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  • February 7, 2017
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on What happens?
  • in Thinking

What happens?

What happens when your message is no longer fresh?

What happens when your organization, achieving its objectives and fulfilling its promises (whether through product offerings, delivery of service or in the case of a non-profit, staying to its mission) no longer gets the attention of its audience?

What happens when your story, albeit valid, no longer captures interest?

What happens if another company or organization tells its story, similar to yours, and catches a new wave of enthusiasm you wished you'd gotten?

What happens?

Retool? Probably not. It's working. You're doing as you promised.

Retreat? Never.

Reengage? That's the ticket. What story can you tell that you haven't already told? What is that one piece of information no one knows about you?

What are you doing today to reengage your tired audience?

  • February 1, 2017
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on It’s not too late.
  • in Thinking

It’s not too late.

OK, so it's February. You've settled into 2017 and, in many ways, it still feels like 2016. Of all those things you said you'd do, you've done...one? Half of one? You haven't exercised, haven't found time to read, haven't eaten any healthier, haven't started that new hobby.

Sometimes, we start out with the best intentions on things we know will improve our lives, only to stumble right out of the gate and never realize even the slightest accomplishment. It doesn't mean you've failed. It doesn't mean they weren't worth going for in the first place. What it does mean you may not have decided what you really want.

I had a friend once who said, "you really do get what you really do want. You may say you want six-pack abs. But if you don't stop eating chocolate donuts and watching 6 hours of television a day, what you're really saying is 'I want to eat chocolate donuts and watch television more than I want six-pack abs.'"

It's a valid point. You really do get what you really do want.

So with February now upon us, here's some good news about all those plans you made for the new year.

It's not too late.

It's not. It's not too late to rethink all those grand plans you made on January 1, reassess which of them are really important to you and go with gusto for those that still seem important enough for you to pursue. Go for gusto for the things you really want. Pick one. Or two. Create some baby steps, launch a plan and get started.

You won't be sorry. You'll savor some small victories.

And maybe—just maybe—you'll get what you really do want!

  • January 5, 2017
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Do you really?
  • in Thinking

Do you really?

Recently, Aprill and I treated her mother, father and niece to a holiday lunch in Nashville, Tennessee. We were doing a day of shopping, and we had the opportunity to choose among several restaurants in and near the mall in which we were spending most of the day.

We chose a national chain instead of a number of local options primarily because we thought the service would be predictable, and we were also under a bit of a time constraint. If I told you the name, you'd recognize it. (I won't because I do believe this is an isolated instance.)

While it wasn't a miserable experience, it was far below subpar. Several tables around us were unbussed when we arrived and remained unbussed when we left 1:45 minutes later. The service was slow and surly. The food was good after it finally arrived more than 40 minutes after we ordered, even though they sat us at the table closest to the kitchen and on the pathway all servers used to get to their tables. I'm a pretty forgiving customer. Food service is hard. But this particular outlet was less than 50% full the entire time we were there and yet, our lunch was mediocre at best.

I felt a little sad. I don't often get to have lunch with my in-laws, and I wanted it to be better than it was. I expected more.

When I returned home, I got on the website of the restaurant chain and relayed all of what I wrote above, along with a few more details only the restaurant would care about. A few days later, I got the reply I've included here.

I was floored.

First, I can assure you the name of the restaurant was not "marketforce," and I would bet good money the manager does not, formally or informally, go by the name "data."

But it is in the text of the reply that the dedication of the organization completely falls flat. We take feedback of this nature very seriously...

Do you? Do you really? Do you really take feedback of this nature seriously?

I had a bad experience in one of your restaurants and, instead of just leaving it, I took the time when I returned home to tell you, spelling out in great detail an experience that was many levels under acceptable, and all you can say is It is our hope that you will give us another opportunity to provide you with both fantastic service and great food in the future.

Not. A. Chance. I never say never—but in their case I'm making an exception. Never.

On the website form it asked the amount of my bill, the amount of which I expected in a gift card in the mail within a day or two. If they want another opportunity, they need to make it on their nickel at the very least.

Finally, even though I blocked out the name of the restaurant, the bottom portion of the email is exactly as I received it. "Sincerely," then nothing. No name. No title. No corporate slug or logo. Nothing.

