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Help Your Audience Focus

My wife Amy and I were shopping for our first house in 1993.

Our Realtor, Brian, walked us through a few homes during the first two weekends of our search. Then, on our third trip, he showed us six houses in just one afternoon.

By that night, I couldn’t keep any of the homes straight.

In my mind, I put the perfect kitchen from house number one next to the great room in house five. I moved the ugly fireplace from the brick two-story into the den of the sprawling ranch.

During our tours, I had to take in a lot of information with very little context. I was seeing the homes and their features for the first time in relatively quick succession. And since I couldn’t keep them separated, I wasn’t able to make a confident buying decision.

Brian called the next day.

“I think you should see the fourth house again,” he said. “It has everything you’re looking for.”

We agreed to another tour. But this time, we looked only at the fourth house.

As we walked through that second time, everything came into focus. I was able to concentrate on the amenities and details. I could see the advantages of owning that home.

I was also amazed at how I missed all those benefits during the first tour.

We bought the house, started our family there and made it our home for nine years.

The Advertising Equivalent

Your potential customers live in a cluttered media marketplace. There’s a lot to see and hear, and there are countless others clamoring for their attention. It’s no wonder your message could get lost, forgotten or confused with that of other brands.

So, do what Brian the Realtor eventually did: help your audience focus. Make it easier for them to see - and remember - you and your message.

A few suggestions:

Commit to your channels. For instance, don’t air radio spots for a week and then bolt. Stick with your chosen media at least long enough for the audience to think of you as THE provider of the product or service you offer.

Limit your message in each channel to one key point. Make it easy for your prospective customers to associate your name with your primary product, service or benefit.

Introduce other services slowly. Resist any urge to tell your audience about everything you sell right now. Wait until you own your keyword or phrase before giving your audience more to remember.

Keep it simple. Whether you’re developing an online, outdoor or broadcast advertising campaign, don’t overwhelm your audience with content. Use simple language. Include plenty of white space in your visual ads to easily draw attention to your most important point. You might even consider adding silence or “a little room” between the audio elements of your radio, TV and video messages. That quick “break” may give your listeners the time they need to absorb your key points.

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MadAveGroup Experts

What will 2021 bring for marketers? How will channels and technology change? Could we see new concepts emerge or will we re-discover tried and true foundational ideas?

I asked a few MadAveGroup staffers to look into the future and offer their thoughts.

Gwen Hagen / Marketing Specialist
I predict the rise of short-term content marketing. As Generation Z progresses into adulthood, marketers will need to adapt to that audience’s shorter attention spans. Platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram offer companies an opportunity to create that short-term content and engage those users.

(Visit the MadAve Marketing Management website.) 

The traditional ways of marketing are changing. Companies need to create unique experiences for their customers. Instead of placing a print media buy, consider investing in influencer marketing. If your Facebook post engagement has fallen flat, shift some funds toward creating powerful video marketing to tell your story. Whichever method you choose, I urge you to take creative risks to attract a new audience.

Don Miller / Director of TouchStone Digital
Once we emerge from the pandemic, the restaurant and entertainment industries will see a huge boost in traffic. People will be anxious to spend money in these sectors, but those businesses will still need to ramp up their marketing and creativity to stay competitive and stand out from the crowd.

Also, I’d like to see smaller local businesses take advantage of the e-commerce economy, while still being hometown destinations that care about their customers and community and act accordingly.

(Visit the new TouchStone Digital website.)

Every local company should be using Google My Business (GMB) to make sure they’re put in front of customers when a need for their business arises. GMB helps a company show up in Google search engine results and populates Google Maps and other maps. That’s important because customers are usually ready to make a purchase or take some other action after that search.

Lou Perlaky / Marketing Specialist
I predict that in 2021 data and analysis will be more important than ever. Due to the pandemic and remaining uncertainty, many industries are dealing with a whole new world and they may still not be sure of how their customers will respond to the new rules, from reduced hours and customer capacity to smaller inventories and less foot traffic. In the past marketers have used historical data to predict future trends. Now that we’re all in new territory we need to use our data carefully to guide strategic decisions.

It’s a good time to review your marketing, digital plan, web goals and strategies. If the pandemic affected your 2020 goals, do you need to reset your expectations for 2021? Are the goals you thought you’d have for this year still realistic and attainable or do you need to make adjustments?

Ready for a conversation about your marketing in 2021 and beyond? Call us at 419/473-9000.

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Revising Your Road Map
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Marketing Lessons from a Restaurant

Over the last few weeks, I’ve somehow become addicted to the videos on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares Facebook page. (Please don’t judge me. I feel greasy enough about this whole thing already.)

One of the videos, though, reinforced a couple of business / marketing truths we’ve covered before in this blog.

