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Reaching the People Who “Think” They Know You

I’ve been out at YMCA Storer Camps the last couple days teaching sailing again. This time, instead of teaching the kids, I’m just working with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page for teaching the kids. While walking to the waterfront, one of the new instructors asked me where I sail when I’m not at camp.

“Nowhere,” I replied

They called me Admiral Graybeard!

I have sailed other places in the past. I sailed for the University of Michigan Sailing Club. I sailed on the Great Lakes with a different, larger boat that the camp used to own. I’ve even sailed in races hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club (no, not The America’s Cup) a long time ago. But for now, my only chance to sail is out on Stoney Lake in camp boats.

Sailing is not my true heart’s desire. Teaching is.

At the camp I have taught Archery, Riflery (bb guns and pellet guns), Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Snorkeling, Wilderness Survival, Ropes Course Climbing, Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Biking, Team Building, Cross-Country Skiing, and Nature. Out in California I taught Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Geology, and Ecology. At Toy House I taught Car Seat Installations, How to Buy Toys, How to Buy Baby Products, How to Sell, and How to Work With Children of Special Needs. At Henry Ford Allegiance Health I teach new and expectant fathers how to be better dads. On the speaking circuit, I teach Marketing & Advertising, Customer Service, Hiring & Training, Inventory Management, Retail Math, Team Building, and Management Skills.

“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.” -Theodore Roosevelt

(Forgive me if it sounds like boasting. I’ve just said, “Certainly I can!” several times.)  What I’m really trying to do is find new and better ways to Help You (one of my Core Values) so that I can convince you that I can help you even more. Therefore, I teach.

Teaching is not only a love, it is a means to an end. If I can teach you one thing, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to want me to teach you other things. That’s one way I generate new business.

Last weekend I taught a group of toy store owners looking to capitalize on the disenfranchised Toys R Us shoppers that there are two reasons those people didn’t shop with independent specialty toy stores like theirs.

  • They don’t know you
  • They “think” they know you

That first group is fairly easy to reach. Any extra marketing or advertising you do will find them because they will be looking. That second group will be a lot harder. They have opinions about you (usually wrong) that won’t be swayed by a fancy radio or TV ad.

The best way to reach that second group is through Word-of-Mouth. Do something big to get your current customers to talk to them about you.

I told the toy retailers last week that was the only way to reach them. I was wrong. 

While I was walking down the trail to the waterfront with these soon-to-be sailing instructors I realized there is a second way … Teach!

Seriously. Just like me, you have some crazy, cool knowledge you could share. You have some wisdom and understanding of the products you sell that they won’t find just surfing the Internet. You have some tips and techniques for using and maintaining those products that might be a lifesaver for those customers.

The people who “think” they know you can be enticed to attend a free training program about the products they don’t know.

That was our Shopping for Baby 101 class. Free information about how to buy certain baby products including what to look for, what questions to ask, and what criteria to use when making buying decisions. The class was never a sales pitch, just useful information.

We picked up a lot of new customers that way who only thought we were a toy store.

We also began changing the way they thought about toys. Many of those same people who bought into our teachings about baby products also bought into how to buy toys, and became lifelong customers.

What do you include in the class? Answer these questions …

  • What info do most customers either misunderstand or not know about our products?
  • What info separates the smart customers from the average customers?
  • What questions does your staff have to answer over and over and over about the products?
  • What info would be fun and shareworthy?

Have a free class. Serve refreshments. Give out vendor-donated prizes. Make it fun and informative. You’ll sway a bunch of skeptics in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Teaching is a lot like leading. Think of your lesson plan as a path. You want to guide your audience by starting with what they know and building onto their knowledge and assumptions until it is time to break those assumptions. Then lead them back to safety with new knowledge that shows them why their assumptions were false in the first place. This template works time and time again.

PPS Teaching leads to word-of-mouth, especially when you weave in a lot of stories for your audience to share.

PPPS If you didn’t see a topic up there that might work with your group, follow this link. That list above was already way too long.

Give Them Something to Talk About (Part 1)

My eyes always glazed over. Didn’t matter if it was Toy Fair, ASTRA, the All Baby & Child Expo (ABC), the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) Trade Show, or SuperZoo. By the end of the day my eyes were glassy, my pupils were dilated, and my senses were overloaded. One booth after another melded into the landscape until none of them stood out.

