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The Table Ad That Will Make You Cry

The salesman said something that has stuck in my head for over two decades. “Most people only buy one dining room set in their lifetime. If you buy it right, you have something that is passed down through the generations.”

He was right.

My aunt is still using the table my grandparents bought when she was young. I played cards at my cousin’s house at a table with initials carved in it from family members who were gone long before I was born. My own dining room table is twenty three years old and counting.

True Value created an ad that captures that sentiment perfectly. Watch it here. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Here is the transcript from that ad …

During the depression my grandfather went hungry around this table.
Before leaving for Vietnam my uncle ate one of his last meals in America around this table.
This table has played host to everything from Christmas dinners to Grandma’s bridge tournaments to arguments about politics and sports.
This table has had fists pounded on it, pumpkins carved on it, and babies spit up on it.
Four generations of children have had to sit at this table until they ate all their vegetables, one of them just last week.
This table has a story. This table is a story. And the story doesn’t end any time soon.

This ad hits all the emotions of a dining room table perfectly. This ad is written for the Nostalgia crowd. That’s one of my core values which is why this ad resonates with me. It also fits most of the principles of a powerful ad.

This ad 1) tells a story, 2) speaks to the heart, 3) doesn’t look or sound like any other hardware store ad out there, 4) makes only one point – that we are the store for people who want to restore keepsakes and memories. 5) It speaks to the nostalgia crowd and the do-it-yourself tribe. 6) It covers enough universal memories that it could very well be your own table.

About the only thing it doesn’t do is connect you solidly back to the brand.

By itself, this is a highly emotional ad that makes you think about your own table and all the memories it holds. But it doesn’t make you think about True Value. To do that it needs to be a series of ads with a similar feel that over time will begin to resonate because it will tell an even larger story about the brand.

The important takeaway is that one great ad won’t necessarily move the needle. It is when you craft a series of ads, a campaign with the same style and flair that people come to recognize as you the instant the music or voice or image opens, then the magic begins to happen.

If True Value were to do a series of ads like this over a period of time, they would begin to own the hearts of the Nostalgia crowd. They would get the top of mind awareness for the people who share that sentiment and believe what they believe. They would establish themselves as the brand for those who want to restore and refinish and value the old-style craftsmanship. One ad won’t do that. One ad will make you think of tables. A series of ads gets you to think about the brand.

My favorite compliment about my advertising for Toy House was not about any individual ad. It was when people said they couldn’t wait to hear the next ad. It is the series of ads that truly speaks about your brand and tells your customers what you believe.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The ad copy is poetry. All great ad copy reads and sounds like poetry. Then again, the poet’s job has always been to take something you already knew, reframe your perspective, and make you feel something. Oh, and the ad-writer’s job is to take something your customers already know, reframe their perspective, and make them feel something. But you already know that.

Breaking Down the Typical Car Ad

My son wrote an amazing car ad right off the top of his head. He did it in response to the boring-to-downright-excruciatingly-bad car ads we were seeing while watching football over the weekend.

You know the kind of car ad I’m talking about.

  1. It starts with a close up of the curves and shiny paint job of some new car while a voice talks in hushed tones about beauty or design or craftsmanship.
  2. Then you see the full vehicle driving on a winding road through the mountains or doing donuts on the salt flats of Utah or cruising through some generic downtown while the words “professional driver on a closed circuit” flash briefly at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Then the vehicle is parked. If it is an SUV it is on top of a mountain with a panoramic view. If it is a sedan or sports car then it is shot from above looking down on the car with a city landscape in the background. (Or in Buick’s case – both!)
  4. Then big numbers flash on the screen with a bunch of small print, and a voice telling you in rapid-fire, small-print kind of speech that if you work for the company you can get some amazing deal on a lease or something like that.

Outside of the testimonial ads*, isn’t that pretty much 80-90% of the car ads out there?

Let’s break down what these ads are telling you.

