Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This Blog is Moving, Will You Move With Me?

This will be the final blog I do at philstoyforum.blogspot.com. I have moved everything over to my new website - PhilsForum.com.  The only people who will see this post are those of you who subscribed via feedburner on this blog page.

That means you...

I looked into multiple ways to move your subscription over to the new site without you having to do anything. I didn't like the options.

I would rather have you opt-in than move you without your permission.

I may lose a few of you along the way, but at least I know those of you who move have found value in what I'm posting. If you wish to continue getting email updates every time I post, I am asking you to jump through two hoops.

  1. Follow this link to my new Blog Page. You will see a section near the top that says, "Subscribe to Phil's Retail Blog".
  2. Type in your email address in the appropriate spot and click the box "Subscribe".

That's it. You'll get a confirmation email and you'll be good to go.

Thank you for following me on this journey. Support your local independent stores. When one of us succeeds, it raises the tide for all of us.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS You should get an email this coming Friday with my first blog post on the new platform. Something about a little window I saw on a recent trip to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.

It just went live a few minutes ago.

Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).

In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you're used to seeing have new names.

  • Freebies is now Free Resources and still includes links to free pdf's you can download on a variety of topics
  • Speaker for Hire is now Hire Me to Speak and focuses on the top programs I am most often hired to do
  • Products is now Phil's Books and focuses on my two books, Hiring and the Potter's Wheel and Welcome to the Club Daddy
  • Media is now About Phil and yes, it is about me

You'll also find a few fun things hidden here and there on the site including a page of radio ads I have run for Toy House and Baby Too.

Check it out and let me know if there are any issues with the site (tell me what browser/platform/device you're using, please).

Every time an independent retailer grows, we all grow.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Supposedly all email subscribers will be migrated over, but I will be looking into it directly. You may get an email from me asking you to resubscribe to the new blog site. Just giving you a heads up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

(Note: this post has been edited)
Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.

Pretty high, isn't it?

If you aren't using videos - Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. - then you might not be reaching all the people you want to reach.

There are two new video services - Periscope and Blab - that might have some benefit to indie retailers. Here is a look at the two and how you can use them...


Periscope was launched by Twitter and is live, streaming video you do that allows for people to comment on your video as you're streaming and send you love through the form of little hearts that float up your screen. The video can then be replayed for up to 24 hours before it disappears.

The upside... This is an easy way for you to do timely videos of things happening in your store in an interactive way. Simply send out a notice through your other social media channels (especially Twitter) that you'll be doing a Periscope in a few minutes, then grab your phone and go live. Anyone watching you can post comments and questions that show up on your screen. It is kinda like having a FaceTime call with dozens of people at once.

One of the best applications I can see for this medium is behind-the-scenes looks at your business. People love to go behind the curtain. They love to see what is happening there. Best of all, they feel more attached to your store and more likely to share what they know when they feel like they got a peek into something not everyone else gets to see.

You could do Periscopes on products that have just come in.
You could do Periscopes on staff meetings.
You could do Periscopes on the process you go through to ship out an item.
You could do Periscopes on the prep work you put into having a big event at your store.

The downside... The videos are only up for a day. You might do some great footage, but you have to keep doing great footage to grow your presence. In fact, best practices in the early stages of this medium show that you should post something daily, even if it is only a 30-second post each day that says you'll be back on Friday with a longer video. (Note: they do have ways for you to save the videos, but you do have to jump through a few extra hoops.)


Unlike Periscope where only you talk and everyone else comments by typing, Blab is another live streaming video that allows for four people to be in the conversation at once. It kinda looks like Hollywood Squares with four boxes on the screen showing you and the three people you invited to sit in the conversation.

The upside... First, by having a true conversation, you can now invite experts into your social media world. Maybe you might interview a sales rep or one of your favorite vendors. Maybe you might use it to introduce new staff. Maybe you might use it to talk to someone who can talk more about your industry. For instance, since I sell toys, I could talk to a therapist about the value of play in a child's life. Even better, you could invite your own fans to join in and talk about their experiences in your store.

Just like Periscope, people can type in comments and show you real-time love by tapping the icon on the screen. You can respond to those comments and have a real, live conversation about your store with other people watching. The videos stay up longer than Periscope, too, and can even be uploaded to your YouTube channel.

The downside... This medium is more of a sitting-at-your-laptop-chatting medium than a wander-around-the-store-with-a-smartphone medium, which makes it more difficult to show off products, etc. It is more of a two-way conversation than a one-way talk with you picking and choosing which questions or comments to answer. It becomes less scripted, which can make it more fun and original (and less sales/preachy), but can also go in directions you never intended.

Both Periscope and Blab have some interesting applications. Whether they are right for your business is up to you. Just remember the most important thing about all social media - it is about connecting and creating networks more than it is about selling or pushing your message across.

If used right, both of these channels can grow your network and strengthen your relationships.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I am looking at both of them as ways to grow both Toy House and Phil's Forum. Right now I currently use my Twitter handle @philtoyhouse purely for sharing this blog and Toy House newsletters. Since you use your Twitter account to sign in to both of these services, I am considering setting up separate Twitter accounts and using @philtoyhouse for just Toy House activity going forward. I'll let you know soon what my new Twitter handle for this blog will be.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Preparing Your Staff for Life

One of my talented regulars on my staff just put in her two-week notice. She is leaving me for a new full-time job teaching art.


As much as I love my job and my business and the difference we make in other peoples' lives, I know where Retail Sales Clerk sits on the hierarchy of employment. Unless you're in management or ownership, it is a job, not a career.

When my employee told me what she would be doing next, I gave her a standing ovation. I could not be happier for her. It is a huge step up for her in many ways. Sure, I will miss her and I'll have to find a way to replace her. But in the long run this is a great opportunity for her and a chance for me to bring in some new blood with new energy and ideas, too.

The only real question I had was more internal... Had I helped to prepare her for this next step?

Had I helped her hone and practice skills that would be helpful working with others? Had I helped her hone and practice skills for teaching? (Education is one of our Core Values). Had I helped her hone and practice skills for dealing with conflict? Had I helped her hone and practice skills for finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems?

I believe it is my responsibility as an employer to help my employees prepare not just for working specifically at my store but also for what may come next. Maybe it is a management job. Maybe it is a new career. Maybe it is a new role. Maybe it is to stay home and raise a family. Maybe it is simply to be better than they were last week, last month, or last year. Personal growth is not just an idea. It is part of the culture.


Some retailers look at their employees as their biggest expense. But when Customer Service is your one true advantage over your competitors, your employees are instead your biggest asset. Properly invested, that asset can give you incredible growth.

Training - whether it is done in group settings, one-on-one, by videos or online - is the most valuable and least utilized tool you have in your Retail Tool Kit.

