Posted in Business Articles, Branding and Marketing

Marketing That Worked on Me – and Why

I’ve spent my entire life studying and employing the devices of successful rhetoric to convince someone else to do or think what I tell them. Marketer is just one title for people who do this. Yep, that’s what marketers do, day in and day out: research what motivates target customers to choose them, and then create the company messages to make sure that happens.

Certainly, marketers have access to a wide variety of media as well as mixed media to deliver and reinforce the messages they want you to accept as truth and actions they want to compel you to perform.

So when a simple, inexpensive mailer campaign sequence is successful with me – who spends most waking moments at least subconsciously dissecting messages for agendas – I stop to really consider why. And if what I can tease out is replicable, I share that information with the company. In this case, I’m examining my reaction to Honest-1 Auto Care, the Mt. Pleasant branch.

IMG_2066In early summer 2017, I received in the mail a classic postcard bulk mail piece advertising several service specials at a local auto maintenance and repair shop. I know it is bulk mail because the address reads my name on the first line and “or current resident” on the second; this ensures that the piece will be delivered in the relevant service area rather than be forwarded to a previous resident with a forwarding order in place.

Now I’m pretty immune to physical junk mail, including advertisements like this. What happened to make me notice it means backing up just a touch. I had paid off my now-ten-year-old vehicle since my last oil change, which I’d always had done at the dealership. But I was ready mainly to establish a good relationship with a shop much closer to home and work; the dealership was at least 30 minutes away in a part of town I rarely have a need to visit. And I had spoken with my mom about some of the shops she’d used and been happy with on our side of town. And she got the same postcard on the same day and called me to point it out.

That’s what it was. That’s what made this very first “touch” successful. All I needed was an oil change, the shop was perhaps 1 mile from my house and did not require an appointment, and I knew it had been there a good long time, so it must have a reasonable amount of repeat business and/or referrals to at least maintain.

Conclusion (touch #1): there is nothing replicable about the success of this first touch from my response as there is no way the marketers could know all of those specific, converging circumstances that made me primed for the response they were trying to lead me to. But it stands to reason that twice a year (on average) an oil change or routine maintenance is on every driver’s mind, as well as the cost and convenience of acquiring those services.

So one weekday afternoon when I had no appointments, I drove the 1 mile to the shop, walked in, was greeted by a smiling service receptionist (touch #2), got set up as a new client, treated myself to a cup of coffee from the courtesy Keurig, and relaxed with my book in a comfy chair for 35 minutes. That’s when the service receptionist shared with me the courtesy inspection results and recommendations from the techs…with absolutely no pressure to add anything to my commitment for that day. But she did promise to email me the report. Further, when I got in my vehicle to leave, the technician had signed and left a simple “thank you” note card on my passenger seat (touch #3). As I had been promised, when I next checked my email, they had forwarded the report and receipt (touch #4). I also had an email (touch #5) asking me to review their services; good on ’em for asking, something most companies seem terrified to do!

Conclusion (touches #2, #3, #4, and #5): while it’s hard to predict the effect of the same service receptionist on various customer personalities – and, give me credit, I was playing nice that day – it’s easy to compliment a clean, comfortable, climate-controlled, quiet waiting area with free WiFi if I had chosen to work or play on social media instead. It’s easy to compliment a clean, groomed, uniformed receptionist who kept a smile on her face even when she was on the phone and not visible to the caller. It’s easy to be pleased to learn that the overt promises they made, they kept in emailing all of the paperwork from the visit. It’s easy to be grateful for the emailed information and even the prompt for a review, both clearly the result of programmed responses and delays in a CRM. These are replicable conditions that are known to inspire confidence and result in positive results.

I really did keep in mind the recommended service – it was a good and simple and necessary maintenance – and I had intended to get it into my budget and schedule. But I’m also glad I was just distracted enough to not get my butt in gear for 2 weeks after that initial visit. Why? Because two things happened within days of each other:

  1. they emailed (touch #6) me a reminder of the recommended service along with an estimate based on my vehicle
  2. they mailed (touch #7) me a “check” for $15.50 to use towards any service. In the memo line, they called it an “Auto Repair Rebate Check,” but it amounts to a gift card.

