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How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

I can count on one hand the times I have tried something new because of a television ad and I would still have several fingers leftover.

I tried Sam Adams Light Beer after they ran a commercial talking about how they took their Sam Adams Light to a beer festival in Germany and won first prize … even though there wasn’t a “light beer” category. (It was easily the best light beer I have tasted, but not necessarily the best beer I have tasted, not to mention difficult to find in stores.)

I bought two flavors of Pringles a couple weeks ago. Just like the Super Bowl commercial showed me, I put the two flavors together to make a new flavor. Barbecue and Jalapeno pair up fabulously. That helped get me home on a long, tired drive from up north. I had forgotten that ad when I talked about the 2018 Super Bowl Ads, but it obviously struck a chord with me since I recalled it the moment I was standing in front of the Pringles display contemplating which flavor to buy. I give them a thumbs up because they taught me to buy two flavors instead of one. I bet they have seen a spike in sales since that ad, especially if they are still running it.

Now I am seriously contemplating buying some Duluth Trading Bullpen Underwear. Here is the ad that caught my eye …

 

This ad (and most of their campaign) is a homerun!

  1. It doesn’t look or sound like anyone else’s ads.
  2. It makes only one point in a clever and unexpected way.
  3. It tells a story, one that men know all too well.
  4. It speaks to the heart by talking about a felt need and getting you to laugh, too.
  5. It speaks to the tribe of men. (A female companion told me she hated that ad. Like magnets, the ability of an ad to attract is equal to its ability to repel.)
  6. It makes “you” the star.

“Keep your boys where they belong.”

Yes, it hits on all six of the principles that make an ad more effective.

The best part of Duluth Trading’s campaign is the humor. Unlike Doritos, Dr. Pepper and Progressive Insurance, Duluth trading has found a way to tie their humor directly into the benefits of the product. The humor isn’t gratuitous.

The humor is used to drive home a point.

Progressive is running an ad right now that has a guy talking about how he and co-worker look exactly alike (spoiler alert: they don’t) and how he knows they look alike because he is good at comparisons. Unfortunately, the message I get is that Progressive must NOT be good at comparisons because this guy sucks at them.

Time and time again I see really funny or moving ads, but the funny or touching part has nothing to do with the company or product the ad is supposedly pitching. People remember the funny but forget the company or product. In Duluth Trading’s ads, you won’t ever have that problem. The humor is tied directly to the benefits.

If you want to use humor in your ads, do what Duluth Trading does and use the punchline to drive home the one point you are trying to make.

I’m looking forward to a new pair of underwear. (There’s a phrase you won’t often hear.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Duluth Trading is doing a few other things well.

First, they are running a campaign, not an ad, with a distinct and unique style. All of their ads use similar cartoon art, the same voice-over, and the same unexpected humor. Those three elements combined have a residual effect. You liked some of their early ads because of how fresh and surprising they were, so you perk up when a new ad comes on.

Second, they are speaking to the felt needs of their tribe. One easy way to speak to the heart and speak to your tribe at they same time is to identify a problem common among your tribe, and then show how you solve that problem. I’m looking at adding their ballroom jeans to my shopping list after ripping the crotch in my jeans while loading and unloading a moving van yesterday.

Tide For the Win

While the Philadelphia Eagles may have won the Super Bowl, the other winner was Tide. Their ads consistently hit the mark and take home the top prize for me.

Image result for tide adIn my workshops and upcoming book I teach six principles for Making Ads More Effective. Tide nailed it on almost every point.

Principle #1 Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad

Okay, they actually looked and sounded like every ad out there. But on purpose. It was the meta moment of advertising where they spoofed every single ad out there. Well done, Tide! Well done!

Principle #2 Make Only One Point

Clothes are clean. Must be a Tide Ad. Point taken.

