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.
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 learned how to sail at YMCA Storer Camps. I knew how to canoe and kayak (I even did an eskimo roll in a kayak on the New River – bucket list!) I knew how to use a paddle to get just about anywhere, but I had never learned to harness the wind.
Sailing looked easy enough. You just let the wind do all the work.
Andy, my instructor, taught me otherwise.
The wind is a fickle thing, always changing speeds and directions. A smart sailor has to constantly scan the water looking for those gusts of wind that might change your tactics.
Sailing may not be as muscle-bound as paddling, but it is just as much work. You are always trimming the sails and adjusting your course. It may look like a leisurely way to get across the lake, but the good skipper is working the tiller and main sheet all the time, making course corrections as the wind changes.
This Sunday I am going to be teaching Retail Math to a bunch of toy store owners. For many, this will be their first real instruction on the accounting side of running a retail operation.
Most people dread math. But reading reports is a lot like reading the wind. Reports can tell you where the gusts are happening. Reports can tell you if you’ve adjusted your sails properly. Reports can tell you if you’re heading in the right direction.
Many retailers think a Profit & Loss Statement (also known as Income Statement)and Balance Sheet are simply for the accountant to figure your taxes at the end of the year. They are much more powerful tools than that. They can tell you when your inventory is too high (or low). They can tell you when your expenses are out of line. They can tell you when it is time to raise your prices. They can tell you when you can pay yourself more money.
At the very least, you should be studying these documents once a month and making course corrections. If you aren’t already reading and understanding these reports, start running these two reports monthly. Learn how to read them. Then as the years go by, start comparing the current month to that month in the previous year. The more I read the wind, the better I get at predicting its next move. The more you read and know your reports, the better you will be at adjusting your business profitably.
Wind speeds (traffic in your store) change. Wind directions (fads, hot products) shift constantly. When your boat is on an even keel (inventory well-balanced) and your sails are trimmed properly (expenses in line), you will be sailing at your fastest (most profitable).
Scan the water (reports) and your business will sail much more smoothly.
PS There are many metaphors for sailing. One of my favorites is … The pessimist curses the wind. The optimist hopes it will change. The realist adjusts the sails. You can’t adjust your sails, however, if you don’t know what the wind is doing. Check out the link above to learn how to read those reports and use them to your advantage. The math happens whether you know how to do it or not.
In a recent post I talked about how my hometown of Jackson, Michigan was once called “Central City” because of the railroad industry back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The name most people my age knew was the unofficial title of “Prison City”. One reader reminded me that for several years Jackson has been calling itself the “Rose City”.
I forgot about that name.
Sure there are some subtle reminders such as the Rose Parade in which my boys and I have participated over the years, and the Rose Festival, but not much after that.
A friend of mine moved to Jackson a few years ago and heard the name. She still wonders how the name came to be. No huge rose gardens on display, no neighborhoods full of roses, no roses featured in the new logo. The name doesn’t fit the experience.
Prison City still fits. We still have prisons. People already think about Jackson that way. You don’t have to try to convince them otherwise.
But Rose City doesn’t.
That’s one of the key principles of advertising. To truly be effective, your advertising has to match the experience. You can’t advertise your way out of a bad reputation. You can only reinforce the reputation you already have. You can’t change perceptions with advertising. If you try, you will only waste thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it.
PS There are four things advertising cannot do. It cannot change your reputation. It cannot fix your business. It cannot create loyalty. It cannot reach everyone. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you the four things advertising CAN do.
I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan. I have spent 44 of my 50 years living in Jackson. Back in the late 1800’s Jackson was known as “Central City” because it was the hub to all the rail lines that ran through Michigan. As the railroad died out, Jackson became known as the “Prison City” because we were home to world’s largest walled maximum security prison. My high school co-ed softball team called ourselves the Prison City Inmates.
When I headed east to Ann Arbor for five years at The University of Michigan, the conversation with the new people I met went like this …
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, the prison.”
“Yep, just got out.”
When I moved back to Jackson after a year out west and a couple months up north, it dawned on me … Jackson has been hiding from the prison city moniker as though ashamed of our status in the world. Back in the mid-90’s I started telling city leaders they need to embrace that image and play it up, not shirk from it. Be who you are, warts and all. Embrace your downside. Use your flaws to your advantage.
