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More Advertising vs Better Customer Service

Today I spoke to the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority (MAEDA) about Raising the Bar on Customer Service. This is one of my favorite talks because it is filled with ideas you can use right away to start making a difference for your customers and raising the level of their delight to the point that your customers start talking about you.

Isn’t that the true goal of any business—to give your customer such an amazing experience that she can’t wait to tell someone, can’t wait to come back, can’t wait to bring her friends with her?

If that isn’t your Customer Service goal, it should be. It is the only goal that is sustainable long term.

This is me helping Kingman Museum “Raise the Bar”

I spoke to this same group last May about Making Your Ads More Effective, the presentation based on my newest book coming out (soon!) That is another of my favorite topics because it shakes to the core any mistaken beliefs you might have had about advertising, and teaches you how to get people to notice your ads, remember your ads, and act on your ads.

Advertising and Customer Service are two areas where you can stand out the most compared to your competition. But when resources are limited, which should get the majority of your focus?

The dream for any retailer is to have exclusive, high-demand product that no one else sells. You have that and all you have to do is run an ad and start printing money. Unfortunately, the Internet killed that dream for the vast majority of retail. It is highly likely that you won’t have an exclusive on your merchandise ever again, and you likely won’t have the best price in town (not that you should ever want to be the lowest price in town).

The second dream for any retailer is the falsehood perpetuated by the movie Field of Dreams.

If you build it, they won’t come.

You have to build it, talk about it (advertising), and make it spectacular (customer service).

  1. Build it
  2. Talk about it
  3. Make it spectacular

That’s the order the customers see.

But for you, the order should really be …

  1. Build it
  2. Make it spectacular
  3. Talk about it

When you think in those terms, that third element—the talking about it—could be done by you, or better yet, by your customers.

  1. Build it
  2. Make it spectacular
  3. Get your customers to talk about it

Before you spend another dime on advertising, spend the next dime on training your team.

Spend the next dime on figuring out new ways to surprise and delight your customers. The best businesses are fueled by a high level of repeat and referral customers. Repeat business comes from great customer service. Referrals come from surprisingly delightful WOW customer service. Once you have that, then you can spend some money telling the world what you built. Then they will come.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes it is the slower way to build your business, but it is also the stronger way to build it because the customers you win are much more loyal than the customers you buy. Right now you have the advantage of the larger crowds of shoppers for the holiday season to win more customers. Don’t miss this opportunity. You could also think about it in reverse. What happens if you spend a lot of money to attract large crowds before you make it spectacular? They won’t be back, but your advertising money will be down the drain. You’ll have to spend more money to attract more first-timers.

PPS Yes, I do one-on-one business coaching to help you find where you can raise the bar on your customer service. Yes, I do presentations to large groups of businesses like the wonderful crowd today. Yes, I do half-day and full-day workshops that not only talk about the broader picture, but also include in-depth ways to find and train the kind of staff that can consistently offer the experiences that people talk about to their friends. Give me a call or send me an email. Scott Fleming, the MAEDA director said, “I was sad to see your last slide. I really didn’t want this presentation to end.”

What the Kids Are Learning

Last night my son wanted to read to me a paper he had written for Eleventh Grade Honors English. The paper was a review of an essay they had read. In Ian’s paper he had to show examples of the different styles of persuasion the author had used in his essay.

The more Ian read, the more interested I became. In Eleventh Grade Honors English they teach three different types of persuasive writing:

  • Emotional Connection
  • Empathy
  • Sympathy

It seems that most advertisers have forgotten what they learned in 11th grade.

Listen to the radio today. Tell me how many local businesses try to make an emotional connection with you. Heck, watch TV and tell me how many national retailers are trying to make an emotional connection with you. That first answer is probably zero, and the second answer isn’t much higher.

Instead they try to entertain you and/or give you facts, thinking that will persuade you.

Have you ever heard or seen an advertisement that made you say, “Wow, this company totally gets me!”?

Yet, what would it mean to your business if your advertising connected with people that way? Empathy is the ability to not only understand your customer, but also show that you feel the same way she feels. Do your advertisements show that? If not, they likely aren’t persuasive enough.

