Friday, August 16, 2013

Inspiration and Creativity

"Where do you get your inspiration for the ads you run on the radio?"
"Where do you get the creativity for the ads you run on the radio?"

I doubt a week goes by where I am not asked at least one of those questions.

My stock response is that's the fun part of my job. Here is the real answer...


I love quotes. They inspire me. I type words into and just start reading. Sometimes a great quote is all I need to spark the engine.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." -Pablo Picasso

I love to read. Fiction and non-fiction. Children's books and adult books. I wrote an entire book on hiring because of this line in the children's book Taran Wanderer (book #4 of The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.)

"Before you learn the craft, you must first learn the clay." -Annlaw Clay-Shaper

I listen. To music. To talk-radio. To interviews and podcasts. To comedians (I love comedians). I wrote a song after hearing a comedian's routine about road signs when he said...

"I saw a sign along the highway that said 'Gas Food' and decided I was no longer hungry. Glad I didn't stop. The next exit had a sign for a Gas Food Hospital." (-unknown)


Is creativity something you're born with, or something you learn? I think both. I think some people (like my sister) pop out of the womb with a talent that cannot be denied. I think the rest of us can learn creativity by learning to not be afraid of criticism and failure. I am bolstered by this quote...

"I haven't failed. I've found 10,000 ways that don't work." -Thomas Edison

I am also bolstered in my ad writing by this little exercise Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads made me do...

Quick, write down the percentage of your traffic that is repeat business. Customers who come in time and time again. Now write down how much of your traffic is referral business. Customers who are in because one of your repeat business customers told them to stop by. What is left?

When I did this, I wrote down 60% for the repeat, and 25% for the referral. That left only 15% of my traffic that is location/advertising driven. When your advertising only accounts for 15% of your traffic, you can take some more risks and be a little more crazy.

Creativity for most of us is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Writing this blog is like doing a dozen push-ups. Writing emails and Facebook posts is like taking a half-mile jog. Writing songs and books is like taking a spinning class or six. Writing a thirty-second ad that is interesting, tells a story, makes only one point, and connects emotionally is like doing 60-second planks ten times a day.

"I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter." -Blaise Pascal

And one last quote...

"Now you know the rest of the story." -Paul Harvey

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One of my goals is to write a short story all from famous quotes by other people. That would sure take some creativity.

PPS I don't know if my percentages of repeat and referral business are accurate. They probably aren't. That's quite okay by me. I got what I needed out of the exercise - to take more risks with my advertising. Consider it just one of those 10,000 ideas Edison learned from.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pump Up the Values

We took a look at our Core Values of Having Fun, Helpful, Educational and Nostalgic to see where we might be lacking. If you've read Understanding Your Brand then you know the importance of making sure your business shows your core values in everything you do.

Having Fun: We have toys out for demo all throughout the store. I lost count well north of fifty different items out for people to try. We have Story Time, Game Night and special events throughout the year. Yes, we are having fun.

Helpful: Free Giftwrapping, Free Layaway, Delivery & Assembly, Car Seat Installation, Personal Shoppers... Yeah, we have helpful covered, too.

Educational: Free classes on how to buy toys and baby products? Check. Signs throughout the store to educate customers on how to buy different types of toys? Check. Brochures on smart toy shopping? Check. Toys that are educational by nature? Check.

Nostalgic: Hmm... We have been in business since 1949, but just saying that doesn't necessarily evoke feelings of nostalgia. At Christmas when we have the lights and decorations up, we get that warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling, but what about the rest of the year? We celebrate birthdays by ringing a thirty-two pound brass bell. That is good, but we can do more.

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental yearning of a past period. I am working on three new projects to add more Nostalgia into the store.

The first is a photo gallery of our old store along with some old toys produced locally (on loan from the local museum). The second is a milepost sign with directional arrows pointing toward real and fictional places that will take you back to fond memories. The third is a take on the Before I Die campaign that Candy Chang started in New Orleans. We will have chalkboards with the Before I die... statement as Candy did, along with chalkboards of My favorite toy was...

Sentimental yearnings of past periods.

Your business has Core Values. You have to play up those values in everything you do. Everything. Not only you will make your brand stand out in the crowd, you will attract a better breed of customers, customers who share your values.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Don't know your Core Values? Do this worksheet. Figure out who you are and what you do to show those values. Then pump up the volume on the values not being shown as much. It might not make a difference today, but it will tomorrow. You are in business for tomorrow, aren't you?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Powerful Networking

I'm meeting with my US Congressman Tim Walberg in two weeks. He agreed to hold a round table discussion for retailers to talk about the Marketplace Fairness Act and other topics.

(Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 8am at the Chamber office for all my local peeps reading this - please join me)

A lot of indie retailers think you need to be a big guy to have a meeting with your congressional reps. You don't. You don't have to give them money, either. You don't even have to belong to the same party. You just have to be informed, interested, willing to listen and have an opinion preferably based on facts.

Let me repeat that... You just have to be informed, interested, willing to listen and have an opinion preferably based on facts.

Gee, now that's not so hard.

Do that and you can get a meeting with your state and federal representatives. Once they get to know you, they will begin to trust you. Once they begin to trust you, they will seek you out for your opinion on matters pertaining to your business. They will give some gravitas to what you say. It starts by first forming a relationship.

Yeah, I know, it can be scary calling for a meeting with your rep. But that's a poor excuse for not making the call. Do the scary thing. Call your rep. Talk to him or her about Marketplace Fairness, about Obamacare, about roads and infrastructure, or whatever issue is on your mind.

Just be informed, interested, willing to listen and have an opinion preferably based on facts.

I am happy to say Mr. Walberg is not only in my network, he's also a customer.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If I had to pick two, be informed and willing to listen. You can have more influence by listening than you can by talking. Try it. It works.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Business Boot Camp This Thursday

This Thursday, August 8, 2013, I will be holding a four-hour Business Boot Camp on Marketing and Advertising.

Four hours of world-class information on Branding and how to make yours stand out in the crowd.

Four hours of deconstructing the myths of Advertising, unlearning all those things uninformed advertising sales weasels people tried to teach you.

Four hours of unveiling the mistakes that even the big boys with billion-dollar budgets make every single day.

Four hours of clarifying how ads work, why ads work, where ads work and what you should do make yours work, too.

Four hours of making your ads more memorable, powerful, and effective without spending a penny more on your budget.

Four hours of getting you to think, laugh, and maybe even cry.

Four hours to turn your advertising around and make sure it performs to its best so that you can perform to your best.

Are you in?

Call the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce at (517) 782-8221 to sign up. Cost is only $99.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, you get all that for $99. It should be $2000. At that price you would think there must be something to the class. You wouldn't sign up - not in your budget - but you'd think the class was more valuable. Isn't it funny how we give value to information based on what it costs?

If it makes you feel any better, what you will learn cost me thousands of dollars to learn. Plus, I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars testing it to know that it works. The Chamber and I are only charging a small fee because we want to see this spread.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Retail Math is Not So Scary

No one signed up for my June Business Boot Camp on Retail Math. (Well, okay, a couple people did, but not enough for the Chamber to make it a go.)

I think I know why.

Retail Math is scary. So many numbers and ratios and calculations. So much confusion over terminology. Is a credit a good thing, or is that a debit? (I still get those confused all the time.) Accountants and bankers don't seem to help. They use words like equity and depreciation and accrued this or that.

We don't like feeling dumb, so we don't like going to classes and workshops and seminars where we know next to nothing. Yet that is exactly the kind of classes and workshops and seminars we need to be attending. Especially Retail Math.

If you want to be successful and pay yourself what you're worth, you have to know the math.

Fortunately for you, I have struggled with this myself. So I attended the workshops and seminars, talked to the accountants, spent the time wrapping my head around all those 50-cent words and million dollar concepts, trying to find a way to put them into terms you and I and all the other indie retailers might understand.

I wrote them down in two simple, powerful Freebies

Both contain math. It is math you can do.
Both contain terminology. Explained in a way that will make sense to you.
Both contain ideas and thoughts on how you can use the math.

Retail Math is not so scary once you learn it.

Maybe I cannot lead you to a seminar or workshop, but I can lead you to this water. All you have to do is drink.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For my toy store friends, I took the Financial Statements eBook a step farther. ASTRA contracted with me to write a definitive book on the Financials of an independent toy store called Financials You Can Understand (they wanted to call it Financials Made Easy, but even I knew that was stretching it a bit). The book is a combination of all the math in the two Freebies above along with an explanation of what a typical toy store's numbers would be and what to do if your numbers don't match. It isn't free, but the information is so valuable that you will quickly recover the costs of the book many times over - even if you aren't a toy retailer. My research has found that the numbers of a typical toy store are quite similar to any retail business that does most of its sales in the fourth quarter.

PPS Full disclosure: I do not get anything from the sales of that book. They already paid me to write it. You, however, will get plenty from it. The only thing scary is how much better you will understand the numbers in your business.