How do you take a bad experience and make it worse? Send this email as a response to a customer complaint.

So don't look for me anymore. I won't be back. I don't care how good the macaroni is...

  • December 9, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Rush and the Crush
  • in Thinking

The Rush and the Crush

It's the holiday season
And Santa Claus has got a toy
For every good girl and good little boy
He's a great big bundle of joy
He'll be coming down the chimney, down
Coming down the chimney, down.

How's it going for you--this holiday season?

It's actually pretty level for me this year. And I don't like it. I miss the rush and the crush.

When I was a teenager back in the 1900s, the holiday season was compressed and packed. Everyone knew it was coming. It started with Halloween, followed by a long break. Then came Thanksgiving and a time to pause, give thanks, enjoy a meal with family and friends and rest. Then came the rush and the crush.

I worked part-time in a retail store. We didn't call it Black Friday. It was simply the Friday after Thanksgiving. But we knew it would be busy in the store. It was an all-hands-on-deck day. Most everyone worked the entire day instead of in shifts.

The holiday season was intense. Then, it was over.

These days, it melts into our culture and never seems to go away. I went into our neighborhood pharmacy a few days before Halloween this year to get some candy for trick-or-treaters and had to navigate around the Christmas decorations to find it. Thanksgiving is wedged into the middle now, and many stores open. Black Friday savings are available the first week or so in November.

I suppose there's no real harm in the season being extended to two months instead of one. Call me old-fashioned. I miss the rush and the crush.

  • December 6, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Soldier. Colt. Simple man.
  • in Thinking
Soldier. Colt. Simple man.

Soldier. Colt. Simple man.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sometimes, I long for the salad days of social media when people shared trivia, pics of puppies and kids, videos of cats doing all sorts of strange things, recipes a...Read More »
  • July 27, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on A Resurgence of Mail.
  • in Thinking
A Resurgence of Mail.

A Resurgence of Mail.

We started out as a direct response agency. Hence the name. We did a lot of direct mail. A lot. We created concepts, copy and design, produced it all the way through the mail, analyzed it, modified...Read More »
  • July 16, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Congratulations! Business is Booming.
  • in Thinking

Congratulations! Business is Booming.

These are incredible times in business. Communicating with customers has never been easier. Referrals keep ‘em coming. You have a loyal following that isn’t going anywhere else. And you’re not even doing anything to make it stay that way.

Seriously. No one has time to update the website. An email campaign is out of the question this summer—make that summer and fall. And customer loyalty just happens anyway. Not much to do there.

Okay. No one is THAT confident. So here are a few ways we can think of to keep those customers coming—and business booming.

Website

For many of us, our website is our storefront. If yours is looking a little shabby, your customers WILL notice. And then maybe wonder how good you really are. If you really care. You get the picture. Even if everyone is too busy with business, you have to look like you’re in business to stay in business. Hire someone, inside or outside, who is low-maintenance with a get-the-job-done attitude. Manage the project in a way so that everyone in the company doesn’t need to get involved—when they have a spare moment—which is never. They can make any changes (through your updated CMS) on their PTO, just like everyone else.

And when business, slows—which it will—your site will be up to speed and looking fine while your competition struggles to catch up.

Email Campaigns

How can your customers plan for fall, much less the holidays, if you don’t? Like right now. Get yourself a copywriter, tell them your objectives and get the ball rolling. An experienced outside copywriting team (like CJDR, for example) should be able, with the right information and direction from you, create a campaign strategy, set drop dates, write compelling copy and craft subject lines for testing and measurable results. You just have to put it in your automated email delivery system (because you have one, right?) and be prepared for your company to stay up to speed when others slow down.

Customer Loyalty

There’s no better customer than an existing customer. And how about all those ways you reward them? Whew! Doesn’t get any better. Or could it? Well, it could always get better. Everyone knows that. How about a little surprise and delight via your social media channels? Percentage off is so 2014. How about every once in while (today), offer an exclusive BOGO based on their order history? One year free membership for referring a friend?

Right now, it’s hot and your customers could be cranky. Help them power through the heat and get them to come back this fall with hit after hit on your better-than-ever website. Don’t lose them because thanks to their loyalty, you’re now too busy to pay attention to them. BTW, our free e-book on customer loyalty, All I Really Need to Know About Loyalty I Learned from my Cat makes an awesome summer read!

