Home » Branding

Category: Branding

Five, Ten, Fifteen Years Ago

Do you remember the start of the Great Recession back in 2008? Did you see it coming? Were you prepared in advance, ready for it?

Okay, you can stop laughing. No one saw it coming. Very few were prepared. Yet if you remember it and are reading this blog, it means you likely survived the Great Recession.

No matter how you got through those tough years, I’ll bet your business looks a lot different now than it did in 2007. I’ll bet for most of you, today’s version of your store only merely resembles the store you had fifteen, ten, or even five years ago.

Things change. We learn new stuff. We grow. We adapt.

The business model that worked in the 80’s (open your doors, stand back, and watch the traffic roll in) wouldn’t last a month in today’s retail climate.

Here is another truth …

Flag Raising circa early 1970’s

The store you’re running five years from now will only merely resemble the store you’re running today. 

The name will be the same. The Core Values will be the same. Some of the services will be the same (some will be unnecessary, some will be enhanced). Some of the fixtures will still be there (but hopefully not in the same place as today).

August 6, 2016 Flag Raising

Yesterday, at the annual business meeting of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), the past chairperson, Ann Kienzle, gave a speech. Apparently she had heard from some ASTRA members who were there twenty-six years ago at the first meeting, where less than fifty people got together to do something for the independent specialty toy retailing industry. This past weekend the attendance was measured in the thousands.

Those people noted how ASTRA looks a lot different than it did just ten or fifteen years ago. I wasn’t there to know if they said it with admiration or disdain. I only know what Ann said at the meeting.

“I’ve heard from some of the original members of ASTRA who noted that ASTRA doesn’t look anything like it did fifteen years ago. You should be proud of that. … If we looked the same today as we did fifteen years ago, you should be hugely disappointed.”

The reality for ASTRA and for you is if you look the exact same as you did fifteen years ago, you’re likely already out of business. In fact, it would be harder to stay the same than to change and grow because the atrophy (and apathy) would take you down more and more each year.

If you have been in business the last fifteen years, as Ann said, you should be proud of what you’ve done. Your business has changed and will continue to change.

I have said often that you should always be changing. Here are previous posts that tell you how or what to change …

JULY 6, 2017 – Some Things Change, Some Things Shouldn’t

AUGUST 9, 2017 – The Biggest Thing That Needs to Change

JUNE 15, 2012 – When and What to Change

SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 – A History Lesson About Change

APRIL 14, 2009 – What to Change, What to Keep the Same

I can’t tell you exactly what your store will look like in five years. Like you, I was blindsided by the housing crisis of 2008. But if your store more closely resembles your Core Values and has changed everything else that wasn’t productive or consistent with those values, it will look like my favorite store—an OPEN one!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you change what needs to be changed, do me a favor. Make it Over-the-Top! Go big or go home. Put the WOW Factor into it. Give people something to talk about. I’ll give you some ideas of what I’m talking about later this week.

Convenience Versus Experience (Revisited)

It was seven years ago today that I returned to work after recovering from major throat surgery. I was looking at some posts I wrote during that time and came across one I wrote while lying in bed titled Convenience Versus Experience.

The new buzzword in retail today is “experience.” Just Google “Customer Experience” and you’ll see what I mean. Heck, I’ve been saying it, too.

Here is what I said on May 26, 2011

 

Convenience Store is always located on the easiest side of the road to pull in or pull out, no-hassle driving.

An Experience Store has you drooling with anticipation as you wait at the light to pull in.

Convenience Store carries all the same merchandise you would expect to find anywhere, the most popular items, the most requested items.

An Experience Store is full of unique and wonderful treasures, amazing merchandise you haven’t seen.

Image result for convenience store signConvenience Store is open early and late, enough hours to be there exactly when you need it.

An Experience Store is open long enough for you to be able to take the time to explore all those treasures leisurely and when it fits in your schedule.

Convenience Store has a staff that knows where everything is, and can get you through checkout in a hurry.

An Experience Store has a staff that also knows what everything is and how each product fits or doesn’t fit in your lifestyle, and can also get you through checkout in a hurry (because when the shopping is done, there’s no time to waste).

Convenience Store wants your trips to be quick, painless, anonymous.

An Experience Store wants your trips to be comfortable, engaging, and relational.

