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DifferentiationYou can't control what your competitors do, but you can control how you react when your market starts to get a little crowded.

Our SensoryMax agency refers to it as adding "layers" to your brand. It doesn't involve changing your product or service; it's more about enhancing the experience consumers have with your environments and what you sell, as well as making it easier to remember your brand.

Take a look at this quick post on the brand new SensoryMax website. (The site launched in late November.)

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The Power of Aroma
Seize Opportunities to Stand Out
The World Needs to Smell Your Brand
Does the World Know What You Do?

What the Gettysburg Address teaches us about marketingAbe Lincoln: Marketer?

Maybe not in the way we think of marketers these days, but the 16th president sure knew how to get an important idea across to his audience.

Today - November 19, 2015 - marks the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and it occurred to me that there might be a few valuable lessons about crafting marketing messages that we can take away from it.

Be brief. The address was only 271 words long. President Lincoln took less than three minutes to deliver a speech that, arguably, has resonated more than any other throughout American history. And that was during an era of long-winded orators. (The speech before Lincoln's lasted two hours!)

Be humble. There was no hyperbole in his address. In fact, Lincoln told the attendees that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Okay, so he was wrong on that account, but the point is he wasn't tooting his own horn or overstating his case. Resist any urge to exaggerate your product's benefits or only talk about your company. Instead, speak authentically about how you can solve your audience's specific problems or make their lives easier.

Be inspirational. "It is for us the living," Lincoln said, to make sure that "these dead shall not have died in vain" and that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Now THAT'S a call to action! What are your messages inspiring your audience to do? Whether it's visiting your website or changing their corner of the world, make sure your words provide the proper motivation.

(NOTE: The blog post above is 271 words long - the exact same length as The Gettysburg Address. I did that purposely so you can see at a glance just how quickly Lincoln made his points, while delivering a message that moved - and still moves - our nation.) 

RELATED POST: What Can You Learn from a Coal Miner's Daughter?
Apply the "No Kidding / Who Cares Rule" to Marketing Copy

Marketing to your future employeesYou market to your target audience to encourage them to buy your company's products or services.

But are you marketing to potential employees to encourage them to work for your company?

I was invited to speak to that question at the 2015 Seasonal HR Association Conference earlier this month. The attendees are in charge of hiring people for jobs at national parks, resorts and other places that provide seasonal employment.

I had never addressed that specific subject before, but it occurred to me that these HR professionals - and you, as well - could attract top talent by applying a few of the same marketing concepts you may already be using to win customers.

Reach Out Year 'Round to Potential Team Members

First, embrace the idea that marketing to prospective employees is not a quick fix. It's a long-term, multi-channel effort. Placing a single newspaper ad in January won't attract a year's worth of customers. It won't help you reach the right employees on an ongoing basis either.

What's Your Story?

When the economy is stronger, recruiting gets tougher. That's why it's important to share your company's true, unique story as often as you can. What makes your work environment what it is? What are your beliefs and values and passions? What defines your company culture?

It may take a lot of effort and frank conversation among your team, but you must define your story before you can create authentic, engaging messages that separate you from other employers.

Share Your Brand Personality

Think of all the touchpoints you can use to make an impression on the people you want on your team: your website, business cards, email signatures and footers, packaging, invoices, online and on-site video, and On Hold Marketing to name a few. Use those opportunities to give glimpses into what makes your brand and your work environment unique. The cumulative effect of all those touches can provide interested talent with valuable insight about your organization.

Build a Storytelling System

Start by dedicating a section of your website to your future team members. Then, on a regular basis, add new content that tells your employees' stories and showcases your brand personality. Over time, you'll paint a rich portrait of what it's like to work for your company.

A few types of content you might create:

1) Capture video of your happy, successful employees talking about what it is they value most about your company. By showcasing their strengths, you'll also communicate your quality standards to prospective employees.

2) Encourage workers to tell their own stories in a dedicated blog.

3) Create recruiting videos that feature your management team speaking about specific employment opportunities.

4) Share your team's professional victories on your social media channels.

5) Maintain a database of people you'd like to have working for you, as well as recruiters and others who have access to talent. Send them monthly email newsletters about your current opportunities, stories about your company culture, and other positive news.