Bob Negen of Whizbang Training is a big fan of videos. Short, simple, raw videos of your best teacher (you?) teaching one technique or skill at a time. No fancy production necessary. Just someone with a smartphone taping you being you.

I'm a big fan of the monthly Staff Meeting. I choose a grand theme and goal for each year and plan step-by-step trainings to reach that goal.

Maybe you do your best work one-on-one or your staff size is such that anything else wouldn't make sense. That's great. Just take the time and keep investing.

Remember, though, that you aren't just preparing them for the job. You are preparing them for life. Take that approach and it changes the way you invest and the rewards you reap.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Here is one of the rewards you might not think about. When employees move on from my store, my reputation goes with them. If they lack the skills, it reflects poorly on me. But when they rock the house, it makes me look like a star, too, and raises the esteem people have of our business.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Free or Gift With Purchase?

You just got some free merchandise from one of your favorite vendors. It was a low cost item that you didn't sell anyway. You want to give them away to your customers.

Do you give them away free, no strings attached, or do you only give them away free with a qualifying purchase?


The upside to simply giving them away is that you will surprise and delight your customers in an unexpected way. They will be talking about your generosity to their friends.

The downside is that you likely won't garner any extra sales and you may end up giving them to people who don't need them.


The upside for GWP is that you are using the freebie to help close the sale of a related product. Plus, you are getting the freebie into the hands of someone most likely to use it.

The downside is that the only word of mouth it generates is them talking about the good deal they got (that others might not be so lucky to get).

Here are some questions to ask...

  • Do you want them to talk about your generosity or the deal they got?
  • Do you want to put them only into the hands of people who will use them?
  • Do you want to surprise & delight or close the sale?

Ask the right questions and you'll get the right answer.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Door #3 is that we just sell them at a discounted price, take the profit and run. The only question is whether you can get more profit using the freebies as a marketing tool than you would by simply selling a low-cost item you didn't want in the first place. My guess is marketing tool pays more dividends in the long run.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mrs. Hinkley Brought Me Doughnuts

I was unloading our delivery van when a car pulled up to side of the store. A window rolled down and a familiar face said, "Hey Phil, I brought you a little something."

It wasn't a "little something". It was Hinkley Doughnuts!! The number one rated doughnut in Michigan!!! Mrs. Hinkley herself was hand-delivering a few leftovers as she called them (a box of my favorites as I called them).

Jackson isn't a small town. We're a city of over 30,000 people and a community of over 150,000 people. It is easy to be an anonymous business owner here. But it pays better to not be so anonymous.

Sure, I'm a regular customer at Hinkley's Bakery. In fact, I never plan big morning events unless it is a day Hinkley's is open (they are only open Wed-Sat). I regularly buy a box for the break room at work. But I'm just one of hundreds of their regulars.

So why a box filled with all my favorites for free?

It is the relationship we have built over the years. I am crazy about shopping local and building relationships with my fellow local business owners. We talk and laugh and share stories and ideas. We get to know each other and each other's families. We help each other out. We send business each other's ways.

If you want to market yourself, the best place to start is to build a network among your fellow local independents. Introduce yourself every time you visit (and visit them often). Get to know them and they will get to know it you. Be generous with your time and resources. Send them business and they will send some your way, too.

It pays. (Excuse me while I go finish my doughnut.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I am getting really chummy with the owner of the downtown brewery right now, too. Yeah, that's how I roll (pun intended).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Media Versus Network?

Social media is where it is at!
Social media is DEAD!
Social media is FREE!
Social media has NO ROI!
Businesses are expanding because of social media!
Businesses are wasting their money on social media!

SOCIAL MEDIA, social media, social media, BLAH blah blah.

Everyone has an opinion on whether Social Media is helping businesses grow or is just a waste of money. And everyone is wrong.

Why? They have the word wrong. Chances are, you do, too.


What happens if we changed the word media to the word network?

Media = an avenue through which you broadcast content and advertising
Network = a connection of people who can help each other out

Which word more accurately describes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, et al? A network of connected people sharing with each other or a medium with people waiting to be told what to do or think?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a networking avenue instead of a medium onto which you broadcast your message?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to connect to people and connect them to resources and other people instead of just telling your story?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a way to have two-way conversations and see how others could help you, rather than just a platform to tell them what you're going to do?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to help instead of just trying to sell?

Change the word and you'll change your focus. Change your focus and you'll change your effectiveness.

Social Media is DEAD. But the Social Network is alive and kicking!

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The best way to grow your Network is TRUST. When you engage without selling, when you help and share without financial gain, when you ask more than you tell, when you show that you are listening, when you are real and genuine and not always "on message" then you will gain the trust of your network.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Ideal Employee

I was digging through some old staff newsletters and came across this article. At one of our staff trainings I asked the staff to create what they called The Ideal Employee...

(reprinted from the August 2002 Team News)

Here is the composite of what you identified as the “Ideal Employee”…

Attitude—The Ideal Employee will have a positive attitude at all times, whether it is dealing with
customers or with other employees. He or she will use a friendly voice and have a helpful demeanor in all interactions with others.

Appearance—The Ideal Employee will dress appropriately in a conservative, business-casual outfit.  The Ideal Employee will not have his or her midriff exposed (or other body parts that should not be seen). The Ideal Employee will wear appropriate footwear—no sandals or open-toed shoes. The Ideal Employee will have his or her hair combed neatly and a general appearance of cleanliness. Finally, the Ideal Employee will always “wear” a smile.

Knowledge—The Ideal Employee will know and understand…

  • How to run a cash register
  • How to answer phones and take phone orders
  • Our policies of our many services such as gift wrapping, layaway, delivery and assembly.
  • How to measure packages for UPS shipping
  • The products that we sell
  • The hours of our operation and how to give directions to get here
  • Where to go or who to talk to for any information he or she doesn’t know
  • His or her schedule so that he or she will always be on time

Commitment—The Ideal Employee will be committed to helping the customer, or when unable, finding another person to help the customer. The Ideal Employee will be committed to assisting other employees with scheduling conflicts. The Ideal Employee will be committed to helping out in areas that are not his or her responsibility when no one else is available.  The Ideal Employee will be committed to making sure that all customers are being helped, and that all customers and other employees are treated with respect.  The Ideal Employee will be committed to protecting the store from theft.

That's what my staff came up with 13 years ago. I'm curious what they will create this year.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Although this is a good blueprint for any retail staff, you should have your own staff create what they believe to be the Ideal Employee. You'll get better buy-in from them that way.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Three Questions That Have All the Answers

(Note: I submitted this to Wizard Academy for a project where they asked business leaders what our two to three secrets are that have helped us succeed. My three secrets are these three questions...)

I have been told that I have an uncanny knack for taking difficult ideas & concepts and breaking them down so that they are easy to understand. Others call it a God-given talent. The true secret is in three simple questions.
I was twenty-three when I learned about the power of these three questions. I was working at YMCA Storer Camps teaching Team Building through Wilderness and Experiential Education programs when John Foster and Phil DeLong taught me all about, “What? So What? Now What?” as a way to process learning.

