Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ripping a New Ad Part 2

Time to take another critical look at some radio ad copy. This is my ad for November...

The Toys They Play With
It wasn’t on his list. In fact, he’d never heard of it. Christmas morning, it did not get the same exclamation of joy as those other toys he thought he wanted. But when the excitement of those TV-advertised toys turned to disappointment because they barely engaged him longer than their ads, he picked up this other toy. Guess which one he’s still playing with. There are the toys on their list and the toys they play with. You know which ones we carry. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Like before, let's break down this ad on the five points that turn okay copy into great copy. As a reminder, the five points are:

  1. Make only one point

  2. Speak to the heart

  3. Speak more of the customer than you do yourself

  4. Back up all your claims with evidence

  5. Tell a story

Make Only One Point
The point on this ad is clear. The toys we sell have more play value than the ones your kids see on TV. Those are the types of toys you should buy.

Speak to the Heart
This ad has an emotional appeal because it talks about Christmas and both the excitement and disappointment of the toys/gifts of Christmas. Telling it from the perspective of a child adds to the emotional tug. Telling a story that speaks to a fear all too familiar to many parents - getting a bunch of toys that just aren't as fun as they looked on TV - also resonates emotionally.

Speak More of the Customer Than You Do Yourself
In this ad, neither the customer nor the store dominates the copy. The boy does. Story formats, however, help the customer picture herself in the midst of that story. Therefore, this ad speaks implicitly just as often of the customer as it does the store. Informational formats should be more explicit and focus more heavily on the words you and your.

Back Up All Your Claims
The claim in this ad is that toys do not meet the expectations set up by their TV ads. In this case, you either agree with that statement and the ad resonates with you, or you disagree with that statement and therefore disagree with the premise of the ad. I am not trying to convince you of that statement. I only use the claim to define my audience. I am willing to take that polarizing stand because I know that the people who believe that statement will like what I have to offer. Those that do not, will not be interested in my ad or my business.

Tell a Story
Going back to my favorite form of advertising here. Stories beat facts every single day. We are skeptical of facts (hence the importance of backing them up). But we love stories. We are more willing to listen to a story than to hear a bunch of facts. Stories get attention. Stories move people to action. Stories make people feel. Wouldn't you like your ads to get attention, move people to action and make them feel something?

Don't let your radio ads sound like everyone else. Do and say something different.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Based on the five criteria, I gave my last ad a B. How would you rate this one?

PPS I have to give my son, Ian, credit for the inspiration for this ad. Ian told me that one of his favorite Christmas gifts was the large stuffed dog he got in 2005 that still stands guard over his bed every night. As he says... "It wasn't even on my list!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Resume Versus Application Versus Online

You're hiring. You need applicants. What do you require those applicants to fill out?

Some have a basic paper application.
Some have a lengthy questionnaire.
Some have an online application.
Some require a resume.

While each have their merits, I am still a fan of the basic paper application.

Resumes, in my opinion, can be misleading. Supposedly they show that the potential applicant has computer skills, but how do you know they created it themselves? Plus, resumes are not standard. They don't always include all the same info.

Questionnaires can be great for weeding out the not-so-serious candidates, but might also be a barrier that keeps a great potential employee from making that first leap.

Online applications are cold and impersonal. They are faceless and give the message to the applicant that they are simply a number. Plus, there is little effort required on the part of the applicant. She doesn't even have to get out of her pajamas.

The paper application requires penmanship. If your employee has to write anything, wouldn't you love to know if you could read that writing?

The paper application reinforces or refutes education. Spelling and grammatical errors may or may not be a deal-killer, but if her education says she has a degree in English but she cannot spell "customer service", you need to be concerned about the veracity of all her claims.

The paper application shows her short-term attention to detail. Anyone can put detail into a resume. Time is not a factor. But sitting with a clipboard filling out a piece of paper shows you what she thinks is important. If she fills it out hastily and sloppily, chances are good she will work the same way.

