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Category: Influence

Taking My Own Advice

If you ever stopped by my office at Toy House, you saw the frying pans on the wall behind my head. Each one had a hole right through the bottom of the pan.

Target practice?

Nope. Just one big solitary spike sticking straight up out of a board, upon which I slammed each of those frying pans during a presentation.

The demonstration comes from a story I heard ages ago about a copywriter asked to write the ad copy for a big company. I include the story in my new book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t). Here is the excerpt from the book …

A large company wasn’t getting the results they wanted out of their advertising. The company sequesters its marketing team away for the day to come up with a new campaign. After hours of deliberation and debate, the team finally comes up with the twelve most important talking points for the new campaign.

They call in the copywriter.

The team leader starts explaining to the copywriter all the points they need made.

“Point number one, blah, blah, blah. Point number two, blah, blah, blah …”

At this moment the team leader looks up to see the copywriter sitting there doing nothing.

“Aren’t you going to take any notes?”

Silently, the copywriter reaches into a large bag by his feet and pulls out a board with twelve shiny nails sticking straight up out of the board. He lays it down on the table, nails pointing upward. He then takes out a frying pan and slams it down on the bed of nails. The whole room echoes with the sound as the advertising team all jumps backwards. The copywriter then holds up the pan so that everyone can see the pattern of indents from the nails on the bottom of the pan.

The copywriter then pulls out another board. This one has one solitary spike on it. He places it on the table and slams the frying pan down onto this board. The spike impales the pan instantly. The pan goes down flush, stuck to the board.

The copywriter looks up at the startled crowd and asks, “How many points do you want me to make?”

I gave you my resume last week. That’s the whole kit and kaboodle (almost) of all my skills and talents all rolled into one. Out in the world of job applications, however, I am busy applying the Make Only One Point principle to my resume. Depending on the job, my resume will be tailored to include only the relevant information.

If I am applying to a Marketing & Advertising Job you don’t need to see all my Corporate Training experience. If I am applying to a Corporate Trainer job, you don’t need to know that I managed a multi-million dollar inventory. If I am applying to an Inventory Control job, you don’t need to know about the extra training I took at Wizard Academy. I’m trimming it down to the information you need (and providing more detail of that relevant info in the process.)

Make Only One Point works in advertising. It works in blogs. It works in emails. It works in pretty much all persuasive copy. It also works when applying to a job. It also works when communicating with your children. It just plain works. Adopt it and see how your results change.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One of the benefits I have seen from making only one point in emails is that it eliminates questions going unanswered. People often respond to the first question in an email and rarely even read the second question. Also, it helps people who sort their emails by topic. If you have two points from different topics, you make it difficult for the other person to sort your email in a relevant fashion. Get the point?

PPS The demo is part of the Making Your Ads More Effective presentation. Everyone seems to like that part. They also like the advertising makeovers I do at the end. That’s the real meat. They get to see the six principles put into action. Call me when your group wants to take your advertising to the next level.

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.

You Aren’t as Well Known as You Think

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

checklist-154274_1280

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE THERE

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

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

YOU CAN’T REACH EVERYONE

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

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

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

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

You could sum it up simply as…

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.

It just went live a few minutes ago.

Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).

In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you’re used to seeing have new names.

  • Freebies is now Free Resources and still includes links to free pdf’s you can download on a variety of topics
  • Speaker for Hire is now Hire Me to Speak and focuses on the top programs I am most often hired to do
  • Products is now Phil’s Books and focuses on my two books, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel and Welcome to the Club Daddy
  • Media is now About Phil and yes, it is about me

You’ll also find a few fun things hidden here and there on the site including a page of radio ads I have run for Toy House and Baby Too.

Check it out and let me know if there are any issues with the site (tell me what browser/platform/device you’re using, please).

Every time an independent retailer grows, we all grow.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Supposedly all email subscribers will be migrated over, but I will be looking into it directly. You may get an email from me asking you to resubscribe to the new blog site. Just giving you a heads up.

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

(Note: this post has been edited)
Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.

Pretty high, isn’t it?

If you aren’t using videos – Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. – then you might not be reaching all the people you want to reach.

