
Just because an advert doesn’t bring in the hoped for sales doesn’t mean the product is wrong or the medium isn’t working. It can simply mean that one hasn’t yet fully understood the way the recipients are currently thinking about the issue.
Which is why, in turn, sometimes it is worth getting the view of a person outside the company who is also involved in this type of selling.
It’s a service we always offer and best of all, it’s free. Most of our customers do get the sales or enquiries they expect. But if you don’t, just tell us, and we’ll try to find out what is wrong and help put it right.
To be asked to dance
You can’t time all of the pleasure all of the people on a thursday
A woman asked me to dance last night.
After the dance she said, “You’re that weird guy who does those ‘a woman asked me to dance last night’ posts on schools.co.uk aren’t you?.
I said, “yep that’s me.”
She said, “Doesn’t that make a lot of woman just walk away from you in disgust?”
I said, “Yep, sure does.”
She said, “Well why do you keep doing it?”
I said, “It also gets me a lot of dances.”
And my point is, that quirky adverts can annoy some people, and they might well let you know it. They might even say that they would never buy anything from a company that has advertising this stupid.
On the other hand everyone will remember you, and some of them will be people who never bought from you before but will buy this time because the adverts are so odd.