Friday, November 30, 2007

Now playing while you pump....

There are all kinds of ways to get the word out about your business. Here's an example:


Network Gives Clients Airplay At Gas Stations

Rit Petit

RIT PETIT, 43, general manager and one of the founders of the AMP Radio Network, is shown at his office in Rocky Hill. The network is broadcast at 61 gas stations in the state. (MARC-YVES REGIS I / November 26, 2007)

| Courant Staff Writer

November 28, 2007

An Avon roofer wants more customers, but he can't afford a spot on a Hartford radio station. A Farmington musician wants airplay for his rock band, but the local Top 40 radio stations don't know he exists.

In Rit Petit's world, there's money to be made pairing the rocker and the roofer with a gas station owner who wants more motorists to come inside the station and buy a sandwich or soda.

Petit, 43, is the general manager and one of the founders of AMP Media Partners LLC. The company produces the AMP Radio Network, which is broadcast at 61 gas stations throughout Connecticut.

Pumping gas at a Bristol gas station a few years ago, Petit envisioned a product that could provide a diversion and take advantage of this captive audience.

The gas station was playing Muzak at the time, Petit said, which led him to ponder the idea of mixing music with a few ads for local businesses: "Hungry? Take a right when you leave the station. Joe's Pizza is just three blocks away."

A former gas station owner, Petit was working as an advertising salesman for an AM radio station in Farmington.

"It was very frustrating to watch how small clients couldn't use radio," Petit said, because of the cost and the inability to target small areas. "Nobody is going to drive 20 miles to visit your dry cleaning store, but they might go there if it's right around the corner from their gas station."

The average consumer visits a gas station once a week and spends four to six minutes at the pump. That's enough time to listen to the Avon roofer's 15-second ad or the Farmington musician's 2-minute song. "I filed the idea away," Petit said.

One day two years later, he woke up at 4 a.m. and formulated a plan.

"I spent the next few days trying to come up with reasons why it wouldn't work," he said. "I tried to debunk it, but it kept popping back up."

In 2006, Petit enlisted three partners with business, sales and broadcast experience. Together they invested $500,000 for equipment and the development of a software program that automatically distributes the broadcasts to the designated location. In September 2006, they launched a test version; by last February, they began broadcasting at 13 gas stations.

Station owners who sign up for AMP Radio are considered hosts. They pay nothing for the service, which costs AMP between $1,200 and $2,500 to install.

As hosts, they receive advertising air time and a percentage of the advertising revenue generated at the location.

Profit margins on gas are low, about 5 cents to 7 cents a gallon, station owners say, so the extra money can help keep the pumps going.

"I've written monthly checks for as little as $12. Our best host is getting a check for $600 or $700 a month per station," Petit said.

Larry DeFeo, who owns a Citgo on Route 44 in Canton, was skeptical at first. "I thought the whole concept would be intrusive to people," DeFeo said. "I expected to get some complaints. I've had some customers for 20-plus years."

DeFeo tried AMP for 90 days. He heard the opposite of what he expected. "The one time it wasn't working for an hour, I had people complain," DeFeo said.

Not everyone is enthralled with the concept. Some gas station customers find piped-in sound irritating or annoying enough that they avoid a station that plays it. To counter the irritation factor, AMP also broadcasts public service announcements; in January, AMP plans to begin broadcasting Amber Alerts.

Under AMP's plan, advertisers can buy a message for one gas station or all 61.

Jules Poirier, an Avon contractor who specializes in roof, gutter and window repair and replacement, advertises at three gas stations. "People make fun of me all the time," Poirier said. They'll say: "I heard that darn ad for you at the gas station.'"

But Poirier, apparently, is laughing all the way up the roof ladders. "I ask everyone how they heard about me," said Poirier, who also buys ad space on restaurant place mats. "It's been a success, and the cost is pretty cheap."

Each month, for about $200 a station, Poirier receives one minute of advertising an hour. With most stations open 18 hours a day, that translates into more than 2,100 ad spots at each location over 30 days. Retailers can supply their own ads, or they can pay about $100 to have a spot produced by AMP's staff, which includes a professional broadcaster.

Within a few weeks after AMP's launch, Petit discovered that paying for music royalties for well-known tunes was cost-prohibitive, so he turned to local musicians — many of them unsigned. Performers in all styles are invited to submit a 2-minute song, which AMP reviews for content. If it's not offensive, there's a good chance that the artist will receive airplay.

AMP does not pay the musicians, but after a song is played, an AMP announcer gives the artist's name and urges listeners to log on to to find concert dates or where to buy recordings.