Even if all you can do is show that you understand how people feel and can help them get through that feeling (sympathy), you have a chance to move the needle.

Anything short of that and you won’t accomplish what advertising is supposed to do. You won’t persuade anyone. They are teaching this in 11th grade. Maybe we all need a refresher course.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Writing emotional ads that connect is not easy, nor does it feel normal—mainly because it doesn’t sound like everyone else out there. Then again, do you want to sound like everyone else out there? Do you want to persuade? This ad was our sole Christmas ad in 2005 and it lead to our best Christmas season ever. We ran it again in 2007 and smashed all previous records. (Note that it doesn’t give our hours, our location, our services, or anything really pertinent.)

He left Detroit 9am Christmas Eve.  Some store somewhere had to have the one toy his sweet little six-year old wanted.  Six stores…seven hours later, he stood, travel-weary, across the counter from me.  “I suppose you don’t have any Simon games either.”  As I handed over the last of our Simon games he smiled and said, “God Bless You!”  Believe me, He already has.  Merry Christmas from the Toy House in Downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Here is another ad that moved the needle …

Squealing rubber, crunching metal, breaking glass. Sheila’s baby daughter, Livvy, was in the back seat. The next day she called to thank me for installing the car seat that saved Livvy’s life. This is Phil Wrzesinski from the Toy House. Since that day my staff and I have installed over two thousand car seats to keep kids like Livvy safe and give parents and grandparents peace of mind. It’s just something we believe in. I guess you can call that the Toy House Way.

Online Advertising: What They Say, What You Get

I have a bad habit. I like to play games in my iPad right before going to bed. I know I’m not supposed to have screen time before bed, but it settles me down and helps me clear my mind. My favorite game to play is Free Cell. It is a form of solitaire and extremely addicting. I’m on level 408. It takes about ten wins to get to the next level, so you can get an idea how often I play.

I’m also kinda stingy. It’s already expensive enough that I use my iPad primarily for playing Free Cell and as my alarm clock. I refuse to pay to have ad-free game play while playing Free Cell. So between every game I wait for the ad to pop up and then close it as soon as I can. Usually it is just an ad for another game they think I would like. Every now and then I get some annoying video ads—reason #1 why I keep the volume off.

Last night I got something new. I got a local ad. It was for one of our candidates for Mayor. Nice shot of him smiling at the camera and talking about something. (I had the volume off so I don’t know what he said, but I’ve seen his campaign material and known him long enough to have an idea.)

Here’s the problem …

I got his ad between every game I played last night. Every. Single. Game. I played about three-and-a-half levels. Do the math.

Please vote!

Worse yet, I don’t live in the city. I don’t get to vote for or against him regardless of how many times his video played.

I will definitely ask him how much he spent on that ad. I want to know what they told him and sold him, because I doubt he got his actual money’s worth.

Therein lies the rub with online advertising. It is a numbers game, they tell you. It is a cheap way to reach a lot of people, they tell you. It reaches all the right people, they tell you. I’ve been pitched by online advertising salespeople many times before. I know the script.

Yet here was a guy running for Mayor on a tight budget in a small city. He got that pitch and because he is a politician, not a business person, he fell for it. And for his money, he got his ad sent to one guy thirty-five times who doesn’t live in the city, can’t vote for him, and didn’t even have the volume on to hear what he had to say.

Imagine how many more people like me also were bombarded by his ad. If I would have had the volume on, I might have liked his pitch the first three or four times I heard it, but by version #35, I might have switched sides for the seventh time. Then again, I don’t get to vote tomorrow for or against him.

They tell you online advertising is cheap because it is targeted directly at the people you want to reach. False. He didn’t want to reach me.

They tell you online advertising is cheap because you can reach tons of people for a fraction of the price. False. You can’t control how many times the same person sees your ad, versus new people seeing your ad. Heck, last spring CNBC reported that 20% or $16.4 billion dollars of online advertising is wasted due to fraud, reaching fake people (probably with fake news).

They tell you online advertising is where the millennials are. False. Go ask your millennial friends how many times they have purposefully clicked an online ad. You don’t have to ask, because you already know.

