A Banking Story – The Ten Day Hold

grouchy receptionistI’ve just had an unpleasant experience with my bank.

Interesting. I called it “My” Bank. Why did I do that? Merely because its the institution I’ve used for several years?

I remember why I chose this bank to begin with. I’d just moved to a new community to take a job with a company which required direct deposit of all payroll checks.

I chose this bank because it was directly across the street from my office.

Not because they offered free checking (they didn’t), or for the vast number of their ATMs (which they didn’t have in this community). I didn’t even choose them because they were “big enough to handle my needs but small enough to care.” The bank in question was owned by one of the biggest bank holding companies in the U.S., and since then they’ve been acquired by an even bigger company.

(Side question: “My” bank changed owners two years ago. Are they still mine? Probably. I haven’t noticed any significant changes other than the signage.)

Nope. All of the reasons banks put in their ads about why I should choose them meant nothing to me. I chose by location, and accepted everything which came with the package: the hours of operation, the fees, the interest rates… all of it. After I went into business for myself as a marketing consultant I opened a business account with the same bank.

Flash forward with me.

A couple of weeks ago, I, an otherwise satisfied customer, closed out a brokerage account and deposited the funds into “My” bank account. I hadn’t brought a deposit ticket with me, so I had to ask the teller for a blank deposit slip and to look up my checking account number.

I was told there would be a minimum ten day hold on this check, so that it could clear the issuing bank. Knowing this to be standard policy for many banks around the country, I merely nodded, took my deposit receipt, and left for my office.

On the eleventh day I called to ask about my deposit. I was told the hold on my check was for ten “business days.” Oh. Business days. OK. Because of the weekends, another four calendar days, I guess.

On the fifth day following, also known as the eleventh business day – called by most people the seventeenth day after – I checked my balance online and found the check had still not been credited to my account. I started looking for the bank’s phone number. It took far more effort than it should have to locate the national 800 number for the bank holding company.

I spoke to Rita in customer service. “Rita,” I asked, “what’s the point of requiring me to punch my account number into the phone, if you’re just going to ask me to repeat it when you come on the line?” Rita had no answer, other than their system couldn’t transfer the number with the call.

I asked that she explain why the funds from my former brokerage account had not been credited to my checking account. Rita assured me that the hold up was the fault of the issuing bank. I politely suggested that wasn’t likely, but that I would follow up with the brokerage.

The brokerage house didn’t leave me on hold.

Nor did their system drop my account number when transferring me to a human in account service. Ron looked up the check, and assured me that it had cleared their bank three days after it had been issued (in other words, two days after I deposited the check).

Some serious Google searching for another few minutes and I finally located a number for the local branch, which I dialed. I got the branch manager’s voice mail, hit “zero,” and was transferred to the receptionist. After checking, she told me that my funds would be available the following day.

“Why are those funds not available now?” I wanted to know. I was told that until midnight, they wouldn’t know how much money they’d received in the transfer from the other bank. (No, I am not making this up). “You’re a bank. You don’t know how much money people are sending you?” I asked, incredulously. Again, I was told my funds would be available after midnight.

So, the following morning I logged on to the bank’s on-line banking service to find the deposit had been made into my business account, rather than my personal account. I assumed a trip to the branch was in order.

Picture this layout:

bank lobbyWalking through the door puts the tellers on the left, the office cubicles on the right, a waiting area with couches and coffee on the back wall, and the receptionist desk in the middle of the big open area.

I approached the receptionist, who was busy ignoring me and curtly answering questions on the phone. I recognized her voice (and attitude) from the day before. The receptionist explained even though the customer had personally brought a check to the bank yesterday morning, that didn’t immediately put funds into her account. Her deposit wasn’t counted until midnight, and the check she was attempting to cover had been presented for payment yesterday afternoon. (Again, I’m not making this up).

Finally, when she asked how she might help me, I dragged a chair from an adjacent desk and settled in. I showed her both checkbooks. I explained that the deposit had been made in the wrong account, and asked her to make it right.

As she silently whacked the keys on her terminal an older woman, using a cane to steady herself, walked to the desk and asked, “Miss, can you tell me how much longer it will be?” The receptionist stated in a cold, professional voice, “I’ve told them you’re out here.” The older woman said “We’ve been waiting forty minutes. My friend gave me a ride, and she has another appointment soon.”

Without making eye contact the receptionist said “I don’t know what to tell you,” and went back to ignoring the woman.

When my transfer was complete, and the new receipts printed, I left. The older woman was looking at her watch. The receptionist was avoiding eye contact with the gentleman who’d been waiting his turn to speak to her.

I’m trying to decide whether to call the branch manager.