Convenience Store treats the customers as transactions, maximizing speed in the process.

An Experience Store treats the customers as people, maximizing comfort in the process.

Convenience Store is measured by how little time you want to spend there.

An Experience Store is measured by how much time you want to spend there.

Convenience Store is on the way to or from a Destination Store.

An Experience Store is a Destination Store.

 

Let me clean that up for you.

An Experience Store

  • Has you drooling with anticipation as you wait at the light to pull in.
  • Is full of unique and wonderful treasures, amazing merchandise you haven’t seen.
  • Is open long enough for you to be able to take the time to explore all those treasures leisurely and when it fits in your schedule.
  • Has a staff that also knows what everything is and how each product fits or doesn’t fit in your lifestyle, and can also get you through checkout in a hurry (because when the shopping is done, there’s no time to waste).
  • Wants your trips to be comfortable, engaging, and relational.
  • Treats the customers as people, maximizing comfort in the process.
  • Is measured by how much time you want to spend there.
  • Is a Destination Store.

Notice how none of that says you have to offer some crazy, wild, event-based, theme-park-styled type of experience? Seven years ago, this was cutting edge stuff. Today it is pretty much what everyone is talking about. Now you have a list to which you can compare your store.

Are you full of unique and wonderful treasures people haven’t seen? Do you have a staff that knows what you carry, why it fits into someone’s lifestyle, and how they should best use it? Is your store comfortable? Do people want to spend time there?

Experience Stores aren’t accidental. Nor are they easy. You build them by design, staff them by design, and run them with purpose. Which store do you want to be?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If I were to add anything to the May 26, 2011 post it would be …

A Convenience Store has everything you expect.

An Experience Store has pleasant surprises and unexpected wonders of delight.

You’re Going to Offend Someone

I heard someone argue that Memorial Day Weekend shouldn’t be about shopping and big sales at the mall. We need to be properly honoring our fallen soldiers. I also heard someone make the same argument about backyard BBQs and trips to the lake/ocean/river/woods. It isn’t about partying, it is about properly honoring our fallen soldiers. It begs the question … What is “properly honoring our fallen soldiers?” You better learn or you will likely offend someone.

Publix has suspended support for an NRA-favoring political candidate after “die-in” protests in their stores. Pretty soon you will see a backlash against Publix from NRA members for withdrawing that support. Either way, someone is going to hate them.

To some people, if you don’t automatically hate President Trump, then you’re a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, religious nut-job. If you even hint at defending any of the President’s actions (or decry any of the President’s actions), you’re going to have haters painting an unfavorable picture of you (whether true or not.)

Some people are offended by the football players who take a knee out of respect for the flag but to protest injustice in America. Others are offended by the NFL for creating a rule demanding they stand to “show respect for the flag.” The camps are divided and no posting of memes is going to change anyone’s mind. Both sides believe they are right and the other is wrong.

The tough part is that in many of these cases you are being forced to pick a side as if the world was black/white and either/or. No matter which side you choose, someone is going to hate you. Even if you don’t choose, your actions will cause someone to choose your side for you. People are looking for new ways to be offended. Tolerance is missing. Nuance is gone. Thoughtful discussion is rare.

Image result for pendulum book
Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew

How do you, as a business, navigate this world of hatred, intolerance, black/white, either/or?

Two months ago I wrote a post about when to take a political stand. The actions and attitudes since then have made it likely that whether you take a political stand or not, someone is going to assign a political stand to you for an action they perceive.

Since you’re going to offend someone anyway, you might as well do it consciously. 

No, I don’t mean pick a cause and go out there and piss a bunch of people off. What I mean is, become even more true to your Core Values. Amplify the Values and Beliefs you already have in everything you do.

If one of your Core Values is Helpfulness, add more ways to help your customers. If one of your Core Values is Nostalgia, add more nostalgic displays and tell more nostalgic stories. If one of your Core Values is Fun, make sure every single part of your business is fun down to the experience in the bathroom and the answer on your answering machine. If one of your Core Values is Education, add new educational signs and new instructional classes.

Evaluate everything in your business from the signs on the front door to the tagline on your receipt to make sure they accurately and boldly show your Values and Beliefs. The more consistent and observable your Values, the better.

