Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Social Media Marketing

August 14, 2013

Everyone says “Use social media for marketing.”  Most business people ask “How?”.  Here’s a great “case study” to help you see both the power of social media marketing AND how to tap into it.

My friend, Anthony is known as “Sunshine” at the 6th & Union Starbucks in downtown Seattle where he is a regular.   He was delighted to stop in one morning in June and see he was the “customer of the week”.  He took a picture of the chalkboard and posted it on Facebook.

Sunshine Starbucks 2

Most recently, he posted a photo and a thank you shout out to Sarah at the same Starbucks for the custom drink carrier she had made for him.  Of course that was proudly shown around his office – the largest hotel in downtown Seattle!   No one at the Starbucks knew that though.  Nor did they know it would make the rounds on Facebook and be featured in my business blog.

Custom Drink Carrier

Did I mention that “Sunshine” has over 600 Facebook friends?  When you start doing the math exponentially of all the friends friends, well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that some mega word-of-mouth advertising.

So how do YOU tap into this sort of social media promotion for your business?  First, you have to WOW the customer.   Making a personalized drink carrier certainly qualifies.  But so does giving recognition to regular customers in the form of the “Customer of the Week” chalkboard.  Such a tool encourages team members to get to know customers well enough to feature them.  Any time you can make a customer feel “special” they will tell their friends.  In today’s world, that usually includes social media.

I don’t expect that all my readers will be able to cut and paste this case study instantly into their businesses.  My goal in sharing it though is to get you thinking about ways you can WOW your customers and encourage natural social media sharing.  

New HaircutCan you take pictures of customers in their new cars,  post them on your dealership’s Facebook business page and send them the link to share?  What about in front of the new home you just sold them?  The garden you just planted at their home?  The new haircut you just gave them?

Are you getting some ideas?  Great!  Now get busy creating some buzz!

The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Sword!

July 17, 2013

Dr.JulieToday’s guest post is by author and speaker, Dr. Julie Miller.  Learn more about Dr. Miller at the end of the post.

How many emails leave your employees’ mailboxes on a daily basis? The average per day stands at 71.51 (Source: Do the math. Multiply that number by the number of people you employ. The total should give you pause, as each email has the potential to build or to implode your business.

Now, no one is asking you to inspect each and every message leaving your employees’ inbox. Naturally, you expect everyone in your employ to use common sense and courtesy when communicating with the public, whether they are customers or colleagues. Or do they? Consider these real life stories.

Damaged: A Fortune 1000 company fatally damaged its relationship with a significant Japanese firm based on an email from the accounting department. In response to a query, the company’s account representative answered with a two-word lower case message. The result? The Asian company went elsewhere for its purchases. How many emails leave without your review?
Resolution: Do a communication audit. Just think—what if you really ticked off a client and he or she forwarded back to you all your sent emails? Take a random sampling of employees’ emails and see what it reveals. From there, begin a dialogue, offer training and develop some parameters around acceptable messaging.

Fired: “I am a very busy person. I’m just too slammed to follow any writing rules,” said the Human Resource director of an international consulting firm. She continued, “I just let it rip – no punctuation, spelling or capitalization – those rules are for amateurs.” The result? Fired. Why? Disrespect for her colleagues and a truculent attitude. Obviously, she does not play well with others. Can you just imagine how she treated the firm’s clients? How many emails leave without your review?

eMailResolution: Craft an email style guide as email now extends your company’s brand. First, facilitate a discussion among your teams about how they will treat clients and peers through the written word. Topics might include greetings and closings, signature block content, time allowed before returning email messages. Then, determine what the standards you can all agree to regarding writing style and tone. This guide will reflect your expectations around the care and treatment of all.

Sued: An employee sued her employer, a large national bank. Her suit was for sexual harassment, racism and damaged reputation. The back-story: An employee emailed her instead of a male colleague and invited her to attend a strip club with all the trimmings—graphically described in the email. The result? She was awarded one million dollars. How many emails leave without your review?

