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Good IdeaToday is July 4, 2016. More than 240 years ago, a bunch of guys had a pretty good idea: to formally break away from an oppressive ruler and form their own nation; a nation built on personal liberties and a government of the people.

Crazy? Impractical? Even suicidal?

It must have seemed that way to many people back then. After all, humans aren't equipped with 20/20 foresight, so who could blame the doubters, right?

But thank God for those crazy, impractical dreamers who, yes, risked their lives for their idea.

It could have gone down in flames as history's most poorly conceived experiment. It's certainly come close to collapsing a few times over its nearly two-and-a-half centuries.

But because of the tremendous pride, passion, fight and flexibility of the generations that descended from those founding fathers, the idea has survived.

So, here's to ideas. Bold, risky, costly, courageous, game-changing ideas.

Ideas that don't stand a chance...until they do.

Ideas that fail miserably, because they are the fertile soil in which the most fruitful ideas grow.

In your work, be a dreamer. Ask “what if...?” and “why not?” Imagine. Push for better. That group of people with the grand idea did, and you owe your entire way of life and work to their revolutionary thinking. 

Now, it's your turn. 

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Customer LoyaltyYeah, it’s just a game.

But I’m feeling better than usual this morning - the morning after the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title in franchise history.

I was born just outside of Cleveland - east side. I grew up there - west side. Then, I left for college at age 18 and I haven’t lived there since - almost 35 years now.

But it’s still my city. And Cleveland teams are still my teams. Through all the moments of disappointment. Through all the seasons without hope. Through the worst drought any fan has ever had to endure, they were - and always will be - my teams.

And I’m far from the only one who feels that way.

So, if teams that consistently and even predictably underperform can maintain a passionate fan base, you can certainly find ways to encourage customer loyalty, right?

Each team is different; not just from city to city, but from year to year. As players and coaches change, teams develop unique personalities and playing styles. Their marketing departments may even latch onto those differences and promote them. What’s unique about your team? What are the benefits of that uniqueness? How can you spread the word about your brand’s style and personality?

In post-game interviews, many of the Cavs talked about believing in themselves, despite the fact that no team in NBA history had come back from a three-games-to-one deficit. What about your team members? Do they believe in what they do every day? Do they look for ways to improve? Do they understand how important their roles and their performance are to customer perception and your company’s success?

Next season, the Cavs will be the team to beat. And yes, there will be even greater pressure on them to repeat. Likewise, how does your team improve its game to meet tougher competition and rising customer expectations? Do you have a goal - or several - that everybody is shooting for? Are you all moving in the same direction, unified and focused?

Those are all questions you need to address before you can maximize customer loyalty.

If you’re a Cavaliers fan, take a few days to enjoy the team’s success, and then get back to work on your own. Let us know if we can help.

Chick-fil-A Logo

I love that I can't get a Chick-fil-A sandwich on Sunday.

In case you don't know, the restaurant is closed on Sundays. And they have been for 70 years, ever since there were founded in May of 1946.

So what?

In 2013, Chick-fil-A earned $5.1 billion in revenue, an average of $16.3 million per day for each of the six days a week their stores are open.

Assuming they'd bring in that same $16.3 million each Sunday, the company would rake in another $800 million per year simply by following the rest of the retail world and conducting business every day of the week.

But they don't.

They sacrifice that money to stay true to what they believe is important: giving their employees and customers "an opportunity to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so," according to their website.

How many companies would stay committed to a decades-old founding principle when faced with a nearly one billion dollar temptation?

It was easy 70 year ago. In fact, it would have been rare - and often illegal - to conduct business on Sunday due to Blue Laws.

But today, Chick-fil-A's "closed on Sunday" policy is very unusual among national brands. It's also authentic. It's part of who they've always been. It's an ideal they uphold despite its tremendous impact on their bottom line. And it's a commitment that I and many others admire greatly.

Are you sacrificing any of your personal values for the sake of business?

Are you staying true to what's important to you and what you know is right, whether it pertains to how you treat customers and employees or how you manufacture your product?

Are you worried that following your heart will cost you? It doesn't seem to be hurting Chick-fil-A. It's only made their company stronger, and differentiated their brand in a very admirable way.

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Three Posts in OneFirst, have you heard of Point-of-Entry Marketing?

If not, you might like to know that it's much less wasteful than traditional advertising. It doesn't require you to buy any type of media. (How huge is that?) And it allows you to focus your most important messages on your interested prospects and current customers.

In his new blog post, Mad Ave Group CEO Jerry Brown gives you 10 reasons Point-of-Entry Marketing makes more valuable impressions than outbound marketing. Read it here

Next, every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to strengthen your unique brand identity - unless, of course, you're trying to do it with content that your competitors are using, too.