A restaurant owner featured on the show refused to believe that all of her customers didn’t love her food, despite the feedback Gordon was giving her.

The cameras caught waitresses throwing away almost entire plates of food that customers sent back for various reasons. Yet even when confronted with that evidence, the owner vehemently denied there was a problem.

The wait staff didn’t tell the owner about the returned food for one or both of these reasons:

1) They didn't see it as a problem that customers left a lot of food on their plates.
2) They were afraid to alert the owner because she would respond angrily.

Reason 1: The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded all of us how valuable each customer is. Companies that encourage their employees to be proactive problem solvers are more likely to stay nimble, focused on improvement and committed to delivering positive experiences. So, set the expectation that each employee’s duty is to actively look for and acknowledge signs of trouble, whether your customers are leaving food on their plates, complaining online about your service or communicating their dissatisfaction at any other touchpoint.

Reason 2: As I advised in our post “Are You Prepared for Failure?” always “encourage your employees to manage up. If they know of a problem anywhere in your organization - especially if it affects the customer experience - they should feel free to tell their supervisor. Develop a culture or a process that makes managing up easy and non-threatening. The information you get from the front lines will be invaluable.”

As much as possible, take advantage of any pandemic-related downtime to better position your company for success following the return to our normal business environment.

Marcia Yudkin is an author, speaker and marketing mentor who publishes a weekly email called The Marketing Minute. I've been a fan of Marcia's work for years, so I was excited when she reached out to ask about audio logos, one of the services we provide through BusinessVoice, our Caller Experience Marketing agency.

An audio logo accompanies, supports or even stands in for a brand name. (Listen to samples.) Just like a visual logo, a slogan or a corporate color, an audio logo is an identifier that reinforces brand personality and strengthens recall.

Here's Marcia's September 23, 2020 Marketing Minute:

The pandemic seems to have accelerated the use of multimedia in marketing and business communication. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to interview Marketing Minute subscriber Scott Greggory about audio logos - snippets of music, voice or sound effects that identify and brand a company.

"Just two or three seconds long, audio logos can be used anywhere sound can be played: in broadcast media, on websites, in on hold marketing or online videos, with apps or podcasts, audio books, e-learning and more," says Greggory, Chief Creative Officer of BusinessVoice.

With repetition, customers associate them with the brand, "producing an almost Pavlovian response," he adds. "Think of the excitement you feel hearing the Netflix audio logo, knowing that your favorite show is about to begin."

From the BusinessVoice Blog:

* In the U.S., 75 percent of the top audio 20 logos feature a melody (something that can be sung, versus a tone, sound effect or spoken words).

* Audio logos with a melody get better results than non-melody ones.

* Audio logos incorporating the brand name spark five times more brand recall than those with just music or sounds.


The Value of Audio Logos

There's no doubt that sight influences most of our buying decisions, but the amount of visual information consumers are exposed to these days is overwhelming. It's impossible to process it all. That's why audible cues - like audio logos - stand out so well. And with enough repetition, an audio logo becomes inseparable from its brand.

Audio is also enjoying a resurgence, thanks to smart phones, smart speakers and new applications, so audio logos are a logical next step for brands. Anyone who's heard the audio logos for Intel, Taco Bell or Netflix knows how sounds immediately bring those companies to mind. The brands are stronger because of those sounds.

No one would argue against the need for a memorable logo or a consistent brand color. Those are powerful and valuable visual branding elements. By reinforcing brand qualities and strengthening recall, audio logos serve the same purpose for a different sense.

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When's the last time you thought about celery?

Probably been a while, right?

But it just might make you a better marketer.

Watch the older TV commercial above for the Pick-n-Pay grocery store chain.

There's nothing fancy about the spot. It's just a single scene shot at a noisy loading dock, followed by a still image with the logo and jingle sing.

Yet, I think it's remarkably effective.

The spokesman focuses on one topic - Pick-n-Pay's celery. He lets us know that it's fresh, crisp and delicious, and then supports that claim by telling us what the store's professional buyers look for when selecting celery:

Pale green, glossy stocks of medium length and thickness that are brittle enough to snap easily. The inside of the stalk should feel smooth.

Not only does that description show that Pick-n-Pay applies specific standards to buying celery, it also lets the audience know what to look for when buying the vegetable.

Then, the spokesman provides interesting, applicable tips, stating that celery leaves make a great flavoring for soups, the outer stalks are best for cooking, and the inner stalks are best eaten raw.

Within 24 seconds, he had me genuinely interested in a product I'd previously never even considered.