” … until none of them stood out.”

Last Monday I walked the tradeshow floor at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. The day before, I did a presentation about how to get people to talk about your business. One of the ways is to have Over-the-Top Design.

Have some element of your store (or booth)be it the design of your building (like Estes Ark in Estes Park, CO), an element of your store like the chalkboards or directional signs we had in front and on the side of our building, an element inside your store such as our Circus Mirrors, Electric Train Display, or LEGO building/racing ramp, or even through the products you might sell such as the 32,000 piece puzzle we had that weighed 42 pounds and was almost 18 feet long when finished—be so crazy and unexpected that customers have to tell their friends about it.

Eighteen rows of vendor booths later and only two stood out.

Lenny and Mark from Marky Sparky

The first was Marky Sparky. Mark Rappaport and his company Marky Sparky had been honored earlier that morning as the ASTRA Vendor of the Year, an honor well-deserved. The day before, he and his sales manager Lenny Breeden sat through my presentation on word-of-mouth. Lenny came up afterwards and said, “Wait until you see our booth tomorrow.” He was right.

What they did was simple. It didn’t cost much either. But it was innovative, unexpected, interactive, and fun. Mark created a “target” for their Faux Bow out of straws jammed into a box. Now you could shoot their indestructible foam/plastic arrows into the target and they would stick just like real arrows into a bale of hay. People were lining up to take turns shooting the bow.

At the end of the day, when I asked retailers what they saw that looked cool, the most common answer was, “Did you see the target at Marky Sparky? That was cool!”

Marky Sparky was winning the battle of word-of-mouth.

The second most common booth I heard about was selling jumbo hula hoops. Yes, jumbo! Hoops that were close to six feet in diameter! Apparently the larger the hoop, the easier it is to hula. These were designed to help adults get into hula-hooping (and the fabulous core exercises it offers). The booth stood out, not only because of the number of old people like me trying to hoop for the first time in thirty years, but because they had over-sized a product we all knew and loved. Interactive, unexpected, and larger-than-life fun.

In a trade show filled with 18 aisles of booths and over 500 vendors, only two booths had done something so over-the-top to stand out among the rest. I saw booths without decorations. I saw booths simply filled with chrome or wood shelves and products displayed military-style on those shelves. Some booths had active people manning the booth jumping out in front of us to shove catalogs in our hands as we walked the aisles. Other booths had people sitting in chairs staring at their phones, wondering why no one was stopping. But only two had done something worth talking about.

You have to do something to stand out.

This applies to any business anywhere. Whether you are a booth at a trade show, a retailer in a crowded retail market, or even an advertiser during the Super Bowl, all that matters is at the end of the day, are people talking about you? If they are talking about you, you’re winning. If they aren’t, you’ve melded into the landscape and become invisible, forgettable.

Yesterday I talked about the importance of change. One thing you need to change right now is to add some design element that is so over-the-top that people say, “OMG! Did you see that??!!” 

It can be outside where people see it driving by. It can be inside that gets people into the store. It can be a display or demo. It can even be a product you “sell” (we never expected to sell our 32,000 piece puzzle, we just used it to get people to talk—and sold three of them!!)

For best effect, make it unexpected, interactive, and larger-than-life fun.

Nice job, Mark & Lenny!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There was one other booth with a WOW Factor. The folks at Spooner Boards had a ramp for their mini-surfboard type toys and were showing off their product by doing tricks and stunts on the ramp. The problem is, they’ve done that every year so it wasn’t unexpected. Change. Once you set the bar high, you need to keep raising it higher to get more word-of-mouth. That’s why we were constantly adding new elements of over-the-top design to Toy House over the years.

PPS This is Part 1. I’ll tell you some other ways to get people to talk about you in future posts.

Making the Most of a Street Event

Tonight the classic cars cruise into downtown Jackson. The fourth Friday of every month May through September is a Cruise-In. Most every downtown in America has some type of event that closes the streets and draws a lot of traffic. Many malls have special events also designed to draw new traffic.

The key phrase in there is “new traffic.”