Resolution: Decide what will never be put in an email. Everyone in your organization must follow this to the letter. Some companies have been burned. A mid-West construction company of the very wealthy prohibits any customer problem from being sent via the airwaves. The rule? Walk down the hall. Pick up the phone. Do not put it in writing.

These stories should drive home the point that managing your risk is paramount. With email now the single most important communication vehicle today, you must mitigate the damage of destructive messages that destroy careers, opportunities and reputations.

Call centerA call center decided to do just that. They chose ten employees to monitor. Because their software program could actually see what they were doing and writing between calls—eight of the ten were fired. Why? For writing inappropriate emails, downloading porn and participating in online gambling. This occurred even though they had received warnings, possessed a HR notebook with the policies, and attended training.

An old saying goes like this: inspect what is expected. Do you know what your employees are writing? Do you know how much money you are losing each year by ineffective, inappropriate or illegal messages?

Follow these four steps for cleaning up your communication:

  1. Assess the current state of affairs in regards to writing.
  2. Audit selective missives to determine tone, style, content.
  3. Develop an action plan for improving the above through training and coaching.
  4. Publish a style guide along with an email protocol.

Writing remains the costliest of all workplace activities. What is it worth to you to get right?

About the Author

Dr. Julie Miller, founder of Business Writing That Counts!, is a national consultant and trainer who helps professionals reduce their writing time and produce powerful documents. She and her team of certified trainers work with executives who want to hone their writing skills and professionals who want to advance their careers.  Learn more about Dr. Julie Miller.

If Only I had Known

July 10, 2013

If you are in business, there is simply no excuse for not addressing negative comments posted on the internet regarding your products, services or company.  When I recently said this in a speech I was giving to a professional group it prompted the question:  “How are we supposed to know the negative feedback was posted?” and “Who has time to monitor all the possible sites where feedback can be posted?”

ImageBoth very good questions I answered there and am answering here for those who weren’t in the audience.  

There is a simple tool called a “Google Alert”.  When set, it will notify you in your email that the words you entered appear in a blog, article or feedback forum.  There is also a link so you can click right through to read the comment in full and reply as necessary.

First visit the Google Alerts Home Page.  Then in the “Search Query” field, enter your business name, your personal name, key products you sell – whatever you want to be notified of .  Next is “Result Type”.  Select “Everything” using the drop down menu.  Then “How Often” – Once a day is probably sufficient.  “How Many” is the next question.  I select “All results”.   Lastly, designate the email address you want the alerts to be sent to.  If it is a Gmail account, you won’t have to “verify” the address.  If it’s another address, look in your inbox to confirm your email address as valid.  You will need to set multiple alerts – one for each key word or name you want to monitor.


This is the same “home page” you would go to to adjust alerts, add a new one, delete one or change the settings.

In the beginning, I think the senior person should receive and monitor these alerts to get a sense of what is being said about your business on line.  Later, if there is a person you want to be tasked with replying on behalf of the company, you can put their email address on the alert.

Should you reply to all negative feedback?  YES!!!!  Even if all you say is “I’m sorry for your experience and we will strive to do better in the future.”  Negatives reviews left unanswered imply not only are you providing less than stellar service, but that you don’t care!  If you missed the recent guest blog I posted on this topic, you can read it here.

Beyond the name of my business,  why would I set an alert for anything else?  Your personal name should have an alert along with any key employees.  Products you sell or represent would also be useful.  Perhaps even a competitor…

If you are not a manager or business owner, you still should set an alert for your personal name.  If you are in sales, knowing what is being said on line about products you offer and even your competition, could prove advantageous.

You may also find that all that is posted is not negative!  You may find positive articles about your products, companies you represent or even your own company.  These gems can then be linked to your company’s website, Facebook business page or just used in conversation with customers and potential customers.

Word of mouth is still the single greatest form of advertising and on line reviews have become an extension of this valuable asset. With such an easy to use tool at your disposal – and a FREE one at that, there is simply NO REASON to NOT know what is being said about your business on line.     