The paper application requires completeness. If she does not fill it out completely, you can bet she will not do her job completely.

Computers are great. I love them. I use them all day long. But they cannot replace everything. Especially the amount of hidden information you get from an applicant asked to put pen to paper.

Just my opinion...

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The questionnaire makes for a great second-round application process. If there is nothing on the first application to make you say no, give them the questionnaire and see what responses you get.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Radio Ads That Don't Sound Like Ads in 30 Seconds or Less

The other day I was on a Facebook page with other toy store owners. The subject came up about writing radio ads.

My biggest advice about radio ads is to make them not sound like other radio ads. Say something unique that grabs the listener's attention and then tell a story from that. So I took a line from everyone's comments in that thread on FB and tried to make a radio ad out of it.

I'm posting them here for you to see the creative process. You can say just about anything in the opening line and craft an ad around it. The more outrageous the opening line, the more people will pay attention.

My best ad ever started with the line... "I couldn't believe it. They were taking customers into the men's bathroom!"

For your amusement and motivation, please read on... (and remember, I took a line from everyone's comments and used it for my opening - I especially like the Margarita ad)

The one investment guaranteed to pay off is your child's toys. Before you laugh, hear me out. The quality of the toys you buy is what shapes your child's ability to think and learn. And it isn't just about educational toys. It's about toys that foster creativity and imagination. Invest in those and your child will reap benefits one hundred times greater than the money you spend. Come see me at Toy House and I'll find you the best investment for your child.

Ask not what your toy can do for you, but what you can do with your toy. That's the problem with most toys. They do so much your kid rarely gets to play. Except for the toys at Toy House. We specialize in toys your kids actually play with, toys that foster their creativity and expand their minds. Don't buy toys that do, buy toys that make your kids do. Trust me, they'll thank you for it later.

We have a great Christmas party every year. The best part is that the kids are off playing, leaving us adults alone. Of course, when they get toys from Toy House there is so much more play value that they want to play with their toys. In fact, at our Valentines’ Party they're still playing with those toys. Toys for Christmas that last through Valentine's. You will find them at Toy House.

Given the current stock market roller coaster, I would tell you to invest your money in your child's toys. Buy toys that will expand his imagination. Buy toys that will spark her creativity. No matter what the economy... imagination and creativity are the two skills your kids will need to compete in the future. And you’ll find the best selection of these toys at Toy House in downtown Jackson. That's one investment guaranteed to make you smile.

I never used to have time for Margaritas. I was always busy trying to find new things for my self-proclaimed bored kids to do. Then I found Toy House. They taught me so much about how to evaluate the play value of toys. Now I buy better toys and my kids keep themselves busy. And I have time to relax with my friends sipping our favorite drink. Go to Toy House. They'll teach you everything you... and your kids... need to know.

I was so freaking uninspired. My kids never played more than a couple weeks with all of the toys I bought. I figured, I would try that little toy store down on Mechanic St. Talk about mind-blowing! They showed me how to pick toys that matched my kids skills and interests, how to find toys that had longer lasting play value. You might think being a smaller toy store, it wouldn't have what you want, but Toy House has the kind of toys my kids play with for months on end. Thanks Toy House. You rock!

It's not like buying underwear. Your kids will wear whatever you buy them (if you can get them to wear any at all). But buying toys takes a little more thought. The right toys will grow their brains and put them at the top of their classes in school. The toys that simply entertain them with asking them to do much if anything will create selfish little brats that will cause you to meet with their teachers way too often. So go to Toy House and get top of the class toys. Unlike the underwear, your kids will actually want to use these.

Have fun with your radio ads. Say something interesting and outrageous and people will pay attention. It isn't as hard as you think.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For more on advertising, check out the Freebies section of my website. Seven FREE eBooks to help you spread the word about your wonderful business.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Customer is NOT #1

Yes, I said it. Go ahead and crucify me. But I stand behind it 100%.

