Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Classic Election Ad Mistakes

I hate politician advertising! I turn off the radio, change the channel, or flip the page.

It isn't so much the politicians and the political process that bothers me. I love a good political debate and discourse. It's the horrible advertising that drives me crazy.

Most political ads make the same classic mistake - they make claims without evidence to back them up.

Sometimes they do it because they can't back up their claims with facts. Sometimes they do it because they don't give themselves enough time in their ad because they are being too clever. Sometimes they think the evidence is obvious enough to not need to be included.

To Tell the Truth
We currently have a hotly contested US Congress Race and one candidate parades out a whole bunch of seniors telling the other candidate not to mess with their Social Security and Medicaid. One after another we hear old people chiding the other candidate saying he will ruin their benefits. But not one of them tells us what he did, said or proposed that will ruin their benefits. No evidence means no credibility. I'm not buying it. (In fact, the truth of the two candidates' actions is that the one being chided has done more to protect SS & Medicaid than the one running the ad, which makes the first candidate either completely ignorant or a bald-faced liar - neither of which I want representing me in Congress).

Tell Me Why
Another ad in a state race included a candidate telling me all about his endorsements. Endorsements are apparently great, yet I see many candidates win without them. Those endorsements would mean a lot more to me if I knew why he got them.

Did he give favors?
Did he promote one of their projects?
Did they give him the endorsement in exchange for publicity?
Are they backing him because he's a surefire winner and they want to curry favor?

I could surmise all of those reasons for the endorsement, none of which are positive, because he never gave me evidence to tell me why these endorsements make him the better candidate.

Would you like your audience to make up their own (probably false) conclusions about a claim you make?

Give Us Reason to Believe
If you make a claim in your ads such as "We're the best (insert claim here)..." back it up with evidence. Your ad becomes more credible and your claim more believable when you tell me why. If you don't have time, don't make the claim. A claim no one believes will make people doubt everything else you say.

Down and Dirty
The second mistake most politicians make is the dirty, negative attack ads. You can't play in the mud with getting dirt on yourself. Sure, the mud-slinging might win you a few votes now, but the stink stays with you and ruins your credibility long term.

Politicians might not care. But independent retailers can't afford to have 45% of the population hating their guts and everyone else feeling kinda uneasy about them, too. If you're going to mention your competitors, keep it to the facts. Point out what they do, then tell everyone why what you do is better - and back it up with evidence.

A Winning Formula
Be honest, be ethical, be positive. Back up all your claims with evidence. Do those two things and the credibility and effectiveness of your ads will make you a winner this fall.


PS To make your ads more believable, I highly recommend the book Currencies That Buy Credibility by Tom Wanek (no, this is not an affiliate link - I make no money promoting this book, I just like it. A lot.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christmas Sales Predictions

It's time to make your predictions. What do you see in your crystal ball for Christmas sales?

Shopper-Trak is predicting a 2.9% increase.
National Retail Federation says it will go up 2.3%.

But what does that mean?

Not every retailer is going to hit that 2.3 to 2.9% mark. In fact, I predict that very few retailers will be up 2-3%.

Double-Digit Growth
Some retailers are going to have double-digit growth this holiday. Others are going to see double-digit declines. And a whole bunch of retailers are going to be within 1% either way of last year's sales.

Those numbers NRF and Shopper-Trak are predicting are national totals. They take into account overall population growth, spending habits, surveys of customer moods, etc. - on a national basis!

None of that has any relevance in your local market. Your population might be growing faster than the national average. It might be declining. Your competition might be doing more in your market (or less). You might be doing more (or less) to grow your own business.

The Only Number That Counts
The best thing to do about those numbers is to forget them. Ignore them. Don't give them the time of day. Focus only on your own number, the growth you want to make happen in your business. Pick a number that works for you. Then set about doing what you have to do to hit that number.

For me, I am predicting 15% growth in November. I have acted accordingly. I have planned my marketing and my inventory to meet this goal. I have indoctrinated my staff that this is what we are going to accomplish. I have trained them, scheduled them, and inspired them to make this happen.

Planning and Action Make it Happen
It isn't a wish. It is a plan. We looked at what we did last year. We looked at what we are capable of doing historically. We looked at what was realistic based on this year's trends. We looked at what the market would bear. We chose a goal that we knew we could make. Then we set up actions to put us in the right position to meet this goal.

It doesn't matter what NRF or Shopper-Trak believes. It only matters what you believe. Do you believe you can reach double-digit growth this holiday? If you believe it, you can achieve it. You only have to act upon those beliefs.

If you're just sitting back waiting for your 2.3% increase, I promise you, you won't get it. Be proactive and go get the sales you want for your business.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Spelling Counts for Something

There is no Spell-Check for an application someone has to fill out by hand.

