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The Fine Line Between Chaos and Just Plain Messy

Chaos: noun /’kā-äs/ : behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions (thank you, Google)

Chaos is a system too complex for the average observer to see any order.

I hated to file things away. Just not my thing. I would let stacks of papers and catalogs grow to the point of toppling over before biting the bullet and putting them away where they belong.

Most people called my desk messy. But in reality it was more chaotic than messy because I knew exactly what was in each of the piles. I knew there was a system and order. it was just too complex for the average person to see.

They called it messy. And they were right. Why?

Because perception trumps reality. I could argue about my “system” until the cows come home, but you and everyone with you would just see a hot mess.

Image result for kohls mens departmentThat’s how customers often feel about your merchandising. There might be some sort of order to why you merchandised certain products where you did, but if that order isn’t easily recognized, then to your customers, your store is a mess. (Then again, you might be like the men’s pants at Kohl’s and be an actual mess!)

The degree to which your chaos will look messy has a lot to do with the general design and layout in your store. There are generally two distinctly different styles of setting up your store or department, and they have two different levels of allowable chaos. You could go Military or Whimsy.

MILITARY STYLE MERCHANDISING

Characteristics: Rows and aisles are straight and easily navigable. Product is displayed orderly by type and size in neat and even rows.

Pros: Easy to navigate through the store. With proper signage, it is easier to find the product you already knew you wanted. Customers who wish to browse the whole store can track where they have been and where they haven’t. Much more navigable for shopping carts and strollers. Sense of order and control for the store. Harder for shoplifters to hide.

Cons: There is less sense of discovery because it is harder to get products directly in front of a customer. Endcaps become the prime real estate but are limited. Customers are less enticed to browse. Harder to change displays and departments.

Use: This is a common layout for grocery stores and large discount stores. It also makes sense for stores that appeal more to men. Men are less likely to browse and want to find their products with the least amount of work. If you sell mostly commodities, this style suits you best.

Chaos is deadly for these stores. They are built on order. To be successful, you have to be stocking and straightening constantly.

WHIMSICAL STYLE MERCHANDISING

Characteristics: No defined rows or straight lines. Lots of curves, free-standing displays, and a meandering path. Product is grouped but not necessarily ordered.

Pros: A lot of product ends up facing directly at the customer as she makes her way through the store. More chance for discovery of new products or forgotten products. Sense of wonder and discovery at every turn. Easy to change out product displays. Store always feels new.

Cons: Not easy for strollers or shopping carts. Difficult to run in and grab something quick. Can create bottlenecks of traffic. Feels less ordered. Much more difficult to spot products out of place. Easier for shoplifters to hide.

Use: Clothing stores and gift shops employ this style to great success. Everywhere you turn a new display is facing right at you. Small boutique stores of all kinds can employ this style. Even departments within bigger stores can use this style. Just remember that it is a put off for men and for customers who want to shop quick. It appeals more to customers who like to browse and discover. If you sell mostly new and unique items, this style suits you best.

Chaos is much more forgiven in a Whimsy store – as long as the displays are neat. If you have a creative merchandiser who can make displays look fantastic, you can sell a lot of cool merchandise in a store like this. The trick, however, is that unlike the Military style, it is a lot harder to notice the messes when they do happen.

There is a fine line between chaos and mess and more often than not indie retailers are on the wrong side of that line. If you’re not sure of your own chaos, have a friend not affiliated with the store come in and see if she can tell the order of your store. If not, then customers might think you’re too messy to bother.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The great stores employ enough people to keep the aisles and displays neat and clean and stocked no matter what style of merchandising. Plus, those extra employees on the floor discourage shoplifting. In the race to the top, this is one of the separating factors.

PPS There are several studies that show how chronically disorganized people like me are actually smarter than average. That’s fine for my desk (and yours), but you don’t need a study to know that a hot mess of a display will turn customers away. As messy as I am, I’ve walked out of several stores because I didn’t want to dig through the heap to find what I wanted. Don’t let potential customers do the same in your store.

PPPS Your merchandising is part of your Branding because it sets the “feel” of the store. It is usually the first emotion someone feels when they enter.

Happy 4th of July (Whether You’re Open or Not)

Happy 4th of July!

If you worked for me at Toy House, today would be a paid holiday. Same with New Year’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We only had two unpaid days we were closed—the Sundays before Memorial and Labor Day. Nine closed days, seven paid holidays.

Image result for fireworksYeah, I lost business being closed those days.

Yeah I gained business being closed those days.

Yeah, I increased payroll being closed those days.

