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The world's smartest advertising


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We got a mailer at our house a couple months ago from a stand-alone ER center in Arvada. If we came in to say hello, the ad said, they would give us a 72-piece first aid kit.

It was on the way to my daughter’s school, so I stopped. I go through Band-Aids like a second-grader through scotch tape, so this seemed a good way to stock up. That’s almost the end of the story.

Two weeks ago, my daughter Natalie (in a prominent display of her inherited athletic prowess) performed a skull test on the durability of parquet floors during basketball practice. Due to new concussion guidelines in schools, she was told to have a doctor check it out before she came back. Her Primary care office was closed for the holidays, so guess who we called?

God knows how much the ER clinic charged the insurance company, but I would bet the farm it was more than the $12 gift they gave me when I came to see their office. And unless I had been there for the free first aid kit we might have just gone to Lutheran Hospital instead.

This week, Natalie got a “We hope you feel better” card in the mail. It was from the clinic. All the staff signed it.

I don’t know who they’re marketing person is, but they have it just about right. They hit for the cycle.

  1. Tell them where you are and what you sell.
  2. Serve them.
  3. Thank them for coming.
  4. Ask them to come back.

Ask any six marketing wonks what “effective exposure” is, and you’ll get a dozen answers. Ask them the best way to advertise, and none will agree. Ultimately, the best advertising is the kind that works. And if it doesn’t work, why do it?

For this ER center, their goal was to alert us to their presence—and an appropriate give-away did that nicely. They followed through by providing the service I expected. Then they showed appreciation. Then they asked me to come back.

I probably will.

A $12 gift for stopping by is steep for most of us. But what about those other parts of the cycle?

Even the poorest company can:

  • Do what they say they’ll do,
  • Be nice, and
  • Ask the customer to come back.

Those parts are free—and they are also the pieces of the advertising puzzle we most often neglect. After lavish gifts, being nice to customers and asking them to come back is the smartest advertising around.

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David Sneed

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss; The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company. As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

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