Monday, August 30, 2010

Your Actions Tell Us Who You Are

A friend and colleague of mine had an experience using Groupon, a company that sells discounted coupons online to your store, that went horribly wrong. Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, did a Case Study on his blog. (Go ahead and read it... I'll wait)

In a nutshell, Kim made an incredible offer that sold in far greater quantities than anyone expected and will end up costing her tons more money than she will recoup in new business.

It is a cautionary tale about discounting that Bob Phibbs so eloquently points out. There are so many lessons that could be learned from this, but I want to bring up something that stuck out like a sore thumb, especially in light of all the comments made by Groupon supporters (plants?) putting all of the blame on Kim.

Yes, Kim made mistakes, but the company did nothing to help her.

Two Mistakes
Kim's first mistake was to make such a big offer with so little restrictions. But the people at Groupon allowed it to happen. They had the power to say, "Hey Kim, you might want to re-think this." But they didn't. They knew they would sell a lot of coupons and make a lot of money with the offer Kim was making.

The second problem happened when the coupon sales took off. Kim noticed the problem, asked Groupon to halt sales and they refused. They told her it was her mistake and she had to live with the consequences. Of course they didn't want to halt sales. They were making a mint.

Your Actions Give You Away
Look at the signals Groupon sent through their actions to Kim, and subsequently everyone who knows Kim.

First signal... By not helping Kim write up a proper offer, they said that the almighty dollar was far more important to them than the success of the client.

Second signal... By not halting the process in the middle when it was known by all parties that something was wrong, they said that the profit from this one transaction was worth more than any repeat business could generate. They certainly weren't going to get repeat business from Kim after treating her that way.

More importantly, you can pretty much infer from this encounter that they already know their model is not good for their clients and don't expect repeat business, so they are willing to do whatever possible to maximize their own return on what they believe is their one and only shot with you.

Bad News Travels Fast
Between Bob's blog and Kim's telling everyone she knows about this experience, Groupon is getting a lot of negative publicity and people are seeing from their actions what Groupon truly believes. Their actions speak loudly of their credibility (or lack thereof).

Do you ever have customers who don't shop with you "the right way"? Do you ever have customers that make mistakes? Do you ever have customers that want to make changes half way through? Do you help them get it right or do you let them fail just so that you can keep the sale?

How you treat your customers when things go wrong speaks loudly to them and their friends of who you are and what you believe. Groupon showed it's true colors. What are yours?

-Phil

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Credibility Shown

Tom Wanek wrote a book, Currencies That Buy Credibility.

The new CEO of Step2 Company - Jack Vresics - is an embodiment of that book.

Last Thursday I was in Streetsboro, OH for a meeting of Step2 Center dealers - the retailers who sell the vast majority of the Step2 line. Step2 is the largest manufacturer of toys still being made in the USA. But they've had a shakeup the past year replacing the CEO, the CFO, and the Director of Marketing.

I was looking forward to meeting the new CEO, but at Wednesday night's informal gathering we were told that he wouldn't be at our annual gathering because he had to drive his daughter up to Ann Arbor to move her in for her first year at the University of Michigan. Understandable excuse. I have every intention of being there to help my boys on their first day at away at college, too.

But right before we broke for lunch Thursday a new face entered the room - Jack Vresics was in the building! He drove 3 hours back from Ann Arbor after moving his daughter in just to spend 90 minutes with us before driving back another 3 hours to be with his daughter again.

You have heard that actions speak louder than words. That one action spoke volumes of how important we dealers are to Step2.

He paid the currency (driving an extra 6 hours) to earn credibility, and he earned it big time in my book. He showed me what he was willing to do to make sure I knew how important my business was to him.

What actions are you willing to do, what price are you willing to pay to show your customers how important they are to you?

Read Tom's book (no, I am not affiliated in any way - just a fan of the book) and you can learn some simple ways to earn that credibility.

-Phil

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Open Letter to My Staff

The following is an open letter to my staff in our monthly newsletter. Feel free to copy it, model it, use it with your own staff.

You Were Hired...

You were hired because I believe in your ability to help me grow this company.

You were hired because I believe you can connect with customers, make positive lasting impressions on them, help them solve their problems and create memories.

You were hired because I believe you care about the impression this store makes on our customers, you care about the cleanliness of the store, the orderliness of your department and the efficiency with which customers can find what they need.

You were hired because I believe you want to make a difference in the lives of our customers, not just sit around and wait for a paycheck.

You were hired because I believe you are smart enough to understand our products and how they impact the lives of our customers.

You were hired because I believe you love to have inclusive fun, not at the expense of others, but fun that everyone can enjoy.

You were hired because I believe you want to learn. You are not satisfied with your current set of skills and are constantly trying to improve.

You were hired because I believe you are a go-getter, someone who will seek out projects to improve this store, improve the customer experience, improve yourself.

You were hired because I believe in you.

You Were Fired…

You were fired because I stopped believing in you.

I saw you sitting on your butt waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen.

I saw you making excuses instead of making customers happy.

I saw you paying more attention to your co-workers or your phone or your spouse than the customers.

I saw you worrying more about time off than paying attention to your time on.

Maybe my perception was wrong. Maybe I didn’t see the whole story. But I can only go by what I see and what I believe.

It is up to you to...

Show Me I Was Right to Believe

-Phil

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How Will You Measure Success?

It dawned on me that I've never asked you the most important question of all.

How will you measure success?

Whenever I work one-on-one with another retailer, that is usually one of the first questions. If I don't know what measuring stick you're using to decide if you are successful, I can't help lead you there.

