Friday, February 26, 2010

Make Your Emails More Effective

Here are two tips from a recent Jackson Retail Success Academy class for making your quick emails to colleagues and customers more effective and better received.
  1. Make your Subject Lines more descriptive.
  2. Make only One Point per email.
How often do you scroll back through old emails looking for that one message about that one certain meeting only to see six emails all with the same single word subject line "meeting"? Wouldn't it be easier if the subject line instead said something like...

"Meeting Wednesday, March 3rd 11am about Payroll"

Not only do you get more information across to the recipient before they even open the email, they also have the ability to find that specific email easier amid all the other clutter in their inbox or folders.

Making one point per email should seem automatic, but I know I'm guilty of trying to cram too much into each message I send. And I'm also guilty of not reading past the first point and often missing multiple points in messages I receive. How often do you think the recipients of your emails do the same?

Since there is no extra charge for sending multiple emails, send one for every point you wish to make. Write a clear, detailed subject line and put only one point into each email. The other benefit of doing this is that if both points require a reply, but one point can be quickly answered while the other takes time, two separate emails give the recipient the ability to reply to both in the proper amount of time each requires.

Not only will your recipients thank you, they'll understand you better and respond more timely and thoroughly.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winning Gold for Your Business, Olympics Style

While watching the Olympics with my wife I came to a startling realization. In the three hours of an NBC telecast there is probably only about 45 minutes of actual sports taking place. The rest is background stories, analysis, and commercials.

Since my wife and I tape it on the DVR, we quickly forward through the commercials (note to you TV advertisers, there is still a way to get my attention even as I fast forward.)

But while I want to get right to the action, my wife loves all the backstories on the different athletes. She eats that stuff like chocolate. Being the dutiful husband, I watch along with her.

The other night we saw a story about the Chinese Freestyle Skiing Aerial Team and their American coach. After the story, I found I was almost rooting for them to do well. The Chinese team? Yeah. The story gave them character and personality, and helped me relate to them.

Time and again, after hearing unique and compelling stories, I found myself rooting for whichever athlete was featured.

There is a business application here. TELL YOUR UNIQUE AND COMPELLING STORY. Tell the world who you are and why you're here. Let the outside world into your inner thoughts and feelings. Show them the human element behind your corporate business, the faces of the people behind the name on the sign. Give people your backstory, your reason for entering the competition, and they'll root for you, too.

Here's an easy way to do it:
  • Get a Flip Camera or some other inexpensive way to shoot videos.
  • Set up a YouTube account (they're free).
  • Shoot video tours of the store.
  • Shoot short video interviews of the staff (2-3 minutes).
  • Tell as much personal stuff as you're willing to share.
  • Talk unscripted about why you opened your store or what makes it so much fun to you.
  • Post the unscripted/unedited videos to YouTube and Facebook and your website.
  • Play the videos on a loop in your store.
Do this and you'll make connections with customers that will turn them into fans rooting for your success. They'll be cheering you on to get the gold (in many cases, their gold:-).


PS Two reminders on videos...

Make them short (2-3 minutes tops) so they load quickly. Nothing worse than waiting 20 minutes for a ten-minute video to load. For some, that will be deterrent enough to never watch.

Make them unscripted and unedited. This way they show off the real you, not some phony poser that everyone will see right through. The real you is good enough if you have the confidence to be that person openly. The real you is who we want to root for, not some corporate image of you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm Sharing My Biggest Secrets

But not right here... (at least not yet:-)

Thursday, Feb. 25 from 8:30am to 11:30am I am doing a 3-hour workshop with the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce to share the biggest secret behind the incredible success of Toy House and Baby Too.

(Success? Besides growing and remaining profitable while in a shrinking industry and shrinking population, Toy House and Baby Too was recently named one of The 25 Best Independent Stores in America in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin.)

The class is:

"Accelerated Branding: Taking Your Advertising and Your Business to a New Level".

All the best stuff I learned from two incredible people; Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads and David Freeman, the best screenwriting master you've never heard of.

In three short hours you will learn more about how advertising works (and doesn't work) than most marketing professionals. And you'll be able to harness that knowledge to accelerate your business no matter what the economy is doing.

I'm going to show you how to make your advertising work better (without spending a penny more) so that you attract more customers, get them to spend more, make them more loyal, and empower them to bring you even more business.

The cool thing is that there are no gimmicks, no radical changing of the way you currently run your business, no unethical or impractical practices. I'm just going to show you how to unlock the potential that already exists in your business and teach you how to harness that energy so that it works for you.