Don't get me wrong. I like resumes. They show that the customer has some basic computer skills (sometimes really basic). But I like having a handwritten application for two reasons.
  1. You see if you can read their writing. In my business this is important because we have forms that have to be filled out. If I can't read your writing on an application, I know I won't be able to read it on a delivery form.
  2. You see if they can spell. Spelling plays a part in the evaluation process. Poor spelling might not be a deal-killer but it can tip the scales between two equally qualified candidates.
Spelling is not so much an education thing to me as it is an attitude thing. A tough word misspelled here or there, no problem - we all make mistakes. But someone with tons of poor spelling and horrible penmanship on her application shows me she doesn't care about appearance. If she doesn't care how she appears to me, how much will she care about how she appears to my customers?

Just today I sent a rejection letter to an applicant that it took four of us to decipher his name and address. A sloppy application will almost always equal sloppy work.

Even if you require resumes for your applicants, have a simple addendum they have to fill out by hand. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn from their handwriting (without needing a psychology degree).


PS Feel free to use this post to encourage your children to work on their spelling and penmanship in school. I stress it with my boys this time every year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Hard Will They Really Work?

It seems like every applicant to our store lists "hard working" as one of their attributes. But if they really were "hard working", why would they be looking for a part-time, seasonal job in a toy store?

Here are two questions you can use to see how much hard work your applicants are willing to do.
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Tells you whether they take pride in hard work, talent, dumb luck or any combination of the above. If their pride is in something they worked hard to achieve, you know they're capable of doing hard work and will take pride in the hard work they do for you.
  • What is the hardest task you have to do in your current (previous) job? Easiest? Tells you what they think of as hard work and what they find fun and enjoyable. If your hardest tasks fall into the fun and enjoyable category for them - hire 'em!
Hard work is a subjective notion. Until you know how they define hard work, you'll never know if your applicants are willing to work as hard as you need.

Note: If you have questions you've used on this subject that have proven effective, please share. The more questions we can put in our interviewing arsenal the better.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do They Really Care?

Seasonal hiring is upon us. You want people who will truly care about your customers. Here are some questions you should ask in an interview...
  • What are your priorities in life? This can tell you what matters most to them. Watch out, though, this can also be a tell 'em what they wanna hear question. Follow it up with, How do you show this?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough decision. What happened? This helps you see their thought process on their priorities and decision making. Did they put themselves or others first?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty. What happened? Yeah, we used this question before. It is important to know what they think above and beyond is. Plus it shows you what they care about.
  • Who have you helped in your life? Why? This question can give you insight into both helpfulness and caring - and whether they focus more on themselves or others.
Add these questions into your interviewing arsenal and see what you find. The person who cares about others will care about your customers. And that's always a good thing!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Men and Women Do Shop Differently

He stormed out of the store, mumbling how he would never return. Yeah, it was our store, and I was in the department that made him so angry.

I was talking with the baby department staff about the new items I saw at a recent trade show. At some point he slipped into the department unnoticed. The three of us continued our conversation, pausing briefly to greet the customers we saw, offering assistance as needed.

But we never saw him. And he never came over to talk to us. He just left angry that no one bothered to help him with a question he had. He even made a few comments as he left about how my grandfather would never have treated him that way. Ouch.

Frankly, we never saw him enter the department, otherwise we would have greeted him as we did everyone else. Then again, he never came up to us, even though he came in with a question to be answered. Which is the point I want to make.

Men and women shop differently because they communicate differently.

Speaking Vertical
Men speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? For a man to ask a question is to admit that he doesn't know, which makes you think lower of him. That's why we guys don't want to stop and ask for directions. It is also why he entered our department with a question, saw the three of us conversing, and avoided us hoping that we would see him and engage him separately. That way he would have the upper hand in the conversation and wouldn't have to engage three of us at once.

Speaking Horizontal
Women, however, speak more horizontally. Did what I say draw me in closer or push me further away? Asking questions just draws a woman into the inner circle and makes her feel like she belongs. She wants to ask for directions as much as a man doesn't want to ask.

A woman with a question in a retail store will usually ask the first person she sees and keep asking until the question is answered.

Signs Sell
One quick way to remedy the male aversion to asking for help is signage. Put answers to the most frequently asked questions on visible signs where someone might pose those questions. Not only will the men thank you, the introverted women will appreciate those signs, too.

Just watch a man in a store. He walks in, stops, looks around to get his bearings. What is he looking for? Signs to tell him where to go next. He finds his sign, heads off and continues his search. If he doesn't find what he wants, he looks for another sign. Even when someone asks if he needs help, his gut reaction is to say no. He wants to figure it out before having to admit he doesn't know.