IMG_2065Now, I’m not a couponer, not even a casual one, but I can live for a month off of the gift cards I receive at holidays – and I LOVE it! For the most part, I don’t bother on items, say $5 and under; chalk it up to convenience – or inconvenience – fees of clipping coupons and purging when they expire. But when you send me a gift card for $15.50 off of a service that’ll run me close to $80, that’s a big deal in my pocket book.

Conclusion (touches #6 and #7): CRMs are an outstanding tool, especially for automated follow-up marketing (aka repeat sales) in industries where sales interactions take place months apart. Time limits on “coupons” are excellent, necessary even, but I’d argue that 60 days from the visit is too long a period to generate the action desired; I’ve delayed long enough to receive a second reminder.

I’ve been pleased with this company’s communication, programmed and delivered by a simple CRM with simple automated marketing. It’s a powerful tool – that automated marketing. It makes it easier for a marketer to switch up the gentle and the aggressive messages for the best opportunity to generate that desired response from a variety of customer types. Naturally, if my interpersonal and/or service experience hadn’t matched up, I surely would not have been as receptive to the reminders or the coupon/check.

I’m scheduled to use my coupon/check the last week of August.

NB: The initial postcard indicates that marketing is generated by the corporate office in Marietta, GA, the coupon/check lists my local shop in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Greek Chicken and Rice

IMG_2004
Greek Chicken and Rice with Feta Cheese, accompanied with marinated cucumbers and onions (refrigerator pickle)

I’m not trying to present anything authentically Greek like your native or first-generation Yaya made, but rather to elevate the simple chicken and rice dish with the flavors most Americans associate with Greek or (generically) Mediterranean food. In fact, if you leave off the Greek-ish additions, you could just say this is Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice and stop there :-).

To easily change up a wonderful dish when it’s getting a little stale in the dinner rotation, consider adding lemon juice to your chicken and rice bake and serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and olives.

Ingredients for a 4-serving bake

  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (jasmine, basmati, American long grain, whatever)
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock or combination
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced (1-2 T prepared lemon juice) – to taste
  • 4 4-6-oz pieces of boneless chicken – any combination of breasts and thighs
  • 1t salt (only if using water because even low sodium chicken stock already has salt)
  • 1t – 1T black pepper – to taste
  • 1 package of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives (or black or green if you like those)

NOTE: you might think that dicing the chicken before putting it in the bake will make this easier, but the smaller pieces cook so much more quickly than the rice that they become dry and rubbery. Not pleasant, IMHO.

IMG_2001Preheat oven to 350°F.

Layer rice, water/stock, juice, chicken, salt, and pepper in a 9×9 baking dish in the order listed above for the least messy assembly.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir – this is essential for all of the rice to get cooked.

Bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

IMG_2002Use two forks to shred the chicken. Stir to mix thoroughly with the rice.

Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese and chopped olives.

LEFTOVERS: if you have any leftovers, they make for a great cold rice salad with artichoke, cucumber, tomato, and sweet onion and a drizzle of olive oil or Greek salad dressing added to the feta and olives. Mmmmm, lunch!

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free

PaPa’s Fish Stew from my Grandfather’s Personal Recipe Book

IMG_1993My dad and brother go on a fishing trip every year in August, and brought back some shark that we’ve been wondering how we want to cook. And about a week ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I was flipping through my grandfather Joe Jones’s personal cookbook and came across his Fish Stew recipe, complete with variations for 21-, 15-, 10-, 5-, and 2-gallon batches. I rubbed my hands together and giggled with fanatical glee: PaPa would LOVE shark in his fish stew!

Bonus! This is such a pantry meal since every ingredient is a staple in our family pantry.