Yeah, I decreased payroll being closed those days.

Wait, what?

First, understand that my store was in a downtown of a city surrounded by over one hundred lakes. No one was downtown. No one was going downtown on Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. If you are near the beach or amusement park, or river where the fireworks are going off, you might be better off being open.

The other holidays I lost business, especially Thanksgiving and New Years—days that many other retailers are open. At the same time, because I made a big deal out of giving my staff paid time off to be with their families, I actually gained loyalty from my customers who shared those values. Giving up business to be good to my staff made my brand stronger and helped me build trust among my customers. They realized our store was not driven only by the almighty dollar.

The key was letting my customers know why I was closed and what I was doing.

As for payroll, sure paid holidays are payroll with no income. I could be closed without offering pay. Then again, the biggest expense in payroll long-term is employee turnover. Take care of your staff and they’ll take care of you. Plus, it reinforced my values of putting my staff’s needs near the top of the list. My customers saw that and appreciated it. My staff truly appreciated it. In the long run it was a win-win all around.

You don’t have to be closed for holidays. In fact, you might be in a situation where you can’t be closed. I’m not telling you to be closed, either. I’m telling you to be true to your values and make sure your customers know exactly what you value. You’ll attract more customers that share those values, which will more than make up for any sales you might sacrifice or expenses you might add on in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you’re gonna be open on those holidays, make it special for both your staff and your customers. They both are in your store instead of out celebrating. Go all out and celebrate in style. If I was open today, I’d be grilling hot dogs out front and singing patriotic songs.

Death by Typo

My buddy was at a conference recently and the presenter for his breakout session had a major typo in big bold letters at the top of one of his opening slides. My buddy couldn’t resist. He took a photo of this typo—and I’m talking not just a single letter but a major butchering—and posted it with the comment, “Why am I listening to this guy for advice?”

After we all agreed the comment was a bit snarky and we all agreed the speaker probably had some good content, I couldn’t quite let this speaker off the hook. After all, even PowerPoint has spellcheck.

The real problem was that a major blunder like this on something so easily proofread and corrected meant two things …

  1. The guy wasn’t prepared. He hadn’t given his presentation enough time to check for errors which sent the signal that the rest of his presentation was hastily slapped together, too.
  2. My buddy was so turned off and distracted by one little misstep, that he missed the message.

Your business sends similar signals to customers all the time. When you have typos or grammar mistakes in your signs and posters and emails and social media posts, you send the signal to many of your customers that you hastily slapped things together. You distract them with these errors and keep them from seeing what you want them to see.

It doesn’t have to be typos either. It can be a staff that is ill-prepared for an event or special offering. It can be contradicting terms from two different sales people. It can be trash by the front door. It can be poorly merchandised areas of your store. It can be dust. It can be a messy bathroom. It can be an answering machine with the wrong hours because the seasons have changed. It can be a website with the wrong hours. It can be a funny smell coming from the backroom staff area. It can be an old, faded, worn-out, been there since the 90’s sign that has a corner missing. It can be footprints of mud leading back to the model section from the work boots of one of your best customers. It can be disheveled clothing on your staff. It can be music that is too loud or too harsh for your shopping environment. It can be window and door glass with smudged finger and hand-prints. It can be products not matching the shelf signs.

It doesn’t have to be much to distract your customers from your awesome staff and fabulous product selection. That little typo can do more damage to your branding than the thousands of dollars you spend on advertising can do good. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

The band Van Halen used to put a clause in their contracts asking for M&M’s with all of a certain color removed. A lot of people thought they must be divas because of that. I was part of that crowd until I heard an interview with David Lee Roth, the acrobatic lead singer who used to fly around the stage. He said they had very intricate, detailed instructions for how to assemble the stage for his safety. If the show organizers were detailed enough to do the M&M’s right (something small and trivial in the grand scheme of things), he had more confidence the stage would be built right. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

You have a fabulous staff and wonderful products. Don’t do anything that signals the customer otherwise. Don’t do anything that distracts the customer from the prize. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There was another lesson from that presentation about bullet points, but I’ll save that for another day. You have enough to do looking for all those little distractions that mean a lot.

Advertising Cannot Change Your Reputation

In a recent post I talked about how my hometown of Jackson, Michigan was once called “Central City” because of the railroad industry back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The name most people my age knew was the unofficial title of “Prison City”. One reader reminded me that for several years Jackson has been calling itself the “Rose City”.

I forgot about that name.

Image result for roseSure there are some subtle reminders such as the Rose Parade in which my boys and I have participated over the years, and the Rose Festival, but not much after that.

