Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Direct Mail Shotgun

A continued discussion of how ads work differently in different media...

Ready, aim, fire!

Shotguns are different from rifles. Rifles fire bullets, singular masses of metal propelled by gunpowder that make a single, clean (deep) hole in the target. Shotguns fire shot, a collection of small pieces of metal that scatter somewhat as they fly giving you a wider margin of error for hitting your target, but penetrate less deeply.

Direct mail is a lot like a shotgun, a scatter shot approach to finding new customers. You purchase a list of potential customers, create a mailing piece, send it out with a message that has wide (but not deep) appeal and hope you get a return. Unfortunately, the average return rate is usually less than 3%.

There are two problems with this approach:
  • The list
  • The message
It is difficult to get a quality list. People are more private and stingy with their personal information. They only give it freely when there is a promise not to sell or trade such info away.

The list makers all claim to have great lists, but there is a good chance they had to beg, borrow and steal to make a list that might actually get you a decent return.

Plus, these lists are based on basic demographics with no consideration for the all-important character traits these potential customers have. Demographics are far less important than psycho graphics for determining who will be most receptive to your message.

Creating a list on your own takes time and generally only gives you a list of current customers, not a list of potential new ones. This is okay if your goal is to get more repeat business, but not a way to generate new clients.

But let's say you are able to get a quality list of potentials at an affordable price. What are you going to say to them? How will you entice them into your store? A coupon? A discount? A sale?

While effective at drawing certain customers, coupons and discounts have some negative consequences, too. They signal customers that your prices are too high in the first place because you're so willing to lower them. They teach customers to wait for the next coupon or discount or sale. They tell your customers that prices are negotiable.

Also remember, the bigger the offer, the bigger the return (and the bigger the consequences).

You could make your mailing piece about a product, but you'll only be able to attract a portion of the list that is currently in the market for that product.

Now you see why although 46% of all adults read their direct mail pieces, 97% of the recipients of a typical mailer casually toss it aside and take no action.

If you're going to do Direct Mail, follow these tips:
  • Get your list from a reputable source or create your own. In this world of spam, permission is necessary to even get your mailer seen, let alone acted upon.
  • Ask for details of the list that go beyond age, gender, and income. Demographics such as these are not guarantees of matches for your brand message.
  • If you are sending multiple mailings to the same list, limit the coupons to once a year so as not to train them to wait for the next deal
  • Make your message as powerful as possible. Your message is like a magnet. It's power to attract is proportional to it's power to repel. Although some will be repulsed, others will be empowered to act.
  • Measure your results. A typical Direct Mail to a purchased list will garner about 2-3% response. Can you live with that? A good quality list with an above average message sent at the peak time of your season might get as much as a 5% response. A great message sent to your personally created list (your known fans) at the perfect time can get you a 9% response.

We only use Direct Mail once a year to thank our loyal customers for doing business with us. We send a postcard at the end of October with a message consistent with our Character Diamond and a coupon worth $20 off a $100 purchase (our only coupon of the year). Our return last year was 9.2%. Of course, the list was of high quality - all customers who had purchased from us in the past and asked to be on our mailing list. And the message was spot-on, hitting all the right buttons that made them customers in the first place.

Still, 90.8% of the postcards did not come back. And if you do the math... We generated over $100,000 in top line sales, but at a cost of almost $18,000 (printing, mailing and discounting costs). The biggest question is... How much of that was sales we might not have received otherwise? After all, the list was our greatest fans.

Use Direct Mail only if you know you have a quality list, know exactly how to say something powerful to them, and are willing to absorb those costs involved.

Do you agree or disagree?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yellow Pages - Advertising of Last Resort

Continuing the discussion of how ads work differently, lets talk Yellow Pages.

For some of you, your Yellow Pages probably take up half or more of your ad budget. I know. We used to be the same way.

Unfortunately, Yellow Pages are only for those people who have lost the will to advertise. It is the last resort someone takes to find a business they have never previously known. It is the last place someone will look to find you if they have not heard of you through word-of-mouth or other forms of advertising.

Think about your own Yellow Page habits. First, do you still even use them? Or has Google become the directory of choice? Second, are you looking up a phone number of a business you know or a category of businesses you don't know?