The #1 person in your company is your frontline staff. You take care of them, they will take care of the customer. You don't take care of them, they won't take care of the customer. Plain and simple.

But how do you take care of them?

Salary and benefits are nice. Other perks like a parking place, uniforms, an employee lounge, are helpful. But those are simply the starting points. Even the ping pong tables and video games and perceived fun that places like Google brag about only go so far.

What your frontline employees really want is to know that they are valued and they create value for others.

In an interview Google did with its employees, what the employees valued most was, “even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.” (source)


Your staff wants to know you value them as individuals and as team members. There are three easy things you can do right now that will show your staff how much you value them.

First, invest in education and training. The more you do to help them become better employees and better people, the more you show them that they are important to you. You should be training them anyway. But are you offering continual training? Are you offering advanced training? Are you offering personal training? Are you preparing them for work above and beyond their current responsibilities? The more you invest, the more valued they will feel (and the better trained and capable they will be).

Second, listen. Listen to their concerns. Listen to their stories. Take an interest in their lives, in what motivates them. They are giving you clues every time they knock on your door and say, "Got a minute?"

Whenever possible, say YES and turn away from your computer, your catalog, your phone. Give them exclusive one-on-one time where they have your complete, undivided attention. Your body language alone sends a powerful message that you value them as an individual.

Third, praise them. People love to be praised. People love to be told they did something right. Our favorite word to hear is our own name spoken lovingly. When someone does something well, praise them openly and in front of others. Not only will they continue to do well, the other staff will raise their own game in an effort to get that same praise.

Do those three things and your frontline staff will feel valued. Only then will they be able to make your customers feel valued, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There is a great book on motivation called Drive by Daniel H. Pink. I highly recommend you read it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Community Involvement Pays Off

You have already been asked to sponsor seven walks, three golf outings, two spaghetti dinners, a pancake breakfast, and forty-five silent auctions.

Every non-profit thinks your pockets are lined with gold.

And they all promise the same thing. "We'll put your logo on our t-shirt. Thousands of people will see you."

Yeah, right.

The only people who see the logo on a charity event t-shirt are other charity event planners looking for potential suckers, I mean, sponsors. No one has ever made a purchasing decision because of a logo she saw on a t-shirt.

But that does not mean you should not be involved in the community and involved in helping out your local non-profits. You HAVE to get involved. If you do not support your local charities then you cannot call yourself a local store.

Here are two ways you can be involved in your community, support local non-profits, and still remain profitable.

First, give out gift certificates freely. For any local non-profit fundraising event, offer a $20 gift card. You are not out anything unless the card is redeemed and most customers will spend more than the amount of the gift card. Think of it as a customer-acquisition expense. It makes the non-profit feel supported and it gets your name out there in a way that guarantees you some return on your investment.

Second, for those groups who want money, not gift cards, hold a special day just for them. Tell them to pick a day that they can promote to all their followers. On that day you promise to donate to them 5% of whatever sales they bring you. Now the burden is on them to advertise your business for you. Yet look at what you get...

  • Publicity for doing something good for the non-profit.

  • A fixed return on your charitable donation.

  • Exposure to a whole new group of people.

  • Stature as a community supporter.
We have done this for different groups for a number of years. It is always a feel-good day, which gives an added benefit to your staff. They get fired up about it, too.

So get involved in your community. They need you and you need them. Pat their back. They will pat yours in return.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS You can even have multiple non-profits on the same day. Our DDA is doing that with all the downtown businesses on Saturday, November 19 (National America Unchained Day) with fifty non-profits signed up.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

One at a Time

I was on a bus full of rowdy kids with a brand new leader sitting in the front seat. In a voice slightly above a whisper, the leader said, "If you can hear my voice, touch your nose with your thumb."

About five kids nearby put their thumbs on their noses.

Then, with the same voice she said, "If you can hear my voice, put your palm on your cheek." Another half dozen kids joined the first group.

Then, with a normal voice she said, "If you can hear my voice, clap your hands twice." About two-thirds of the bus clapped their hands twice. A few seconds later every voice on the bus went quiet and every child was paying attention.

