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Working “On” Part 4 – The Game Plan

When my dad retired in 2005 his biggest concern for me was what was my plan. He’s a football fan just like I am. We’ve heard coaches time and time again talk about their Game Plan for beating their opponent. We had a new opponent that had just opened in Jackson named Walmart. How was I going to beat them?

The newspaper had asked me a similar question when Walmart announced the opening of their super center in Jackson. “How will you compete with them?”

Phil Wrzesinski ringing birthday bell
Phil Wrzesinski rings the Birthday Bell at Toy House on 11-11-11

My answer to both was the pretty much the same. “We have over five times the selection of toys as Walmart and several services they don’t offer, not to mention the smartest staff in town. The better question is, How are they going to compete with us?”

Sure there was some hubris involved. You can be a little confident when you do have a plan.

Our Game Plan was simple.

  • Increase our levels of customer service.
  • Offer more in-store activities and events.
  • Create more memorable moments.
  • Set up more demonstrations and hands-on displays.
  • Write more powerful messages for our advertising and marketing.

We were going to take our competitive strengths and put them on steroids.

Even with Walmart opening that summer, in 2005 we had our largest Christmas season ever. Two years later we surpassed every record in top line sales. 2008 was looking to be another record-breaker, only falling short at the last moment. (I think the housing bubble burst had something to do with that.) 2009 was the most profitable year in the 60-year history of the store. Even when we decided to close seven years later, our share of our shrinking market was still holding steady, even with Amazon’s growth into toys.

The key to a successful Game Plan is two-fold.

First you have to get the strategic part right. I knew we couldn’t compete with Walmart on price. I also knew they couldn’t compete with me on service. If a football team has a great player no one can tackle, you keep feeding him the ball until they stop him. I was going to keep improving my customer service and in-store experience until no one could match it.

Second, you have to have concrete steps to achieve each point of your strategy. I created year-long training schedules to transform my staff, focusing on small, incremental improvements each month to reach our goals of better engagement with customers and better selling skills. As a team we evaluated our current event offerings and came up with new ideas to make sure we had something special going on every month. My buyers were instructed to look for more toy demo options from our vendors.

Believe it our not but our Birthday Bell—one of our customer’s favorite activities—didn’t come into existence until 2010 as we were trying to come up with ways to offer more memorable moments. (Nostalgia is one of our Core Values.) That bell is now at a local museum.

Here are the steps you need to take to develop your Game Plan.

  • Identify your Core Values. The most effective Game Plans must fit within and accentuate your Core Values. If they don’t, they won’t last.
  • Evaluate both yours and your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Be brutally honest. Figure out where you have the competitive advantage and where you don’t. Highlight and exploit where you are already better and concede (or at least don’t waste valuable resources) on the areas where you cannot win.
  • Develop concrete actions you can take to increase your competitive advantage that also fits within your Core Values.
  • Play the long game. If you already own the competitive advantage in an area of your business, growing it slowly and incrementally helps your gains stick better with your staff and customers. Every bit of growth is positive, no matter how small because everything you do builds on what you have already done.

Having a Game Plan gives you two other benefits.

First, it makes working “on” your business easy. You have the blueprint right in front of you at all times. You have your marching orders for what to do next. Your Game Plan determines the kind of people you hire and the kind of services you offer. It guides your decisions and makes those decisions easier. You even have the tools for measuring your progress.

Second, it keeps you from chasing after every new fad that comes down the pike. You and I both know how often we get bombarded by some salesperson with the “next great thing” that will transform retail. When you have a solid Game Plan you can determine much more easily if the next new fad fits for you or doesn’t. You can also see whether it will affect your competitive advantage or not.

Any coach can tell you that talent alone doesn’t win games. It takes a solid Game Plan that plays up your competitive advantage and solid execution of that Plan to seize the day. If you want to win in retail you need to schedule part of every week for working on your Game Plan.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you don’t have a competitive advantage, then you need a major disruption. You need to do something huge and wild and spectacular that sets you apart from your competition. Offer a brand new service no one else would ever think of doing (like Amazon did with drone delivery). Change up your product selection to get into a niche no one else is touching. Think of it as the trick play in football. No one saw it coming. Then build on the momentum it gives you.

