Marketing Tips

Marketing Tips

There are two main ways to increase revenue: First, get current customers to buy more. Second, get more customers. There are others, but if you master these two, you will grow.

The first way is more up to you. How is your customer service? Do you have any sort of “frequent user” incentive? Keeping current customers is critical, and losing them is costly. But it’s up to you.

Getting new customers is external. Are you consistently inviting new people to the party? Will someone recognize your name on an Internet search? If someone who never needed your product before suddenly does, will your name come to mind?

You may think social media and word of mouth are enough to attract new consumers. While it’s important to be active in each, external marketing makes you known before you’re needed. Plus, you’re in complete control of the message and the vehicles of distribution. Don’t leave it to chance.

Social Media gives people the freedom to complain at will, safely, and often anonymously. Sometimes it’s a legitimate lapse in service, but often it’s not. No matter how good you are, someone will complain. It’s how we handle complaints that matters. We can ignore, we can argue, or we can ask for another chance.

Start with a softening statement: “I’m so sorry your experience wasn’t what you hoped.”

Acknowledge their grievance: “I understand you had to wait longer than you expected. It was busier than usual that night, and our staff was working hard to serve everyone as quickly as they could.’

End with a commitment: “It’s always a priority for us to do better, and we hope you’ll give us another chance to prove it.”

Online arguments often explode, and you can diffuse many of them with this quick three-step process.

Years ago, I remember HSN selling home computers. Their pitch didn’t include many specs on the device itself such as memory, video, or sound capabilities. That said, it was profound:

“This isn’t just a computer, it’s your child’s future.”


They realized a universal truth: People don’t buy based on features. They buy based on benefits. Is the future of our children really at stake if we don’t buy this product? What parent would take that chance?

We don’t buy furnaces, we buy warmth. We don’t buy VA Tech shirts, we buy pride. Your feature is the product you sell. The benefit is the emotional and human need your product solves. That’s what you should be marketing.

“If you win a customer solely on price, you’ll lose that customer solely on price.”

I’m not sure where I first heard that, but it’s one of those nuggets I always remember.

If someone bought your product because you had the lowest price, what happens when you don’t? If a competitor comes out with a special offer, do you lower yours even more? If you hang your hat on “We have the lowest prices”, you’ll need to always have the lowest prices, and a race to the bottom is not healthy.

I get it, some people are price shoppers. But you’re the one lowering your profit margin, so it’s not a win-win.

If your product is superior, if your customer experience is better than average, you shouldn’t have to yield on price. Everyone knows that better quality products cost more. Lowering prices devalues the perception of your product. Think hard before you make that decision.

Superior customer service not only brings people back, it justifies price.

About 13 years ago, I used my modest pull to get my daughter backstage for a Taylor Swift Meet and Greet in Charlottesville. Taylor signed some things, posed for pictures, and engaged my daughter in a conversation that felt unhurried. Then, Taylor’s Mom took us on a tour of the stage and tour bus. It could not have been better.

A week or so later, the card arrived.

It was addressed to me, with a nice handwritten note about how much Taylor appreciated my station’s support. Tucked inside was a small, purple envelope addressed to “Maddie”. When my daughter opened it, confetti and guitar picks fell out. And inside was another handwritten note, talking about their conversation, and how Taylor would never forget that night.

Now that, my friend, is customer service.

It’s one of the reasons hundreds of thousands of people are paying thousands of dollars to see her on tour this summer, including Maddie. Don’t think for a second that it happens by accident. Superior customer service brings people back and justifies price.

What’s the first thing someone sees or hears when they walk in or call your business? I admit, I feel good when I’m greeted with a chorus of “Welcome to Moe’s”. It’s a little thing, but it matters.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, I shake my head a bit when the first sign I see in a business window says NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS or RESTROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY. And yes, they’re usually in all caps.

I get it, you don’t want a parade of random humanity in and out all day.

But remember that first impression. Before any “Welcome”, or “How can I help you”, the first impression is telling people in bold, black letters, what they can’t do. It’s a little thing, but it matters.