Believe it or not, there are companies selling that approach to branding and companies that are buying it. Learn how you can avoid that trap in BusinessVoice Director Steve Evert's latest blog post. It's called "Unique Content and a Memorable Caller Experience."  

Finally, if you'd like to start writing humorous or more creative content for your brand, check out this short pre-recorded webinar I presented recently. This abridged version is only 20 minutes long and features insight on how you can be more creative and why creative marketing is so important. I also break down a few examples of humor to show why they are or aren't effective. Listen here

As always, let us know if our team can help you with any aspect of your marketing. Have a great week. 

Brand QuestionsI spoke with the president of a company the other day. He told me that one of his main marketing concerns is that his many websites don't have the same look and feel. The company has two distinctly different logos as well.

Another company we know of has not only a few different logos on their exterior signage, but a slightly different version of the company's name on several stores.

And yet another company has three or four different versions of their logo on various stores and vehicles.

What about your brand elements? Your colors, your images, the "voice" and attitude of your written content, and yes, your logo?

Do your collateral pieces feel like your website? Do your print ads align with your online ads? Do your radio spots sound like your TV spots look?

Why should they?

Because, damn, this world's a noisy place! And breaking through that noise can be both difficult and expensive. If everything you put in front of your audience isn't simple, clear and consistent, you're making it harder for people to remember you. And that means you might be wasting money and opportunities to connect with new customers.

Have you reviewed your brand identity lately? Take a look at your website, exterior signage, lobbies, points of sale, audio and video, your brochures, leave-behinds, invoices, business cards, etc.

Do they all look and feel the same, as if one person or team created them?

Now, does it seem like they were all designed or produced in 1982? If so, potential customers might perceive your products and service as tired, not innovative, and not a solution for today's world.

Are there several people or teams contributing content to your online channels? If so, is it all funneled through a brand manager to ensure consistency?

Do you have - and follow - a brand standards guide?

If you could ask your target audience what your brand stands for, and why it's different, better or necessary for them, would they answer the way you'd want?

There are many more questions to answer before you can focus the full power of your brand on the marketplace. We're good at asking those sorts of questions. 

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Excellent Customer ServiceI've written a few times in this blog about bad customer service, how it can harm a brand, and how it might be prevented. (Read some of those posts here, here and here.)

Now, it's my pleasure to tell you about a few examples of great customer service that I enjoyed recently and the valuable takeaway to keep in mind. 

Story #1: A Little Extra Effort

Two of my kids and I were eating lunch at our hometown Chipotle.

I walked up near the cashier's side of the counter to get some extra sour cream – because, yeah, I consume too much sour cream.

The entire crew was very busy serving the lunch crowd. So, after waiting maybe a minute for an opening to talk with the cashier, I went back to my table, realizing that she would be tied up for a while.

Within a couple of minutes, Caroline the cashier came up to our table and said, "Hi, I saw you standing near the counter. Can I help you with something?"

I don't believe I had ever experienced that type of proactive service in a restaurant before. Caroline had an awareness of me as a customer - even though she was very busy - and then followed up as quickly as possible to see how she could help. And she did it with a sincere smile.

That may seem like a little thing, but so often with so many other types of businesses, I've seen much more obvious customer service opportunities pass by without a staff member seeming to care.

Story #2: A Very Valuable Effort

My wife called me one day in January to let me know that her van had just made "a serious noise" and that it didn't want to move.

Broken rear axle.

We had it towed to a shop that a few friends recommended - Continental Service. John from Continental called me an hour later with good news: our vehicle had been recalled a few months before we bought it because of the axle issue.

John's research - and his commitment to helping his customers - saved us $1,100.

He saved us an additional $300 when he realized that another problem with the van was likely caused by the tow truck. The towing company agreed and paid for the repair.

By that point, I was falling head-over-heels in love with John.

A few weeks after repairing our vehicle and saving us a load of loot in the process, we received a card from John thanking us for our business.

An actual thank you card! From an auto repair shop! Have you ever even dared to dream of such a thing?

The Takeaway

Both Caroline and John went above and beyond to help me. Yes, one "just" brought me a cup of sour cream and the other saved me $1,400, but I wrote this blog post about both of them. I've told friends about both. I contacted Chipotle Corporate to share the story about Caroline, and I offered to work with John on some of his marketing free of charge because I wanted to help him as he had helped me.

Outstanding customer service is so rare these days that it's almost shocking to those who experience it. It can produce in people an instant lifelong connection with a brand. And in the two examples above, the extra effort didn't cost either company a dime.

