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You probably know the latest round of Best Buy commercials by now. The Best Buy employees are telling the stories of how they've interacted with customers to make their dreams come true. 

The latest commercial in the series kicks it up a notch and takes Wal-Mart to task.

The employee is telling a story about a customer who calls in asking very specific questions about televisions. The employee asks the customer where he is calling from, and the customer replies Wal-Mart. 

Major ouch for Wal-Mart. Not only are they being portrayed as not being experts in electronics, but also as shoddy at customer service. The sad fact for Wal-Mart is it's true.

I had the same experience when I went shopping for a new flat screen LCD television. I priced models at Target and Wal-Mart. Target was too expensive, and I couldn't find anyone to answer my questions. 

At Wal-Mart, the prices were great, but I had questions. When I tried to ask the sales associate on the floor, not only did he initially brush me off, but when he finally got around to talking to me, it turned out that I knew more about the televisions than he did!

So I, like the customer in the commercial, went to Best Buy. I didn't know about their price-match promise, and truthfully, it wouldn't have mattered. The salesperson was attentive, answered all my questions, and actually talked me out of buying the more expensive set I was considering because their store brand had all the same features, and was manufactured by the same company. It just didn't have the big name attached to it. Score one for Best Buy.

I don't know why I didn't go there first (I was fixated on Wal-Mart's low prices). But I'm proof that people are willing to pay a little more for personal attention and great advice. And that's a lesson we can all use when running our businesses.

Counsel your customers / clients. Provide them with great information and honest feedback. This brings more value to their experience than you know, and it will be worth more to you in the long run with a satisfied, loyal customer who may one day turn into your biggest cheerleader.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009 06:12

Read, Then Write for Better Marketing Copy

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Is it your job is to create marketing copy? Then you'll like this great tip from the weekly newsletter of Daphne Gray-Grant, a writing coach and one of my favorite wordsmiths.

When you're having trouble starting a writing project, begin by reading someone else's work. And before you think I'm advocating theft, here's what she means:

The main idea is to find a piece of writing that provides a suitable model on which you can base your own work. Not only is this not procrastinating, it's not even plagiarism provided you're not looking for content. Instead you should be looking for style and writing architecture.

Gray-Grant suggests building a "swipe file" - a collection of some of the best work of other writers - to use as inspiration when you're starting a project. If it's true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, any author would be proud to have you base your next ad or sales letter on their style.

Anchoring a Marketing WheelMore on the game show analogy later. But first, some opening credits.  Jonathan Kranz is one of the best voices in marketing and a favorite of copywriters everywhere. That's why I'm always happy to pass along his wisdom, like this from a recent Kranz On Copy newsletter article regarding Web trends. By now, we all know that a web site is a vital tool in your marketing arsenal. But Kranz says rather than a "tool,"  you should think of your web site as the "hub" at the center of your wheel of marketing activities:

 

...a kind of way-station where communications flow both in and out. Your site is simultaneously a potential first point of contact with prospects (via search), a warehouse of information and content, and a switching station that directs visitors to other communications vehicles, such as your blogs and social media communities. It's no longer a static presence, but an active manager of ever-shifting relationships.

You need to think about how people come into your site, i.e., through paid or organic search, from links on other web sites or via your web address that's part of other print, email or mass media marketing materials. How do you want visitors to move through your web site? Do you take a linear approach from page A to B to C, or more like a flow chart, with paths dependent on their interests and needs? And what should your web visitors do as they're leaving?  Here's where the game show analogy comes in. Imagine they were contestants on the original "Wheel Of Fortune." Remember the "parting gift" that every player received? Often it was a home version of the game.  Now that's brilliant self-promotion. What can you give your web visitors to keep them engaged with your message after they leave?  How about an e-newsletter subscription, or a free demo of a product or service?  Consider anything that can mesh with your other marketing, communications and business efforts. A strong hub makes for a solid wheel, and your web site can be the hub of your marketing plan, always in motion and reaching out to all points along the wheel of communications.  Think of your web site not as a destination, but a central station that keeps the conversation flowing as you tell your story.

Monday, 04 May 2009 07:04

Communicating with Your Customers

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A recent study by Mindset Media reveals that personality is a more effective predictor for media consumption behavior than traditional demographic signifiers like age, gender and income.

As reported by Beth Snyder Bulik for AdAge, Mindset surveyed over 5,000 people using 21 elements of personality, including leadership, openness, perfectionism and dynamism, as well as traditional demographics. The findings were interesting. See the full article here.

What happens after you've combined traditional demographic data and personality indicators to determine your marketing direction? You spend a lot of your marketing budget trying to get consumers to call, click or visit. But what happens to your marketing messages after that? That’s where Point-Of-Entry Marketing comes in.