Expanding Your Reach

May 29, 2013

While running Sleep Country USA, I remember a driver Cul-de-sac croppedpointing to a cul-de-sac on a map and saying “We’ve now delivered to every one of these houses.”   Seeing the truck in a neighbor’s driveway coupled with satisfied customers got us more customers from the same neighborhood.

We focused on the appearance of the trucks and the delivery teams.  We put emphasis on satisfied customers but beyond that, we didn’t specifically market to the neighbors.

Looking back, we probably missed an opportunity even though our electronic media campaign had significant reach.  But what if you don’t have the budget to do mass marketing?  How do you capitalize on expanding your reach beyond your immediate customer?

For years businesses have put up signs saying things like “this beautiful lawn treated by XYZ”.  Painters, landscapers, construction companies of all kinds have wisely used signs of this type to “market” to the neighbors.


But last night, we arrived home to find a special offer on our door.  A new house is being constructed in the neighborhood and the roofing company, C R Boger, left a brochure on our door.  It says “Sorry for the noise” (yes, there has been lots of construction related noise of late) and details their “Nearest Neighbor Program”.

“Currently one of your neighbors is receiving or has received a home improvement by C&R Boger Construction.  We’d like to apologize for the noise by offering you exclusive discounts only for neighbors living close by.”


Genius, pure genius.  Turn a negative (noise) into a positive (discount).  Make us feel special (exclusive) and cared about (an apology).  Low cost, targeted, effective marketing – I love it!

Satisfied customers are always your best referrals, but sometimes they don’t think to brag about you so don’t hesitate to take the first step.   Is there a way to encourage referrals?  Do you need to spruce up your company vehicle so it can be a more effective “billboard” for you?  Should you take a few minutes to leave materials on the door of nearby neighbors or other businesses in a building where you are delivering?   How can YOU expand YOUR reach?

Color Me Interested

March 13, 2013

When I started my business and was developing the logo, SCUSAI started with the neon sign maker.  Knowing I had a limited budget to devote to critical expenses such as advertising,  I needed the signs on my stores to serve as much of an advertising beacon as possible.  My question; what colors and font styles are most legible from the greatest distance?   The answer gave me my primary color and font used in the Sleep Country USA logo later designed by an artist at my local newspaper.

Years ago I had read the most universally wearable and desirable color to women around the world regardless of age or skin tone was the robin’s egg blue used by Tiffany & Co.  As a result, when choosing a gift for a woman I may not know very well, I will pick something in this iconic shade of turquoise blue.

Beyond that, I had not given much thought to how color influences decisions or even how color could enhance a customer’s experience.  A brief tidbit in the Wall Street Journal in January cited a study which found people who drank hot cocoa from an orange or cream mug found it more desirable than those drinking the exact same cocoa from a white or red mug.

That peaked my interest.  Could we really enhance a customer’s experience simply by the colors we choose?  Not an isolated incident, the same researchers found the strawberry mousse was described as “sweeter and more intense” when served on a white plate over a black one.  A valuable piece of information for restaurants, coffee shops, caterers and even hostesses who want to wow guests!

Jan McLaughlin is a professional speaker and an expert in spoken, written and visual communication.  Color was one of the critical design elements she covered in a seminar on visual communication recently given to attendees of the NSA-NW Speakers Academy.

Color-for-influenc-infographColor Matters has a wealth of information on color and how it influences our decisions.  My Social Media posted a great quick reference guide using Color Matters research that summarizes how different groups react to various colors.  Use this guide to be sure the color you are choosing helps convey your message effectively.

We all have to select colors many times in countless areas of our business from logo and branding to displays to merchandise to desk accessories.   Why not chose colors that help us communicate effectively, enhance customer experience and accomplish our goals?  

Little Phrases – Big Payoffs

December 19, 2012

Mc Donald's Fries“Would you like fries with that?”  This phrase, now often parodied, made a ton of additional revenue for McDonald’s.  It allowed them to add on to a sale by using the power of suggestion, a popular selling technique.  What was unique was not suggestive selling – it was who was doing the selling.  With the introduction of this “phrase that pays” to the cashiers at McDonald’s, these front line employees began to act like what they truly are – salespeople – rather than just order takers.