Principle #3 Tell a Story

This may be a stretch, but the fact that they didn’t have a one-and-done campaign—heck, they even had a cameo during the telecast in football uniforms—made this a story campaign. I’ll give them props for that. Even after learning their joke, they continued to surprise us. Admit it. You laughed at the Mr. Clean ad.

Principle #4 Speak to the Heart

Laughter, Love, Anger, and Fear all speak to the heart. The Tide Ads made me laugh out loud. More importantly, their humor was tied directly to the product. T-Mobile showed a bunch of babies but didn’t tie it back to their phone service. Mass Mutual’s pregame ad was the same—heartwarming, but it could have been anyone. Budweiser, Verizon, and Hyundai did emotional ads tied back to their actions, but they all felt a little contrived.

Principle #5 Speak to the Tribe

The Tide Tribe is people who love clean clothing. If you’re a Tide user, that ad spoke to you strongly and reinforced your belief that Tide makes the cleanest clothing.

Principle #6 Make Your Customer the Star

Even in my book I point out that few Super Bowl ads ever use this principle. Kraft tried with modest success. I liked what they were trying to do, even felt it spoke to their tribe, but it didn’t quite speak to the heart as well as it could have. In the Super Bowl, close doesn’t count.

Tide didn’t make you the star, but after hitting on the first five principles, I’m going to call it a solid win for them.

Good night everyone!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Feel free to share your own comments on the ads you liked best (or least). I missed a commercial break in the third quarter when NBC went off the air for about ten minutes in our area.

PPS I also liked the Rocket Mortgage Ad in the first quarter making things simpler and more understandable. Then again, that spoke directly to me and what I try to do for a living—make things more understandable.

PPPS The Doritos Ad with Peter Dinklage was stupid, until they doubled down with Mountain Dew Ice and Morgan Freeman to make it almost work. That ad, however, is done. From this point forward it will only be annoying. One-and-done is not a successful campaign, nor will it make me want to buy either product.

Sweet dreams.

Reconciling Yes and No

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

On the other hand, Steve Jobs said, “It’s only by saying ‘No’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Yes and No – both valid answers!

Teddy wants you to take on any job you can. Steve wants you to only take on the important jobs.

Who is right?

Teddy is right when it comes to serving your customers. If a customer asks if you can do something for them that you have never done, you should seriously consider doing it. First, if the customer is asking, the customer must believe it is something you can do. Second, it meets and/or exceeds their expectations, which is the hallmark of WOW Customer Service. Third, it might just become the new calling card you need to set yourself apart from your competitors.

You should always be looking for new ways to take care of your customers.

Steve is right when it comes to advertising. It is easy to “dabble” in advertising, doing a little here and a little there, clinging to the false hope that the more different things you do, the more people you will reach to drive into your store. We mistakenly believe that advertising is simply a numbers game and the more people we reach, the more traffic we’ll get. Yes, it is a numbers game, but not all numbers are equal.

Roy H. Williams often asks the question, “Would you rather convince 100% of the people 10% of the way or 10% of the people 100% of the way? In advertising, both cost the same.” The goal of your advertising is to convince people to visit your store and shop with you. You don’t convince people if all you do is “dabble”. You simply annoy them. It takes time, frequency, and focus to convince the people you reach to finally decide to shop with you. You have to pick and choose your media carefully and then be in full in with that media. If you aren’t, you are wasting your ad budget.

Both are right when it comes to inventory. You need to follow Steve’s advice and make sure you first stock your store with the most important items. When cash flow is tight, focus on the must-haves. Focus on the items that customers come in asking for by name. Make sure you have plenty of the requested items and you’ll make the sales you need to keep the cash flowing. You also need to keep looking for new products and new opportunities. Unless you’re strictly in the commodities business, customers want to see what is new and fresh. If you don’t have new and fresh, you are boring your customers and eventually they won’t bother coming back.

After the must-haves, the second most important inventory spending should be on the brand-new. It keeps your store fresh, keeps your staff energized, keeps your customers returning.