Be vigilant in recognizing the first impression you’re giving. How your phone is answered matters. That sign in the window matters. If you take it down, yes, you may get an occasional request to use your facilities. But you’ve replaced an admonition with a welcome, and that matters.

Marketing is like exercise.

Have you ever started a commitment to exercise with the promise that, “This will be the year.” Typically, I stop after a month or so, most certainly failing to give it enough time to build muscle, endurance, or lose weight. Exercise works, but only if we sustain the effort.

Now the analogy:

When marketing your business, it certainly won’t hurt to do it for a short period of time. But building endurance and strength, in the form of long-term awareness and sales, takes sustained effort.

When someone tells us they tried advertising and didn’t get results, forensic analysis typically reveals a campaign that didn’t have enough duration or frequency. They only went to the gym once and were disappointed they didn’t produce a beach bod.

Physical fitness requires effort over a sustained period. Business growth requires the same.

Attention spans are getting shorter.

Those five words are about all your brain will give me before you mentally or physically move on to something more interesting. They better be good.

Anytime your business advertises or posts on social media, it’s critical to be succinct. Chances are you looked at the length of this post to determine if it was worth investing your time. Make every word or image earn its place.

Use your own attention span when sending messages to your customers. Then, subtract a little. You’re more interested in it than anyone else, therefore have a higher tolerance for information. We often think more is better. But as Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the sole of wit”.

If there’s too much, customers will be distracted by the first squirrel that runs by.

I was at a Graduation ceremony not long ago, and the keynote speaker said something that resonated with me. He encouraged the graduates to “Listen more than you talk.”

Unless you yourself are the speaker, I can’t think of many circumstances where this would not be wise advice. You get a ton of useful information by listening. You get none from talking.

If you’re interviewing a job candidate, lead them, but let them talk. They will reveal themselves, good or bad.

If you’re with a customer, let them tell you what they need. When they’ve shared enough information, you’ll know what product to suggest.

If you’re in an argument with an employee, your child, your spouse, let them talk. Those last couple take real discipline, but every human being needs to feel like they’ve been heard. I’ve lost more than a few arguments when I thought my agenda was the most important.

In the musical phenomenon, “Hamilton”, Aaron Burr encourages Alexander Hamilton to, “Talk less, smile more.” Spoiler alert: Hamilton doesn’t listen, and it does not end well.

If you ever want to talk, we’ll listen.

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, “Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable”.

Many businesses employ occasional SWOT analysis (Strengths: Weaknesses: Opportunities: Threats). If yours does not, now is as good a time as any.

Gather your management team, and anyone else you feel could positively contribute, and get super honest and critical of your own operation. Note: It’s not a meeting to air grievances or simply complain. It’s meant to positively move forward. As facilitator, you have to make that clear. Don’t be worried about what you may find out. Be excited for the new paths you will uncover.

The “O” in SWOT is the one to be most focused on. Treat every Weakness and Threat as an Opportunity to improve. Ask for suggestions on how to do it. Ownership in the process results in buy-in, and buy-in results in……well, results.

It’s not easy to look in the mirror. The closer we look, the more flaws we may notice. But if we don’t, customers and competitors will. Those who bury their heads in the sand shouldn’t wonder why they are losing ground.

Give yourself a good SWOT soon

There’s a reason restaurant menus follow the structure they do.

First, they name the dish. It may be cut and dry: Prime Rib, Salmon, Liver and Onions (sorry). Or perhaps they come up with clever names for each item. I’m looking at you, Macado’s.

Next, they describe the dish using words like “tender, juicy, and succulent.” Prime Rib sounds good already, but they make it sound even better in a well-written description. As for Macado’s, how else would I know what’s in the Carpetbagger?

They’re creating value and desire.

The last thing you see is price. If they’ve truly done their job well in creating the value, price is far less of an issue.

When marketing your own product or service, remember to create value before you name a price.