There are two new video services – Periscope and Blab – that might have some benefit to indie retailers. Here is a look at the two and how you can use them…

PERISCOPE

Periscope was launched by Twitter and is live, streaming video you do that allows for people to comment on your video as you’re streaming and send you love through the form of little hearts that float up your screen. The video can then be replayed for up to 24 hours before it disappears.

The upside… This is an easy way for you to do timely videos of things happening in your store in an interactive way. Simply send out a notice through your other social media channels (especially Twitter) that you’ll be doing a Periscope in a few minutes, then grab your phone and go live. Anyone watching you can post comments and questions that show up on your screen. It is kinda like having a FaceTime call with dozens of people at once.

One of the best applications I can see for this medium is behind-the-scenes looks at your business. People love to go behind the curtain. They love to see what is happening there. Best of all, they feel more attached to your store and more likely to share what they know when they feel like they got a peek into something not everyone else gets to see.

You could do Periscopes on products that have just come in.
You could do Periscopes on staff meetings.
You could do Periscopes on the process you go through to ship out an item.
You could do Periscopes on the prep work you put into having a big event at your store.

The downside… The videos are only up for a day. You might do some great footage, but you have to keep doing great footage to grow your presence. In fact, best practices in the early stages of this medium show that you should post something daily, even if it is only a 30-second post each day that says you’ll be back on Friday with a longer video. (Note: they do have ways for you to save the videos, but you do have to jump through a few extra hoops.)

BLAB

Unlike Periscope where only you talk and everyone else comments by typing, Blab is another live streaming video that allows for four people to be in the conversation at once. It kinda looks like Hollywood Squares with four boxes on the screen showing you and the three people you invited to sit in the conversation.

The upside… First, by having a true conversation, you can now invite experts into your social media world. Maybe you might interview a sales rep or one of your favorite vendors. Maybe you might use it to introduce new staff. Maybe you might use it to talk to someone who can talk more about your industry. For instance, since I sell toys, I could talk to a therapist about the value of play in a child’s life. Even better, you could invite your own fans to join in and talk about their experiences in your store.

Just like Periscope, people can type in comments and show you real-time love by tapping the icon on the screen. You can respond to those comments and have a real, live conversation about your store with other people watching. The videos stay up longer than Periscope, too, and can even be uploaded to your YouTube channel.

The downside… This medium is more of a sitting-at-your-laptop-chatting medium than a wander-around-the-store-with-a-smartphone medium, which makes it more difficult to show off products, etc. It is more of a two-way conversation than a one-way talk with you picking and choosing which questions or comments to answer. It becomes less scripted, which can make it more fun and original (and less sales/preachy), but can also go in directions you never intended.

Both Periscope and Blab have some interesting applications. Whether they are right for your business is up to you. Just remember the most important thing about all social media – it is about connecting and creating networks more than it is about selling or pushing your message across.

If used right, both of these channels can grow your network and strengthen your relationships.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am looking at both of them as ways to grow both Toy House and Phil’s Forum. Right now I currently use my Twitter handle @philtoyhouse purely for sharing this blog and Toy House newsletters. Since you use your Twitter account to sign in to both of these services, I am considering setting up separate Twitter accounts and using @philtoyhouse for just Toy House activity going forward. I’ll let you know soon what my new Twitter handle for this blog will be.

Media Versus Network?

Social media is where it is at!
Social media is DEAD!
Social media is FREE!
Social media has NO ROI!
Businesses are expanding because of social media!
Businesses are wasting their money on social media!

SOCIAL MEDIA, social media, social media, BLAH blah blah.

Everyone has an opinion on whether Social Media is helping businesses grow or is just a waste of money. And everyone is wrong.

Why? They have the word wrong. Chances are, you do, too.

MEDIA VERSUS NETWORK

What happens if we changed the word media to the word network?

Media = an avenue through which you broadcast content and advertising
Network = a connection of people who can help each other out

Which word more accurately describes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, et al? A network of connected people sharing with each other or a medium with people waiting to be told what to do or think?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a networking avenue instead of a medium onto which you broadcast your message?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to connect to people and connect them to resources and other people instead of just telling your story?