Sometimes you have to follow President Roosevelt. Sometimes you have to follow Mr. Jobs. Knowing when to say Yes and when to say No is the key to your success.

Perhaps Neils Bohr said it best when he said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I used both quotes in presentations lately and it struck me how profound, yet at odds, they both seem to be. I also have found myself using both quotes in my own life. I have been asked to do a lot of new things lately. I have said Yes to creating several new presentations, different from the homerun talks I do. I’ve also said No to some opportunities because they didn’t push forward my main industries of speaking, writing, and consulting. I think knowing when to say No is truly an art, one in which I am still the amateur, but I am learning. How about you?

Impact, Emotion, and Frequency (or How to Get Remembered)

Do you remember where you were on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up? How about September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the World Trade Center buildings? Can you recall what was happening when you got the news about Princess Diana’s death?

The most recent of those events was almost seventeen years ago, yet we remember them like they were yesterday.

In 1986 I was sitting in the back left corner of a lecture hall at the University of Michigan taking a chemistry class when our professor wheeled in a television screen and we watched replay after replay of the shuttle exploding. I’ll never forget it. Interestingly enough, my mom was in the back left corner of that same lecture hall on November 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy was shot.

Those events are so impactful that they go straight into our long-term memory.

Your advertising isn’t that impactful. 

(Neither are those Super Bowl ads you’re going to be watching this Sunday, but I digress.)

How do we get our ads to be remembered? How do we get our company to be first in the minds of our customers?

First, let’s understand memory. There are two types of memory. You and I call them Short-Term and Long-Term. Neurologists think of them as Electrical and Chemical.

SHORT-TERM (ELECTRICAL)

Electrical memory is kind of like the RAM in your computer. It is the short-term memory of everything that has happened to you today. All of your thoughts and feelings, no matter how mundane, stick with you throughout most of the day. You can recall most of it.

Sleep, however, is the great eraser of electrical (short-term) memory. Think of sleep like rebooting your computer. Turn your computer off and the RAM is wiped clean, ready for the next use. Go to sleep and all those mundane thoughts and feelings disappear. The only things you can remember from the previous day are those thoughts and feelings that had an impact.

LONG-TERM (CHEMICAL)

Chemical memory is more like the hard drive of a computer. This is the stuff you keep in your memory for a while. Unlike a computer, however, your memory is fallible. Things stored in your long-term memory tend to fade over time. I cannot remember the name of the professor who wheeled that television cart into the lecture hall, but I can kinda remember his face. Chemical memory is also not completely accurate. Every time you access your memory of an event you are not actually accessing the original memory, but just the last time you recalled that memory. Think of it like your own personal internal version of the telephone game. Still, it is a lot better than electrical memory.

There are three ways to convert electrical memory into chemical memory.

The first is to have a high impact quotient. Kennedy getting shot, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and 9/11 had major impact on us. You don’t forget things like a car accident, your wedding day, or when your child was born. All have a major impact on your life.

The second is to have a high emotional impact. We are quicker to remember those things that made us feel strong emotions like Love, Anger, Fear, and Gratitude. That is why the advertising that speaks to the heart or makes you laugh tends to stick in your memory a little longer.

These two ways create Declarative Memory, where if asked, you can recall the information (kinda like your old home phone number from when you were a kid.)

The third is to have a high frequency. This is where we, as advertisers, have to truly live. If sleep is the great eraser of the mind, we have to keep pounding away at the brain to get our foot in the door just a little farther each day.

Think of it like a nail being hammered into a board. You put the nail in place and tap it once and it might make a small indentation. Sleep is the great claw hammer that rips the nail out. But if you put that nail back into the same hole and tap it again the next day it sinks a little deeper. Keep placing that nail in the same hole and eventually it will drive it in so tight that the hammer cannot pull it out easily.

The higher the frequency, the more infallible the memory. You keep replacing the original memory with another original memory exactly like it so that the recall is always right on.