She never once raised her voice. She never yelled, never cajoled, never forced anyone into being quiet. Instead she invited the kids into her world a few kids at a time. As some kids joined, more kids became interested. In no time at all, she had everyone's rapt attention.

Marketing works the same way.

You can yell and scream and force all the people into listening to your message. They might listen, but they will not hear. As soon as you are done yelling they will go back to what they were doing.

Or you can speak quietly to those closest to you and invite them in. Get them to commit and they will help you get others interested.

The lesson here is easy. First sell to your fans, your VIC's (very important customers). Speak to your current customers. Invite them in. Make them feel special. They will get other people interested in you.

It is a slower growth, but a far better return.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, I'm talking about Word of Mouth. You do not get that just by being good. You have to give your customers something to talk about. First check out this free eBook - Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget. There is a wonderful explanation of the four ways to generate word-of-mouth. Then download the free eBook Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! to see how you can raise your service to a talk-worthy level.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Example of WOW!

My wife was shoe-shopping. A friend told her to try this shoe store at the mall. You all know the kind of service found in a mall chain store, right?

Be amazed.

The sales clerk happened to also be the manager. He was thoughtful, engaged, knowledgeable (all words my wife used to describe him). He asked questions, listened to her, brought her shoes that matched her needs. All the things you expect a good salesperson to do, and especially the manager.

Here's the clincher...

While she was deciding whether or not to make a purchase, he picked up the shoes she had worn in and washed them.

He cleaned her old shoes. No expectations on his part, he simply picked up her old shoes and washed them with a special cloth. She was not yet decided on making a purchase, but that definitely closed the sale. Yeah, she's talking about this experience to everyone she knows. Totally unexpected service that costs the store almost nothing, but buys the store a ton of advertising.

That is WOW!

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you are a jewelry store you should be cleaning the rings of every customer who walks through the door. If you are a stroller store you should be lubricating every squeaky wheel. If you are a store that caters to moms and babies you should have a fully-stocked changing station. What unexpected simple little nicety can you offer?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Busy Season

As a toy retailer everyone expects that my busy season is December. They would be wrong.

December is the store's busy season. My busy season is right now. Here is my October To-Do List:

  • Place all my orders for product I expect to sell in December. If I wait too much longer, many of the best items will already be sold out.

  • Hire and train my seasonal staff. This involves writing and placing ads to attract applicants, weeding through all of the applications, scheduling and doing interviews, doing background and reference checks, setting up a training schedule, updating the employee handbook, and doing the actual training. It also includes refresher courses for the regular staff.

  • Place orders for all selling supplies. I need to make sure I have plenty of bags, giftwrap, price tags, receipt paper, toilet paper, paper towels, layaway string, tape, etc. to get through the holidays. Do it now or forget and not have it when you need it.

  • Prepare my marketing campaign. I need to write/create/produce/schedule all of our marketing for November and December. This includes promotional events like Neighborhood Toy Store Day, the Downtown Christmas Parade, Discover Downtown Again Day, and the Toys for Tots Breakfast. This also includes writing radio ads and planning a Facebook campaign.

  • Carefully plot out cash flow. The money rolls in during December. The money rolls out during October and November as we stock up for the holidays. That means I have to pay close attention to every penny I spend.

  • Clean up. The entire store needs a fresh and thorough dusting. Displays need to be upgraded or moved out. Merchandising needs to be plotted and planned for all the new products coming in.
Yes, my busy season is right now. After I accomplish all those things over the next few weeks I'll have plenty of free time in December to do what I do best - sell toys.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I wrote this list as much for MY benefit as for YOURS. For me, it is a reminder to stay focused on the tasks at hand. For you it is a reminder of all the things you need to do to make this the most successful selling season ever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Being an Expert is Easy, Sharing is (not) Hard

You already are an expert.

According to the famous physicist, Neils Bohr, "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field."

