Saturday, July 28, 2012

Magnetic Love and Hate

Take two magnets and push them together.  See how well they connect.  If they are strong enough, one can actually attract the other one to it.

Now turn one magnet around.  See how it pushes the other magnet away?

Magnets are governed by universal laws of physics.  The stronger the magnet's ability to attract, the more it will also repel.  Your advertising works the same way.

You cannot attract everyone.  It is impossible to be everything to everyone.  So focus on those you wish to attract the most (hint: like the magnet, it is those who are already aligned with your way of doing business), knowing full well that the stronger you try to attract them, the more you will repel others (who weren't aligned with your way of business in the first place.)

Your goal should be to have an ample supply of people who love your advertising and hate it.  No middle ground.  The opposite of love isn't hate, it is indifference.  And the worst thing your ads can stir up would be indifference.  If they do, you've just wasted your money.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Yeah, I learned that from the Wizard.  Have you signed up for his free Monday Morning Memo?  It is the first email I read every Monday morning.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Advertising Versus Public Relations

I may be different because I look at Advertising and Marketing and Public Relations as just similar types of the same product - exposure of your business to the public.  You can add Location to that mix, too.  You can even add Customer Service.  All five serve the same purpose.  They just do it a different way.  Some companies have completely different departments to carry out each function, often without one knowing what the other is doing.

They are not entities to themselves, just tools you use to promote your business, promote your message.  I found this joke on the website that pretty well sums it up. (You'll notice that the message is quite clear;-)

You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and say, "I am very rich. Marry me!"

That's Direct Marketing.

You’re at a party with a bunch of friends and see a gorgeous girl.
One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you and says,
"He's very rich. Marry him."

That's Advertising.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and get her telephone number.
The next day you call and say, "Hi, I’m very rich. Marry me."

That's Telemarketing.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl.
You get up and straighten your tie; you walk up to her and pour
her a drink.
You open the door for her; pick up her bag after she drops it,
offer her a ride, and then say,
"By the way, I'm very rich. Will you marry me?"

That's Public Relations.

You're at a party and see a gorgeous girl.
She walks up to you and says, "You are very rich."

That's Brand Recognition.

You see a gorgeous girl at a party.
You go up to her and say, "I'm rich. Marry me"
She gives you a nice hard slap on your face.

That's Customer Feedback!!!!

Read more:

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you are unsure of the purpose of your Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations, Location, and Customer Service... they all serve to let people know your Core Values.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Return on Investment

In June 2011 we launched a generous Birthday Club.  We offered our customers a $10 gift certificate on their birthday and a chance to ring the Birthday Bell - a thirty-two pound brass bell hanging on a pole in the middle of our store.

We were looking for three things from this promotion.  Traffic, Smiles, and Word of Mouth.

Prior to the launch of the Birthday Club we had been in a traffic decline due to the economics of this region and severe decline in youth population in our area (almost 10% drop in children under 18 since 2000).  Since the Birthday Club we have had five months with increased traffic, even as our population base continues to decline.  

We take a picture of each kid after ringing the bell.  The current month gets posted on the wall.  The previous months are cataloged in a posterboard-sized book that customers are always looking through.  Those smiles are evident.  Some of the most telling smiles, though, are the comments on my Facebook page.  We asked how the Birthday Club was doing and had a dozen comments in a couple minutes all raving about it.

Word of Mouth
Some of that is happening right now on Facebook.  Some of that is happening as people take pictures with their own cameras and send them to loved ones and friends.  Some of that is happening when people talk about their plans... "Oh. we're going to the Toy House today to spend our Birthday Gift Certificate."

So far so good.

But at What Cost? 
So far year-to-date we have redeemed over 53% of the coupons we sent out.  The average ticket has been much higher than projected.  Our profit margin on those sales even after the costs of printing/mailing/redeeming the gift certificate is 32% compared to 48% on non-birthday gift certificate sales.  

So the big question is... Is the 16%  in lost revenue on those sales worth it?  

The Birthday Club generates Traffic, Smiles, and Word-of-Mouth, oh yeah, and Sales.  Would a 16% off coupon generate the same?   