  • First, it is easier to be consistent with your Values than try to be someone you are not. People will see right through you. The more consistent your actions are to your beliefs, the more you boost up the visibility of what you believe.
  • Second, the more obvious you are about what you believe and value, the less likely someone can paint you into a corner you don’t wish to be.
  • Third, yes, you will offend people, but primarily only people who don’t share your Values. That’s okay. Your business is at its best when you strongly attract the people who share your Values. Don’t worry about everyone else.
  • Fourth, the more obvious you are, the more likely you will find those people who share your Values. They are much more fun to work with anyway.

Not sure exactly what are your Core Values? Here is a worksheet to help you figure it out.

I’m working on a new resource, too, one that will help you write your Belief Statements. In the meantime, here is an example of I Believe … statements from Toy House. Here is one from LauraJoyWarrior. Here is one from PhilsForum to help you get some ideas flowing.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The stronger a magnet attracts, the stronger that same magnet repels. The more strongly you try to attract people who share your Values and Beliefs, the more strongly you will offend those who don’t share your Values and Beliefs. That’s okay. There are more than enough people who believe what you believe for you to have a rock solid business. Many of them just don’t know about you yet.

PPS This whole black/white, either/or, I’m offended mentality is going to take a few years to disappear. It was perfectly predicted in the book Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew. They predict a lot of other stuff in that book, some that has already come true (including exactly how Donald Trump won the election), and some that won’t be true for another ten, twenty, or forty years. It is a fascinating read and an eye-opener to what is happening around you.

PPPS To show you how easy it is for people to be offended, I saw on social media one person upset because another person thanked a veteran for their service. “Memorial Day is to honor fallen veterans. Veterans Day is to honor the living ones. Get it right!” 

My Second Favorite Retail Conversation

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

That was the ad I ran as our whole Christmas ad campaign in both 2005 and 2007. The first time I ran it, we smashed every holiday sales record ever. The second time we pushed the bar even higher.

It is a powerful story. More importantly, it’s true. It happened at 4:05pm on Christmas Eve in 1980. It is one of those moments that sticks with you all your life.

Image result for original simon gameI was 14 years old. My parents hired me to stand behind a glass display case and help customers with hand-held electronic games like Simon and Coleco Football. Simon was the hot game that year. We could barely keep them in stock.

Shortly after Black Friday we were completely sold out. We took customers’ names and phone numbers in case we got another shipment in. As I recall, we did get a few in, but we had more names than we had product, so they were quickly snatched up.

On Christmas Eve my mom would always go through the layaway file to see if there were any large layaways not yet picked up. We closed at 5pm and didn’t want someone to miss out on having their gifts. Mom called one such customer who had forgotten he had even started a layaway. He told her to cancel it. He would be in after Christmas to get his deposit back. It was 4:02pm.

One of the items in that layaway was a Simon game. With less than an hour until we closed it was too late to call someone on our waiting list. Mom placed the box at my feet behind the counter and said, “See if you can sell this before we close.” It was 4:04pm.

At just that moment a large man walked through the front doors. One of our staff pointed him toward the glass cases. In my memory he was around 6ft 2in tall but with shoulders slumped by life. He looked tired and beaten when he pointed at the empty spot in our game case and said, “I suppose you don’t have any Simon games either.”

I told him, “This is your lucky day,” while reaching down by my feet to grab the last Simon game. I handed him his prize possession and he couldn’t stop saying, “God Bless You.” He said it over and over and over while leaning over the counter to hug me. Tears were running down his face. Soon we were both crying and hugging.

He told me his story. He and his wife had adopted their 6-year-old granddaughter earlier that year. All she wanted for Christmas was a Simon game. She had asked Santa several times. With all she had been through, he was going to do everything in his power to make her Christmas special. For weeks he checked every toy store in Detroit. No luck. On Christmas Eve he left Detroit, vowing not to return until he found a Simon game. He went to a couple toy stores north of town, then on to Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek. At the Battle Creek store they told him that if anyone had one, it would be Toy House. God was shining down on both of us that day.

I tell you this story, but I could have told you four others almost exactly like it. This one just happened to be the first. It is the one I get the most choked up retelling.

You have stories like this, too. 

If you’ve worked in retail you have had these serendipitous moments where the whole world aligns just right. It is what keeps us going through the hard times. It is what reminds us of the difference we make.