I found just this one "explainer" commercial from Pick-n-Pay, but I would love to see an entire series of them. The campaign would be a perfect example of what I referred to in our blog post "Giving vs. Taking: A Fresh Approach to Advertising" - investing long-term to provide your audience with information they can apply, putting their needs first.

That type of advertising generates interest, builds trust and encourages customer loyalty.


As a member of the Forbes Agency Council, I have the chance each month to contribute to marketing-related “panel” articles at This blog post is part of a continuing series featuring a few of my responses to questions asked by Forbes editors. The theme: Content Creation.

Question: Your business just received a prestigious award or investment. Based on your experience, what’s the most beneficial way to publicize the achievement?

Answer: When touting an award, a certification or any other honor, let your audience know why it's important to them. Explain how your win reinforces the claims you make about your product or service. Tell them how it provides a third-party perspective on why they should buy from you. Consumers want solid evidence that they're making good purchasing decisions. Awards can serve as helpful clues.

Forbes Badge 2020Question: B2B podcasts can be great for marketing and outreach, but they require a different touch than other podcast types. What's one must-do (or must-not-do) tip when starting a B2B podcast?

Answer: A B2B audience is listening for insight that will give them an edge or make them better at their jobs. So, deliver concise content in a format that promotes easy takeaways. That might include quick audio bullet points that re-state key ideas. And don't be afraid to edit to delete any fluff. Your B2B podcast should respect your audience's time and be worthy of their investment.

Question: Fearful of alienating or losing customers, some businesses may shy away from addressing "controversial" topics in their content - from current events to developments in their industry that haven't originated with them. But content that's not strictly focused on the positives and selling points of their products can establish thought leadership and authenticity. What's one "taboo" topic businesses should cover in their content, and why?

Answer: No one expects perfection from companies. So, it's okay to admit when you've screwed up, especially when you show the lessons you've learned from your mistakes and how your customers will benefit from your continuing education and transparency. When you're willing to admit to failures and then show the positivity that results, you'll also humanize your brand and present yourself in a way that people can relate to.

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Empty Ballparks

I spent the last few days watching the opening weekend of the 2020 baseball season.

It's great to have the game back, even with all the unusual changes:

  • The abbreviated 60-game schedule
  • The extra innings rule that automatically puts a runner on second base starting in the 10th
  • The National League's use of the designated hitter
  • The lack of fans in the stands

I haven't heard from anyone who's thrilled with all the adjustments, but Major League Baseball found ways to adapt in order to get back to business, just as restaurants, healthcare facilities and other industries have.

And maybe that's the most important reminder we can take away from the pandemic: life - and business - aren't stagnant. They never have been. Both are in a constant state of flux. Dramatic events like the spread of COVID-19 and the quarantine just increase the pace and intensity of the change.

The lesson is to actively plan for transitions, so, when events dictate, you're better prepared to deal with the financial, cultural and emotional disruptions.

Since mid-March, we've been stressing the importance of actively preparing for the post-COVID-19 world so you can hit the ground running. But by thinking at a higher level - always expecting change and embracing its inevitability - you can set yourself up for even greater success.

Sounding Familiar

During our second 30-Minute Marketing Cardio session on April 29th, I noted that a lot of marketing and advertising copy was starting to sound the same.

“In these uncertain times…”
“We’re all in this together.”
“Today, more than ever…”
“We’re here for you.”

Very quickly, those and similar phrases were reaching cliché status, losing any impact they may have had at one time. And the negative response in some circles was almost palpable: “All right already! You think of us like family and home is important and this whole thing is unprecedented. We get it.”

“So, what is your company doing about it?” I wondered in response.

Some brands did provide answers. A few car companies came up with alternative financing options and return policies for those whose jobs might be lost to the COVID-19 quarantine. Insurance providers gave rebates because fewer customers were driving.

But there were far more vague, empty references to “the new normal” and “getting through this.”

That concentration of similar messaging around a single theme over the last few months made the lack of originality and hollow statements more apparent. But we’ve been talking about the issue for years, urging you to avoid easy, trite marketing-speak in favor of true words you believe, promises you can keep, and differences that are rooted in your company culture, not just whipped up to appeal to the current mood of the country.

When you’re saying the same thing in the same way that so many others are, you can’t stand out. You won’t be remembered as delivering a unique solution. You may even weaken your brand by moving in step with the crowd, rather than daring to cut your own path.

I encourage you to keep that in mind as you move forward to create post-pandemic content. 

Here are a few of our other articles that can help you define your brand and content style.

Staying Nimble

Our third of four 30-Minute Marketing Cardio sessions on May 6th focused on staying nimble and developing strategies to propel your organization forward.

Digital Marketing Strategist Nathan Steinmetz offered these suggestions.