The Yellow Page reps have plenty of seductive statistics telling you things like how 88% of all people surveyed would go to the Yellow Pages first if they needed to find a plumber. Don't get trapped by the numbers. Ask yourself WWYD?

Here's what really happens... Your toilet has sprung a leak. You have no clue what to do. you don't know any plumbers. You reach for your phone. The first person you call is...

Your Dad. (Or spouse, or best friend, or boss or co-worker)

You ask them if they know a good plumber. By the time you get to the phone book you already have a name in mind of who you will call. The Yellow Pages only supply the number, not the name, not a referral. Think of it as an info guide, not a form of advertising and persuasion.

Forget all the statistics. As Winston Churchill said, "The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself." The real truth is that you want customers to be thinking of you long before they need a phone number. You want them going to the phone book for one reason only - to look YOU up because they have already decided where to go, they just need a phone number and directions.

So when do you use Yellow Pages for advertising?
  • When you are getting traffic from outside your own phone book region and need a place for people to find your contact info.
  • When you are in an industry where no one advertises at all and the Yellow Pages are the only place to find anyone
  • When you are in a town with an extremely high turnover rate where no one stays long enough to make friends for referrals.

If you're going to do Yellow Pages, here are some tips:

  • Get all the free listings you can get. Some companies have deals that give you free listings under certain headings. Ask your vendors and ask your Yellow Page reps.
  • Go simple - Get your single line listing. If anything, add your website.
  • Be realistic - If you don't get traffic from a certain area, don't go in that book. The expense will not pay for itself over the long run.
  • Measure your online traffic to see if their online listing of you is giving you any referrals
  • Ignore the secondary books in your market. If enough people ignore them, maybe they'll go away.
Some people consider Yellow Pages the necessary evil of advertising. I question the necessary part. Your goal should be to get people thinking of you long before they reach for the book.

Do you agree or disagree?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Run the Radio Marathon to Finish in the Lead

As we continue our discussion of how different advertising media work, we come to my personal favorite.

Radio - the Marathon runner.

No, I'm not a runner. But I am in business for the long run. My time horizon for Toy House extends beyond my children. So I like advertising that also has long term benefits. Radio is one of those. A well-crafted long term radio campaign gives you slow and steady increases in top-of-mind awareness that builds upon itself exponentially.

Advantages? Here are some of the best:
  • Intrusive in nature - You can't turn off your ears. If the radio is on and you're in the room, you're listening. No mute buttons or fast forwarding like TV, no flipping pages like newspaper.
  • Can reach a lot of people inexpensively - Unlike newspaper circulations in decline and TV viewers fractured by hundreds of choices, radio listenership is going up.
  • Can get high frequency - Radio listeners stay fairly loyal to their stations and listen on a regular schedule
  • Words are powerful

Television allows the combination of words and visuals to create a powerful message, but words alone can stir the heart just as compellingly. Forget the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

"In a thousand words I can have the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the Hippocratic Oath, a sonnet by Shakespeare, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and almost all of the Boy Scout Oath. Now exactly what picture were you planning to trade for all that?" - unknown (anyone have a source for this quote?)

The key to Radio is repetition. You have to be on early and often, frequent and continuous. You also have to say something interesting. Like all advertising, boring ads never work.

Think about the average radio listener. She is probably doing something else while bopping along to her favorite song. Her mind is already half occupied. When the song stops and an ad comes on, her brain ignores the ad and fully engages the other activity until the music draws her partially back to the radio.

For your ad to be effective you have to say something more interesting than what she is currently thinking at the time. The biggest complaint from radio listeners is that there are too many ads. The solution is not to have fewer ads, but to have better ads, commercials that people want to hear.

That means stories. Yes, radio is about telling a story, painting a mental image, taking a listener to a new place in her own mind (your store).

If you want to do radio and be successful, follow these tips:

  • Commit to one full year - it takes a long time of continual repetition until a radio campaign gains traction. Commit to a full year and stick it out. (two years if your product cycle is extra long like flooring or real estate)
  • Run a Schedule with a minimum frequency of 3x per week - Sleep is the great eraser of the mind. It takes someone hearing your message three times in 7 days to have it sink into memory.
  • Change your ads (but not your message) every month - Keep the campaign fresh and exciting
  • Only make one point per ad - No one can remember more than one thing, so only say one thing
  • Your name is more important than your address - They'll google you if they have to find you
  • Say something interesting - Stories are interesting. Unexpected is interesting.
  • Don't sound like an ad - Ads and adspeak are not interesting. Find a creative writer who doesn't write radio ads, just persuasive, compelling copy.