Yeah, some might say there is a better way for me to spend those dollars to increase my sales.  And they would be right... if sales were the goal.  
The most important element for me is the long-term investment in the Smiles. 
Since I am in toys, my customer base is always shifting.  The kids shopping today will take a short break until they have kids of their own.  The parents shopping today will take a short break until they become grandparents.  The Birthday Club is one way I invest in their return, first by giving them an incentive to return even in the "non-toy" years and second, by creating long-lasting memories that will bring them back when the time is right (and still generate that WOM as they talk about me to their friends, even when they aren't in a buying phase.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The key to any promotion is to know exactly what you hope to accomplish.  Then measure your results based on your goal.  That is the only way to really know the Return on Investment of any advertising campaign.  The best method I have for determining your goal for anything is to finish the following statement...
"This will be a success if..."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do We Need a Law for This?

There is a bill before the State Senate in Michigan called the Family Education Leave Act that allows employees up to 10 hours of unpaid time off each year to attend school functions without retribution from the employer.

My first thought was... Really?  We need a law for that?
Let's start with this simple premise... 
Your business is only as good as the employees in it.  
Can we agree on that?  Therefore, to make your business better, you need better employees.  You can do that one of two ways.
  1. Hire better people
  2. Train your people better
Obviously, even if you do the first, you will still need to do the second to reach your maximum potential.
Wanna know a secret that makes #2 easier?
Treat your people better.
The better you treat your staff - the more you praise them, appreciate them, recognize that they have a life outside of work - the better and harder they will work for you.  That is simple human nature.  

My employees know that I will bend over backwards to make sure they can attend school events, sporting events, and other milestone moments in their children's lives.  In return, my employees also bend over backwards to cover for each other, and make sure my business is running smoothly.  

We don't need a law, we need better employers.  Be one of those better employers.  It is good for your business.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Some people cannot be trained better no matter how hard you try.  Fire them and go back to #1.  Sometimes, however, it isn't the training or the person that is at fault, it is the culture.  You determine the culture by who you hire and how you treat them.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What You DID Build

There is a lot of furor over President Obama's statement,

"If you've got a business, you didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen."

I know when I first read it, it made my blood boil.  Then I stopped, took a deep breath and went looking for the complete quote to see how it had to have been taken out of context.  Did you, too?  The next thing I did was look for all the usual rants and raves from all sides.  Predictable.

I think the best take on the whole matter was written by The Washington Examiner's Senior Editorial Writer Philip Klein (great first name).  Enough said on that issue.

Instead of my own rants on the subject, I have two other thoughts.

First, we can argue until the cows come home about what he actually meant.  And that won't accomplish a single thing.  Arguing won't build a road or a business.  Businesses have to be built by someone who is willing to quit arguing and start doing.  You cannot argue or complain yourself to success. You should also get all the help you can. There are resources out there for you.  I like to remember what Harry S. Truman said,

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.".

So go out there and build.  Build what you can.  Build with your heart.  Build with your mind.  Build with passion.  Be proud of what you build.  Be amazed.  Be humble.  Yes, you took all the risks and did all the heavy lifting, and you got some help along the way.  As Sir Isaac Newton reminds us,

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants."

Second, although passion drove you to build your business, control your passion enough to let wisdom and patience guide you as well.  When a customer or sales rep or vendor (or President) says something that makes your blood boil, stop, take a deep breath and try to see the other side of the story.  You cannot control what other people say, only how you respond to them.

The one thing we all can build is goodwill towards others.  Build goodwill with your customers.  Build goodwill with your employees.  Build goodwill with your vendors.  You don't need anyone's help to do that. And no one can ever take that away.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Hopefully you got that this post was more about how to deal with an unhappy, unruly, or unreasonable customer than it was about politics.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thanks! It Works!

I have been teaching a class for new and expectant fathers through our local hospital for the past ten years.  Twice a month I sit these daddies-to-be around a table and teach them how to change a diaper, swaddle a baby, and take care of the mother.  Our two-hour time together is one of my favorite moments each month.

Today I got a Thank You Card in the mail from one of the dads along with a birth announcement.  It totally made my day.  In the card he told me which tip he found to be the most helpful (it was about keeping more than one diaper bag packed and being responsible for packing them daily, so that his wife could leave the house multiple times.)  It was easily my favorite moment of the day.