Will it be profit? Will it be increased sales? Will it be increased customer counts? Will it be larger transactions? Will it be positive cash flow?

Are you preparing your business for future stability, short-term gains, or to sell it to someone else?

All of those are realistic goals, but the path to each is not necessarily the same. Knowing the answer helps you point your ship in the right direction. The only wrong answer is, "I don't know."

How will you measure success? Write it down. Post it where you can see it. Put it in your planner, on your calendar, anywhere you look daily. Then start doing what you need to do to get there.

-Phil

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't Eat the Tea!

My friend, Joel, told an interesting story about Tea in England.

Apparently, it was quite expensive and only for the very rich at first.

As Joel tells it...
One woman in the south took a full pound of her expensive cache and sent it to her sister in the north, telling her how marvelous it was. Her sister boiled it, dumped the black liquid off and served it like a vegetable. She wrote back about how terrible it was.

She’d prepared it like a vegetable, which she understood, instead of seeing it for what it was: something entirely new.

Joel used this story to illustrate how some people are approaching the new social media tools with the same old ideas of what advertising is and are eating their tea.

How do you like your tea?
I would argue you can apply the same lesson to all types of advertising. For every advertising medium I show you, you can point to someone who told you how they used that medium and it didn't work. Or maybe you used it and it didn't work. All because you (or they) didn't brew it properly.

That is the purpose behind the FREE eBook How Ads Work Part 1. I want to give you some insight into how to brew your advertising the right way. I've eaten the vegetables and brewed the tea, so I know what tastes better.

If you want your advertising to leave a better taste in your mouth, start with the eBook, then email me with your questions. When done right, it's a sweet tea!

-Phil

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meeting Your Goals

Had another fun staff meeting this morning. More importantly, we met our Goals for the meeting.

Yes, every single one of my staff meetings has a Goal (or two). And I define that goal by finishing this simple statement...

This meeting will be a success if...

I had two goals for today's meeting that finished that statement:
  1. The staff understands the importance of asking the customers questions and getting to know the special needs of their children
  2. The staff gains a new tool to make the experience more personal and special for our youngest customers
Across the Spectrum
The task I used to accomplish the first goal was a guest speaker who talked to us about Autism and the special toy needs of autistic children. If you know anything about Autism, you know there is a spectrum. What is good for one child might be completely wrong for another. But after the presentation the staff is now armed with a load of questions to ask a customer to help understand where her child might be on that spectrum.

What was even better, however, is that it helped them also realize that all children are on some sort of spectrum in their levels of play and that by asking the right questions of the parents they can better determine which toys to suggest.

Not Just Any Balloon
To accomplish Goal #2 I brought in an art instructor. This guy can teach any kind of art to any kind of student. The task I gave him was to teach to my staff how to doodle and draw in twenty minutes. He was up to the challenge. In no time at all he convinced my staff that they all had artistic talent, and he showed them simple techniques for doodling animal faces onto helium balloons.

Now my staff is empowered to not only give children free helium balloons, but to customize them with a quick little drawing. The kids don't just get a balloon, they get a personalized work of art. It only takes a few seconds to draw, but it makes a lifetime of impact.

Best of all, the staff had a blast learning and have spent all morning practicing their doodling skills (wouldn't you just love a job where the boss encourages you to doodle?). There's a little friendly competition already begun to see who can draw the most balloons this week. Once again the staff is telling me how much fun they have at our meetings.

Are your staff meetings this fun?
Would you like them to be? All I do is follow a simple plan that you can follow, too.

Click Here if you want to learn how to plan Staff Meetings That Everyone Wants to Attend.

Or click here to go right to the worksheet to start planning an awesome meeting for your staff.

-Phil

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Signs Sell

Rick Segal has said that proper signage will help an item sell up to 50% more than without a sign. Here's why...

First, there is this group of people known as Introverts.
About half of your customers identify as Introverts. They tend to think to talk instead of talk to think as Extraverts would do. If they don't know an answer, they'll look first for a sign that might give them an answer before asking an associate because asking an associate puts them in an uncomfortable position.

Therefore, to make your Introverted customers feel more comfortable in your store, thus more likely to buy, give them signs that answer their basic questions and help them feel more knowledgeable. (Note: although I cannot prove it, I would be willing to bet that introverts make up a larger portion of online shoppers than extraverts.)

The second group that relies on signs is Men.
Yep, the guys shopping your store are far more likely to read signs than your women customers. Paco Underhill points this out from his own research in the book, Why We Buy (if you haven't read it, it is a MUST for retailers!).

According to Deborah Tannen, men speak vertically and women speak horizontally. When men talk they are thinking in their minds, "Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me?" Vertical. That is why we are so afraid of asking for directions. The three hardest words for men to say are not, "I love you." They are, "I don't know," because it makes you think lower of me.

No sign? No Sale.
When a man enters a store, the first thing he looks for is some sign telling him where to go. If he has a question, he's going to look for another sign to answer that question. No sign? No sale. Some guys will actually walk away before asking for help. My wife knows this all too well. If I come home from a store empty-handed the first thing she says is, "Did you ask someone?" (No, I probably didn't, although I'm getting better at it.)

Women, on the other hand, are thinking, "Did what I say draw me in closer or push me away?" Horizontal. They are quick to ask for directions because it brings them into the inner circle. You can put up all the signs you want but only the more introverted women will spend time reading them. They'd rather interact with someone.

50% of all the women and 100% of all the men (give or take a point or two) are looking for a sign. Are you going to give them what they want or let your competitors give it to them?

Rick is right on this one. Signs do sell!

-Phil