PPS Not sure where your strengths and weaknesses lie? Check with your local business agencies. Some of them offer SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) at low or no cost. Sometimes an extra set of eyes is all you need to see what you missed.

Put Your Audience First

Which sentence do you prefer?

1. A good speaker should tell you all the things the speaker wants you to know.

2. A good speaker should tell you all the things you need to hear.

Those two sentences are not the same. In the margin lies the difference between a great presentation and a lousy one. I have sat through many presentations where the speaker obviously started with the question, “Hmmm … What should I say?” He’s asking the wrong question.

As I was setting up my two talks for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) for last Sunday, I had a lot of information to share. Both topics were about money. One was focused on financials, the other focused on inventory management. Lots of ground to potentially cover on both topics.

To put together my outline for each presentation I had to put myself in the shoes of the audience. I had to think like a typical store owner/manager. I had to ask the question, “What does she need to hear?” Then I followed up with, “How does she need to hear it?” and, “How will she best remember it?”

There were lots of things I wanted to say, but only when I looked at it through the lens of the person in the audience could I find what needed to be said. Just as important, when I looked at it that way, I found what to leave out. I had to put the audience’s needs ahead of my own ego and make sure the audience got what they needed from the presentation, more than just saying what I wanted to say.

It is the same principle I take with both advertising and customer service. What does the audience (customer) need to hear? This is the question you need to ask. Get it right and you will have a customer-focused business that is growing leaps and bounds. Get it wrong and people will get disinterested and leave early.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Note that I did not say what the audience “wanted” to hear. I said what they “need” to hear. There is a HUGE difference between those two words. Sometimes what they need to hear makes them uncomfortable. That’s okay. There is learning in the uncomfortable parts of life—especially when a skilled leader jumps in there with you and guides you back to safety (understanding).

PPS When you’re ready to hire a speaker that puts your audience’s needs ahead of his own, you need to give me a call.

“I Had to Argue to Get It”

My buddy Lenny and I were having a conversation last night at the industry party for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) event in Philadelphia. Lenny sells toys, specifically one of my favorite companies — Marky Sparky. Lenny and Mark(y) were regaling the story of being at a different toy show years ago and winning a free booth space for the following year. If you’re in the retail world, you know what a big deal that is for a vendor. Big savings.

Image result for marky sparkyThe only problem was … they weren’t invited to the following year’s show.

When they got invited to a later show, you can guess what happened—no one claimed to know anything about the free booth space they had won. Eventually they got their free booth space, but as Lenny said, “I had to argue to get it.”

Do you think they are excited to go back to this particular show? I sure wouldn’t be.

Mark and Lenny are a couple of the nicest guys in the toy industry. They won’t name names and they won’t say bad things. You have to do a lot to get them upset. This got them upset enough to share the story.

You have customers that are as sweet as apple pie. It takes a lot to anger them to the point they talk about it.

Here’s the catch. It doesn’t take a lot to get them to quietly walk away.

The point? If you offer a bonus, a gift w/purchase, a freebie of some kind, or any other special deal, honor that deal. Period. Don’t ever make your customers have to argue for it. The ones who do argue for it won’t ever be happy with you. The rest will simply walk away.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I hate fine print. If you are going to offer something special, make it simple enough so that everyone understands the rules without needing fine print. Then, whenever a customer feels like there was a loophole slanted against them, make it right before they feel they have to argue to get it. Not only will you keep a customer, but she’ll go to the mat to defend you in the future.

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.

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.

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.

Not Just for Retailers

I was having a conversation this morning when the light bulb went on. I was asked by someone considering enrolling in the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop this Wednesday (it is not too late to sign up) whether he would learn anything useful since he “wasn’t a retail store manager.”