Proctor & Gamble just cut $140 million from their online advertising budget because they realized how ineffective it was.

My buddy Tim Miles shared this link with me about the top ten problems with online advertising.

I’m telling you this now, because in the next few weeks you’re going to panic, just like every retailer does this time of year. You’re going to be afraid that you haven’t done enough to advertise your business. You’re going to get pitched by someone selling online advertising as cheap, targeted, and effective. You’ll be intrigued, partly because of your panic, partly because it is the shiny, new bauble in the advertising world. Then you’re going to spend like a drunk in Vegas on a gamble where the odds are not in your favor.

Think of this blog as your black coffee and aspirin to the rescue.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Want to reach a bunch of targeted people online incredibly cheaply and effectively? Take pictures or quick videos of your products and say something completely memorable and shareworthy about the products. Post those daily (at the least) on all your social media platforms and share them on your own personal pages. You won’t reach everyone, but the more shareworthy you make it, the more people will share it with their friends, which is exactly what you want to happen. Best of all, it is free! (It is all about “shares” not “likes” so you have to say things people want to pass on.)

PPS Enjoy it while you can, however. Facebook is experimenting with a separate feed for friends and for business pages, which will bury your posts completely unless you pay FB. I’m following this and will report back when I know more.

Robots Replacing Workers

I’ve been following the minimum wage hike debate for years. As a store owner, minimum wage had a direct impact on our bottom line. I never wanted to pay minimum wage to my team because I never expected minimum work. Yet, in retail, there are only so many dollars to go around. Add more to the payroll and you have to subtract from somewhere else, or grow your business enough to cover the added expense.

One of the arguments often used by those opposed to minimum wage hikes is that it would lead to more automation. I can envision that reality in big corporate chains for two reasons. The first is that many retail corporations don’t do anything to train their employees to maximum effectiveness. The second is that these same corporations also don’t value their employees or expect anything out of them. (Does anyone see the vicious downward cycle in this thought process?)

Robot scanning shelves in a Walmart pharmacy
Picture from Walmart’s blog

The reality of automation is coming to a Walmart near you. Walmart is testing robots in select stores in Arkansas, California, and Pennsylvania to help scan and stock shelves.

Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, said that the robots were 50% more productive than their human counterparts but would not replace workers or impact worker headcount.

Are you buying that? Do you really think Walmart is going to invest in robots that are 50% more productive and still pay all the displaced workers at the same time?

Automation is coming to the big stores and it will have a huge effect on their bottom line. First, they get a tax break for investing in capital infrastructure. Second, they get to replace less-efficient employees with robots who have no restrictions on hours worked, overtime, vacation pay, healthcare, etc. That’s a win-win for them.

It can also be a win for you. The more they automate, the more you differentiate. Automation is designed to give a consistent, expected, reliable outcome. It isn’t designed to surprise and delight. (Then again, neither is an untrained team, like what the big corporations are using now.)

Our payroll at Toy House was not only a higher percentage than any of our competitors, it was higher than most independent toy stores. Why?

Amazing customer service from a well-trained staff is the best, most effective form of advertising and marketing you could ever conceive.

What’s more powerful? Me telling you on the radio to shop at Toy House or your best friend telling you why she likes shopping at Toy House? What’s more persuasive? Me on a billboard on your drive home or your co-worker saying you should visit Toy House?

You don’t have the resources to invest in robots like Walmart does. But you do have the resources to invest in training for your staff. You do have the resources to pay your staff more (and expect more out of them in return). You do have the resources to make your customers’ experiences so wonderful they have to tell their friends. Call it your advertising budget if you want. But put your money into your staff. That’s where your ROI will be highest.

Investing in your team will always beat automation and minimum wage hikes. Always.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not sure how to raise the bar on your customer service to the point that people talk? Here are two free resources from my website:

Use those as a starting point for crafting your own training program.

If you need more, I can suggest a few good people to come in and work with you and your staff, including one guy who used to run a pretty cool toy store with a huge payroll.

