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Making Your Ads More Effective

Next Thursday I will be doing a seminar for the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority called “Making Your Ads More Effective”. This is one of my favorite presentations because it includes a few lucky (brave?) souls who submit advertisement they have used previously and I give those ads a makeover. It is also one of my most vulnerable moments.

That’s always been the fascinating thing about being a speaker. I get to stand on stage and tell you what to do with your business. Then I walk away. I get paid whether you do anything or not. I get paid whether what I say helps you or not. You don’t always know if the speaker knows what he or she is talking about. You don’t always know if the speaker has walked the walk or if this is just some interesting theory and you’re the guinea pig. You don’t know if what the speaker is teaching actually applies to your situation or not.

Any good speaker will convince you with pre-determined data and facts and anecdotes and testimonials that what they are teaching works. In this case, however, I take it a step further, using not my own stories and data but your stories and data. For me, that makes it even more fun and challenging.

My next book just went to the editor yesterday and is based entirely on this presentation. The book title is, “Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t)”. It includes six principles I have uncovered from years of trial and error and years of study that make ads more memorable and effective. It includes scientific information, stories, and observable phenomenon taken from the real world of advertising. It includes samples from a wide range of companies from around the world. It includes everything I will be teaching to the fine people of Marshall this coming Thursday morning. It show how you can apply these principles to your web copy, your social media posts, your print campaigns, and your broadcast media.

The last time I presented this information, one member in the audience was an MBA Professor who acknowledged that none of this was being taught in their program but every one of their students needed to hear it. (We’re working out those details.)

In a few days I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign for this book to help cover the costs of editing and formatting and layout and cover design and printing costs. To entice you to help fund this, you’ll be able to pre-order copies of the book with your donation. Those of you willing to donate a little more can even get a free webinar or phone consultation or remake of your own advertising. Those of you willing to donate a lot can get me to visit for either one-on-one consultation or to do a workshop or seminar in your town.

The amazing thing to me as I was doing research for this book was how many of these principles the major companies who spend millions of dollars on advertising get right, and how often they also get it wrong. Some of the principles are common sense. Some, however, are counter intuitive. As I get the manuscript back from the editor I will be posting excerpts through this blog. In the meantime, if you’re curious about what the book and the presentation are teaching, contact the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority and see if they’ll let you in the door.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One of the six principles is to make sure your ads only make one point. Don’t try to clutter your ad with too many points. The average casual listener will barely ever remember one, if that. This is one of the biggest mistakes I used to make in my advertising. Once I solved it, results started soaring. As homework, I want you to listen to the ads on your car radio. Seriously listen and see how many points each advertiser crams into each ad. Leave me a comment below with some of the worst offenders you hear.

The Power of the Smile Story

Every staff meeting started with “Smile Stories”, moments since the last meeting when we did what we set out to do and made the customer smile. Some of my staff wrote notes to themselves to remember all the stories. Others wrote notes to each other to remind them of their stories. At some meetings we spent three or four minutes sharing stories. At other meetings we spent ten or fifteen minutes. I never capped the time on this part of the meeting. It was too important.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond – our Core Values that drove our business.

The Smile Stories served multiple purposes.

First, they kicked off the meeting on a positive note. When you open a meeting with good news, it makes the people in attendance more open to listening and sharing. When you open with bad news you put people on defense and they clam up. So always start your meetings with something to celebrate.

Second, the Smile Stories got everyone into a sharing mood. If your meeting is simply for the purpose of telling people something, don’t meet. Send out a memo or an email. The reason you bring people together to meet is to allow for give and take, back and forth, engagement with your audience. Our Smile Stories got the staff engaged and talking early on, which always led to more engagement when we got into the training segment of the meeting.

Third, the Smile Stories reinforced our purpose. Our stated purpose for Toy House was, “We’re here to make you smile.” When we celebrated Smile Stories, it was clear to the staff why we were there and what we were supposed to do.

Fourth, the Smile Stories reinforced the training the staff had already received. When we shared stories of how we made customers smile, we were using concrete examples from which others could learn. Often the staff would even mention how a technique we discussed at a previous meeting worked well for them. Often within a story I would find a teachable moment that I could use to strengthen what we were already learning.

The first step for making your meetings with your team better is to figure out your “Smile Stories”. Find that and you will see your meetings, training, and productivity start to rise.