I take a more liberal approach.

An expert is someone who knows more than me on a given topic.

Most of your customers would agree. If you know more about a topic than they do, you are an expert to them. If it is a topic of which they would like to learn more, they will seek you out.

So accept the fact that you are an expert. The next step is to learn to share that expertise.

Here is a three-step process for learning how to share your expertise well:

  1. Boil down your ideas into two or three main points. Make them simple points that are easy to remember. Label each point with some catchy phrase or title.

  2. Find evidence to support each point. Reports, quotes, examples and especially anecdotes all work well for this.

  3. Choose products you sell to help make your points. Your products bring the points closer to home, help establish your position as the expert (you are walking the walk), and connect your expertise to your store.
Once you have done those three things, you can then choose the platform(s) you wish to use to share. Here are just some options you can use:

  • Facebook - The plus side is that you can use pictures, the downside is that you have to be brief and to the point.

  • Email Newsletters - A little more room to make your point.

  • Your Website - Give yourself a page on yor website just for sharing your expertise. It helps brand you as the expert in your field for your locals, and helps build trust with non-locals who have never heard of you till they clicked you in a search.

  • A Blog - Wordpress and Google have blogs you can set up for free in seconds.

  • Youtube - Another free service, you can even post your videos to Facebook, your website and your blog.

  • Press Releases - Pass your information along to journalists and bloggers. Let them promote your expertise.

  • Speaking Engagements - Your local service groups (Lions Club, Rotary, Exchange Club, Kiwanis, etc) are always looking for speakers. Plus, most towns have women's clubs, mother's clubs, networking clubs, etc.

  • Classes in your store - Probably the easiest of all. Clear out a space in the store. Announce the topic and time. Share.
There are plenty of opportunities to share what you know. And share, you must. Sharing builds trust with your customers. Sharing makes your customers smarter and more loyal. Sharing creates opportunities to reach out to potential new customers.

Be the expert you already are. Be it willingly and generously. To paraphrase Carl Rogers, Who you are is good enough, if only you would be it openly.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Afraid to speak in public? Start simple. Practice your presentations by first giving them to your staff - a friendly crowd. First, you empower them with that knowledge so they can be experts, too. Second, they will be forgiving of your mistakes, but also quick to point them out, which will help you improve. Third, because of the familiarity, you will be less nervous.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is Your Staff Laughing?

Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Laughter decreases stress hormones.
Laughter decreases the risk for heart disease.
Laughter oxygenates the cells and helps fight cancer.
Laughter boosts serotonin levels which helps your mood.
Laughter releases interleukins that boost your immune system.
Laughter releases endorphins that can even cause temporary pain relief.
Laughter works your core muscles, which promotes better spinal alignment.

Laughter also strengthens relationships. Someone who is laughing and smiling immediately looks more "attractive". The key part of that phrase is "attract". Smiles and laughter "attract" other people. You know this. You would much rather approach a person who is smiling than someone who is frowning.

Laughter opens the mind, too. People who laugh are more willing to listen, more willing to see things from other points of view, more willing to engage with other people.

So to recap... People who laugh are healthier, happier, more attractive, more engaging and more approachable. People who laugh are more open-minded and listen better.

Sound like the perfect sales staff?

Encourage and foster laughing in your staff and not only will they see benefits, so will your business.

We have three rules of laughter on the sales floor.

  1. Laughter has to be inclusive. If you are laughing at instead of with, then it has to stop.

  2. There are no inside jokes. If it isn't funny to everyone, it doesn't belong on the sales floor.

  3. Appropriate laughter should be encouraged at all times.
Not only is laughter good, it fits into our Core Value of Having Fun and our mission - We're here to make you smile.

So I leave you with this one final thought...

There was a captain sailing on the sea during a battle. His servant came up to him and the captain said, "Bring me my red shirt."

So, the servant did as the captain said.

After the battle the servant came up to the captain and said, "Why did you say bring me my red shirt?"