Sleds, Stories, and Certain Death

My favorite sled is heading into its nineteenth year of service. I got it the year Parker was born. It is an ugly orange plastic sled with no fancy features. It isn’t eye-catching or sleek in design. It isn’t decked out with racing stripes or shiny vinyl that makes you think it will fly down the hill at supersonic speeds. There is nothing about this sled that would make you choose it over all the other fancy ones on the shelves.

Yet it still remains my favorite because it is still the fastest sled on the hill. It still travels farther faster than any of those other sleds. Oh, and it will hold me and two boys with ease (even now in their teenage years!)

When the boys were just five and two I took them to Michigan’s number one rated sledding hill—The Cascades. There are two sides to the hill. The north side is steeper and dominated by the older kids. The south side is gentler—as long as you take the long path toward the playground equipment. Take a left turn toward the east and you hit some bumps and trees and have a shorter trip toward the road.

Most sleds don’t have to worry about the road. It is too far away.

The fastest, ugliest sled on Michigan’s best sledding hill!

My sled is not most sleds.

Have you ever watched a trainwreck about to happen, knowing there was nothing you could do to stop it? The whole world slows, just like in the movies. I had that happen this fateful day.

I put both boys in the sled and gave them a push toward the playground. Then I watched with horror as the sled veered left toward the trees. It was just then I realized the boys were too young and inexperienced to know to flip the sled over and bail out before you hit a tree. They were also moving too fast for me to be able to yell anything they could hear. I momentarily thought about running after them. That was fruitless. They were already entering the bumps and careening toward the pines.

I took my first breath as they missed the opening row of trees. I held my breath as they zoomed past those pines on their way to the road.

The road at the bottom of the hill makes a curve, sweeping around a concrete embankment. Although the posted speed limit is 20 mph, many cars take that blind corner at 30 or 35. I could only pray no cars were coming as the boys hurtled onward across the small parking lot toward the road. No one would see that ugly orange sled with two young kids until it was too late.

My stomach dropped another foot. My heart leapt up into my throat. Time … Stood … Still …

I was already trying to figure out what I would say to their mom about how I killed our boys.

The sled finally lost momentum just as they reached the curb. The snow plows had made a small embankment on the curve, and I watched terrified as the boys went up that embankment and teetered on the edge for eternity before sliding safely backwards away from the road.

I let out the breath I had been holding and dropped to my knees. The boys came rushing back up the hill. “Do it again! Do it again!”

It is the ugliest sled on the hill, and just as expensive as its more sleek rivals. I’ve been using that exact same sled for 19 years and wouldn’t change it for the world.

You would never pick this sled off the shelf amongst its prettier rivals. But when you want the fastest, farthest ride on Michigan’s top-rated sledding hill, there are none that will beat it.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This post is about Word-of-Mouth. We’ve been talking about WOM all week. You have heard that Stories Sell. Stories sell for several reasons.

  • Stories are interesting and get people engaged.
  • Stories are emotional
  • Stories are memorable
  • Stories are shareworthy

When you tell stories about your products, people remember and relate to those products—whether they need the product or not. That last part is the key. They remember that product when they run into someone else who needs that product. Then they tell that person about the product for you. I could have told you about how the plastic on this sled is twice as thick as the other sleds of its type making it more rigid, which gives it speed, and makes it more durable. But you might not remember that. You will, however, remember the story of the two young boys hurtling to their death because the sled was too fast.

I told this story on Facebook years ago for Toy House back when I had about 1500 fans. The story got shared a dozen times and reached over 5000 people. When you tell shareworthy stories, your fans spread the word for you. You have stories to tell about your products, your vendors, your founding. Share the funny, scary, and touching stories and you will see your word-of-mouth advertising go up dramatically.

PPS This is what Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are best suited for. Go tell your stories.

What is Your $800 Dress?

Sandy was a friend of my parents. He ran a dress store in Jackson for several years. I was an impressionable teenager when he spoke these words, but they have stuck with me for over three decades.

“If you want to sell a $500 dress, you have to show an $800 dress.” -Sandy Pelham

32,000-piece Jigsaw Puzzle!

