Revive it, Or Destroy It

Have you taken a trip to your business’s social media account lately? Does it feel like 8198_gas-station-vidal3an old, abandoned gas station isolated in the middle of nowhere? If your company, like many companies, is neglecting its social media account, then you may be turning potential customers away from your business. Either revive it, or destroy it.

Abandoned social media sites always strike me with a weird, forlorn, melancholy-type feeling, whether it’s a small business’s clearly unused Facebook fan page, or a long forgotten, yet once thriving MySpace band page. It’s almost depressing. Much like the feeling I get on a hot, dusty Sunday afternoon when I see an obsolete retail chain store (I won’t mention names) struggling for survival on the edge of town. This feeling is not the message you want to be sending to your current/potential customers. You’re telling them that your business has not modernized in society along with the rest of us; it is now obsolete, and is no longer relevant. If you absolutely CAN NOT keep it updated, then you should delete it immediately. Although I strongly recommend having an online presence (not just limited to your company’s website), its non-existence is better than portraying your business as a struggling retail chain store.

As for everyone else, it’s essential that you keep your social media accounts active and updated with information and posts. And if it applies to your business, you should always keep your photos, videos, and graphics flowing, utilize new apps, and keep your knowledge of the trends in technology and activity in social media updated.

If your social media accounts fail to bring in money/customers, that doesn’t necessarily mean your effort is a lost cause. There is still a long list of benefits your business will enjoy. A few being: you’re still offering people information about your company, you’re demonstrating to visitors that you’re modern and relevant, and you’re giving people an alternative way (maybe their favorite way) to communicate with you. Plus, you won’t be giving consumers that oddfeeling I was talking about earlier.

It is for these reasons that you must (cue echoey, booming voice) REVIVE IT, OR DESTROY IT.


Why Clarity Is Key

Why Clarity Is Key Jul 06, 2011

Crazy Traffic LightsMy wife and I recently made a road trip down to Springfield, Missouri. Unfortunately, we left from Sioux Falls around 8:00 pm. And it’s a 9+ hour drive.

The night we left, we ran into a problem. To make a long story short, some misplaced and incorrectly-marked detour signs added about 50 minutes to our already-9-hour drive. And since this all took place around midnight, our options for getting help were extremely limited (and I’m not even the stereotypical, never-asks-for-directions male that is portrayed in every travel-related movie).

All it would’ve taken was one or two more clearly marked signs. A few guideposts to ensure that we were on the right path. But there we were, wondering why the detour signs for I-29 S were pointing BOTH directions at a T-intersection.

However, even amidst all of the intense frustration and confusion, I realized that this scenario fits perfectly in the business world. Because, when it comes to sharing your message with your customers, it’s amazing how much a little extra clarity can do. Whether it’s encouraging them to pay for your product or service or simply asking them to support you on Facebook, giving your target audience clear, defined ways to accomplish a goal is essential.

If your Facebook page isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like, have you considered adding a “Like” button for your page on your company website? If your online sales are down, have you been sure to include a prominently displayed “Buy Now” (or similarly-messaged) button on your site? Small guideposts can make a big difference when it comes to keeping your customers on the right path.

Eventually we found our way, but it would’ve been much easier if things were clear the first time around. Make sure your customers aren’t suffering the same fate my wife and I suffered on our road trip. I can tell you from personal experience that clarity is, in fact, key.

-Mike B.

Yelling ≠ A Conversation

Picture this. You’re walking down the street; there are strangers in suits on both sides of the road,  holding up their products and shouting at you in a barbaric attempt to get your attention. TheAngry-businessman-yelling-into-bullhornidea of hopping the fence in order to get closer to you never occurs to them. After awhile you become desensitized to the brutish noise, with the exception of the occasional voice that’s even louder and more annoying than the others. Then a smart, down-to-Earth person climbs over the fence, casually approaches you, and engages in pleasant conversation with you.

Now THAT is how you advertise.

This scenario is how I sometimes see the advertising world and all of its participants. If you were trying to establish a relationship with someone in society, you wouldn’t just scream at them to get noticed would you? This kind of attention-grabbing is impersonal and unappealing to people, and like in the metaphor above, would come across as crazy. You want to be that down-to-Earth person who is legitimately interested in having a real, human conversation with the individual. Listen to them; get to know them; converse with them. You have some interesting things to say and so do they. From sincere, productive conversations come sincere, new relationships. And after all, relationships are what we’re after.

I know it can be tempting to yell. With all the noise around, one’s first instinct is to yell louder than everyone else. But instead of contributing to the noise, it’s more important to think strategically. Hop the fence, and treat your consumers like the individualistic humans they are.

That’s how we get the quality attention we’re looking for.


Is Your Business Prepared for the Changing Times?

CarHop Mobile SiteAccording to a recent Advertising Age article, tablet users are expected to double by early next year. While the number of current tablet users may not seem outrageously high now—only 12% of American internet users (28 million people) are accessing the web through tablets today—a study by the Online Publishers Association and Frank N. Magid Associations predicts that roughly 54 million Americans (23%) will be using tablets for internet access by early next year.

So what does that mean for your business? It means you should seriously be considering the next steps for your online presence. If tablet growth continues at the rate it’s going, it won’t be long before tablet devices are a staple of the internet browsing experience for your customers, not just a rising trend. So there’s no better time than now to get ahead of the curve.

And keep in mind that it’s not just tablet use that’s growing. At ADwërks, we’ve seen a similar trend with mobile website usage. One of our clients, CarHop, has seen huge jumps in the number of visits to its mobile website over the past few months. From 3200+ visits in December to 5700+ visits in February up to 7500+ in April and May, the mobile site has seen an increasing number of visits each month and it looks like that trend will only continue moving forward.

It’s not hard to see that internet use on tablets and mobile devices will continue to grow in the future. As our dear friend Bob Dylan said, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” It’s up to you to decide if your business wants to evolve with the times or stay stuck in the past.

Stop Annoying Your Target Audience

Annoying Noises ProhibitedThis post is a could-have-been complaint turned into a business lesson on keeping your target audience in mind.

You see, there’s this music news website that I visit pretty regularly. The reason I check it regularly is because they update the site daily with newly-released music. Unfortunately, this site has been using ads on its music pages that play noise when you roll over them. And sometimes rolling over those ads is nearly unavoidable.

This means that while I’m in the middle of listening to a song (which, as I mentioned, is the only reason I visit the site), I’ll suddenly hear a random assortment of talking/singing simultaneously playing from an unavoidable banner ad for Cherry Dr. Pepper.

Let’s put this into a business perspective. You have a meeting with John. You go to your meeting and start talking with John. Then, mid-meeting, John pulls out his cell phone and starts another, totally unrelated meeting with someone else. And John expects you to be completely ok with that.

This is what happens to me almost every time I try to listen to new music on this website. And, as you can expect, it’s really starting to turn me off of that site. I’m just about ready to move on to new places, simply because they can’t use a noise-free banner ad on their music pages. Probably not the result they were going for.

My point is this – in any aspect of your business, it’s important to consider what your target audience wants. Not what you think they want. Not what makes you the most money. But what will keep your target audience returning as loyal customers instead of driving them away over time.

Because if your product or service is annoying to your customers, that alone could be the difference between someone choosing your product/service or instead choosing an option that doesn’t annoy them when they try to use it. All in all, it’s for you to decide. But in my experience, the happy customer option is usually a pretty good choice.

-Mike B.

Photo by Patrick Fitzgerald. Thanks Patrick!

Your Baby Is Ugly (and Why You Need To Hear It)

Does your marketing look like this?The marketing industry, like most industries, has some funny quirks. One of the quirks I find most interesting is how few business owners and marketing managers really, really want to hear the truth from their advertising agency.

You see, TONS of business owners understand how a marketing agency can help them increase sales, strengthen their brand and all of that other marketing stuff we agencies specialize in. The problem is many of those business owners treat agencies like a servant rather than a collaborative, strategic partner. They don’t need new ideas, they just need people who can keep doing the work “the way it’s always been done.”

Sure, they’ll say that they want to do whatever it takes to “increase their market share” or “build their brand reputation on Facebook,” but they refuse to budge when you point out that their website from 2003 probably needs an upgrade. Or they might insist that they want their materials updated with a new look, new colors, etc., but they demand that you leave the logo unchanged because “everybody knows/loves/has tattoos of that logo.”

Here’s the problem with that approach – a good agency should be hired for its expertise and creativity, not for its ability to keep making ugly brochures and forgettable TV spots.

Unfortunately, these business owners are the people who don’t realize their baby—or in this case, their business’s marketing approach—is ugly. And because no one has ever told them so, they never realize they need to fix it (even though, unlike an ugly baby, a bad marketing approach CAN be fixed). Instead, people just make fun of them behind their backs and the business owners never know there’s an issue.

So here’s our advice to you business owners. Make sure you can trust your agency to be honest with you. Hearing that your baby is ugly might not be your favorite news flash of the day, but it’s better than working with someone who doesn’t have the guts to tell you the truth. Besides, one of these days somebody is going to see your baby and react like this.

Wouldn’t your rather work with an agency that helps you fix the problem before that happens?

-Mike B.

Photo c/o AntToeKnee Lacey. Thanks!

The Building Doesn’t Make the Business

How important are your building and location to your business’s success? I ask because, on my recent visit to a few CarHop stores, I learned something important about this subject. Specifically, branding and sticking to your brand promise.

Aurora Store v2To give you some background, when it comes to opening new locations, CarHop tends to move into previously used spaces rather than building new stores from scratch. It has been a successful facet of their business model, but it leads to an interesting aspect of their stores – no two CarHop stores are the same. At least, physically.

Some are larger and more open (such as the former restaurant space in Burnsville, MN), while some are small and more confined (such as the former gas station space in Omaha, NE or the old Sonic Drive-In in Kansas City, MO). Although many businesses rely on each space they occupy to look and feel the same—Sonic, Target, etc.—as part of their branding efforts, CarHop doesn’t have that luxury. So they have to deliver on a different level.

They have to offer a distinct brand promise that doesn’t come from a building’s shape, size or signage.

Colorado Springs v2See, it’s not the building that matters when it comes to a CarHop experience. It’s the people inside the building that really make the difference. CarHop promises customers they will be “Helping People Drive®  with honesty, fairness and respect,” and each and every CarHop employee strives to fulfill that promise.

And because employees are so dedicated to keeping that promise, you quickly learn that the space is not the most important part of the CarHop brand. No matter the shape, size or location, CarHop’s strongest brand aspect is its commitment to customers and its fulfillment of that promise. The way customers are treated and the way they react to that treatment is a stronger affirmation of CarHop’s brand promise than any building layout or location.

Can your business say the same? If you had to move into a building with an entirely different image than your current location, would customers still feel as strongly about stopping by your place of business or working with your company? If you’re not quite sure of the answer, you may want to take a page out of CarHop’s book on customer commitment and brand promise to see what effect it has on your business.

It’s not the building that makes your business. It’s what goes on inside the building that makes the business.

-Mike B.

Do YOU Take Time To Be Your Own Customer?

CarHop Store (for blog post)This past week, Natalie, Jim and I (Mike B.) got to road trip up to Minneapolis to visit one of our clients, CarHop. This was partially to get some business done but also to give me and Natalie a chance to visit a few CarHop stores and get a better idea of how the business engages with its customers.

We met with salespeople and store managers, went through application the process, and got to spend time with both customers and employees of two different stores throughout the day. As Jim was expecting, this helped us develop a better understanding of our client and should help us as we plan and focus our marketing efforts moving forward.

Based on our visit, here’s my advice for business owners of all types: consider taking some time out of your day to be your own customer. Give yourself an opportunity to see what it is your business does well, decide what it could do differently and figure out which little changes have the potential to have a BIG impact on your company.

A Frustrating Example

Hotel roomI’ll give you an example of why this approach can help. Last night we stayed at a hotel that will remain unnamed. As I went to plug in and charge my phone for the night (which was basically on death row after a full day of travel), I ran into a problem: there wasn’t an open outlet anywhere near my bed.

The only outlet nearby was full with the bed lamp and a clock. And although that clock would work as an alarm, I prefer my phone for a number of reasons. So I had to make a choice – either plug in my phone across the room, or unplug the clock or lamp. Ultimately I chose the lamp, so I dragged the little table out, unplugged the lamp, plugged in my phone, pushed it back in place, and then had to do it all in reverse again in the morning.

Was it the worst thing in the world? Of course not. Jersey Shore is. But it was inconvenient enough to frustrate me. And it also made me realize that, perhaps if the hotel’s owner had a full day of meetings and then stayed a night in his or her hotel with a dead cell phone, that owner would realize a solution might be worthwhile.

I’m Not The Only One

In a recent USA Today article titled “What do Road Warriors want in a hotel stay?”, Richard Hadden said he appreciates “electrical outlets that I don’t have to crawl around on the floor or move furniture to get to.” I’m with you, Richard.

And the solution doesn’t need to be as drastic as rewiring the building’s electricity. Maybe they could buy lamps with an outlet in the base or something to that effect. The point is, I’d have been happier with my stay if charging my phone had been simple.