The captain said, "Well if I got shot the crew wouldn't see the blood and be demoralized."

The next day the servant came up to the captain and said, "There are 50 ships on the horizon."

The captain said, "Bring me my brown pants."

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One way to encourage laughter is to play. Have game nights with your staff or join a sports league like softball or bowling. Another way is to have a joke session at your next meeting. Whatever it takes, set up a culture where appropriate laughter is the norm.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Driving Traffic to Your Site (SEO)

I had a local entrepreneur contact me about her website. When she launched she was getting regular sales. But she hasn't had a sniff in months. She thought maybe something was wrong with her site and asked me to take a look.

She sells Made in Michigan, lead-free, lightweight, high-quality, reusable shopping bags, something worth a look for stores like ours. Check out her site, It will be helpful in understanding the rest of this post. (Full disclosure - nothing to disclose. I am not promoting her site or products, did not know her other than as a customer before she approached me, this is purely for educational purposes, but if you like what she's selling, by all means, buy it.)

I took a look at her site and did not see anything inherently wrong with it. But I am not the best judge of that. I do not shop much online, prefer to buy local whenever possible. So I ask you to check it out and tell me what you see that could be done better.

Her biggest problem, however, is one we all face.

I Googled her product category "Reusable Shopping Bags". Thirty five pages deep, I gave up. She was nowhere to be found.

So I gave her the following list of things to do to raise her site in the rankings of Google and other search engines...

1) Make sure you have good keywords and metatags. Whoever designed your website should know what I mean. Basically, you want to have the key phrases people might use to search for your product in the keywords and metatags (behind the scenes) parts of you website.

2) Get some "link love". The more that other websites link to you, the higher your site will rise in Google's eyes.

Ways to get links include asking your friends/customers who have websites to put your logo and a link on their sites. Also, you can launch a Facebook Page, a Google Places Page, a Yelp Page, etc. If you have a profile on LinkedIn or any other type site, make sure your website is referenced there.

Another way to get links is to comment on blogs and articles online. Run a search on all the articles on lead in shopping bags and write a quick comment like "That's why I decided to make and market some Michigan-made, lead-free, reusable shopping bags." Find the bloggers who are writing about this and make comments on their blogs, too.

3) Consider starting your own blog. You can get free blog sites from blogspot and wordpress. It takes time, but you can grow a following. Simply write quick, short, one-paragraph reminders of why using reusable bags is so good. Have links to other articles. Have photos and video. And make sure each post links back to your site.

4) Do a youtube video of the bag and why it is so cool. Most smartphones have video so making a video is easy. It doesn't have to be polished, just has to be clear and informative. Post it on youtube (free), link to it from your Facebook page and website. Email it to friends and clients and ask them to share.

5) Find yourself in the Google Search and "+1" your listing (click on the little box next to your listing and get all your friends to do the same). This is tedious because you may have to search through dozens of pages of Google Search before finding yourself. But if you and 5 friends each do this on their computers, it will make a difference.

All of the above will simply cost you time, not money. If you want to spend some money, consider Google Adwords. You can drive a lot of traffic that way, but you have to convert a large portion of your visitors to be worth it.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I know there are some savvy SEO gurus out there who read this blog. Did I hit the mark? Anything I missed that she could do? Anything with which you patently disagree? Your comments will help all of us grow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Lesson From Steve Jobs

My son is thirteen. He downloads Apple iPod/iPad/iPhone manuals for "light reading". His favorite thing at the library is the latest edition of Mac World Magazine. His email address is applenerd@_ _ _. This past summer he taught the teachers in his school district how to use their shiny new iPads. We drove him and his brother to Ann Arbor (40 miles away) four days in one week so that they could attend "Apple Camp" at the Apple Store in Briarwood Mall.

Yesterday's news was tough in our household.

Many bloggers will be reminiscing about Steve Jobs and what he did at Apple. Here are two things we, as retailers, can take away.