On the one hand, if I was the manager and didn’t know of poor customer service, I’d appreciate having it pointed out. On the other hand, this woman’s desk is in full view (and earshot) of six teller windows and four loan officer cubicles. I suspect all of the other employees have seen this behavior regularly. If that’s the case, why doesn’t the manager already know?

Should I call? Do I care? Will I move my accounts?

Truthfully, I don’t believe that the next bank will be any different.

What’s the difference between Bank of America and Sun Bank? Between Wachovia and Chase? Between Fifth Third and Wells Fargo? Can anyone articulate even a slight difference?

I can’t, and I’m paid to find and exploit those differences.

Bank advertising is so homogeneous we could probably exchange logos and no one would notice. (Except maybe for WaMu. Their ads are much more memorable. They don’t offer anything their competitors don’t, however. In the end they only have more clever advertising).

We can’t find the differences because there aren’t any. They all keep the same hours, pay the same interest rates, charge the same interest rates, offer the same free checking, and have coffee in the lobby. They all have the same automated tellers and charge the same fees for using someone else’s automated teller. All are “big enough to serve me and small enough to care.”

I should hope so. Who’d do business with a bank that can’t even reach the minimum criteria for entering the game. Telling me that you’re just like everyone else in your industry effectively makes you invisible.

I suspect many people choose banks as I did: they pick the one on the closest corner. And if that is the case, the only way any bank will gain market share will be to build on more corners.

Of course, the capital outlay required for this strategy will severely cut into operational profit, and the shareholders will probably revolt.

If I’m right, people don’t change banks because they perceive any advantage in the new bank. They only change when they’re upset enough to refuse to do business with the current institution. Advertising under these circumstances can only try to attract the attention of someone who’s getting ready to abandon her current bank.

That person is likely to choose the next bank based on location and convenience.

Isn’t it time for concierge banking?

Isn’t it time for someone to open a bank that caters to the needs, perhaps even to the whims of the customers? Wouldn’t you be willing to accept a lower interest rate on your savings in order to have a bank call and say “If you can get a deposit to us before midnight tonight, we won’t have to bounce this check?”

That only happens to me a couple of times a decade, but I’d be intensely loyal to a bank that cared that much about me.

Because when all of your competitors are pretty much the same, its not your advertising that drives market share. Its the way you do business.

I’ll be reinvesting the funds from my brokerage account. None of my investments will be in bank stocks.

And I still haven’t decided whether to call the branch manager about the receptionist. What’s your opinion? Should I bother?

Can massive amounts of advertising draw in more customers than service drives away? An important decision when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about matching the reality of your operation with the message you’re projecting? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@FishingforCustomers.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Applying The Persuasion Diagram To Newspaper Ads

In the last post we used the persuasion diagram to organize advertiser information, which we then used to compose a radio ad.

Let’s use the same exact information to build our newspaper ad. We fleshed out the rough points into this radio script:

“Sometimes late at night you’ll hear their filthy little feet scuffling across the linoleum. You move a soap bottle from under the sink, and you think you see something ducking down the drain opening. And you’ll know that your home has been invaded. They’re filthy, disgusting, and once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to get rid of. They’re roaches. You could try the powders… the sprays… and you’ll find that they just keep coming back. Until you finally call Elite Exterminating, the full service pest control and termite company. Elite Exterminating will kill the roaches you see, and the thousands of roaches you’ll never see. Call Elite Exterminating now at eight five three, eighty-three seventy. Eight five three, Eighty-three seventy. Eilte Exterminating, the full-service pest control and termite company proudly serving all of Texas and committed to complete customer satisfaction. One call… no more roaches. Elite Exterminating: eight five three, eighty-three seventy.”

How much different will our content be for the newspaper? Surprisingly little.

Using the sequence shown in the diagram, let’s put the pieces together.

You’ll note that we’ve used the radio script, with a few additional touches, such as the additional local phone numbers, the internet address, and the MasterCard, Visa, and Amex logos.

The use of some of the verbiage as headlines or subheads allows people to skim the ad to see if it has any interest to them. Just as we used radio sound effects, we injected photos of roaches in the newspaper ad to evoke emotion.

So what is the difference between a radio ad and a newspaper ad?

Very little, actually, and that’s a key point. With only minor modifications, this same message will work as a Yellow Pages ad or as a flyer.

Try using the Persuasion Diagram for your next ads. I suspect you’ll be pleased with the results.

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Using The Persuasion Diagram To Make A Radio Ad

Let’s create an ad using the Persuasion Diagram from What I Know About Writing Ads I Learned In High School.

Elite-Web-Logo-280This ad is for Elite Exterminating in Corpus Christi, Texas. Our objective is to promote their monthly in-home roach treatment. After interviewing the client, we are able to quickly determine most of the elements to fill in the Persuasion Diagram.

