My boys and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this evening. We are Marvel Studios junkies. Even the bad ones were good enough for us. I’ve always been fascinated by super heroes, especially their powers and how they use them. I am firm believer that we all have super powers within us. Maybe not the ability to fly or super-human strength or making fire shoot from our eyes. But we have talents that, when harnessed properly, become amazing powers.
I have learned that one of my powers is the ability to take complex subjects and make them understandable.
Independent retailers have to master a number of skills to be successful.
- You have to be good with your Products – knowing your products inside and out, knowing how to relate to customers, knowing which products to sell and how to sell them.
- You have to be good at Marketing & Advertising – knowing how to get the word out to people that you are the place to shop.
- You have to be good at Financials – knowing how to manage your cash flow, maintaining profit margin, keeping expenses in alignment with sales.
- If you’re a large enough store you have to be good with People – knowing how to hire, train, and manage a quality team.
Those are the main legs of the retail business – Products, Marketing, Financials, and People.
I used to say I was good at three, just don’t ask me about Financials. Then the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) asked me to do something unthinkable. They asked me to write a book about the financials of a toy store called “Financials Made Easy.”
They said if anyone could do it, I could. I told them if they changed the title to “Financials You Can Understand” (because no one could make it “easy”) then I was their guy.
In four months I learned and understood more about Financials than I ever thought possible. The book is one of my favorite writing projects because I had to take a topic I barely understood myself and translate it into the language of non-accountants everywhere. (My accountant friends who helped proof-read the book for errors were amazed as much as I was at how well it turned out.)
The book is proprietary property of ASTRA. You have to join ASTRA to get a copy. But the knowledge I gained in the process helped me tremendously at Toy House and also in my teachings through Jackson Retail Success Academy™ and PhilsForum. Later that year I did my first workshop on the topic. One of the attendees said her accountant had been trying to teach her this stuff for years, but this was the first time it finally made sense.
I have now presented several times on the topics of Retail Math, my least favorite and least experienced topic. I’ll be doing both a beginner and an expert breakout session on elements of the book at the upcoming ASTRA Academy in June.
I tell you this because I want you to understand the reasoning behind writing the book Most Ads Suck. Unlike Financials, I love Marketing & Advertising. I took over that element of Toy House in 1995 and began experimenting, trying different things to see what worked. I began studying advertising and reading different authors who spoke on advertising.
My radio sales rep Linda McDougall gave me Roy H. Williams’ first book The Wizard of Ads. I was hooked immediately. I ordered the other two books in his trilogy the very next day. I also became a huge fan of Seth Godin and joined his now defunct website triiibes based on his book Tribes where I met people as passionate about marketing and advertising as I was. I started using stuff I learned from Roy and Seth and Malcolm Gladwell and Gary Vaynerchuk and Daniel H. Pink and Guy Kawasaki and others.
Not everything I learned worked for me. I had to mix and distill and tweak and measure and test. But when it did work, it was magical.
I wrote this ad in a few minutes one Sunday afternoon in July 2008 …
I couldn’t believe it. They were taking customers into the men’s bathroom. Yes, my staff was taking men and women, young and old, into our men’s bathroom. And they were coming out laughing, smiling, oh yeah, and buying, too. I guess when you have a product this good, you just have to show it off however… and wherever… you can. The men’s bathroom… Gotta love it! Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.
I didn’t ever think about not running it. It told a story. It made you laugh (emotion). It grabbed your interest. Yeah, it mentioned the men’s bathroom, but not in a bad or seedy way. Yeah, it never mentioned the product (if you remember the previous blog, you know that feelings are more important than facts.) Yeah, it went viral big time.
The ad ran in August 2008. Two times a day, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. That’s it.
The first day it aired, the DJ started talking about it live on air, wondering what was going on in our men’s bathroom. The second day, all the DJ’s on all the related stations were talking about it – including one of the stations that wasn’t even running the ad! By day three even the local TV talk show host was speculating on that ad. All fall my staff and I would get asked at the grocery store or the gas station about what was going on in the men’s bathroom. In March 2009 one customer stopped in and asked me because, “All we talked about at the adult table at Christmas Dinner was was going on in your men’s bathroom.” And she lived two hours away!
When people are talking about your ads weeks and months after they aired, you made memorable ads. When people are asking you about your ads even when you’re not in your store, your business is at the top of their minds. When people talk to their friends and family about your ads, you know you made an impact.
That ad wasn’t a lucky accident. It was years of study and testing. It was years of trial and error. It was millions of dollars spent learning what moves the needle and what doesn’t.
The book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t) is me using my super powers to take something as complex and nuanced as Advertising, that I have spent twenty years studying and actively doing, and make it understandable. This is me at my best helping you become your best. I am asking for your support to help launch this book.
My super power is to make it understandable. I’m counting on your super power to make it happen now.
PS The principles in this book don’t just work for radio ads. The principles apply to billboards, print ads, television, direct mail, email, social media, pitches to investors, political speeches, and anywhere else where you need to persuade someone. If you haven’t yet pre-ordered the book through my Indiegogo campaign, there are plenty of links above.