It looks like this…

WHAT? What happened? What did we do? What worked? What didn’t work? Where did we start? Where did we end?

These are questions that talk about the CONCRETE. These are the questions that help us identify the task we attempted, the action we took. When working with a group doing a team building exercise, the first step is to make sure we are all on the same page with what actually happened. So we ask the What? questions. We ask them to relive the experience and talk through what they did.

SO WHAT? So what did we learn? So what can we infer from our results? So what does that show us? So what will we do differently next time?

These are the questions that talk about the ABSTRACT. After we identify what we did, we have to learn from it. We have to extract the lessons. When working with a group on a team building exercise, if we don’t learn from what we did, then we are merely playing. The So What? questions draw out that lesson or idea. The So What? questions give the activity meaning.

(Note: if you don’t establish the What? first, you’ll have a hard time drawing out the So What? lessons. So What? questions can only be asked after the What? has been firmly established.)

NOW WHAT? Now what will we do with this new understanding? Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? Now what is the next step? Now what will we do when we get back to the office?

These are the questions that talk about the APPLICATION. Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? A good team builder not only helps a group learn the lesson from their activity, but also how to apply that lesson to other parts of their life. It is one thing to learn about proper communication while crossing a swamp with a string of tire swings. It is something else to learn how to apply straight-forward, no-mincing of words, chain-of-command communications to the office to keep everyone safe and swinging in harmony, too.

(Note: if you don’t establish the So What? lesson first, you’ll have a hard time drawing out the Now What? applications. Now What? questions can only be asked after the So What? lesson has been firmly understood.)


Even though I spend more time running a retail toy store and teaching classes to fellow retailers than I do team building, I find that I am using What? So What? Now What? most every single day.

I use it training my staff... What did we do for this training activity? We asked questions, had to listen to the response, and then repeat the response back to the other team member. What were some of the problems? Trying to remember what was said. Why was that a problem? Because we weren’t used to repeating back, only responding. What was in your way? Not listening properly. How did repeating back what they said help? It forced us to listen better and helped us be more accurate. Why would this be important? The better we listen and be accurate with what a customer says, the better we can solve their problem.

I use it interviewing for new employees… Tell me about a time when you received Great Customer Service (concrete). So what made that so special? (abstract). How would you apply that to you working here? (application).

It is especially effective when I teach classes and do workshops. Just a few weeks ago I did a one-hour class on Inventory Management for pet store owners. This class involves a lot more math and fewer jokes than other workshops and classes I teach. The feedback and vibe from the audience during this class is the lowest of any class I offer. The only real way I can evaluate how things are going is from the questions the participants ask during Q&A. If they are asking What? questions then I failed miserably. They didn’t understand the math I want them to do. If they are asking So What? questions then I still failed miserably. They understood the math but don’t get why they need it. But if they are asking Now What? questions then I know I got the point across and they just want to apply it to their own situation. At last week’s class, all the questions were of Application.

I even use this with advertising. If I want to make a factual point (concrete) then I have to explain why it is an important point (abstract) and what to do with that point (application). More importantly, if I make an abstract point, I better back it up with concrete facts if I want people to apply it.

It took me a while to wrap my head around this model of questioning, but once I did, it made facilitating and leading others much easier. Whenever a discussion bogs down, I simply drop back a level of questioning and make sure we have established the previous level before moving on. This gets everyone back onto the same page. This is my simple little secret for making difficult ideas understandable.

  • What did we do?
  • So what did we learn?
  • Now what will we do with that knowledge?

Learn to use it in your life. It will make a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS It even works with children. I use it with my boys all the time. They get a lot of Aha! moments through these questions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I've Been Working On

Here's what I've been working on (and why I haven't posted in a while)...



Our old website wasn't mobile-friendly and needed a few upgrades to make it responsive to different platforms (computers, phones and tablets). Google is telling people that non-responsive sites are going to get knocked down in the search rankings soon.

Since we don't sell online, I also wanted to focus the site more on making people to want to visit the store. More pictures of what you'll find when you visit. More descriptions of the in-store services and events. More content telling you how much fun you'll have when you get to the store.

To get the most out of your website, you have to know what you want your website to do. 

Finally, I wanted a website that I can change and update regularly. I spent the last several months learning how to use WordPress and built the site using their system.

The new site is up and working. The early returns have been promising. More tweaks including video are coming soon.


This one isn't done yet. Originally, I thought that after building the new Toy House site this one would be easy. I was wrong.

One of the key elements of building a website is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). With the Toy House site that was fairly easy. My goal was to make sure you find us in any search related to toys and Jackson, MI. Go ahead and search "toys Jackson" and see where you find us.

But PhilsForum.com is a different beast playing in a different sandbox.

If you search on such terms as...


...you won't find me on the first two to three pages in Google.

One of everyone's favorite pages from my current site is the Freebies page. Yet if you search on RETAILER FREEBIES, you get fourteen pages of coupons before you find all the articles and notes I've uploaded for you.

If you search on RETAIL SPEAKER you won't find me until page four behind a number of sites that won't even get you a top-level, in-the-trenches retail speaker that routinely gets high praise for the talks he does.

Before I can build the new site, I have a lot of SEO work to do including coming up with a new name for the Freebies - something based on the words you would likely use to search for that information.

Some of those Freebies are ready for an upgrade, too. Stay posted and I'll let you know here when the new site goes live (and where you can find the new Freebies).


Back in the spring I asked for your submissions for a new book I planned to write this summer. I didn't get as many submissions as I hoped, but I did get enough to put the book together, albeit in a slightly different format than originally planned. (You can still submit your business for inclusion.)

As soon as I get the new PhilsForum.com site up and running, I'll tackle this project. (Believe me, I've already been formatting chapters in my head on this and am getting excited at how the finished product is going to turn out.)

I'll be back to blogging soon. In the meantime, start asking yourself these questions...

  • What do you want to accomplish in the next twelve months?
  • What is holding you back?
  • What are your competitors doing better than you?

Those are the questions I hope to explore with you this fall.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS When the new PhilsForum.com site is done, this blogspot blog will go away. I'll archive all the old blogs onto the new site so the content will still be there. If you're a subscriber, don't worry. I'm already looking at how to seamlessly transfer you over to the new blog so that you continue to get this info in your inbox. But if you're getting this through your RSS feed, I'll let you know when it is time to change over to the new feed.

PPS Also get ready for a discussion about your online presence. I've learned a ton over the last few months building new websites that I look forward to sharing with you.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Always Have a Second Pair of Eyes

I came across this sign while delivering some baby furniture the other day.

Three lessons...

  • Never let your high school drop out make your signs. 
  • Always have an educated person proof read your signs before you put them up. 
  • Don't trust spell-check.

