MadAveGroup

  1. It’s the season of gift-giving, but we have a client that gives gifts nearly every day of the year.

    Grand Home Furnishings is a 19-store furniture and mattress retailer with locations in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

    Since 1953, they’ve given a free 8-ounce glass bottle of Coke to everyone who walks through their doors.

    It started as a nice gesture; a way to thank people for coming to the opening of their new location. But the gift was so well-received by the thousands of people who stopped in that first weekend that management decided to hand out free Coke every day at every store.

    Now, Grand Home Furnishings gives away more than 1,300,000 bottles each year!

    You might think that represents a huge expense, but the people at Grand Home Furnishings don’t. To them it’s a worthwhile investment.

    • It’s a tangible way to say “welcome.”
    • It’s the daily perpetuation of a charming seven-decade tradition.
    • It’s an easy way to put a smile on a visitor’s face and maybe even begin a long-term relationship.
    • It’s a unique branding tool that helps the company stand out, not just among their direct competitors, but among all stores in the markets they serve.

    And if those positives lead to a sale - or many sales over the years - then the modest cost per bottle is a small price to pay for the acquisition of a customer.

    Here’s what Grand’s founder George Cartledge, Sr. said about the ongoing giveaway. "Let me emphasize how important it is to give out Cokes with enthusiasm and a smile. Don't ask customers if they want a Coke; greet them and hand them a Coke when they walk in. It puts them at ease. Our image has been created by the Cokes we give away.”

    Mr. Cartledge continued, “Remember, when a customer walks in our door, they are doing us a favor and we should treat them special. Of all the things we do, handing out Cokes is one of the most important. It is the best advertising we can get."

    “It's no different than when someone comes into your home,” said Grand’s Director of Advertising, Mike Virok. “You offer them something to drink.”

    In the spirit of appreciation, what can you give to the people who come to your store or visit you online?

    Sure, you could hand out promotional items that relate to your main service. Or you might partner with a neighboring or complementary company to promote their brand by sharing samples of their products with your customers while they do the same for you.

    You don’t need to give a physical item, though. Could you provide easy, free access to your new research on every page of your website? Maybe a no-charge review, check-up or audit? Or are you willing to offer a commitment as human and meaningful as eye contact, a handshake, and your undivided attention?

  2. My series of posts featuring answers to questions posed by the Forbes Agency Council continues. The theme of this article: brand. 

    Question: A big part of growing your personal brand includes public speaking. In your experience, what’s one important element that all professionals should incorporate into their speech to make it more memorable and impactful?

    Answer: If one of your goals is to build your personal brand, you'll want audience members to look for more of your thoughts after your speech, and then follow you online. So, pack your presentations with engaging content, but keep them shorter, so they feel like just a taste of what you have to offer. That can encourage people to actively seek more of your unique perspective.

    Question: Just because a brand isn’t involved with a public-facing crisis doesn’t mean times aren’t tough. What’s one way for a brand to seem authentic even when the company isn’t doing particularly well?

    Answer: The best way to "seem" authentic is to BE authentic. When you're always truthful and transparent, you never have to worry about coming clean if something goes wrong. If the things your brand "says" and "does" are legitimate representations of who you are as people, you're acknowledging that "we aren't for everyone," but those who identify with your message are likely to stick by you as customers.

    Question: Recent grads are beginning to develop their personal brand to differentiate themselves in the competitive workforce. What’s your top tip for personal branding?

    Answer: The part about a personal brand that really matters is the "personal" part. There's only one you, so don't squelch whatever passions burn inside of you. Pursue the work that matters to you, while presenting yourself in your own unique way. You may not be right for everybody, but you're going to be perfect for somebody. Maybe a lot of somebodies. And that's likely where you'll find fulfillment.

  3. I have an opportunity each month to answer marketing-related questions for the Forbes Agency Council. Thoughts from council members are then published at Forbes.com. This blog post is the fifth in a series featuring a few of my responses to those Forbes questions. The theme: Content Creation.

    Question: It's one of the top goals of any company's marketing campaign - a strong, unique voice that unmistakably belongs to and reflects their brand and puts them top of mind with consumers. What's one way companies can create and cultivate a strong voice for their brand?

    Answer: A brand's message can get watered down with marketing-speak or when trying to appeal to everyone or offend no one. If there's a leader in your company who talks in a bold, no-nonsense way about your mission and your customers, pattern your marketing content after his or her communication style. It'll likely be perceived as unique because it's so personal. It'll also ring true with your audience.

    Question: Whether it's topic, venue, voice or other factors, what's your best tip for writing content that will have a long shelf life?