Use this outline to create persuasive advertising in any medium.

Use this outline to create persuasive advertising in any medium.

The Persuasive Proposition: roaches will keep coming back until you call Elite Exterminating.

Point One: Once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to remove.

Point Two: You only see a few of the thousands of roaches in your home. Elite Exterminating will kill them all.

Point Three: Elite Exterminating is committed to complete customer satisfaction.

Call To Action: Pick up the phone and dial 853-8570.

Make ‘Em FEEL The Roach Infestation

We need a vivid first mental image for our Attention-Getting Headline. We need to make sure people who have seen roaches in their home pay attention. With a little creativity we come up with:

Attention-Getting Headline: Sometimes late at night you’ll hear their filthy little feet scuffling across the floor.

OK. We have all of the major parts. Using the sequence shown in the diagram, let’s put the pieces together.

Sometimes late at night you’ll hear their filthy little feet scuffling across the floor.

Roaches will keep coming back until you call Elite Exterminating.

Once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to get rid of.

You only see a few of the thousands of roaches in your home. Elite Exterminating will kill them all.

Elite Exterminating is committed to complete customer satisfaction.

Roaches will keep coming back until you call Elite Exterminating.

Pick up the phone and dial 853-8570.

This ad isn’t done, but even in this bare bones form you can read the sentences out loud and can quickly judge whether or not this strategy is valid. Our incomplete example already sounds as if it will get the attention of homeowners with roaches, and guide them to call.

The Editing Step

Let’s flesh out the skeleton a bit, and re-write some of the minor points to make our ad compelling.

Sometimes late at night you’ll hear their filthy little feet scuffling across the floor linoleum. You move a soap bottle from under the sink, and you think you see something ducking down the drain opening. And you know that your home has been invaded.

They’re roaches. You could try the powders, the sprays, and you’ll find that they roaches will just keep coming back until you finally call Elite Exterminating the full service pest control and termite company.

They’re filthy, disgusting, and once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to get rid of.

You only see a few of the thousands of roaches in your home. Elite Exterminating will kill them all the roaches you see, and the thousands of roaches you’ll never see.

Elite Exterminating, the full service pest control and termite company serving all of Texas and is committed to complete customer satisfaction.

Roaches will keep coming back until you call Elite Exterminating. One call. No more roaches. Elite Exterminating: Pick up the phone and dial 853-8570.

If we swap the second and third paragraphs the sequence will flow better. Here’s the final script. Produced with the appropriate sound effects, our radio ad is done.

It’s Radio Ready

“Sometimes late at night you’ll hear their filthy little feet scuffling across the linoleum. You move a soap bottle from under the sink, and you think you see something ducking down the drain opening. And you’ll know that your home has been invaded. They’re filthy, disgusting, and once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to get rid of. They’re roaches. You could try the powders… the sprays… and you’ll find that they just keep coming back. Until you finally call Elite Exterminating, the full service pest control and termite company. Elite Exterminating will kill the roaches you see, and the thousands of roaches you’ll never see. Call Elite Exterminating now at eight five three, eighty-three seventy. Eight five three, Eighty-three seventy. Eilte Exterminating, the full-service pest control and termite company proudly serving all of Texas and committed to complete customer satisfaction. One call… no more roaches. Elite Exterminating: eight five three, eighty-three seventy.”

 

I wrote and produced this ad in 2003. Reviewing it now it’s obvious to me that the wordy and somewhat passive “Once they establish a presence in your home they’re nearly impossible to get rid of” would have been stronger as “Once you’ve got roaches they’re nearly impossible to get rid of.

And yes, Mrs. Jacobson, I do remember that you told us not to end a sentence with a preposition. (A silly rule, up with which I shall not put). Please understand that my objective is persuasion, which tends to work more effectively when I write the way people speak.

Next time, we’ll use the Persuasion Diagram to create a newspaper ad.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Need help applying the persuasion diagram to the story you need to tell? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@FishingforCustomers.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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What I Know About Writing Ads, I Learned In High School

Carol Jacobson, who inspired and guided several crops of reporters, novelists, and advertising copywriters.

Carol Jacobson, who inspired and guided several crops of reporters, novelists, and advertising copywriters.

On August 23, 1969 the late Carol Jacobson began teaching us how to write effective advertising.

By us, I mean the English composition class of Alamo High School, Alamo, North Dakota.

Oh, she didn’t call it effective advertising. She called it “writing.”

Carol Jacobson believed that people who could write a persuasive essay could write anything. I’ve been using the structure she taught us to create advertising copy for the last three decades.