Enjoy your weekend smile.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Had the flavor been Spinach Souffle, I might have thought they had done that sign on purpose. A little humor can go a long way. But humor is like nitro glycerin. It can blow up in your face if handled poorly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Teaching Your Staff to Listen

"I'll have a poppy seed salad, half-size, with a baguette and drink for here, please."

"Okay. What salad would you like?"

"Poppy seed. Half-sized."

"Okay, what side? You can have chips, baguette or an apple."


"Would you like a drink?"


"Will this be to go?"

You can imagine this exchange. Maybe you have had this exchange. This is word for word the exchange one of my employees shared with me from a recent lunch break.

Listening is a far underrated skill that needs to be on your list of traits.

Fortunately, there are ways to train listening skills. Here are two exercises you can do with your staff to help them work on their listening skills.


Pair up your staff and have one ask the other person random questions. Before the other person can answer, he or she must first repeat the question back to the one asking. Have them each ask four questions of each other.

Your staff will get two benefits from this. First, you get them trained in the process of repeating and paraphrasing the question back to the customer. This technique forces them to listen and also clarifies what the customer really wants or needs. They will be better able to solve the customer's problems.

Second, they will get to know more about each other, so it becomes a team building exercise as well.


Have the staff pair up again. Have each person tell the other their favorite reasons for working here. Let them know that they will have to tell the group what the other person told them.

This also has two benefits. First, they have to listen to be able to repeat. Second, when you are all done, everyone will have heard everyone else telling them why they like working at your store. Talk about a major morale boost!

After doing both of these exercises, talk about the importance of listening, repeating back, and clarifying. Challenge them to practice the repeating back all day every day with every customer until it becomes habit.

Not only will their listening skills improve, so will their morale and your sales.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I had an advertising sale rep who used this repeating back technique almost to the point of annoyance. Here is the deal, though. He never made a mistake. He never got it wrong. He always did exactly what I wanted. I appreciated it so much and was crushed when he retired (early because he had done so well as a salesman with that technique).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Chasm Between Early Adopters and Early Majority

Back in 1962, Everett Rogers introduced us to the Diffusion of Innovations that shows how people enter the market for any given idea, product or service. There are five groups of people who look at new ideas and products distinctively different. The percentages shown are consistent across the board in study after study. Here is a quick definition of these groups through the prism of the smart phone industry.

Innovators: They don’t find what they want on the market so they make it. They didn't get what they wanted from the new iPhone 5S so they hacked into the programming and made their own apps and programs.

Early Adopters: They want the newest, latest, most unique. They loved the iPhone 5S, couldn't wait to get their hands on it. Yet, there they were standing in line one year later for the iPhone 6+ because it was newer and more unique.

Early Majority: They want the new, too... but only after it has been proven to work. They prefer tried and true over new and unique. They bought the iPhone 5S, but three to six months after it launched and have proven itself. They’ll get an iPhone 6 eventually, but probably not until it is time to upgrade.

Late Majority: Unlike the Early Majority, these people are waiting until it feels like everyone has one. They will only buy the iPhone 5S because they found a great deal on it, and figured they might as well join the crowd.

Laggards: They aren't buying a smart phone. They don’t need one. Oh, they might get one, but only after all other options are completely gone. They will buy the iPhone 5S when they have no other choice.


The chasm you see in the chart is the monumental mind-shift that takes place between the Early Adopters (EA) and the Early Majority (EM).  The EA want their product now. They want “new and unique” and don’t care how much it costs. They’ll pay full retail to get it first. To them, the words “tried and true” are the kiss of death. The EM’s, however, live for the words “tried and true”. They want the proven item, the easily available item, the commodity.

If you try to market to the EA’s, you will completely turn off the EM’s. Words like new, innovative and unique are scary to the EM’s. If you try to market to the EM’s, you will completely turn off the EA’s who don’t care about tried and true.  In other words, you have to choose which of these two groups to market, then make sure your message and your offerings are tailored to that group. If you try to reach both, you’ll reach neither.

If you try to market to the Late Majority (LM) or Laggards, you’re just a fool. The LM’s only want the commodity at a discount. The Laggards don’t want it at all and only buy it as a means of last resort at the cheapest price.

You can look at the five groups like this…

  • The Innovators push the development of the product forward. 
  • The Early Adopters buy that new product as soon as it is available. 
  • The Early Majority buys the commodity version of that product. 
  • The Late Majority buys the discounted commodity version of that product. 
  • The Laggard only buys the discounted commodity version and only when forced to buy it.

The profit margin, therefore, is in selling to the EA’s. The volume is in selling to the EM’s. Everyone else is a race to the bottom that you can’t  (don’t want to) win. The choice is yours, but it is definitely a choice you have to make. Otherwise you will be stuck in the chasm between the two with ineffective marketing to both of them.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One other thought I have been having on this topic... My toy and baby customers turn over so fast that even the tried and true product to me can often feel new and innovative and unique to a brand new mom-to-be. In other words, if you have a fast-changing market, don't throw out the tried-and-true products just yet. They may be new and unique to your new base.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Simple Tip to Change Your Customer's Lasting Impression

I figured this time it would be different. This time I was handing the cashier $33 for a $32.53 bill. This time I was only going to get change back. This time they wouldn't place those bills in my hand first, then dump the change on top of those bills so that it could slide off the bills and onto the floor, the counter, or the road beneath the door I couldn't open in the drive-thru lane.

I was wrong.

He placed a receipt in my waiting hand, dumped the change onto the receipt, then watched with apathetic disdain as the two pennies slid off the receipt, rolled back across the counter and fell somewhere below his feet. With a half-hearted apology, he bumbled around under the counter until he found the two pennies. I was ready to leave, already pissed off that no one ever taught him this simple trick.

Place the coins in the hand first, followed by the bills, followed by the receipt.

First, if you're counting back change - something you should learn to do - then you will always do it this way.

Second, it is far easier to grab bills while holding coins than to grab coins while holding bills. Try it.

Third, this is usually one of the last impressions a customer has of your store. If that impression is your half-hearted apology, or worse, her having to scramble on the floor to get her money back, then you aren't sending her out on a positive note. She will have that bad taste in her mouth next time she decides where to shop and she won't even know exactly why she chose not to go to your store.

It isn't all that hard to train. It isn't all that hard to do. It seems like a small thing, but because of where it happens in the grand arc of her experience, it takes on a larger significance.

I didn't want to wait around for two pennies. But I did, getting more frustrated with every passing second. I didn't even want the receipt in the first place. I used to try to teach these cashiers the right way to do it, but decided that wasn't my job. Nowadays I just shake my head and make note of which businesses could use a training program (hint: every fast food drive thru, almost every chain store on the planet, and way too many indie retailers).