Would you use Social differently if you saw it as a way to have two-way conversations and see how others could help you, rather than just a platform to tell them what you’re going to do?

Would you use Social differently if you were trying to help instead of just trying to sell?

Change the word and you’ll change your focus. Change your focus and you’ll change your effectiveness.

Social Media is DEAD. But the Social Network is alive and kicking!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The best way to grow your Network is TRUST. When you engage without selling, when you help and share without financial gain, when you ask more than you tell, when you show that you are listening, when you are real and genuine and not always “on message” then you will gain the trust of your network.

Three Questions That Have All the Answers

(Note: I submitted this to Wizard Academy for a project where they asked business leaders what our two to three secrets are that have helped us succeed. My three secrets are these three questions…)

I have been told that I have an uncanny knack for taking difficult ideas & concepts and breaking them down so that they are easy to understand. Others call it a God-given talent. The true secret is in three simple questions.

I was twenty-three when I learned about the power of these three questions. I was working at YMCA Storer Camps teaching Team Building through Wilderness and Experiential Education programs when John Foster and Phil DeLong taught me all about, “What? So What? Now What?” as a way to process learning.

It looks like this…

WHAT? What happened? What did we do? What worked? What didn’t work? Where did we start? Where did we end?

These are questions that talk about the CONCRETE. These are the questions that help us identify the task we attempted, the action we took. When working with a group doing a team building exercise, the first step is to make sure we are all on the same page with what actually happened. So we ask the What? questions. We ask them to relive the experience and talk through what they did.

SO WHAT? So what did we learn? So what can we infer from our results? So what does that show us? So what will we do differently next time?

These are the questions that talk about the ABSTRACT. After we identify what we did, we have to learn from it. We have to extract the lessons. When working with a group on a team building exercise, if we don’t learn from what we did, then we are merely playing. The So What? questions draw out that lesson or idea. The So What? questions give the activity meaning.

(Note: if you don’t establish the What? first, you’ll have a hard time drawing out the So What? lessons. So What? questions can only be asked after the What? has been firmly established.)

NOW WHAT? Now what will we do with this new understanding? Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? Now what is the next step? Now what will we do when we get back to the office?

These are the questions that talk about the APPLICATION. Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? A good team builder not only helps a group learn the lesson from their activity, but also how to apply that lesson to other parts of their life. It is one thing to learn about proper communication while crossing a swamp with a string of tire swings. It is something else to learn how to apply straight-forward, no-mincing of words, chain-of-command communications to the office to keep everyone safe and swinging in harmony, too.

(Note: if you don’t establish the So What? lesson first, you’ll have a hard time drawing out the Now What? applications. Now What? questions can only be asked after the So What? lesson has been firmly understood.)


USING IT EVERY SINGLE DAY

Even though I spend more time running a retail toy store and teaching classes to fellow retailers than I do team building, I find that I am using What? So What? Now What? most every single day.

I use it training my staff… What did we do for this training activity? We asked questions, had to listen to the response, and then repeat the response back to the other team member. What were some of the problems? Trying to remember what was said. Why was that a problem? Because we weren’t used to repeating back, only responding. What was in your way? Not listening properly. How did repeating back what they said help? It forced us to listen better and helped us be more accurate. Why would this be important? The better we listen and be accurate with what a customer says, the better we can solve their problem.

I use it interviewing for new employees… Tell me about a time when you received Great Customer Service (concrete). So what made that so special? (abstract). How would you apply that to you working here? (application).

It is especially effective when I teach classes and do workshops. Just a few weeks ago I did a one-hour class on Inventory Management for pet store owners. This class involves a lot more math and fewer jokes than other workshops and classes I teach. The feedback and vibe from the audience during this class is the lowest of any class I offer. The only real way I can evaluate how things are going is from the questions the participants ask during Q&A. If they are asking What? questions then I failed miserably. They didn’t understand the math I want them to do. If they are asking So What? questions then I still failed miserably. They understood the math but don’t get why they need it. But if they are asking Now What? questions then I know I got the point across and they just want to apply it to their own situation. At last week’s class, all the questions were of Application.