In my 24 years full time at Toy House I always tried to have an $800 dress somewhere on the floor. We once had a $1,500 round crib with canopy at a time when the average cribs we were selling were about $250 each. More recently we had a 32,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that was over six feet tall and 18 feet wide when finished. It came in a giant box that weighed 42 pounds and even had its own handcart!

We never expected to sell these items. We used them in the same way Sandy did to sell lesser items. It worked! It always works because it works on many different levels.

Yes, the obvious level is that the really expensive item makes everything else look more affordable.

The more important level, however, is the talk value of the item.

A $1,5000 crib isn’t necessarily that special. A $1,500 round crib with a canopy and $1,200 worth of fancy bedding is something you have to drag your friends over to see. A $300 jigsaw puzzle isn’t that impressive. A jigsaw puzzle that comes with its own handcart to move the forty-two pound box up to the register is something you have to drag you friends over to see.

Years ago I was doing a workshop in a small, tourist town along Lake Michigan. I met a jewelry store owner there who was concerned how her traffic had fallen off. She used to be the “it” store on their little downtown strip. People would stop by in droves to see the $34,000 diamond ring she inherited when she bought the store. She had a special chair where women could sit to try on that ring. Thirty-four thousand dollars might not seem like a lot if you live in a big city, but in this sleepy little lake town, that was worth dragging your friends over to see.

Much to the store owner’s delight, she sold the ring one afternoon. I asked her if she had replaced the ring.

“No”

“When did your traffic and sales start to decline?”

“After we sold the ring.”

“Do you see the connection?”

The ring, like our round cribs and ginormous jigsaw puzzle, was the attraction, was the draw, was the WOW factor that people had to drag their friends over to see. The ring was her $800 dress. I told her that her advertising budget for the year better be around $34,000 (well, okay, maybe a little less taking into account her markup, but you get the idea.)

Do you have a product in your store people are dragging their friends over to see? If not, you should get one. Not only will you eventually sell it (we sold 12 of those round cribs and 3 puzzles), it will pay for itself in word-of-mouth advertising and drawing traffic many times over.

What is your $800 dress?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It doesn’t necessarily have to be something you can sell. We once had a giant Tripp Trapp chair scaled to make an adult feel like he was two years old. People dragged their friends over to see it and it helped us sell hundreds of the regular Tripp Trapp chairs. It just has to have that WOW factor that makes people want to show their friends. My favorite thing I loved to overhear in the store was, “Come over here. You have to see this!”

PPS The one downside people often worry about when putting something incredibly expensive on the sales floor is the “image” it might give customers that your store is the expensive store. Get over yourself. First, customers already believe you are the expensive store because your store isn’t named Walmart, so don’t disappoint them. Second, it is more likely they will think of you as the fun store because you know how to surprise and delight them with products they couldn’t even imagine. Put it in your advertising budget instead of COGS if you want to justify the expense. Just make sure it has the WOW factor for your market.

That One Memorable Thing

I was in Orlando for a trade show a few years back. I met up with some friends and the five of us headed to a steakhouse for dinner. It was one of those meals you talk about forever.

I could start with the off-menu ordering of a 20oz Filet Mignon so tender you could almost cut it with a fork. I could mention that three of us foolishly decided to add lobster tails to our entree. I say foolishly because that lobster was as good as if I had been transported to Maine. You couldn’t stop eating it, even after finishing off a perfectly grilled steak.

But the biggest, most pleasant mistake of the evening was ordering dessert. We shouldn’t have. We were all stuffed beyond belief. But someone had told us to make sure we ordered the chocolate fudge cake. At any other meal the five of us might have ordered a couple desserts to split among the table if we ordered dessert at all, but we were already pleasantly full and even considered passing on dessert. On this night we only ordered one. It was the best and worst move of the night.

Image result for charley's steak house chocolate cake
Charley’s Steak House Chocolate Fudge Cake

The slice of cake arrived and it stood almost a foot tall! It was taller than it was wide, three scrumptious layers of the richest, most moist chocolate cake I have ever eaten, with a hint of orange and a chocolate fudge frosting I could have taken a bath in. Thank God we only ordered one because, like the rest of the meal, we couldn’t stop eating it despite how much we had already eaten. I wish, however, that we had ordered a second one to go. I have dreamed about that cake several times since.