If you have enough repetition, the memory is so strong that you don’t have to think to recall it. You know it instantly. This is Procedural Memory (like hitting the brake on the car when you see a deer in the road.)

The amateur practices enough so that he can get it right (Declarative). The professional practices enough so that he can’t do it wrong (Procedural).

Frequency. Repetition. Practice. Call it what you want, but in advertising it is your best friend. It is the golden ticket for getting your ads to be remembered and your company to be thought of first.

Think about that this Sunday when you’re watching the Super Bowl (especially when you’re wondering why you often don’t see those ads any other time of year).

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If the ad isn’t interesting and doesn’t speak to the heart, however, frequency is like the hammer without a nail. You just bludgeon someone into submission. Trust me, that’s not the best way to spend your ad budget.

Two Advertising Lessons From the Bar

Once a month I pick up my six-string and head to The Poison Frog Brewery to entertain the folks. I’m not all that great of a guitar player. No one is wowed by my prowess on the strings. I’m more like George from Sultans of Swing. I know (almost) all the chords but I’m strictly rhythm. I have an adequate voice that doesn’t turn people away. What I bring to the table is a fun and entertaining show.

Better yet, what my playing guitar in a bar brings to you is two lessons in advertising worth sharing.

About one-third of the patrons on a typical night are there to see me. I put it out on Facebook and promote to my friends and that puts a few butts into seats. The other two-thirds are there whether I was playing or not. They came to drink beer, to meet up with friends, to get away from their lives, or simply just to have something to do.

They aren’t actively listening to me.

If I want to entertain them, I better do one of two things:

  • Play something interesting that they didn’t expect to hear
  • Play something they love to hear

That is the formula for success. Ask any singer in a bar and he or she will tell you the same.

LESSON #1 – SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING

When your audience’s attention is somewhere else, they aren’t going to listen to you unless you get their attention. Screaming doesn’t really work. It just turns them off. The best way to get someone’s attention is to say something totally unexpected. If you’re an excellent musician, you might say it with your instrument. In my case, I have to say it in my lyrics. I have to grab you by singing something funny and unexpected. Anything less and I’m just background noise.

I have two or three songs that through experimentation I have found get almost everyone to perk up their ears if only to ask, “Did he just say what I thought he said?”

Your marketing works exactly the same way. Other than this Sunday during the Super Bowl, the other 364 days of the year we are conditioned to tune out advertising. If you’re using radio, those listeners are already focused on something else, as radio is primarily used for background noise.

You have to say something more interesting than what is occupying their brain at that moment if you want to get their attention.

That’s why stories and humor tend to work so well. They say the unexpected in fun and interesting ways. I use songs with unexpected lyrics as a means for drawing in my audience. I used ads with interesting word combinations and OMG-did-he-say-that!? content to get potential customers to listen. It works.

One thing is certain … If the song is boring, the audience tunes out. If your ad is boring, your potential customers tune out. Yes it is that simple.

LESSON #2 – FAVORITES DON’T BECOME SING-ALONGS OVERNIGHT

The other simple way to get the people at the bar to pay attention is to play a fan favorite. There are cover songs that every guitar player knows will get the crowd listening and singing along. Play a few of those and you’ll have the whole place instantly clapping and singing and having a good time.

But what made those songs favorites in the first place? Those songs have two elements.

  • They are interesting and fun
  • They have been played with a ton of frequency

It is that second point that is the clincher. Favorites don’t become favorites without a lot of play. Yeah, you might like a song, but if you don’t ever hear it again, it never becomes that instant-clap-and-sing-along song. You have to play it over and over again until it becomes entrenched in their lives.

Likewise, your advertising might be interesting and fun, but it doesn’t truly sink into a customer’s mind until they have heard your message several times. The more consistently they hear your interesting and fun message, the more you become the fan favorite to the point that as soon as your name is mentioned people want to clap and sing along.