DDA’s, Chambers, and other groups organize and host these events for three reasons:

  • As a fundraiser
  • To draw new traffic to the area
  • To make the area seem like a hip and fun place to be
Market sign by artist Laura Joy Warrior

That first reason explains why these events are not always retailer-friendly or in the best interest of you, the downtown business owner. Sure, you might be a downtown restaurant, but they brought in food trucks. Sure you might be a downtown gift shop but they brought in crafter booths. Sure, you might be an expensive luxury store but they brought in a middle income crowd (or vice versa). Those things are bound to happen.

But those other two reasons more than offset the problems of the first if you embrace the event and turn it into farming for new customers.

There are two types of new customers you’ll meet at an event like this:

  • People who don’t know you
  • People who think they know you

THEY DON’T KNOW YOU

That first group includes out-of-towners, newcomers to town, and people you haven’t yet reached with your marketing efforts. What do they need to know about you to be enticed to come back? What special services or products do you offer that would make someone want to drive to visit you? (Note: if all you can say is, “we’re friendly,” that isn’t enough to make people drive.)

You need to highlight what makes you unique, special and worthwhile.

  • Have large signs outside your business that are easily readable telling people about your unique brands they won’t find elsewhere.
  • Have large signs outside your business telling people of special services they won’t find at your competitors.
  • Put a table outside with the kind of products on it that make people want to cross the street to see.
  • Put a table outside with the kind of products on it that make people want to drag their friends over to see.

Put your best, most friendly people out front. Make sure they are fired up about the event and ready to meet new people. Make sure they are well-versed in what makes your store special. Make sure they understand how critical is their mission to make a positive first impression. (Notice how I didn’t say how critical it is to make a sale? Sales are secondary to impressions during an event.)

THEY THINK THEY KNOW YOU

The second group has already formed an opinion (usually negative) about you. Either they’ve previously had a bad experience, or someone they know had a bad experience, or it just might be a perception that because you are an indie business you have to be more expensive.

With this group you have to change their minds if you want to turn them into customers. You have to begin building trust with those people. One of the easiest ways is to use the concept of FREE. It doesn’t have to be FREE product, but just some giving of your time and energy away for free.

  • If you are a jewelry store, for instance, you could put out a sandwich board that says “FREE RING CLEANING WHILE YOU WAIT!” Get people in the door, clean and polish their rings while they look at all the fancy display cases, and make them feel more comfortable with your business.
  • If you are a shoe store, have a free gait analysis or foot sizing. Show them you really know your stuff when it comes to getting the proper footwear for them.
  • If you are a hardware store, have a power tools demonstration. Show people how to safely use different saws, drills, or yard equipment.
  • If you are a toy store have a make-and-take demo. Or even easier, give away free helium balloons from inside your store. When kids see other kids with helium balloons, parents will ask where they got those balloons.
  • If you are a restaurant, set up an appetizer or quick-bite stand outside. Serve only your best stuff. Give away tastes for free or a stupidly small fee. Set up some outside seating, too, for people who want to hang out and watch the other people at the event. (If it is a family-friendly event, put out a special family-friendly menu.)
  • If you are a clothing store, have a fashion show in front of your store. (Use local celebrities or kids from the high school sports teams as your models for added excitement.)
  • If you are a comic book store, have a comic swap, a drawing contest, or a photo op with one of your best cardboard cutouts.

Be creative, understanding that you are trying to make a positive first impression on a crowd of “new traffic.”

WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Don’t be closed. No matter what your normal hours, be open for the event. This will be the cheapest form of marketing and advertising you will get all year because the event organizers are paying all the money to draw the crowd.
  • Don’t put out a table of just your clearance stuff. Your tired, worn-out, dead merchandise is not the best first impression you can make.
  • Don’t be open, but do nothing. More people switch from their favorite stores because of perceived apathy than any other reason.
  • Don’t give away coupons and discounts just to try to make sales during the event. You’ll only attract a small handful of transactional customers who won’t spend much, and likely won’t be back until the next offer.

If you are going to give away anything to get customers in the store, give out gift certificates that are only redeemable after the event. If you give out gift certificates redeemable during the event, people will only spend the minimum. If you give them out to be used later, not as many will be redeemed, but the ones that are redeemed will be for a much higher ticket, and you’ll have a much better chance of winning them over with your excellent customer service.  People at an event are not necessarily there to shop. Get them back in the store when they are ready to shop and the promo will be far more productive.