A friend of mine moved to Jackson a few years ago and heard the name. She still wonders how the name came to be. No huge rose gardens on display, no neighborhoods full of roses, no roses featured in the new logo. The name doesn’t fit the experience.

Prison City still fits. We still have prisons. People already think about Jackson that way. You don’t have to try to convince them otherwise.

But Rose City doesn’t.

That’s one of the key principles of advertising. To truly be effective, your advertising has to match the experience. You can’t advertise your way out of a bad reputation. You can only reinforce the reputation you already have. You can’t change perceptions with advertising. If you try, you will only waste thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it.

Sign up now for this Tuesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class and I’ll show you how to spend your money much more wisely and use advertising in ways that it can work.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There are four things advertising cannot do. It cannot change your reputation. It cannot fix your business. It cannot create loyalty. It cannot reach everyone. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you the four things advertising CAN do.

Revisit the Important Stuff

Staff training has begun for my summer gig at YMCA Storer Camps. There is a lot of ground to cover to get the camp counselors up to speed with all the policies and procedures. Like any other camp, Storer has its quirks and special ways of doing things. Also like any other camp, Storer’s number one concern is safety.

Every single day during training week we have time devoted purely to safety. Every single session this week starts with a quick word about safety. Every single program is designed with safety of the campers and staff as the number one priority.

Don’t worry. We aren’t putting bubble wrap around the kids and treating them like snowflakes. They will have fun. Tons of it (especially if they get into my sailing program!!) They also will get some bumps and bruises. You can’t eliminate all the risks.

But when you minimize the needless risks and eliminate reckless or dangerous behavior, everyone has even more fun. There is nothing fun about spending your summer camp in the health center or going home early because of a preventable injury.

Safety is the number one priority, so it is brought up Every. Single. Time. It is at the front of every staff member’s thoughts. It is part of the culture.

What is your number one priority? Is it selling? Is it servicing? Is it greeting everyone at the front door? Is it making sure people are completely comfortable in the store? Is it gathering as much data about someone as possible? Is it keeping the store clean? Is it getting referrals and repeat customers?

No matter what your top priority may be, the bigger question is … Are you training it every single day? Are you reinforcing that this is your single most important priority? Are you making it not just something you say, but something you live and breathe as part of your culture?

The best companies do this. The best companies know exactly what is most important and they talk about it and train for it every single day. There is a reason YMCA Storer Camps is one of the best camps in the nation. They make sure everyone buys into their top priorities by making sure those top priorities are visited and revisited time and time again.

Follow their lead and do the same for your business. You will notice a difference almost immediately.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I know there is a typo on my name badge. Not everyone is perfect. People make mistakes. No matter what you make your top priority and no matter how often you revisit it, people will make mistakes. The more you revisit it, however, the fewer the mistakes and the less likely they will be big mistakes.

PPS What does this have to do with the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class coming up on Tuesday, June 20th? Absolutely nothing. Or then again …?

How Many Ways are You Marketing & Advertising Your Business?

One of the segments of the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up Tuesday, June 20th focuses on the many different media you can use to market & advertise your business and their respective strengths and weaknesses. It dawned on me that I have used many different forms of media out there for Toy House over the years.

Here is the short list off the top of my head of all the ways I marketed & advertised Toy House the last twenty two years …

  • Newspapers
  • Newspaper inserts
  • Online News
  • Magazines
  • Radio
  • Internet Radio
  • Broadcast TV
  • Cable TV
  • Local TV
  • Billboards
  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Website
  • Online and Print Community Calendars
  • Facebook
  • Google AdWords
  • Yellow Pages
  • White Pages
  • Networking
  • Press Releases & Public Relations
  • Discount Business Cards
  • Twitter
  • Road signs
  • Trade shows
  • Giveaways
  • Sponsorship
  • Coupon Books
  • Off-site Presentations & Events
  • Decorated Delivery Van
  • Wearing logo shirts in public

I’m sure there are a few more I forgot.

The point here is to open up your mind to the idea that there are many ways to advertise your business. You don’t have to do all of them. In fact, you would need a dedicated marketing & advertising team and a huge budget to even attempt to half of them the right way. Instead, your best plan is to choose a few of these and do them better than your competition.

Sign up for the class and I’ll show you how to use each of the above the most productive way and help you figure out which ones will help you grow your business the right way—all in just four hours (I’ve done it before so I know I can do this for you.)