First, the whole concept of Apple Camp is brilliant. Invite a group of people to come to your store multiple times over a one week period and do a continuous activity with them. Imagine having a dozen of your best customers stopping by at 4pm every day to do an activity you planned for them. Your cost would be minimal - some supplies, a little bit of marketing, time from a staff member. Your benefits would be HUGE. Every single attendee would become an instant evangelist singing your praises far and wide.

Give your customers something to talk about and they will talk about it. Apple Camp is what solidified my child as a lifelong fan of Apple.

Second, the Genius Bar is absolute genius. Most of your customers are coming to you because of trust. One way you gain that trust is through information. Apple, by creating the Genius Bar, made it clear that not only did they have people with the information, those people were available purely for the job of passing along that information.

Two great aspects of retail that Apple did right and we all can emulate. Thanks, Steve!

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, you can hold a camp. You are an expert in your field. You know more about your products than your customers do. Figure out a fun way to share that information. If you are a toy store, have toy demonstrations or game nights or puppet shows or dress-up fashion runways. If you are a jewelry store, have a class on gemstones or precious metals. If you are an auto parts store, teach people how to change their wiper blades or even their oil. If you are a clothing store, have an event around Fashion Week in NY. The ideas are endless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ripping a New Ad

I just recorded my October radio ad. Here is the ad copy...

They gave up on you. They dropped layaway. They dropped a friendly knowledgeable sales staff. They even dropped classic toys like wooden building blocks. Oh, sure, they brought back layaway, but only for a fee. Our layaway is still free. So is our giftwrapping. And with over five times as many toys as any of our local competitors, why would you shop anywhere else? We’ve always been here for you. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

There are five things that turn okay ads into great ads.

  1. Make only one point

  2. Speak to the heart of the customer

  3. Speak more of the customer than you do of yourself

  4. Back up all your claims with evidence

  5. Tell a story
Let's break this ad down and see how it does...

Make Only One Point
This ad is what is known as a contrast ad, designed to contrast one business with another. In this case I use multiple examples to make the point that they don't care about you, we do. I open with that point - They gave up on you - and close with that point - We've always been here for you. This message is consistent with our Character Diamond, focusing on the core value HELPFUL.

Speak to the Heart
On this I could have done better. Contrast ads, however, are about information more than emotion. Still, for effect I added emotion into the line, Oh sure, they brought back layaway, but only for a fee. Sometimes emotion is in how you read it as much as in what you say.

Speak More of the Customer
Here is the same copy but with the key words highlighted...

They gave up on you. They dropped layaway. They dropped a friendly knowledgeable sales staff. They even dropped classic toys like wooden building blocks. Oh, sure, they brought back layaway, but only for a fee. Our layaway is still free. So is our giftwrapping. And with over five times as many toys as any of our local competitors, why would you shop anywhere else? We’ve always been here for you. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

On this point I did not do well. Spoke of myself six times and the customer four times (and the competitor five times). How could I have spoken more of the customer? Hint: each of the "They" sentences could have included a "you". Oh sure, they brought back layaway for you, but only if you pay a fee.

Back Up Your Claims
My big claim is that they gave up on you. To support that claim I point out how they dropped layaway and only brought it back with a fee. I also point out how they stopped carrying certain toys.

The only unsupported claim I made was about the friendly, knowledgeable staff. This point is a matter of opinion. Without evidence to back that up I am taking a risk that people will not believe my ad. Those people who believe my competitors do offer great service will dismiss my ad.

In this case I am banking on two things. First, that most people generally believe that my competitors have lousy customer service. This is called assumptive reasoning. Second, that because I backed up my main point, people will believe this secondary claim.

Note: The final claim I make - that we carry five times as many toys - is also not backed up by evidence. But mainly because the evidence is in the store. No one would expect me to count it all for them on the air. But since I give a specific number like five as opposed to saying "way more" or "much more" the claim is more believable. Listeners expect that I have done the math before making a claim like that. And I have. It is true.