We’ve all seen ads that begin with something like, “Mattress sets starting at just $299”. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Tell me about a cozy, restful night’s sleep. Then we’ll talk about price.

Even before our ears fully develop, we hear our Mother’s heartbeat. It’s the first sense we experience and the most powerful we possess. How?

You can choose not to look. You can’t choose not to hear.

Sound never stops. Even when a person is not consciously listening, sounds are absorbed into the subconscious. You may begin humming a song or jingle and not know why. It could be that your ears heard it hours before, even when you weren’t paying attention.

Visual ads require the consumer’s full attention, and that’s a lot to ask.

On radio, ads are heard even when someone is not actively listening. The subconscious will remember. You may remember jingles from 30 years ago. Do you remember any print ads from that long ago?

Very few people react to an ad immediately. Instead, they (hopefully) recall the business when the need for the product arises. What will be remembered more: Visual or audio ads?

People never stop hearing.

There is a reason newspapers and online news sources use headlines. The headline is meant as a tantalizing lure to get the user to read the article. The more interesting the headline, the better the conversion to the full article. Consider these:

“County Releases Wildlife Migration Study”


“Are There Bears in Your Backyard?”

Which would you be more likely to read?

Your own headline is just as important. The “Subject” line in your email, the first words visible on your website, or the first line in your ad. Does it entice further exploration from a potential customer? Or is it clinical and cliché? Hint: “Big Sale Today” is clinical and cliché. We can do better.

Oh, and the Free Beer? Well, it got you to read, didn’t it?

That’s an interesting statement. Our businesses pretty much depend on selling something. Perhaps I should expound.

Don’t sell your product, sell the problem your product solves.

I remember reading this years ago: Nobody wants a drill. They want a hole.

Let’s extrapolate a little: Nobody wants Insurance, they want peace of mind. Nobody wants a gym membership, they want a healthier life. Nobody wants a mortgage, they want a place to call home.

Think about the problem your product or service solves. That’s your starting point. Then, explain why yours is the best choice to solve it.

From our standpoint, nobody wants advertising, they want more customers. If only we could think of a way to get them.

One of McDonald’s slogans in the 70’s was, “You deserve a break today”. It was genius. They didn’t talk about burgers or fries, they talked about you, and what you deserve. You work hard, you’ve earned a reward, a break. And your reward for all of that sweat equity? McDonald’s.

Another classic slogan belonged to Hallmark. “When you care enough to send the very best.” This wasn’t focused on the individual, but on someone the individual cared about.

Consider these concepts when crafting your marketing messages, not matter your product:

Heating and Air: “Doesn’t your family deserve a warm, cozy winter?”

Restaurant: “Treat yourself tonight, because Mondays are hard.”

Jeweler: “She does so much for you, do this for her.”

You have the power to position your product or service as a reward. Try it.

Of course, we’re here to help in any marketing and advertising challenge you may be facing.

Nearly every Social Media platform was developed so human beings could interact with one another. Because they’re so popular, it’s only natural that they are attractive as marketing tools.

That said, businesses who expect to have meaningful interaction with their customers are often disappointed. Humans will do almost anything to avoid ads, so how can we expect them to interact with the companies whose ads they try to avoid? And worse, they may have negative things to say.

In the mid 2000’s, Pepsi pulled much of their traditional media advertising. They spent millions building their social media presence, accumulating “likes”. And they got them, millions of them. The result: They dropped from the #2 selling soft drink to #3, and they have yet to get back.

“Likes” are great. Social Media presence is essential. But be careful how much you’re asking of your “Friends” and “Followers”. Your current customers may enjoy staying up to date with you, but if they sense they’re being pitched, you’re in danger of violating why they agreed to the friendship in the first place.

Of course, we’re here to help in any marketing and advertising challenge you may be facing.

You don’t need a roofer today. You don’t need a plumber or a lawyer. But next month, next spring, next year, you might.