My husband, John Murphy is very creative and has worked ViewRoomas part of the selling process most of his business career.  When his youngest son was hired for the front desk of a major hotel chain, John shared a couple of “little phrases” to help up-sell rooms.  He suggested when a room is prepaid by a company to offer the person checking in an upgrade this way “I see your room is prepaid by your company, would you like to treat yourself to a higher floor or a water view for only X dollars more?”  The key phrase “treat yourself” is powerful and effective – his son leads the team in room upgrades.

Pampering, treats and luxury sell!  To encourage more loyalty program sign ups, John suggested to his son to use the phrase “Would you like to stay in luxury properties for free on your next vacation?” as part of the program description.  Again, very effective.

Lettuce WrapsLoyalty programs exist for many businesses and typically rely on front line employees to enlist new customers.  Arming your staff with “little phrases” can have big payoffs.  The secret, capturing the benefit in a few words.  Free meals, priority boarding, luxury properties, exclusive discounts, premium seating – all phrases to entice consumers.

Which would you respond better to?  “Do you want to sign up for our loyalty reward program?” or “Would you like to enjoy a free meal?”

At Sleep Country there was usually some sort of promotion going on in our stores.  Rather than greet customers with “May I help you?” our staff were trained to ask “Did you come in on our big sale today?”  People who hadn’t seen or heard an ad were pleasantly surprised and would ask “What’s on sale?”

Up-selling is an important contributor to a healthy bottom line.  Incremental increases of even one or two percent can make a big impact.

If you are responsible for a team of front line employees, craft a few “little phrases” of your own and teach them to your staff.  Don’t just tell them to offer upgrades, loyalty programs or “anything else” – give them the key phrases that will touch on pampering, treats and luxury – little phrases with BIG payoffs!

Penny Wise

December 12, 2012

PiggyBankHaving started a business with only $5,000 I know first hand the importance of watching every penny. That being said, there is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish in many areas of business. I’ve recently had several such experiences.

While using a Liquid Paper dispenser to change entries on the paper calendar liquidpaperwe keep at home, I became frustrated when the 3rd dispenser suddenly quit working as had the other 2. These were all new, part of a multi-pack I had in my office supply cabinet. Irritated that they all broke almost immediately I went to the company’s website and filled out their on line comment form.

The response I got said all their products are guaranteed and if I would just return the broken ones with my receipt they’d be happy to replace them. This response just irritated me further. Certainly I keep receipts for electronics and larger purchases with a warranty, but what home consumer keeps receipts at the ready for tape, pens and Liquid Paper?

On top of that, a day or two had elapsed and the ones I had tossed in the trash were long gone.

The proper response would have been an apology and a coupon for a replacement package. After a tersely worded reply, they did in fact put a package in the mail but why make me jump through hoops?

Seriously, are there hoards of people filling out the complaint form on a daily basis to get a free Liquid Paper? Given how much is spent on packaging and advertising subsidies to office supply stores to get customers to purchase, isn’t this being penny wise and pound foolish?

CharmsI also have 3 pricey charms I’d bought from a home distributed costume jewelry company, Jewel Kade. The charms have a welded hoop to put a chain through that goes left to right, not front to back. That wasn’t obvious on the website when I purchased them as gifts and the problem is that it prevents the charm from hanging properly on a chain.

Upon closer inspection of the website photos I saw that each hung from the chain using a lobster clasp. Mine hadn’t come with these clasps and I didn’t see a way to purchase them separately in the catalog. So I emailed. Again, a penny wise, pound foolish response.

I was not thanked for my business but was told rather curtly that the clasps come withLobster clasp the chains, not the charms. I’d have to buy their chains, tie a ribbon to wear them or go to a craft store and buy something to make it work.

Really? A first time customer and the response is to basically tell the customer they were wrong in their purchase? How much could 3 lobster clasps possibly cost? Less than a dollar I suspect at their wholesale price. A company that includes them with every chain obviously has boxes of them on hand. Why not make them available on line for $1 with other purchases for customers who want to hang several charms on a single chain?