FOOD

A lot of businesses will give away free food like popcorn, bottled water, or cookies during an event to draw customers through the door. It is effective for getting people in the store, but you need to do some of the other stuff listed above to get them to want to come back.

Remember that these events are not about today’s sales. They are marketing events designed to farm for new customers for future sales. Make that awesome first impression and the events will pay off in the long run.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The worst is when the event is taking place downtown, but not on your street. The event may only physically close one block, but perceptually it closes all of downtown to your regular traffic. Unfortunately, since you aren’t in the one block, you don’t get the benefit of the new traffic. If this is your situation, you have two options. First, petition the organizers to have a free booth at the event. Go mobile and make it the kind of booth that drives people to your booth and also to your store. Second, if you can’t have a booth, send people up and down the street with tons of helium balloons and gift certificates that encourage the event attendees to visit you later.

All Shopping Should Be Fun!

This past Saturday was Neighborhood Toy Store Day (NTSD). Locally-owned, independent toy stores all around the country celebrated being local and special by having toy demonstrations and special events in their stores. Many of their top vendors supplied them with freebies and demos and raffle items. We always tied the day in with other special events such as a yo-yo contest, puppet show, and LEGO building contest.

You know that one of my Core Values is Having Fun so it should be no surprise that NTSD was one of my favorite days of the year!

The Jackson Symphony Orchestra “Disney Quartet” at our Disney Princess Day

I am a big fan of holding events in your store as a way to stand out from the crowd, as a way to show off your expertise, and as a way to surprise and delight your customers. Events are fun for your staff, fun for your customers, and fun for your bottom line.

First, events make you different. The big chains don’t do events anymore (most never did). Your local competitors might. But that’s okay. Anything that shines a positive light on indie retailers is a good thing.

Second, events show you off to be the expert. You get to demo your products. You get to bring in guests to WOW your crowd. You get to show off how much you know about your industry. Remember that Relational Customers are looking for the “expert they can trust.” Events are a great way to establish your expertise.

Third, your vendors love events and are often willing to help you make your event special. Your vendors have marketing budgets, too. They often spend that money on product samples, giveaways, door prizes, and raffle items for their retailers. Some have kits pre-made and ready to go. Some have promotional material available for the asking. Some have special discounts for event orders. Some will send you their staff to help out.

Those freebies and door prizes and raffle items are tools you can use to surprise and delight your customers.

Sure, a toy store lends itself to fun and play, but it really isn’t that hard to come up with events for any type of retailer that will ratchet up the fun factor and lead to increased traffic and sales.

Shopping is supposed to be fun. Your job is to make it that way.

Shoe stores: Bring in an Orthotist for special case fittings. Make a “terrain board” with different types of surfaces to show how different soles grip the ground. Have a shoe box stacking competition. Bring in sports stars to promote certain brands of tennis shoes (make it a charity event). Have a shoe polishing demonstration.

Clothing Stores: Have a fashion show. Bring in a fashion expert for personal fashion tips. Have a tailor on hand for same-day alterations. Have a t-shirt wearing contest (the more shirts you put on at once, the bigger prize you can win or the more names you get entered into a drawing, etc.) Have a Dress-the-Mannequin competition with teams, charities, and a public vote. Do a fashion photo shoot.

Grocery Stores: Have a tailgate in your parking lot with a big screen TV for the game. Host a BBQ contest. Teach cooking classes. Have a pie-eating contest. Have a fear-factor type event challenging people to eat crazy food concoctions or foreign foods that seem weird.

Music Stores: Have live concerts, open mic nights, jam sessions, open group lessons, instrument repair classes, historical instrument displays, Have a one-man-band competition to see who can play the most instruments at once.

Photography Stores: Have a photo art gallery. Offer classes. Have a glamour backdrop for “celebrity” photo shoots. Set up a temporary old-school photo development lab and show people how it used to be done. Make pin-hole cameras.

There are plenty of different ways you can use events to draw a crowd, set yourself up as the expert, and surprise and delight your customers. You are only limited by your team’s imagination. Be crazy. Go crazy. Do something crazy. It pays in both the short (immediate traffic and sales) and long term (loyal customers who see you as the expert they trust and who love to talk about you to their friends).