I even use this with advertising. If I want to make a factual point (concrete) then I have to explain why it is an important point (abstract) and what to do with that point (application). More importantly, if I make an abstract point, I better back it up with concrete facts if I want people to apply it.

It took me a while to wrap my head around this model of questioning, but once I did, it made facilitating and leading others much easier. Whenever a discussion bogs down, I simply drop back a level of questioning and make sure we have established the previous level before moving on. This gets everyone back onto the same page. This is my simple little secret for making difficult ideas understandable.

  • What did we do?
  • So what did we learn?
  • Now what will we do with that knowledge?

Learn to use it in your life. It will make a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It even works with children. I use it with my boys all the time. They get a lot of Aha! moments through these questions.

I Want Your Business in My New Book

Have you downloaded the free eBook Making Your Ads Memorable? Getting people to listen/read/see and remember you is the first step in advertising. Getting them to take action is the second step. Most people fail on the first step and then wonder why the second step never happened.

The guide is fairly straightforward and simple with a couple of examples. The price is pretty good, too. Free.

Those of you who have downloaded it have asked for more. More explanation of the techniques. More examples of those techniques in action.

Just for you, I am working on a new, expanded book that will jump into the deep end of each technique including how and why they work. I plan to include many examples of each technique.

I could easily just make stuff up for fictitious companies and call it good. But I believe it will be a better read if I use real companies and real people trying to meet real needs with their advertising.

I want your business in my new book.

All you need to do is send me an email (phil@philsforum.com) with the following stuff…

  1. A quick description of your business (include contact info, taglines, etc)
  2. What you hope to accomplish with your advertising (draw traffic? sell a particular product? get into the top of a customer’s mind?)
  3. Three unrelated words (English and recognizable and suitable for the FCC, please)

I will take your info and, using the techniques I describe, write a 30-second piece of ad copy around your advertising goal incorporating the three words.

Why the three words? Two reasons:

  • To show you how you can be more creative than you originally thought
  • Because using interesting words in unique combinations gets attention

If you send in a submission you will get…

  1. First right of refusal. You can tell me yay or nay if you don’t want what I’ve written to be in the book.
  2. Freedom to use the copy for your own purposes. Yes, I give you the copyright of the copy I write for you. No charge.
  3. A free copy of the book once published. 
  4. Publicity from being in the book.

I think that’s a fair exchange. Don’t you?

I already have a handful of submissions. I need about twenty more to tip this project. Will you be one of the tippers?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You don’t have to be a retailer to send in your submission. In fact, I’ve already received submissions from life coaches, writers, and teachers. This will be a fun book to read that will help a lot of small businesses get better, including yours. Take three and a half minutes and send me an email. The only tricky part will be coming up with three words.

Is It Just a Block?

Last night I showed my staff the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium featuring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman.

I own a toy store, so the movie hits close to the heart.

For those not familiar with the movie, there are three other characters of note in the movie… a young boy named Eric, the store itself, and a magical block of wood called the Congreve Cube.

Paraphrasing from the movie… a block of wood has a million possibilities, but first someone has to believe in it.

There are things you originally believed when you first got into retail. There are feelings you had of excitement and joy and wonder. When you build a truly magical store, your customers get that same feeling of excitement and joy and wonder when they visit.

But sometimes you lose that feeling.

You get buried in paperwork and staffing issues and ordering and receiving and paying bills. You spend hours staring at computer screens or sitting in your office or rushing from one fire to the next. The magic may still exist for the customers, but you packed your magic into a box years ago. Next will be your staff to pack it in. And then your customers in this downward spiral.

Yet your business still sits there like a block of wood with millions of possibilities unexplored. It just needs someone to believe in it again.

I gave each of my staff their own Congreve Cube last night with the promise that I will not be a this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it guy. I told them the block of wood represents a million possibilities that our store can still become. I challenged them to explore those possibilities and turn them into realities.

It only took a couple of seconds before ideas started flying. We’ll be running with those ideas today.

Go ahead and watch the movie. You don’t have to be a toy store to be magical and full of wonder. You just have to believe.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The first idea was Play More. I think that fits with almost every type of retail. Don’t you?