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, most of what I teach has implications far beyond just the retail landscape. I have followers from all over the world in all types of industries.

If you are in any position where you have to hire people, you need to read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

If you are in any position where you write copy to persuade people to buy or use your products or services, you can learn from my articles on marketing (and my new book coming out later this spring). 

If you are in any position to teach and lead your staff you would benefit not only from the Spotlight class, but also from the Free Resources on Team Building and Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend.

I know where the confusion began.

The SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop is being offered through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™. While JRSA™ is mostly geared for retailers, we have had many graduates from other industries. Other than the inventory management segment, most of what I teach there applies to all types of businesses. I run all local classes through JRSA™ because of my partnership with Spring Arbor University and their Hosmer Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. They provide a fantastic venue for hosting events like these and have been a wonderful partner.

You don’t have to be a retailer to take any of the classes or workshops I offer. You only have to be open-minded and ready to learn.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am already working on a date for the next SPOTLIGHT workshop. This will be an advanced degree in Advertising and Marketing in four fast-paced hours for anyone who has a business to promote. Stay tuned for details.

How to Teach a Class in Your Store

You know why you need to teach classes in your store. Here are the six steps you take to create a class that draws traffic, builds excitement, gains you followers, sets you up as the expert, and makes people want to buy from you.

  1. Determine which product(s) you sell that takes the longest to explain or takes the most trips before the customer pulls the trigger. These are the items to build your class around because these are the items that require an expert. The more questions a customer asks about a product, the more likely you’ll find people wanting to attend a class to learn more.
  2. Write down all the questions a customer typically asks about the product. Then add in two more questions you think they should be asking. This will become the outline of your presentation. (You can brainstorm this list with your sales staff.)
  3. List all the benefits of the products (remember, a feature is what the product does, a benefit is why that helps the user).
  4. List all the downsides of the product. Everything has a downside. If you don’t tell your customer up front, she will think you’re hiding something. Being honest about the downsides wins you trust.
  5. Get the customer to visualize using the product in her home or in her life. Ask questions like, “How would you use this?” Where would you use this?” “Do you see yourself using this?” “How would this affect your life right now?” This moves the customer from being in analytical mode to being in ownership mode. We only do in real life what we have already visualized in our minds. Get your customer to visualize owning the product and you will be more likely to win the sale.
  6. List all the reasons why someone should buy this product from you. If you offer services like layaway or financing or delivery or assembly, this is when you share that information. If you truly have answered all the most important questions including the ones they forgot to ask, and you have helped them visualize owning and using the product, then you have their permission to sell them. Just remember that you aren’t selling a product, you are selling a solution.

That’s the class. It is no different than selling to one person while a bunch of other people sit in and listen. You can decorate with comfortable seating, snacks & prizes (ask your vendors for giveaways), cool signs, etc. Just make sure you follow the steps above so that you offer a true benefit to your customers. They’ll thank you for the effort with their pocketbooks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t worry about attendance. You might get 30 people, you might get 3. Make them feel special. Go above and beyond what they expect. Not only will you get the sale, you’ll get the referral, which is often a more powerful sales tool than the class, itself.

PPS Just a reminder that it doesn’t have to be that expensive to advertise. Social media, email, your website, some in-store signage, and a few online community calendars will draw a crowd. Make it worth their while and they’ll help you draw the next crowd.

Why You Should Teach What You Know

Here’s a myth worth busting… “Thanks to the Internet, the customers know more about the products than the sales people.” If you believe that, you’ve given up. Might as well close up now and avoid further losses.

First, not all customers do the research. There is a big group of people who don’t want all that knowledge. They are looking for someone who already has that knowledge that they can trust.

Second, there is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. As the quote we’ve all seen says, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. wisdom is knowing not to include it in a fruit salad.” You have wisdom. You know what your product does and why that is important.

You need to teach.