Scene 1, the opening shot, is supposed to subliminally suggest sex. The hushed tones, the close-ups, the reveal-a-little-but-not-the-whole-thing. Yeah, that’s the tease to get you interested. The problem is that most of the vehicles tend to be morphing into each other to the point you can’t tell them apart without their logo. Right now Mazda is running an ad where the vehicle is completely covered on the outside while people test drive it and then they reveal the logo at the end to the driver’s surprise. If you can’t tell a Mazda from a BMW by the shape of the car, does design really matter that much? For years now Buick has been running ads about how people can’t even recognize that the car is a Buick. So much for design branding.

Scene 2, the driving sequence, shows the car going through its paces, not your paces. You won’t ever get to do donuts on the salt flats or go speeding around traffic-free, hairpin turns in the mountains. You’d like to do that. But you won’t. You aren’t a “professional driver on a closed circuit”. How does it handle stop-and-go traffic during rush hour? How tight is the turning radius for pulling into the parking lot at Costco? How bad are the blind spots when you’re backing up out of the drive? For 99% of the buyers, that’s more relevant than mountain driving, anyway.

Scene 3, the parked vehicle, is the glamour shot. They all finish with the glamour shot. Supposedly this is so you can recognize their car from all the other similar looking cars when you finally go out to buy one. The shot signifies that we are nearing the end of the ad. This wouldn’t be bad if there had been some kind of story coming to an end. This wouldn’t be so bad if it actually was the end. But it isn’t.

The glamour shot is simply the background to Scene 4, the offer. Big, bold numbers and a bunch of fine print showing up telling you that if you work for the company and are approved you can get some version of this vehicle “right now” for only $999 down and $230 a month. This part of the ad drives me crazy.

First, the deal they are offering comes with pages of fine print, the first being you have to be an employee to get this deal. Really? You’re paying millions for this commercial to tell the 209,000 people of GM about a sale just for them? Why not send them an email and save a few million? Otherwise, you’re just telling the 317 million people who don’t work for GM that they will have to pay more.

Second, no one actually gets that deal. No one. The car has too many extra features or you aren’t fully approved with an 850 credit score.

Third, the deal takes away from any of the feelings the ad may have stirred (granted not many feelings, but still …). The ad goes from one about how sleek, sexy, powerful, luxurious, rugged, adventurous, green, and quiet the vehicle is to, “Hey, it’s on sale!!!!” The person looking for a deal doesn’t care about all those other adjectives. The person who cares about those adjectives is less concerned about the deal. The offer waters down the message for both groups.

No matter how you slice it, these ads don’t speak to your heart. They don’t tell you a compelling story. They try to make more points than anyone could remember. They look and sound like everyone else. Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep, Lexus, Nissan, even Kia are all spending millions without moving the needle.

When you go to create your ads for your business, do me one favor. Don’t fall into the trap of, “Well, the big companies do this so it must be right,” kind of thinking. I’ve just shown you how really big companies can do things incredibly wrong.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS *Even the Chevy ads with “real” people showing off their awards and using testimonials aren’t nearly as effective as they think. One study shows that more people find these kinds of ads less believable than find them more believable.

PPS Sorry. I just made it impossible for you to watch any more car ads without thinking about this post. Hopefully you’ll laugh more than cry about the absurdity of them all. Me? I die a little inside each time.

PPPS I went back and looked at the car ads from the UM football game. Lexus swaps out driving in the mountains with driving in a black gigantic showroom of some kind. Nissan shows cars driving on a football field. Like either of those is going to happen in real life.

This is the Ad We Wish They Would Write

I spent the weekend watching college football. I went to my first game at age seven to watch the University of Michigan whomp on the Navy. I was hooked. I became the third generation of my family to graduate from Jackson High and get a degree from UM. (My oldest son is working on becoming the fourth generation.) I only applied to one school and only applied for one reason—it was the easiest way to get football tickets! (Mom says the reason I stayed a fifth year was to keep those tickets one more season. She was right!)

Image result for college footballI love watching college football games on TV, too. Except for one thing—the horrible TV ads! Even my younger son rolls his eyes and scoffs at the lousy ads we see. We wonder who in their right mind listened to the pitches for these ads and green-lighted them.