It is simple to give the change first. Plus, it makes a difference in the lasting impression she has of your store. Why more stores don't teach this technique is beyond my understanding. Wouldn't you think big chains like Subway would know this?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This is a non-negotiable for my staff. During training they are told that if they are ever caught giving back the bills first, they can seek employment elsewhere. There is no excuse for not doing something this easy the right way each and every time.

PPS Although I teach them and encourage them to count back the change, I am not as tough on that particular skill, so long as they hand over the change first. They instead say something to the effect of, "Your change is $1.58. Here is the 58 cents. Here is the dollar."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Want Your Business in My New Book

Have you downloaded the free eBook Making Your Ads Memorable? Getting people to listen/read/see and remember you is the first step in advertising. Getting them to take action is the second step. Most people fail on the first step and then wonder why the second step never happened.

The guide is fairly straightforward and simple with a couple of examples. The price is pretty good, too. Free.

Those of you who have downloaded it have asked for more. More explanation of the techniques. More examples of those techniques in action.

Just for you, I am working on a new, expanded book that will jump into the deep end of each technique including how and why they work. I plan to include many examples of each technique.

I could easily just make stuff up for fictitious companies and call it good. But I believe it will be a better read if I use real companies and real people trying to meet real needs with their advertising.

I want your business in my new book.

All you need to do is send me an email (phil@philsforum.com) with the following stuff...

  1. A quick description of your business (include contact info, taglines, etc)
  2. What you hope to accomplish with your advertising (draw traffic? sell a particular product? get into the top of a customer's mind?)
  3. Three unrelated words (English and recognizable and suitable for the FCC, please)

I will take your info and, using the techniques I describe, write a 30-second piece of ad copy around your advertising goal incorporating the three words.

Why the three words? Two reasons:

  • To show you how you can be more creative than you originally thought
  • Because using interesting words in unique combinations gets attention

If you send in a submission you will get...

  1. First right of refusal. You can tell me yay or nay if you don't want what I've written to be in the book.
  2. Freedom to use the copy for your own purposes. Yes, I give you the copyright of the copy I write for you. No charge.
  3. A free copy of the book once published. 
  4. Publicity from being in the book.

I think that's a fair exchange. Don't you?

I already have a handful of submissions. I need about twenty more to tip this project. Will you be one of the tippers?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS You don't have to be a retailer to send in your submission. In fact, I've already received submissions from life coaches, writers, and teachers. This will be a fun book to read that will help a lot of small businesses get better, including yours. Take three and a half minutes and send me an email. The only tricky part will be coming up with three words.

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Products

Dr. Ross Honeywill says there are two types of customers - NEO's and Traditionals. Traditionals are all about the Price. NEO's, however, care more about Design, Authenticity, and Provenance than Price. Get the NEO to fall in love with the product and you'll make the sale.

Roy H. Williams says there are two types of customers - Relational and Transactional. Transactional customers are all about the Price. Relational Customers, however, are looking for someone they can Trust who will lead them to the right products they can fall in love with.

The Diffusion of Innovation says there is a big chasm between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. The Early Majority want the tried and true commodities that have a proven track record. They will go wherever they can find the best deal. The Early Adopters love the new and unique and have to have the latest, greatest, regardless of price.

You can discuss the nuance between the three theories until the end of the earth and never fully reconcile them into one theory.

Or you can pull out the one thing all three agree on and run with it all the way to the bank.

The money is in getting your customers to fall in love with your products and your store.


Remember falling in love? You don't analyze it. You don't weigh out pros and cons. You don't look at the features and benefits.

You draw smiley faces. You doodle his name on the worksheet you were supposed to turn in. You imagine what it will be like to be together. You visualize walking hand in hand. You picture the two of you on a date, at the park, in the movie theater. You see the future of you with this other person.

Bob Phibbs says that customers who are shopping are in a different mode than customers who are buying. Customers who are shopping are in analytical mode. They are gathering info, measuring and weighing options. Customers who are buying, however, have to get out of that mode and into wonder and love. They have to see themselves already owning and using the product.

In other words, they have to fall in love with the idea of owning the product.

You have been wrongly taught for years that your job is to give your customers information. Features and benefits, features and benefits, features and benefits. In today's online world, they already have most of the information they need before they set foot in the store. Your real job is to get them out of analyzing the product and into visualizing already owning the product.

You can do that two ways...

Ask Visualization Questions:
  • How do you see yourself using this product? 
  • What are your plans for this product? 
  • How will this look in your home? 
  • Where do you see yourself using this? 
  • What is your ultimate goal for this item?
Use Assumptive Statements and Questions:
  • Most everyone who buys one of these gets a second as a backup. Do you want to get two today or just the one?
  • Would you like me to giftwrap these items while you finish shopping for the rest of the list?
  • You're going to be really happy with your choice of that product.
  • When you get this home, to make sure you get the full use out of it, be sure to...
Before you start thinking those sound snarky or sneaky or gimmicky, remember that your customer came into your store looking to solve a problem or fill a need. Your job, therefore, is to help her solve a problem or fill a need. If you leave her in analytical mode, you won't solve her problem or fill her need. She'll leave in search of more information and most likely have someone else solve her problem or fill her need.

If you make her fall in love with the product, you'll make the sale, whether she is a NEO, a Relational Customer, an Early Adopter, or any other label you want to give her.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS You still need to know all the information. In part, so that if she has faulty information, you can correct it. In part, because she may need one or two more pieces of information to help her visualize the product properly. In part, so that she will trust you as the expert.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Avoiding the Discount Mentality

Everyone wants a discount. Everyone wants a deal. Everyone wants a coupon. Or so you might be led to believe.

One of my employees went to a fast food restaurant and said, "I'd like a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink."

The employee answered, "The drink isn't included with that."

She responded, "That's okay, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink."

He replied, "But the drink isn't included."

She said, "I don't care if it is included or not, I want a three-piece strips, a biscuit, and a small drink."

He replied, "But the drink isn't included. You'll have to pay extra for the drink."

This went on for several more exchanges until the clerk finally got her what she wanted. He had no concept of how to take care of a customer if it didn't fit into his special value meal buttons.

Unfortunately, his actions aren't far from his experiences. There are many customers out there who would have not gotten the drink because it wasn't part of the bargain. They would have ended with the strips and biscuit or chosen something else that included a drink.

That is the Discount Mentality that has taken over much of America. And it is reinforced and fueled by retailers all across the country who only offer customers the bundles, deals and specials. 

Don't be that store.

There are also a large swath of shoppers who are more like my employee, who know exactly what they want and how they want it. They are willing to pay extra for the drink, because to get it any other way is to not get what they want.

While the rest of the world caters to the Discount Mentality...

  • You need to find and hire employees who don't think that way. 
  • You need to train your team to first give the customer exactly what she wants (and then worry about any specials or deals). 
  • You need to create a store where falling in love with the product is more important than fitting a budget or a price. 