Don’t take it from me. Go to your neighborhood bar when a guy with a guitar is performing. When he plays an obscure song he loves, he’ll have the attention of some of the patrons. When he plays something interesting and unexpected, he’ll have more. When he plays a popular cover, he’ll have the whole place jumping. (By the way, that popular cover was at one time the interesting and unexpected song that became popular mainly through repetition.)

Plan your advertising the same way. Say something interesting and unexpected. Then say it often enough to become a fan favorite.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not everyone will like what you have to say, just as not everyone will jump in and sing along to every popular song. That’s okay. It is always better, whether you’re an advertiser or a performer, to have a few loud fans, than a bored-to-tears audience.

PPS If your message isn’t interesting and fun, frequency won’t help. If Pavlov hadn’t first given the dog some meat when he rang the bell, the dog probably would have eaten the bell just because ti was annoying him so much.

PPPS I use a mix of both in my shows. I play songs you’ve never heard that make you say OMG-did-he-say-that!? And I do a whole set of covers where you get to choose the song (and I include a songbook with lyrics so that you can sing along.) No one is going to give me a recording contract for my musical talents, but they all walk away saying that was fun and entertaining. My next show is Saturday, February 17th. See you then!

Two Lessons From Selling a House

I’m typing this while surrounded by boxes, some full, some waiting to be filled. I’ve told you many times I’m not the most organized guy. I fear that most of the contents of my home office are just going to get dumped into whatever open containers are left, to be sorted (if at all) at some later date.

Yes, my house sold. It took seventeen months from listing to closing.

It took seventeen months, a dozen gallons of paint, a new stove, two dozen borrowed items for staging, fifteen open houses, four prices changes (the last one upward), and three written descriptions of the house before the sale happened.

I want to talk about those last two.

For the first year, we started with the house listed at $249,900, hoping to get $230,000 plus. We listed in late July 2016 so we missed the window for the families who wanted to move over the summer and be in the new place before school started. Although we had some traffic early on, most people complained about the old, dated kitchen.

Our old, dated kitchen

To their credit, the kitchen was old. And dated. And included four different types of wood (light maple pergo floors, dark cherry cabinets, dark oak trim around a tile counter, and medium oak trim around the light fixtures, oh and wood paneling—yuck!) But it was also functional and efficient and filled with good, usable storage.

No offers.

We lowered the price to $245,000 and then to $239,900 hoping to refresh the listing (by the way, the comparable values put it in the $250,000 range.) The rest of the first year was all the same. Plenty of traffic. Everyone had the same comments. Loved the location. Loved the spacious rooms. But the kitchen was dated. A few commented that the price was too high because of the kitchen.

No offers.

At the end of the first year I took it off the market for a month. I painted the remaining rooms that had yet to be painted, re-staged it, and put it back on the market at $259,900.

I also rewrote the listing to include the following paragraph …

The kitchen is dated—but completely functional—and will serve you well until you decide to build the kitchen of your dreams and turn this house into the home you’ve always wanted.

The higher price meant fewer lookers, but one thing changed dramatically. Not one person mentioned the kitchen as being an issue. Surprisingly, no one mentioned the price either.

Those two changes led us to the buyer we needed—someone who would see the house for the incredible value that it is, and not be scared away that the kitchen has to be redone.

Through our new price and new description we eliminated all the traffic that was pointless, and only brought the traffic that would be interested in a house like ours.

NEW PRICE

As I have been teaching for years, price is a perception game. In housing, that game has changed dramatically thanks to the Internet. Almost every house hunter goes online first. One of the first filters you use is price. You put a minimum and maximum price into the filters and your search appears. With a price of $249,900, we were at the top end of the $250,000 filter. People who put $250,000 as their top filter are not looking to buy a $249,900 house that needs a $20,000 kitchen. We needed to get out of that search mode.

Going to $259,900 put us into searches for people who put $300,000 as their upper limit. Now our $259,900 price looked like a value. Even with $30K worth of work, the buyer will have a $300,000 house for less than $300,000.