Paco Underhill, author of the fabulous book Why We Buy has highlighted this behavior from countless hidden camera recordings.

Men and Women Do Shop Differently
When you approach men (and today's example is a reminder that you have to approach them), they want to speak vertically. Make them feel important and smart and you'll be able to engage them in a way that gets them the help they need without them feeling bad about it.

Women, on the other hand, just want to be part of the inner circle. Invite them in and you'll be golden in their eyes.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Would You Attend This Workshop?

The Jackson Retail Success Academy is now signing up retailers for our 2011 class that starts in January. This 8-week program has been a huge help for new retailers to get the foundation they need to be successful.

Some have asked if we could run this academy in their community so I put together a 2-Day Workshop format.

Would you sign up for this workshop if it was offered in your town?

Retail Success Academy 2-Day Format

Day 1:
8:00am Meet & Greet - goal setting, expectations
8:30am Understanding Your Brand - definition of branding, character diamond workshop

9:30am (break)

10:00am Character Diamonds Revealed
10:45am Traditional Advertising - Creating an ad budget, How Ads Work, Advertising ROI, Ads with Impact

12:00pm (lunch)

1:00pm Marketing on a Shoestring Budget - Word of Mouth, Social Media, Cause Marketing, Networking, Public Relations

2:30pm (break)

3:00pm Understanding Your Financials - Balance Sheets, Income Statements, Ratios & other important numbers
4:00pm Cash Flow Sheet

5:00pm (break for evening)

6:00pm Dinner/Drinks someplace fun in your town

Day 2:
8:00am Resources Breakfast - meet the local Chamber, DDA, Buy Local groups
8:45am Inventory Management - GMROI, Pricing for Profit, Turn Ratios, Open-to-Buy, Cash Flow

10:45am (break)

11:00am Customer Service - The Basics, The Best Practices, The Wow! Service

12:00pm (lunch)

1:00pm Hiring & Training - Identifying the Perfect Employee, interview questions that work, developing a training program

2:15pm (break)

2:30pm Staff Meetings/Training Sessions - hands-on workshop to learn how to plan and run successful meetings & training sessions
4:15pm Final Q&A
4:45pm Evaluations

5:00pm Go be successful!!

Tell me whether you think it would be worth two days to you to attend a business-altering event like this and how much you would expect to pay. (You'll be surprised when I reveal what it would actually cost.)


PS All those links take you to free eBooks I've already written on those topics. The eBooks are extremely helpful but not nearly as much fun and motivating as the live presentation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who Wants to Help?

Signs are popping up all over.

Help Wanted

But shouldn't the sign say "Helpers Wanted"?

When you begin the process of hiring seasonal workers, look for truly helpful people. Look for people with a track record of doing more for others than expected.

You can find these people by asking the following questions...
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond what was expected of you. (helps you see what they consider above and beyond)
  • Give me an example when you made a difference in someone's life. (shows you how helpful they can be)
  • What is the best customer service you have ever received? What made it so special? (shows you what they think is good customer service)
At the end of the day, a person who isn't truly helpful is not the kind of help you want to find.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients - Excerpt from Hiring & The Potter's Wheel

(Here is another excerpt from the book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art)

Chapter 4 Lesson #1 Raw Ingredients
“The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the third good humor, and the fourth wit.” – William Temple, Sr.

Mary arrived at the deli early and sat at the same table she and Dr. Scott had shared last week. She had worked herself up to really let Dr. Scott have it when he arrived. But as he walked through the door, seeing Mary already seated, Dr. Scott waved in her direction and exclaimed with a broad grin, “Wasn’t that fun? I just love digging my hands through clay. Forget pottery, I could just play in the mud and be happy.”

Dr. Scott’s outburst disarmed Mary, but she gathered herself enough to respond, “Sure it was fun, but I didn’t learn a thing about human resources, and I still don’t have a plan for how I’m going to be successful hiring twenty new people. I think you set me up just to fill up your brother’s class. You owe me for that.”

Dr. Scott could see Mary was upset, but he peered over his glasses and started in, “Mary, you can…”

“Stop, I know what you’re going to say. I can do better,” Mary replied. “Don’t go there right now. I’m not happy about all this. I’ve got this job to do and you’re toying with me.”

“Okay,” he said. “I probably should have warned you about my brother. But he is a great teacher, and I stand behind what I said about this class being the best program on human resources.

“Tell me, Mary, what did you learn last night?”

“I learned about clay. Not people, just clay.”

“But what did you learn about clay?”

“That there are three main types of clay, and you must choose the right raw ingredients to get the right final product, otherwise your pottery will be flawed before you even start.”

A thought hit Mary… the right raw ingredients. It dawned on her. Yes, that’s it! It was there all along. You have to have the right raw ingredients before you even start.