I’ll be covering this and a whole bunch of other tools for making your meetings something your staff looks forward to attending at the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop on April 26th. Looking forward to seeing you there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Stories are more memorable than facts and figures. My new book coming out later this spring cites numerous studies that show how we remember the feelings we get from stories as if we lived them ourselves. Stories are also better teachers. It is no surprise Jesus spoke in parables. We learn best by example. Stories are concrete examples of abstract principles and ideas. We’ll also be covering the power of the story in this workshop.

 

What Your Website Needs

You’re not going to do it yourself. You’re too busy. You have ordering and managing your inventory, hiring and training your staff, processing all the paperwork, creating and executing an advertising campaign, and all the other stuff like merchandising, selling, and even cleaning the bathroom on your to-do list. The last thing you want to do is learn how to build your own website.

I get that.

Instead you’re going to hire someone else, tell them what you want and trust their expertise to get it done. A good web designer will ask you a few questions, maybe even get you to write some of the content. A great web designer will dig a whole lot deeper.

Your website is the most important tool in your advertising and marketing toolbox. It is often the first contact someone has with your business. It sets the mood, creates the expectations, and tells people what you believe. It is the salesman who is working while you’re tucked safely between the sheets after a long day of unpacking boxes and putting out fires. It is the yellow pages of information that helps people find when you’re open, where you’re located, and what you offer. It is an expectation of today’s digital natives that you will have a mobile-ready website that answers all their questions.

To help you find that great web designer (or maybe turn a good one into a great one), here are a few things you should know your website needs.

GOALS

Your website needs to have an overall goal, a purpose. Is it to drive traffic to your store or drive sales on your eCommerce pages? Those are totally different sites. You have to decide which one. Your goal has to be clear on every single page what you want people to do.

Speaking of every single page, each page should also have its own goal, or more importantly its own call to action. What do you want someone viewing this page to do? Click on a link to another page? Make that clear. Call the store? Make that clear. Buy a product? Make that clear. Go back to the Home page? Make that clear.

VALUES

Simon Sinek, in his famous TEDx talk said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

What do you believe? What are your values? Do you spell out those beliefs? Roy H. Williams is getting all of his clients to rewrite their About Us pages and spell out their beliefs. (Mine are spelled out here. The Toy House’s beliefs were spelled out here.)

You need to make your beliefs known. You need to let your Core Values shine through on every page. Your best customers will be those who share your values. Speak to your tribe. Let them know you are here.

YOUR CUSTOMER

Make it about your customer. Think about all the reasons why your customer would visit your site. Are you solving your customer’s needs? Are you answering her questions? Are you making her life better, easier, more fun, more convenient? Are you speaking directly to her? Imagine one customer in your head, your best customer. What does she look like? Talk like? Act like? Write all of your content directly at her and no one else. Speak to her in her language. Assuage her fears. Make her feel comfortable. Let her know that you understand her and you will make her life better. Make her the true star of your website.

Now go find a great web designer (or become one yourself – there is power in being able to tweak your content any time you want.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, you can actually have eCommerce and drive-traffic-to-the-store on the same website. You just have to have different landing pages and different calls to action for the different ways those two different customers might search your site. It takes skill and an amazing web designer to pull it off. If you don’t have that (yet), choose one or the other and make it work.

 

Happy Valentines Day (or Harnessing the Power of the Heart)

People don’t buy products. They buy feelings. You aren’t selling toys or pet supplies or carpeting. You’re selling joy, contentment, pride, satisfaction. You’re selling the way someone feels after she makes the purchase. You’re selling the heart. For you, every day is Valentine’s Day.

How would your business change if instead of selling products, you decided to sell joy? Pure, unfiltered, even-the-toes-are-tingling joy. How do you sell joy? How do you service joy? How do you show off joy? Sure changes what you say to the customer, doesn’t it?

“You’ll find joy because…”
“This will bring you joy when…”
“The joy is in…”

Maybe you sell nostalgia. Here is an ad I wrote for the 2006 Christmas season (one of our best ever)…

Christmas Eve, nineteen sixty-five. He didn’t know if he would make it. Nine months of active duty, he missed his family. And he was an uncle now. His sister had a baby girl, a precious little child for which a stuffed animal from an airport gift shop just wouldn’t do. As his dad picked him up in the family sedan, he asked, “We got time to stop by the Toy House?” “Of course, son. Welcome home.” Merry Christmas from the Toy House in downtown Jackson where Christmas magic happens.