The only question I have to ask is, Are you sharing those stories? If not, you should. That’s what gets your fan base fired up.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I call it my second favorite only because luck played such a big role. My first favorite was based more on what we did.

PPS Just to show you how powerful stories are, we ran that as our sole ad for our 2005 holiday campaign. It didn’t tell you our hours or our location. It didn’t tell you about Free Gift Wrapping or Layaway. It didn’t even talk about a product we were selling in 2005. But it did share the emotions and feelings of the Christmas spirit, with a heaping dose of Nostalgia thrown in. Check the boxes. Didn’t look or sound like an ad. Told a story. Made only one point. Spoke to the heart. Spoke to the tribe.

PPPS Yes, God has blessed me many times over.

Reading Better, First Impressions, and Setting the Mood

One of the fun things about moving is finding your “memory boxes”. One of mine was falling apart so I had to dig through everything and transfer it all to a new box. Yeah, that took a lot longer than it should. (Remember, one of my Core Values is Nostalgia.) One item I found that brought back a flood of memories was a short story I wrote back in 1990 about a spring break trip to Colorado and Utah.

Back in 1990 my favorite author was Pat McManus, a humor writer who wrote columns for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and other magazines. Pat also wrote several side-splitting books about camping, hunting, fishing, and growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s in the great outdoors. Rarely did I go camping without one of his books stashed in my backpack. It was a necessary weight.

Not surprisingly, my writing style for my short story back in 1990 was quite similar to Pat’s humor.

Back in 2005 Roy H. Williams told me that if I wanted to learn to write better, I needed to read better. In my notes from one of Roy’s workshops I had circled a book idea, Poem A Day edited by Retta Bowen, Nick Temple, Nicholas Albery, and Stephanie Wienrich.

Poetry is the language of emotions. Advertising works best when it reaches you on an emotional level. Poetry is looking at ordinary things from unique and surprising perspectives. Advertising is giving your potential customers a new way to look at your business. Poetry uses interesting word combinations to set the mood. Great advertising uses interesting word combinations to get your attention.

Back in 2010 I did a staff training using the opening lines from several great books such as …

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  C.S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”  Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  A.A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh

In that same meeting I played the opening music from Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for Common Man, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and The Who’s Baba O’Reilly.

We talked about how the opening sets the mood for everything else. We talked about the importance of first impressions. We talked about rhythm and feelings. We also talked about all the “openings” a customer has at our store.

It isn’t just the greeting that sets the mood.

We identified the following “first impression” moments:

  • Phone
  • Parking Lot
  • Front Window
  • Front Door
  • Store Atmosphere
  • Appearance of Staff
  • Greeting

Notice how many “first impressions” happen before you even say, “Hello. Thank you for coming in,”? That’s a lot of mood setting and emotion-creating before you even open your mouth.

When you read better, you write better. When you visit better stores and truly look at the moods and emotions they are trying to evoke, you’ll have better ideas for your own store.

Take that list above and go visit your favorite stores. See if you can figure out who is making the best first impressions. Then go back to your store and see if you can figure out what first impression you are giving your customers.

The better your first impression, the easier it is for your staff to make connections and build relationships necessary to compete in today’s retail climate.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you visit other stores, take good notes. When you attend workshops and presentations, take good notes. Then revisit your notes often. I don’t just look at those notes for a walk down memory lane. I read my notes from old workshops because there are often more nuggets in there than I could ever possibly remember. Sometimes when you get home from a presentation it isn’t the right time for one of those nuggets. But when you revisit it later, the timing may be perfect.

PPS Yes, in some ways this is a meta-post. Notice how my blogs often start with a story? Stories are powerful tools in advertising because they get your attention, speak to the heart, and are more memorable. In other words, they set the mood and make a good first impression. If you set the wrong mood, you put up obstacles to sales. If you set the right mood, you grease the skids for sales. I was lucky in that Toy House was a downtown business, but with our own parking lot. But you should have seen how I fretted about the cleanliness of that parking lot—especially in the winter.

Be the First to Raise the Bar

It had to be my most favorite conversation with a customer ever. It was sometime in the fall of 1994, one year after Toys R Us had opened in our city.

“Phil, I have to tell you this. I went to Toys R Us last Christmas.”

Yeah, they were the new store in town. A lot of people went to check them out.