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Go big. The bigger, more outrageously fun you make your event, the better it will be. That’s one truth that will never change.

Who Killed Black Friday?

I was never big on shopping on Black Friday. I don’t think it was just because I was a retailer. Many of my staff would be up before dawn hitting all the sales before coming in for their shifts. I knew other retailers who would also hit the streets looking for early-bird deals. Since I wasn’t a bargain hunter in general, it wasn’t a big attraction to me.

I also knew a secret. I knew that the same retailers filled with door-busters that day would have similar or even better discounts the week before Christmas. Such is the nature of the season year after year.

Image result for black friday doorbustersAccording to Wikipedia, “Since 1952, [Black Friday] has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S.” What most people don’t know is that it wasn’t the “busiest shopping day of the year” until 2003. The Saturday before Christmas regularly held that title most years.

If the new study from Market Track LLC is right, you might see Saturday, 12/23 reclaim the title as fewer people in their surveys say they will be out shopping Black Friday this year. Is this the end of Black Friday as we have known it? And if so, who killed it?

The easy answer is eCommerce. The article linked above is already calling it “Cyber Friday”. More people reported in the survey that they would be shopping online. The online sellers are no fools. Rather than give up on Black Friday and wait until Cyber Monday, they are going after the customers’ dollars all Thanksgiving Week and especially on Friday.

The other culprit is the big retailers themselves. In a quest to win the Black Friday customers, they started opening earlier and earlier until a bunch of them decided to do sales on Thanksgiving, which led to sales on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, too. You do all that and you take away the frenzy of Black Friday. The problem is most employees only have Thursday through Sunday off. Twenty-five states actually have Black Friday as a government holiday. Start offering your deals Monday through Wednesday and you lose some of your customers. They figure they might as well go online since they can’t get out of work.

Some want to blame the media. News reports of fights and people getting trampled will dampen any crowd. The reality is that those stories don’t match the experience for most people since those events are few and far between.

Last but not least, some are saying that American Express with it’s Shop Small Business Saturday campaign also had a hand in Black Friday’s demise. We certainly saw that in our last few years of business. Small Business Saturday beat Black Friday for us in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Add it all up and you might think Black Friday is on life support. Before you pull the plug, however, think about this.

Twenty-five states still have Black Friday as a government holiday. Many corporations also give their employees that day off. That puts a lot of shoppers on the streets ready to get started on their Christmas shopping. Whether they shop online, in stores, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday doesn’t matter.

What does matter is one thing and one thing only—are you the store where they want to spend their money?

The big chains, in their race to the bottom to win the Transactional Customers, only have one tool in their tool box—the red markdown pen. You have a whole bunch of tools at your disposal to win everyone else, the Customer Experience being one of your biggest.

If you are a toy store you could have a whole bunch of toy expert stations with people ready to show off the hot, new toys and answer questions parents might have (many toy stores I know already do this earlier in November for Neighborhood Toy Store Day.)

If you are a clothing store you could have a fashion show with real fashion experts on hand to share tips and help people explore new wardrobes for everyone in their family.

If you are a shoe store you could have certified orthotic fitters on hand to do demonstrations and talk about foot health and the importance of proper support.

If you are a caterer you could partner with a local retailer and offer food to their customers creating a festive atmosphere for the shoppers that becomes a win-win-win for everyone.

There are many ways to win customers during Thanksgiving Week. You know already what the big box and online sellers are going to do. There are a whole bunch of people actually happy that Black Friday won’t be as mobbed with bargain hunters as usual. Go talk to them and show them how shopping at your store will be different, better, and tons more fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It might seem weird to talk about Thanksgiving already. It is only 6 weeks from today. I want you to have enough time to plan something amazingly cool to maximize your weekend sales. If you’ve already seen your sales shift from Friday to Saturday like we did, then plan something special for Saturday to win the Relational Customers. But if you can, plan something special for Friday, too. There are a lot of people not working that day that still want to go shopping.

PPS Don’t read too much into your Friday or your Saturday numbers. Look at the week as a whole. The retail world is changing. Black Friday is no longer the sole focus of the week. But attracting customers hasn’t changed. Go find a way to capture your share of the market.

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.