Manager Al Maloney, of Wethersfield, who represents Jeff Pitchell, a Rocky Hill blues guitarist, thought it was a joke when he learned that Pitchell's music would be broadcast on AMP.

"We're trying to get on TV, on radio, and we get on some gas pumps!" Maloney said.

When the ads debuted on AMP, Pitchell's fans began e-mailing him to say, "Hey Jeff, we heard you on the gas pump," Maloney said.

Steve Dunn, of Farmington, lead singer in the Steve Dunn Band, has seen his band's CD sales pick up after receiving free airplay on AMP. "If you like a song, it doesn't matter where you hear it," Dunn said.

Finally, a garage band can get airplay at a garage — or, at least, a gas station.

Petit said AMP — which stands for Audio Marketing Promotions — is profitable, but he wouldn't give details. He said he hopes to have AMP Radio playing at 400 gas stations in Connecticut and Massachusetts by the end of 2008 and to triple the company's staff of seven.

Even Petit concedes that AMP Radio is not for everyone.

"We used to take it personally when someone said: 'No way am I going to advertise at a gas station,'" Petit said. "Now I just say thank you and move on to the next potential client."

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The Personal Experience Factor

I am spending some time updating old posts and found a link to this blog and this story which we all can learn from:

20/20 Customer Service

“Thank you for calling 1-800-CONTACTS. My name is Tracee. How may I help you?”

A live voice! Imagine that. Maybe it was just a really, realistic recording.

“Hello,” the voice was practically singing. “This is Tracee.”

Convinced it was a live human, I responded. “Hello. My name is Mike Dandridge and I’m a moron.”

The friendly voice laughed and said, “Oh, I find that highly unlikely, Mr. Dandridge.”

“Just wait. You haven’t heard my story. You’ll change your mind. You see, I ordered my disposable contacts online because I figured that if I tried to order over the phone, I’d go through voice mail purgatory. Well, I ordered the wrong contacts and didn’t figure it out until I’d thrown out the last pair of my old ones. So, I called your company and someone took care of it immediately – got the right ones on the way, and sent a “Return” for the ones I’d ordered by mistake. When I received the correct contacts, I tore open the boxes and put in a new pair. That was a month ago. This morning, I decided it was time to dispose of the ones I’d been wearing. But then, after I inserted the new ones, I couldn’t see a thing. After I looked again at the box, it dawned on me what I’d done. I had kept the contacts I’d ordered wrong in the first place and sent back the correct lenses by mistake. Like I said, ‘I’m a moron.’”

“Not at all, sir,” she insisted. Then she laughed – not in a mean-spirited way or anything, just sort of a sympathetic giggle. Then she said, “I’m sorry for the mix-up. After all you’ve been through; let’s get you taken care of right now.”

Two days later, the new contacts were in my hands. Two days after that, a handwritten Thank You note arrived from Tracee, with an apology for “all the confusion,” and a five-dollar gift certificate. Either by intuition, or instruction, Tracee completed five small steps that made the transition from set-back to solution appear seamless. Here they are:

1. Empathize. Become an advocate, an ally for your customer, not an adversary. She sympathetically saw the humor in the situation, yet she took seriously the problem.
2. Take ownership of the situation. Do whatever is within your power to fix the problem. If you’re the boss, empower your employees to do the same. She didn’t pass me off to another department. Didn’t say, let me get back to you. She fixed it. Right then.
3. Lessen the customer’s inconvenience in body, mind, and currency. The last thing your customer wants is a recitation of shoulds and shouldn’ts from your company’s return policy. She understood the importance to me of having the correct lenses and she made true on her promise to provide a quick resolution. Plus, she gave me a $5 discount. It’s not much, but where do you think I’ll place my next order for contacts?
4. Manage the memory of the customer. Take the sting out of a negative experience. When I got off the phone with Tracee, my wife asked, “What are you smiling about.” I’m sure I’ll be telling this story in the future wearing the same idiotic grin.
5. Extend the experience. Offer an invitation, an enticement, a reason for your customer to return. Think of it as a courtship. A handwritten Thank You Card? Who sends handwritten cards anymore? Exactly.

Note that she would have followed this same procedure had her company made the mistake instead of me. It’s never a good idea to assume that everyone in your company intuitively knows what to do when something bad happens to a good customer. They don’t. It’s important to have a systematic outline for dealing with potential problems. Share these steps with your colleagues or staff, because no matter how much you pride yourself on your service, eventually something will go wrong. It may even be the customer’s fault. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re prepared to resolve any setback – when good things go bad.