Dr. Scott could see Mary’s face dawning with realization. “Something’s coming to you, isn’t it?” he said with a grin.

“It’s all about the raw ingredients. If I want to find the right twenty people for the job, I have to know what raw ingredients I’ll need. Otherwise, I may pick people without those ingredients and they’ll be flawed at best.”

Dr. Scott smiled with approval. “I always said you were one of the smart ones. You are absolutely right. It’s all about starting with the right materials. You have to identify the right traits your potential applicants should have. So, the next step… how are you going to do that?”

Mary thought for a moment. “I’ll need to make a list of all the traits the perfect person would have for the job.”

“And what else?”

“What else? Isn’t that it?”

“You did say there would be a training program, right?”

“Yes,” she confirmed.

“What will you teach in that program?”

“Oh, I get it. I need a list of traits or skills that will not be taught in the training. Sort of the… uhh… ‘non-teachable’ traits.” Mary thought further. “I know. I’ll make a complete list of traits and break them down into two lists, non-teachable and teachable. Then I’ll know first, what I’m looking for and second, what we’ll be training.

“Dr. Scott, I must apologize. I take back all the mean thoughts I’ve had about you since last night. This is great. I feel so much better about this.”

“One more thing,” Dr. Scott added. “After you make your list of traits, draw up a list of questions for the interview that will help you identify if the applicant has those traits. You have to have some means to truly find out if your applicants have what you want. If you need, you can email your list of traits and questions to me for review. Maybe that will make up for the little deception you feel I played on you,” he added with a slight grin.

Lunch was served and Mary spent her meal making mental notes of how to get her staff to brainstorm a list of teachable and non-teachable traits. Mary was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t notice that Dr. Scott had already paid the bill and was ready to leave.

“Have fun Wednesday night,” Dr. Scott said as he departed. Do you want to meet again Thursday?”

Mary was so excited about her new discovery she had forgotten about the next pottery class. “Sure, I’d love to meet Thursday. But this time I’m paying.”


Mary felt like skipping back to her office. The rest of the day she and her staff interviewed the current sales reps trying to identify all of the traits necessary to be successful in that position. By the end of the day Wednesday, they had their list, and Mary had the start of her plan.

Here is what people are saying about the book...

"Phil, Just finished reading your book, and I loved it! Perfect length. Easy to follow. Beautifully written. Seriously, pulling off dialogue like that is incredibly difficult to do, and it deepens one's understanding and appreciation for the lessons you taught. The topology between hiring and pottery was spot on. I've done a poor job of hiring employees in the past, and really wish I had this step-by-step process when I owned my retail business years ago. I especially like the tip about giving new employees a safe place to practice their new skills. How true!" Tom Wanek - Marketing Beyond Advertising

"Just finished your book and loved it. A very easy read with a format that will be helpful to many small business owners as it follows a story line with a company in need of hiring fast and hiring right. You take it one step further though and stress the importance of integrating the new employees correctly. I especially love your tying the job to specifics found in the job description and by interviewing the hiring manager to formulate interview questions as well as your stressing having a set process to follow when hiring since all of us HR types understand the importance of following a consistent process too." Karla Dobbeck, PHR - President, Human Resource Techniques, Inc.

Get your copy of the book today!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Seasonal Hiring

I admire Doug Fleener. I follow his blog. I get his daily email full of great advice for retailers.

Recently he sent an email about hiring seasonal employees. I'll recap some of his main tips here:

  • Hire a Specialist - someone just to do one task rather than a jack of all trades - much easier to train
  • Hire a Customer - she already knows your business to some degree
  • Don't Compromise Your Standards - a poor employee does more harm than no employee
  • Recruit Former Employees - some of your good people have moved on, but might have a few hours to give you around the holidays
To that I would add one important point...

Hire Personality, not Experience
Experience does not necessarily mean "good with people". And experience at a national chain is not the kind of experience you want, anyway. Unless that experience is specifically with your store, experience may be as much a hindrance as a help. You can expend more energy untraining than you do training.

When you hire someone who is truly friendly, caring and helpful, they will learn your way of doing things more quickly. They will treat your customers the right way. They will treat their co-workers better. They will find solutions. In short, even when they don't know exactly what to do, they will do it in a way that makes the customer happy. An occasional incompetence is a lot easier to swallow when a friendly, engaging person makes a mistake, a lot harder when done by someone with an attitude of indifference.

Everyone wants their seasonal staff to perform at the same level as their full-timers. Your best chance starts with hiring the right personality for the job. Everything else you can teach.


For more tips on hiring and training get the book that one MBA and HR professional said,

"It is frankly one of the better business books I have read (and I have read quite a number!)"

Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art