I spent the first part of my career in journalism. And sure, there’s some stuff to get used to. Like, we spell “lead” “lede,” and instead of saying “paragraph” we say “graf.” And, instead of starting a critique like, “This piece is good, but..,” we just start with what sucks and assume you have enough self-confidence to survive without crying. Because there’s just no time to make you feel nice.
Needless to say, it wasn’t hard to be pulled into copywriting. First off, it pays real money I can feed my children with. Second, nobody yells at you.
I’ve been copywriting a long time, but since I’ve been working at ID, it’s starting to sink in that they do things a little different. They’re like B2B Marketing, Now With Extra Marketing. They just like to do things more. Like they’re the Tang of B2B marketing or something. Hopefully you’re picking up what I’m putting down, because I’m all out of analogies.
It’s been a really weird cultural shift and the terminology has been dizzyingly alien to me. If you’re looking to join the ID team, you’re in luck. There’s a lot of really cool stuff to work on here, and everyone is crazy-talented. And you may know the B2B marketing terminology. And you may have a sixth sense for abbreviated Slack slang. If so, excellent. If not, read on, because here’s a crash course guide to the weird culture of ID. Also, if you’re looking to judge someone based on her hilarious newbie gaffes (and who isn’t), also read on. There will be plenty of that here, too.
First step = ask a lot of questions
When I started contracting at ID, I wasn’t new to copywriting, so I just observed and tried to learn from observing. Finally, I had to call a meeting with the creative director, Theo Romeo, to ask some questions because I was getting the distinct impression I was failing. (Confirmed.)
The meeting was like that scene in Wolf of Wall Street where Matthew McConaughey tells Leonardo DiCaprio how to be a stockbroker in five minutes. At one point, Theo actually said the following three quotes. As soon as he said them, I really felt compelled to write them down. Not just for my job. For my whole life.
“That’s not bullshit. It’s just surface-level truth.”
“Be the lawyer for your audience. Be sure to say, ‘Yeah… that’s not going to work for my client.’”
“In B2B, marketing is the beacon, sales is the closer.”
This is real shit! That happened in my real life! And when you work at ID, it can be your life too. Just ask questions. Buy someone a drink and ask more. You’ll learn a ton. I was severely underdressed and under-coked for this conversation (at least when compared to Wolf of Wall Street), but I’m glad I had it, because I was wrong about so much B2B marketing agency terminology.
I painted houses in college. Which, who cares? My point is, my boss was a woman who sang every song like she knew every single word. But, she didn’t. She got every word wrong, all the time. She thought Beast of Burden was Beef Stew Warden. Enough said.
I digress. My point is, she’s me. I’m she. I jumped into the ID culture hole so quick, and I made a lot of assumptions because I was used to the journalism world. And if you ask questions in journalism, you get yelled at.
Here’s some of the things I had terribly wrong, and as a service for all those who may be coming to ID from other fields, or who might not know what Bob Ross has to do with Slack, I thought I’d let you know what I learned, up front. Stand on the shoulders of newbies making assumptions and all that.
Vegetarian food and ‘90s fashion — understanding the sales funnel
The first time I had to write emails for ID, Nikki Flores, who’s basically my guide, told me to look at this crazy spreadsheet that crashes my browser every time I open it (it’s that big) and find a tab labelled SIP (still don’t know what that means — services in private?) to find out what emails I needed to write.
And I did that. And the columns said stuff like “BOFU Blind” or “TOFU.” I remember just squinting at the screen. Tofu. Great. Got it. Eat that all the time. BOFU? Is this like FUBU, or something? Okay, so “by ours, for you.” Nope, that didn’t work. I PM’d Nikki:
Me: Hey, Nikki — What is a TOFU Blind?
Nikki: TOFU = Top of Funnel – That speaks to the buyer’s journey messaging of the copy. For example, with TOFU, you wouldn’t be writing “We’re so good. Work with us cos we’re the best” like you would when you get down to BOFU (Bottom of Funnel) emails. Instead, you’re speaking to the target audience’s pain points only. You’re not giving them the solution right away, rather, you’re setting up that there IS a solution to their pain point.
Nikki: Also, Blind = EM, and FEM. Unless it’s LG.
Why not just TOF? And, did you see that last aside? Blind = EM, and FEM. Unless it’s LG. (Email and follow-up email, unless it’s lead generation.) It’s alphabet soup and it’s crazy. TOFU blind is not some weird vegan centenarian, but rather an email that talks more about my reader than my client (TOFU) and that gives content (offer) away without asking for my reader’s information (gated landing page, or GLP). Yes, I know. That seems very obvious now.
Key takeaway: Find your guide (you can’t have Nikki, she’s mine, just kidding, you can ask her stuff too), and ask them to explain anything you need. That way you can privately blunder without judgement!