In fact, it changed the entire outlook of my day.  And today was a heck of a day.  Mistakes on the cash registers, money shortages, a visit from the police (no, I didn't do anything wrong), employee issues, scheduling conflicts.  All that faded into the background because of this one note.

Yes, thank you cards can be that powerful.  Which reminds me that I need to write more of them.

I need to thank my top customers, my big spenders.  And I should also thank some of the medium spenders and see if I can turn them into big spenders.

I need to thank my best sales reps and let them know how much I appreciate the time they put into working with me.  They work long hours, spend a lot of time on the road, and have to put up with a lot of crap. Yet the best ones still have my best interests at heart.

I need to thank my vendors.  After all, without them I don't have the largest selection of toys under one roof. They are not my suppliers, they are my partners.  Some of them bend over backwards to help me, sending samples for display and prizes for giveaways.  They deserve to be appreciated for inventing and producing the great toys that make me money.

If I can feel this good about getting a thank you in the mail, imagine how good your customers will feel about you when you write them a personal, hand-written note.  Imagine how much more your reps will want to help your account when you acknowledge all the hard work they do.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised your supplier will be when he receives a thank you in the mail. Yes, he will look at your account more favorably.

Frankly, I will admit that I am bad at writing these kinds of notes.  But today was a stark reminder to me how powerful they can be and why I need to write more.  And now I've reminded you, too.  If I could just find a pen...

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  A friend of mine keeps a stack of blank note cards and envelopes on her desk.  She starts out every morning by writing notes and getting them in the mail.  She says not only does it help her stay on top of the thank you's she needs to write, it also puts her in a good mood to start the day by being grateful to all those who have helped her.  (I also imagine her desk is a lot less cluttered than mine - but it is a worthy goal to aspire.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Marry Your Inventory

I had a buyer who insisted that he had to keep 24 pieces of a particular item in stock.  It was a "must have" item, he told me time and time again.  Fortunately, we have a POS system that tracks the sales of these "must haves".  In the previous 18 months he had sold exactly one.

I define "must haves" as items people come in asking for by name.  If your customer walks through the front door and says, "Where is...?", that is a must have.  If you bought 24 of an item and 18 months later you still have 23, that is a must go.

The problem we often run into is two-fold.  First, we believe strongly in the products we buy.  If we didn't we wouldn't (shouldn't?) buy them in the first place.  Second, we don't like to admit our mistakes.  So we end up marrying our inventory, sticking with them far longer than we should, hoping things will work out.

Don't marry your inventory.  Instead think of your relationship with your inventory as more of a foster parent trying to find each item its forever home.  Your inventory is supposed to leave you - the quicker, the better!  Your inventory needs to move on, create new relationships.  Your job is to help it go.  Some of your inventory is so good at meeting new people that it goes easily and often.  Some takes time (and discounting).

So accept that you will make buying mistakes.  We all do.  Accept that your inventory is not your partner.  Change the relationship dynamic and do what you have to do to move it out.  Pack the bags and smile every time you place your inventory in a new home.  The good news is that there will always be more inventory to replace the ones you sent away.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Not sure if you have married your inventory?  Check out my e-Book Inventory Management (free download) and do a little math to see if your inventory levels are where they should be.

PPS  How long should you hold onto something before you discount it?  It depends on the type of product you carry and the type of retailer you are. I have retail friends who give a product 30 days to prove their worth.  I know other retailers who give it one quarter or season.  I like to give my toys one Christmas to find their forever home on their own before I step in to help.  It all depends on the product and type of store.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's Good for Morale, Too!

Do you have a way for your customers to tell you what they think?  Most of them won't say it to your face.  Only a small handful will pick up the phone and call.  A few will post it on Facebook.  But wouldn't it be better to capture their joy and excitement of visiting your store at the moment it happens?

Not only does a Guest Book like this allow your customers to sing your praises at the moment they are feeling overjoyed by their visit, it gives you some incredible feedback.  There are clues hidden in the messages they write.  (If no one praises you at all, that's a really big clue that they aren't having the kind of fun they should be having.)

One of the benefits most people miss is that when a customer takes the time to write something down, it helps her brain store that thought more permanently.  Therefore, she will think more highly of you just from the simple act of writing it down, and she will be more likely to sing your praises to others because the memory is so much stronger.