“But let me tell you what happened. I think you’ll get a kick out of this. I went in and looked around. They didn’t have quite as much stuff as you do. And I couldn’t find anyone to help me on the floor. So I took my cart up front and told the gal at the register I wanted to put it all on layaway. She said, ‘We don’t have layaway.’ So I said, that’s okay, I’ll just get it gift-wrapped. ‘We don’t do gift-wrapping.’ Well then what the hell am I in here for?

“If that’s your competition, you’re gonna be just fine.”

I was reminded of that story a few days ago. A new pizza place opened in town, a pizza and tap house. I only knew because I drove by it. I haven’t heard anything about it good or bad. No buzz. No excitement.

Image result for klavons pizza
The stuffed pizza at Klavon’s

Part of their problem is that another pizza joint opened up a full-service restaurant and bar serving pizza a few years ago. That restaurant is amazing, featuring indoor-but-can-become-outdoor-in-a-New-York-minute seating, classy stonework and decor, fireplaces, big screen TVs, and a killer menu (I had to go for lunch once just to order the cheeseburger that was getting all the raves because at dinner time I always get the pizza.)

This first restaurant raised the bar incredibly high. Anyone coming after them has to do something they didn’t do to get any buzz or excitement.

That’s the power of being first to raise the bar. If you raise it high enough, no one else is going to get any buzz just for copying you. Back in 1993 being “new” was enough. In 2018, being “new” only counts if you actually do something no one else is doing.

At the same time, here is your warning. If you haven’t raised the bar, you’ve left the door wide open for someone else to come in and clean your clock, eat your lunch, steal your chickens, or whatever metaphor you want to use for getting kicked to the curb.

Wanna play a fun game with your staff? Ask them this question …

If you were going to start a new store to compete with my current store, what would you do differently to have a competitive advantage?

Ask it of your staff. Ask it at the next networking event you attend. Ask it of your friends and family. Then listen to the answers. Any idea that isn’t simply cutting prices or offering more discounts and deals is a potential open door for a competitor to waltz right through.

Don’t wait for someone else to raise that bar. Be first. And raise it so damned high no one else would even think of trying to compete in your space.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My second favorite conversation with a customer happened back in 1980. I was only 14 years old. I still get choked up thinking about it. I even turned it into a radio ad that propelled our 2005 Christmas season to record heights. I’ll tell you about it later if you’d like.

So You Got a Bad Review?

“You are not a one hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” -Meg Cabot

If you don’t already have a negative review online about your business, either you’re still too new to have any reviews or you just haven’t found where they posted it. No matter how nice you are, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much training you do, someone somewhere is going to have a beef with you and post it online for the whole world to see.

Image result for hundred dollar billThe big chains get them daily by the hundreds. If I told you those soulless corporations didn’t care, you’d believe me. They do care, but not nearly as much as you do when someone writes something bad about you.

To you, a negative review is like a kick in the gut. It is a dagger to the heart. You read it over and over, fretting about what you could have done differently. You worry about it, lose sleep over it, and turn a few more hairs gray. You’re ready to fire staff members and change everything you’ve done. At the very least you’ve gone out back behind the building where no one can hear you and let a few choice words fly.

Before you start drinking heavily and contemplating a mass firing of your team while writing a nasty reply to the reviewer, STOP!

Bad reviews are part of the game of being a retailer. How you respond to them is part of your brand image and marketing. Before flying off the handle with a criticism of the reviewer, stop and take a deep breath. In fact, the best thing you can do with a bad review is not respond right away while you’re still emotional. Instead take a moment to review the review.

Ask these questions internally …

  • Was it an attack on an employee and what he or she did? If so, talk to the employee and make sure they know the right thing to do. (Don’t accuse them of doing the wrong thing, just focus on doing the right thing in the future.)
  • Was it an attack on a policy you have and how it was enforced? Take a look at the policy and see whether it needs changing, it needs flexibility, or it just is what it is and there is nothing you can do.
  • Was it a misunderstanding between the reviewer and what your staff meant to say/do? See how you can eliminate this misunderstanding in the future.
  • Was it a legitimate complaint that needs a follow-up? See if you can contact the reviewer individually and settle the problem.
  • Was it just completely unfounded and patently false? (See below)

Be honest in your answers to these questions. Often a negative review is a legitimate complaint about a policy you have that might be more business-friendly and less customer-friendly. It might also be exactly what you needed so that you knew what your staff was doing behind your back, and how certain team members were treating your customers when you weren’t around.