Demand Generation: Not a new tagline for millennials
Did you know “millennial” refers to anyone born between 1980 and 2000, roughly? No one’s really laid down the definitive years, but that’s about it. That’s a 20-year generational span! Which is why I like to distance myself from the “millennial” tag. I was born in the best year: 1984. Everyone knows it. Let’s leave it at that.
I digress again. What I’m trying to say, is I blame my “demand generation” mix up on the Boomers. You know, the generation that ruined the whole world? Them. Because all they’ve been doing since my generation’s been old enough to do cool stuff is call us selfish. We’re the “me” generation. We’re entitled. We’re lazy. We’re instant gratification junkies that need everything right now. We’re the demand generation.
Apparently my assumption that “demand generation” referred to millennials and “demand generation marketing” meant we catered to millennial consumers through social media and tech-savvy apps was wrong. Like, embarrassingly wrong. Demand Generation, it turns out, is generating demand for what you’re selling.
To explain this to me, Theo told me a little story about an Italian restaurant owner trying to drum-up business. He asks a family on the street if they’d like to try his restaurant, and they say they’re not hungry. In fact, they’re going to the art museum. So, he stalks them to the art museum, shows them an exhibit about food, acts like he’s a tour guide there (this is getting creepy, I think we’d all agree) and then waits for someone to say they’re hungry. Then he’s like, “Cool beans. I have a restaurant for that.” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah. And, you’ve been such a groovy tour guide, I’ll eat at your place.”
That’s demand generation. Meeting someone on their customer journey, wherever that is, offering a bunch of stalking for free, and then making them eat Italian when they wanted sushi.
Maybe I should revisit this with Theo. I think I have the stalking thing right, though.
Key takeaway: When you work here, you will get a lot of informative emails about demand generation and more from John Common. Read them all and profit.
There are a lot more weird marketing terms, and you probably know them if you’re reading this blog. And if you don’t, and you’re a grown adult in marketing, call Theo because I don’t have enough time here to explain it all. All I can tell you is don’t merge the consumer journey triangle with the sales funnel — DON’T DO IT. THEY ARE NOT COMPATIBLE!!!
ID is an amazing place filled with creative, really smart people who are always eyes-on-the-prize working to produce cutting-edge shit and be really attentive and nice about it. (See what I did there? Good ol’ B2B marketing constructive criticism. If I was still in journalism, I would start writing here. →)
But, they’re really weird here, too. First, they put the smiling extroverts (Account and Project Management Teams) upstairs in the sunshine. And the creatives and tech in the basement. Which, fine. We don’t need your fancy music and sunlight. Loud noises scare us and the sun just glares on our computer screens. I’m just complaining here. Clearly, I’m jealous of the upstairs people, and even though up until a month ago I didn’t understand the difference between account management and project management, I do know that when they’re sick or on vacation everything bursts into flames and we just wail in the basement, holding each other. Luckily, that will change soon, as ID is moving into a new building (with lots of windows!) and we’ll all be on the same floor together. In sunshine.
But, aside from the current UV deprivation, you also have to know a bunch of ID-specific terminology and code at ID. Sometimes even to pass work between employees.
On my first day, Caitlin Kelley, who was dressed like Bob Ross for some reason, (Halloween, maybe?) complete with a Manitoba tuxedo and a ‘fro, taught me how to use Slack. So yes, Bob Ross taught me how to use Slack, which is Facebook for businesses. Except instead of fun stuff, it’s just work all the time. They’ll try to say, “Well, you can do gifs!” (IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: GIF is pronounced like “gift” without the “t.” Stop trying to make jif a thing.) But it takes like five minutes to scroll through all the weird, dissociative gifs to find a good one and then you have to go back to work.
Anyway, on Slack, when you “handoff” a creative file to another IDer, you have to do it all formal like, which includes learning the four-letter code acronym for the company, the project number (which differs if LG or LN), then what round of edits we’re on, and then nothing else. Don’t put anything else there, and name your file accordingly, or Lindsay McCord will sigh disapprovingly. (She will never yell, though. She’s very nice and this isn’t journalism.)
So, basically ID speaks its own language on Slack.
Well, hopefully you feel all caught up now, and ready to start on your fast-paced ID journey. It’s a lot to take in, for sure, but whenever I’m working on a LN T1 Suite — TOFU Blind, and I’m focusing on how to reach the consumer on their journey and pull them in. I’m always really excited to be working on cool stuff all the time, with really talented people. Writing something that later turns into a functional, informative, interactive piece is really fulfilling and being a part of the weird genius team that put it together feels like a privilege. Also, I think I get everything now. Though when I told that to Nikki recently, she laughed. “Yup. And now it’ll all change.”
In short, if you’re thinking about working at ID, then there’s a lot to be excited about. But part of being in a smart, quick-thinking team is that you have a lot to learn to start. But, you wouldn’t be working at ID if you couldn’t manage that. Good luck and have fun.
Now, for your moment of zen — Theo’s diagram explaining the group account team model: