Graham Communications

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Author JohnGraham , 4/11/2014
Since your web site is primarily a marketing tool for your agency, it should focus on clients and prospects – not the business. To accomplish this objective, ask yourself: Why do people visit the site, what do they want to know, and what will make them stay? 

More important, what will cause them to leave?  Here are a few answers to this question:

your site comes across as an "ad," rather than encouraging interaction;
it's confusing and complicated - too many pages;
the navigation is poor;
there are too many words; or
it takes too long to load the graphics.
Web sites are not agency showcases, although many agents seem to think otherwise.

 Does your site pass the only test that counts: to attract customers?   If not, what are you going to do about it?


Author JohnGraham , 4/3/2014
There might be as many answers to the "What's Denny's?" question as there are locations (1,600): some flattering, others less so.

In a failed branding effort 15 years ago, some locations started using "Denny's Diner" signage. Even so, the chain remained simply "Denny's" to most.
Now, Denny's is dusting itself off using revamped menus, updated merchandising .and a new TV campaign with the tagline - "Welcome to America's Diner!" To enhance the authenticity of the 15-second spots, they were shot in Denny's locations, featuring interactions with customers and employees.

  There are several marketing lessons from this:
  1. Words alone don't change customer behavior. Just saying “We’re America's Diner" falls short. For Denny’s to make these words work required linking them to enjoyable experiences. That's what Denny's TV ads hope to accomplish.
  2. It takes a consistent and unified marketing effort to bring about change. Just adding "Diner" to signage in 1997 was both meaningless and doomed for failure.
  3. Be relentless in the pursuit of customers. One of the best examples is Subway. Five years ago, everyone knew the Subway sign (there were about 25,000 of them in the U.S). Today, Subway isn't just better known. Sales are up and far more customers are eating there. Come to think of it, Denny's might be taking a page out of Subway's marketing book.


Author JohnGraham , 3/27/2014
Businesses, like people, tend to talk about what they know best: themselves. That’s the problem. Customers don't want to be told - they want businesses to listen to and understand their story.
Businesses just can't seem to stop talking about themselves. For example:  "XYZ Bank is proud of our [ community outreach efforts. We’re a true local bank that cares about the people we serve and this community that is] such a wonderful place to live." The irony is that the words are genuine, conveying the way this particular bank feels about itself. However, this doesn't change the fact that the ad is an exercise in telling customers, not trying to understand their story.   

In contrast, consider how Starbuck's engages customers.” "Bring in your receipt and get a treat..." It's worthwhile taking time to review our words to see if they’re sending the message that customers want to hear.


Author JohnGraham , 3/20/2014
A salesperson sent his customer this e-mail:

"I apologize for not getting back to you. I was in meetings all morning and had to be out of the office in the afternoon." 

This message might have seemed reasonable to the sender – but the customer saw it as telling her: “You aren’t important enough for me to get back to you.”

A better approach would have been to send a prompt and brief response that focused on a plan of action, rather than making an excuse: "Got your message. Will call you at 9am tomorrow." 

 Too many e=mail messages are unconsciously designed to make the sender feel good – and fail to take the recipient into consideration.

A word to the wise.


Author JohnGraham , 3/13/2014

Getting customer communication right is an art that too many companies don't take seriously – 

which often leaves customers confused, frustrated, and upset. This doesn’t need to happen, as a recent experience after placing an order with Best Buy attests:

Thank you! We've received your order. Please wait to pick it up. We’ll send another e-mail notifying you when your order is ready for pickup. This notification will arrive in less than 45 minute, because it takes us just a little time to get items ready for pickup in our stores. Thanks for shopping at Best Buy.

Customers appreciate being kept in the loop


Author JohnGraham , 3/7/2014

Customers who don't complain, keep coming back, pay promptly, and appear satisfied are off our radar screen. We take them for granted. Some of them have been around so long that they're invisible. We can call this "passive customer loyalty."