Over the years I have given that same advice to other businesses.
Earlier today I met with the chairperson of a really cool museum and gave her the same advice. Use the fact that your museum looks more like a musty old mausoleum to your advantage. “Shhh … don’t tell your friends what you found behind these cold concrete walls.” They could have a whole lot of fun with that. It definitely would be memorable, and it would take what people already think about the museum, its biggest flaw, and make it a positive.
I saw the chairperson’s gears in her brain start whirring. I know she is going to run with it and I can’t wait to see how it looks.
If you want some more ideas on how to turn a negative into a positive, check out this post I wrote back in 2011 about the Pig & Trebuchet Brew Pub and their “Bad Table”.
Identify the most negative aspect of your business and use it to your advantage. First, just by talking about it, you admit that A) you’re human, and B) you’re not perfect. That, alone earns you trust. Second, by bringing your negative aspects to light, you manage the expectations so that they never really seems as bad as they are painted out to be. Third, the flaws are memorable because they are flaws you own. No one else has your flaws.
If Jackson had embraced the Prison City moniker years ago, and made it a focal point of their advertising and marketing, we wouldn’t be wallowing around feeling sorry we aren’t Ann Arbor. Conventional wisdom said hide the ugly and only show the pretty. Conventional wisdom has sunk many a marketing & advertising campaign because people know you have an ugly hiding somewhere. The more you hide it, the more they will go looking for it. Embrace it and make it your calling card. Then it becomes an asset.
I had a lunch meeting earlier this week at one of my favorite restaurants—Mat’s Cafe. Mat makes the best pulled pork I have ever had. I have eaten there so much that there is even an off-menu item called “The Toy Man” (a plate of his award-winning pulled pork and mac & cheese). You order and pay at the counter and they bring your food right to your table. Sit there long enough and they might even bus your table when you’re done.
The only problem is that there are no signs telling you this. There is a big menu hanging over the counter, but after that, you’re on your own guessing what to do next. (Did you get a fork from the table over by the wall? Did you grab a cup and get your drink or pick one out of the cooler over on the other wall? Did you realize the menu was just a suggestion and that Mat and his team will pretty much make you anything they can with the ingredients on hand?)
Fortunately for my lunch partners making their first visit to Mat’s, I was there to help them navigate. Also fortunately for Mat’s, the food is so damn good that you aren’t deterred by any barriers or confusion that can be off-putting for many people.
We are creatures of habit. We like to do things that are familiar more often than we like to do things that are different. Different is scary. Not knowing how to do something is scary. Not sure of the procedures is frustrating and scary and often enough to keep a new person from trying you out. Only a small percentage of the population prefers the unknown over the familiar.
Roy H. Williams once said, “People only do that which they have already seen themselves do in their own mind.” We like to visualize before we actually do. That is why new and different and unknown are so scary.
That is why gaining new customers is far more work than just keeping the old.
That is also why you need a phenomenal website that helps your customers visualize visiting your store and know all your quirky procedures before they have to take that risk.
In today’s market, your advertising may reach the masses, but your website is where many individuals go first to visit you. They want to see whether you are worth the time and effort to actually visit. They want to know what to expect. They want to feel like an insider before they even arrive. Does your website paint the right picture? Does your website show customers what a visit to your store looks and feels like? Does your website give customers knowledge they need to have the best possible experience in your store?
If I was Mat, I would have a big picture of the counter where you place your order and content that read …
Welcome to Mat’s!
Follow your nose up to the front counter where you’ll find a menu over your head of the delicious meals we will make for you. Although we’re well known for our pulled pork and mac & cheese (both award-winners in MLive’s contests for best foods in Michigan), we can make you whatever sounds scrumptious from the ingredients you see on the board. Place your order, grab your drink and utensils, and choose a seat (the best table is in the front window). We’ll bring you your food fresh and fast.
You’ll notice how in one short paragraph I painted the picture of what will happen when you enter and when you order. That knowledge is power. I also was able to squeeze in the fact that their specialty is pulled pork and mac & cheese, they’ll customize anything you want, and they can get you in and out on your lunch hour.