Here’s the fun part … That is only about half of what you’ll learn in this class.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There is one big myth I want to dispel right now and that is the notion of “Mixed Media”. The myth is that you need to spread yourself as wide as possible in as many different media as possible so that you hit the same people from many different angles to help them remember and think of you. Wrong! The stuff you see with your eyes goes to a different part of the brain than the stuff you hear with your ears. The different media rarely ever connect in the brain as one unified thought. The most effective marketing is when you dominate one medium so well that people think you own it. That was the biggest mistake I made for years. Our marketing & advertising got better when I pared it back to the media I could use best.

Your Ears Are Never Closed

I play guitar and sing in a local brew pub called The Poison Frog. At a recent gig I played an old camp song. Afterward, Phil Wilcox, the owner and master brewer, asked if I would do an entire “campfire” theme one night.

Following the advice of Teddy Roosevelt who 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,” I said yes and scheduled it for Friday, June 23rd. Hope you can come.

Then I got busy looking up campfire songs.

I found great song suggestions online, many of which I already knew.

I also found a bunch of songs I didn’t recognize the title or the artist. Surprisingly, when I listened to these songs, I realized I actually did know them and could already sing along to parts of them—even though I had never tried to learn them before nor even knew the song title or artist’s name!

You’ve had that experience, too. A song comes on the radio or Spotify and you start singing along. You don’t know the artist or title. You just start singing.

How can we know the words to songs we never tried to memorize? How can we sing along to songs we didn’t care enough to download into a playlist? How can our brains recall such information we never tried to store?

Our ears are never closed. We are hearing and our brain is processing sounds whether we are actively, consciously trying to listen or not. That’s why you can repeat back what the teacher said when she caught you daydreaming. That’s why you can sing along to hundreds of songs you never tried to learn. That’s why the alarm clock wakes you up every morning. That’s why strange sounds wake you up in the middle of the night.

I share this little tidbit with you because it comes into play for three distinct and different reasons in your advertising. You’ll learn why in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING AND ADVERTISING class coming up Tuesday, June 20th. You should sign up today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You’re probably trying to guess those three reasons. You probably first figure I’m going to talk about jingles. Well, yes. And no. Humor, sex, and music are delicate techniques that need to be used with care and skill or they will backfire in a big way. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you what the pros know.

PPS The other two reasons are fascinating. One deals with how memory works. The other deals with how different media work. Take the class and you’ll learn secrets your advertising salespeople likely don’t know. (And if you are an advertising salesperson, you’re welcome to sign up, too!)

The Value Equation

As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation.

The Value Equation is this … Does the Perceived Worth of an item equal its Actual Price?

We beg for the price because we are always at least subconsciously calculating Perceived Worth on everything we see. We’ve been doing it our whole adult lives. We do it shopping for groceries. We do it shopping for tools. We do it shopping for clothes. As we walk the store we attach a Perceived Worth to everything we see. (If we don’t want it, the PW is zero. If we might want it, we attached a price to it and check to see if we are right.) 

When the Perceived Worth equals the Actual Price, we put the item in our cart.

The surprise is often in finding our Perceived Worth is far higher than the Actual Price. The first question we usually ask when that happens is, “What’s wrong with it?” or, “Is this marked down?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Wow, it must not be as good as I thought it would be.” Before we buy the product, we have to answer those questions satisfactorily.

That’s why it is easy to under-price yourself to bankruptcy (or at least leave serious dollars on the table.)

The other problem is when your Perceived Worth is much lower than the Actual Price. You either totally dismiss the product as being “out of my range” or you wonder what you missed in your evaluation of the product.

Take, for example, the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class I am offering. I have to find that sweet spot of a price that fits what you believe a class like this should be worth.

I start by taking cues from what other similar programs charge. For instance, Bob Negen’s Whizbang Training two-day Retail Success Summit this summer is currently $997.  My buddy Tim Miles just announced a one-day workshop with Roy H. Williams, himself, for $1250. (By the way, I highly recommend both programs, and, no, I don’t get any kickbacks from these links.)

My workshop is $250* for a half-day —similar to Bob’s price for two days. Some of you will look at the price and see that it is about what you’d expect to pay for other, similar types of training. Some of you will look at the price and ask, “Where’s the value? What do I get in return?”

So I also look at the benefits you will get from the program. For instance, in this four-hour program you get:

  • Eight ways to market your business with little or no money at all
  • How to get free publicity from the media
  • How to craft a message that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon – three things that are incredibly hard to accomplish in today’s fractured, over-saturated media world
  • How best to use the media of your choice (and tips on how to choose the best media for your business)
  • Four ways to generate more Word-of-Mouth advertising than you ever thought possible
  • One year of advertising support including help with your message, your campaign, your media buys, or wherever you have questions or need advice.
  • Half-rate discounted tuition for any future programs I offer through Jackson Retail Success Academy™.