“Okay, we’ll have this hamster because hamsters are furry and fun and sell almost as well as teddy bears. But this one will be in a hospital, wearing a diaper. And, get this … he’ll make a daring escape from the hospital to action-packed music, running faster than anyone expected, zooming around the hospital employees. Just before he leaps off the top of the hospital to freedom, he’ll grab a green blanket to use as a parachute and glide perfectly through the sunroof of our car—also driven by hamsters, because everyone knows that if hamsters will break out of human hospitals to be in our cars, humans will want to break out of hospitals to buy them, too.”

Really, Kia? That’s moving the needle for you?

My younger son is in high school, but after watching the hamster ad for the umpteenth time, he wrote a car ad in twenty seconds with only two words that will move you to tears and send you to the dealership.

Here it is …

Scene 1: Daddy gives his young daughter her own pony.

Scene 2: A montage of the girl and the pony growing up together, learning to ride, riding like the wind, winning ribbons and medals, becoming a team.

Scene 3: The girl, now sixteen, is riding her pony across a huge open field when they spot a herd of 299 horses in the distance. The pony stops and looks back at the girl. A tear forms on the girl’s cheek. She slides off her pony, removes the saddle and bridle, and sends the pony to go join the herd, slapping it on the rear while choking out the words … “It’s time.” 

Scene 4: The pony runs off to join the herd of horses which then meld into a brand new 300-horsepower Mustang.

Scene 5: The girl climbs behind the wheel of her new Mustang still feeling a little nostalgic and sad. She hears a noise and smiles as she looks up to see her horse’s bridle hanging from the rearview mirror.

Scene 6: The girl drives her Mustang off into the sunset. The tagline at the bottom reads, “When it’s time …”

Fade out (None of those cheesy tags on the end to ruin it with prices that mean nothing when you’re actually on the showroom floor picking out your model)

Ford, you can make the check out to Ian.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The beauty of this ad is that without Ian having read my new book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t), he crafted an ad in mere seconds that 1) Told a Story that relates to buying a car, 2) Spoke to the Heart about a rite of passage—getting your first car, 3) Made only One Point that we grow up and replace our childhood items with adult items, 4) Spoke to the tribe of women who owned or wanted to own a pony, and 5) Doesn’t look or sound like any other car ad out there. That’s five of the six principles in the book!

My son is planning to go to college to study computers, but if you are an advertising agency, you might want to snatch him up before the digital world gets him. I watched a lot of football and a lot of commercials this weekend. You could use him.

PPS If you don’t have a daughter, wouldn’t ever give your daughter a pony, or can’t stand Ford vehicles on principle, this ad won’t speak to you. Choose who to lose. But every guy who ever gave his daughter a pony will be watching, as will every woman who ever wanted a pony, whether she got one or not. That’s still a pretty big audience.

PPPS The best thing every car ad in America could do right now that would make their ads significantly better would be to drop those end tags about how much down, how much a month, because those prices are NEVER what anyone actually pays (even if you are a “fully qualified GM employee”). Those tags take away from the rest of the ad and turn what might have been a solid branding message into a transactional ad with a message that belies trust instead of building it. Just sayin’ …

Visualization Makes the Sale

Today I signed the papers to list my house for sale. I did this a little over a year ago, had the house listed for a year without a single offer. I took it off the market at the end of July, put in a lot of work on little things like painting more rooms, upgrading some appliances, landscaping, etc. I also took some time to stage the rooms better, take new photos, and write a new description. We’re doing things differently this time. Today it goes back on the market. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

Ask any real estate agent the true key to getting a house sold and they will tell you it is getting the buyer to visualize already being in the home. The agent asks you questions like …

  • “How will you lay out your furniture in the family room?”
  • “Which bedrooms will your kids want?”
  • “What do you see yourself doing in this space?”

While facts and data are important in the buying process, visualization is what seals the deal.

