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.
Sure 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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!
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 …
Online and Print Community Calendars
Press Releases & Public Relations
Discount Business Cards
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.)
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.
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!
In 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?
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?
I play guitar and sing in a local brew pub called The Poison Frog. At a recent gig I played an old camp song. Afterward, Phil Wilcox, the owner and master brewer, asked if I would do an entire “campfire” theme one night.
Following the advice of Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it,” I said yes and scheduled it for Friday, June 23rd. Hope you can come.
Then I got busy looking up campfire songs.
I found great song suggestions online, many of which I already knew.
I also found a bunch of songs I didn’t recognize the title or the artist. Surprisingly, when I listened to these songs, I realized I actually did know them and could already sing along to parts of them—even though I had never tried to learn them before nor even knew the song title or artist’s name!
You’ve had that experience, too. A song comes on the radio or Spotify and you start singing along. You don’t know the artist or title. You just start singing.
How can we know the words to songs we never tried to memorize? How can we sing along to songs we didn’t care enough to download into a playlist? How can our brains recall such information we never tried to store?
Our ears are never closed. We are hearing and our brain is processing sounds whether we are actively, consciously trying to listen or not. That’s why you can repeat back what the teacher said when she caught you daydreaming. That’s why you can sing along to hundreds of songs you never tried to learn. That’s why the alarm clock wakes you up every morning. That’s why strange sounds wake you up in the middle of the night.
I share this little tidbit with you because it comes into play for three distinct and different reasons in your advertising. You’ll learn why in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING AND ADVERTISING class coming up Tuesday, June 20th. You should sign up today.
PS You’re probably trying to guess those three reasons. You probably first figure I’m going to talk about jingles. Well, yes. And no. Humor, sex, and music are delicate techniques that need to be used with care and skill or they will backfire in a big way. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you what the pros know.
PPS The other two reasons are fascinating. One deals with how memory works. The other deals with how different media work. Take the class and you’ll learn secrets your advertising salespeople likely don’t know. (And if you are an advertising salesperson, you’re welcome to sign up, too!)
As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation.
The Value Equation is this … Does the Perceived Worth of an item equal its Actual Price?
We beg for the price because we are always at least subconsciously calculating Perceived Worth on everything we see. We’ve been doing it our whole adult lives. We do it shopping for groceries. We do it shopping for tools. We do it shopping for clothes. As we walk the store we attach a Perceived Worth to everything we see. (If we don’t want it, the PW is zero. If we might want it, we attached a price to it and check to see if we are right.)
When the Perceived Worth equals the Actual Price, we put the item in our cart.
The surprise is often in finding our Perceived Worth is far higher than the Actual Price. The first question we usually ask when that happens is, “What’s wrong with it?” or, “Is this marked down?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Wow, it must not be as good as I thought it would be.” Before we buy the product, we have to answer those questions satisfactorily.
That’s why it is easy to under-price yourself to bankruptcy (or at least leave serious dollars on the table.)
The other problem is when your Perceived Worth is much lower than the Actual Price. You either totally dismiss the product as being “out of my range” or you wonder what you missed in your evaluation of the product.
Take, for example, the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class I am offering. I have to find that sweet spot of a price that fits what you believe a class like this should be worth.
I start by taking cues from what other similar programs charge. For instance, Bob Negen’s Whizbang Training two-day Retail Success Summit this summer is currently $997. My buddy Tim Miles just announced a one-day workshop with Roy H. Williams, himself, for $1250. (By the way, I highly recommend both programs, and, no, I don’t get any kickbacks from these links.)
My workshop is $250* for a half-day —similar to Bob’s price for two days. Some of you will look at the price and see that it is about what you’d expect to pay for other, similar types of training. Some of you will look at the price and ask, “Where’s the value? What do I get in return?”
So I also look at the benefits you will get from the program. For instance, in this four-hour program you get:
Eight ways to market your business with little or no money at all
How to get free publicity from the media
How to craft a message that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon – three things that are incredibly hard to accomplish in today’s fractured, over-saturated media world
How best to use the media of your choice (and tips on how to choose the best media for your business)
Four ways to generate more Word-of-Mouth advertising than you ever thought possible
One year of advertising support including help with your message, your campaign, your media buys, or wherever you have questions or need advice.