If you respond to a negative review (and that is a huge IF), you should only do so for one reason—to thank the person for their review and apologize for their experience.

People are going to read your bad reviews. More importantly, they are going to read how you responded to those reviews. If all you do is get defensive and try to combat the reviewer, everyone else will believe that you’re hostile and not open to suggestions. If all you do is stoop to the level of the reviewer, you’re no better than them.

Instead say something like, “Thank you for making us aware of [the situation.] I am sorry that you had such an experience. The staff and I have discussed this at length to make sure we don’t have this problem again. We hope that you will give us the opportunity to serve you in the future.”

You don’t have to admit there was a problem. (Most often, negative reviews are based on misunderstandings.) You only have to own up to the fact that a customer, whether by her own actions or yours, had a bad experience in your store. “I’m sorry,” goes a long way to healing that experience and making others believe you are a caring company.

Most importantly, when you respond like this, the other people reading the review will see that you responded and apologized and took steps to correct the problem. That not only reassures them that they won’t have the same problem if they visit your store, but also that you are willing to listen to customers and put their needs first. That perception is what wins hearts and loyalty.

THE OUTRAGEOUS NEGATIVE REVIEW

You’ll get a bad review from time to time that has no basis in reality. It is simply bashing you for no reason or a made-up reason. Those don’t deserve a response. Leave them alone. The people that write these kinds of reviews probably won’t respond, even if you do try to engage. If they do respond, someone willing to write something that false will continue to write BS so you’ll never win. Either report them, block them, or ignore them. Don’t ever try to engage with them.

Most people who read reviews online will do like the judges in certain sporting events. They’ll throw out the best and worst reviews and read all the ones in-between.

There is only one response to those completely unfounded, totally false, negative reviews. Simply say, “Thank you for this review. We will look into it.” The other readers will see that you take all reviews seriously, and that is far more important than getting into a shouting match, being defensive, or calling someone out for being a loon.

“You are not a one hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” -Meg Cabot

Negative reviews, like credit card fees, are part of the cost of doing business. Don’t take them personally. Don’t attack the reviewer. Don’t go on the defensive. Do answer a few questions internally and see if there are steps you can take to reduce these types of reviews in the future.

If you make your policies customer-friendly, your staff highly trained, and your store an experience of wonder and delight, those negative reviews will be heavily outweighed by the positive ones.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Sometimes your policy is the way it is for reasons beyond your control. We got a negative review for not taking back a used breast pump. Because of bodily fluids, we weren’t allowed to take it back. Occasionally you’ll have something like that. A short, simple, it-is-out-of-our-control explanation is okay in a situation like that. Otherwise, take the high road Every. Single. Time. Period. Period. Period. Other people are more concerned with your response than with the actual review, and what they think is all that matters.

PPS If someone has a legitimate complaint, see if you can solve it offline. Once solved, go back to the review (if they haven’t taken it down) and thank them for the opportunity to work with them to solve the problem. To the people reading the reviews, this is sometimes more powerful than having zero negative reviews. The average person knows you aren’t a one hundred dollar bill, too.

Cutting Expenses The Wrong Way

I was in Walmart yesterday. I had to pick up a few things. At the checkout, the cashier kept doubling bagging all of my items. I asked her why.

“These bags tear so easily that almost everyone has a ripped bag at the end. They used to be better but these new bags are too thin.”

Image result for walmart grocery bagsI hope for Walmart’s sake that the new bags are less than half the cost of the old bags. Otherwise their cost-cutting move is costing them more than it saves.

I get why they did it. I’ll bet their bags are a huge expense for them. I’ll bet someone pitched them the idea of a cheaper bag, or knowing Walmart, they probably went to their vendor and demanded a cheaper bag. The only way to make it cheaper was make it thinner. And now their employees are double bagging everything so that you can get your groceries home in one piece.

How’s that cheaper bag working out for you?