Here are some samples of radio ads that tell stories and don't sound like ads. My personal favorite is Men's Bathroom.

Radio is the long distance champion of branding because of the relatively low cost of reaching the same people repeatedly week after week with a powerful message when compared to TV and newspaper. The downside is the time commitment.

It's like the old Chinese Proverb, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is today." The best time to start a long term radio campaign is a year ago, the next best time is today.

If you're a sprinter, looking for the quick hit, radio might not be your friend. It's also not for the dabbler. It takes commitment and creativity to be successful. If you have the budget to run for a year, and a creative writer to convey your message powerfully through words, radio can be your best friend.

Do you agree or disagree?

PS You CAN be successful on the radio for short term events, too, but it takes a whole different way of scheduling. Send me an email and I'll tell you how to run that campaign, too.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Television - the Super Bowl of Advertising

We're discussing how ads work differently in different media.

Today the topic is Television - the Superbowl of advertising.

Just like the Super Bowl that everyone seems to watch, even if they are not a football fan, TV Ads get seen every day by people who are not fans of commercials (except, of course, the Super Bowl commercials. Ironic, isn't it?)

The strength of television programming is it's ability to tell a story. Whether a serial like a sitcom or drama, or a one-time event like a Hallmark movie or sports, television is the story teller of our age.

Therefore, the strength of television advertising is in the ability to tell your story.

Television allows you to combine powerful words and music with compelling visual images to create an amazing experience and tell a wonderful story in a short window of time.

The downside? Money. It costs a lot of money to produce a quality ad that people might actually watch. It costs a lot of money to put that ad out there enough times to be seen and remembered. It costs a lot of money to run a television campaign and keep it fresh and in front of your customers over a long period of time until they are in the market for your product and are finally convinced to buy from you.

It can also be expensive when you do it wrong. And believe me, many advertisers get it wrong. Here are the three most common mistakes:
  • Using humor without reinforcing the brand (Quick, name the Super Bowl advertiser with all the monkeys at work. I'll bet less than a third of you were right.)
  • Making the ad entertaining but not telling anything about your company (How many people thought GoDaddy was a softporn site for men thanks to those Danica Patrick ads?)
  • Trying to say too much (Most local ads do this, packing way more info into an ad than anyone could possibly remember)
If you're going to advertise on TV, follow these tips:
  • Get professional production. Lousy looking ads with bad audio or video give the wrong image of your business.
  • Get people's attention in the first 3 seconds (before they can grab the remote).
  • Make one point and only one point in your ad. Everything else is just clutter and another reason for someone to tune you out or forget what you say.
  • Use emotions. Emotions connect your brand better than humor or cleverness.
  • Only use humor or cleverness if it reinforces your brand, otherwise the humor will trump the message and the message will be lost.
  • Make your images move slowly across the screen. They will be seen even by people fast-forwarding their DVR's.
  • Schedule your ads so that they get a good frequency (reaching the same people more than once). Frequency is just as important as reaching a lot of people.
  • Keep it up. Branding campaigns take time to get traction. It's a long term commitment.

If you have the guts (and the money) television can be a powerful advertising tool, especially for building brand awareness. But beware. Your ads can just as quickly be ignored.

Thanks to remotes and DVR's (and boring, unemotional commercials), television ads can become as invisible as non-relevant newspaper ads. It takes planning, dedication, time, and a producer who understands your message and knows how to portray it powerfully.

Do you agree or disagree?

Advertising in Newspapers the Right Way

Most advertising fails because it is the wrong type of advertising for the medium in which it is placed. As I mentioned before, I'm going to discuss a variety of advertising media and how they work best (and worst).

First up is Newspapers - the medium of Relevancy.

To start, let's identify the elephant in the room. Yes, newspapers are shrinking in numbers, size and circulation. Yes, many are predicting the demise of the newspaper as we know it within a decade or less. But they still have a wide audience of dedicated readers today. I'm one of them. I read my local newspaper cover to cover every single day.

Yet, I cannot remember a single ad I saw in yesterday's paper.

Why? None of the ads were relevant. (Half the stories weren't relevant either, but that's another discussion.)

