Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oops, I Violated My Own Facebook Rules (and got "boosted")

This Thursday, 1/29/15 is National Puzzle Day. Being a toy store that sells thousands of puzzles, that is a big deal to us. Naturally, we are going to celebrate it and I'm going to promote it via Facebook.

But I violated one of my golden rules for getting around the Facebook algorithm. I used language that sounded like a promotion.

And Facebook busted me...

I mentioned a "% off" in the copy and FB flagged it and sent me this suggestion that I boost the post (because now that they know it is a promotion, they sure as heck aren't letting it out).

Fortunately I have two more days to find unique, clever and creative ways to invite people to the event without sounding like a promotion. I'm feeling up to this challenge.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Here is the full copy of what I said. Notice that there isn't a date or time or exclamation point. There was a picture. There will be more pictures and more posts.

They say this Thursday is National Puzzle Day.

Since puzzles are rarely finished in a day, I always thought this Month should be National Puzzle Month. 

But since they made it a day, I guess we should honor that day.

Would you like to celebrate with us? Would you like to see different styles of puzzles on different tables throughout the store? Would you like to touch and feel the different brands and how they make their pieces? Would you like to try your luck at pulling out the one special puzzle piece in the jar that will give you 50% off your puzzle purchases that day? (The other unlucky pieces only get you 5 to 10% off)

Here is an interesting tidbit... Last year we sold over one million puzzle pieces all told! And so far, only 6 were missing.

Join us this Thursday to put a few thousand more pieces in their place.

Friday, January 23, 2015

You Have to Pay for Trust

She doesn't trust you. She has been burned by many retailers before you. If you want her to trust you, you better be ready to pay for that trust. You better be ready to show her what you are willing to sacrifice to earn her trust.

Are you willing to give up money to earn her trust?

Are you willing to give up power and control to earn her trust?

Are you willing to give up time and energy to earn her trust?

Are you willing to give up opportunities to earn her trust?

Are you willing to put your reputation and prestige on the line to earn her trust?

Are you willing to risk safety and well-being to earn her trust?

These are the six Currencies that buy Credibility as outlined by Tom Wanek in his book of the same name. If you want her to trust you, she needs to know that you are willing to pay one (or more) of these prices.

If you are willing to pay the price, you will not only earn her trust, you'll earn her loyalty. You will not only earn her business, you will earn access to her network. When your customers trust you, you have built a recession-proof, competition-proof business. 

Just remember that trust is fragile and easily broken. And actions speak louder than words.

We'll explore all six of these prices to pay in upcoming posts.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Tom's book has some great examples. I plan to add a few examples of my own. Some of these, you are already doing (but might not realize it). Some of these are things you would do if asked. Some of these are things you would do if you knew what a difference it would make. Some of these are things you'll say No Way!  That's okay. Just remember that the more you're willing to sacrifice for the customer, the more she will trust you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do Your Customers Trust You?

I've plowed my parking lot clean. I've held open the front door for my customer. I've greeted her with a genuine hello and thanks for coming in. I've avoided the dreaded Can I help you? phrase.

Those are the easy obstacles to remove.

The biggest obstacle is a lack of trust. A new customer sails in on cargo ship full of cynicism the first time she visits you.

It is easy to see why.

Many retailers, especially the biggest among us, have forsaken that trust time and time again. The bait & switch. The mark-it-up-to-mark-it-down. The everything-must-be-locked-because-we-think-you're-a-thief displays. The 4.5 font fine print. The No's (no returns, no refunds, no touching, no opening the package, no exceptions). The because-one-customer-burned-us-once-you-all-have-to-pay policies. The too-good-to-be-true offers that weren't. The defects. The lost orders. The wrong orders. The lack of trained employees. The lack of employees who care. The lack of employees, period.

The list goes on and on.

You might not do anything on that list, but your customer has experienced it somewhere so she believes every retailer is out to screw her either on purpose or through their own ineptness. That is her reality so that is her expectation.


The only good news is that since her expectation is pretty low, it doesn't take much to exceed that expectation and start to build up that trust. The bad news is that it only takes one slip up, one time where you acted like all those other stores, for her to lump you in with the worst of them.

Even if you only do the most minimum of transgressions, you get treated like the worst offender ever. And unlike the big box stores, the indie retailer has to fight twice as hard for a second chance.

It makes you wonder why anyone would want to be in our profession in the first place.

Trust, however, is the single most powerful tool you can use to grow your business. Trust trumps sales and discounts because trust creates loyalty, customers that will pay your price and have your back at the same time. Trust trumps huge advertising campaigns because without trust, your message falls on deaf ears. Trust trumps technology because even the most advanced systems cannot fix a broken heart.