Bags, like so many other non-merchandise items, seem like a hassle expense. You know you need them but you hate paying for them. I know I did. But that didn’t stop me from buying better, thicker bags than I probably needed. Mostly because I also looked at bags as being a reflection of my brand. Cheap, flimsy bags send the signal that I care about my money more than I care about you. Sturdy, reusable handle bags say I care about you more than I care about money. (Remember that Values post I just wrote?)

The problem is that we too often look at our expenses as single, individual entities instead of how they fit into the whole. We make decisions on those expenses purely on a financial basis instead of thinking about how we want to present ourselves and how we want our customers to feel about us. You have to consider everything, otherwise your cuts may end up costing you more.

In the 68 years we ran Toy House, one of our most profitable years was 2009, smack dab in the middle of the great recession. I had to cut expenses that year to get that profit. Here is a post I wrote January 11, 2010 about how I cut those expenses … “Cutting Expenses the Smart Way”

Sometimes you need to cut expenses. How you cut them is often more important than how much you cut them.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This trip down memory lane looking at old blogs has been fun for me. Maybe it will be fun for you. Here is a link to one page with all 897 blog posts to date.

Hire Me to Be Your Coach

I played the role of Father in The Nutcracker Suite on stage at the Michigan Theatre. I was in eighth grade. It was part of our LEAP class (Learning Experience for Academic Progress). It was a play more than a ballet, although we did have a dance troupe come in and do some dance numbers. I don’t remember much of anything about the play itself. I couldn’t tell you anything about the story, the other characters, or even my performance. About all I remember was I played the role of Father and I loved being on that stage.

Panorama of Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a large crowd
Phil Wrzesinski speaking to a packed house in Grand Rapids, MI

I’ve never really been afraid of standing on a stage in front of people. Oh sure, I had a kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering in my stomach moments before I took the pulpit to do a guest sermon at church. But those butterflies settled down the moment I began to speak.

Whether it is a crowd of 500 at a trade show conference, a group of screaming kids in the dining hall at camp, or a room full of revelers at a brewpub, I love to perform.

That’s why when I began building Phil’s Forum I focused on speaking and presenting, doing workshops and seminars and webinars. That’s what brings me the most joy (and people said I was pretty good at it.) 

But my real goal, my true focus of Phil’s Forum is about YOU. Your success. That’s all that matters.

That is the reason behind all the Free Resources for you to download. That is the reason behind writing over a thousand blog posts for you to consume. That is the reason behind offering all those classes, presentations, workshops, and webinars for you to attend.

That is the reason why you’ll find a new page on my website.

Many of you have contacted me about private, one-on-one consulting and coaching. While I often said yes, I didn’t have a plan in place for how to handle and structure those requests. Nor did I have a firm concept for how I felt I could best work with you.

Until now.

Coach /kōCH/ (noun) An instructor or trainer. A tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.

A Consultant is someone you consult for advice and opinions. A Coach is someone who teaches you how to do what you need to do to be successful.

I am chock full of advice. I give it away freely. You can shoot me an email with a question and it is highly likely I will answer it (for free). If you read this blog regularly then you can probably guess my opinion on a topic before you even ask. Lots of people get paid for their opinions. It always seems a little disingenuous to me. If you make your living that way, you always want to keep your client in a position of needing your opinion. There is almost a built-in need for keeping a client partially in the dark so that they don’t form opinions on their own.

A Coach, however, knows that his role is to teach you something so that you can do it yourself. A coach puts you in the best position to succeed.

I know this is mostly semantics. There are amazing consultants out there who really are more like coaches. They teach. They instruct. They help you grow. They never hold back.

Words, however, are important. Choose the right words and your advertising messages will sparkle. Know which words make up your Core Values and your business will attract the right people. I needed to know which word I wanted to use and why before I could be of best service to you.

I chose the word Coach.

If you want one-on-one, private, specialized instruction to learn how to:

  • Hire Better
  • Train Better
  • Serve Your Customers Better
  • Market Yourself Better
  • Manage Your Inventory Better
  • Manage Your Staff Better
  • Manage Your Cash Flow Better

Let’s get together for an exploratory meeting.

The first meeting is FREE. In that meeting we’ll discuss where you are, what problems you’re facing, what tools you might need to solve those problems, and how best I can help you. After that I’ll send you a few different proposals explaining what I will do, what it will cost, and how we’ll measure success. From there the choice is yours as to how much coaching you want.