A point of entry is any portal through which people access your business or organization, such as your telephone, your website, and your front door. Point-Of-Entry Marketing picks up where your mass marketing leaves off and provides a smooth transition into your business or organization. No matter what demographic or personality profile your customers fit into, you can reach them with your most important messages at a time when they are ready to buy - when they’ve called you, visited your website, or come to your location.

A bonus: it’s cost-effective because you already own the medium. You don’t have to buy air time on your phone lines; there are never any competitors’ messages playing in your lobby or your store; and no one else can put their sale information on your website. Learn more about Point-Of-Entry Marketing here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009 03:32

The ABC's Of Effective Marketing

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Recently, a health care client was reviewing an On Hold Messaging script and sent me an email regarding changes. "Keep the item about ENT from the previous production." Simple enough, but could I find that in the old script? No. There was no sign of an "ENT" anywhere. So, I confessed my ignorance and asked for clarification. She apologized in her reply, saying that ENT stands for "Ear, Nose and Throat." Sure enough, there in the previous script was the item about doctors joining the organization who are "Ear, Nose and Throat specialists." There are plenty of mea culpas to go around when it comes to using initials that are less than universally understood. It's common for writers to use terminology, acronyms and "jargon" that we are completely familiar with, under the false assumption that everyone else knows what we're talking about. Full disclosure: the BusinessVoice web site recently underwent a cleansing of acronyms like OHM, POP and WAM. And no, those aren't mantras or cartoon sound effects. In my world, that's "On Hold Marketing," "Point-Of-Purchase" and "Web Audio Marketing." The lesson here is to remember the "ABC's" of good writing -- Always Be Clear. Don't assume an acronym will be understood. Avoid any "industry-speak" unless your audience is comprised exclusively of insiders. And while we're handing out suggestions for clearer composition, why not take it a step further and check to see if the writing is too sophisticated. Microsoft Word has built-in tools to measure the readability of your writing, measured in terms of school grade level. There are also online tools to measure readability that allow you to cut and paste your copy and get an instant ranking. Or try this aptly-named Gobbledygook Grader from Hub Spot to see if you're using any of the worst jargon. What you're reading here ranks at about an 8th grade level, but you should aim a bit lower. Start by using shorter sentences, and don't worry about "dumbing-down" the work. It's an exercise in clarification,  and the clearer the marketing message, the easier it is received by your audience, who can then act on it.

 

There are many words floating around out there that no longer have any meaning. At first mention, they seemed visionary, powerful and capable of generating very specific emotions. Now, they sound hollow, meaningless, and they cause our eyes to glaze over. If you are going to use them in your marketing, make sure your message is clear, valid and appropriate to your audience.  Just because you're packaging an offer that will save people money, doesn't mean you have to pitch it as a "recession special." Give the message an emotional appeal instead, and relate to the struggles your audience is facing. Real dialogue will have a much bigger impact than throwing out buzz words like "stimulus." And if you can, use these words in positive speech. I probably wouldn't mind hearing the word recession so much if someone would tell me how we're going to get out of it. Recession Slowdown Stimulus Bailout Economy Layoffs Unemployment Crisis Downturn What words are you tired of hearing? How would you use these words to give them new life?

At BusinessVoice, we preach about the importance of building customer share: increasing revenue by strengthening your relationships with existing customers, and making them fully aware of all the ways you can serve them. New customers are great, but they're hard to find, and they don't come cheap. Just as more people are taking better care of their cars to get more miles out of them, you can "get more" out of your customers by caring for them; by providing for their needs; by marketing more to them. And that's not  just a "tough times" philosophy. It's the key to long-lasting, win/win business relationships in any economy. Here are a few thoughts from Seth Godin on customer share or, as he calls it, wallet share:

The first mistake marketers make is that they want more. More customers, more noise, more ads, more shelf space, more customers, more customers, more customers... Almost all of their actions are driven by the search for more customers. The reason this is a mistake is simple: it's expensive. Attracting a new customer costs far more than keeping an old one happy. Not only that, but an old customer is far more likely to bring you new people via word of mouth than someone who isn't even a customer yet. Which is why share of wallet makes so much more sense than share of market. How much does each of your existing customers buy from you? Do they count on you for all the things they buy in this market, or just some? Does Toyota sell me every car my family drives? Does Chubb get to insure every single thing I own? Usually not. Because marketers are so focused on "more"  they forget to take great care of what they've got. Hugh Macleod, gifted cartoonist and profane marketing blogger, is now making his living selling limited edition art work based on his cartoons. He's a brilliant marketer, of course, so he's not focused on more. He's focused on share of wallet; on selling his dedicated fans a remarkable souvenir that they can keep and display. So, what's the problem? Share of wall. Unlike records or shoes, it's hard to buy a lot of art. Pretty soon, you've got no place left to put it, do you? Share of wallet turns into share of wall and you can't grow any more. That's why you need to be realistic about how much share of wallet you can honestly expect, and why Job One is delighting existing customers so much that they can't help but tell their friends. Preferably friends with very big houses.

