Saturday, July 31, 2010

Which Topic Next?

I recently published three Free eBooks on my website - Inventory Management, How Ads Work Part 1, and How Ads Work Part 2.

I have two more eBooks I'm working on, but not sure if I have the time to get both done. Which would you prefer first?

One title is Marketing a Retail Store on a Shoestring Budget. It is similar to the non-profit eBook of a similar name, but with a couple distinctly retail-oriented changes. But I've done a lot of writing on advertising lately and not sure the motivation is there (unless you tell me that is what you want).

The second title is Merchandising Made Memorable. The goal of this eBook is to give you some tried and true rules on merchandising including plenty of examples of do's and don'ts. Plus, there will be a couple ways to break all the rules all the way to the bank. Just like Pricing for Profit, I look at merchandising from a customer's standpoint. And you should, too.

So those are the options... Let me know in the comments which one you want to see first.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Free or Priceless?

I'm going out on a limb with my next two Freebies - How Ads Work Part 1 and Part 2.

Pablo Picasso is credited with saying, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal."

Much of the information in these two eBooks is stuff I stole from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, especially the mind-blowing Advertising Performance Equation (APE) in Part 2. It will totally transform the way you look at advertising. (I hope he doesn't mind.)

Part 1 guides you through some of the same discussions I've done here - showing you HOW the different mediums work - now all condensed in one single document. Most sales reps in advertising know how to sell their products, just not how to use them. This guide will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each medium so you'll know more than your reps. Plus, as a bonus, I dispel some of the most common myths of advertising and share with you the Wizard's definition of Transactional and Relational Customers - probably the single greatest business concept I learned at Wizard Academy.

Part 2 includes the APE, plus a bunch of ad examples that have a strong impact. Although the ads are copyrighted, the techniques they use are simple enough for you to steal for your own use.

Best of all, both eBooks are completely FREE! You are encouraged not only to download them, but to share them. Send them to all your friends in the industry. Copy them to your Shop Local campaigns. Distribute them to anyone you know who needs help in advertising. Believe me, we all benefit when advertising improves.

You know why most ads don't work? Because most people don't know how ads work. These eBooks are your starting point to making your ads work for you.


PS Use these two in conjunction with Understanding Your Brand and you will be light years ahead of your competition in understanding advertising and making it work for you. Think of it as a Master's Degree without the time or expense (or the outdated info most colleges still teach).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Which Would You Attend - Revisited

A few days ago I posted 4 potential classes and asked a bunch of my retailer friends if they could only attend one, which would they choose.

I had two purposes for this post. First, to see how people choose which sessions and trainings to attend. Second, to see if there was one over-riding topic in which everyone was thirsting for more info.

The answer to the first purpose was interesting. There were three basic reasons for choosing which class to attend.
  1. It is the class that you deem most important to your business success (regardless of your own skill level)
  2. It is the class in which you feel your skills are least competent
  3. It is the class that sounds the most fun (of highest interest to you)
Professionally, I would think reasons #1 & #2 make the most sense, but I can also see how #3 plays into the equation. If you aren't enjoying yourself, you'll have a harder time staying focused, thus have a harder time learning.

The answer to the second purpose was less clear. All four classes received interest. Including the email responses, there would have been at least two people in each class, but no more than three in any one class. So no clear cut topic emerged. Darn! I was hoping to get some more focus for future posts.

So, in lieu of a single topic, I'll keep writing a variety of posts on all topics important to retail success. If you have a question, send it along and I'll respond. Maybe by the 4th quarter you won't have to attend any classes.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Make Your Dogs Bark!

If you're in retail, you've done what I've done - bought stuff that didn't sell. Oh, it looked good in the catalog or at the trade show. The sales rep gave you tons of info on it. You put it in a great location, even trained your staff on all its finest features.

But at the end of the day, the customers weren't buying.

So what do you do with those dogs? Make 'em bark and move 'em out!

This Thursday we'll have over five times the usual customers at our Summer Fun Sale. It's our once-a-year clearance sale (or as my friend calls it, the make-it-go-away sale).

For the past two months we have been searching the store for the dogs, the merchandise that just won't hunt, and red-tagging it at half-off the regular price. We've been storing these goods in a corner of the warehouse waiting for the third Thursday in July.

On Wednesday we'll close a couple hours early and set up tables & shelves right in the center of the store. And on Thursday the fun begins. Our first customers will arrive about an hour before we open. They'll sit by the front door in lawn chairs and peer through the window with binoculars to search out the deals they want to scoop up first. About fifteen minutes before the doors open our parking lot will be full.

And three hours later, I'll be making my first trip to the bank!

Some people ask me why I do it this way. They ask questions like...

Why do you always mark it half-off and not 25% or some lesser margin?

I mark it half-off to create both excitement and urgency. Anything less and customers might not bite. Remember, these are items no one wanted. Your customers already voted a thumbs down on them. You need to go big if you want to get their attention.

Why wait until one certain day? Why not just mark it down and have a clearance area?