I can tell you that the house has 4 spacious bedroom, 2.5 bathrooms, a downstairs office, first-floor laundry, and a three-car attached garage. You’ll analyze that data and process that information. But as long as you are in analytical mode, you’re not in buying mode. You’re gathering data and will continue to gather data.

I have to get you beyond the facts and get you to see yourself doing the behavior I want.

  • “The beauty of this southern-facing driveway is that on light snow days you will be sleeping in while your neighbors are out shoveling because you know it will melt quickly once the sun comes out out in the afternoon.”
  • “With bedrooms this large, when you say, ‘Go to your room!’ your kids will think it is a positive, not a punishment.”
  • “This no outlet road is exactly a quarter mile long. Two loops and you and your dog will have your mile in without any annoying traffic.”

The same is true in all retail. You have to get customers beyond the facts of the item you’re trying to sell and get them to visualize using it.

  • “The battery life of this drill is three times longer. Have you ever been working on a project and run out of battery at the worst possible time? Remember that frustration? Won’t happen with this unit.”
  • “You’ll love this feature of your stroller. You know how annoying the wheels squeak after you’ve used it for a while? These wheels pop off so easily it will only take you seconds to clean them and hit the road running smoothly and quietly again.”
  • “Think of the best picture you ever took with your phone. Now imagine that same picture with twice the clarity and detail. You won’t have to recolor it digitally, either, since this camera picks up twice the color, too. You’ll have more ‘favorite photos’ than you have wall space to hang them all.”

Or simply …

  • “How do you plan to use this?”

Facts have a place. But facts don’t close the sale as quickly and efficiently as visualization. Get your customers to see themselves using the product and you’ll close the sale more often.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Here is the new “ad copy” for the listing of the house (1000 character limit). The listing already has the facts so I go lighter on those. The ad-copy adds visualization to why those facts are important.

There is a lot to love about this house. The first thing you’ll fall in love with is the space. Plenty of room for big gatherings and a perfect layout for when you want some time to yourself.

You’ll love your mornings in the sun-filled kitchen, your views from the office, and your sunsets streaming through the trees.

You’ll love the neighborhood—quiet and secure, yet only half a mile from grocery and restaurants.

You’ll love the size of the bedrooms and closet space big enough for everything you own, organized and easy to find.

The huge full basement, first-floor laundry, and easy-entry 3-car attached garage are just icing on the cake. And the sun-drenched southern driveway is like chocolate sprinkles on top!

With a new roof and fairly new appliances, this house has everything you need. The kitchen is dated—but completely functional—and will serve you well until you decide to build the kitchen of your dreams and turn this house into the home you’ve always wanted.

Take a tour today!

PPS Notice how I used the one downside in the copy? The one complaint we received over and over from the first listing was that the kitchen is dated. Sure it is. But it is fully functional with solid cherry cabinets, fairly new appliances, and high quality drawers. I let you know up front that you’ll want to change the kitchen soon so that you’ll walk in knowing that in advance. Now, instead of a negative, it is an expectation and gets you thinking of how you will remake the kitchen of your dreams. Visualization.

Does Your Advertising Match the Experience?

How many times have you heard a radio ad that sounded something like this?

Phil’s Toys is the leader in selling hard-to-find toys. We have thousands of toys in stock. We won’t be undersold! Our customer service is unbeatable and we always offer the best deals. Phil’s Toys has the best toys ever! If you haven’t been to Phil’s Toys, you need to check it out! Located on Main Street right by the clock tower. Go to Phil’s Toys dot com and check out our every day deals. (517) 555-1111. That’s (517) 555-1111 or Phil’s Toys dot com for the best selection, best prices and best services on all your toy needs. (517)-555-1111. Call Phil’s Toys today!!

Pretty much all of them, right?

Image result for boringMultiple unsubstantiated claims. Zero emotions. No representation of your Core Values.


Most people will ignore that ad. The few that don’t ignore it will remember one of three points—that you have tons of products, cheap discount prices, and excellent customer service.