The big box stores sell commodities. That’s the race to the bottom. You sell emotions. That’s the race to the top. The key is to know which emotions you are selling. Get that right and you’ll own the hearts of all your customers all year long without having to buy them chocolates or flowers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We sold Nostalgia, Fun, Education, and Help. Wanna know what you should be selling? Read the article Understanding Your Brand and then download the Branding Worksheets. Email me if you get stuck.

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles (Part II)

If you’re a BBQ lover in the Detroit area, you recognize this door. Behind it is the tantalizing flavors of smoked meats, refreshing liquids from the Great Beer State, and an aroma that pleasantly stays in your nostrils for hours. You know it as Slow’s BBQ. In fact, you take pride in knowing those natural-colored thin planks stacked tightly together is the actual door of entry, not the door to the right going upstairs, nor the door ten feet left of the picture covered with stickers and locked, nor the locked door leading to the patio another fifteen feet to the left and directly beneath the sign on the building telling you that you’ve arrived.

Those were the three doors I tried first before finding the actual opening.

If there hadn’t been a sign on the building telling me where I was, this would be a different post. It would be about Over-the-Top Design and Sharing Secrets. It would be about how you felt like an insider because you knew the red and black building without a sign and with a hidden doorway was home to some killer ‘cue. You only knew because someone told you, making it (and you) feel even more special.

Instead, I felt like an idiot. I felt like I was made to feel stupid before I ever set foot in the joint. That’s a big obstacle to overcome. If the food or the service had not been stellar, just average, I’d probably never go back. It would be a nagging feeling just below the surface.

As I was leaving, there was a guy outside having the same struggles I had. Apparently the design of the door wasn’t over-the-top enough to get people to talk about it, only about the food. Their fancy, hard-to-find door didn’t generate word-of-mouth, only frustration. You never want your customers walking into your establishment frustrated. Make sure they know how to get in the front door.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The other alternative would be to remove the sign on the building altogether. Sure, it would make it harder and even more frustrating for some people to find the joint, but since most of these places get their new business from word-of-mouth, it would ratchet up the need for people to talk about the design elements and ratchet up the feeling of knowing something others don’t. It would have changed my feelings of frustration to feelings of discovery and being in-the-know.

PPS Of course, at the end of the day, if you’re a restaurant, you better have over-the-top food first and foremost. Slows brought it. I saw a few items on trays passing by that will get me back. They overcame the obstacle. Not many stores and restaurants do.

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles

We’ve all heard the phrase KISS – keep it simple, stupid. We’ve also been exposed to Occam’s Razor – the simpler explanation is most likely the better one. But still, as business owners, we forget that and build our own man-made obstacles to make our lives harder.

For example, I went to a restaurant in Phoenix call The Arrogant Butcher. By the name you would guess they were likely a steak house or possibly a BBQ joint. That was my expectation as I entered. Sure enough, the menu had a couple steaks and some ribs, but was dominated by seafood dishes. I asked my waitress what they were known for. She said the seafood. Their oysters were flown in fresh from California daily.

Image result for the arrogant butcher

I was already mentally halfway out the door, but decided to stick it out and give it a try.

Much to my delight, the seafood was delicious. The staff was friendly. The dessert was awesome.

But because of the name, if anything wasn’t up to par, the night would have been a huge disappointment. Because of the name, my expectations were completely different to the experience, and almost a deal killer. Because of the name, everything had to be surprisingly delightful.

I sat at the chef’s table and watched the cooks at work. None seemed arrogant. None looked like a butcher. I didn’t see a lot of steaks or ribs, but the oyster shucker never stopped shucking.

At the end of the night, I am happy to say they overcame my original disappointment. But they had to be perfect to do so, all because of the obstacle they put up all on their own.

Retail is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it harder on yourself. KISS.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I understand that good, fun, unique names are catchy and stand out. I drank beer and played guitar at a pub with Poison in the name. But when your name screams a certain expectation, you have to be exceptionally excellent at what you do if your actual brand doesn’t match that expectation. Few businesses pull that off consistently.