Plus, your staff gets a big boost when they read the flowery praises you are most likely to get.  It reinforces all you have been teaching them about the power of WOW Customer Service.  It gets them fired up to continue raising the bar.

My staff will sometimes call me out of the office just to read what another customer wrote.

Set up a Guest Book in your store.  See how it increase both your word-of-mouth referrals and the morale of your staff.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  And those aren't even the best things said about us in our book!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Do This Math - Now!

Do this math.  It is easy.  If you have a POS system worth a damn, it is really easy.

On the first of every month run a report that shows you your total Inventory at Cost that you have on hand.  Write it down.  Put it in a spreadsheet.  Just collect that number Every. Single. Month.

It comes in handy when you want to know whether you are getting the proper return on the money you spend on inventory, whether your inventory is too high or low, how your inventory (and hence cash flow) fluctuates, and when you need to think about having a sale.

Most POS systems don't actually track this number over time, only what you have on hand today.  So on the first of the month, after you say "Rabbit", find out your Inventory at Cost.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  How does that number come in handy?  To calculate your Turn Ratio and Gross Margin Return on Inventory, you need to know your Average Inventory at Cost (those 12 numbers added together and divided by 12).  I figure if I remind you now, you won't have to do as much digging to get the numbers from the first 6 months of the year.

PPS  My 4th grade teacher taught us that if you say "Rabbit" as the first word out of your mouth at the start of the month, you will have good luck all month.  I've been doing it for over 30 years (who says you don't remember what you learn in school?) and it works.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Make it More Fun

At a recent conference I attended, a statistic was thrown out from the National Retail Federation that 78% of customers say they would shop somewhere else that is more fun.  I couldn't find the source for that stat.  But let's just assume it is true that a large percentage of people will choose fun over loyalty.

Are you surprised?

For many customers, shopping is an event.  Shopping is a happening, something to which you invite your friends to join you.  On the other hand, for many customers shopping is a chore.  Shopping is drudgery, a time-consuming event that sucks all the energy out of your life.

Let me ask... Which of those two groups would be attracted to a more fun shopping option?

If you said both, move to the head of the class.  Now that statistic doesn't seem so far-fetched.  Now your mission is much more clear.  Make your store the most fun option in your category.

Some of you think I have an unfair advantage of being fun because I sell toys.  But remember that because I am a toy store, the bar of expectations is quite high.  We're supposed to be a fun place to shop.  Here are some things to remember about fun in retail...

  • It has to be inclusive.  Make sure your customers are part of the fun.  No one does this better than the famous Pike Place Fish Market that regularly includes the audience customers in their skits and routines.
  • It has to be family-friendly.  If there is the slightest chance children will be in the store, keep it PG or milder. (Note: tobacco shops and adult video stores can disregard that last statement.)
  • It has to be all the time.  Even if you or a member of your staff is having an off day, you have to be on for the customers.  They will notice when you don't have the same level of energy.  Fake it if you have to.  

Fun could include...

  • Displays for customers to try before they buy.  
  • Acting a little goofy and silly.
  • Making a big deal over each and every customer, showing them appreciation and special attention.  (The same presentation said 70% of your customers who leave, do so because of lack of appreciation.)
  • Constantly re-merchandising your store to come up with cool new displays and excitingly creative windows.
  • Contests such as paint a poster of your favorite experience at our store, write our new radio ad, design our next t-shirt.
  • Smiling all the time and being friendly no matter what the circumstances

If the NRF is right, 78% of the customers out there are hoping you will be more fun!  Don't disappoint them.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The number one thing you can do is appreciate your customers.  Smile at them.  Greet them like family.  Treat them like royalty.  Thank them profusely.  Rick Segel says the best opening line - even better than "Hello" - is to say "Thanks for coming in."  Your customers have so many other options, yet they chose you.  Create a culture of appreciation and your customers will think your store is the most fun place to shop.

PPS  If your current staff cannot make your store fun, you need to get a new staff.  Now!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Would You Do With...?

What would you do with 60 copies of the book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art?

  • Would you use them to prop up a table leg or two that is out of balance?  
  • Would you use them as a door stop to keep the front door open when the wind blows?
  • Would you try to sell them and make some money?
  • Would you give them out as favors at your next big gathering?
  • Would you wrap them and give them as thoughtful gifts to anyone you knew who did a lot of hiring?
  • Would you have a contest to see who could stack them in the most interesting way?
  • Would you create a wall covering with the book jackets?
  • Would you use them to start a bonfire on your next camping trip?
  • Would you use them to hold down the floor or hold up the dust?