Phil Wrzesinski Teaching Shopping for Baby 101 Class

I know your first objection. If I teach it, they’ll just take what they learn and go buy it somewhere else cheaper. Guess what? That person was going to go buy it somewhere else cheaper anyway. Period. Without the class, you would never have seen them in the store in the first place and had the chance to turn them into a customer. I would rather they got the knowledge from me so that they got the right product. Even if they didn’t buy it from me, they will know I steered them right. That may be just enough to get their business next time.

I know your other objection. It takes too much time and energy (and money) to put together a presentation, draw a crowd, and share your proprietary information with others. Oh, but that time and energy is well worth it when you look at the benefits.

When you teach a class on your products, you attract customers to your store who are actively in the market for the products you sell. No one else is coming to your class. Think of it as the most direct of direct marketing. The class brings you exactly the customers already in the market for what you are selling.

When you teach a class you send a message out to everyone that you are the expert on the subject. For some people, just finding an expert is good enough for them. They trust you because you are willing to put your name and reputation on the line with this class. The press is also paying attention and looking for the expert they can interview when the time arises.

When you teach a class you get to control the wisdom and make it relevant and important. You make sure the audience understands why one product might be desirable over another. You get to answer the questions they often forget to ask. You get to answer the questions they didn’t know to ask, which only helps to cement the thought of you as the expert in their minds.

When you teach a class you gain followers and fans. People will look up to you as the leader in this category.

When you teach a class you create excitement in your store. Your parking lot will be more full. Your store will be more full. Your walk-in customers will wonder at the all the buzz.

When you teach a class in your store you will get asked to teach that class to groups outside of your store. That’s the icing on this cake. That’s the outreach that helps you find new markets of customers.

Not the teacher type? The next post will show you HOW to teach that class. It isn’t as hard as you think.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It doesn’t have to be that expensive, either. You don’t need a big space. Move a few fixtures and do it in your store. You don’t need a lot of advertising. Social media, email, your website, some in-store signage, and a few online community calendars will draw a crowd. Make it worth their while and they’ll help you draw the next crowd.

PPS Schedule your best staff to work the floor while you teach and make it mandatory that any staff not working the floor during the class is attending the class. You can kill two birds with one stone by teaching your customers and your staff at the same time. Win-win!!

The Power of the Network

I went to a networking event a couple nights ago. I knew walking in that the likelihood of picking up a high-paying speaking gig from this event was incredibly low. In fact, the idea that I would be able to pick up any speaking gigs from this event never really entered my mind. I went for one reason, to strengthen my network.

A lot of people have told me over the years that they hate networking events. They never meet anyone who wants to buy from them. Those people, like most people at these events are missing the point.

I bet if you asked a room full of people at a networking event how many were hoping to sell someone, every hand would go up. Then if you asked how many were there to buy something, not a hand would be raised. In fact, I know this is true. A buddy of mine asked those very questions while giving a keynote at a networking event. What he said next was advice I have never forgotten…

“The first one of you ‘sellers’ who changes his or her mindset into being a ‘buyer’ will be the most successful person at this event.”

He wasn’t telling you to actually buy someone’s services, but instead to listen to what they have to offer. Most of us are polite enough to hear someone else’s sales pitch, but we aren’t really listening, just waiting for the moment to jump in with our own pitch. If you go in with the mindset of a buyer, however, you are actively listening and actively thinking through your own databank of people you know who might need this service.

You take that approach and three things will happen…

  1. You will strengthen and enhance your own listening skills which will help you no matter what you’re selling.
  2. You will connect a person you know with a service they need. That’s always a good thing.
  3. You will earn some reciprocity. As soon as you refer someone to a business contact, that business contact will be looking for ways to repay you.

That’s how Networking is supposed to work. Don’t turn your nose up at the next Chamber outing. Try taking a different approach. Try being a buyer in a sea of sellers. It is not only more effective, it is a heck of a lot more fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I only met two new people at the event, but more importantly I reconnected with a lot of people and got up-to-date on what was happening in their businesses. I’ve already made a couple referrals heading their way.