Marketing and advertising are essential for your business, but even the best marketing and advertising won't guarantee your success. Make sure those efforts are always driving your audience to a positive, memorable customer experience; one worth talking about! That's what'll keep your customers coming back and perpetuating the best advertising of all: great word-of-mouth. 

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Book SalesmanThirty years ago I used to go to a little Sunday morning flea market down the road from my home.

There was a man there each week who sold old books.

One Sunday, I walked up to his table and began looking at one of his items. He hurried over to me and began telling me all about the book and why it was such a great piece. 

After a minute or two of interesting conversation, I put the book down and told him that, as nice as it was, it was a bit out of my price range.

Just as quickly as the book man had approached me, he walked away. Our "conversation" was immediately over. He was upset that I wasn't going to buy the book, and, presumably, that I had wasted his time.

Three decades later, I can still see the sour look on his face.

I went to that flea market for many years after that incident, but somehow never managed to get around to his table ever again.

Sure, you want to sell what you have to sell, but not everyone's ready or able to buy from you, at least right now.

But if you can give your best effort and attitude to even casual shoppers, you'll engender positive feelings that are likely to pay off down the road in the form of purchases, personal recommendations and positive reviews.

Talk with your staff about serving people wherever they may - or may not - be in the buying cycle. Remind them that every encounter is a chance to grow a relationship, though it might take months or years to bloom.

And if nothing comes of an encounter, at least your brand won't be the source of a sour-faced memory.

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Sunday, 31 January 2016 01:33

Funny Business

Written by

Humor On HoldIsn't it great when you can turn a negative into a positive?

Putting your callers on hold, for instance. You know that none of them want to be on hold, but so often you don't have another option.

The good news is you can choose to make the time your callers spend on hold more enjoyable.

Look at some of the things people have said about Humor On Hold from BusinessVoice:

  • "You actually want to wait on hold and hear what is said next."
  • "Funny (and effective) stuff."
  • "We have even had customers ask to be put back on hold to finish hearing the message."

Negative into a positive? You bet!

Read more quotes, and learn about the "dangers" and rewards of using humorous marketing content in the blog post "Why You Should Risk Being Funny." 

Thursday, 14 January 2016 15:14

Too Much Information

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WTMI-TVHave you noticed that it takes three minutes for the weather guy on the morning news to tell you that it's going to rain today?

By the time I try to process the excessive information and dizzying array of graphics in the average forecast, I've missed the answer to my simple question: Do I need to wear a coat to work?

So, consider these questions when you're crafting marketing messages.

1) Is the content you're providing visually overwhelming for your audience? Is the copy too long? Do the colors or images or video editing style detract from what you want people to remember?

2) Will your message be presented to a distracted audience? People too busy to notice your TV spot because they're getting the kids ready for school? Drivers passing your digital billboard on a busy stretch of road that requires their attention?

3) Does your audience even want or need the information you're providing? Frankly, I couldn't care less about WHY it's going to be cold tomorrow, just that it is.

I'll admit that my attention span and memory are shrinking by the quart, but also, I don't want to invest a relatively large amount of time to get a simple piece of information, like the hidden phone number on a website.

In an attempt to wow their audience with forecasting technology, TV stations have made it tougher for many of us to get the simple information we need. Don't make the same mistake with your marketing and communications.

As is so often the case, less is more. 

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Becoming better in 2016How will you become a more effective marketer in 2016?

Which skills will you develop?

How do you hope to improve your company or the ways you serve customers?

Here's how a few of our staff members answered those questions.

Charley Hobbs, Lead Developer: "I want to learn more advanced coding techniques and strategies. That will help us expand our dynamic web capabilities and allow us to provide more solutions for our clients."

Andrea Poteet, Creative Consultant: "I'd like to sharpen my humor writing, and then find new ways to use humorous content."

Valerie Likens, Executive VP of Fulfillment: "I would like to continue to learn about communication to improve our organization. Effective communication is essential to help departments run smoothly and keep our clients and employees happy."

Michael Deffely, Project Manager: "Overall, I want to create, serve, learn, and grow as much as possible this year. Specifically, I'd like to optimize our processes and create a more refined work flow. I also want to improve my knowledge of server and hosting issues."

Jessica Miller, Content Strategist: "I want to find more ways of producing engaging, valuable content that work with our clients' budgets."

Cody McCloskey, Creative Consultant: "I'd like to fine-tune my humor. Being funny has always been a part of my life, but since I joined Mad Ave Group I've been able to use humor as part of my work for clients, so it's even more important to me."

There's always more to discover about marketing and advertising. So we encourage you to keep learning. Please let us know if we can help in any way in 2016, whether you need a marketing partner, want specific services, or would just like some input on a problem you're facing.

Happy New Year from all of us at Mad Ave Group.

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