It will be a hands-on workshop in which you'll create a simple blueprint that will guide all of your advertising (and business) decisions along with a number of examples how to put your plan into action.
  • It will be fun. (Hey, I play with toys for a living - If I'm doing a workshop, it's gotta be fun)
  • It will be eye-opening (The downside is that you won't ever look at advertisements the same after this class.)
  • It will be well worth your time (3 hours? $25? I'm kinda surprised the Chamber is giving away this program so cheaply - I paid many thousands for this same info and charge many hundreds to give it out individually as a consultant.)
Contact Mary at the Chamber (517) 782-8221 to enroll. But be warned. There is pre-class and post-class homework (not to mention in-class work, too). If you're not willing to do the work, don't bother calling. We'll give your seat to someone who wants to grow their business leaps and bounds.

See you Thursday!


PS If you're one of my out-of-town followers, you're welcome, too. The price is $40 for non-Chamber, non-Midtown, non-Jackson Local First members. That, and a little travel will be some of the best money you spend all year. If it isn't, I'll pay you back the $40 fee and take you to the best lunch you've ever had right after the class.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ads That Moved My Needle

There weren't many.

Last night had to be the worst round of Super Bowl ads I've ever seen. There was only one ad all night that I replayed for my wife to see. It was Google's story of a trip to Paris.

It had an interesting storyline that spoke to the heart. It gave you new information about what Google Search can do. How many of you knew you could check your flight information in Google Search? It had elements of surprise. How many of you were eagerly anticipating what was being assembled? And most of all, it didn't insult your intelligence.

The other ad that made me think was the Flowers in a Box ad from

It was a direct contrast of them versus which is heavily advertised on ESPN Radio, which kinda gave it a CBS versus ESPN feel.

That's the short list of ads that moved my needle. As for the others...

Doritos? I may never eat one of my favorite snacks again for fear that I'll become one of those weirdos in their spots.

Bud Light? Has anyone on the planet ever known a real person react that way to a Bud Light? Basically, their ads all said the same thing. "Our ads don't even come close to matching your experience with our product, which means we're a bunch of liars, and you'll never guess what else we lied about."

Budweiser? What was that longhorn ad about? Cross-breeding?

Vizio? Better than most, but I'm not into all those Apps, and was almost about to tune out those robotic arms - couldn't quite see what they were doing. What are you? A porn site? Only one of their ads actually said what they did. The rest were just come-ons to get you to their site (where Danica keeps her clothes on).

Sketchers? Just exactly how does your shoe shape me up better than the others? Tell me how and I might listen.

And the two back-to-back "guys in their underwear" ads was too creepy to even give mention to the lame companies who ran them (and the network to air them one after the other).

Overall, I think Hyundai had some decent ads. They definitely told their story differently than Dodge. I think every woman who saw that Dodge ad decided never again to give Chrysler the time of day. Hyundai chose to give us concrete facts without offending our sensibilities - a concept lost on most other commercials.

And finally, although the eTrade ads were cute the first time around, they are getting tired and predictable and once again reinforced my desire to never do a business with a bunch of spoiled, arrogant babies.

So what moved your needle? Did any ad speak to you in a persuasive way? I'd love to hear your comments.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Oscars of Advertising

To the general public, tonight's Super Bowl broadcast is the Oscars of Advertising. Like you, I get as much enjoyment out of those multi-million dollar blips on the screen as I do the actual game.

And Monday morning, I'll be talking about my favorite ads at the water cooler, too. But my criteria might be a little different from everyone else.

What I'm looking for is ads that have the power to move the needle. Entertainment? Yeah, it gets my interest. Humor? Yeah, I like to laugh. But the real power in an ad is not how entertaining, funny or heart-warming, but how persuasive it is. Does it move me closer to the product or company? At the end of the day, if the ad doesn't bring you more business, it doesn't matter what the critics think. Your ads have to persuade people to remember you, use you, believe in you. Anything else is just fluff.

As every year, the beer ads are the heavy favorites, and although entertaining, there has only been one beer ad that ever moved my needle... (See it here)

It isn't very funny or heart-warming, so-so on the entertaining side, but they make one powerfully compelling point at the end (which they back up with the kind of hard evidence that would make Tom Wanek happy) that sent me running to the local grocer. It's now my favorite light beer.

I'm curious to know which ads you saw during the Super Bowl that had the power to move your needle. What ads drew you closer to the company or product? I'd be willing to wager that your list and my list will be different from most of the critics' lists.

Let the game begin!

I'll post my thoughts later in the week.