As I’m interested in batches for a standard 4-5 person family, I made just a few adjustments, mainly in the liquid ingredients:

  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped into strips or dices
  • 2 medium sweet Vidalia or yellow onions, chopped small
  • 1.5 lbs potatoes, diced (roughly 3 cups)
  • 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes (recommend fire roasted with garlic)
  • 2 cups V-8 juice (recommend original or low sodium)
  • 1 cup fish or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce or white wine (but not both)
  • 1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce or soy sauce (but not both)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (like Tabasco or Texas Pete)
  • 1 T Old Bay seasoning (or similar)
  • 2-3 lbs white fish (shark and gator work well also)
  • Optional ingredients: shrimp, crab, clams, lemon juice.

IMG_1989In a large stock pot over medium heat, drop in the bacon and onion and let sweat and sizzle for 3-4 minutes, just until the bacon starts to firm up and the onions start to get clear but NOT browned or caramelized.

Add the potatoes, diced tomatoes, V-8 juice, white wine/fish sauce, Worchestershire/soy sauce, hot sauce, and seasoning.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

IMG_1992Add the fish. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Use your stirring spoon to break up the fish into smaller pieces. Flakier fishes like catfish and flounder will “melt” into the stew. Sturdier fishes like mahi mahi, snapper, shark, or swordfish will hold up as chunks.

Serve with cornbread or breadsticks or any sturdy bread. Soft breads like croissants or yeast rolls will get gummy and chewy. For this night (photos), I heated some leftover Papa John’s parmesan breadsticks in the oven for 15 minutes on 350°F.

Confession: I HATE tomato juice and tomato soups, which extends to PaPa’s fish stew, but my family loves it. It’s often what we make with any leftover fish from a fry or a restaurant rather than reheating (stinky!) or choking down cold, dry fish.

Posted in Branding and Marketing, Small Business Tips

Under-appreciated Branding and Advertising Tool: button makers

I recently found myself volunteering to make about 100 buttons for my mom’s church group’s national convention: one each for the delegates to wear and extras to trade with delegates from other states.
And as I was studiously working in a familiar loading and pressing rhythm, I thought how nice it was to be reunited with the button maker I had purchased for a former employer. Naturally, we parted on great terms since he continues to let me borrow the button maker.

You see, for short-run branding and advertising needs, you can’t beat the cost and ROI of a single-purchase button maker for about $300, and supplies so cheap!

For large runs of general branding items, you’re still going to get the best cost through outsourcing. But when you need it dated, featuring the employee of the month 12 times a year, or fewer than 500, make the investment in the button maker and give yourself the freedom to design what you need and make only the number you need, even if it’s the night before you need them!

Buy the American Button Machines 2.25″ kit shown above here.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on The Holy Spirit for Pentecost: Acts 2: 4

Scripture: Acts 2: 4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Props: handheld fan, candle and light (if your church doesn’t light candles for service), cotton ball with essential oil, recording of strong wind

 

Do you know what special day this is? This is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the time when we remember that before Jesus returned to heaven, he promised that God would send a helper — the Holy Spirit — to live inside of those who follow him. He promised that the Holy Spirit would give them the power to do great and mighty things.

One day, after the Resurrection at Easter, the disciples were all together and they heard a sound from Heaven: a loud, powerful rushing wind. And a flame appeared – no candle or anything – and touched on each disciple. And the disciples felt a great power and immediately went out to preach – that’s what the power of the Holy Spirit helped them to do – to tell others about God and Jesus.

How do you think you can tell when the Holy Spirit is giving you the power and the urge to tell someone about God and Jesus? Let’s test our senses to see how many ways we can feel that mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit:

Can you feel the Holy Spirit? (use a battery-powered hand fan to blow on the children) Can you feel the wind like you’re at the beach or high in the mountains? YES! That’s the Holy Spirit making sure you know it’s there for you.

