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The Mad Ave Collective

We're working on a new way to bring creative talent and business together. It's called The Mad Ave Collective, and whether your company needs freelance creative talent or you are a creative professional, you can benefit. 

The Collective works two ways - as a physical space and as an online showcase.

The Space

On-site members of The Mad Ave Collective lease very affordable space in a newly renovated floor at 1600 Madison Avenue in Toledo's UpTown District. It's an open-concept design with shared conference / presentation rooms, as well as available private offices.

When you work out of The Collective, you'll have three sources of job opportunities:

1) Overflow work from the agencies of Madison Avenue Marketing Group. (We're just a couple floors upstairs.)

2) Jobs posted on The Collective website.

3) Collaborative work with other members of The Collective.

On-site members of The Mad Ave Collective also get:

  • A very affordable workspace with a short-term commitment
  • Private spaces for phone calls and meetings
  • A professional address where you can present to clients and prospects
  • Free admission to the monthly speakers series
  • Networking and social opportunities with other members of The Collective

The Website

Even if you don't live near Toledo's historic UpTown District, you can still join The Mad Ave Collective as an online member. That will entitle you to present your profile and portfolio to potential clients and other creatives who may want to collaborate with you on projects. 

Need to Hire Freelance Creative Talent?

You'll be able to look through profiles and portfolios of all The Collective members and chose the creatives you want based on their past work, their ratings and other factors. It'll be an easy way to find the skills and talent you need quickly without committing to the time and expense of a full-blown hiring process.

Take a look at the video below to see the new space in its early stages. We're almost ready to open, so give us a call to reserve your space: 419/473-9000, or check our blog, News section and Facebook page often for the latest updates on The Mad Ave Collective.  

Put Yourself On HoldI know: why would you call your own company and ask to be put on hold, right? 

The answer: Because your company puts customers on hold, and you want to make sure their experience is the best it can be.

Checking your automated systems - such as your On Hold Marketing, website and others - to make sure they're functioning properly is well worth your time.

When you go to our blog post on the topic, you can listen to some unfortunate audio that would make any Marketing Director cringe. It just may inspire you to review your own systems. Read "Put Yourself On Hold" on the BusinessVoice website. 

Party Supplies BWould you ever guess that this building is a great source of party supplies?


Neither did anyone else, so the company is going out of business.

Party CentralA nondescript, brick office suite with small windows and a sign that's barely visible from the road does not scream "Come inside and get your fun!"

The company didn't clearly communicate its value. Maybe they thought that, simply by opening a store, customers would come. It rarely works that way.

As a marketer, a big part of your job is making it easy for people to find you and then buy from you. If potential customers can't see what you do as they drive by, you're losing business. If they can't find your website with a Google search of your product category, you're losing business. If you don't consistently remind even long-time customers about all the ways you can serve them, you're losing business.

One of our best clients is Mountain View Tire, a 30-store chain in southern California. And you guessed it, they sell tires. But 63% of their revenue comes from automotive service. So, with our encouragement, they recently adjusted the public name of their company to Mountain View Tire and Auto Service.

Earth shattering?

Not exactly. But soon, their signs, website, radio spots, On Hold Marketing, and all of their other visual and audible touchpoints will deliver even more value, letting people know - maybe for the first time -that Mountain View provides automotive service, as well as tires.

Consumers are too busy to guess about what you do. And they have plenty of other choices if you're too hard to find. Make it as easy as possible for potential customers to choose you. 

It's funny how thoughts and ideas can change over time.

Back when the automobile was still an infrequent sight on America's roads, some people referred to it as the "devil wagon." Today, everyone who owns a vehicle knows how invaluable it is to their daily lives. Although I still think my car is possessed.

In just a few short years, our views on social media have evolved as well. Madison Avenue Marketing Group's Jessica Miller began thinking about that when she saw a tweet about an Instagram post about a Facebook tip...while humming the LinkedIn theme song. (Her blog post on the subject isn't nearly as confusing as that.)

Read "Social Media: How Often Should You Post" on the WebArt blog.

Monday, 25 March 2013 09:21

March Marketing Madness

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March_Marketing_MadnessWhile the nation is busy going mad for college basketball, we thought we'd express what makes us mad (or at least a little irritated) about marketing. We've got a hunch these gripes may bother a few of your customers, too.

After narrowing the list, here are our "final four" pet peeves and the reasons you may want to avoid them.

1) Sneaky ads and their disclaimers. There's a car dealership in town that uses its radio spots to shout about one of its "incredible" deals. The commercials end with a rapidly-read, low-volume disclaimer that states there are actually only two cars on the lot at that low price.

Takeaway: That's the kind of behavior that gives certain industries a bad reputation and perpetuates a general mistrust of advertising. Customers will discover lies and exaggerated claims. When they do, you may lose them forever. Use your marketing content to promote the unique truth about your company. If you don't have enough honest value you can promote, it's time to re-evaluate your product or service.

2) Advertising to attract new customers while under-serving current customers. This can be especially insulting to your long-time buyers if your marketing materials stress the quality of your service or offer special savings to first-time customers.

Takeaway: It's much easier and less costly to grow relationships with your existing customers than to always be on the lookout for new business. Convert your current customers into brand evangelists by serving them remarkably well and they'll advertise your company for you with online reviews and great word-of-mouth.

3) Misspellings and poor grammar. Blogs and social media have made it possible for anyone to publish original content, but because the pre-publishing process rarely includes the checks and balances of traditional media, the quality of online content often suffers. Most bloggers don't use editors, proof-readers or fact checkers. Copy errors are even common on many well-known websites. And, yes, they can make for a maddening reading experience.

Takeaway: Mistakes damage your reputation and may scare away potential customers. Readers might logically assume that carelessness with your public marketing content also signals lax quality control in the behind-the-scenes areas of your operation.

4) Reaching out to customers too frequently. Online tools make it relatively easy and inexpensive to contact existing and potential customers, but if you do it too often, you run the risk of alienating them.

Takeaway: True, you need to repeat your marketing message many times to get it to stick, but that doesn't mean you should inundate your audience with daily emails and hourly Facebook posts. Inboxes and social media pages are more personal spaces, and unlike many other media channels, the consumer can control which marketers have access. If you send too often, you'll get blocked or blacklisted, and earn a reputation as a two-bit spammer. Whenever you send or post content, make sure it's created with your audience's needs in mind.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 05:24

When Marketing, Planning and Timing Are Crucial

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Be prepared to satisfy your marketing promisesI 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.

Friday, 08 February 2013 17:36

Can Your Brand Withstand the Next Storm?

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Bad_Customer_Service_Affects_Brand_ImageWe 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.

Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:01

Customer Service: Don't Stop at "Enough"

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Lost_Lego_creates_PR_Home_RunA 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

Abbey_Road_Crossing_WebcamI have an odd new mini-hobby. I watch people crossing the street. But not just any street.

I recently discovered the Abbey Road Studios website. It includes a real-time feed from a webcam that's trained on the crosswalk The Beatles made famous in 1969 with their Abbey Road album cover

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.

Branding_with_FacebookWhat 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.

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