Think about how people read newspapers. They scan the headlines looking for something of interest. (Newspapers have people who only write headlines - specialists at getting your attention.) And if the headline is successful, the reader might quickly skim the first paragraph to see if they are interested in reading further. (Journalists pack that first paragraph with the main point of the article, knowing that most won't read a single sentence more.)

The newspaper is all about scanning and filtering, looking for something that is relevant to the reader.

Therefore, to have your ad work in a newspaper, it has to be relevant to the reader. Just mentioning your company's name isn't relevant. Sorry, you just aren't that important. Relevancy comes from talking about a product or event. Are you having a huge furniture sale? That is relevant. Are you the new distributor for a well-known brand? Relevant.

If you run an ad with a big sofa pictured, you'll attract everyone reading that page who is currently in the market for a sofa (and no one else). If you run an ad with the headline, "HUGE TOY SALE" you'll attract everyone currently in the market for toys.

To be successful with newspaper ads follow this advice:

  • Make your ads Relevant by focusing on a product or event.
  • Understand that regardless of what the salesperson told you, only the people currently in the market for your product will even see your ad
  • Use a clear picture of a product or a catchy headline to grab the customer's attention
  • White space is your friend - it makes it easier for customers to see your picture or headline
  • Don't use a full page - most people don't even look at it because there is no content on the page - a half page or less has the best chance of being seen
  • Don't make the ad about you or your business. You aren't that interesting or relevant.
  • Inserts work only if your market is the Transactional Customer

Newspaper advertising is for selling products and announcing events. It's not very good at branding your company or mission.

Relevant wins in newspapers. Everything else is invisible. (The same is true for advertising in online papers.)

I challenge you to pick up today's paper and carefully read every ad. See how many are about products or events. See how many use a catchy headline or picture to grab your attention. And see how many would have been invisible to you if not for this assignment.

Do you agree or disagree?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Which Medium Works Best for Your Ads?

You’re not sure where to spend your ad dollars. It is hard-earned money and you need to make the most of it. You ask all your buddies in the industry where they get the best results. Unfortunately, twenty questions garner twenty responses, all different. You’re still confused and unsure.

Which medium will work best for your ads?

Three of your colleagues really like TV, but three hate it. Four swear by direct mail, but five call it a waste of money. Radio, newspaper, and yellow pages also receive mixed reviews. Add in the lukewarm repsonses to websites, email, and social media and there is no clear cut answer… until you change the question.

How does each medium work best (and worst)?

Why so many answers to the first question? Most businesses don’t understand how ads work. Every form of advertising has its pros and cons. When used properly any one of them can be made to work. When used wrong, it is just a waste of money. To be successful with your ads you have to know two things:

  1. What are my objectives?
  2. How does each medium work best?

The first question is up to you. I’ll help you with the second question. And when you know these two things it will be easy for you to choose the right medium and tailor your message to work best.

Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss the different media and how they work, including:

  • Newspaper
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Magazines
  • Yellow Pages
  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Websites
  • Social Media

(Is there another medium you’re considering that is not on the list? Send me a comment and I’ll add it.)

Stay with me on this. There is some eye-opening information coming.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Uncover the Diamonds in Your Hiring Process By Eliminating the Biggest Hiring Mistake

You’ve hired and fired enough people to know what makes a good employee and what doesn’t. Yet, your track record of finding diamonds in the rough doesn’t seem to change. I know. I’ve been there. It took me years to learn this logical approach, but now I have a proven process that eliminates the biggest mistake in hiring and helps me find diamonds at every turn.

The biggest mistake we make in the hiring process is to look for experience instead of character traits.

There is a simple process for identifying the right raw ingredients for the job.
  • Make a Master List of all the traits of the perfect candidate.
  • Separate the Master List into two columns – Teachable and Non-Teachable traits.
  • Develop interview questions to identify the Non-Teachable traits.
If you are looking for a top notch salesperson, you need someone who is friendly, approachable, outgoing, honest, caring, and empathetic. Yet, what is the first thing you usually check? Sales Experience.

All the experience in the world will not make someone more caring, approachable, or empathetic. Years and years on the sales floor does not equate to honesty or friendliness. Experience cannot teach the non-teachable traits.

Just as the potter can’t make fine China with coarse clay, you can’t have a great employee if you don’t start with the right raw ingredients. Every job has certain skills or traits necessary for success. Many of these traits are teachable. Some are not.