When you do, a name might pop in your head. Or you may Google “Lawyers in the NRV” and a couple dozen firms will come up. Again, do you recognize any of them? Most consumers will scroll down the list, even bypassing those who paid to be at the top, until they see a name they recognize. Think about it the next time you Google a business category. My hunch is that you do the same.

The reason we advertise is to be known. The reason we advertise consistently is to be known before we’re needed. Keep that in mind when developing your marketing strategy, especially if you’re in a business category that consumers don’t need very often, like roofers, plumbers, or (hopefully) lawyers.

Advertising for short periods only keeps you known to those who need your product right now. Advertising consistently keeps you visible to those who need you today, next month, next spring, and next year. Be known before you’re needed.

Of course, we’re here to help in any marketing and advertising challenge you may be facing.

Most of us face the ongoing struggle of finding good people. With unemployment low, we have to entice candidates to leave where they are and come to us. But how do we get them to risk change, to leave the comfortable for the uncomfortable transition to a new job?

Most job postings have a long list of qualifications and a long list of duties. While necessary, save them for the end. Make the beginning of your post sound like something an actual human being would be attracted to:

“This position doesn’t come up often because our people don’t often leave. If you’re hoping to find a supportive environment where everyone works toward a clear, common goal, you’ve found it. Yes, we expect results, and that’s why we pay you. But you’re allowed to laugh in the hallways and to show pictures of your pets. We’ll show you ours. Read on for the job description, qualifications, and application info. We’d love to meet you”

Atmosphere and culture rank high on employment decision making. Make sure yours sounds good and you’ll see a better quality response.

Of course, we’re here to help in any marketing and advertising challenge you may be facing.

Holiday shopping season is always an apt time to remind each other of the value of shopping local.

When we buy on Amazon or any other non-local online vendor, the money leaves and doesn’t come back. I get it. It’s easy, convenient, and even fun.

But Amazon doesn’t keep local people employed. They don’t buy Girl Scout cookies or sponsor T-ball teams. They don’t support schools, libraries, Police or Fire.

When we buy local, we’re not only supporting those businesses, but the entire infrastructure of our local existence. It’s that important.

Sure, it’s unrealistic to give up online shopping entirely. Some things aren’t available here in our backyard. But check here first. You might be surprised. If each of us made just one or two less online purchases this Christmas season, and shopped locally, it would make a world of difference.

The Girl Scouts will thank you.

Many of us are working on our 2024 budget this time of year. I don’t know of many businesses who don’t, each year, project even a modest increase in revenue.

That said, is there anything in your budget that justifies the confidence of achieving that growth?

If you’re just hoping that the economy improves, that interest rates go down, or suddenly more consumers become aware of you, you’ve put it out of your control. While “Hope” is a wonderful thing, it’s not a business strategy.

Developing and investing in a marketing strategy makes growth possible. Marketing should not be viewed as a cost, but rather an investment. And like any investment, you could and should expect a return. It’s not unreasonable to expect that for every dollar you spend on marketing, you should realize anywhere from five to ten in return. That helps you set the type of investment you should make.

Don’t leave it up to hope. Leave it up to a well-planned budgeted strategy.

Our business, perhaps like yours, is typically slow in January. Frankly, the whole first quarter can hurt. General consumerism does indeed slow in the winter months, but what outwardly seems like a handicap can turn into an opportunity.

While consumerism may slow, it doesn’t stop. In the NRV, millions and millions of dollars are still spent in January and February. While the pie may be a bit smaller, it may be your chance to grab a bigger slice.

Let your competitors go dark in Q1 while you step forward with increased visibility. If you’re the one people see and hear when they make a purchasing decision, you’ll get first consideration. If you’re invisible, off the radar, chances are you won’t.

And here’s the bonus: If you increase the size of your slice in Q1, it will stay that big when spending picks back up in the spring. We’d love to help you do that.



Paul Johnson is the Vice President and General Manager of New River Radio and Digital, offering broadcast and digital advertising and marketing solutions to businesses across the New River Valley.

Email Paul at

Catch The Wave

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