Mrs. Jacobson used a diagram similar to this one:

Use this outline to create persuasive advertising in any medium.

Use this outline to create persuasive advertising in any medium.

 

The Attention-Getting Headline, sometimes called the First Mental Image, is what draws you into the ad.

Once you have the prospect’s attention, lead up to the Persuasive Proposition.

Mrs. Jacobson called this part the thesis. Sometimes it’s called the Value Proposition. Rosser Reeves called it the Unique Selling Proposition.

Regardless of what it’s called, this is the main point of our ad. This is the one thought that we want to stick in people’s minds.

We usually use three points (or benefits) to convince our prospect of the validity of our Persuasive Proposition. For some reason three is a magic number. Any fewer, the proposition appears weak. Any more and you run the risk of a long and boring list.

Exception: If you’re targeting Transactional Shoppers, and are showing off items included in your big sale, three groups of three items is magic. “They come in red, blue, and yellow; with zippered front, buttons, or pullover; and are available in medium, large, and extra large.”)

Finally, the Call To Action tells your prospect what you want her to do next.

Get familiar with this diagram. You can use it to create effective advertising copy for radio, for newspapers, for flyers, for sales letters, for television ads.

Next time we’ll use the diagram to create actual ads – the perfect bait when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Need help applying the persuasion diagram to the story you need to tell? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@FishingforCustomers.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Allstate Gets It

Dennis HaysbertYou get your new insurance bill, and grumble about the rate. You’ve grumbled every month when the bill comes, but today you’re especially irritated. “I wonder if I’m overpaying,” you mumble as you walk to your computer and search for “auto insurance.”

You go to the first site, and click on the “get rate” button. Whatzzis? You want me to register to use your site? Why do I have to register to get a quote online? Amazed, you look for an answer. A couple of clicks later you find this explanation:

* The online Rate Quote uses personalized pricing data. We use a one-time registration process to make sure we keep confidential data confidential.

* It takes only 2 minutes to register, and within 24 hours you’ll be set up and ready to receive personalized rate quotes and lots of other customized information to make your use of our web site easier.

These points constitute an answer?

I don’t want to use your web site. I just want to know what it will cost me to insure my car. You won’t tell me what your premiums cost without me telling you who I am? Why do you need to know that?

I know what this is all about. You’re going to send some salesperson to pressure me to buy from your company. I’m not sharing anything with you.

And with that, you go back to your search engine to try some other site. Pity. You still don’t know what the first company charged, and now you’re not going to say anything positive about them, are you?

Maybe it wasn’t insurance you wanted pricing on. Maybe you were searching for a gift for your mother, or checking the price of a rental car. Or maybe you’d actually found something you wanted to buy, but they won’t let you put anything in their shopping cart until you open an account. Have you ever had this particular experience?

It must have happened to Jim Whimpey and the Brisbane Creative Team. They’re parodying useless accounts at a site appropriately called Useless Account.

Every Obsticle Costs Sales

Here’s a truism: everything that gets in the way of your customer is going to cost you sales.

  • Should you hide the $20 jeans featured in your radio ad to see if anyone asks for them? NO! You should place them prominently and count how many you sell.
  • Should you charge your customer’s credit card, then tell her the item is back ordered? NO! You should inform the customer that the item can’t be shipped for a specific number of days, and not charge her card until you’ve actually sent the item.
  • Should you “capture” visitor information so that you can add one more name to your mailing list? NO! You should give people the information they’re seeking, and then let them choose to associate with you.

Now, the good news. Allstate gets it. Allstate’s newest television ad* is delightful. Here’s the script:

Say you want a hot dog. You go up to the vendor and you ask “How much?” He says “Give me your name and social security number.” Humm. You probably won’t buy from him. So why put up with it when you’re looking to buy car insurance on-line? At Allstate you can get a ballpark estimate without even giving up your name. Go to the new GetAllstate.com. Without even giving your name or Social Security Number you can compare different car insurance options and levels of coverage and get a ballpark estimate. Then, if you like the price, you can go on to get a full, personalized quote with an option to buy on-line. People who switched to Allstate saved an average of $338 per year. Log on to GetAllstate.com now and see how much you can save. Protecting you should start with protecting your privacy. That’s Allstate’s stand. Are you in good hands?

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many of your prospects take the bait, online or off, when you make it easy for them. And that bait is critical when you’re fishing for customers. .

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about uncovering the obstacles to letting people buy?  Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@FishingforCustomers.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

* Article written and originally published May 15, 2007. Obviously no longer Allstate’s newest television ad.

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The Biggest Waste in Advertising (a Case Study)

Shoppers Flow Downstream

Water FlowingJust as a river flows downhill from higher terrain, shoppers always flow from the smaller community to the larger.