Three simple logical steps. Follow them in your hiring process and your hiring will improve immediately. You will more quickly identify the people who already possess the innate skills needed to do the job. If they have all the Non-Teachable traits and Experience, all the better. But without the right traits first, they’ll never shine under pressure.

You need coal to make a diamond. You need certain non-teachable traits to make a diamond employee. Experience does not guarantee success. The candidate who possesses the non-teachable traits from your master list has the best chance to be successful for your business. And once you know this, you’ll be finding diamonds at every turn.

And as for those teachable traits in the other column? There is your training program, your chance to polish those diamonds to make them shine. Here’s a form to use for separating the traits for each job.

It’s simple, it’s easy, and the method is free for anyone to use. If you agree, send this to everyone you know who hires and fires.

If you don’t agree, leave a comment. I’d love to hear your take on the matter.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Your Products Tell Your Story

It probably seems like common sense that to be successful in retail you have to have the right products. Unfortunately common sense is all too uncommon.

With the massive glut of retail on this planet, the specialty and niche independent retailers keep hearing the message, “You have to differentiate”. “You can’t carry the same things as the big boys and compete.”

Unfortunately, too many indies go too far with this concept and end up stocking product so niche that they cannot sell it in their market. Or product that differentiates only a little, but at a much higher price giving them no advantage in product or price. Or don’t stock a category deep enough to offer the kind of choice that would attract a wide audience.

There are almost as many mistakes in product selection as there are retailers. Yet, many of these mistakes can be avoided.

Product selection is no different than store location. When you scouted out the site for your business you checked:

  • Lease rates
  • Drive-by traffic
  • Foot traffic
  • Restrictions on signs, hours, and parking.

You checked out the neighborhood for:

  • Demographics
  • Competition

Selecting the right product, you have to take all those same factors into account.

  • Where will you merchandise them? (Location)
  • Can you sell them for a price that earns you a profit? (Lease rate)
  • Will they draw traffic into your store? (Drive-by traffic)
  • Will people ask for them by name or do they need to be shown? (Foot traffic)
  • How long is the season for this product? (Hours).
  • Does it fit into the concept of your store? (Neighborhood).
  • Who else is selling it or something like it? (Competition)

One common mistake is to chase after anything that seems to sell quickly, regardless of whether it fits in your store. Our Kroger store sells beach chairs (in the middle of Michigan?). Another former grocer in town sold hardware – didn’t work out too well for them. Our Menard’s Hardware store sells food. Yes, you can buy ketchup & mustard to go with your grill. Like I’m really going grocery shopping at the hardware store.

Have you made that mistake, too?

We jumped on the Beanie Baby craze and rode that wave for a short time. It was a wild ride. The hardcore fanatics were getting updates from UPS on days we would get shipments. They would be at our front door before we were even unloading the boxes at the back door.

We dumped those BB’s on a table in the middle of the store and stood back while hoards of shoppers pawed through them. An hour later we took down the table and went back to our normal work.

Yeah, the short-term profit was nice. Until the company got greedy. They made a requirement that you had to buy more of their not-so-hot-moving product. At first we followed along, until seeing that half our profits were eroded away by the unnecessary merchandise we were forced to buy. Add in the greasy feelings of dealing with an unethical company and we decided enough was enough.

Funny thing… We didn’t lose a single regular customer. Those BB customers weren’t our regulars and never became loyal customers. They just bought their BB’s and ran, never to be seen again. No crossover, no add-on sales, no loyalty. No place in our business model.

Whether you have a 16,000 square foot store with the largest selection of toys in the country, or a 600 square foot store with the hottest selection of salsa on the planet, your product selection is the biggest statement your store makes to the public.

Is your product selection sending the right message to your potential customers or do your buying mistakes make the most noise? Believe me, it is a mistake we all have made.

Another mistake we make on products is in how we give it away to our customers too cheaply. Are you a For-Profit store or a Not-For-Profit store? Check out Pricing for Profits in the Freebies section of PhilsForum to learn some easy ways to sell more and make more at the same time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Are You Saying Something Remarkable? (Would You Like to?)

What do your ads say?

Wait, let me rephrase that.

What do your ads say that is truly worth remembering?

I know what you say about your advertising.

