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Thursday, 06 September 2018 09:55

Specificity and Trust

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Specificity and TrustI heard a radio spot for an area hospital this afternoon. One of the lines mentioned the center’s “brilliant” oncology care.

I was struck by that word - “brilliant” - because it’s not one I hear too often in an advertising context, and it’s a description I don’t immediately associate with medical care. It also felt very specific. And it was that specificity that put confidence behind the word, as though the chief cancer doc at the hospital would know how to define what’s brilliant about what they do, if asked.

The hospital could have said “we provide great oncology care,” and I might not have even noticed it or I could have accepted it as typical marketing hyperbole, because the word “great” is so overused and rarely defined or supported with proof.

But the word “brilliant” felt intentional and pointed. I felt a sense of trust. And, as a writer myself, I appreciated the other writer’s effort to differentiate the hospital’s level of care.

Strong verbs and adjectives slice through noise and demand your audience's attention. They draw people into your writing, rather than making it easy to ignore.

3 Writing Tips for Marketers
Don't Make People Hide from Your Advertising

ForbesAs a member of the Forbes Agency Council, I participate in a monthly forum that allows me to offer insight on a number of marketing topics. Forbes provides a series of questions and the other members and I submit our thoughts for publication on

This blog post is the first in a short series that will feature my responses to a few of those Forbes questions. The theme: Brand.

Question: How can you encourage employees and consumers to be advocates for your brand?

Answer: I prefer to believe that few people will surrender their integrity or risk their reputation to serve as a mouthpiece for a company or product they don't believe in. But no one needs to be "encouraged" to talk about a brand that's truly excellent or uniquely valuable. So, focus on nailing what you do! Once you've got it right, the fans will come, and the advocates will speak for you willingly.

Question: Case studies and surveys continually show that authenticity helps brands succeed. How can brands remain and come across as authentic even when customers are unhappy, a PR crisis is unraveling, or the business is struggling?

Answer: It's a fact of life: things are going to go wrong now and then. If you ignore that fact, you may end up paying in the form of clumsy, delayed or unfocused responses to customers or the media. Arm your staff with the knowledge and tools to "make it right" before a service mole hill turns into a mountain. Then, learn from the problem. The world can be very forgiving when you 'fess up and fix it.

Question: Re-brands require a lot of time and money, and getting existing customers on board can be a difficult process. What’s one way a company can refresh its image across platforms without a full re-brand?

Answer: Showing up more often in front of your audience - or a sub-set of your audience - may give your brand the kick it needs. Experiment with placement. If you've never tried radio, for instance, consider how you might take advantage of the medium's unique characteristics and its ability to introduce what you sell to more consumers.

Internal Communication TipsWhen you want to encourage customers to buy, you spend time and effort crafting marketing and advertising messages that will be meaningful to that audience.

But what about when you need to motivate your staff members to learn a new skill or make an improvement to your workflow? Do you just send a quick email and hope they’ll make the desired change?

In both cases, the goal is the same: you’re trying to promote specific behavior. And in both cases, the audience is basically the same. It’s people. Yes, one group buys from you and the other group works with you, but members of both audiences receive hundreds of requests for their attention each day. If you want the message for your employees to resonate, it needs to be crafted with as much care as your marketing copy.

Let’s say you want your team to adopt a new process. Consider sharing the interesting backstory behind that new process with them. How will it help people? How will it reinforce your company’s mission or core values? When your team understands why the change has been made - and even what’s in it for them - they’re more likely to line up behind that new process.

3 Tips on Treating Your Internal Team Like an Audience

1) Keep your content as concise as possible. That will make it easier for your staff to consume and remember it.

2) A single memo is not likely to do the job. Repeat the main idea, but in different ways and through different channels. Most people need to be exposed to a message several times before it takes hold, but not everyone learns and retains information the same way.

On day one, for instance, you might send an email about the new process. For day two, record a company-wide voicemail answering a common question about the process. On day three, talk about the benefits of the new process at the company meeting. Day four: create and share a quick video to relate a success story about the process.

3) Just as you wouldn’t spend all your time with an audience of customers talking about yourself, be sure to focus on the needs of your internal audience. Help your team cope with the new process. Answer their questions. Give them tips. Remind them how the change makes things better. In other words, deliver value in exchange for their attention.

Find more thoughts on internal communication in an article I contributed to for the Louisiana Technology Park blog. Check it out here.