Friends With Benefits

Align yourself with charity. Pick one or two local organizations (or more if you’re up to it) that you feel strongly about. Do something special for them. Help them out. Be their friend and ally.

You’ll both benefit from the friendship.

Santa Paws 2015 #1

This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society doing their annual Santa Paws event – pictures of your pet with Santa Claus. They called me a few weeks ago looking for a space to take the pictures. I have a stage. I love dogs – especially rescued dogs. I said yes.

They coordinate getting Santa here. They hire the photographer. They set up the backdrop. They sign up and schedule the photo shoots. They work the tables. They get the profits.

We get the traffic. We get the goodwill. We get the customers telling us how nice it is that we are doing this for them. We get the social media exposure. We get exposed to everyone on their mailing list. We get our name mentioned in their press releases (and non-profit press releases get picked up far more often than for-profit press releases).

Our friendship with them brings benefits to both of us.

When you partner with a charity, you expand your reach. You get exposure to a crowd of generous people who love to give to charitable causes (can you think of a better demographic for the independent retailer?). You get touchy feely goodwill because you are helping out. You don’t just look like a greedy merchant. You strengthen your community (the better the non-profits do, the better everyone does).

Make friends with a charity or two. You’ll reap the benefits.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your charity doesn’t have to be aligned with what you sell. We don’t sell pet toys or pet food. Pick charities based on a few different factors such as…

  • Do they have an active base of followers?
  • Do they want to “partner” with you (or simply have you do all the work)?
  • Do they align with your own personal core values?
  • Are they well-respected in the community?

Those are all good reasons for making friends.

Dumb Logic – Don’t Fall for It

At a recent presentation I was told that more money is being spent on mobile advertising than on PC advertising. No source was given so I cannot verify the truth of that statement. Then again, it doesn’t matter.

The presenter was using that info to tell an audience of small businesses that since the big boys are spending on mobile, we should, too. “They know what they’re doing.”

Yeah, right. (See “New Coke”, see “Creepy Burger King Guy”, see whatever company that had all the monkeys, see pretty much 75% of all Super Bowl commercials…)

Creepy Burger King Guy

If your advertising salesperson or consultant or agency ever tells you to do something because all the major giant retailers are doing it, you need to fire them immediately.

YOU’RE NOT A MAJOR CHAIN

First, you don’t have the budget of those big boys. They spend money like no tomorrow hoping something will catch fire. They spend money in every medium out there. They are not discriminate in their spending. They chase every new opportunity like it is a Leprechaun with a pot of gold. They throw time and effort and resources at each one (and still get a lot of it wrong). You don’t have the same resources.

Second, what works for them isn’t necessarily the right thing for you and vice versa. Take the Mobile App for one. One of the most popular things to do with mobile is send your customers a coupon. We’ve already discussed the dangers of coupons. Even more bewildering to me is the coupon that gets sent after they have entered your store. Really? If they’ve already entered your store, you don’t need more marketing. You won. A coupon at that moment is simply you paying someone else to give away more of your margin. Once the customer is in the store, you wow them with your well-trained sales team.

YOU CAN STILL WIN AT MARKETING

Don’t take your cue from major chain retailers. Take your cue from your best customers. Chances are they aren’t in your store because of coupons and discounts and deals and silly ads that made them laugh. They are in your store because of the relationship you’ve fostered. They are in your store because of the fun they have when they visit. They are in your store because you make them feel like they belong.

You still need to do marketing. You just have to do it the right way for you. This will help…

  • Go to the Free Resources page on my website.
  • Start at the  top of the column titled “Improve Your Marketing”.
  • Download each PDF (they’re FREE).
  • Read them.
  • Write down your questions.
  • Email me your questions.

I’ll help you either through this blog or directly by email to get your marketing on track in a way that will work for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You don’t see a cost attached to my offer up above. There isn’t one. That isn’t to say that we won’t enter some kind of consulting agreement down the road (if you really need that kind of hand-holding). But answering your questions and helping you get on the right track is always free.

PPS Why FREE? Why do I give away so much stuff? Simple. I want you to succeed. Period. I don’t want barriers between you and your success.  I am not doing this for my own gain. I’m doing it for yours. Is there some hidden ulterior motive? Yes. I like to do presentations for groups of retailers. I charge money for those. The more you use and share my stuff, the more likely your organization will want to hire me to speak. But most importantly, for anyone to hire me, first you have to succeed.