Advertising in the bigger community to draw customers to your smaller community is as futile as trying to make the water in a river defy gravity.

Tom’s Letter

I was reminded of the effects of swimming against the current when I received this letter:

“I’ve owned a boat dealership for over 30 years. We are located 1.5 – 2.5 hours northwest of Chicago in an area of lakes where our best customers own a second home. How do I use radio to reach these people?Reed's Marine

A. They are primarily up here only on week-ends in the summer.

B. They live full-time in the greater Chicagoland area where radio advertising is too expensive for us.

C. We have local radio stations, but our customers can still tune in their favorite Chicago area stations.

Over the past few years, I’ve run a Reed’s Marine radio commercial three times a day, seven days a week from April thru August. I’ve used the two biggest stations in our county, so we are permeating our area. My hope was that I might be heard by my best prospects on a rare occasion, but I was primarily targeting all the people in my county who would eventually mention us when they come in contact with the tourist coming from Chicago on the week-ends.

Do you think “second-hand” radio advertising can have an actual effect … sort of like second-hand cigarette smoke?”

Tom Johnson, owner
Reed’s Marine

Second hand advertising?

Yes, it can have an amazing effect. Another name for it is “word of mouth.” It’s also known as your professional reputation, the sum of the experiences customers have had with you. An individual customer’s personal experience determines whether that individual customer will be a good source of word of mouth.

customer_evangelistsExceptional experiences turn shoppers into customer evangelists. These are people who can’t wait to rave to the world about your exceptional business. (Of course, give them a bad experience and they could just as easily become vigilante customers – also eager to tell the world about your business).

So whether you call it word of mouth or professional reputation, those personal experiences drive repeat business, referral business, and collectively drive first-time business. Yes, “second-hand radio advertising,” works. It’s also one of the requirements of business success.

But Tom actually asked two questions, didn’t he? The second, the unstated question, wasn’t about professional reputations, or customer experiences, or referral business.

Tom Wonders if He Can Make Customers Flow Uphill

He wants to know if his situation is different enough to justify advertising in Chicago.

It’s not.

Biggest Waste CalloutThe biggest waste of money in advertising happens when a business spends it’s budget, but didn’t invest enough to persuade anyone. Compare it to buying a ticket three-quarters of the way to Europe. You spent your money, but still didn’t arrive.

The first problem is the sheer size of the Chicago market. The number of people in Chicago who own homes in Delavan is going to be a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of a tiny percentage of the population.

In order to reach that minuscule segment of the market, you’re forced to also address the rest of the Chicago audience. And Tom, you can’t afford enough repetition of your ad on Chicago radio stations to effectively persuade anyone.** Like the salmon using all of it’s physical resources swimming against the current, you’re going to expend your financial resources fighting the inclination of all of those radio listeners to shop in bigger communities.

There is a practical way, though, to pursue that tiny fraction of Chicago’s population.

Stop Using Mass Media

Start making personal contact with Chicago residents who own homes in Delavan. The good news is it’s easier, and less costly, to make that personal contact once they’ve already arrived.

  • In most communities you can find the names and addresses of all new homeowners at the courthouse (or wherever the deeds are recorded). These are highly-targeted potential customers. Consider a “Welcome to your new home” letter to those folks, and include a CD ROM of the e-book you offer on your web site: The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When Buying A Boat. Perhaps you could make that letter a full package of “welcome” gifts. Be sure to keep testing different letters and keeping very careful records of your expenses and conversion rates. Whenever you determine that one works better, dump the old one.
  • Find locations that tourists frequently patronize… restaurants, gas stations, and local service businesses. Any possibilities for flyers? Display ads in those locations?
  • Find referral partners. Team up with other local businesses who’s reputations are as good as your own; non-competitors who share your customers. Exchange sales leads. Support one another, publicly and privately. Start with the realtors, motorcycle / ATV dealers, and sporting goods stores.
  • Consider a “boat out” on a weekday evening. Take some of your best-selling models out on the water and invite local folks (as well as any visitors in the area) to look and ride. Make it a party atmosphere. Tie in a local restaurant or caterer. Get some local artists to show off their work. Find some local musicians to perform. Most of those folks will participate for the publicity. Twist the arm of your Chaparral Boat representative to pick up any out-of-pocket costs.

These personal contact ideas are not replacements for your primary marketing plan, which will include local mass media. Any can be added to a good plan, however.

Reed’s Marine Strategy is Solid

Long term, twenty-one ads per week will be sufficient on most radio stations, provided that you’re targeting relational shoppers.

I’m assuming that your ads are customer focused.  You are personally involved in the writing of those ads, aren’t you? Please don’t leave it up to the local radio stations.