But what happens when your customers walk in to find you have a fraction of the products of your big chain competitors, prices that are fair but on the high side, and customer service that is decent but nothing to write home about?

Sure, you have good products. You’re selling a higher grade product than the chains. You’re selling lesser-known but better solutions than your customers are used to seeing. You have fewer choices because you’ve curated down to only the best options. But that isn’t what your ad said.

Sure you have good prices. Thanks to MAP, no one has prices consistently lower than yours (except for the rogue website or two that drives Amazon down temporarily until you complain to your vendor.) No one has prices any higher either. The prices are fair, if not inspiring. But that’s not what your ad said.

Sure you have great service. At least you think you do because customers tell you they love you and you get great reviews on Facebook. That’s the problem with customer service, though. There is no set definition in all customers’ minds what great service looks like. Just because you aren’t bumbling, gum-chewing, idiots like your competitors doesn’t mean you’re meeting your customer’s expectations. but that’s not what your ad said.

If you make an unsubstantiated claim in your advertising, most people won’t believe it (if they heard it at all.) Those few that do believe it better not be disappointed when they show up in your store. Otherwise they will become your greatest critics which is worse than them not showing up at all.

Whether you change your ads or change the experience, the ad and experience have to match to be effective.

Here is one way you could talk about your customer service that is interesting and more substantive …

The box wasn’t unusually heavy.  Awkward?  Yes.  But not too cumbersome.  Getting it into the trunk was fun.  The top first, a little twist here, and finally a big push.  The customer looked at me and said, “I probably should have brought the van.”  I laughed, “Next time.”  A couple of thank you’s and she left with a smile.  I had a happy customer, and a little fresh air.  Ahh, we love carrying the big stuff out to your car.  Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We’re here to make you smile.  But next time bring the van.

That is a true story from a time I was carrying a box out to a customer’s cars. It illustrates one of our services, but more importantly paints the picture of the level of service we offer.

Here’s another true story …

I served them ice cream.  8:30 in the morning and I served my staff ice cream.  Some looked at me like I was crazy.  Others dug right in.  Yeah, I’m a little unconventional that way.  Kinda like how we staff the store.  I have more staff on the floor than stores double our size.  Some think I’m crazy.  Others love it.  There’s always someone available to help you.  It takes a little more ice cream, but it’s worth every scoop.  Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We’re here to make you smile.

This one tells you one important point—we have “more staff on the floor than stores double our size.”

Stories are far more illustrative and effective at getting your point across in a way people will notice and remember. When you show customers what you do, you are substantiating your claim and making it more believable. When you tell a true story you also make it more memorable.

Show people what you have done to help them see what they can expect when they visit. Not only will your ads be more interesting, they will match the experience your customers have in the store perfectly.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Here’s one more substantiated claim …

On a slow day we gift wrap about fifty packages.  On a busy day it’s closer to five hundred quickly and neatly wrapped gifts.  Why do we do it?  Because your time and money are valuable and this is how we help.  After fifty-six years and over five hundred miles of giftwrap, we’re pretty darn good at it.  Sure, there are a few hundred of our thirty thousand toys we just can’t wrap.  For everything else, let us do the work.  We like to wrap.  Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Advertising Cannot Change Your Reputation

In a recent post I talked about how my hometown of Jackson, Michigan was once called “Central City” because of the railroad industry back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The name most people my age knew was the unofficial title of “Prison City”. One reader reminded me that for several years Jackson has been calling itself the “Rose City”.

I forgot about that name.

Image result for roseSure there are some subtle reminders such as the Rose Parade in which my boys and I have participated over the years, and the Rose Festival, but not much after that.

A friend of mine moved to Jackson a few years ago and heard the name. She still wonders how the name came to be. No huge rose gardens on display, no neighborhoods full of roses, no roses featured in the new logo. The name doesn’t fit the experience.

Prison City still fits. We still have prisons. People already think about Jackson that way. You don’t have to try to convince them otherwise.

But Rose City doesn’t.