You Aren’t as Well Known as You Think

Back in 2005 we hired a Statistics Class at a local university to do a study for us. They determined how to get a random sample size that would accurately reflect Jackson County and then called people to ask them one simple task…

checklist-154274_1280

“Name all the places you can think of in Jackson County that sell toys.”

The students would write down every store mentioned. Then they would say, “You mentioned…” and repeat the list back to the person. They would then ask, “Can you think of any more?” and repeat this until the person had thought of everyone.

Here are the results of how often the top six stores were mentioned.

  1. Toys R Us 84.1%
  2. Meijer 82.3%
  3. Wal-Mart 69.5%
  4. Toy House 64.8%
  5. K-Mart 59.1%
  6. Target 45.2%

Interesting that 35% of the population of Jackson County could not think of us even though we had been here 56 years at the time of the survey.

More interesting was that Wal-Mart had only just opened a few months before this survey was done. Was that 69.5% too high or too low seeing that they had just received about four months of wall-to-wall news coverage prior to opening?

Even more interesting was that less than half of our population thought of Target as a place that sold toys even though Target, nationally, is only behind Wal-Mart and Toys R Us in overall toy sales.

Most interesting of all was that not one single store broke the 90% (even with the 4% margin of error).

NOT EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE THERE

One takeaway from all this is the reminder that you have to keep marketing and advertising your business. You are not the Field of Dreams. People will not come. Mainly because they don’t even know you’re there.

35% of my hometown did not know that an award-winning store with one of the largest selection of toys in America was located right downtown in a brightly colored building for over 50 years.

YOU CAN’T REACH EVERYONE

Another takeaway is that no matter how hard you try, there will still be people who haven’t heard of you.

35% of my hometown could not name the toy store that runs radio ads every day, gets mentioned on TV every day, makes monthly appearances on radio and TV, is all over social media, and gets coverage in the local newspaper all the time.

35% of my hometown could not name the toy store whose logo is on the shirt of the guy who attends networking events, teaches classes at the local hospital and even wears his colors on his jacket all winter long.

Heck, even 15% couldn’t name Toys R Us despite them spending billions on advertising.

You could sum it up simply as…

  • Always be farming for more customers
  • Not every seed planted will sprout

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This post took a turn after I started it. It was supposed to be about the importance of Networking, especially as a low-cost marketing method. I’ll get to that soon enough. In the meantime, download my FREE eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget for six other ways you can get the word out about your business at little or no cost.

PPS The cool thing about the survey was that I quickly knew what the people of Jackson thought when they needed to buy toys. I knew where I stood and where everyone else in the market stood, too. That is some powerful information.

From Your Customer’s Point of View

Legend has it the day before Disney Land opened, Walt and crew arrived to do a walk-through. Upon entering the gates, Walt immediately kneeled down at the front of the park. His entourage was curious as he begged them to kneel with him. Once everyone was kneeling, he explained that this was the height of the customer he was most concerned about pleasing and he wanted to see the park from their perspective.

Do you look at your business from your customer’s point of view?

I took a trip last weekend to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Took my son to see Michigan Technological University and my family to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I snapped this picture of one of the lookout platforms.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Lookout Platform
Viewing window for little visitors at the lookout platform for Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

See the window built into the wall of the platform? They got this one right. This family-friendly park made sure the entire family had a view of Miner’s Castle and Lake Superior. No dangerous lifting of young children over the safety of the wall. No little ones complaining that they couldn’t see. No unhappy faces feeling forgotten or ignored.

Little things like that window make a huge difference in how someone views and remembers their experience.

Walt knew this. He built his park and empire by looking at how his best, most important customers would experience it. He made sure the people he wanted to impress the most would be impressed. He looked at everything through their eyes.

Have you done the same?

Have you asked these questions?

  • Who are my best customers?
  • What is their minimum expectation when they visit my store?
  • How can I design my store and its policies to make their experience even better?
  • How can I surprise and delight them even more?

I’ll bet Walt asked these questions. You should, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One easy way to do this is to look at every single interaction your customer has with your store and ask just these two questions…

  1. What does the customer expect to happen here?
  2. What can I do that will surprise and delight them here?

It is a perspective that changes everything (for the better).