Yes, defining your story and building a storytelling system will take time, but since they both will lead to robust content that can attract qualified employees for years to come, it'll be time well spent.

RELATED POSTS: It's Story Time
Where Can You Inject Your Brand Personality?

How VoIP Affects Marketing and Customer ExperienceMany otherwise successful technologies have their drawbacks. VoIP technology is no exception.

VoIP - Voiceover Internet Protocol - allows telephone calls to travel via the Internet rather than through traditional land-based transmission lines.

While VoIP systems can reduce the cost of individual telephone calls, they can also be a factor in the lower quality audio your callers experience. Read "Why Does Some On Hold Marketing Sound Bad?" in the BusinessVoice blog.

Also, an I.T. professional is often needed to upload On Hold Marketing files to a VoIP telephone system. That can cause a headache or two for a company's marketing team. Read one such story in this BusinessVoice post: "VoIP: A Potential Problem to Consider."

RELATED POSTS: Is Your Company Considering VoIP?
Are You Prepared for Failure?
Is Your Phone System the 10th Circle of Hell? 

Free Fruit and HaircutsThere's a grocery store somewhere that invites parents to take a free piece of fruit for their kids to snack on while they're shopping.

And there's a barber in Iowa who gives kids free haircuts. All they have to do is read a book while they're in his chair. (See the story.) 

What's important to you and your company? Is it promoting healthy eating or reading skills? Or maybe it's pet adoption like we told you about in this post

As a business, you and your team have tremendous power to spark change and make a difference, even if it's only in your neighborhood. And good ideas spread so rapidly these days that your actions could easily inspire others around the world to follow your lead.

It doesn't take a huge budget or time commitment to get started; just a desire to leave the world a little bit better than you found it.

Let us know what you're doing in the Comments section.

RELATED POST: Unlikely Partnerships Can Make Complete Sense

Audio LogosYour company or product logo is very important, no doubt. But you already knew that.

What you may not have considered is how important it is to represent your brand audibly.

The marketplace is visually crowded, packed with plenty to see. So, while an effective visual identity is crucial, the need for a memorable audio logo is now just as important.

Read this quick blog post from our BusinessVoice team. It's called "You're Just a Few Notes Away from Building Greater Brand Recognition."

You'll hear samples of famous audio logos that will demonstrate how effective a short snippet of sound can be at getting you to think about a brand.

Want to talk about what goes into creating an audio logo for your company? (It's an interesting process.) Call me at 419/724-7330.

RELATED POSTS: Old-School Phone Skills Are Still Relevant
Why You Should Re-Think Your Radio and TV Spots 

Radio SpotsThere are several good reasons to let us create your radio and TV commercials.

1) We believe that the impressions you make via broadcast channels can last well beyond the short time your spots are actually on the air. When the message and creative are right and the production is well executed, your commercials will resonate with your audience and provide long-term value for your brand.

2) When you leave the production of your commercials to the radio or TV station, there's a very good chance your spots will sound like most of the other spots they produce. That means your commercials are less likely to stand out and make the kind of impression that moves your audience to action.

3) Most radio and TV stations will throw in the creative and production free of charge when you buy air time. But ask yourself: how much effort and care will any station put into something they're giving away? Good commercials are worth paying for. Bad commercials can be costly to your brand image and waste your marketing dollars.

4) If you're already our client, we know about your goals, who you are as a company, and the brand identity you want to project. We're invested in your success, so you can be sure that we'll develop radio and/or TV content and a strategy that address your short and long-term goals.

When and Where to Air Your Spots

Creating effective commercials is important to the success of your broadcast advertising, but if your spots are not seen or heard often enough by the right audience at the right times of the day, or if they cost you too much to air, your campaign may not be effective.

That's why we recommend using the services of an experienced media buyer. These experts know where and when to place your commercials in order to best reach your target audience. They also can  leverage the total volume of time they buy in order to secure a lower rate for you.

Through discovery and understanding your needs, our experienced media buyers can craft a strategic approach that will minimize your risk while advancing your exposure. 

By the way, our media buying services don't cost you any additional money!

Call us for more details: 866/473-9000.

Don and DaveIt's been a tough week for me, TV-wise. (#FirstWorldProblems)

Two of my all-time favorite television shows have wrapped: Mad Men and The Late Show with David Letterman.