Why should all marketers learn more about women and why they buy what they buy? Because women buy or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods in the United States. Pretty good reason, eh? Caroline Winnett wrote "Gender and Marketing: The Female Brain" for the March 6, 2009 issue of the Progressive Grocer newsletter. She cites the findings of a firm called NeuroFocus that "specializes in understanding and measuring how the brain responds to literally any stimulus that a person can receive." Here are some of the article’s points that will interest marketers: Women rely more heavily on their brains’ mirror neurons, which enable them to feel what they see another person is feeling. Women are much more likely to attach emotional significance to stimuli, including marketing stimuli. And women respond significantly more strongly to certain styles of packaging designs, in-store presentations, and store layouts. Here are a few of the suggestions NeuroFocus offers for marketing successfully to women:

  • Be authentic
  • Focus on cooperative, reciprocal, collaborative conversations
  • Keep messaging exploratory, not flatly declarative
  • Provide plenty of information
  • Acknowledge that she's integrating many goals with every shopping experience and purchase
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 05:51

Exploring New Marketing Channels Pays Off

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Maybe you've thought about trying new channels to expand your marketing, but then the Naysayer's Chorus begins inside your head. "It's too expensive." "It's unproven." Or, "That's just for the big guys."

Maybe you do business in "flyover country," not on a coast or in a metropolis, and you think your customers just won't get it. You have a tried-and-true marketing approach, so why take a chance? Maybe because you'll be missing out on a great opportunity to connect with new customers, improve sales with existing customers and increase your ROI. Just ask Eric Anderson. He's the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-President of Fresh Encounter, Inc.

Based in Findlay, Ohio, Fresh Encounter operates a chain of some three dozen community grocery stores in Ohio and Indiana. No superstores here; floor space is usually just a quarter of the size of competitors like Kroger or Wal Mart. And Fresh Encounter's ideal location is in a city with a population of about 10,000. But being small doesn't mean you have to think small.

When it comes to marketing, Anderson prides himself at having a full arsenal with some of the newest tools of the trade. "My goal is to make sure I'm in tune with the latest ways to communicate with our customers," Anderson says. "I've got to make sure I'm using all the right technology, avenues, and touch points to get to my end-user." In addition to using print, radio, television, Point-Of-Purchase Audio Marketing, On Hold Messaging, a website and email campaigns, Anderson employs "mobile marketing" with a system that uses text messages to deliver news of discounts and free offers to customers.

More than 2,000 customers signed up during the first weekend of the launch of their "Text-N-$ave" program last year. At last count, nearly 4,000 customers were enrolled and the number continues to grow. New offers sent to Text-N-$ave customers each week range from free, seasonally appropriate items to 10% off total purchase offers.

Each Text-N-$ave includes a unique PLU number that the cashier enters at the register. The customer shows their cell phone screen to the cashier to take advantage of the offer. And because each Text-N-$ave customer account is attached to a specific store, Fresh Encounter can send specific offers for each store. "The results have been outstanding," Anderson says. "Our customers love it. Redemptions are running at 20% or more, and the cost is a fraction of direct mail."

New technology? Yes. New idea? No. It's simply a new way to cut through the noise and market directly to your customer quickly, conveniently and affordably. Is there a new kind of marketing opportunity that could pay off for you?

Thursday, 26 February 2009 05:04

Marketing Goes to the Dogs

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You've see them in designer pet bags, their diamond-studded collars glinting in the sun. They were on their way to see their masseuse at noon and have a play date at the Treat Bar at 3:30.

What has happened to man's best friend? We've overly sissified our pets! But there's hope for the furry droolers.

Alpo's new campaign takes dog owners back to the days when a ratty tennis ball and a pile of dirt were the only things a dog needed to be happy. Check out the spot here: Quick, get that dog some Alpo!

 The website is cute too, complete with a "Fido or Fifi" test, and a menu of what dogs would cook if they could. And Alpo sweetens the deal with a buy-one-get-one free coupon for your four-legged friend's next meal. Dogs get their "dogness" back, and their humans get a reminder to un-froufrou their own lives, which isn't a bad idea at all in this economy.

What can you do to un-froufrou? How will you get back to basics?

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