You have a meal like that in your memory.

We all have that memory of an experience that went far above and beyond what we expected. The details are burned into our minds, especially that one detail of the most unexpected moment, like when that towering slice of cake arrived. They didn’t have to make that cake that tall. It was so good that an average sized slice would have still been shareworthy. You could argue that they were probably losing money on that cake. I will argue back that they were buying advertising with that cake.

If you ever go to Charley’s Steak House in Orlando, I will tell you that you HAVE to order the cake. So will any others who have done so before. It is hard to order that cake when you’ve just eaten such a huge, wonderful meal, but you will because I told you to. You will because of word-of-mouth of someone who went before you, just as we did because of someone that went before us. Heck, you probably weren’t even planning a trip to Charley’s until I told you to go get the cake.

Think back on your favorite meal in a restaurant. What stands out? You will find that one unexpected surprise, that one detail that you build your entire story around when you tell your friends.

Now ask yourself …

What experience does a customer have in your store that is so unexpected and surprisingly delightful that they will have to tell their friends about it?

That’s how you generate word-of-mouth. You have to have that One. Memorable. Thing. It isn’t something you advertise, it is simply something you do so over-the-top that people have to share it with their friends.

Bonnie Raitt said it best. “Let’s give them something to talk about.”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you do what everyone else does, you don’t get talked about. You just fade into the landscape. Do something different. Do something no other business in your market would even think of doing. If it costs you a little money, think of it as an advertising expense. It pays in the long run. Just think how many times Charley got to add a piece of cake to the bill, not because he advertised it, but because he made it so memorable that I advertised it for him.

This is How You Get Word of Mouth Pro-Level

If you’ve ever been to my Suggested Topics page, you will notice that my Breakout Session about Word-of-Mouth says I will teach you “four simple, yet effective ways to generate word-of-mouth and get people to brag about your business to others.”

If you have ever been to one of these presentations, you know that I give you a fifth bonus way to get people to talk about your business. That bonus way is through your advertising. When you create ads that people want to see and hear, they talk about them. That’s the goal at every Super Bowl. All these advertisers want is for you to be talking about their ad Monday morning.

There is more to it than that, though. To truly generate word-of-mouth that helps your business, the talk has to be about how great your business is, or how important it is for people to visit you, not just about how creative or funny you are.

We got that kind of word-of-mouth with our Men’s Bathroom Ad.

The script was this …

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 ran this ad twice a day Monday-Friday for the month of August in 2008. The day it began the deejays starting talking about it on the air wondering what was going on in the men’s bathroom. By day two the deejays on the stations where the ad WASN’T airing were talking about it. By day three the local TV station was talking about it. Everyone was speculating about what was in the men’s bathroom and people were coming in droves to ask about it, see the product, oh yeah, and buy it, too. In March 2009—seven months after the ad had aired!—I had a customer walk into the store asking about the men’s bathroom because it was what dominated conversation at Christmas dinner at the adult table.

Image result for morris jenkins bobby
Bobby from the Morris-Jenkins TV Ad Campaign

Here is another example of how an ad can generate powerful word-of-mouth courtesy of Roy H. Williams. Roy designed an ad campaign for a heating & cooling company featuring Mr. Jenkins, the owner, and Bobby, one of his drivers. The ad campaign has run for 6 years. “Bobby” has become a Charlotte, NC icon. But the actor who plays Bobby in the commercials is moving to California. The company ran one last ad featuring Bobby where Mr. Jenkins gives Bobby $100,000 to go pursue his dream in Hollywood.

The local TV news ran a story on that ad. Let me repeat that … The local TV news in a major market ran a story about a fictional character in an advertisement for a local heating and cooling company. You cannot buy that kind of advertising.

(Or maybe you can, if you have the guts to first run amazing ad campaigns that people want to see and hear.)

First read Roy’s MondayMorningMemo about the ad campaign and why it worked so well.

Then watch the news story. (Get your tissues out.)

