A 27-year-old Denver police officer ventures into the Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store on South Colorado Boulevard looking for some sports nutrition products and quality advice to help her achieve a healthier lifestyle and enhance her performance during regular Krav Maga workouts.
Riding a horse 1,350 miles away along the foothills of Mt. Rainier in Washington State, an unconventional marketing and advertising executive is tracking the police officer’s in-store experience on his smartphone, making certain not only that her visit is exceptional, but that she is engaged as a member of the booming MyMaxMuscle.com nationwide online community.
It is astride one of his beloved steeds or on his hands and knees nurturing his organic garden where 48-year-old Rich Carr generates the concepts that grow into some of his most successful and profitable ideas – ideas that have transformed the performance of more than 100 clients throughout the country, including several in Colorado.
Carr is “probably the best marketing mind in the online world and retail world that I have met to date,” says John Wood, the owner of multiple successful national health and nutritional businesses, including U.S. Wellness Meats, the largest seller of all-natural grassland beef in the country.
Carr’s own transformation, from a run-of-the-mill radio DJ and ad salesman, to the in-demand counselor who now regularly hosts senior corporate marketing and advertising executives on pilgrimages to his horse park-cum-office in quaint Orting, Washington (population 6,746), is a bona fide American Dream-Come-True story.
Just a dozen years ago, Carr Knowledge Interactive Marketing and Advertising consisted only of Carr and his laptop.
His journey began even earlier, arriving at the radio station each day at 3 a.m. to play tunes and entertain other early risers.
Although it was not his responsibility, Carr found himself contemplating ways that he could package radio ads with events and other media to deliver better sales results to his station’s advertisers.
With his official workday ending at 9 a.m., Carr took it upon himself to try his hand at ad sales and discovered he was quite good at it.
Moreover, Carr quickly concluded that advertising – be it on radio or in any other medium – needs to be strategically integrated with all other customer exposures, including in-store experiences, online, word-of-mouth, customer surveys and special events.
Carr recalls that his true epiphany was that businesses must evolve from “using the media” – the conventional method – to “being the media” – which eventually became the Carr Knowledge method.
Among Carr’s early backers was Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft. It was Allen who first hired Carr to work at one of his Seattle-area radio stations and Allen who challenged Carr to find a way to successfully marry radio and the then-emerging Internet.
When Carr eventually struck out on his own in 2000 – after repeating his success time and again for Paul Allen and other radio station owners who came calling – success came quickly to his fledgling Carr Knowledge.
From day one, Carr Knowledge dedicated itself to choreographing marketing campaigns for its clients that deliver big results in highly efficient – that is, cost-effective – ways.
“The short version is we help our clients sell more of their products and services, using less money and effort,” Carr explains.
But Carr Knowledge’s tactical and strategic campaigns do more than ring the cash registers for its clients. The firm’s managed marketing campaigns typically design and engineer communities, such as MyMaxMuscle.com, that encourage brand satisfaction and loyalty.
MyMaxMuscle.com provides a crisp, easy-to-use online presence for the legions of health and exercise enthusiasts who frequent Max Muscle retail stores. The stores drive customers to the community, and the community drives them back into the stores.
Working closely with top executives at Max Muscle, which is projected to grow by 750 new franchises in the next 5 years, Carr and his team addressed the challenge of “multi-unit marketing management” – creating a successful strategic plan, website and software that can serve and be responsive to the needs of individual Max Muscle franchises, yet also be cohesive and effective at the national level.
Mike Brower, vice president of franchise operations at Max Muscle, recalls that he struggled throughout his long retail career to find a way to gauge the level of customer service in the stores he oversaw, without being too invasive – either to the store owners or the customers.
Brower tried secret shoppers, on-site exit interviews and post-visit telephone interviews, but wasn’t ever satisfied with those methods, he says.
He says he faced the same dilemma when he joined Max Muscle in 2007, “how to see the level of customer service in a Max Muscle store without invading the customer’s privacy and without upsetting the franchise operator who often perceives the process as trying to catch them doing something wrong.”
The solution came in 2010 when Carr Knowledge rolled out TellMaxMuscle.com, an online site where Max Muscle customers could fill out a survey rating their recent in-store experience. To encourage shoppers to participate, the TellMaxMuscle.com address is included on every cash register receipt. Moreover, customers who take the time to go online and participate in the survey become eligible to win a monthly raffle.
Brower says the Carr Knowledge strategy not only met his original goals – better in-store intelligence – it also increased repeat traffic to the stores and increased the satisfaction of storeowners. That’s because once Max Muscle customers fill out the online survey, they receive a coupon to save money on their next visit – provided they return to the store within 30 days.
“The stores that encouraged their customers to access TellMaxMuscle.com found many were returning within 30 days,” Brower explains. “Those that saw this benefit realized the customer survey was much more than just an evaluation of the customer service being supplied. It became a marketing vehicle that is now being used to drive customer traffic into the stores.”
And that is what it makes it possible for Carr to be galloping alongside the maples and evergreens in the shadow of Mt. Rainier one minute, and checking in on the satisfaction of the Denver police officer who visited the Max Muscle store on Colorado Boulevard a minute later. The Krav Maga enthusiast reports on TellMaxMuscle.com that she received great customer service and advice. She even purchased some athletic apparel she spotted in the store on an impulse buy.
Carr eschews the customary trappings of full service advertising and marketing agencies, preferring to office and generate creative campaigns in the inspiring outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.
Among his other passions are writing and teaching. Carr says he has three books “bubbling in me” – two non-fiction and one a product of his prodigious imagination.
Carr also has a concept for formally transforming his multi-acre headquarters in Orting into an unconventional business training facility and laboratory that would welcome corporate “students” from companies big and small, and show them the power of “being the media.”
Along with his wife, Jessica, the Carrs already operate Northwest Horse Park, a popular horse boarding, breeding and training facility that offers ample pasture and nearby trails.
Like Carr, himself, business students one day may be able to mount their horses at sunrise, ride along the Carbon and Puyallup rivers with their picture-perfect vistas, monitor customer satisfaction throughout the day, and reinvent their sales and marketing campaigns, all before sunset.