Take advantage of digital advertising’s flexibility. You can literally start and stop your digital campaigns with a couple of clicks. Even if you’re not advertising online now, you might begin again once your company resumes normal operations. Use any downtime to create digital ads so you'll be ready to place online media buys at a moment’s notice. Having your digital ads ready to launch may also allow you to take advantage of lower-priced media as soon as it becomes available.

Use digital advertising to promote specific locations or times. Do you have stores open in some areas but not others? Run ads targeted only at audiences in those markets you’re currently serving. And if you’re open again but just for a few days a week or during limited times, schedule your ads to run only during your business hours.

Use digital advertising to test different messages. Your message to a younger audience might focus on the fact that you’re back in business, while your older, more cautious audience may be more interested in what you’re doing to keep customers safe. Digital advertising provides many targeting methods that let you reach specific audiences based on demographics and psychographics.

Digital advertising provides instant feedback. One of the most powerful features of digital advertising is that it allows you to see how your ads are performing in real time. You can then adjust your content, your target audience and your ad spend based on those results.

Digital advertising has never had a more engaged audience. With so many people forced to stay at home, the level of online traffic is higher than ever. And since many businesses are pulling back on their advertising, there’s more inventory available. That means you may be able to pick up some deals on media.

If you want to rocket past your competition once the economic climate improves, consider digital advertising now.

Cardio Takeaways 2


Steve Evert is our VP of Business Development. He shared these thoughts on how you might look ahead.

As you consider how to generate new sales from existing customers, it might be tempting to lower your prices or reduce your margins. You may think you need to be cheaper now, so your customers don’t defect to your competitors.

Historically, though, that approach hasn’t been as successful as you might think. If the need or desire for what you sell has been reduced, lowering your prices is unlikely to drive enough volume to offset your lower margins. In fact, there is significant academic and applied evidence that shows customers are far less motivated by a price decrease than they are deterred by a price increase.

In the long run, the healthier alternative is strengthening relationships.

Encourage your sales and marketing teams to use this time to secure ties to your customers. Those relationships are all that insulate you from losing current or potential buyers who are presented with lower-priced alternatives.

By adjusting your focus, your organization will likely have to change its expectations of sales results in the immediate and short term.

So, are there activities your sales and marketing teams would normally be engaged in now that don’t make sense anymore? Are some of their tactics no longer a priority?

If so, what can those teams be doing instead to strengthen relationships? A few ideas:

Enroll customers in your online services and/or email lists.

Start reaching out to individual customers for one-on-one conversations about their pains and needs. Provide insight on how you’ve solved similar problems.

Grow customer interest with offers that begin at a future date.

Take a deeper dive into your client base to find unknown connecting points between clients.

For help with any aspect of your digital marketing, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him directly at 419/724-7311.

Using Customer Data

During our second 30-Minute Marketing Cardio Webinar on April 29th, members of the MadAveGroup team provided ideas on how you can prepare now for the post-pandemic world.

April Rietzke, Director of MadAve Marketing Management, offered these thoughts on using customer data.

“Take this time to get to know your customers and understand them,” she said. “Companies that leverage customer insights outperform their [competitors] by 85%.”

How can you learn more about the people who buy from you? A few of April’s ideas:

• Talk with your frontline employees about the questions your customers ask and the needs or problems they express.

• Listen to your customers on your social channels and third-party sites like Yelp.

• Consider surveying your customers.

• Use the customer data you already have - demographics, buying habits, communication preferences, Google analytics, etc. - to segment your buyers and provide better customer experiences.

Once you’ve compiled this information, review it for improvement opportunities. Is there a gap or weakness in your customers’ buying journey? Do they want more options, products or services from your company? Are your policies or processes frustrating?

You can also use the data you collect to create personas - representations of your audience defined by human characteristics, such as age, income, job type and interests. What challenges do those personas face? Who or what influences their buying decisions?

Once you’ve established personas, you’ll know how to create targeted messaging and promotions for your actual customers who fall under each persona. And targeted content is more likely to convert.

 Cardio Takeaways 2

MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown kicked off the session with an alliterative list, asking these high-level questions and urging attendees to think about their brands in a post-coronavirus marketplace.

  • Position: What was your position before the pandemic? What is it now? What will it be next year?

  • Perspective: What is your company’s perspective? Has the pandemic changed it?

  • Perception: What perception did your employees and customers have of your company? Has your response to COVID-19 changed it?

  • Purpose: What is your company’s purpose? Does it need to evolve?

  • Plan: What is your company’s plan for bouncing back?

  • Projects: What new projects do you need to implement?

  • Priority: Which of those projects should take priority?

  • Preparation: Are you prepared to execute those projects and other plans for moving forward?

For help with any aspect of your digital marketing, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him directly at 419/724-7311.

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