What would you do with four hours of time with an award-winning, creative-thinking, trend-setting retailer whose store was named One of the 25 Best Independent Stores in America?

  • Would you use him to train your staff to take Customer Service to levels you never knew existed?
  • Would you use him to give you one-on-one advice on your marketing, your inventory management, your hiring & training, or your financials to help you find the extra $10,000-$20,000 you know is hidden in there somewhere?
  • Would you have him help you uncover your Character Diamond so you will have a blueprint and guide for every single business decision going forward?
  • Would you get him to write you new advertising copy that will drive more of your type of customer through the door?
  • Would you share his talents with other businesses in the form of a seminar or workshop that helps everyone become stronger, raising the tide for all the boats in your area?
  • Would you ask him to bring his guitar and harmonica for a little performance?
What if I told you that you could have both for only $1200?  That's it. 

Twelve hundred dollars gets you:
  • Sixty copies (one case) of my book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel for you to use as you please.
  • Four hours of my time and business knowledge to help you succeed.
I'll pay my own way to travel to your location (Continental US only).  I'll pay for my own room for one night.  I'll bring the books, handouts, and whatever other resources available to me to help you meet your goals.

What are you waiting for?  Contact me.  (Or share this with someone who could use it.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  In case you're wondering if this is a good deal...  I typically charge $1000-$2000 plus travel expenses for a one hour presentation.  Books sold separately.  This deal is two-fold.  First, to help spread my book out to the world.  There is a lot of bad hiring going on right now that this book could remedy.  Second, I love to help others.  The more I get to do that, the more inspired I am to do more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook, Oh My!

The Social Media mavens tell you that you have to maximize your presence on Twitter... and Facebook... and Pinterest... and Google+... and LinkedIn... and...

I mean, they're free, right?  Why wouldn't you?

Of course, these are the same gurus who used to be in traditional advertising and told you to make sure you had your message on TV, Radio, Newsprint and Billboards so that you would reach everyone in multiple ways which would make the messages sink in better (it doesn't - read page 3)

And guess what?  They are both wrong!

You don't have to do all the social media.  You don't really have to do any of them.  Sure, they all work in one way or another.  Sure, they all can help your business.  Sure, they all cost time instead of money.  Sure, you can still go broke investing all your time into them.

Advertising and marketing are and have always been about maximizing your ROI - return on investment.  The difference between the social media and regular advertising (besides that they are used completely differently - but you already knew that) is that one costs time, the other costs money.

But you still need to make sure you are not spending too much capital.  Your time is more valuable than you think.

The advice I give for social media is the same advice I give for regular advertising.  Pick one medium and do it to the absolute best of your ability.  Don't worry about the other media.  You only have time/money for one, so pick one and do it better than everyone else.

It really is that simple.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  For Toy House I picked Facebook.  I like FB for pictures and videos and conversations.  For Phils Forum I primarily use this blog.  I like the framework.  It gives me enough room to make my point.  Yes, I use Twitter, but only as a means for delivering my blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What Do They Know?

Your customers know a lot.  You know that.  They often know as much about your products as you do, and usually way more than the part-time neighborhood kid you hired to answer phones and wrap gifts.

Where did they get that info?

From that most informative and reliable source... say it all together...

...their friend!

What? You thought I was going to say Internet?  Okay, yes, the Internet is where that information is held. But the information she tends to trust the most is reviews from other users.  Her new best friends.  People who claim to have used your products and are now experts on those products (even though they never read the instructions, even though they may have used the product in ways it was not designed, even though they may have a slant against or for certain brands, even though they have nothing to compare this product to, even though you have no idea if they are a shill for the brand.)

So let me ask you... Are you reading those reviews, too?  Are you looking at what other people are saying about the products you sell?  Are you finding out what the end-users believe is the downside of your product?

You should.

Your staff should, too.

Then when she brings it up, you'll be prepared.  Or even better, you can talk about the downsides right up front.  Not only will it reassure her that you know what you're talking about, it will reassure her that you understand both the pros and cons of the product and won't sell her anything unless she knows, too.