You do that and you'll have plenty of customers willingly paying extra for the drink. They're thirsty for a store that gives them exactly what they want and how they want it.

Be that store.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS For those of you who have read Dr. Ross Honeywill's book One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One, you'll know that I am talking about selling to NEO's. I'll show you how to get customers to fall in love with your products in the next post.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Super Heroes aren't Born, They are Made

I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie last night. Loved it!! I love the super hero movies in general. But some people are complaining that it is becoming over-the-top.

Avengers: Age of Ultron copyright Marvel Comics, source IMDB.com

It seems like every few years they reboot the franchise for our beloved super heroes. We've had two different Spider-men and five Spider-man movies since 2002, yet another reboot is scheduled for 2017. Fantastic 4 is getting a re-do this summer. And lord knows, Batman has gone through so many do-overs that you would need a stadium to host a party of everyone who has ever played the role.

Do we really need all those genesis stories?

I say yes! The genesis story is most often my favorite of the super hero movies because it reminds me of one simple truth...

Super Heroes are not born, they are made.

Oh sure, they may be born with super powers. But powers alone don't make you a hero. You have to learn to harness those powers and use them for a purpose. They have to be trained to grow into that hero role.

Every retailer wishes they had a super hero team working the store. You just have to put in the effort to develop that team.

  • First, you have to find those people with the super powers you want. (The Interview)
  • Then you have to train them to use those powers for the purpose of growing your store. (The Training)
  • Finally you have to get them to use those powers in conjunction with the other super heroes on your team. (The Continual Education and Team Building)

No small task for sure. But not impossible, either. You just have to put on your Nick Fury eye-patch and start assembling your team.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, this is a different metaphor than the usual one I use for building your team. But the steps in creating a team of super heroes are exactly the same as the steps for creating a Work of Art. It all starts with having the right raw materials (super powers).

Monday, April 27, 2015

The One Loyalty Program You Need to Grow Your Business

Your brain has a gatekeeper. His name is Broca. He protects your brain from all the boring, mundane and predictable in the world.

Roy H. Williams, aka, The Wizard of Ads, was the first person to introduce me to Broca. Most advertisements fail because Broca saw them coming a mile away. But it isn't just ads that Broca blocks.

Tell me all the mundane things you did yesterday. Bet you can't remember them all.

Tell me all the surprising things that happened yesterday. Bet you nailed that list.

According to Roy, "Surprise is the foundation of delight."

If you want to delight your customers, you have to do something surprising. If you want to make your customers' experience memorable, you can't be boring, mundane or predictable.

Strativity Group Inc. in a new survey, found that people who had been "delighted" by their favorite brand were more than twice as likely to be brand-loyal than those who weren't delighted.

Another Royism... "If a person expected something to happen, and it happened, there can be no delight."

  • If you give your customer less than she expects, she's going to shred you.
  • If you give a customer exactly what she expects, at least she won't shred you, but she won't be loyal, either.
  • If you surprise a customer with more than what she expects, you'll be memorable and she'll be loyal.

Go ahead and surprise her. That's the loyalty program you really should be offering.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The easiest way to surprise and delight her is to evaluate all the interaction points a customer has with your store from the front door to the checkout and figure out exactly what she expects during each encounter. Then figure out what you can do that is a little bit more than she expects. It is far cheaper to you and more effective on her than any discount you might offer her.

PPS Need a head start on evaluating what she expects? Download the FREE e-book - Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is It Just a Block?

Last night I showed my staff the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium featuring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman.

I own a toy store, so the movie hits close to the heart.

For those not familiar with the movie, there are three other characters of note in the movie... a young boy named Eric, the store itself, and a magical block of wood called the Congreve Cube.

Paraphrasing from the movie... a block of wood has a million possibilities, but first someone has to believe in it.

There are things you originally believed when you first got into retail. There are feelings you had of excitement and joy and wonder. When you build a truly magical store, your customers get that same feeling of excitement and joy and wonder when they visit.

But sometimes you lose that feeling.

You get buried in paperwork and staffing issues and ordering and receiving and paying bills. You spend hours staring at computer screens or sitting in your office or rushing from one fire to the next. The magic may still exist for the customers, but you packed your magic into a box years ago. Next will be your staff to pack it in. And then your customers in this downward spiral.

Yet your business still sits there like a block of wood with millions of possibilities unexplored. It just needs someone to believe in it again.

I gave each of my staff their own Congreve Cube last night with the promise that I will not be a this-is-how-we've-always-done-it guy. I told them the block of wood represents a million possibilities that our store can still become. I challenged them to explore those possibilities and turn them into realities.

It only took a couple of seconds before ideas started flying. We'll be running with those ideas today.

Go ahead and watch the movie. You don't have to be a toy store to be magical and full of wonder. You just have to believe.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The first idea was Play More. I think that fits with almost every type of retail. Don't you?

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Need Your Help for my Next Book

It is time to write a new book. Something fun. Something helpful. Something about marketing and messages and creativity.

I know exactly what I want to write, but I need your help.

But first, the inspiration behind this book... A couple years ago, during an online discussion, a friend gave me a crazy suggestion for advertising Toy House. His exact words were...

"Hey, Phil, according to this data, your next advertising campaign should use kittens. Or kittens and bacon. Or even better, kittens and bacon and Kim Kardashian, though I fail to see how can THAT be done in a way that's appropriate for a toy store."

I immediately came back with...

"Would Kim Kardashian feed her kitten bacon? Would you even care?  Would you care what toys she bought? We wouldn't. Celebrity endorsements do not make toys fun. Play value makes toys fun. Toys that engage your mind and involve you in the creation of play are fun. Celebrity endorsements make things sell faster. They don't make them better. We'll focus on the better toys and leave the Kardashian endorsements to the other stores. By the way, Kim's kitten doesn't eat bacon - but ours does! Toy House in downtown Jackson. We're here to make you smile."

Another friend added...

"Okay: rap music, slow dancing, high fructose corn syrup — go!"

I quickly countered with...

"Would you slow dance to rap music? It's kinda like high fructose corn syrup. A shortcut that works, but just doesn't feel right. Unfortunately many toys are made the same way, with shortcuts such as tying into a popular movie or TV show just to get sales. It works, but it doesn't mean the toy is good for you. We won't sell high fructose corn syrup type toys. Licensing means nothing if the toy doesn't also have play value. That's how we cut the rug. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We're here to make you smile."

We decided that if you take a message a business is trying to share, plus three unrelated words, with a little creativity you can craft that into a message that gets attention, is memorable, and still makes your point clearly. The result is often more interesting than the usual boring messages we ignore.

Sometimes, to unlock your inner creativity, you just need a few examples to get you started. This will be your book.

Here is where I need your help.


I need at least 100 solid submissions of 150 words or less.

