The MadAveGroup Blog
The MadAve Blog (310)
I got a text message from my hair salon the other day, reminding me that it had been a while since my last appointment and asking me to come back in. I thought to myself, "Gee, it has been a while since my last cut!"
I called right away to make an appointment with my favorite stylist, but she was booked solid for two weeks. I asked if anyone else was free. No, I was told. No one else was open for two weeks either.
So, why send the text message prompting me to make an appointment?
Direct marketing initiatives, such as text messaging and emails, invite instant action, and when the audience takes instant action, they expect instant gratification. Now - because of my salon's message - all I can think about is getting my hair cut, but since the salon is booked for the foreseeable future, I'm making an appointment somewhere else.
Maybe the text campaign was so effective that the salon booked up quickly. A good problem for the salon, right? But they made no effort to keep my business when they couldn't accommodate my response to their marketing. And how many others did they have to turn away?
A few suggestions:
1) Before you encourage immediate action from your audience, be sure you can deliver what they'll want. Do you have room in your schedule to handle 30 new appointments? Are there enough sweaters in stock to meet your promise of a free gift-with-purchase?
2) Have a back-up plan in place to keep your customers happy if you can't meet their needs right away. Offer them a little something extra for their wait, or choose another free gift item if you run out of those sweaters.
3) Most importantly, empower your front-line staff to make little exceptions or gestures of good will. They'll go a long way toward encouraging customer loyalty.
We were supposed to be in New York City today. Our agency's directors were to fly in for a series of weekend meetings, but the winter storm predicted for the east coast cancelled our flights – which brings me to a story about customer service and how it affects brand image.
Val, our Director of Account Management, took it upon herself to secure a refund for our unusable tickets. When she called the airline, the automated attendant recording let her know that "due to heavy call volumes, you will be on hold for approximately 45 minutes." Understandable, she thought, given that hundreds of other people likely were calling at that same time.
But that 45-minute estimate wasn't even close. More than THREE HOURS later, a man with a very loose grip on the English language came on the line with the terse greeting "Confirmation number." Not a friendly "Hi, thank you for calling." Not a sympathetic "Hello, I appreciate your patience." Not a disarming "I'm so sorry for your wait. How can I help you?"
Val told several people in our office about the marathon hold time, as well as the ridiculous 41-second loop of distorted music she was forced to listen to literally more than 263 times, and the airline rep with the foot-thick accent who bristled when asked to repeat an unintelligible sentence a third time.
The airline wasn't the reason our flights were cancelled, but the airline deals with flight cancellations all the time. It's part of their everyday world. Yet, even with several days' notice that a huge storm was on the way, the airline was clearly unprepared to handle an influx of calls in a way that would leave their inconvenienced customers satisfied with the experience.
In business, the unexpected happens every now and then, but if you know your customers' interaction with your company will be disrupted on an almost predictable basis and you're still not ready to care for them properly, you're asking for a blizzard's worth of damage to your brand.
A 7-year-old boy named Luka lost one of his prized Lego characters, so he wrote a letter to Lego to see if they might send him a new one. Lego's response is legendary. Read the source story here.
It would have been enough for Lego to send Luka a form letter and a replacement piece. But Lego didn't stop at "enough."
Richard, possibly the coolest customer service rep ever, wrote Luka a personal reply. He didn't use customer service lingo or business jargon. He wrote to Luka in a way the 7-year old could understand and appreciate. With the help of Lego character Sensei Wu, Richard "defied" his boss and not only sent Luka a replacement, he sent him a special, one-of-a-kind replacement that only Luka would have.
Luka was already a fan of Lego, but now, he's a mega-fan. A devotee. So is his dad, and likely, so are a lot of other people all around the world who learned of this story.
There's a lesson here for marketers: Don't stop at "enough." Take advantage of every opportunity to create special moments for your customers, just like Richard did.
That idea is one that's completely engrained in Ritz Carlton's corporate culture. Employees there have carte blanche to spend up to $2,000 without approval to make a customer's wishes come true. Their goal is to do something unique to create an absolutely wonderful stay for a guest. Maybe a staff member finds out it's a guest's birthday and sends a bottle of champagne and a cake to the guest's room.
There are stories about the Ritz Carlton hiring a carpenter to build a shoe tree for a guest; a laundry manager who couldn't get the stain out of a dress after trying twice, and then flew from Puerto Rico to New York to return the dress personally; or the waiter who overheard a gentleman musing with his wheelchair-bound wife that it was a shame he couldn't get her down to the beach. The waiter told maintenance, and the next afternoon there was a wooden walkway across the beach leading to a "dinner tent" that was set up just for them. That's not out of the ordinary for the Ritz Carlton, and the general manager didn't even know about the walkway until it was built.
It's actions like those - going beyond "enough" - that will create not only long-lasting buzz and tremendous word-of-mouth, but customers for life. Granted, the chances are very good that your company can't afford to fly employees to hand-deliver dresses or build beach paths and shoe trees, but your staff certainly can make smaller, meaningful, authentic gestures like this one.
(Image from Professional-Images.com.)
I have an odd new mini-hobby. I watch people crossing the street. But not just any street.
After watching people use this renowned zebra crossing for only a few minutes, I was reminded of a marketing truth: When you create great content, your audience will celebrate it by sharing it, paying homage to it, even living it.
Almost 44 years after the world first saw that iconic image of John, Paul, George and Ringo crossing a London street, people are still stopping in the middle of that street to recreate the Beatles' long strides as a friend snaps their picture. I've seen it happen dozens of times. (Some continue to pose even as waiting drivers honk at them.)