It is a great way to create trust with your customers.  Plus, when she sees that you read the same reviews she read, she feels more of a personal connection to you.  You're her type of person.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Trust is the most precious commodity you can build for your store.  Own that trait and you'll own more than your share of the market.  Talking willingly and openly about the downside of a product, is just one way to create trust.  To learn more about how to build trust, read my friend Tom's book, Currencies That Build Credibility.

Monday, July 9, 2012

No One Else Does It That Way

Here is a phrase you need to tune your ears to hear.

"But no one else does it that way..."

That phrase is money.  Gold.  Pure platinum.

To do something remarkable, you have to do something worth remarking.  Nobody remarks on the stuff everyone is doing.  They only remark on the stuff no one else is doing.

So keep listening for that phrase.  When you hear it, that is your opportunity to be remarkable.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Word of Mouth is simply People telling other People what You did.  Do something Shareworthy.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In the Shark Tank

I was watching my new favorite Reality TV Show last night - The Shark Tank.

Entrepreneurs with dreams go before five filthy rich people like NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and QVC celebrity inventor Lori Greiner to make a pitch for money to help them launch a new product or service.  The Sharks then tear into the entrepreneur asking pointed questions to see if the idea really can make them money.

If the idea is good the sharks make offers.  If the idea is bad, the entrepreneur walks away empty handed.

I watched two episodes last night and then couldn't get the show out of my mind.  I dreamt all night that I was standing before them asking for money and they were grilling me with tough questions about the viability of my store, the reasons why I thought we were successful, what we were currently doing to achieve our goals, and what I thought we needed to improve.  The big question, of course, was what would I do with the money I was asking for, and how much of the company would I give up to get that money?

Man, was my subconscious telling me something last night or what?

Fortunately, my over-sized ego and tireless efforts to understand my business better were more than up to the dream-based challenge.  I stared down the sharks, answered all their questions, and had them fighting over who was going to help me.  The best thing was I woke up refreshed with some new clarity to what I really needed to do to accomplish my goals.

You might not be so lucky as to have such an active, imaginative subconscious.  That's okay.  Here is an exercise that you can do in broad daylight.

First, watch an episode or two.  (Be careful, though, or you might get hooked like me.)

Then, pretend you are going on the show to ask for money.

  • How much would you need? (write it down)
  • How much of a stake in your company would you give up for that money?  
  • What would you do with the money?  
  • What makes you confident you would get a good return on that investment for your new partner?
  • How will you answer the criticism for your past record?
  • What haven't you thought of yet? (I know, that's a toughie, but watch a few episodes and you'll think of new questions.)

Those questions might not be easy to answer.  But if you want to swim with the sharks, you have to be prepared.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The best part of the dream was when I handed them each a copy of my book, Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art and Mark Cuban nodded his head in approval.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Twenty Five Cents is Golden

What if I told you that for only 25 cents per customer who walks through your door tomorrow you can generate a thousand dollars worth of advertising?

What if I told you that a small gesture on your part will make a huge difference that sets you far apart from your competition?

What if I told you that a simple little thing will send one of the most powerful messages ever that will create loyal fans and evangelists?

What if I told you that if you give your customer something she can already get for free she will love you for it?

Would you think I am crazy?

What if I told you to go buy a couple cases of water, some ice and a cooler?

On these hot summer days you can stand out from the crowd by giving away bottles of ice cold water.  At a small cost to you it will have a huge effect on your customers in a number of ways...


There is a French Cajun word that means "a little extra".  Just giving away something for free creates a bond with your customer. It makes her smile, makes her feel special, makes her feel like an insider.  There are many ways to offer lagniappe in your store.  On a hot summer day this is an easy no-brainer way to do it.

You Don't Have to Advertise It

Don't go out on your Facebook page and advertise it.  Let your customers do it for you.  Put out the cooler and I bet by the end of the day at least one of your customers has taken a photo with her phone and posted it on her own site.  Plus, she will be telling her friends about it.  These are the kinds of moments your customers love to share.

They'll Stay Longer

With a water in hand, she'll feel more refreshed and more comfortable, which means she'll shop longer (as long as you have a bathroom nearby:-).  Is it worth 25 cents to you to keep your customers in the store longer?