Customer Experience

I’ll bet you’re great at something. Maybe a lot of things.

Even if one of those things is owning or managing a business, though, it’s likely that your strengths and interests aren’t broad enough to cover every customer touchpoint.

For instance, let’s say you run an auto repair facility. You and your team are wizards under the hood - mechanically and technically excellent. And, yes, that excellence is ultimately what your customers pay you for. But it may not be enough to attract and keep new customers.

If the exterior of your building could use a serious power wash, if navigating your parking lot is a nightmare, if the guys at your counter aren’t proactively helpful, if your website is cluttered, if your restrooms aren’t clean, plenty of people won’t even consider coming in or coming back.

It’s the rare person or team that can deliver a consistently great service AND nail all the expected extras. It can be even tougher to think outside yourself and recognize opportunities to delight customers. But going to that next level can mean the difference between merely doing business and providing an experience that customers return for and willingly promote for you.

Maybe you’ll never be the kind of person who thinks to spruce up the landscaping around your shop, or send a hand-written card to your new customers, or continually reinforce your employees’ telephone skills. That’s okay, as long as you partner with people who can evaluate the experience you provide, look for missed opportunities to connect with customers, and then put a plan or process into place that helps you move from being great at one thing to being great at a lot of things.

This recorded webinar is about delivering better caller experiences. Take a listen.

Resume TipsWe’re growing, so we’re always on the lookout for top talent. That means we see a lot of résumés - and a lot of résumé problems.

So, I called on a few of our agency leaders for their best résumé tips. First, a few of my own.

What Are You Selling? 

When I’m writing marketing copy, I put myself in the audience’s shoes, and consider what they might want in exchange for the time they spend with my content. With your résumé, you’re marketing yourself to employers. So, think about what those people want from an employee.

Study their help wanted ad. Read their website and social pages. What do they value? Can you deliver that? If so, do your résumé and other self-promotional materials make that apparent? Do they make hiring you an easy "buying" decision?

If you include an objective on your résumé, take the time to customize it for the job you’re applying for. I automatically rule out applicants whose objective has nothing to do with our type of work or the position we’re offering.

And sprinkle testimonials about your work and skills throughout your résumé and website. Let your biggest fans speak for you.

It’s All About Presentation

Our Director of Marketing Management April Cochran offers three tips.

“If you’re applying for a marketing job, be creative with your résumé. It should appeal to a hiring team like good marketing would.

“In today’s world, you have to keep your LinkedIn page updated. Include the URL on your résumé and a link to the page on your personal website. If you’re a creative, your website should feature examples of your work.

“And I can’t believe I have to suggest this, but always proof your résumé. It’s amazing how many errors I’ve found over the years.”

Is it Relevant?

“I don’t care that you worked at a car wash or a fast food restaurant while you were in college, unless you can show how those types of jobs relate to the position you’re applying for now. What’s on your résumé should have relevance to where you want to be professionally.” - Nikki Kellers / Director, MadAve Collective

Know What You Want

MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown has been hiring for 30 years. He suggests “defining your career goals very specifically, and then going for that type of job. It’s important to be able to show upward movement with each job change. When interviewing with a company, show that you know that company very well, and use your cover letter to explain why they should hire you.”

Show Your Successes

“It’s okay to list your past responsibilities broadly,” said Director of BusinessVoice, Steve Evert. “That information helps me understand what you did in those roles. But, if you want to be noticed, show the objectively measurable successes and accomplishments you’ve had in each of those roles.

“Also, if you held three different positions at one company, make sure the layout of your résumé doesn’t suggest at a quick glance that you worked at three different companies during that time. Employers are often leery of someone who leaves a company every couple of years.”

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 09:12

Would You Read This?

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Simplifying Your MessageThe window in this picture is next to the door of a county government office.

The staff's hope must be that customers will read each sign and learn the do's and don'ts of conducting business with this department before even walking through that door.

But the signs ain't workin'.

Over the years, I've seen literally thousands of people enter that office, and not one has even slowed down to glance at that collection of paper taped to the glass.


It's too much to take in. Never mind the inconsistent look and the negative tone of the messages that “welcome” you to this office. It's the sheer amount of information that's overwhelming and off-putting.

So, ask yourself if customers might be ignoring or even turned off by an over-abundance of your messaging.

  • Does your website copy need to be simplified or better organized?
  • Do you try to force too many details into your radio spots?
  • Could your social content be more concise?
  • Are you sending emails too frequently?