Some of you will still balk at the price. That’s okay. I know I won’t convince everyone.
Some of you will think that seems like a pretty fair trade for $250 and four hours of your time. You’ll sign up now for the class on Tuesday, June 20th.
Others will wonder why the price is so low for all that you get. Most of you in that frame of mind have either been to one of my programs before or live in a city where prices for stuff like this are just a bit higher than they are in Jackson. Remember, Helping Others is one of my Core Values.
*PS If your business or you personally have taken one of my workshops through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™, you qualify for the Half-Price Alumni rate of $125.
PPS Why the half-price tuition for JRSA™ alumni? I believe strongly in continuing education. Now that I make my living speaking and writing, I am reading more blogs and books on speaking and writing, and I am attending workshops to learn all I can in those fields. I want to encourage anyone who takes one of my workshops to come back for refreshers or other programs, or maybe send a staff member to learn more. Plus, you’re always looking for a better deal. You know these classes are worth it at almost any price. Half-price just makes you feel good.
Call me Admiral Graybeard. This summer I will be heading up a fleet of Interlake Sailboats on the waters of Stony Lake for YMCA Storer Camps. I’ll be spending my mornings on the water (and my afternoons typing away at my computer.)
You could call this a return to my youth. I did spend the summers of 1974 through 1981 as a camper there. You could call this a return to my high school and college days. I did work there as a summer camp counselor from 1983 to 1987. You could call this a return to my early career. I did work there full-time teaching Team Building through wilderness and experiential education in 1990 and 1991.
I call this an example of Hidden Networking.
When I say Networking, most business owners immediately think of Chamber events and other B2B meet-and-greets as the only networking they might do. I know. I used to think that way, too. Here’s a dirty little secret …
You’re always Networking.
When you go to the bank or gas station or grocery store or out to eat, you are networking. When you volunteer to help out at the school or church, you are networking. When you meet people at a social gathering, you are networking. It just isn’t as open and obvious.
Although you can call me Admiral, my boss this summer happens to be someone who took my Daddy Class at the local hospital. His boss, the person who hired me, knows me because my boys have attended the camp as campers. I was up at the camp a couple weekends ago to do some volunteer work organized by an old friend, when the idea sprang about.
You never know when or how a connection will benefit you. I may have a connection to the camp through being a camper, staff member and parent. But I made the connections to the people who hired me through teaching a class and volunteering to help a friend.
Hidden Networking is the quiet connections you make daily. Sometimes it is more powerful than big networking events.
PS You’re already doing Hidden Networking. I just want to give it a face and a name so that you would do it more openly and consciously. Make sense?
PPS One big perk besides spending my summer on the water is that I get the flexibility to still do workshops and seminars like the Spotlight on Marketing and Advertising workshop coming up June 20th (that gives you insight into how to make any and all kind of Networking work best for you.)
Here is your chance to learn the equivalent of a degree in advertising in just one night. As one MBA professor told me after sampling the material, “No one is teaching this stuff even at our level, and it needs to be learned!”
If you are a small business owner, you should take this class.
If you are an entrepreneur, you should take this class.
If you are a student studying business at any level, you should take this class.
SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING
Next Class: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – 6pm to 10pm
Tuition: $250 (Half-price for any businesses that are JRSA™ Alumni)
Famed retailer John Wanamaker said it best, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year. Most of it poorly.
This Spotlight covers everything from how different types of advertising work to the best ways to use social media to marketing on a shoestring budget to learning the secrets to getting the press to talk about you. You will learn best practices for marketing your business whether your ad budget is $500 or $50,000. You will learn how to create memorable messages that move customers toward your business and you toward your goals. You will learn how to get far more out of your advertising dollars than any of your competitors.
When you take this class you will get…
Better, Smarter, More Effective Advertising – You’ll learn secrets that only a handful of businesses know that get greater results per dollar than any of your competitors.
One full year of Advertising Support including help finding your message, creating a campaign and buying ad packages
A Network of current and previous JRSA™ graduates for support and encouragement
PS Yes, this will include the material from my new book MOST ADS SUCK. That will only make up about 25% of the material covered. If you have a business to market, this will be the best money you’ve spent on “advertising” ever.
(If you didn’t read the Foreword already, you can find it here.)
Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck
“Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the right moment.” – Roy H. Williams
You’re in a room with friends, a plate of nachos in your hands. It’s the first Sunday in February. It’s a Super Bowl Party. Everyone is glued to the TV. Groans and high-fives and laughter fill the air. Some of your friends are second-guessing every move, every decision they see on the screen. Everyone is cheering for their favorite, even making excuses when it doesn’t go so well.
Then the game comes back on and you head to the bathroom and back to the kitchen to refill your nacho plate.
Once a year you watch the ads. One night out of three hundred and sixty-five you don’t fast forward or change the channel or—in many cases even care about the actual programming, just the ads in between.
You remember the good ones from years past. You remember how a few years ago the Budweiser Armed Forces in Airport commercial made you feel when everyone started clapping slowly, then faster until the whole airport was standing and applauding the soldiers walking through. You remember the kid looking you in the eyes and telling you he wanted to work in middle management even though you can’t recall which employment service did that ad and which one had the monkeys in the office.
You also remember groaning at some of the really bad ones, wondering how in the world that ad got approved for production, let alone a multi-million-dollar TV slot. You wish your own business was like one of these big companies with millions of dollars to waste on advertising knowing that in two weeks no one would remember and you would still have tens of millions to spend on the boring, crap ads everyone runs the rest of the year.
Why is that? Why, you wonder, do all these companies spend so much time, money and creativity on their Super Bowl ads only to run them once a year and leave you with the same tired sales-pitchy stuff the rest of the year? While you’re at it, you wonder why so many companies spend so much time, money and creativity only to miss the mark by a wide margin. Puppymonkeybaby? Really, Mountain Dew? That’s the best you could come up with?
Your friends tell you they’ve switched to satellite radio. Too many ads on regular radio, they say. Other friends tell you the greatest invention is the DVR or Netflix or Hulu. Don’t have to suffer through so many ads, they say. They do have a point. You seem to recall some study about how you are bombarded with over 5,000 advertising messages a day. You’re not sure if that number is right, but you do know that everywhere you turn there is another promotional message staring at you. Heck, every sub-segment of the Super Bowl was “brought to you by …” some auto/food/beer/insurance/drug company.
Maybe there are too many ads.
But there you are on the first Sunday in February, ignoring the brought-to-you-by announcements and even the game itself, and instead comparing notes with your friends on which ads were the funniest, the most moving, the most memorable.
Suddenly it dawns on you. The real problem with advertising isn’t that there are too many ads. The real problem is that most ads suck. If they were more creative or funny like the ones you saw tonight, you’d pay attention. If they were entertaining, you wouldn’t be switching channels. If they touched your heart, you might actually take action.
You think you’ve figured it out. You think you’ve figured out what famed retailer John Wanamaker couldn’t when he famously said, “Half of my ad budget is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.” It’s the half with the lousy, looks-like-everyone-else, boring, stupid ads.
You want to shout it from the rooftop. You’ve solved the advertising equation. The first half, at least.
You start thinking how fun it would be to meet with the advertising executives of every major company out there and tell them to quit spending all their money on Super Bowl ads and instead spend that money to make the rest of their ads better.
Then you wonder. “Wait, do I have it all wrong? Is it really that simple? That these multi-billion-dollar companies with their multi-million-dollar advertising budgets and their multi-million-dollar advertising firms with all their fancy metrics just don’t get it?”
Yes, you do have it right. Yes, you instinctively understand what many ad agencies and major national corporations don’t. You get it because you’re the consumer. You know what works on you and what doesn’t. You know what gets you to tune in and tune out.
You’re also smart enough to realize that some ads just aren’t speaking to you. You still appreciate clever writing, creative copy, and smart messages. If they’re entertaining enough, you’ll tolerate ads written for someone other than you. But your internal filter shuts everything down as soon as it looks, sounds, or smells like the plethora of phony, deceiving, too-good-to-be-true ads out there.
You’re about to start making a list of the worst offenders, the ones whose offices you’ll visit first to tell them about your new revelation, when it dawns on you. You know what they shouldn’t be doing. But if they ask you how to make their ads more interesting and memorable and effective, you don’t know where to start.
PS Thank you for those who have already supported the campaign to get this book printed. There are some amazing perks available for those of you who wish to contribute including one perk where I will create two ads for you (no matter what platform you are using).