We already discussed the power of word of mouth. If your message isn’t worth repeating, it won’t be repeated.

A Few Additional Things to Consider

  • Maximize your local media impact with heavier schedules early in the season and heavier schedules on weekends throughout the season.
  • Purchase gift certificates for dinners, concert events, or movies. Offer them to your local radio stations as give-away items. “Be the 9th caller and win a family four-pack of movie tickets, courtesy of Reed’s Marine in Delavan.”
  • Consider billboards on the main roads into town. In some small communities, especially those with few roads into town, three or four boards can provide as much as a 100 showing.
  • Your web site is very well done. Crisp, clean, informative, and easy to navigate. I’d suggest that you add the free download of your e-book to the home page as well. (More companies should be following your lead in this area – its an excellent piece.)

Also consider making a link from your home page to the “Reed’s Marine Pledge To You” statement. You can’t go wrong telling customers what’s in it for them. Tell them early and often.

Most advertisers in a smaller communities can afford enough frequency in local newspaper or radio to persuade local shoppers to come do business. You’re already doing the things most businesses should be doing. Stick with your existing strategy, and when tempted to purchase advertising in Chicago, remember what happens to the Salmon. Don’t wear yourself out fighting the current.


 

* Please don’t confuse comments about marketers swimming against the current as a condemnation of any contrarian philosophy. Contrarians find opportunities in serving the existing needs of customers which other businesses are ignoring.

** There is one possible exception in which Chicago radio could pay off, but it’s a long shot.

Are there outdoor shows in the Chicago area sponsored by Chicago radio stations? Is the attendance at those shows such that you could justify your involvement?

Many of the stations will tie your involvement in the show to purchases of advertising packages. Your mission is to get the largest number of announcements with the financial investment they require. See if they’ll let you exchange prime time ads for overnight placement to increase frequency, then concentrate those between 4am – 6am, especially Friday and Saturday. Consider sponsoring Friday evening or Saturday traffic reports.

And remember, the primary value of this strategy is to get face-to-face with potential customers at the outdoor show. The radio schedule is the price of your participation.

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The Truth About Recycled Ads & Pickup Lines

Swipe Files / Headline Banks

Have you seen those ads for “headline banks” or “swipe files?” Collections of the 100 greatest advertisements of all time so you don’t even have to learn anything about marketing or advertising. You just have to copy these “proven ads” and you will, of course, have success.

If you believe that.

You know, you’re going to get about the same one hundred ads from every one of these suppliers and they’re all approaching one hundred years old, because those are the ads that the copyrights have expired on.

And seriously, these were great ads when they came out.

Great Advertising Examples

Max Sackheim’s ad for Sherwin Cody’s home study course in the English language was brilliant: “Do you make these mistakes in English?” You know, that ad made money for Cody for over four decades, and they never changed the copy ’cause it just kept on working. This was a great ad.

John Caples classic for the U.S. School of Music, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play…” In those years leading up to the great crash of ’29, when money was easy and confidence was everywhere, thousands of (largely rural) Americans looked at this and thought, “Hey, maybe the key to becoming popular is mastering a musical instrument.

Then there’s the Wall Street Journal ad that asked, “Who else wants to get promoted?

No Thinking Necessary

The idea is you take your name and put it where their name used to be, and you put your offer where their offer used to be. And now you run the ad.

And because these ads were so brilliantly written they’re going to pull in hundreds of thousands of sales for you.

For your heating and air conditioning company.

For your family restaurant.

For your income tax service.

If you believe in magic.

Here’s the reality. Those ads were so good because they were designed to work in a specific time, in a specific market, against specific competitors, in specific media… and none of those conditions exists anymore.

So, recycling somebody’s old ads makes as much sense and recycling old pick up lines, for pretty much the same reason.

He: “Do you make these mistakes in heating and air conditioning repair?”

She throws her drink in his face.

He: “They laughed when I sat down at Mom’s Family Diner, but when I started to eat…”

She throws her drink in his face.

He: “Who else wants to file Schedule A with their long form 1040?”

She throws her drink in his face.

Here’s What Really Works

Find out what your potential customers are already talking about, and join in on that conversation.

He: “If you wake up every morning with a backache, maybe it’s time for a new mattress.”

She: “Tell me more.”

Stop Using Other People’s Ads

You can’t afford to lose any sales, and the right bait is the right information for your customers, at this point in time, in the medium you’re choosing, against the competitors you’ve got.

Yes, there are magic words, but they’ll be unique for your company. And you need that kind of powerful customer bait when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about expressing the specific values and advantages of what you sell? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@FishingforCustomers.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Beer And Headaches And That Awful Cramping

Originally published February 24, 2006
Chuck Blore once told of a study he did for CBS. Beer drinkers were surveyed as they entered his testing facility. They each proclaimed a preference, as well as an explanation of why they they had chosen that particular brand of beer.