Are your ads getting this kind of love?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We watch television and movies for the characters first and then the storyline. If the characters are interesting, we’ll forgive a weak storyline. David Freeman explains that the difference between interesting characters and boring ones is in their Core Values. When they have three to five character traits or values that are consistent throughout the movie, we relate to them. If they have less, we are bored. If they aren’t consistent, we don’t connect. The same is true with your brand. Your brand is the three to five core values you have as a business. The more consistently you show those values—including in your advertising—the more people will relate with you.

Other Uses for Market Share Knowledge

The first time I was truly introduced to the idea of calculating my market share was from Roy H. William’s second book Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads. It was 2003 and I was trying to learn all I could about marketing and advertising. My math was rudimentary. I didn’t adjust for local economy or youth population. Simply raw numbers. I came up with our market share at about 12%.

At first I was a little disappointed. Roy teaches that the gold standard for any business is 30% market share. That’s a big number. Despite its dominance, even Walmart only has 25% of the grocery market. The optimist in me, however, said 12% was a good starting point and now I had a goal to shoot for. I had just read an article (which 14 years later I cannot find—go figure) that said only 9% of the general public was inclined to shop at local indie stores in the first place. I was already 3 points above that number.

I never did reach 30%, but I did have some other revelations about my Market Share number.

Image result for upward trend free clipartFirst, after going back and adjusting my market size for economy and youth population, our 12% was really closer to 16%. It stayed in that neighborhood until a Walmart Supercenter opened in 2005. We dropped into the 14-15% neighborhood and stayed there until Amazon became a serious player in the toy industry around 2010-2011. We stayed around 12.5% for the next several years until we closed. Even though you can beat a big guy head-to-head, the more big guys in town, the more businesses taking a piece out of the same pie.

Second, that original 12% number got me thinking. A full eighty-eight percent of the market were NOT currently shopping with me. That’s almost 9 out of 10 people. When you look at it that way, it changes your perspective on a lot of things.

In terms of marketing and advertising I realized I didn’t need to reach the entire market to grow my business. If I could just convince 1 more person out of 20 people to shop with me I would have growth beyond my wildest dreams. I really only needed to convince about 2 more people out of 100 to shop with me to have double digit growth. If you only are trying to sway two people out of a hundred you might say something totally different than if you’re trying to sway fifty out of a hundred. With two you can say something direct and personal to a small audience that gets right to the heart of the matter. Trying to reach fifty, you say something generic and non-offensive hoping other forces will come into play to swing them to your side.

In terms of product selection I realized I didn’t have to be all things to all people. I could pick and choose the products I wanted based on my beliefs in the products and how they benefited my customers. Not only does that help with the buying decisions, it helped us stay true to our core values in terms of what we sold and why.

Speaking of Core Values, we didn’t have to be someone we were not.

Meg Cabot said it best when she said, “You’re not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” We didn’t have to be liked by everyone. Sixteen percent is a pretty low approval rating. Yet it was higher than any other single store in our market.

Knowledge is power (France is bacon). Knowing your market share might be the piece of knowledge that finally liberates the way you think about your place in the market and the risks you can now safely take with your business.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Let me first admit that 16% is actually pretty high for an indie retailer. Many of you might do the math and find yourself in the 3-5% range, especially if you have other indie retailers fighting for the 9% that skews shop local. But before I pat myself on the back, you should know that in the early 1980’s we were at that mythical 30% gold standard and then some. Of course that was before Jackson got Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, Sam’s Club, a second Meijer, a new KMart, and a whole slew of other big chains in town (without a population growth to match), and well before Al Gore invented the Internet. We were the large store that was here first. That’s what gave us much of our edge. But even if you do find yourself in the 3-5% range, if the market is big enough, you can do a lot of business with only 3-5% of your market. Plus, when you only have to convince 1 more person out of 100 to get 33% growth, advertising becomes a whole lot more fun.

PPS It used to upset me that about half my friends were not regular shoppers at my store. My parents saw about that same percentage from their friends. Then it dawned on me … Fifty percent of my friends versus twelve percent of the general population. I was ahead of the game. I slept much better that night.

What Media Do You Own?