But Trust can be bought.

Tom Wanek wrote the defining book on the topic - Currencies That Buy Credibility. Over the next few posts, I'll show you how you can build trust in your customers' hearts by spending one of six different currencies Tom spells out in his book.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This Wednesday the students in my Jackson Retail Success Academy class will get all six currencies at once, along with a few other lessons on Marketing & Advertising. One of these days I'm going to get Tom up here to Jackson to talk about it directly. In the meantime, keep your eyes out for an announcement about how you can partake in shortened versions of JRSA later this year.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Four Worst Words in Retail

You know them. You've probably even said them. More than likely you started cringing even as the words were floating across the ether.

Can I help you?

You say those words and the response is automatic.

No thanks, I'm just looking.

Here is why those words are so bad.

First, the knee-jerk reaction, even from someone who actually wants your help, is to say NO. The last word you want your customer to say is NO. NO puts up a wall between you and your customer. NO ends the conversation and makes you feel bad, too.

Second, you just got your customer to say out loud that she is Not. There. To. Buy. She told you she was just looking. She told herself that she was just looking. Once she says it, she starts to believe it. It becomes her reality.

Third, about three-fourths of your customers are scared to be approached by your staff in the first place. In part it has to do with how we communicate - especially the guys.


I'm going to share a secret with you. Men and women communicate differently. Yes, I said it. Crucify me now if you want. I speak the truth.

Men speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? This is why guys don't like to ask directions. To ask is to imply that I don't know. To ask is to make someone think lower of me. Sorry, I'm just not comfortable doing that.

Women, however, speak horizontally. Did what I say draw me in closer or push me further away? Women love to ask for help. It draws them into the inner circle.

For men, when the sales staff approaches and asks to help them, they immediately go into a shell. They put up the wall of defense. They say "I'm just looking," sometimes before you even say a word. In reality, they are just looking. They are looking for a sign to tell them the information they need so that they don't have to ask anyone. If you want to assist a man who is shopping, you have to say things that empower him and make him feel important and smart.

For women, understand that even though they like to ask, about half of them need time to formulate the proper question before they will ask. Those are your introverts. They will engage, but only after they have figured out exactly how they want to engage. You have to bring them into the inner circle on their terms. Get too close too soon and up goes the wall.


Rather than bombard your customers with a barrage of "Can I help you's?", Try a different approach. Say "Thank you for coming in," with a genuine smile and appreciation. After all, they didn't have to come to your store. With all the options out there, they chose you. Be thankful. The guys will feel empowered. The gals will feel like they are invited into the inner circle. The introverts won't feel threatened. The wall won't get built.

Then you have a chance to do what you're really supposed to do with your customers - build a relationship that leads to trust.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Building a relationship that leads to trust isn't as hard as it sounds. If you were paying attention, the last three posts were about the parking lot, the front door, and the greeting. Building the relationship is next.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I Want a New Front Door

Our front doors suck.

Okay, they could be worse. They could be something other than glass, heavier than hell, and hard to hold open. At least you can see through them into and out of the store, and most of the kids can push them to get in.

There used to be a store downtown that kept their heavy front door propped open almost all year long. They had heavenly scents wafting out onto the sidewalk. You had to stop and enjoy the smells when you walked by, even if the inviting doorway didn't draw you in.

About the only thing our doors do is slow you down to a crawl when you have a head of steam built up from the trek across the parking lot. If you have a stroller, wheelchair or walker, heaven help you.

For our store, the front door is our Bad Table. It is our Achilles heel. Along with our 1967-built bathrooms, it is one of the few design flaws of our store.

For that reason, I have instructed every single member of our staff to always keep one eye out the window. Sure, they need to focus mostly on who is in the store, but keep that one eye out for someone crossing the parking lot who might need help with the door. Keep one eye out for strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and young kids.

Yes, we rush over and open the door for our customers all day long. Coming and going. It takes a little more work. It takes a little more hustle on the part of the staff. It also takes one of the negatives of our store off the table.

Average stores that cater to average customers don't even think about their front doors. They figure every store has a front door and every customer is versed on how to use one. And they are right. But not every front door is the same. Not every front door sends the same message to the customer. Amazing stores have amazing front doors because they know it is the first impression the customer has of their business.