Each submission needs three things in those 150 words:

  1. A quick description of your business (include contact info, taglines, etc)
  2. The message you're trying to share or point you're trying to make
  3. Three unrelated words (English and recognizable and suitable for the FCC, please)

Your submission will be on one side of the page. My response will be on the other.

Send your submission to phil@philsforum.com with the phrase "Creative Message Book" in the subject line. (Don't forget your contact info)

If you get picked for the book, you will get three things:

  1. An email back showing you what I created (and a final chance to decide whether you want to be in the book or not)
  2. Freedom to use the creative I created for you in your own business free from copyright infringement
  3. A free copy of the book once it is published

Please send in your submissions and share this with your fellow business friends. It's time to write a new book.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I considered a kickstarter campaign for this endeavor to help offset costs and get a little more publicity. For now I'm backing this myself (you know me and freebies). I still might do a kickstarter if I don't feel this post gets enough worthy submissions. If you submit before I launch a kickstarter, you'll get all the benefits without paying a penny.

PPS I do not guarantee that the messages I write will be a cure-all for your business or should become the sole basis of your advertising campaign. The goal of this book is simply to give you ideas on how to write more creatively. I will share some of the reasons behind the choices I make to give you pointers for crafting your own message. You may choose to use your message or create something new. Either choice will be fine by me.

PPPS You must have the authority to authorize your company's info to be included in the book. If you are not that person, make sure you have their approval before you submit.

PPPPS Whew, that is enough disclaimers for now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

You Can Only Make One Point

I attended the TEDx UofM event last Friday and listened to fourteen different speakers. I was given a small booklet to write notes in. With fourteen speakers, each talking for thirteen minutes and a tiny book to record their thoughts, I figured the best thing to do was to distill each talk down to its one, single most important point.

Easier said than done.

Some speakers tried to cram many points into their short window of opportunity. Some speakers didn't really have a point at all. Some speakers nailed it perfectly. Those were the ones I enjoyed and remembered the most.

If you are ever blessed to do a TEDx or even a TED talk, do me a favor. Pick one and only one point, Then make that point as powerfully as you can.

In fact, making one point should be your mantra that will help you in many aspects of your business life.

Designing a website?
Make sure each page has one and only one clear message/action. Your click rates and conversion rates will skyrocket when you give each page a clear and singular purpose.

Designing a new advertisement?
Make it about one thing and one thing only. Drop the unnecessary fluff like your address or phone number. If you make a strong enough point, they'll find you.

If you're going to mention your services, pick one service and make the ad all about that service. If you're going to make it about a product, pick one product and drop all that other nonsense about other products and services.

At the end of your commercial, the handful of people who lightly paid attention can only remember one thing from it at the most, so make sure the one thing they remember is the one important thing you want them to remember.

Sending out an Email?
Make it about one thing. If you have two unrelated points, send two emails. First, it allows the receiver to reply to each point separately and avoids any confusion to which point they are replying. Second, it allows them to store the email for future reference in the appropriate folders based on their storage system.

Applying for a Job?
There is one skill or trait that sets you above the rest of the applicants. Highlight that trait. Make it the single most important point of all your communication. If you win that trait, you've won more than half the battle.

The more points you try to make, the more you weaken the original message.

There is a classic story of a copywriter of a big company called into a meeting with the advertising committee to go over the new campaign. The chair of the committee explained they had narrowed down the campaign to twelve points they needed the copywriter to make. After explaining all the points in detail, the committee chair realized the copywriter hadn't been taking notes. When he asked the copywriter about this, the copywriter reached into his bag and pulled out board with twelve nails pointing straight up. Next he took out a frying pan and to everyone's surprise, slammed it down on the bed of nails. He held it up so that everyone could see the tiny indentations in the bottom of the pan. Then he took out another board with one solitary spike on it. He slammed the pan down right over the spike. The spike easily pierced the pan, sticking the pan flush to the board. He looked up at the chair and said...

"Now, how many points did you want me to make?"

Make only one point and make it well. You are more likely to get your point across. It works in so many ways.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This works with your staff, too. Work on one issue at a time. It works with your vendors, your customers, even your children and spouse. Make one point and only one point. Once you get that point across, then you can move onto another point.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Your Customers Already Have the Power

Your customers have incredible power. They can take your business down overnight. One unchecked and unanswered complaint, one un-refuted accusation, one video of something you did wrong going viral, and you're gone.

Just ask Paula Dean.

It didn't use to be this way. You used to have all the power. You controlled access to the products. You had all the information. You were the gate-keeper. The customer had to go through you and your policies to get what she wanted.

All that has changed. Thanks to the Internet your customer often knows as much or more about the product than you do. She also found fifteen places where she could buy it without leaving her house.

Never before in the history of retail has the customer had this much power.

According to Tom Wanek, that's a good thing. In his book Currencies that buy Credibility, one of the ways you can earn your customer's trust is by giving up Power & Control. He gives the example of an online shoe seller - Shoeline.com - that puts complete and full reviews (regardless of how good or bad) right below every shoe they sell. They show the warts and all and let the customers know up front what people think about each pair. They don't try to hide anything.

You know that nothing is perfect, right? So does your customer. She knows that everything has a downside and no matter what you try to sell her, she will be looking for that downside. By showing the downside up front, Shoeline.com is building trust. Their transparency of the downsides puts the power and control into the hands of the customer.

Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, MI has another interesting take on transparency. They tell all their employees all of their financials. They believe it is better for everyone to know what is going on with the company. Their experience is that it gives the employees some level of control to know how they influence the financial well-being of the company. It works. They now have nine different parts of their business and do tens of millions of dollars.

Full transparency builds trust. Your customer knows you have an agenda - to sell her stuff. When you are open and honest about the downsides, open and honest about your pricing, open and honest about why you do what you do, you cede all power and control to her, which earns her trust and, more importantly, the sale.

She already has most of the power, yet she's standing in your store. No sense holding on to what little power you have left.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Speaking of transparency, I don't get a single penny from any affiliate programs. Tom did give me some free books for a class I was teaching a couple months ago, but I write about his book not for any financial gain (other than yours). I get paid through my retail business at Toy House and for doing speaking gigs. I write this blog and give away information for free because A) I can, B) I love helping. I've done these posts about Trust because I believe it is one of the single most important tools indie retailers have left that we can use better than our competitors.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sometimes No Actually Does Mean Yes

No means No.  Most of the time I agree.

Here is where it doesn't. When your No leads to their Yes.

There is a toy company that just put it out to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) that they said No to Amazon. That's a pretty big deal. That's a lot of volume in one place that they turned down. That's a lot of sales missed.

They said no to an opportunity for more sales and more money. And many, many more stores that had maybe been on the fence about carrying their product just said Yes to them.

We're talking about Trust. Trust is the most critical element you have to earn to grow your customer base and increase customer loyalty. In Tom Wanek's book Currencies That Buy Credibility, one of those currencies you can pay is Opportunity.