While my love is still the stage and I hope to spend as much time there reaching as many people as possible, coaching is the next best way I can help you find your path to success.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I do coaching remotely. We’ll use phone and email to get the job done. (Or if you want to fly me out to meet face-to-face, I’ll let you do that, too. The best way to get me to town is to convince your local Chamber or DDA to hire me for a presentation and have them pay my way.)

PPS One thing I will ask of any client who wants my coaching services is for you to know your Core Values. You can download the new, updated worksheets here.

PPPS Yes, you can hire me to do stuff for you, too. I’ll run a Team Building event. I’ll write your Hiring ads. I’ll write your advertising messages. I’ll teach your staff how to sell. I’d rather teach you how to do those things yourself, though. That’s what serves you best in the long run.

Your Advertising Media Reference Guide

Here are links to the recent posts on how to best use the different advertising media. Like I said before, all advertising works and all advertising doesn’t work. It depends on two factors, how you use the media and what you say (work on that last one first, then pick the media best suited to say it.) You’re going to want to bookmark this page and share it with your fellow business owners. Before you spend a penny on advertising, spend a few minutes reading these posts.

Television – The Super Bowl of Ads: Television is a powerful branding tool and a powerful direct marketing tool. The downside is it is expensive and people spend as much time and energy trying to avoid TV commercials as they do trying to see TV content.

Radio – The Marathoner: Radio works best for long-term branding campaigns. You can reach a lot of people at a reasonable rate. You just need a great copywriter to craft the kind of ads that can get people’s attention. Boring ads that sound like everyone else are where most radio dollars are wasted.

Billboards – The Drive-By Advertising: In terms of eyeballs per dollar, billboards are one of the best values out there … As long as you can tell a heartfelt story in one picture and six words.

Does Newsprint Even Exist Anymore? Even though it has fallen out of favor with most advertisers, newsprint (whether in print or on a screen) advertising can work if you remember to create the ad the same way a journalist creates a story. You need an engaging picture and a killer headline to grab someone’s attention with this passive media.

Magazines – Speaking to the Tribe: Magazines are newsprint without the daily frequency or the large readership. That’s the downside. The upside is that the niche readership of the magazine means their readers are already qualified members of your tribe. Speak their language and win their hearts.

Why Email Works (And When it Doesn’t): One of the more affordable ways to reach your current customer base to get them back into your store. This post includes tips for getting better open rates and more traffic in the store.

Shares, Comments and Likes (How to Get Facebook to Work for You): Social media is exactly that—social! When you learn how to have two-way conversations and how to reach customers in a way that makes them interact, you’ll find the time you spend on social media is finally worthwhile.

Websites – The Silent Salesman: In today’s retail landscape where everyone has the Internet in their pocket, you need a website. Here are some tips for how to build a website worthy of your brand.

Direct Mail – Do the Math: Direct Mail is for Direct Marketing. You need a relevant offer at a relevant time to a relevant audience to make it work. You also need to know the math to see if the ROI is worth it. This post shows you the math.

Yes You Can Buy Word-of-Mouth Advertising: The most effective form of advertising is Word-of-Mouth. It has always been that way. This post shows you where to put your “advertising” money if you want to get people to talk about you.

Google AdWords – Wasted Money or Well Worth It? When you have a great solution and can convince people of that on a single web page, you can get a lot of customers through Google AdWords. If you don’t have a great solution or cannot communicate that solution well, you can blow through a lot of money quickly with little to no effect.

Mobile Marketing – Winning the Transactional Customer Today: Mobile marketing works well for making a Direct Marketing offer, but be careful how you use it. If you have a “deal-of-the-day” or are a restaurant with daily “chef’s specials” it can be highly effective, but as a branding tool, it won’t get the job done.

Movie Ads, Placemats, Yellow Pages, and More: Here are some of those other more obscure and/or obsolete media someone may try to pitch you. Be wary.

If there are other media you are considering that aren’t covered here, let me know. I’d be happy to explore the ideas with you. As always, if you ever have a question about your marketing and advertising, whether it is about your message, your media choice, or anything else, send me an email.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If none of these forms of advertising are in your budget, go to the Free Resources page and download one of my Marketing on a Shoestring Budget pdf’s. You’ll find a few more tools to throw into your marketing and advertising toolbox.