The MadAveGroup Blog

The MadAve Blog (338)

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. 

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.

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

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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 (scroll down) 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.

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.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012 06:02

25 Days of Marketing Tips: A Recap

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25_Days_of_Marketing_TipsLeading 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 1: Embrace what's unique about your brand. Define what makes it different and then promote those differences to help your company or product stand out.

Tip 2: Alleviate your potential customers' fears - and encourage buying - by removing road blocks that intimidate or scare away buyers.

Tip 3: Express your thanks. Showing sincere appreciation to the people who keep you in business might not only differentiate you, but encourage repeat visits as well.

Tip 4: Tell a compelling story. Stats and prices can quickly fade from your audience’s memory, but a good story may stay with them for a lifetime.

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 6: Constantly remind your staff members how important they are to delivering on your brand promise. Their interaction with your products and customers is key to the success of your company.

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 8: Use what you sell or do to fulfill your customers' basic human desires. When you satisfy the "wants" of your audience, you'll establish a place in their lives.

Tip 9: Use everyday opportunities to spread your marketing messages. Email signatures, invoices, voicemail greetings: they all can reinforce the value you bring to customers.

Tip 10: Create online videos to market your products and services. Use content that addresses the specific needs of the audience. Then, share it on your website, YouTube and social channels.

Tip 11: Actively look for ways to inject your brand's unique personality into your marketing materials. When you do, you can turn everyday touchpoints into memorable encounters.

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 13: Brush up on the ABCs of SEO - Search Engine Optimization - then, apply them consistently as you update your website's content.

Tip 14: Do what you need to do to own your product category. Focus on becoming so good at what you do that your brand name becomes synonymous with what you sell.

Tip 15: Sometimes, simple gestures make the biggest impact. They don’t require a seven-figure marketing budget - just a sincere desire to serve and please your customers.

Tip 16: Study your all-time favorite advertising to determine why it works for you. Then, apply that same reasoning when creating your own marketing materials.

Tip 17: Romance your customers. Business-to-consumer relationships are often one-sided, so you must always work to prove your value and keep your customers' fire burning for you.

Tip 18: Be sure you’re sending the right message to the right audience in the right way. That can be hard work, but it's worth the effort.

Tip 19: Make every word of your marketing content count. If a phrase or sentence on your website doesn't enlighten your audience or provide other specific value, delete it.

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 21: Use good manners to differentiate your company. It may seem old fashioned, but treating customers politely and with respect is a timeless strategy.

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.

Tip 23: Pay attention to every aspect of how you present your company. Customers understand that a lack of attention to your marketing also may indicate future trouble with your products or services.

Tip 24: Be worthy of your customers' trust. Successful marketing is about building customer share and creating repeat business, so remember: you can never go wrong by doing what's right.

Tip 25: Build customer share by investing more attention in the customers you already serve. Selling more to your current customers is a lot more profitable than always working to win new customers.

Sunday, 16 December 2012 06:11

Merry Christmas from BusinessVoice

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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. 

Define_whats_unique_about_your_businessA 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. He's also a member of the BusinessVoice Board of Governors. To reach him, call 540/904-1229 or visit for more information.

The Business of Creating Memories
Define Your Personal Brand
How Are You Different? 

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