That’s one of the key principles of advertising. To truly be effective, your advertising has to match the experience. You can’t advertise your way out of a bad reputation. You can only reinforce the reputation you already have. You can’t change perceptions with advertising. If you try, you will only waste thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it.

Sign up now for this Tuesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class and I’ll show you how to spend your money much more wisely and use advertising in ways that it can work.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There are four things advertising cannot do. It cannot change your reputation. It cannot fix your business. It cannot create loyalty. It cannot reach everyone. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you the four things advertising CAN do.

Use Your Flaws to Your Advantage

I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan. I have spent 44 of my 50 years living in Jackson. Back in the late 1800’s Jackson was known as “Central City” because it was the hub to all the rail lines that ran through Michigan. As the railroad died out, Jackson became known as the “Prison City” because we were home to world’s largest walled maximum security prison. My high school co-ed softball team called ourselves the Prison City Inmates.

When I headed east to Ann Arbor for five years at The University of Michigan, the conversation with the new people I met went like this …

“Where are you from?”


“Oh, the prison.”

“Yep, just got out.”

When I moved back to Jackson after a year out west and a couple months up north, it dawned on me … Jackson has been hiding from the prison city moniker as though ashamed of our status in the world. Back in the mid-90’s I started telling city leaders they need to embrace that image and play it up, not shirk from it. Be who you are, warts and all. Embrace your downside. Use your flaws to your advantage.

Image result for kingman museum
Kingman Museum, Battle Creek, MI

Over the years I have given that same advice to other businesses.

Earlier today I met with the chairperson of a really cool museum and gave her the same advice. Use the fact that your museum looks more like a musty old mausoleum to your advantage. “Shhh … don’t tell your friends what you found behind these cold concrete walls.” They could have a whole lot of fun with that. It definitely would be memorable, and it would take what people already think about the museum, its biggest flaw, and make it a positive.

I saw the chairperson’s gears in her brain start whirring. I know she is going to run with it and I can’t wait to see how it looks.

If you want some more ideas on how to turn a negative into a positive, check out this post I wrote back in 2011 about the Pig & Trebuchet Brew Pub and their “Bad Table”.

Identify the most negative aspect of your business and use it to your advantage. First, just by talking about it, you admit that A) you’re human, and B) you’re not perfect. That, alone earns you trust. Second, by bringing your negative aspects to light, you manage the expectations so that they never really seems as bad as they are painted out to be. Third, the flaws are memorable because they are flaws you own. No one else has your flaws.

If Jackson had embraced the Prison City moniker years ago, and made it a focal point of their advertising and marketing, we wouldn’t be wallowing around feeling sorry we aren’t Ann Arbor. Conventional wisdom said hide the ugly and only show the pretty. Conventional wisdom has sunk many a marketing & advertising campaign because people know you have an ugly hiding somewhere. The more you hide it, the more they will go looking for it. Embrace it and make it your calling card. Then it becomes an asset.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This is just one of the fun concepts we discuss in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop taking place Tuesday, June 20th. Sign up today and I’ll help you turn your negatives into positives (especially that bottom line.)

Painting the Picture on the Web

I had a lunch meeting earlier this week at one of my favorite restaurants—Mat’s Cafe. Mat makes the best pulled pork I have ever had. I have eaten there so much that there is even an off-menu item called “The Toy Man” (a plate of his award-winning pulled pork and mac & cheese). You order and pay at the counter and they bring your food right to your table. Sit there long enough and they might even bus your table when you’re done.

The only problem is that there are no signs telling you this. There is a big menu hanging over the counter, but after that, you’re on your own guessing what to do next. (Did you get a fork from the table over by the wall? Did you grab a cup and get your drink or pick one out of the cooler over on the other wall? Did you realize the menu was just a suggestion and that Mat and his team will pretty much make you anything they can with the ingredients on hand?)

Image result for mats cafe and catering jackson mi
(Zeke Jennings, MLive)

Fortunately for my lunch partners making their first visit to Mat’s, I was there to help them navigate. Also fortunately for Mat’s, the food is so damn good that you aren’t deterred by any barriers or confusion that can be off-putting for many people.