Yes, the perception of this new mode of search is that every house that pulls up in a search of houses between $200,000 and $250,000 has a maximum value of $250,000 because they put “$250,000 maximum value” in their search. Every house that pulls up between $250,000 and $300,000 is likewise a $300,000 home.

By changing our price, we changed the perceived worth of our house. Instead of being an expensive house that needed a lot of work, it went to being a value-priced house that needed a little bit of work.

NEW DESCRIPTION

My agent was good with my new description—even the part about the kitchen being dated. I heard from other people in real estate that you should never say anything negative about a house in the description. I respectfully disagree. By admitting the downside, I earned the trust that the other statements would have a better degree of accuracy.

Most of us know that keywords like “cozy” means “cramped” and “charming” means “hasn’t-been-updated-in-years.” Yet, by admitting the kitchen was dated, not only did it make the other statements feel more truthful, it eliminated any house hunters who didn’t want to remodel a kitchen.

Our traffic was down, but we got a buyer and closed the sale.

The lessons are two-fold.

First, price has a huge impact on the perception of an item. Sometimes a higher price is actually better than a lower price. You have to look at your prices through the eyes of a customer and see what she sees and reads into your prices. Do that and you can find the sweet spot that gets you the most bang for your buck.

Second—and this is something Roy H. Williams has been drilling into my head this entire century—you have to choose who to lose. Through our description and pricing we eliminated a lot of potential buyers, mainly because we knew they weren’t going to be the right buyers. Just having traffic to your website doesn’t make it good traffic. Just having traffic through your door doesn’t make it good traffic. You want to specifically attract your kind of buyers. You do that with your message. Our new message brought us the buyer we needed and got the house sold.

Time to go fill up those boxes.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you ask, we got $230,000. We got where we wanted, but only after attracting the right people. The housing market hasn’t changed much in our area. We didn’t get any offers with the old description and old price during the peak selling season of April to July. We got our first offer during the off-season and only after the new price and new description. (Speaking of off-season, I am currently staring at a snowstorm out my front window that has closed one of the major highways through town. This is Michigan. When they close the highway here, it’s a real storm. Fun for my son because school was closed, but not so fun for packing and moving.)

PPS I apologize for the sporadic posts the last few weeks. It will probably continue into next week as well while we make the move. Stay tuned, though. I have some fun thoughts for how we can make 2018 amazing. You might want to tell your other retailer friends to sign up for the blog here.

Are You a Top Down or Bottom Up Company?

I once won five pounds of bacon. It was a naming contest. First prize was an Apple iPad. Second prize was five pounds of bacon. Since I primarily use my iPad as an expensive alarm clock and to play FreeCell, this was one contest I was happy to take second place.

The item we were naming was a pyramid for business owners developed by my good friend, the super-tall-and-pretty-darn-smart Tim Miles.

This is Tim Miles’ “First Order of Business” (my name suggestion was just simply “The Order of Business”)

Tim developed this pyramid because many of his clients had been buying and creating their advertising the wrong way.

They would have an advertising sales rep come in and convince them that his media was the best place to reach their potential customers. Once that was done, the sales rep would ask them what they wanted to say.

Tim was right (did I say he was really smart?) when he recognized this for being the absolute most backwards way to advertise. Your message is far more important than the media. In fact, you need to know your message before you even pick the right medium to deliver it.

Before you can know your message, however, you have to decide what kind of customer experience you want to deliver on a consistent basis.

Of course, to deliver a consistent customer experience requires some strategic planning.

And you know that strategic planning is of no value if you don’t first know your own Core Values and the Goals you are trying to reach with your business.

Yet isn’t that how we all bought ads for many years?

The sales rep for the media company came in with a fancy presentation about how his media had the best reach, the best market penetration, the best demographics, the best falsified statistics to convince you that this media buy would transform your business. He got you all fired up and had you signing on the dotted line before he once asked you about your goals and values. He got you convinced this was going to be your best year ever before asking about your strategic plans for taking care of the customers. He got you sold on the idea that unlike all your other failed media buys, his was truly the one that would make you a millionaire before he even asked what your message was going to be.