People are distracted. They're in a hurry, and their attention spans are shrinking. That means that too much of even the best content may be disregarded because it takes too long to read and process. 

In the new year ahead, work to focus your message, wherever it may be. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to see, understand and remember your main point.

3 Writing Tips for Marketers
Too Much Information

Thursday, 21 December 2017 15:58

Merry Christmas 2017

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Marketing is no laughing matter - except when it involves pitting pairs of marketers head-to-head in a joke-off of semi-epic proportions. Happy holidays from all of us MadAveGroup. 

BusinessVoice Blog Posts

If you have anything to say about how your brand sounds, you'll want to check out these blog posts. They're from BusinessVoice, our Caller Experience Marketing agency. The team also creates radio commercials, audio logos, and other forms of audio marketing.

1) In “One Way to Tell Your Story to Callers On Hold,” we profile a very special On Hold Marketing production we created for a local school. It’s won several awards, primarily by winning the audience’s collective heart. We also suggest a way you can capture the same type of emotion in your OHM and other marketing channels.

2) Does your company advertise on radio? If so, there’s a very good reason to let someone other than the local air talent or production director write and record your spots. See what it is in the post “Don’t Let the Radio Station Produce Your Commercials.” (Listen to our MarCom Platinum Award-winning radio campaign for Ray's Trash.)

3) Yes, your callers on hold are out of sight, but have you put them out of your mind as well? If so, that’s a problem. In this post, you’ll hear an example of how one company is clearly not thinking about their callers. We break down their approach to help you avoid wasting your callers’ time on hold. Read and listen to “Are You Subjecting Your Callers to This?”

4) And because every one of your company’s touchpoints can make or break a customer relationship, don’t miss the post “Are Poor Phone Skills Costing You Money?” 

Thursday, 26 October 2017 17:14

How To Earn Customer Trust

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Earning Customer TrustWant to build instant trust with a new customer?

Resist any urge to oversell.

My wife called a new-to-us HVAC contractor when our furnace wouldn’t kick in for the first time this season.

One of their techs arrived the next day. He was friendly and answered my questions in plain English. Turns out that our furnace just needed to be cleaned.

I paid the tech, then asked if I should call him every fall for a cleaning. He stood there with the $90 I’d just given him for about 10 minutes of work and said, “No. Maybe every couple of years.” Boom! Immediate trust!

He turned down my offer of more frequent business and more money because he knew I didn’t need his service. I understood right away that he had my best interest at heart.

Our agency works with an automotive services provider who doesn’t want us to try to boost the per-ticket revenue for each vehicle that pulls into their shops.

They don’t like to overwhelm their customers with larger maintenance or repair bills. Instead, they work toward building trust and long-term relationships. Yes, they let customers know what type of service their cars need, but they prioritize those needs, encouraging drivers to “come back in six months” when the work will actually need to be done.

High-pressure sales tactics don’t feel good. And any time a customer senses you’re more interested in your wallet than hers, you risk losing - or never earning - her trust.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 09:12

Do You Feel It?

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I Am a Man SignI AM A MAN.

The phrase appeared on signs carried nearly 50 years ago by striking sanitation department employees in Memphis, Tennessee. The African-American workers were protesting low pay and poor job conditions following the deaths of two co-workers.

In my role as a blogger, I'm always looking for marketing and communication lessons to share. And I see an important point we can take away from the signs those striking workers carried.


Just four simple words. An obvious statement. Yet, it’s one of the most jarring sentences I’ve ever read.

In a documentary about the event, James Douglas, a strike participant, said the protests were about claiming “the same dignity and the same courtesy any other citizen of Memphis has.”

The thought that, still, in 1968 - during my lifetime - these American citizens needed to remind their fellow countrymen of their equality - and even their humanity - was and is deeply disturbing.

The person who wrote or chose the phrase “I AM A MAN” as a rallying cry understood - and knew in his bones - what those words meant. As he, too, was likely denied the basic rights of manhood in his own society, he most certainly felt the empowerment in that declaration.

I'm not equating the struggle for human rights with selling soap. I'm encouraging you to mean what you say - or write - about your work or your mission. Feel it first before you express it.

As you craft your own message, keep this simple, compelling phrase in your heart:


Then ask yourself: Do I believe what I've written? Would it change anything? Will it matter to people?

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