The participants were then given tasting cups, and were told to help themselves to any of the 20 beers available for comparison tasting.

As they finished and were leaving the testing facility, the participants, all 104 of them, were again surveyed as to their preferences.

Interestingly, not a single participant had changed his or her mind. Each had found validation in the actual testing that the beer he or she had preferred on the way in was indeed more robust, or smoother, or lighter.

Blore never told them that all of the samples were exactly the same.

His conclusion: Advertising makes beer taste better.

What Would You Take For A Headache?

If you were suffering from a headache would you be more likely to take Midol Menstrual Formula® or Excedrin Tension Headache®? If you were suffering from menstrual cramping which would you be more likely to take to relieve your symptoms?

They each have the same active ingredients: acetaminophen and caffeine.* My conclusion: Effective advertising makes pain manageable.

But notice something else at work, here. By limiting themselves to headache relief, or to menstrual pain relief, aren’t the makers of Excedrin™ and Midol™ (McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals and Bayer Corporation, respectively) limiting the number of sales they could make to people with backaches, toothaches, or sore muscles?

Absolutely they are.

They will probably make no sales to those people. And it doesn’t matter.

Name three other products marketed for the relief of menstrual pain. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’m waiting.

OK. Were you able to name three? Two? Most of us named only one.

Why Specialization is Valuable

Now, which would you rather be, one of a dozen products for general pain relief, or the one product that comes to mind when a customer is suffering a particular ailment?

By specializing and becoming the solution to a specific problem, you automatically become the most likely choice of consumers who are experiencing that particular discomfort.

When customers ask for you by name, you’ve succeeded at genuine branding. The lack of branding is the single biggest reason most business advertising isn’t as effective as it should be.

Your first step getting them to ask for you by name is to help shoppers figure out what they get from you that they can’t get from anyone else.

What is it? You sell the same products. You deliver the same services. What differentiates your business from those of your competitors? Why should anyone think of you as the solution to their problem?

Well, why should they?

The perfect solution is also the perfect bait when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Wondering how to articulate your value as a solution? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call him at 760-813-5474.



* The active ingrediants are acetaminophen and caffeine. Midol Menstrual Formula® also includes 15 mg of Pyrilamine maleate, a diuretic to relieve water-weight gain.

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What’s In A Name?

Originally published August 14, 2005

Name Tag

"Hello, my name is" sticker

Thirty years ago a pair of researchers, Herbert Harari and John W. McDavid gave eighty experienced teachers papers to grade. Eight essays, all of comparable quality were supposedly by boys named David, Elmer, Hubert, and Michael, and by girls named Adelle, Bertha, Karen, and Lisa.

The names were rotated through the eight essays, so that some teachers believed David wrote the essay on Tarzan, while others noted that David wrote the essay on kites.

Result? When credited to names with positive stereotypes the papers got better grades than when credited to names with negative stereotypes. Michael always got a better grade than Elmer, for instance.

Interesting.

Names Make a Difference in People’s Expectations

That would lead a curious person to wonder if George W. Bush could have been elected had his name been Pépé LePetomaine. Would John Kerry have been his party’s choice of candidate were he named Percy Arbuthnot? Would our fellow citizens be supportive of sending troops into combat if the initiative had been named something other than the “War On Terror?”

Those who are very talented often make things look easy. When talented people are articulate, they make things sound easy, too. I think that’s the case with a post Chris Gloede authored on his Rants on Modern Marketing blog titled Product: Naming Isn’t Really That Important. It’s what started me thinking about names.

I don’t disagree with Chris often. No matter how simple he makes it sound, I don’t believe that he would choose anything but a great name. Like I said, talented people just “do it,” while others are wondering what to do. And I certainly agree with him when he says “having a good product supported by good marketing” is more important than the name of the business.

Still, I think names are important.

Everything in our world has a name. Every sound, every color, everything you touch, and every business you deal with.

Some Names Have Positive Connotations

Others much less so.

It’s not likely anyone today would name a baby Francis, Edgar, Agatha, or Mabel. And yet, we see companies deliberately choosing such names as Vapid Software. (I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. Vapid is a Latin adjective meaning “flat tasting, lacking liveliness, dull”).

There wasn’t much of a market for Chinese gooseberries. Say it out loud and listen to the sound of that name – gooseberries. It’s so much more attractive now that it’s been renamed “Kiwi fruit.”