It doesn’t work like that.

I want 2018 to be your best year ever. I want to help you craft and create the best, most effective messages for your business ever. If you hire me to help with your advertising this year, the first question I’m going to ask, however, will have nothing to do with advertising. I’m going to ask you if you know your own personal Core Values. Then I’m going to ask you if your goals for the company line up with your personal values. Without that foundation, there is no media buy you can make that will get you where you want to go.

Tim is a smart man (he tries to play dumb by surrounding himself with an incredibly smart team, but that just shows you how brilliant he truly is). If you are looking for a long-term solution to your advertising needs, Tim and other Wizard of Ads Partners are your go-to peeps.

If you are looking for someone to set you on the right course and help you DIY your advertising, give me a call.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I get nothing from Wizard of Ads Partners for telling you about them. I’m not a Partner myself. But I have learned so much from them and from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, that I can’t help gushing about them. I’m a DIY kinda guy when it comes to business. I like to help small businesses learn how to help themselves. If you’re someone who just needs a good push every now and then, maybe we should talk.

Few Things Go As Planned

Back in the early 1990’s I ran a wilderness trip program out at YMCA Storer Camps. I had a team of trip leaders who would plot out backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canoeing trips around the Midwest and Ontario. One of the planning stages for the trip leaders was to build an itinerary showing what they would be doing each day, where they would be camping each night, and what goals they hoped to accomplish on the trip.

Papa Moose and family on the Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario 1987

Before each trip I would go through their itinerary with them, making sure the trip looked sound on paper. Then I would have them fold up the itinerary, place it in a Ziploc bag, and stick it in the bottom of their rucksack to only pull out if necessary.

Rarely if ever did a trip turn out exactly as it was written on paper. Flat tires, flash flooding, lost canoes, or other unexpected obstacles would always throw the itinerary off track. Sometimes the itinerary had to be adjusted to meet the needs of the group. One of my bike trips added an extra 100 miles to their trip because the kids had the skills to make that extra jaunt. There was always something.

What I learned through this exercise was one simple lesson—the future will not turn out exactly as you planned.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for it. The two most important days of the itinerary were the first and last. The first set the tone, the last got you home. What happened in between was subject to change at a moment’s notice. A skilled trip leader knew when to adjust the itinerary to make the trip fun for everyone. A skilled trip leader expected to make changes mid-stream and was prepared to do so.

So here is my best New Year’s advice to you.

2018 will not turn out how you planned.

I’m not being a Debby Downer here. In fact, 2018 may surpass all your wildest dreams. Or it may take a hard 90-degree turn down a path you never imagined that might be the best path you ever could take. It may be close to what you thought, but there will be plot-twists, obstacles, detours, re-routes, and even a dead-end or two along the way.

That’s okay.

It is impossible for you to foresee that much of the future to meet every challenge perfectly prepared, knowing what will happen before it happens. (If you had that skill, you likely wouldn’t be reading my blog.)

With that said, you still need to plan your itinerary. You still need to plot out where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the year. You still need to put down a plan for how you will get from Point A to Point B. Without a plan, I can promise you won’t get anywhere close to Point B.

A skilled retailer will plan the following:

  • Marketing: What events, what advertisements, what other ways will you draw traffic to your store? At the same time, how will you measure new, unforeseen opportunities as they come along? What will you need to see to jump at an opportunity or take a risk with your advertising and marketing?
  • Staff Training: What skills do you want your staff to learn and strengthen in 2018? At the same time, how will you deal with the sudden change should you lose a key employee or two along the way?
  • Customer Service: Where are the holes in the service you provide and how will you raise the bar for 2018? At the same time, how will you spot new opportunities to surprise and delight customers in the future as their bar of expectation rises as well?
  • Inventory Management: How will you raise margins and turn ratios (to increase cash flow) while keeping prices attractive and keeping enough inventory on the shelf to maintain sales levels? At the same time, how will you respond to fads? What criteria will you use to jump in whole hog when something is going hot (or jump out quickly when something has died?)