Tell a Story
Stories are powerful. Many of my radio ads paint mental pictures for the listener. The mental image for this ad is how my competitors are giving up services while we still have them. Although not as powerful of an emotional story as I have written before, this ad is a good alternative because contrast helps lay the foundation for making future stories believable.

Here is an ad I wrote with a much more powerful story...

You do not have to be a fantastic copywriter to write quality ad copy. Just stick to the five points above and your ads will resonate far better than the boring look at me ads most stores run.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I gave myself a B for this ad. But it is also part of the bigger picture. Sometimes I use certain ad styles today to set up ads for tomorrow. When you have a long horizon view, a long timeline for your business, you will make different decisions than if you only worry about the here and now.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is Somebody Trying to Screw You?

You think your return policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.
You think your layaway policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.
You think your giftwrapping policy is quite liberal. Somebody still tries to take advantage of you.

No matter what wonderful, friendly, customer-oriented, liberally-applied service you offer, there is always that one customer who will try to take advantage of it and you. Don't take it personally. It isn't you, it is her. She does that with everyone. She always pushes the boundary.

There are two ways to deal with her.

Either tighten up your policies so restrictive and enforce them so tough that she stops doing business with you altogether. Or simply allow her to do what she wants and chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

The first way, however, doesn't solve the problem. The tighter your policies and the tougher you enforce them, the more boundary pushers you will have. Since these customers are a real pain the neck for your staff, all you accomplish is to upset more people including your front line workers who are the face of your business.

The second way is much better. First understand that the vast majority of your customers are not out to screw you. They love you. The few who actually take advantage of you are exactly that - a few. Embrace them. Love them. Shower them with affection for being customers and you very well might even convert them into partners who work for the mutual benefit of both of you.

Plus, when you make your policies so liberal that it is almost impossible for someone to try to take advantage of you, you eliminate much of the negative feelings your staff might have towards certain customers, feelings, by the way, that can be felt by everyone in the store.

Make your policies liberal, then make them even more liberal. Do you allow returns? Instead of 30 or 60 days, give them a year to change their mind. Give them a store credit if they don't have a receipt. We once took back a large boxed item that had our competitor's sticker on it. It was a product I knew I would sell quickly so it was a win-win. The customer was happy and I was, too.

Then empower your staff to make your customers smile by breaking the rules whenever possible. It makes your staff feel more important, makes them happier, too.

Most of your customers will have a receipt, will be in quickly, will not give you any hassles - no matter how you determine your return policy. So make your policy over-the-top liberal and you make everyone happy - except maybe the gal who really did want to screw you.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This goes for return policies, but also any policy you might have. Make it in the favor of the customer. Make it as easy for her to understand and use as you possibly can. The more restrictions and disclaimers, the more it turns her off. More than likely she will never use the most liberal part of that policy. But both she and your staff will be happier when you gladly give so much leeway.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stay the Course

I sailed for the University of Michigan club sailing team. Finished 4th in the nation in the fall of 1986 in a windy National Sloop Regatta on Lake St. Clair outside of Detroit. Winds of 30 knots shifting and changing.

The Naval Academy won that event.

I wasn't a very good captain. My specialty was boat speed. I knew how to sail fast. With every shift in the wind I would shift to maintain optimum boat speed, regardless of direction. That was our downfall.

The Naval Academy team focused on direction, adjusting the sails to meet the changes in the wind, but always keeping their eyes on the prize.

My boat was faster. They won the race.

Retail can be a lot like sailboat racing. If you go chasing every fad (every wind shift), you might be moving fast, but not necessarily towards your goal. You'll feel the wind whipping in your face and everything will feel good. But the ultimate destination remains far away.

Understand that to reach your goal you will have to make adjustments, but don't throw your whole strategy overboard on a whim. You might not be traveling as fast as someone else, but as long as you're heading in the right direction, you will get there.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you don't have a direction, check out this free eBook on branding: Understanding Your Brand. Once you know your core values, just choose one of those values and be the leader in your industry in that value.