Can you taste the Holy Spirit? Hmmm, that’s a tough one, isn’t it. Wind doesn’t have a taste, but it we stick out tongues out when the wind blows, we do get another way to feel the wind and know the Holy Spirit is encouraging us.

Can you smell the Holy Spirit? (hold a cotton ball with essential oil in front of the fan to send a scent on the wind) Let’s try it: we already know we can feel the wind when it brushed past us, but the wind – the Holy Spirit – can also use smells to let us know how we can minister to others.

Can you hear the Holy Spirit? (cue Crystal to play the wind storm sound on the Clavinova) Wow, right! That’s a big mighty wind. That’s definitely the Holy Spirit when it really needs to get our attention, right!

Can you see the Holy Spirit? Take a look at the candles on the table. That’s the light of Christ we bring in each Sunday and we take out into the world each week. What makes that light move so that we can see it? YES! The Holy Spirit.

Our basic senses are how we feel and know that the Holy Spirit is with us and ready to help us to do what God asks us to do. This is what we are reminded of each year on the day of Pentecost: that when we know God and follow Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit which gives us the power and the instructions to do wonderful and mighty things for God.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending us the power of the Holy Spirit. Please fill us up each day with the Holy Spirit that we would have the power to live for Jesus and let His light shine in our lives. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Delivered on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Palmetto Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Spanish-style Sausage and Rice

My best friend has her abuela’s pot for making Arroz con Pollo, but my family is much less discerning of that level of authenticity. Instead, we get close with this flavorful sausage and rice dish.

You’ll need

  • 1 family size package of Vigo Spanish Rice (with seasonings included in the package)
  • 2 lbs cooked link sausage, such as kielbasa, turkey sausage, venison sausage, etc.
  • 1-2 packages of frozen peppers and onions (roughly 1-2 cups of chopped frozen or cooked peppers and onions)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup whole green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

While the rice cooks, slice cooked sausage into coins and brown in skillet.

Note: Vigo seasoned Spanish rice is not corn-free. Use unseasoned white or yellow rice and Sazon with Saffron seasoning.

Thaw/steam frozen peppers and onions (with poblano pepper if using) in the microwave. Or, if using fresh veggies, sautee in skillet after sausage is all browned.

Spanish_Sausage_and_Rice.jpgWhen rice is finished, mix in browned sausage, warmed peppers and onions, and olives. I leave my olives whole because all of my peeps like them; feel free to slice or chop yours up if you need to hide them ;-).

Serve directly from the rice pot, accompanied by fresh fruit salad or seasonal marinated vegetables.

Tip: maintain healthy overnight blood sugar by skipping the “bread on the side” with dinner when you already have rice, pasta, or potatoes. Even non-diabetics can experience unhealthy blood glucose levels when consuming extra complex carbohydrates.

Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free

Colombia Restaurant 1905-inspired Summer Pasta Salad

I’ve eaten at the Colombia Restaurant just once and was most impressed by the simplicity and the goodness of their signature salad with their 1905 salad dressing. But I can’t eat lettuce, so I looked for a way to make this a robust salad without it. Enter pasta…or quinoa or even rice for a Northern Italian-style dish.

Here’s what I used for the “salad”:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta, prepared according to package instructions (GF: use any small piece gluten free pasta; GF & CF: use quinoa)
  • 3 standard cucumbers, seeds removed, quartered lengthwise, chopped
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced in rings
  • 1 cup green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, whole or sliced (I like whole)
  • 8 slices of swiss cheese, cut into 1/2-inch squares (or julienned if that’s easier)
  • 1 package of diced prociutto (4 oz)
  • 1 package of julienned Citterio ham (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini rings (optional)

For the dressing, which is based on the Colombia Restaurant 1905 dressing:

  • 1 cup good oil (EVOO)
  • 1 cup ACV
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1t dried oregano
  • 1t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt

Whisk up the dressing and let it sit out on the counter to marinate for several hours before you dress the pasta salad.

Dress and serve at is or over a pile of lettuce to make it more “salad-y.”