This is worth thinking about because it's dangerous. Why? Much to our surprise, these customers disappear quietly. No one misses them until they're gone – and then we say, "I wonder what happened?"


"Active customer loyalty" is far different. It results from constant cultivation, reinforcing how much we appreciate customers, and always looking for new ways to "refresh" their interest, feedback and loyalty.  This approach is well worth the effort because losing customers is costly.



Author JohnGraham , 2/27/2014
Although they hold a near-sacred place in marketing, taglines have come under fire from those who dismiss them as passé. Granted, most taglines are lousy, particularly those that focus on a product, service, or a particular company. Yet, the right tagline can play a key role in branding.   
Today, effective taglines are all about the customer. Here are four examples that pass the "customer test":  
Toyota – "Let’s Go Places."
Princess Cruises – “Come back new."
Walmart – “Save money. Live better."
Lowe's – “Never stop improving." 
Although taglines take thought and work, they can help send the message why it's smart to buy a particular product or do business with a certain company. This makes the effort worthwhile.

What’s your agency’s brand – and how can a great tagline help build it?


Author JohnGraham , 2/18/2014
Americans spend more than $12 billion a year on the nation’s most pervasive addiction. Like other compulsions, we can’t get enough to satisfy our longing.  It’s self-help and the seemingly insatiable desire to be more successful.
Every few weeks there’s a new self-help book, video or seminar. Malcolm Gladwell’s latest addition to his shelf of self-help books is totally enticing : David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants  How can anyone resist the appeal of getting to the next rung on the job ladder, making the numbers every quarter, and going from the bottom to the top?
If self-help were so effective, then tens of millions more of us should be the most engaged and highly motivated people in the world, smashing every performance record where we work. 
That’s not the case, to say the least.
The problem isn’t how we think or feel, but what we do. It’s the doing that makes the difference. Here are business ideas that get the right results:
1. Stop talking to ourselves. As individuals, it’s so easy for us to think we’re right.  It’s the same with companies.  A recent TV commercial makes the point. When the “team” hears the new plan, everyone cheers – all except one guy who says, “That’s a stupid plan.” In the next shot, he’s standing at the curb holding a box with his personal stuff.
Many companies, like individuals, become so enamored with their own ideas (read brilliance) that they shut out other views. Amid the cheering, no one dares say, “That’s stupid.”
Ideas, plans, initiatives, campaigns, and just about everything else benefit from diverse input.
2. “Never stop improving." Although this Lowe’s tagline has a clear double meaning for this home improvement company, it applies to all businesses and employees. Many get to a certain point – a plateau – and then stop, as if they’ve gone far enough, while a few keep on improving.
“From the time she was very young, she aspired and achieved, and often did it by breaking down barriers,” said her son David of his mother, Myril Axelrod Bennett, a Young & Rubicam VP pioneer in advertising research. “Everything she did, she did to perfection, and she demanded that of herself,” as the Boston Globe reported. She was doing a weekly blog until just before her death at 93. 
A “never-stop-improving” attitude puts the focus on what matters: performance.
3. Avoid corporate narcissism. Facebook’s phenomenal success is no surprise, as a recent Boston University study, “Why Do People Use Facebook?” points out. It meets two basic human needs: the need to belong and the need for self-preservation.
Businesses aren’t much different, always seeking opportunities to showcase themselves. The pull is irresistible, as compelling as that of Facebook. For example, one regional daily newspaper sent subscribers a letter with a $50 or $100 voucher charities can use to “purchase” advertising.
Ironically, the first half of the letter was devoted to talking about the newspaper. In fact, the headline started off this way: “We are proud to launch….” The final sentence thanked subscribers “for helping us support our community.” From start to finish, the focus was on the publication. More than a community service, the program came across like an “ad” for the newspaper.
It takes enormous willpower, discipline, and skill for companies to turn the spotlight from themselves – and onto their customers. 
4. Get good at connecting the dots. In spite of a major recession, high unemployment, and pervasive wage stagnation, few, if any of us, could be heard to say, “Hey, what do you expect? I’m doing what I was hired to do,” as if this were a remarkable accomplishment worthy of special recognition.
Although most people can describe what they do at work, far too few can recognize opportunities, identify problems and come up with solutions that have a positive impact on the company. It’s the ability to connect the dots that separates average employees from those who display superior performance.
5. Seek ownership opportunities. Workers come in two varieties:  those who see themselves as employees and those who act as owners. There are many of the former and too few of the latter. 
If there’s anything managers need and want from employees, it’s having them “take ownership” of their job by controlling outcomes, meeting deadlines, overcoming hurdles and reaching goals.
With the current stress on “teamwork” throughout the business world, we might expect that the ownership spirit would be thriving. Because this isn’t the case, is it possible that “teamwork” is either wishful thinking or window dressing — or both. Unless being a team member is wedded to ownership, This is  nothing more than another example of jargon.
6. Beware of “passive customer loyalty.” Those customers who never complain, keep coming back, pay promptly, and appear satisfied might also be off our radar screen. We take them for granted. Some have been around so long that they’re invisible; we c call their behavior “passive customer loyalty.” 
This is dangerous. These are the customers who quietly disappear. No one misses them until they’re gone – and then we say, “I wonder what happened?”
“Active customer loyalty” is far different. It results from the constant cultivation of customers, reinforcing how much we appreciate them, and always looking for new ways to “refresh” their interest, feedback and loyalty. This is well worth the effort because losing customers is costly.
7. Don’t get suckered into doing something dumb. Of all the lessons from the Obamacare website debacle, one towers above all others: never launch anything before it’s ready!
A CNET eBulletin evaluated entrants in the blossoming smart watch category. Whether selling for $49.95 or $950, one word described them: clunky. It wasn’t the first time. Microsoft’s SPOT smart watch was said to be “a bulky and poor design,” when it appeared in 2004. Needless to say, it went missing rather quickly.
This happens every time someone says, “We’ve got to get this out now or else.” Or else what? Or else we’ll look stupid, wrong, or embarrassed? Whether it’s a product, a plan, a project, or anything else, getting it right is the only test that counts.