Staying in front of your customers is always important, even when business is hot. Take steps this summer to put a plan in place that keeps you nimble, fresh and ready for whatever turns the market may take.

Let us know how we can help keep your business booming.

  • July 7, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on 5 Ways to Take Your Website from Good to Great (While Everyone Else Takes a Vacation)
  • in Thinking

5 Ways to Take Your Website from Good to Great (While Everyone Else Takes a Vacation)

Has everyone else’s summer vacation turned into the summer doldrums for you and what’s left of your staff? Not to mention your customer base? It turns out this could be a perfect time to turn some attention to your website, while your inbox isn’t so full and your meeting calendar has calmed down.

1. Check your company name.

How many people have worked on, added pages, changed copy or have access to your CMS? Well, that could be the number of different ways your company name appears. Dig into those corporate standards and replace any wayward spelling, off-tone Pantone or funky font with the official brand name treatment.

2. Add title tags and Meta tags to up your SEO game.

Title tags (the copy that appears in the first line of an organic search listing) still rank as essential elements of on-page optimization. Doing a good job with your title tag can improve SEO and your company rep as an authority in your industry.

Meta tags describe a page's content, similar to tagging on your blog. Think of them as short but intense content descriptors that help search engines know what each page on your site is about.

Most content management systems include a place to incorporate tags. It can be time consuming (or pointless unless you’ve done some keyword work and checked out your competitors), but done right, it might be just the thing to tackle while the boss (or customer base) is away.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 6.05.17 PM3. Add a Calendar page. Update the staff photo gallery. Amp up your About Us page.

You know. Look like you’re in business.

Does your site have a Calendar Page that treats your site visitors to a desert of blank dates? Or was the last event posted back in 2014? Is your calendar page so archaic it’s pretty much broken? Now is the right time on the calendar to fix all that.

And remember how you were customer service manager before you got promoted to customer service VP? Yeah, on the website, you’re still the manager. And your colleagues are suffering a similar fate. Get that updated. Schedule a new photo shoot altogether for a real refresh.

Your About Page has the possibility of being the second most visited page following your Home Page. Take an objective look and put yourself in a site visitor’s chair. Would you do business with you based on what you see and read here? Chances are good, even the best About Page could use a little overdue spring cleaning.

4. Put together a content calendar and start banking content.

During the summer lull, start with creating or re-visiting your content strategy. (Please, I beg you.) Then get new content created and written, go through previous content to re-use or re-purpose, create a new social content campaign (or, if you haven’t already, a social strategy. I’m begging you.)

Content calendars are a great tool to keep your web updates on schedule and checked off. In addition to editorial content such as blogs, white papers, articles and social posts, you could also include tasks such as these in this article.

5. Create engagement opportunities for your users.

Is your site just a digital brochure?

It shouldn’t be. Content is no longer one-dimensional, and your customers expect better from you. Take ten days and add ten ways your site visitors can find—and enjoy—valuable information without leaving the comfort of their poolside lounger. Those options may include surveys, polls and quizzes, video, downloadable PDFs—if you can think of it, it can probably be included. (Within reason. C’mon.)

Hire someone else to do it and take a vacation, too!

So, you’re the one who has gone to the trouble to introduce this awesome idea, and now you’re hearing the siren song of a summer getaway yourself. No problem. Delegate, delegate, delegate. There are people and agencies (like CJDR, for example) who are glad to help take your website from good to great while you take a vacation!

P.S. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!

  • July 5, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Graceland
  • in Thinking
Graceland

Graceland

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] For reasons I cannot explain There's some part of me wants to see Graceland. ("Graceland," music and lyrics by Paul Simon) In 2005, Aprill and I took a six-we...Read More »
  • June 22, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on 3 Reasons Your Non-Profit Needs a New Website
  • in Thinking

3 Reasons Your Non-Profit Needs a New Website

A new website, recently completed by Chuck Jones Direct Response for the Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama. (click to visit the site!)

Here’s a cringe-worthy fact for most non-profits—three to five years is a normal lifespan for a website. It’s something most of us don’t want to face, but that doesn’t change it. If you know your website looks like it was last updated in 2005 (but your board and donors are still not convinced), here are three other big reasons to update your website.