There have been volumes written about both of these shows by people far more qualified to dissect the art of television drama and comedy than I am, so I won't even attempt to add my two cents about what made these shows great.

I merely want to acknowledge their effect on my life and suggest one way they might have touched yours.

I fell in love with Dave Letterman during my college years. He was irreverent, defiant, curmudgeonly, uncomfortable in his own skin, and a truly refreshing comedic voice. Along with Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Dave was one of my comedy heroes. As a student, I even sent a packet of material to him, hoping it would land me a gig as a staff writer. It didn't. (I over-shot by proposing a new feature called "The Top 11 List.")

I was instantly attracted to Mad Men because of its setting in a New York advertising agency. I found the show mysterious, sensual, cool, remarkably detailed and visually stunning. It was thrilling to watch Don Draper think through his clients' needs and deliver creative solutions. And it left me nostalgic for an era I was too young to appreciate as I was living through it.

Both shows have been inspirational to me for many reasons. But, hopefully, they've reinforced for all of their viewers the value of great work; beautiful, carefully crafted, passion-filled work. Work that's designed to have an impact. Work that's built to last. Work that stays true to the one-of-a-kind vision of its creator.

We'll be watching - and talking about - both of these shows for a long time because that's the kind of work they are.

And no matter what you do for a living, I wish for you that same approach to your work.

Are you prepared for failureOn May 2nd, I called a local lawnmower shop to have my riding mower picked up for its annual service.

Cammie - the lady who runs the service department - told me she'd have one of her drivers pick up my mower on Tuesday the 5th, and that the service process would take 7 to 10 days.

The mower was still sitting in my driveway the night of Wednesday the 6th.

When I called to find out why, Cammie had no idea who I was or what I wanted. She had lost my order.

The mower was finally picked up on Friday the 8th.

When I called the shop Saturday the 16th to check on its status, Cammie told me that her team had not yet started work on my mower, and that it would be at least another three days until I could have it back. Over this two-week period, my grass had literally grown to the middle of my shins.

Frustrated, I asked how she was going to make this right. "What do you want me to do?" Cammie replied. "I've been getting yelled at for this same problem for the last three days."

Look - as a company, you're going to mess up.

A system will break down, or a weakness in your process will be exposed, or a team member will just plain drop the ball.

No company or employee is perfect, so disappointing customers is bound to happen now and then.

But if you don't prepare for that inevitability you're asking for trouble.

Empower your staff to make customers happy when things go wrong. That includes accepting responsibility for the problem, empathizing with customers, and giving them the tools to re-earn a customer's trust.

Then, encourage your employees to manage up. If they know of a problem anywhere in your organization – especially if it affects the customer experience – they should feel free to tell their supervisor.

Cammie's admission that "I've been getting yelled at for this same problem for the last three days" tells me that either she didn't bother to tell her manager about her department's issues or that management did nothing to address her concerns. Develop a culture or a process that makes managing up easy and non-threatening. The information you get from the front lines will be invaluable.

Retaining customers is a constant effort. Most of them will excuse a mistake now and then if you react politely and swiftly to correct it. By preparing for failure, you can salvage the customer relationships your sales and marketing teams work so hard to win.

RELATED POST: Can Your Brand Withstand the Next Storm? 
VoIP May Affect Your Marketing and Customers' Experience

Phone FrustrationYou should know about these two phone calls.

One call was placed to a single-location medical facility; the other to a link in a national chain of office supply stores.

Neither call produced a positive experience, which is why you should read about them. The stories may help you avoid the same mistakes, and prevent brand damage and lost revenue.

This post on the BusinessVoice blog is about the medical facility employee who was either not trained well enough or not engaged with her work enough to make a good impression. Read it here.

And this post is about the office supply company's failing to see the opportunity they throw away each time they leave callers on hold for more than a few seconds. Read it here.

These situations are certainly not unique, which is good news for your brand. If you can deliver a great experience to each of your callers, you will enjoy a differentiation that encourages repeat business and long-term customer relationships.

Our BusinessVoice team can help with Telephone Skills and Etiquette Training and with custom, caller-focused On Hold Marketing that ultimately serves your marketing needs.

RELATED POST: Are You Prepared for Failure?

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