    Answer: Yes, hot topics can attract lots of eyeballs immediately, but they can also quickly fade in relevance. If you've been doing what you do for many years, you've likely learned many valuable lessons along the way. They may be simple, foundational truths that we all need to be reminded of from time to time. As blog posts, those truths can serve both your current audience and future readers.

    Question: User-generated content in the form of reviews can be one of the most powerful and effective marketing tools, but it can be hard to get happy customers to take the time to write it. What's one clever method a business can use to persuade customers to post a review?

    Answer: We've worked with clients who seem almost embarrassed to ask for reviews. But when consumers are excited about a buying experience, they often want to share their opinions. So, encourage that. When someone is happy at the point of sale, ask them to share their feelings on social, a review site or with an email. Everyone wants to feel like their thoughts matter. Let your customers know theirs do.

    Question: A blog can position a company or brand as an industry leader and attractive potential business partner. What's one piece of advice your client should adhere to when launching a blog to highlight their brand?

    Answer: Your blog doesn't have to be about your brand directly in order to benefit your brand. If your posts are just thinly veiled ads for your company, no one will read them. So, tell stories about your customers and industry, your personal experiences, even odd topics that support your brand story. The goal of your blog should be to provide your readers with valuable insight and a unique perspective. 

  4. I’m not a runner. Never have been. But for the hour that I watched last weekend’s 2019 Chicago Marathon from the streets of my daughter’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, I was completely drawn into the event.

    I’d never seen anything like it: an endless stream of determined people running through a chilly Sunday morning. And most seemed in remarkably good spirits at mile 10. (I'm drained and cranky after driving ten miles.)

    Later, I learned that more than 45,000 people ran the race and that 1.7 million spectators lined the route to cheer them on.

    It was truly inspiring. The marathoners. Their friends and family who turned out in support. The planning and cooperation and logistics of it all. I was in awe.

    And yet, I had to laugh when I saw several young women holding signs that ran counter to the many messages of encouragement. One of the signs simply asked, “Why?”

    “Why?” is a funny question when posed to long-distance runners, but it also made me wonder: why would a person - let alone 45,000 people - put themselves through the tremendous struggle of running a marathon?

    As a non-runner, I may be going out on a limb, but I’ll suggest the “why” is at least partly about a story. Or maybe several stories.

    It might be a story about other people: I’m running for my sick mom. I do it to feel closer to my late friend who was a lifelong runner. I run to raise money for people who can’t run.

    It might be the story the runners tell themselves: I can do this. I can beat this. I am strong enough.

    Or running marathons may be one way they define themselves: I am an athlete. I conquer obstacles. I don’t stop until the race - literal or figurative - is won.

    Whether you run or not, you can likely identify with some of those feelings. Your career or your business has had to endure challenges and uphill battles, or times when you wanted to quit or thought you couldn’t make it. Maybe you even wondered “why am I doing this?”

    How did you get through?

    The answer to that question is a story you can tell.

    In your marketing content, share what you learned about yourself or your company during those tough times. How did adversity make you lean or hone your team’s skills or help you evolve into a better partner?

    In what ways did pushing through the pain give you unique insight or change your perspective?

    And how can you present your story in a way that inspires your audience and allows them to appreciate you and your efforts on an entirely different level?

    (Photo Credit: Top image from ChicagoMarathon.com)

    RELATED POSTS: The Value of a Good Story
    Tell Your Brand's Story from All Angles

  5. I ordered the salad.

    “That comes with soup,” Mike the waiter reminded me. “Which kind would you like?”

    "No soup, thanks," I said.

    But even though I was having only one course, Mike took it upon himself to make my lunch more convenient.

    “I’ll bring you a large bowl of salad so you can help yourself to as much as you’d like.”

    He also brought three cups of dressing. Then, as I was finishing up, he asked if he could bring me an iced tea refill in a to-go cup.

    Those may seem like small gestures, but I can’t recall a restaurant server offering them before.

    Oh, and he was friendly and energetic, too.

    Mike’s primary job was to take my order and bring food to the table, but within that limited scope of opportunity, he got creative. He anticipated my needs, applied some empathy, used the tools he had - salad, bowls and a disposable cup - and created a memorable encounter.

    Perfect.

    When I complimented him on his great work, Mike thanked me and told me he believes in the Golden Rule and the power of Karma. But I already knew that about him.

    Now, try to tell yourself you can’t make the same type of effort for the people who keep your company in business.

    Try to buy into the idea you don’t have the time to make a better impression or add value, that you don’t have the resources, or the job title, or any good ideas.

    Try to swallow the notion that extra effort and care don't matter, that they're not a defining difference between the brands people love and those that disappear.

    Go ahead. Try.