Here is some counter intuitive advice … When you build your website, don’t look at other websites for what to do. Look instead at what actions you want your customer to take. Look instead at how you can get your customers to visualize visiting your store. Look instead at what questions your customers will have about you and how easily you can answer them.
Build the website that paints the picture your customers want to see, not the website that follows a template to look like every other website out there. Then your website will be an effective tool to drive new traffic through your door.
PS Once you’ve designed your website around your customer, make sure it does have the familiar elements like About Us, Contact Us, Our Products, Get Directions, etc. Build it around exactly what questions you expect a new customer to ask and what actions you want them to take. Don’t make them “go looking” for answers. They won’t.
PPS Building a website based on everyone else’s website is a common mistake most small businesses make in their advertising. In fact, most of their advertising, regardless of the medium ends up being a copy of someone else. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “if everyone is doing it, it must be right.” Most businesses get advertising wrong. The best way to get it right is to first learn how advertising works. Attend the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up on Tuesday, June 20th and you’ll know what works and why. Sign up today!
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 …
Online and Print Community Calendars
Press Releases & Public Relations
Discount Business Cards
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.)
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.
I play guitar and sing in a local brew pub called The Poison Frog. At a recent gig I played an old camp song. Afterward, Phil Wilcox, the owner and master brewer, asked if I would do an entire “campfire” theme one night.
Following the advice of Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it,” I said yes and scheduled it for Friday, June 23rd. Hope you can come.
Then I got busy looking up campfire songs.
I found great song suggestions online, many of which I already knew.
I also found a bunch of songs I didn’t recognize the title or the artist. Surprisingly, when I listened to these songs, I realized I actually did know them and could already sing along to parts of them—even though I had never tried to learn them before nor even knew the song title or artist’s name!
You’ve had that experience, too. A song comes on the radio or Spotify and you start singing along. You don’t know the artist or title. You just start singing.
How can we know the words to songs we never tried to memorize? How can we sing along to songs we didn’t care enough to download into a playlist? How can our brains recall such information we never tried to store?
Our ears are never closed. We are hearing and our brain is processing sounds whether we are actively, consciously trying to listen or not. That’s why you can repeat back what the teacher said when she caught you daydreaming. That’s why you can sing along to hundreds of songs you never tried to learn. That’s why the alarm clock wakes you up every morning. That’s why strange sounds wake you up in the middle of the night.
I share this little tidbit with you because it comes into play for three distinct and different reasons in your advertising. You’ll learn why in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING AND ADVERTISING class coming up Tuesday, June 20th. You should sign up today.
PS You’re probably trying to guess those three reasons. You probably first figure I’m going to talk about jingles. Well, yes. And no. Humor, sex, and music are delicate techniques that need to be used with care and skill or they will backfire in a big way. Sign up for the class and I’ll show you what the pros know.
PPS The other two reasons are fascinating. One deals with how memory works. The other deals with how different media work. Take the class and you’ll learn secrets your advertising salespeople likely don’t know. (And if you are an advertising salesperson, you’re welcome to sign up, too!)
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
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.
(If you didn’t read the Foreword already, you can find it here.)
Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck
“Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the right moment.” – Roy H. Williams
You’re in a room with friends, a plate of nachos in your hands. It’s the first Sunday in February. It’s a Super Bowl Party. Everyone is glued to the TV. Groans and high-fives and laughter fill the air. Some of your friends are second-guessing every move, every decision they see on the screen. Everyone is cheering for their favorite, even making excuses when it doesn’t go so well.
Then the game comes back on and you head to the bathroom and back to the kitchen to refill your nacho plate.
Once a year you watch the ads. One night out of three hundred and sixty-five you don’t fast forward or change the channel or—in many cases even care about the actual programming, just the ads in between.
You remember the good ones from years past. You remember how a few years ago the Budweiser Armed Forces in Airport commercial made you feel when everyone started clapping slowly, then faster until the whole airport was standing and applauding the soldiers walking through. You remember the kid looking you in the eyes and telling you he wanted to work in middle management even though you can’t recall which employment service did that ad and which one had the monkeys in the office.
You also remember groaning at some of the really bad ones, wondering how in the world that ad got approved for production, let alone a multi-million-dollar TV slot. You wish your own business was like one of these big companies with millions of dollars to waste on advertising knowing that in two weeks no one would remember and you would still have tens of millions to spend on the boring, crap ads everyone runs the rest of the year.