The one thing I hate about having my house for sale is all the stuff I have boxed up to make the house less cluttered. There are 9 boxes filled with my books sitting on shelves in the basement. Many of those books I have read more than once. A few of them I keep reading over and over.

If you ask me my favorite books, for fiction I’ll tell you The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander—a five book series published in the late 1960’s that I have read over a dozen times, including twice reading them out loud to my boys. You may recall that it was book #4 Taran Wanderer that gave me the lightbulb idea of hiring for character traits, not experience, thus leading to my first book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

Image result for wizard of ads trilogyFor non-fiction it is The Wizard of Ads Trilogy by Roy H. Williams. I have never read a book before or after that was as equally enjoyable to read as it was informative. Although not yet to a dozen, I have read all three books several times. In fact, last night I went and pulled book #2 Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads out of one of the boxes in the basement.

Yesterday I read an article with ten tips for marketing this holiday season and it had one tip I keep hearing over and over that I know Roy had refuted in the book. The tip was to make sure you are in as many channels as possible this season because otherwise you won’t reach all your potential customers.

Roy calls this one of the sacred cows of advertising in chapter 3 “Dead Cows Everywhere.”

Here are some things I want you to think about before you spread yourself too thin across multiple media.

  • You will never reach 100% of your market. No matter how many channels you choose, you can’t get to them all, so it is folly to even try.
  • You don’t have the time and resources to do every channel well. You don’t have the budget of Coca-Cola or the marketing team of Pizza Hut. At best you have a social media director and a handful of somewhat helpful sales reps running your advertising at your direction (while you juggle all those other hats like HR, CFO, CEO, firefighter, and bottle washer).
  • Advertising and marketing yourself in a channel poorly is not only a waste of time and money and resources, it could be detrimental because a poor first image is worse than no image at all.
  • If you were able to convince just 10% of the market to shop with you, your cash registers would sing like angels.

In one succinct chapter Roy points out that a customer who sees your billboard, hears your radio ad, and reads a social media post likely won’t make the connection between those three fragmented campaigns in a way that reinforces your brand. Our brains don’t work that way. They aren’t wired that way.

You are better off picking one or two channels where you can be truly effective and focus all your time and money and resources on those to the point that you own each media. Yes, own it! There is that one business in your town that owns billboards. You know who I’m talking about. There is another business that owns radio.

If you really want to be noticed and remembered, be the business that owns one of the media outlets. Win Facebook by being the one who posts the most shareworthy and memorable posts that engage and get customers to like, comment, and share. Own the radio by being the business whose ads are actually anticipated and talked about at water coolers when the new ad starts. (When people talk about your ad at the water cooler, then you know you’ve finally written a good one. I’ve had that happen several times. It should be your goal with every message.) Own the billboards by having the kind of posters that people tell their friends to drive by and see.

You likely don’t have the resources to do all that in every channel, so pick one. Own it.

The cool thing when you own a media is that not only do you get more bang for your buck (you become first in people’s brains because you get a bigger share of mind than what you actually spent), you also keep your competitors from being noticed in the same media. They fade into the background or they look boring and dull in comparison.

In the same chapter, Roy kills another sacred cow called Gross Rating Points. Reaching 100% of the market 10 times is the same as reaching 10% of the market 100 times in terms of cost. Yet convincing 100% of the market 10% of the way is not the same as convincing 10% of the market 100% of the way. When you spread yourself over many channels, you face the risk of convincing 100% of the people only 10% of the way. When you own the media, you have a far better chance of convincing the people you reach to shop with you.

There are a lot of great marketing tips out there. Spreading yourself too thin across too many channels is NOT one of them.

If you can’t own a media channel, put your resources where you can. That is what will get the angels to sing.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It isn’t just how much you spend, it is what you say. Spend enough and speak boldly. Say something surprising and powerful. There are two coffee shops in my town that both use billboards with equal frequency, but one has a far more creative team creating fun and memorable (and sometimes controversial) boards. Ask anyone in town which coffee shop is the one on all the billboards and 90% will name the guy with all the fun boards. You tell me who owns that media?

PPS Here are some of the radio ads I used to try to own that media.