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Guess who's on the net!

Note the language that is being used in the following story which is a press release from Vertis Communication. Vertis has been a print oriented company according to their own website, "Vertis Communications is a premier provider of print advertising, direct marketing solutions, and related value-added services to America's leading retail and consumer services companies. Vertis delivers marketing programs that create strategic value for clients by using creative services, color management technologies, proprietary research, customer targeting expertise, premedia and media services, combined with its world-class printing expertise. Headquartered in Baltimore with over 100 locations in the U.S., Vertis Communications has been recognized as one of Fortune magazine's "Most Admired Companies" in advertising and marketing. For more information, visit". The language in the press release says, "responded to direct mail advertising in the past month by visiting a sender's Web site".

What is the relationship between direct mail and website advertising? Which drives the consumer? Anyway, here's the story....

Electronic Media Survey Says:

Retirees Surf and Respond

According to the Vertis Communications 2007 Customer Focus Tech Savvy study, twenty-one percent of total adults in 2007 have responded to direct mail advertising in the past month by visiting a sender's Web site. Findings also revealed that older men's responsiveness to direct mail advertising through the Internet has grown the most, with 28 percent of men ages 55-64 indicating this behavior and 15 percent of men 65 and older exhibiting the same pattern.

Jim Litwin, vice president of market insights for Vertis Communications, noted that "...targeting the older population may greatly increase the overall effectiveness of marketers' spending, particularly as men reach retirement and find more time to surf the Web."

Click here for more.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scene At The Mall

The following is from my email inbox today. Just some info to help plan your day, week, or life:
The holiday shopping season once again makes its triumphant debut, with door-buster deals, festive d├ęcor and retailers eagerly awaiting the big crowds. General Growth Properties, Inc., one of the largest owners, developers and managers of regional shopping centers, recently conducted a survey to take the pulse of consumers.
Here is what they found:
• 65% of consumers plan to do their holiday shopping Monday through Thursday.
• On average, consumers shop for eight people.
• Last-minute shoppers are the minority, with only 7% making a mad dash to purchase holiday gifts.
• More than half of consumers 25 and under expect to spend their total holiday budget at the mall.
• On average, consumers spend $800 on holiday gifts.
• 60% of consumers plan to have an artificial Christmas tree versus 26% who will put up a real tree.
• Only 43% confess to re-gifting presents, but 7% were actually caught in the act.
• 40% say mom and dad are the hardest to shop for.

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Making Blogs and Websites easy on the eyes

One of my pet peeves with a lot of My Space pages is that the custom layouts that people would use, they would abuse, to the point of them being unreadable. Too many flashing stars, razz and pizazz, and no substance. That's why I only have a My Space and Face Book site for the simple purpose of being able to have access to other friends and family that use those sites. Any real writing will be done on one of my blogs.

Well, over the weekend, I fell into the customization trap and last night noticed that some of the postings on this site were very difficult to read due to colors of fonts and backgrounds. Sorry 'bout that. Now things are easier to read. Which is the point in the first place.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Eat, Drink and watch more commercials!

UPDATE: Stories about Napkin advertising and Subway Restaurants are included in this post. Eat carefully.

As each year goes by, the number of commercial messages and advertisements each of us are exposed to continue to rise. 5 years ago the "experts" said the average American was exposed to 3000 messages every day!

Fortunately our brains grow numb and we do not actively read or hear every one of those messages. I know, you're saying, "3 Thousand!, no way!!! " Yes, way! Even without leaving your home, there are hundreds of ads in your face when you go online. And these messages are not always in your face screaming car commercials.
There's product placement in your favorite TV Show, the cup from Arby's that sits on my desk as I type has the Arby's logo and slogan on it. The free calculator that has the logo and phone number of a HVAC company, the pen, the wall calender, even my stapler says Swingline on it. All of these messages count.

I recall an argument 10 years ago against NASCAR, saying they were too commercial with all the sponsors plastered all over their cars. They were just ahead of the game.

Don't get me wrong, advertising is good, it's a way of communicating either directly or subtlety to your customer. And it works, too. Except that with more and more choices out there to use for an advertising medium, your advertising better be good, or it will be tuned out. Or if it is really bad, it will generate attention too, and enourage folks NOT to do business with you.