You Care

A simple little gesture like this also shows how much you care.  You recognize that it is hot.  You recognize the customer had to leave her air-conditioned house to visit you.  You recognize that she went out of her way, so you go out of your way to make her as comfortable as possible.  Believe me, she will know what you did.

Time for a grocery store run.

Phil Wrzesinski

PS  It probably won't even cost you that much.  Only about a third of our customers took a water.  But all of them saw it, all of them felt the caring, the generosity, and the comfort. And many of them talked about it.

PPS  Last night at the local grocery store I bought 72 waters (half-liter size) and a bag of ice for $12.73.  That comes down to just under 18 cents per bottle.  Figuring only one-third of the customers take one, we're talking 6 cents per customer to reap those benefits.  Tell me where else you can get that kind of ROI.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recharging Your Batteries

It is 100 degrees out there.  Maybe if you live in Phoenix, that is no big deal.  But in Michigan that is a scorcher.  Easy to just want to phone it in.  No energy to do what you need to do.

It is middle of winter, the Christmas season well behind you, the buzz is gone and next year seems so far away.  You feel drained.

It is the end of August, Back-to-School dominates everywhere but with you.  Too early to get fired up for the holidays, too far removed from the early summer excitement.  The blahs are overpowering.

We all have these moments, these points in our year where the energy from our batteries feels drained and there is nothing on the immediate horizon to recharge them.  You need a charger.  You need a go-to event, activity or person that will fire you up and keep you humming at full capacity.

Go to an Event

One thing that always recharges my batteries is to attend a conference or trade show.  Good speakers not only get me motivated, they give me new projects to work on.  Walking a trade show floor, even if I don't find any new products, gets me excited about my own selling floor.  I often get great merchandising ideas from the creative ways some vendors decorate their booths.

If there isn't a trade show or conference in your industry, look for one in a similar or related industry.  Last year I attended the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association show for half a day.  It was just what the doctor ordered.

Craft an Activity

Another way to recharge your batteries is to plan a new activity.  Maybe it is an event for the store.  Maybe it is an event for the staff.  Maybe it is just an activity for you.  Something different than your normal routine.

One time I hosted a Game Night at my house for the staff.  We tried a whole bunch of new games.  Not only did they get fired up for selling games, they built some wonderful camaraderie that brought them all closer together.

On another occasion I planned a road trip to visit other retailers both in and out of my industry.  I had never been to an Ikea store, the nearest one being more than an hour away.  I must have taken four or five pages of notes.

On a quiet afternoon at the store, on a whim we took the Nerf guns outside and just started shooting them against the side of the store.  The staff was laughing, having fun, and engaging the customers in new, exciting ways.

Meet Some Peeps

The easiest way for me to recharge is to simply reconnect with my peers in the toy and baby industries. I have made a lot of friends in both groups and sometimes a quick phone call, email, or Facebook message is all it takes to get my creative juices flowing again.

Friends and family are great.  But having contact with your peers is sometimes even better because they share your concerns, your trials and tribulations.  As an added benefit, not only do you recharge your own batteries, you often recharge theirs.

The good news is that your batteries are rechargeable.  Make sure you set aside some time for recharging on a regular basis.  Everything works better with fresh batteries.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Then again, sometimes the best thing to do is simply unplug from everything.  Take a day off and go fishing, golfing, boating, biking, or whatever you want to get off the grid.  Unplug your phone.  Turn off the computer.  Stop thinking about your business.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story

I took these photos in the book department at our local Meijer's store.

Although it did give me a chuckle, I am not sure I want the kind of "self-help" that Captain Underpants might supply.  Nor do I think Michigan Chillers is going to get anyone on the right track in their lives.

But it reminds me that we need to always keep an eye on our merchandising and signage.  This display sent me a strong signal that the book department would have no rhyme nor reason and that signs in this store were not to be trusted.  Neither are good messages to send you customers.

Take a good, solid look around your store for signs that are misplaced or misused.  Some of your signs have been there so long they have faded into the woodwork for you.  Count and document each sign.  You will be surprised how many signs you find out of place, expired, or just needing to be freshened up.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Signs sell!  Rick Segal claims they increase sales of a product by 43%.  But make sure you do them right.  Horrible signs, old signs, and signs in the wrong place can send the wrong message and ultimately hurt your sales.