In business as in life, it takes the right ideas to drive the right results.


Author JohnGraham , 2/11/2014
Most marketing messages – everything from advertising, flyers, and letters, to websites and e-mails – miss the mark and fail to connect with customers. Why? They reflect "company thinking:" what the company wants to say, and the message it wants to deliver.
Remember: customers couldn't care less about what your company thinks about itself, its products, services, or employees. All that counts is what customers think about you!
To get the message right, adopt a "walk in the customer's shoes" mindset. Speak to customers and get them to talk to you. Forget about automated surveys and "tell us how we're doing" stuff; they're too prevalent and frustrate customers when they’re too long, miss the mark, or (even worse) when customers ignore them.
 Talking to customers takes time, effort, and skill: investments that many companies seem to consider "unnecessary." Instead, make them the heart of your message – and keep this message as clear as possible.
For example:  
Problem: Attempting to say too much. Solution: edit, edit, edit.
Problem: Too many ideas. Solution: focus on a single main point. 
Problem: Failure to reach enough customers. Solution: repeat, repeat, repeat.


Author JohnGraham , 2/6/2014
 There was a time when insurance agents, dentists, and others sent birthday cards to their customers. Over the years, the practice mostly faded away. Now, it seems that what goes around, comes around.
"Companies seeking to get closer to their customers simply need to remember and acknowledge their birthdays," according to an online survey by analytics and marketing technology provider Fulcrum. 
The survey found that 74% of consumers who received birthday messages from a company they do business with "thought more positively of the company afterwards," and 88% of the positive reactions translated into increased brand loyalty.   
Birthday greetings that offered some type of discount were 24% more effective than simple birthday greetings in creating a positive impact on consumer opinion. 
The "Notice Me" message is so powerful that customers reward those who take note of them.