Crazy Eddie®, “with prices so low we must be insane,” sold massive amounts of stereo gear in New York in the 70s. It was a memorable name with a memorable advantage to consumers. But how likely are you to seek out an accountant doing business as Crazy Henry’s Income Tax Service? Would you make an appointment with a proctologist who calls himself Crazy Norman?

Names are important. A businesses name is the foundation upon which it’s image is built. Are you more likely to purchase:

DieHard®, or Gulf Star® batteries?
Intensive Care®, or Cornhuskers® lotion?
Craftsman®, or Imperial® hand tools?

Care to guess which name in each pair sells more? Names are important.

Overstock Dot Com has a problem in trying to market themselves as a high end retailer. The television image of opulance and the good life clashes with the name. Go to their web site and decide which of those images is a lie. Either way, their name becomes the limiting factor.
Does The Body Shop® repair cars or sell scented bath products? This one sells bath products, and the name works. By association with the other image of a body shop, the implication is that you’ll find products to fix your body.

My Great Names List

My Great Names List is heavily populated by Sears® brands. In addition to Craftsman® and DieHard®, Sears names are such gems as Silvertone®, Coldspot®, Toughskins®, and the now defunct Roadtalker® CB radios. Sears understands naming

Other names on my Great Names List include Right To Life Society®, Bank of America®, Sports Illustrated®, and Pay Less Drugs® (Yeah, I know. They’re Rite Aid®, now. Pity. I understand Pay Less Drugs. Wanna explain to me what a Rite Aid is? Or how to spell it?)

A British energy company named Powergen? I like it. The Italian subsidiary of that company? Powergenitalia. That wouldn’t be such a good name.

What do you think about Phartronics Engineering or Ascend Communications. (Try them out loud. It makes a difference).

Also featured on my You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me names list are such gems as Badcock Furniture, Boozer Shopping Center, Beaver Cleaners, Dick Cleaners & Drapery Service, and Bea’s Ho-Made Products.

I want to see the workers on Bea’s assembly line.

For the record, I didn’t invent these names to make my point. I’m not that clever. These are very real businesses. Well, except for Powergenitalia.

Why Names Are Important

Names establish the foundation of image. Names make a difference in people’s expectations. Your child’s name is important to his future success, and so is your business’ name important to its future success.

In each case we use the name to affect public perception. Perception is reality.

And what is marketing, if not an attempt to alter perception? The right perception can only help as you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Need some help creating a great name for your company? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com and start a conversation.  Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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Higher Profits Through Testing of Every Variable


zero point three equals two times

Zero point three equals two times

Pretend with me you’ve been conducting a direct mail campaign.

In testing your headline you’ve discovered that changing its focus from greed to fear increases the response rate from 1.5% to 1.85%.

Not bad. Three-tenths of a percent. That’s enough to get marketers excited.

You’re kidding,” I can almost hear you say. “People get excited about a tiny fraction of better response?

Well, yes. Yes, they do. You see, that tiny fraction amounts to a 23.3% improvement in top line sales. It has an even bigger impact on the bottom line.

First, Run the Numbers

For the sake of this example, let’s assume the following:

Your selling price is $74.95, and your gross margin is 65%.

The cost of printing your single-page, one color letter and its envelope, folding, stuffing, and addressing is $0.33 per piece.
The cost of postage (bulk mail) is $0.21 per letter.
You’re paying a list broker $40 per 1,000 names (4 cents each).

Add these individual sums, and the cost of promotion becomes $0.58 per lead.

You mailed 10,000 pieces with the first headline.

1.5% of the recipients of the letter purchased: a total of 150 sales. Each sale produced revenue of $74.95, for a total of $11,243.

You’re working with a 65% margin. Therefore, your gross profit is $7,308.

It cost $5,800 ($0.58 per lead times 10,000 leads) to make those 150 sales, which makes your net profit on this mailing $1,508.

Then You Tested Your New Headline.

You mailed 10,000 more pieces with the second headline.

This time, 1.85% of the recipients of your letter bought: a total of 185 sales.  (This is the three tenths sales lift we mentioned).

Each sale produced revenue of $74.95, for a total of $13,866.

You’re still working with a 65% margin, which makes your gross profit is $9,013.

The cost of promotion is the same $5,800.

Your net profit with the second headline is now $3,213.

When you run the numbers, this new headline has more than doubled your profit.

Wow.

Testing Needs to be Mandatory

This is why you must test at every stage of the persuasion process. (It’s also why you must keep detailed records of your results).

Test your headline, test your offer, test the medium, test the frequency of repetition of your message. Test every variable.

When you find an outcome which works better than what you’ve been doing, make the new way your new standard.  Then start testing against that.

It only makes sense that you use the most attractive bait when you’re fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Got questions about creating maximum impact through testing of your marketing? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call him at 304-208-7654.

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