Your current site not only looks old, it acts old.

If I were to visit your website right now, would I see a page that was created in Microsoft Word and somehow put online for the world to see? Did one of your volunteers create it after “learning” web design over a long weekend? Would it take an eternity to load?

After paying someone thousands of dollars for a website just a few years ago, facing another redesign is a bitter pill to swallow, even if you don’t like your current site anymore. But keep in mind that most companies change their websites every few years, if not more frequent. It’s important to stay on top of new technology, code and online tools, features, design and functionality. If your website bothers you because it’s not much to look at, or it functions poorly, then think how your supporters feel.

Another point to consider— your donors are using smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to find you. If your website doesn’t come up, if it’s super tiny, or looks like it’s broken into pieces, then it’s past time for a redesign.

You can only make changes through your third-party vendor (IF you can find them).

It has been said that one human year equals four Internet years. That’s how fast technology is progressing. Still, some website platforms and content management systems seem like they date back to the Dark Ages (aka, 2005). They may have been great a few years ago, but if your website is built on older technology, at best you may find your editing choices limited, and at worst, you have to depend on a third-party vendor to make the changes, and they are nowhere to be found.

And as new we technology has evolved, your site may now be more vulnerable to security breaches and unwanted hacks.

By having your website rebuilt on a more contemporary, flexible and progressive platform, you’ll have access to an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) and the ability to maintain greater security.

Your current site doesn’t make it easy for donors—or any other visitors.

Even if your website design is pleasing to the eye, you may not be getting the donor response you had hoped.  If a site doesn’t engage and convert, then it’s just a brochure.

Does your site ask users to do anything—i.e. make a donation? Is it easy for them to do so? Are you missing chances to ask when they are on your site (it could be your only chance)?

Your non-profit website should:

  • Get attention
  • Engage
  • Have a call to action

Do you want your web users to be able to click to donate? Submit a form to volunteer for an event? Contact you with questions or for more information? Then make it easy for them.

All the other non-profits are doing it.

We understand. Just when you may need the money the most, it’s complicated. But crowdsourcing and one-time gifts could be all you need to renew your website and stand out among all the other non-profits competing for donor attention.

If you think your website is starting to look a little tired, chances are everyone else does, too. A fresh design is often necessary, and has the added bonus of stirring up a little excitement in your organization, from the board to your staff and volunteers, and most importantly, your donors.

A well-designed, well-functioning website is one of the most effective marketing tools you’ve got. Make the most of the opportunity by keeping it up-to-date, easy to use and engaging.

And trust us. A website redesign doesn’t have to be painful. Partner with a good web design team and the process will be easy and even fun!

 

  • June 21, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on What matters.
  • in Thinking

What matters.

I had the opportunity last week to help my parents with some tidying up around their house. Much of the work involved going through items that had been kept far too long (in my opinion), sorting, storing and even throwing a thing or two away.

Keepsakes are an interesting thing. To some, they are as valuable as gold. The stand-up plaque given by a grandchild that reads "best grandpa in the world." The clipping from an old newspaper when someone scored 20 points in the district high school basketball tournament (complete with picture). The figurine that sat on the bedside table of a long-deceased grandparent.

Me? I'm not real big on keepsakes. It's not that I don't have any. I still drink coffee pretty frequently from a mug I bought after hiking rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon in 2001. I have a National Parks Passport I carry in my travels with a stamp from every park I've visited in the last 20 years. I have quite a few old photos tucked away in boxes. I have a necktie once belonging to my grandfather.

IMG_6469IMG_0369And now, I have this. It's an old Mickey Mouse squeak toy from the early 60s. It's vintage, and in excellent condition. I found it while cleaning a room at my parents' house. (My mother is one of the keepsakes are gold people.) It has no real value. In truth, it has very little sentimental value. I don't remember playing with it a lot. I don't remember it being very much of my childhood at all. It would have virtually no value at all if it were not for the other picture, the one to the right. That's me, the writer, circa 1962 holding Mickey next to a Christmas tree in the very house I was working on last week.