Some of you will still balk at the price. That’s okay. I know I won’t convince everyone.

Some of you will think that seems like a pretty fair trade for $250 and four hours of your time.  You’ll sign up now for the class on Tuesday, June 20th.

Others will wonder why the price is so low for all that you get. Most of you in that frame of mind have either been to one of my programs before or live in a city where prices for stuff like this are just a bit higher than they are in Jackson. Remember, Helping Others is one of my Core Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS If your business or you personally have taken one of my workshops through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™, you qualify for the Half-Price Alumni rate of $125.

PPS Why the half-price tuition for JRSA™ alumni? I believe strongly in continuing education. Now that I make my living speaking and writing, I am reading more blogs and books on speaking and writing, and I am attending workshops to learn all I can in those fields. I want to encourage anyone who takes one of my workshops to come back for refreshers or other programs, or maybe send a staff member to learn more. Plus, you’re always looking for a better deal. You know these classes are worth it at almost any price. Half-price just makes you feel good.

Hidden Networking (And Why it is Important)

Call me Admiral Graybeard. This summer I will be heading up a fleet of Interlake Sailboats on the waters of Stony Lake for YMCA Storer Camps. I’ll be spending my mornings on the water (and my afternoons typing away at my computer.)

Image result for ymca storer campsYou could call this a return to my youth. I did spend the summers of 1974 through 1981 as a camper there. You could call this a return to my high school and college days. I did work there as a summer camp counselor from 1983 to 1987. You could call this a return to my early career. I did work there full-time teaching Team Building through wilderness and experiential education in 1990 and 1991.

I call this an example of Hidden Networking.

When I say Networking, most business owners immediately think of Chamber events and other B2B meet-and-greets as the only networking they might do. I know. I used to think that way, too. Here’s a dirty little secret …

You’re always Networking.

When you go to the bank or gas station or grocery store or out to eat, you are networking. When you volunteer to help out at the school or church, you are networking. When you meet people at a social gathering, you are networking. It just isn’t as open and obvious.

Although you can call me Admiral, my boss this summer happens to be someone who took my Daddy Class at the local hospital. His boss, the person who hired me, knows me because my boys have attended the camp as campers. I was up at the camp a couple weekends ago to do some volunteer work organized by an old friend, when the idea sprang about.

You never know when or how a connection will benefit you. I may have a connection to the camp through being a camper, staff member and parent. But I made the connections to the people who hired me through teaching a class and volunteering to help a friend.

Hidden Networking is the quiet connections you make daily. Sometimes it is more powerful than big networking events.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You’re already doing Hidden Networking. I just want to give it a face and a name so that you would do it more openly and consciously. Make sense?

PPS One big perk besides spending my summer on the water is that I get the flexibility to still do workshops and seminars like the Spotlight on Marketing and Advertising workshop coming up June 20th (that gives you insight into how to make any and all kind of Networking work best for you.)

Spotlight on Marketing & Advertising Class Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here is your chance to learn the equivalent of a degree in advertising in just one night. As one MBA professor told me after sampling the material, “No one is teaching this stuff even at our level, and it needs to be learned!”

If you are a small business owner, you should take this class.
If you are an entrepreneur, you should take this class.
If you are a student studying business at any level, you should take this class.

SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING 

Next Class: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – 6pm to 10pm

Tuition: $250 (Half-price for any businesses that are JRSA™ Alumni)

Famed retailer John Wanamaker said it best, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year. Most of it poorly.

This Spotlight covers everything from how different types of advertising work to the best ways to use social media to marketing on a shoestring budget to learning the secrets to getting the press to talk about you. You will learn best practices for marketing your business whether your ad budget is $500 or $50,000. You will learn how to create memorable messages that move customers toward your business and you toward your goals. You will learn how to get far more out of your advertising dollars than any of your competitors.

When you take this class you will get…

  • Better, Smarter, More Effective Advertising – You’ll learn secrets that only a handful of businesses know that get greater results per dollar than any of your competitors.
  • One full year of Advertising Support including help finding your message, creating a campaign and buying ad packages
  • A Network of current and previous JRSA™ graduates for support and encouragement
  • Half-Price Tuition for any future JRSA™ programs

Click here to sign up for the class.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, this will include the material from my new book MOST ADS SUCK. That will only make up about 25% of the material covered. If you have a business to market, this will be the best money you’ve spent on “advertising” ever.