Most of those people weren't even alive when Abbey Road was released, yet that album and its cover are so deeply rooted in our collective culture that, even today, people want to "live a part of the record" and capture their own Beatles experience.
You may never have been to London to walk the 'walk, but you may have added a Seinfeld catchphrase to your permanent vocabulary. Maybe you jumped on the "Whassup" bandwagon after seeing this Budweiser spot. Or perhaps you started wearing skinny ties and throwing cocktail parties after watching Mad Men. If so, you, too, have been affected by great creative content.
You may not be a television producer, and odds are you're not a Beatle, but as a marketer, you still should strive to create content that impacts your audience – and even the entire world – in a deep and lasting way. Give your audience "Something" to love. It's worth the effort.
What if I said to you that each page of your company's website should have a different font, a different feel to the copy, and a different size, shape and style of image?
What if I advised you to create a dozen billboard messages that look totally different from one other?
Or what if I recommended that each time you create radio or TV spots you should use a brand new jingle?
You'd probably think I was crazy, that's what!
None of those "suggestions" would allow you to present a consistent brand identity to your audience. Your core message and the audio / visual elements of your brand would be lost or confused. And you would derive no benefit from the public's repeated exposure to such varied presentations.
Yet, when it comes to their Facebook pages, many companies violate the basics of brand consistency with nearly every post. Sharing wacky cat videos, R-rated memes and graphics about bacon on your personal page is one thing, but that type of content doesn't reinforce your value as a company. It simply adds to the noise and clutter your customers have to wade through each day, and makes it difficult to regard your company as a provider of serious solutions.
"But we want to show off our company's fun personality," you might protest. Great. We're all for using humor to market your company. But do it by creating original content that also supports your visual brand and online marketing goals. (Here's an example.)
It's tough enough to get your audience to remember who you are and what you're about. Don't make it even harder on yourself by putting out inconsistent, unbranded images and messages that have nothing to do with what your company does.
Leading up to Christmas 2012, we posted “25 Days of Marketing Tips” on our Facebook page. Our hope was to provide our readers with tips and concepts that would inspire great marketing success for them in 2013 and beyond. In case you missed the list, here’s a recap.
Tip 5: Promote your negatives as positives. By recognizing the opportunities in your product’s shortcomings, you can re-position it in a distinctive, attractive way.
Tip 7: Treat your website like a living, breathing member of your marketing team. It requires regular care and attention in order for it to be as successful as possible.
Tip 12: Encourage positive word-of-mouth advertising by delivering exceptional customer service. Start by making sure all your employees know that their number one priority is creating happy customers.
Tip 20: Live like you were dying. If you knew your company was going out of business in 30 days, what would you do make sure it was remembered well? Then, ask yourself if you’re doing those things now.
Tip 22: Change it up. You may love the look of your current marketing pieces, but the marketplace dictates a fresh approach now and then. Your marketing must serve and appeal to your audience, not you.
Grab a cup of egg nog and enjoy our annual holiday video featuring some of our staff members. From all of us at BusinessVoice, thanks for a great 2012, and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.
A combination of personal and business reasons took me to California recently. While out there I had two experiences on either end of the "expense" spectrum that drove home a "how-you-go-to-market" basic I have long advised my clients to follow.
I spent $5 (or so) to eat an In & Out Burger, fries and vanilla milkshake. I spent considerably more to stay at a really nice resort as a small part of my visit to L.A. Both were amazing encounters and each destination knew exactly how to create the right experience.
The line at the drive-thru for the world-famous burger was around the corner. Really! All the way around the block. But it was worth the wait. The people were friendly, the food amazing, and the experience everything I had heard it would be.
Shutters (the resort) created an oasis on the ocean in Santa Monica, and they thought of everything. There was even a stamped envelope with custom stationery to send your own comments to the CEO. Not one element was left to chance at this incredible hotel.
The lesson: Determine why you stand out. Execute your plan. Know what you are. Be the best at what you do.
Whether you run a $5 burger stand or a 5-star resort, the key is identifying how you are unique.
Too many organizations try to be too many things to too many people. Figure out what you are, pay attention to caring for your customers, patients or clients, and then find ways to do those things even better. It's simple. That doesn't necessarily mean it's easy.
Guest blogger Bruce Bryan is the founder and President of B2C Enterprises, an award-winning advertising, marketing and business development firm based in Roanoke, Virginia. He's also a member of the BusinessVoice Board of Governors. To reach him, call 540/904-1229 or visit www.b2cEnterprises.com for more information.
No one expects to read Pulitzer Prize-winning literature on the solar-powered traffic signs near construction zones, but still, the picture on the left makes an argument for writing clearly and efficiently.
Why would the sign guy invent an abbreviation for the word "prepared" when the phrase "Prepare to stop" is easier to understand at a glance?
Is your marketing copy as direct as it could be, or are you taking readers on a longer, more challenging route to your point?
Whether driving by your billboard at 55 miles per hour or scanning your website, your audience often needs to see your information quickly. Make sure your content is efficient and easy to understand, or be "prepa" to lose their attention.
Small Business Saturday is November 24th.
For the third straight year, millions of Americans will show their focused support for local stores and service providers by shopping small. We urge you to join them.
Last November, we posted a piece on our blog called “The Birth of a New Christmas Tradition.” Please read it here. When you do, you’ll find many suggestions on how you can spend your holiday shopping dollars locally. And trust me: it’ll get you thinking of even more ways you can give unique gifts and support your hometown merchants.
Yes, online shopping is very convenient, but a website and a warehouse half a country away don't create jobs for your neighbors, or pump tax dollars into your town’s coffers, or sponsor your child’s Little League team.
Look here for more details on Small Business Saturday. Shop small this Saturday, November 24th – and whenever you can.
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