We are creatures of habit. We like to do things that are familiar more often than we like to do things that are different. Different is scary. Not knowing how to do something is scary. Not sure of the procedures is frustrating and scary and often enough to keep a new person from trying you out. Only a small percentage of the population prefers the unknown over the familiar.

Roy H. Williams once said, “People only do that which they have already seen themselves do in their own mind.” We like to visualize before we actually do. That is why new and different and unknown are so scary.

That is why gaining new customers is far more work than just keeping the old.

That is also why you need a phenomenal website that helps your customers visualize visiting your store and know all your quirky procedures before they have to take that risk.

In today’s market, your advertising may reach the masses, but your website is where many individuals go first to visit you. They want to see whether you are worth the time and effort to actually visit. They want to know what to expect. They want to feel like an insider before they even arrive. Does your website paint the right picture? Does your website show customers what a visit to your store looks and feels like? Does your website give customers knowledge they need to have the best possible experience in your store?

If I was Mat, I would have a big picture of the counter where you place your order and content that read …

Welcome to Mat’s!
Follow your nose up to the front counter where you’ll find a menu over your head of the delicious meals we will make for you. Although we’re well known for our pulled pork and mac & cheese (both award-winners in MLive’s contests for best foods in Michigan), we can make you whatever sounds scrumptious from the ingredients you see on the board. Place your order, grab your drink and utensils, and choose a seat (the best table is in the front window). We’ll bring you your food fresh and fast. 

You’ll notice how in one short paragraph I painted the picture of what will happen when you enter and when you order. That knowledge is power. I also was able to squeeze in the fact that their specialty is pulled pork and mac & cheese, they’ll customize anything you want, and they can get you in and out on your lunch hour.

Here is some counter intuitive advice … When you build your website, don’t look at other websites for what to do. Look instead at what actions you want your customer to take. Look instead at how you can get your customers to visualize visiting your store. Look instead at what questions your customers will have about you and how easily you can answer them.

Build the website that paints the picture your customers want to see, not the website that follows a template to look like every other website out there. Then your website will be an effective tool to drive new traffic through your door.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Once you’ve designed your website around your customer, make sure it does have the familiar elements like About Us, Contact Us, Our Products, Get Directions, etc. Build it around exactly what questions you expect a new customer to ask and what actions you want them to take. Don’t make them “go looking” for answers. They won’t.

PPS Building a website based on everyone else’s website is a common mistake most small businesses make in their advertising. In fact, most of their advertising, regardless of the medium ends up being a copy of someone else. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “if everyone is doing it, it must be right.” Most businesses get advertising wrong. The best way to get it right is to first learn how advertising works. Attend the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up on Tuesday, June 20th and you’ll know what works and why. Sign up today!

How Many Ways are You Marketing & Advertising Your Business?

One of the segments of the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up Tuesday, June 20th focuses on the many different media you can use to market & advertise your business and their respective strengths and weaknesses. It dawned on me that I have used many different forms of media out there for Toy House over the years.

Here is the short list off the top of my head of all the ways I marketed & advertised Toy House the last twenty two years …

  • Newspapers
  • Newspaper inserts
  • Online News
  • Magazines
  • Radio
  • Internet Radio
  • Broadcast TV
  • Cable TV
  • Local TV
  • Billboards
  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Website
  • Online and Print Community Calendars
  • Facebook
  • Google AdWords
  • Yellow Pages
  • White Pages
  • Networking
  • Press Releases & Public Relations
  • Discount Business Cards
  • Twitter
  • Road signs
  • Trade shows
  • Giveaways
  • Sponsorship
  • Coupon Books
  • Off-site Presentations & Events
  • Decorated Delivery Van
  • Wearing logo shirts in public

I’m sure there are a few more I forgot.

The point here is to open up your mind to the idea that there are many ways to advertise your business. You don’t have to do all of them. In fact, you would need a dedicated marketing & advertising team and a huge budget to even attempt to half of them the right way. Instead, your best plan is to choose a few of these and do them better than your competition.