By the way, here's another advertising media that we are going to be exposed to in 2008 as we try and eat fresh:

InStore Heads Into Subways: The Restaurants, Not The Transit System
by Joe Mandese, Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007 8:00 AM ET
IN THE BATTLE FOR DOMINANCE in the burgeoning retail media marketplace, InStore Broadcasting Network has cut a deal that will bring advertising and digital video content into subways nationwide - not the transit systems, but the fast-food chains. IBN, which is one of the Big 3 retail media networks, competing with Premiere Retail Network and CBS Outernet (previously SignStorey), that dominate the U.S. supermarket industry, is moving into the fast food business via a deal with Subway, MediaDailyNews has learned. Details of the deal could not be discerned at presstime, but the agreement is believed to be system-wide, and would bring IBN's advertising and video content into nearly 30,000 subway restaurant franchises operating in some 85 countries worldwide, making it one of the biggest video advertising networks in the world.

McDonald's, the No. 1 fast-food chain, experimented with a video advertising network in a partnership with Turner Broadcasting in the 1980s, but ultimately pulled the plug on that venture. But IBN's deal with Subway no doubt will revive interest in the fast-food industry, coming at a time when digital out-of-home media networks are popping up in virtually every retail venue.

Joe Mandese is Editor of MediaPost.

Wipe Me: Napkin Ads Extend Consumer Awareness
by Erik Sass, Tuesday, Nov 27, 2007 8:00 AM ET
NAPADS, A COMPANY THAT OPERATES a virtual napkin network covering popular nightlife venues, has spent the last year extending its distribution to cover the country's major markets. It has also forged a new partnership with US Airways to deliver as many as 9 million impressions per buy. The burgeoning "napwork" represents another entrant in advertising via disposable paper hygienic products.

Since its launch in January of this year, NapAds has created napkin ads for Absolut, American Express, Bacardi, CW2 and Finlandia, among other advertisers. Target venues include restaurants, sports venues, cinemas, amusement parks, colleges, nightclubs and bars. The 5-inch square cocktail napkins offer photo-realistic images and ample space for text messages printed with non-toxic, no-run ink.

NapAds isn't alone in its efforts.

Since 2006, AdPack USA has been distributing free packs of tissues with printed ad messages for clients like H&R Block, Zagat and Commerce Bank, which give away 2.4 million free packs to promote new account options. Although using tissue packs as ad platforms is relatively new in the U.S., it has been an established medium since the 1970s in Japan, where AdPack is headquartered. About 4 billion free promotional tissue packs are distributed every year in Japan, at a total cost of about $1 billion.

By the same token, NapAds is well-positioned through its relationships with nightlife venues. Recently, researchers have described a number of special attributes of bars and bar-goers that make them attractive venues for marketing. In March, Arbitron released a study which found that 50% of American adults over the age of 21 had visited a bar within the last month--about 105 million. Moreover, 31%--or 65 million people--had been to a bar in the last week.

According to Arbitron, they include a higher percentage of self-described "early adopters" than the population at large. Some 27% of monthly bar-goers consider themselves "early adopters," versus 18% generally--while 26% say they frequently recommend new products to friends, compared to 19% overall.

Another study from Arbitron, performed for place-based video network Ecast, found that bar-goers had a 43% recall for advertising delivered via Ecast. Arbitron's study canvassed bar patrons in New York, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 2006.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Tis the season to shine or stink

It all depends on what goes on during the relationship. If you are in retail and you do a good job of taking care of your customers during the next 4 weeks, you are average. If you do an exceptional job, you are memorable. If you do only a fair job, you will be out of business. And it has nothing to do with the paid advertising, it has to do with what happens once the advertising has done its job and now the success is up to you and your staff. It's the rest of your marketing, from the friendly sales clerks putting in 12 hour days, to the cleanliness of your restroom.

The following is from my email inbox:

Unhappy Customers

By Craig Arthur

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

- Bill Gates –

I agree with Bill.

Are you listening to your customers? No. I mean really listening!

Are you learning from the mistakes you and your staff make? Do you document mistakes and problems encountered by individual staff? Do you present these mistakes and problems along with the solutions to all your staff at regular training sessions? Or do you let the same mistakes, problems, customer service flaws to continually repeat?

Do want your business to take over the world? Well listen to your customers and solve their problems. Because chances are, you will be the only business who is willing to listen and help. Learning from unhappy customers will propel your business forward. Ignoring them will eventually put you out of business.

As I said, I agree with Bill. However, there is even a smarter way to improve your customer service.

Read what Alfred has to say.

"Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won't have time to make them all yourself."

- Alfred Sheinwold -

You encounter all forms of customer service numerous times a day, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Are you learning from these experiences? Are you applying what you learn to your business?

The better the experience you give your customers Inside Your Door, the better your advertising will work Outside Your Door.

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