Is it minor? Yes. But a company that excels in the minor details wins in the big picture as far as I’m concerned. So, if you are a business owner, be sure to visit your own business as a customer, not as the owner. You might be surprised at what you can learn. And you just might make your business better as a result.

-Mike B.

Hotel room photo by espensorvik. Thanks!
CarHop photo c/o ADwërks.

What Businesses Can Learn From Holiday Jam

Holiday Jam by Xopher SmithFor the second year in a row, Holiday Jam with the Hegg Brothers rocked the main stage at the Washington Pavilion, and some of us ADwërkers (and our significant others) got to enjoy a killer performance.

While the music was fantastic, I think the biggest takeaway I got from Holiday Jam was the importance of storytelling to the entire night’s events. Specifically, storytelling with a purpose. (This is the part you business owners might want to pay attention to…)

A Stronger Connection

The Holiday Jam crew managed to keep a room full of hundreds of people (not all of whom were diehard “Christmas jazz” fans, I can assure you) entranced throughout the 2+ hour performance. How? Through storytelling.

In between songs, an emcee (John Beranek) would come out and share a joke, explain a song’s significance or simply talk about a band member’s background or personality. Each time he did this, we in the audience were brought in closer and closer to what Holiday Jam was all about. This culminated in a deeper sense of significance than we’d have ever gotten from simply hearing 18 songs in a row and going home.

More Than Just A Story

At one point in the show, John explained how he took a tour of the Sanford Children’s Hospital. Describing the extremely moving and inspiring experience, he talked about the undying optimism of the sick children, even when they don’t get to “live a normal life” like most kids their age. Then he explained how the Children’s Miracle Network offers summer camps for those sick children to attend so they can have that “normal” life experience they rarely—if ever—get to enjoy.

After the entire story had been told, John closed with a heartstring-tugging caveat – the proceeds from the “Holiday Jam” (like, jelly “jam”) on sale in the lobby would go toward the Children’s Miracle Network.

Suddenly, the crowd wasn’t simply buying a $5 jar of jelly. In fact, it wasn’t about the jelly at all. It was about something much bigger and much deeper. Within seconds of the intermission beginning, the Holiday Jam table was overwhelmed with buyers. Not because people were desperate for grape jelly, but because they were now a part of the story behind the sale of Holiday Jam. They, too, were making a difference in the lives of those sick children.

How Are You Using Stories?

All in all, telling the right story makes a difference. Without it, your product or service is just a product or service. But with it, your product or service becomes a part of your customer or client’s life. And that’s where you’ll really find success.

Don’t be afraid to share a little bit of your story with your customers or clients. You’d be surprised at how much stronger the connection becomes when you do.

-Mike B.

Photo by Xopher Smith. Thanks for the photo (and great job jamming), Xopher!

Well Do Something Then

Do SomethingFor some reason, it seemed like a lot of people in my high school wanted to resolve disagreements by fighting. Why that is, I don’t really know. Oftentimes, asking someone to stop doing something I didn’t like (cutting in line at lunch, drumming on a desk in class, jumping ahead of the team that had the next game of pickup basketball, etc.) was met with a pretty common response:

“Well do something then…”

(To be clear, the implied do something was not “go tell a teacher” or “say please.” The implied do something was typically an invitation to physically “do something about it.”)

As stupid as I thought that was back then – mostly because fighting wasn’t my strong suit – I’m starting to realize now that, fair or not, that really seems be how the world works. If you don’t like the way someone does something (and what they’re doing isn’t actually illegal), there’s not much of a way to get them to stop. They can just look you in the eye and tell you, “Well do something, then…” And they do this on a daily basis. Your competitors do it. The companies and organizations you partner with can do it. Your customers do it.

So what can you do about it? I guess our advice would be… do something then. Take a look at what it is that’s bothering you, and figure out how you can do something to solve your problem.

  • If your competitor is undercutting your prices, how can you show your customers that the value of your product is worth more than your competitor’s low price?
  • If a company you partner with is taking advantage of you, can you find a suitable replacement (either in person or online)?
  • If your customers are publicly complaining about you (say, in the social media sphere), how can you come up with a solution to curb their complaints and make that negative feedback positive?

When someone challenges you to “do something then,” you ultimately have two choices. Your first choice is to stay frustrated and let them keep doing what they’re doing. Your second choice is to take them up on their challenge and change the game in your favor.

Choice #2 is rarely (if ever) easier. But there’s a good chance it will have a major, positive impact on your business. And if someone has a problem with your course of action, you know what you can tell them?

“Well do something then…”

-Mike B.

Photo by Chewonki Semester School. Thanks!