Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zuma Dogg's Marketing Strategy for LA County's 2-1-1 Phone Service

To: Board of Supervisors
Fr: Zuma Dogg
Re: 2-1-1
Dt: 08/22/07

I agree with Zev that $250,000 isn’t enough to accomplish enough regarding a 2-1-1 marketing campaign that will put it into the top of mind awareness in the crowded and confusing marketplace. SO ANY CONCERNED CITIZEN SHOULD WANT TO CHIP IN AND HELP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE TO GET AS MUCH OUT OF IT AS POSSIBLE. So here’s the best I can come up with. Hope it helps and I hope you at least show it to the marketing geniuses to see if they can use anything off this memo. - Z


I would spend a lot of advertising money on radio. Especially AM radio. When you think about the people who you are trying to reach with a lot of the services you provide on 2-1-1, a lot of these people (like homeless) don’t have cable TV or even regular TV. But they all have radios and that’s how you can reach these people. (Plus, everyone else who listens to the radio that you want to reach. So you are not only low-income people, but a wide range of people. (And especially in the case of AM radio, if they are tuned-in they are probably more likely to be interested in using the service, anyway.)

The other reasons I would put the most amount of money into radio is that you can get some pretty low rates (especially at night). AND, for a product like 2-1-1, you don’t need to show pictures of the product (it’s not a visual product like a car). With so many people stuck in their cars, listening to the radio (captive audience), radio is the best way to reach them for the lowest cost; especially considering you only need audio, not video, to communicate your message. (So why pay for the extra production costs and advertising costs of other mediums. A radio spot is also free to produce.)

I would suggest billboards, especially bus billboards as the second line of fee-based advertising. I don’t know how much bang you can get for your buck with billboards and bus signs and whatnot. BUT, if you can take the budget and make sure people are sick of seeing 2-1-1 ads…then go for THAT strategy! I like OWNING a medium. Depends on how much you are spending on which medium/mediums you use. So basically…no TV on this one.

Plus, a Google campaign as I mentioned. (Sponsored links) You can set keywords, and when people are searching for related services you are offering at 2-1-1, a sponsored ad can appear.


First of all, it takes way too long for the call to be connected.

Secondly, the operators are doing market research while they have the caller on the line. This may provide excellent customer service to the Board of Supervisors, but does not please the customer calling in on the line.

For example, it’s bad enough they ask for your zip code. Now, I know you feel you need that info for whatever reason. But is that something a caller id device can determine and automatically enter into a database? Because with every question, you are extending the length of time the operator is spending with each person and that increases delays in moving on to others.

Because then the operator asks, “Is this your first time calling?”

Now, you’ve already asked for my zip code, which most people will tolerate, but what does it matter if it is my first time calling, or not? Do you have two levels of service based on my answer?

So the customer will say, “Yes”. But that is not it. Because then they ask, “How did you hear about 2-1-1?”

At this point, most people are much more ready to be hearing, “Let me connect you”, instead of a line of questioning that has nothing to do with providing the caller better customer service.

Perhaps integrating more computer automation like regular 4-1-1 and other electronic directory based services have could allow you to cut time and improve efficiency.

I don’t know if there were any more questions after that because I simply said, “Could you just connect me without any more questions.”

So if you wanna talk about bureaucracy that will put a customer in a perfectly annoyed state to be extra cranky when dealing with the person they are contacted with; include a market research survey that only serves your interest, not the callers.


When you get a bunch of people together around a conference table, be it corporate board or government agency, people tend to like to dazzle the customer with as much different information as you can humanly squeeze into a 30 or 60 second commercial or square in of ad space. (Confusion!)

That’s why Ries and Trout recommend re-enforcing a single focused message in all your advertising. (You can read more about that concept at and scroll down to the Ries and Trout article.)

So with that as a given, if you figure you have to squeeze your message onto a billboard, what is the main benefit of 2-1-1? It isn’t that all of these services exist, or that now you can connect to them. Because these services always existed and you could always reach them by phone.

The unique product attribute of 2-1-1 is that now, there is one easy phone number to call for it all. (Huh…there’s one: (list three different services available at 2-1-1, then say)….”One call for it all!”)

Ries and Trout say, “Confusion is the enemy”. So the best thing about 2-1-1 is it ends all the confusion. Hence, the one-liner, “If you’re not sure who to where to start, start with 2-1-1.” (And hopefully, it will end there!)

And it’s always good to let skeptics know it’s free. Cause with 4-1-1 charging, people may not be sure. So you have to say, “Free” to kick it off, I think.

• Health care, homeless services, housing, (other services listed three at a time)…One free call to connect to it all.

• One free call for hundreds of county services. (Or is it thousands?)

• Need to get something done in LA County. Just call 2-1-1 and we’ll connect you for free.

• Doing business in Los Angeles county and don’t have the number you need to call? Just call 2-1-1. One free call for all of Los Angeles county.

If you email me some what else is important about this service, maybe I can send back some other ideas. And I’m sure you can think of good ones, too. Just make sure it only says one thing!

And you kinda need to make sure all the different mediums you use support the same message. (In other words, don’t use one message for radio, and another for billboards.)

This is so basic since you have such an easy product to remember. Just 2-1-1. It’s not like you have to try and sell them on some big ticket/hard-sell item with tons of competition.

• I think Zev and others could get booked on AM talk shows, or just call in on the open phones like Big ZD does. Think how much they charge per minute. Call in for free. Have the whole board go live from chambers on KTLA/Good Day LA to promote the service and describe what is available.

• Take out public access time on Time Warner. Have TV 35 run a spot. They should want to do that because it takes burden off their phones.

• Have representatives appear at the Neighborhood Council meetings to give a presentation that those active community leaders can share with others in the community.

• Tell those future destroyers over at LAUSD to get the word out to parents about the services offered at 2-1-1, because any help the county can offer parents, helps the kids and helps LAUSD be able to do a better job.

• Call Val A., the host over at “Life and Times” (PBS). Tell them, “Hey, if you did a story on Zuma Dogg and Venice Beach, we want a story on The County and our 2-1-1 service.

• Should be a lot of PSA time available to the County. Ask for it.

And Gloria Molina will like the idea of having MTA put some ads inside the busses and subways when unsold space is available; or have them give the county a good price; or just pay full price. At least when you spend on advertising on public transportation, you are spending money into a public service. And like with AM radio, people riding the bus may benefit by many of these services most. (Let’s face it, the bus is for the low-income people who be likely to turn to a public agency instead of a private company out of 4-1-1.)

In a perfect world, 2-1-1 would combine budgets with 3-1-1 and do a campaign for both numbers since it is the same product and the names are a match. But I know THAT will never happen. Imagine the cost saving and efficiency improving opportunities if the two merged, but again…not likely. Just theoretically.

Meanwhile, I can see there is much more to be offered than just mental health and homeless services and the typical things you think to turn to the county for. Here’s a list from the BOS website that I’m sure must be available at 2-1-1.

Hopefully, this has helped provide some specific ideas you can use and I especially hope it caused you to come up with some innovative ideas of your own. Check out my blog for much more material to help unleash your highest level of creativity on the job.


Click here are select item 54, but you will have to watch whole item or fast forward

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