One day I will have an amazing front door. For now, we hustle to make sure it is at least above average. Helpful is one of our Core Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The Coat Check is another one of my plans for making the front door more amazing. What can you do to your front door to at least make sure it isn't a barrier to business? My grandfather wanted to build a carousel that kids could ride into the store. Now that would be an amazing front door!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Hate Slush

Winter weather has finally arrived in Jackson, Michigan. Snow, ice, wind chills below zero, the whole nine yards. Every trip to the bank means sloshing through the slush that accumulates at the curb. My shoes and boots are a mess.

I hate slush.

I can deal with the snow and the cold. I just don't like the slush.

I also have a big parking lot - 58 spaces. That's the potential for a lot of slush. But not if I can help it. We go through tons of bags of salt and multiple shovelings to try to keep the lot as clean as possible. My snowplow guy knows I want it plowed at any sniff of snow, far less snow than his other clients. He charges me a little more, but it is worth it.

It isn't just my hatred of slush that causes this behavior. It is my love of my customers. I figure I am not the only one who hates slush. I want to send a strong signal to those people that we will keep our parking lot as slush-free as possible.

You don't think that matters? People make decisions daily on where to go and what to do based on tiny little factors like this. Your attention to details (or lack thereof) is sending signals to potential customers Every. Single. Day.

My customers might not even be consciously aware of why they like going to my store in the winter. But I am certainly going to make sure I eliminate as many possible things they don't like.

When you are trying to give your customer the best possible Experience, it starts when they park the car. If you can control that Experience, you need to control that Experience. These things do matter and do make a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Ask yourself this question... Which costs more? A dozen bags of salt or a lost customer?

PPS One other benefit is that we rarely have that situation where our carpets are soaked from all the slush dragged in. Don't those blowers you see at the big box stores just make you feel dirty?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Here is a Year-End Evaluation Most Retailers Won't Do

Try to describe in as complete detail as possible the typical experience your customer has in your store. Be as specific as you can from her parking spot through the front door all the way through checkout.

Take your time. This is an important exercise. You can even do this with your staff. Write down all the touch points, all the interactions she has with your business, your displays, your products, and your staff.

Once you get it all down, take a close look at each touch point.

  • Which ones are remarkable
  • Which ones are experiences she will not get at any of your competitors? 
  • Which ones are above and beyond even her lofty expectations? 
  • Which ones surprise and delight her? 
  • Which ones are simply average, similar to what everyone else is doing? 
  • Which ones are worse than your competitors?

In today's high-tech economy where shopping online has a better selection, is more convenient, and often has better prices, the primary way indie brick & mortar stores are going to compete and grow and win the hearts of customers is through the experience you offer them.

Shopping is still a contact sport. Shopping is still a touch & feel activity. Shopping is still a multi-sensory Experience with a capital E.

To win the customer, her Experience has to be remarkable. Her Experience has to surprise and delight her. Her Experience has to go above and beyond her lofty expectations. It cannot be at or even near the same levels as your competitors. By all means, it cannot be average.

Sights, Sounds, Smells, and Interactions all have to shine together.

Most retailers this time of year look at your numbers, look at your product selection, look at your local economy, look at your marketing for reasons why your business did what it did. Few will take a critical eye to each touch point of the customer's Experience. Yet that is where your success will be.

I've read all the predictions for 2015 about mobile shopping, online and big data, For big companies with average products and average services, all that data is important for them to compete in their race to the bottom.

You are not average. You are not going after average customers by selling average products. If you want to win the race to the top, make sure your customers' Experiences are so far above average that they don't think of it as shopping so much as an outing or an event. I predict that will be the biggest key to your success this coming year.

The Red Hat Ladies Having Fun at Toy House
-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you need some ideas on how to look at all the touch points in your store and raise the bar of Experience, download my FREE eBook Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Journey of a Thousand Miles...

We all know the proverb... A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

We all know January is the month of making resolutions and getting started on that first single step.

I'll throw another favorite saying out at you... Success is a journey, not a destination.

Maybe your journey really is one thousand miles. Maybe your journey only feels like one thousand miles. Maybe your journey has no end point, but is the purpose in the first place. The reality of that single step, however, can never be underestimated.

I took a step six years ago to launch Phil's Forum Publishing, LLC and start writing this blog. At first I was lucky to get 6 people to read each post. Sometime last month, however, (while I was busy running the toy store instead of blogging, ironically) I reached one million views. It wasn't a goal necessarily, but it sure is a cool milestone, that upon reflection, reminds me how far I have journeyed the past 6+ years.

You just have to take that first step.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I apologize for not writing much the last couple months. I have many steps to take this year to make up for it and hope you are ready to journey along with me.