I would have been happy with a reply that they are $1.00 each, let me pay on line and put them in the mail.

Instead, I’m irritated that, with all there is to do this time of year I’m going to have to fight the traffic to go to a hobby store to try to find something that will make these pricey charms giftable. This company has spent a lot of money to produce a glossy, photo filled catalog and an equally impressive website to attract customers only to lose them over a solution that would cost them less than ONE DOLLAR. Does this make good business sense to anyone?

Christmas+Tree+Watering+System+with+Green+Box+DesignContrast those examples with the Ever-Green Christmas Tree Watering System I purchased at least a decade ago. When I got it out to use last year I noticed the hose had gotten moldy. I went on the website to look for a way to purchase a section of replacement tubing. Finding none, I emailed asking how I could get it.

The response? “Send me your address and I’ll mail it to you.” He didn’t tell me to go to a hardware store though certainly after all the years of use, I would have found that reasonable. I would have been okay if he’d just given me the proper diameter of the tubing to shop for.

Instead, it was more important to his BRAND that I continue to use it and that it not leak so he just sent me a small coil of the proper tubing in an envelope. I think I’ve given at least 6 of these as gifts and, as the kids start putting up trees in their own homes, I’ll be buying even more.

No one can afford to give away the store, I get that. But there is a cost-benefit analysis that needs to be done. You spend untold amounts in advertising, catalogs, brochures, websites – all to earn a customer. Isn’t it worth a fraction of that to keep them?

Subtle Selling

August 22, 2012

There are a lot of not-too-subtle forms of selling in the world.  I’ve even been accused of being one of those in the past (smile).  As much as you claim to “hate” advertising, in fact, we like it when it’s done well and in reality, we respond even when it’s not!

When we like it?  Think Super Bowl ads.  Think clever ads you have shared and posted.  Think jingles and slogans that have become part of our culture, “can you hear me now?”

There are also a lot of more subtle forms of selling that any business can do because they are not as costly as the production and airtime of those other forms of advertising.

Here’s a great example:  I was recently shopping in Marshalls, a discount store, I was impressed by the revamp they had done on their fitting rooms.  Not only were they clean and bright, they had some GREAT subtle selling features!

First thing I noticed, over the mirror was this great signage.  Positive reinforcement of a consumer’s choice is always a good way to sell!  

Next, the hooks each had a plastic, printed plate behind them like that said “Definitely” “Probably” and “Tomorrow”.

Notice all of the sorting options are positive – even the “NO” is framed as “Tomorrow”.  The “maybe” was worded as “Probably”.  Subtle differences but selling differences none the less.

Even the number card they give you as part of security when you enter the fitting rooms was a subtle sales tool!  Sure, we all know the number is there to reduce shoplifting – 4 items in means 4 items out or we call store security.  They didn’t give up the numbered system, but look at the wording on the card!  In addition to a number, they added a few unique words of subtle selling.

In reality, other than what they likely paid for the creative genius to come up with this, what was their actual investment?  The decal at the top of the mirror? Some plastic printed plates to put behind the hooks?  A few words on the number cards?

Who could utilize these great ideas immediately?  Of course, any clothing or specialty store but what about gyms, yoga studios – places where people are not always looking their best in an effort to be their best?  Positive reinforcements here could generate both referrals and renewals.  How about on the ceiling over the dental chair?  Any place we’d really rather NOT be could probably benefit from some positive reinforcements.

Where in your business could you introduce a little subtle selling?  Is the wording on all your materials positive and sales inducing?  What about your website, social media, emails?  Is everything worded to encourage and reinforce the wisdom of customers to do business with you?

Have someone not as familiar with your materials look them over for a candid review.  Create your own “focus group” of disinterested parties to give you feedback – not necessarily on what you are offering – but HOW you word what you are offering.  Be sure to ask the critical question, “How did it make you feel?”