“We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”
“We don’t have that in our budget.”
“We only believe in word-of-mouth.”
“We only do ‘event-advertising’.”
“We had to cut advertising because of the economy.”

The reason your ads didn't work is because they weren't remarkable. No one heard them, let alone remembered them.

A 1978 Yankelovich study showed that the average American received 2,000 advertising messages a day. In a revised study in 2008 that number is now 5,000. Without a remarkable, memorable message, you'll never stand out in a crowd of 5,000.

Chances are, you have a remarkable, memorable message. You just haven’t been telling it.

You’ve been saying your name over and over under the false belief that just repeating your name thousands of times will give it top-of-mind salience. But what if people don’t know what your name means? Or worse yet, they have a negative association with that name, or an indifferent one?

There are ways to make your marketing stand out, to make it memorable. And it all starts with the message. Finding your truly remarkable, memorable message is the single most important element of your success in advertising. Yet, it is the most common mistake.

As you worry over demographics, reach, circulation, viewership, listenership; who is hearing or seeing your ad, you neglect to think about what you are telling them. As you worry about cost-per-ad, cost-per-click, cost-per-inch, cost-per-viewer; you neglect the cost of not saying anything worth remembering.

The result? Blah, blah, blah. Don’t you think that with 5,000 ad messages a day we learn to filter out the vast majority of it? If it isn’t interesting, we aren’t paying attention. If it isn’t remarkable, we aren’t remembering.

The message is king. A remarkable, memorable message works well no matter what medium you use to deliver it. A remarkable, memorable message works well no matter how many people hear or see it. A remarkable, memorable message can even buy you that coveted word-of-mouth.

I still have customers talking about our Men’s Bathroom radio ad even though it hasn’t been on the air for over 10 months!

Here’s the hard part. Finding your message means digging deep into the heart of your business, brushing away all the secondary messages until you find the one core thing worth saying. It means uncovering the real you inside your business, the unvarnished and genuine you. And it means having the guts to tell the world about the real you.

Do you have the guts?

Good! Here’s the first step. Go to Freebies on my website and download the ebook Understanding Your Brand. Follow those directions. When you get done, send me your results. I’ll help you find something worth saying.

I know there’s a message in there. Together we can pull it out and make your marketing truly remarkable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Helping the Independent Retailer Succeed

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” – Neils Bohr

Whenever I make a mistake, I am usually the first to admit it. Probably makes me unique. But if you’ve been near me when I goof, you’ve heard me say, “Not the first time I made a mistake, certainly won’t be the last.”

After growing up in a retail family and spending 16 years running a top level independent retailer, I’m now the guy Neils Bohr was talking about. Yes, a bona fide expert in independent retailing. And I’m here to share my experiences with you.

I’m launching a new website just for the independent retailer There is so much a business owner needs to know to run a successful retail operation.

You have to be great in four categories.

Great Products – having the right products in the right amounts merchandised the right way at the right prices to make your customers happy and make the registers sing
Great Customer Service – providing a top notch experience for your customers through a fabulous, well-trained, friendly and caring staff with customer-friendly services and attitude.
Great Marketing – getting the word out about your business in a consistent and well-planned manner with a powerful message that connects deeply and drives traffic through the doors
Great Financials – knowing where your money is and what it is doing to help you succeed

Rare is the independent retailer who is strong in all four categories.
Few have mastered even three.
Most independent retail owners are strong in only one or two.
All think they know more than they do (except for the smart ones among you)

The truth is we all need to keep learning.

Even a guy like me is still learning. I’m constantly trying to become better in every category above. And, having made and learned from a bunch of my own mistakes (not to mention the mistakes of others), I can say I’m pretty close to becoming one of the Few.

No, I’m not a financials kind of guy. Talk to your accountant on that. But I do know about Marketing, Merchandising and Customer Service. Stuff that has elevated Toy House and Baby Too to be recognized as one of the 25 best independent retailers in America.

Now I’m going to share our secrets.

The website is loaded with freebies – ebooks and articles you can download and start using right away. This blog is there, too. I’ll be writing to give you insights and new perspectives on the world of retail and how to grow your business.

I’m also looking for your feedback. What hot button issues are graying your hairs? In which category do you need the most help? What topics do you want me to cover?

Your success is the goal. I already have a successful business. My purpose is to help you get there, too.