 

A skilled retailer like a skilled trip leader knows that the goal is to start the year out on the right foot and make it to the finish line intact. What happens in between will never match the plan, but if you’re prepared, will be a helluva lot of fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those four categories will be the main focus of this blog for 2018. My goal for the New Year is to prepare you to see the opportunities, the detours, the 90-degree turns, the obstacles, and the dead-ends for what they are so that you can navigate through them or around them. Sound good?

Not Everyone Is Expecting the Same Thing

A couple weeks ago I did a Customer Service workshop with the staff of Kingman Museum. In a workshop for a single entity I get to do some different things than I do in a presentation to a large and varied group, including focusing in on different elements of customer service that will truly make a difference for the types of customers you’ll see.

As you know …

Customer Service is a measure of how well you meet your customers’ expectations.

The minimum bar is simply to give the customer exactly what she expected. Anything less and she’ll tear you to shreds on Facebook or Yelp or in the hallway outside the MOPS meeting. Anything more, however, and she’ll sing your praises to the mountain top.

It is a fine line between failing and winning. Worse yet, the line is constantly shifting because not every customer is expecting the same thing.

In the planetarium at Kingman Museum. You should check it out.

Our first exercise, therefore, was to figure out the different personas that visit the museum. We came up with eight basic personas; The Member, The Young Family, The Homeschooler, The Field Trip, The Tourist, The Senior Citizen, The Passer-By, and The Donor. We then described the general characteristics of each persona, listing them on pieces of easel paper taped around the room.

Then, as we looked at all the interaction points the staff has with the visitor, we talked about how the expectations differ based on the personas. For instance, Tourists are looking for a far different experience than Homeschoolers. Senior Citizens want to see what is very new (because they are frequent visitors) and very old (for nostalgia’s sake). Young Families want activities to keep the wiggles at bay. The Donor wants to see where the money went.

First, by knowing these personas and the different expectations they might have, we were able to create different ways to exceed their expectations.

Second, we spent a lot of time on the importance of communication. It is through the relationship-building process that you learn which persona best fits their needs, and also what personal expectations they might have, so that you can apply those surprising moments.

This is a simple exercise you should do with your staff.

  • Start by describing the different types of customers. Give them each a name.
  • List the characteristics that define each persona.
  • Brainstorm questions you can ask (or answers you can look for) to help you identify each persona.
  • List the expectations each persona might have, especially how they differ from the other personas.
  • Think of what it will take to surprise and delight each persona.

Only when you know the different types of customers and what they expect from your store can you truly meet and exceed their expectations on a regular basis. Giving a group of kids on a Field Trip a list of your favorite nearby local restaurants is not nearly as delightful as it is when you give it to the Tourist.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Some of you are already ahead of me in figuring out that these personas also play a role in your marketing and advertising. When creating new advertisements, pick one persona and write directly to that person. It won’t be as effective for the other personas, but it will move the needle for her in ways you never imagined.

PPS Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is a great exercise to work on over the course of several meetings. Start with simply identifying the different personas and what makes them unique. At the next meeting you can start to talk about their expectations and how you identify them. What you will find between those two meetings is that at the second meeting they may have a sharper definition for each persona. That means they were observing. Praise them for that. By the third meeting, however, you should be working on ways to surprise and delight.

PPPS If the veterinarian staff had done this exercise with the simple personas of Cat Person and Dog Person, they would have been OMG instead of WTF.

PPPPS Go to Kingman Museum and see how they are doing. The museum is really cool with a ton of stuff packed into an architecturally cool building. Plus, they have a planetarium! (Be gentle. This is the first time they have looked at Customer Service as a thing, let alone as a different thing for different people.)

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.”