When I found it, I paused for a few moments and thought about what matters in life. What matters isn't the toy, or even the picture. What matters is that once upon a time, a little boy stood under a real Christmas tree, decked out in his finest Christmas attire, in a house where his family lived and loved, and held a Mickey Mouse toy. What matters is that it happened at all.

And what matters is what's happening right now, right in the middle of our own lives.

I'm glad it happened. But I fear we spend so much time documenting things these days that documenting can become the reason we do things, and not being in the middle of things that are happening. If we miss the event, what good is the keepsake. If we're too focused on a selfie with the Grand Canyon behind us, we might miss the entire canyon itself.

I'm glad I have the picture, and the toy. I'll put both in the same category as my Grand Canyon mug, my grandfather's necktie and the 20 or 30 small items I'll probably never part with.

And every time I look at it, I'm going to remember what matters. What matters is what happens.

  • June 8, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on The Greatest Brandbuilder
  • in Thinking

The Greatest Brandbuilder

This week, the world will bid farewell to the greatest brandbuilder of our time. Arguably, the greatest brandbuilder of all time.

He was The Greatest.

Muhammad Ali died last weekend at the age of 74. For the last 20 years, he suffered from the degenerative effects of Parkinson's Disease. The man whose presence—both physical and psychological—was dominant beyond that produced by any other human being on earth in the 60s and 70s fell further and further victim to his disease. (If you want to know more about Parkinson's or make a donation in honor of someone you know who has suffered from this disease, visit The National Parkinson Foundation.)

Ali was, in a word, everything. He encompassed a set of skills that have never been, and likely will never be duplicated.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.47.57 AMHe was a dominant athlete. He did not retire undefeated like other fighters have. Even so, he dominated the sport and the ring. One look at the famous photo of Ali standing above Sonny Liston in the rematch of Ali's stripping Liston of the title shows a man in complete control. He changed the sport. He turned sedentary punching into pugilistic ballet, moving around the ring with the grace of a dancer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.47.31 AMHe was a comedian. He loved showmanship, and never hesitated to demonstrate it. If his entire repertoire consisted only of his interactions with the late Howard Cosell, his place in the pantheon of entertainers would be secure. He was funny, verbose, articulate and boisterous. He loved a good joke, and new how to deliver it.

He was a worldwide celebrity. One could argue, and the argument could be supported, that Ali was in his day the most famous person on the face of the earth. It could be further argued (with ample support as well) that Ali was the most famous person in the history of the world. He was known and revered in every country in which he visited. He was an ambassador of humanity. His fame allowed him to interact with ease in situations where no other human Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.46.59 AMcould (or would). He had only the obligation to be himself and he was welcomed in. Testimony to this is that, when the Beatles toured the United States for the first time, they asked if they could meet Ali. They did, and the force of his presence on four of the most charismatic people of their time is evident.

He was a man of faith. Almost immediately after securing the World Heavyweight Championship, he declared his faith in Islam. Still a controversial topic 50 years later, in that day is was unheard of. Yet Ali proclaimed his faith and, by all accounts, lived it out until the end of his days.

He was a man of conviction. Apart from his faith, Ali stood for ideals throughout his life. He valued human life, and humanity. He had a gift for haloing his personality on causes as diverse as world hunger, human rights and apartheid.

Last, but certainly not least, he was a branding genius. Whether by design or by instinct, Ali created his brand—The Greatest—and he never wavered from it. He pumped it and pumped it into the world psyche. He hammered it in his victories (I'm a bad man!), in his interviews (I'm gonna fight Joe Frazier and I'm gonna beat Joe Frazier. Joe Frazier is ugly.), in his promises (Float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee), and even in his politics (I ain't got nothin' against those Viet Cong.). He knew his brand would be what would sustain him above all else. And he both milked and protected it.

As a child, I was in awe of Ali. Some of my earliest and most vivid memories were listening to the recaps of his fights on the radio with my dad and brother. I was too young to be sucked into a lot of the political and social drama he was at the center of. I just saw this bold, brash, charismatic force of nature who could box, joke, laugh and yes, write poetry. I recall a couple of lines from the ramp up to the first Ali/Frazier bout (the one of the three he actually did not win). I'll close with it as a tribute to the man:

And when the fight is all over and Frazier can't answer the bell,
I'm gonna jump over the ropes and fight Howard Cosell.

That's how you own a brand.

 

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