Branding Bliss

August 15, 2012

The goal of any brand is to become a part of the fabric of our culture.  To have their name become synonymous with a product or service the way Kleenex did with facial tissues, Coke did with carbonated cola beverages and FedEx did with overnight delivery.

When I was a teenager and young adult, McDonald’s was still a “new” and growing concept.  Where still a part of American culture both here and around the world, another brand has emerged to take their place.

That brand?  Starbucks.  My evidence?  The many postings of mocked up Mars Rover photos from the “surface of the planet” that have been posted by friends all across the country.  Here are two:

I’m sure the marketing team at Starbucks is doing the happy dance over this.  To have customers so accustomed to your brand being there, being a part of your life, a part of monumental moments (which the Mars Rover landing was indeed) is to accomplish branding bliss!

So how can you gain better branding awareness for your business? Consistency and repetition.  No matter how you advertise, how many locations you have, how much you have to spend on branding you must be consistent in look and message over and over again in all forms from media, social media,  physical locations, vehicles, uniforms – everything – to effectively imprint in your customer’s mind.

Whether you want to be the next global company or just your community’s “go to” source for whatever you do, you have to be consistent.  Consistent in images such as your logo and branding colors.  Do you even need to see the word “Starbucks”?  How often do you only see the mermaid circle logo or even just the green umbrellas and still you know it’s a Starbucks.

You also have to be consistent in delivery of your goods and services.  At Starbucks you always know exactly what you are going to get.  There is a standard for everything – even the iced tea mixing cups are marked with lines for tea, water and ice for each size.  That’s why the iced tea is always perfect.

In a Las Vegas hotel Starbucks, I watched an employee make my iced tea NOT using the company provided shaker cup and I could tell from the looks of it that it was going to be too strong and not to my liking.  So I asked him to make it using the branded shaker cup which he begrudgingly did and one of his team mates said “He does it that way all the time and people don’t complain.”  I then said “When it says Joey’s over the door, he can make it his way.  I came in because it says Starbucks.  As long as it does, customers expect it be made the Starbucks way.”

Consistency and repetition with a fierce protection of your brand and standards – that’s the secret to finding your business log on the next remote planet we visit!

Picture Worth a Thousand Words

August 8, 2012

Major companies spend a fortune on graphics and photos.   The work of a talented photographer can make all the difference whether you are trying to sell a house, a product, services or even get a date.

Professional photographers can be expensive but doing it yourself may not be the best answer for your business.  This article from the Wall Street Journal points out very clearly that you may not even know how much bad photos are costing you in terms of lost opportunities.

Do the photos on your website, your Facebook or other social media sites represent you, your business, your products and services well?  Even if you just sell products on eBay, a great photo can make all the difference.

Check with your suppliers.  Before you settle for a photo you take yourself, ask your suppliers if they have commercially done photos available for use on your website.  As one of their outlets, typically they will make these available at no cost because they want their products represented well.

Some businesses sell an ever changing inventory of products – some limited inventory and relatively low cost.  In these scenarios, hiring a professional photographer may be prohibitive.  For small items, consider investing in a table top photo studio.  Kits with backgrounds, lights and tripod for your point and shoot camera are available for a small, (under $50) one-time investment.  Check stores such as and

Take a photography class.  Food photographer, Clare Barboza offers workshops in Seattle and other cities across the country on natural light food photography. If you have a restaurant, catering business, sell baked goods, wines, flowers or gourmet food products, a specialty class can be a great investment.

Buy stock photos.  If you are just trying to convey a concept such as a service like accounting or housekeeping, you may not need a personal photo.  Often you can buy a stock photo to use on your website. has a wide variety.  We did a “bulk purchase” where we could download a number of photos over a period of time for a flat rate and many of those photos appear in this blog.

Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or other small business groups in your area.  They will likely know a local photographer you can work with.  Sometimes they even offer low cost “head shots” at one of their meetings.  In these cases, a photographer sets up the background and lighting to  shoot business appropriate digital photos you can use on your website and social media professional pages.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Be sure what it says about you and your business HELPS rather than HURTS your professional image.



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