I don't want to train my customers to expect a markdown. A clearance area that is always full of new merchandise just tells customers to wait until the item they like ends up there. The thinking goes... something is always on sale, so why pay full price? Plus, the excitement factor goes way down. Think about it this way... Would you rather have your parking lot full and people lined up at the door fifteen minutes before you open, or the same few regular customers wandering through the clearance section on occasion?

Why mark it down at all? You've already paid for it and now you're just losing profit.

If you read my earlier post on Gross Margin Return on Investment, you'll remember that GMROI is calculated by dividing your Gross Profit by your Average Inventory at Cost. Selling a whole bunch of inventory at half-off does not increase my gross profit, but it does wonders for lowering my average inventory. Plus, the cash I get gives me the opportunity to go buy something else that will make me a profit.

Here's another way to look at it. If I buy a crib for $350 and put it on my floor, but don't sell a single piece for a whole year, that space on my floor has cost me $350. But if I sell that crib for $250 after 6 months, I now am only down $100 for that space and have 6 more months to put something else there that might make me money.

The bottom line is this...

Don't be married to your merchandise. If you have dogs that have gotten fat and lazy, you need to make 'em bark and move 'em out. Turn them into cash and move on. That includes seasonal merchandise that didn't sell during the season, too. For us that means the Summer Fun Sale - a necessary part of my inventory management plan.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Help Me Choose A Workshop

At many conferences we have breakout sessions - three or four different topics and speakers from which you can choose.

I struggle with these because I usually want to attend more than one, and cloning has not reached the level to allow me that luxury. And trying to decide between one session and another is tough.

I need your feedback here...

I'm going to give you four options for sessions you could attend. For the sake of argument, let's assume all the speakers are well-qualified to talk on their respective subjects and you can only attend one of those sessions.

Which session will you attend and why?

Session #1 - Marketing & Advertising on a Shoestring Budget
Learn the smartest ways to get the most out of your limited advertising resources. This class will show you how to use Social Media the right way, teach you new ways to market your business without spending a dime, how to get a guaranteed return on the money you do spend on advertising, and why you're not getting the word-of-mouth you think you deserve (and how to change that). Every attendee will leave with at least four inexpensive ways to increase traffic and sales that they can implement right away.

Session #2 - Everyone has Customer Service, You Need Customer Delight
This session will show you how to train your staff to consistently give your customers far more than they expect. Topics covered include how to meet and greet your customers the right way, understanding the different customer temperaments, how to solve their problems, and how to finish each sale leaving the customer happier than when they came in. Each attendee will get a blueprint for training their staff including role-play examples and key phrases to avoid.

Session #3 - Knowing the Numbers, It's Your Money After All
You can just hand over your financials to your accountant and hope for the best, or you can learn the numbers yourself and make them work for you. This class is for the financials novices who wish to learn simple ways to understand the financials behind their business. You will learn how to calculate important numbers like Cost of Goods Sold, Gross & Net Profit, and the many different ratios that banks use to determine if your business is growing or dying. When you finish this class, you'll know exactly where your money is, what it is (or isn't) doing for you and how to make it better.

Session #4 - Cash Flow Basics - How Smart Buyers Make More Money
When is a deal from your vendor too good to pass up? When is a discount not worth the loss of cash flow? How do you know when you have too much inventory? Too little? These and other questions will be answered in this buyer's workshop including tools you can use to increase your cash flow and make you more money. You don't need a point-of-sale system to be a better buyer. You just need to know these simple principles of buying that dramatically change your financial picture.

Which will you choose and why?


Friday, July 2, 2010

How Much Marketing Does it Take?

Here are some of the ways I have decided to market my new book...

  • Face-to-Face Sales - I do speaking engagements all around the country and get opportunities to sell my book one at a time to attendees. Plus, I sell it in my store. And I always have a few copies with me wherever I go (sold two at a recent birthday party!)
  • Web Marketing - I have it for sale on my website
  • Blog Marketing - Yeah, this is the fourth time I've talked about it to you.
  • YouTube - already one video review online about the book, more coming...
  • Facebook - The book has it's own page, positive reviews starting to come in.
  • Friend Blogging - I have given away a few free copies to influential friends who have blogged about it or at least given it some link love (one of those links increased my blog traffic by a factor of 15!)
  • Direct to Buying Groups - There are retail buying groups made up of independent retailers to whom I am reaching out.
  • Radio - I already did one radio interview, working on setting up more
  • TV - Ditto
  • Newsprint - I will be profiled soon in the local paper as a local author, working on getting profiled in other papers, too.
  • Human Resource Professors - this is tougher nut for me to crack, but I am working on making contact with HR Professors to try to get this book into their hands and into their classrooms
  • Human Resource Professionals - I have been following HR groups on LinkedIn, posting where applicable, getting involved in discussions, and getting to know other people there. Soon I will be enlisting their help in spreading the word.
As you can see from this list, there is a lot I am doing to market one tiny little book on Hiring & Training.

How does this apply to your business? Simple. All of the above marketing techniques are basically free. They only cost me time and a few free books. If you don't have enough business, then you have enough time to get cranking on any one of them. (Yes, they are all applicable to your business - email me if you can't see how.)