Sign up for the class and I’ll show you how to use each of the above the most productive way and help you figure out which ones will help you grow your business the right way—all in just four hours (I’ve done it before so I know I can do this for you.)

Here’s the fun part … That is only about half of what you’ll learn in this class.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There is one big myth I want to dispel right now and that is the notion of “Mixed Media”. The myth is that you need to spread yourself as wide as possible in as many different media as possible so that you hit the same people from many different angles to help them remember and think of you. Wrong! The stuff you see with your eyes goes to a different part of the brain than the stuff you hear with your ears. The different media rarely ever connect in the brain as one unified thought. The most effective marketing is when you dominate one medium so well that people think you own it. That was the biggest mistake I made for years. Our marketing & advertising got better when I pared it back to the media I could use best.

This is What Winning Looks Like

I was in Macy’s flagship store in New York City back in 1995. Seven floors of department store Nirvana. Everything you could ever imagine under one roof. I thumbed through sport coats of all sizes. Found several even bigger than the 50-Long I was wearing. They had everything … except a shirt that would fit me. My problem is that along with my wide shoulders I have long arms and a long torso. I need shirts that are sized “tall”. Even though they had at least a dozen jackets that would be too big for me, they only had one shirt my size in the entire 2.2 million square feet (a Ralph Lauren Pink Oxford for $110), and no shirts for those guys who would be wearing the bigger blazers.

But I’m not writing this to tell you about a store that failed me. I want to show you what “winning” looks like.

Along with the struggle of finding quality shirts that fit, I have run into a new problem. I am now allergic to a dye called Disperse Blue. It is found primarily in dark colored polyester fabrics. All those microfiber, dri-weave, quick-dry, ultra-soft, wicking fabrics I love are all off the plate in dark colors like navy or black or charcoal. This, after wearing a navy shirt almost every day for the last two decades!

Image result for dxl storeIn search of a new wardrobe, I walked into DXL in Ann Arbor. They specialize in big & tall sizes from brand names like Reebok, Adidas, Nike and Ralph Lauren. They also apparently specialize in customer service.

I was greeted pleasantly at the door by a couple of sales people. I told them my problem with Disperse Blue dyes and what I needed. While one salesperson led me around the store, the other got on the Internet and started researching the dyes used in her clothing brands. Not finding the info there, she called corporate offices. She didn’t get any answers (the corporate office was closed), but before I tried on my first item, she handed me a phone number to call that would be the most likely place to find out which shirts used Disperse Blue dyes and which did not.

I didn’t ask her to do any research. I was planning on buying light colors and/or 100% cotton to avoid the issue in the first place. But she went way above and beyond my expectations, looking up websites and making phone calls to help me out.

This isn’t typical sales clerk behavior. I know. I’ve been shopping chain stores for a long time looking for shirts that fit. She surprised and delighted me. I bought a Ralph Lauren shirt among other items and will definitely be back to buy more. More importantly, I’m telling you about my wonderful shopping experience. About 300+ people read this blog each day. That’s pretty decent word of mouth wouldn’t you say? I’ll probably tell another dozen people or more.

This salesperson listened to my problem and then did more than I ever expected to try to solve my problem. That’s what “winning” looks like. Do you have that culture in your store?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Let’s break down the key steps. The first thing that happened is that the salesperson listened. Then she acknowledged she didn’t know about Disperse Blue dyes. She asked more questions. Then, while another salesperson showed me around the store, she got online and on the phone to try to solve my problem. Either she is trained incredibly well, or she is just an incredibly helpful person (or a little bit of both). If there is a skill your sales team needs, you need to either hire it or train it (or both). I can help you either way.

PPS Word-of-Mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. Here’s the key. It comes from your customer service budget, not your advertising budget. We’ll discuss the four tried-and-true ways to consistently get people to talk about your business in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING CLASS taking place Tuesday, June 20th. Are you in?