When you are willing to turn down opportunities just to stay true to who you are, you earn trust. When you put your mission ahead of profits, you earn trust. When you say, "No, we won't do it that way even though it might be (easier, more lucrative, more profitable)," you earn trust.

Tom brings up the Toyota-founded company Scion that makes those funky, weird-looking vehicles. Scion could sell tons more vehicles than they do, but they don't want to be a mass-market company. So instead of ramping up production, they limit it and scale it back so that their vehicles remain rare and funky. Their customer base, having seen them forego opportunity to remain true to the original mission, has a level of trust far higher than otherwise.

There are certain toys every year that I just say No to. Why? Because they don't have the Play Value that is so necessary for children. Could I sell a whole bunch of these other toys? Sure. They have shelf-appeal and advertising behind them. But if I spent decades talking about Play Value and then started selling these toys, I would lose all credibility the moment I put those toys on the shelf.

When you say No, you mean No. But sometimes your No leads to another person's Yes.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The picture above is a product called Baby Paper. Yes, I plan to order it. They earned my trust. I want to repay it. That was my initial reaction and it will be your customer's initial reaction when they see you turn down opportunities just to remain loyal to your mission and your current customer base. Not only will I order, I'll tell others like me to order. Not only will your loyal customers remain loyal, they'll bring others like them to the table. That is what Trust does.

Monday, March 2, 2015

We All Get Distracted

I haven't written in almost a month. I got distracted. It happens.

This blog isn't my first job. Technically it ranks around four or five or maybe six. I have my family and Toy House up there at the top. I have my Daddy Class at the local hospital. I have my paid gigs like the Jackson Retail Success Academy and other workshops and seminars (I'm writing this from a hotel room the night before I talk to a group of pet store owners).

Sometimes things don't get done.

This is not an excuse, other than to remind you that it can happen to any of us. The best thing you can do when it happens is apologize, pick up the pieces, and get started again.

I'm sorry for not writing more. But I'm back now with a better focus. I'm working on some great new concepts for the remainder of this year including a new website and a more tools you can use right away to make your retail business more successful. And yes, I am still devoted to giving you free content. Look for some new Freebies by the end of April.

Thanks for your patience.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Yes, I will finish the segments on Trust I started back in January. I believe that trust is more important today than it has ever been. Trust is why your customer will believe her sister-in-law's uneducated guesses to be more reliable than your thirty years of experience with the products.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Would You Ever Admit You Weren't the Best?

Avis did.

Avis ran a whole ad campaign for several years based on the fact that they were NOT the number one company in their industry.

We're number two. We try harder.

They stood naked to the world. We are not number one. That admission was enough to garner a whole lot of trust. Any company willing to admit something like that so boldly shows that they have nothing to hide.

The Currency they were spending was Reputation and Prestige. They put their reputation and prestige on the line, told everyone their warts, and used it to their advantage. End result? Their market share rose from 10% to 35%!!

Admitting your flaws or shortcomings may seem counter intuitive to getting people to trust you, but in reality, it can be one of your most powerful tools to earning that trust. They say honesty is the best policy, right?

Being honest about your flaws is simply the right thing to do. Admitting when you made a mistake wins the heart of the customer. They know you made a mistake. You know you made a mistake. Trying to cover it up or ignore it only builds distrust and resentment.

Everything and everybody and every business has flaws. No one and nothing is perfect. When you try to show that you are perfect to everyone, they see right through you. They know there is a downside. They will be looking for the downside whether you tell them or not. So go first. Tell them the downside to doing business with you before they start looking. Tell them the downside to the product you're trying to sell them. The upside of telling them the downside is that they are more willing to trust everything else you say.

  1. Admit your mistakes and shortcomings.
  2. Tell them the downside.

Building trust doesn't cost as much as you think. You just have to spend the right currencies.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Patagonia is another example Tom Wanek used in his book. They were a multi-million dollar company when the owner realized his company wasn't lined up with his own personal values of being environmentally conscious. He totally revamped the company and lost a lot of business in the process. But he gained a lot of trust, too. That trust is what led him back from the brink. His customer base basically said, "Anyone willing to take so much heat and so many financial losses to run his company in a way he could be proud is someone I can trust to do what he says he'll do."

PPS You don't need business examples to know this is true. The media and celebrity world give you all the examples you'll ever need. Admit the scandal and people forgive you. Deny the scandal and the storm never blows over.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

We Trust the Non-Sellers More

Late night infomercials have done more to harm the trust relationship between retailers and customers than almost anything else out there.

You've seen the shows where the person claims to be the expert on something, but you have a hard time believing them because they are also trying to sell you something. You doubt the veracity of their claims. You question their motive. No matter how much of an expert they prove to be, you just don't trust them.

Yet, one of the Currencies that buy Credibility is the Time & Energy you invest in educating your customer base and showing off your expertise.

So how do you invest your Time & Energy in a way that builds trust instead of breaking it down?


The key to educating your customer base in a way that builds trust is to remove any sales pitch from the process. The sales pitch is what undermines trust, so drop it.

In Tom Wanek's book, he mentions the REI website that is chock full of educational articles. Those articles are extremely useful and helpful to anyone thinking about camping and outdoor recreation. More importantly, they don't try to sell you on one brand or another. They give you suggestions about the types of products you need, but stop short of pushing any particular product.

They have shown the customer that they are willing to invest their time and energy to make sure you know everything you need to know - even if they don't get the sale! That's the sacrifice they will make to build trust.

We do similar types of classes here - purely informational. Whether it is about toys or baby products, I take the approach of teaching the customers everything they need to know to make smarter choices without telling them what to choose. Yes, they can take that information and go shop elsewhere with confidence. At the same time, because I am building trust, I am winning them over to shop with me. I am training them to look at toys or baby products the same way I look at those items.

I know my customers are going to go to other stores. I know my customers are going to go online. I also know that at the end of the day they are going to buy from the store they trust the most. By dropping the sales pitch, I win the sale.


Apple has a different approach. They invest their Time & Energy after the sale. They call it the Genius Bar. The Genius Bar tells customers...

"We understand our products have a learning curve. We so strongly believe you will enjoy our products that we will invest the Time and Energy to make sure you know how to use them properly."

The power of Apple's approach is that their willingness to help you out after the fact gives you trust and confidence in the purchase, and they reinforce the purchase decision by making sure you use the product to the best of its abilities, which creates loyalty.

You are an expert on your products and your industry. You can build trust by investing the Time & Energy to share that expertise with your customer base. Just drop the sales pitch. We trust the non-sellers more.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The Internet has changed one thing about information - the expectation that information should be free. The gatekeepers of information are gone, replaced by a flood of information greater than anything Noah ever faced. With so much information out there, the information that is most trusted is the information that isn't trying to sell you anything. Make sure your company is the source of that information and you'll garner enough trust to not have to make a sales pitch at all.