Why is that? Why, you wonder, do all these companies spend so much time, money and creativity on their Super Bowl ads only to run them once a year and leave you with the same tired sales-pitchy stuff the rest of the year? While you’re at it, you wonder why so many companies spend so much time, money and creativity only to miss the mark by a wide margin. Puppymonkeybaby? Really, Mountain Dew? That’s the best you could come up with?
Your friends tell you they’ve switched to satellite radio. Too many ads on regular radio, they say. Other friends tell you the greatest invention is the DVR or Netflix or Hulu. Don’t have to suffer through so many ads, they say. They do have a point. You seem to recall some study about how you are bombarded with over 5,000 advertising messages a day. You’re not sure if that number is right, but you do know that everywhere you turn there is another promotional message staring at you. Heck, every sub-segment of the Super Bowl was “brought to you by …” some auto/food/beer/insurance/drug company.
Maybe there are too many ads.
But there you are on the first Sunday in February, ignoring the brought-to-you-by announcements and even the game itself, and instead comparing notes with your friends on which ads were the funniest, the most moving, the most memorable.
Suddenly it dawns on you. The real problem with advertising isn’t that there are too many ads. The real problem is that most ads suck. If they were more creative or funny like the ones you saw tonight, you’d pay attention. If they were entertaining, you wouldn’t be switching channels. If they touched your heart, you might actually take action.
You think you’ve figured it out. You think you’ve figured out what famed retailer John Wanamaker couldn’t when he famously said, “Half of my ad budget is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.” It’s the half with the lousy, looks-like-everyone-else, boring, stupid ads.
You want to shout it from the rooftop. You’ve solved the advertising equation. The first half, at least.
You start thinking how fun it would be to meet with the advertising executives of every major company out there and tell them to quit spending all their money on Super Bowl ads and instead spend that money to make the rest of their ads better.
Then you wonder. “Wait, do I have it all wrong? Is it really that simple? That these multi-billion-dollar companies with their multi-million-dollar advertising budgets and their multi-million-dollar advertising firms with all their fancy metrics just don’t get it?”
Yes, you do have it right. Yes, you instinctively understand what many ad agencies and major national corporations don’t. You get it because you’re the consumer. You know what works on you and what doesn’t. You know what gets you to tune in and tune out.
You’re also smart enough to realize that some ads just aren’t speaking to you. You still appreciate clever writing, creative copy, and smart messages. If they’re entertaining enough, you’ll tolerate ads written for someone other than you. But your internal filter shuts everything down as soon as it looks, sounds, or smells like the plethora of phony, deceiving, too-good-to-be-true ads out there.
You’re about to start making a list of the worst offenders, the ones whose offices you’ll visit first to tell them about your new revelation, when it dawns on you. You know what they shouldn’t be doing. But if they ask you how to make their ads more interesting and memorable and effective, you don’t know where to start.
PS Thank you for those who have already supported the campaign to get this book printed. There are some amazing perks available for those of you who wish to contribute including one perk where I will create two ads for you (no matter what platform you are using).
I promised you some excerpts from my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). Like all good books, the best place to start is the beginning. Here is the Foreword …
Who will use this book? Anyone who writes content to persuade including web content, ad copy, magazine articles, emails and newsletters, and even speeches. If you write to persuade, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If you write to connect, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If you write to spark change, you’ll find this book relevant and useful.
The character who leads you through this book is you. You’re like me in your curiosity and desire to learn—that’s why you’re reading this book in the first place. You lead yourself through the first eight chapters discovering new ideas and revelations as you go. I will take over in Chapter 9 to show you by example how the principles you learn in this book apply to all different types of businesses, including yours.
You will still need to bring a few tools to the table to make this book work best for you. Most importantly, you have to know your Core Values. For the purpose of this book, you will have the values of Freedom, Curiosity, Diligence, and Education. You will use your own Curiosity to explore the concepts of how to make your advertising more effective. You will use Diligence to do the research you need to give yourself the tools (Education) to write your own content in your own words. That will give you the Freedom to succeed in your business without being led blindly down fruitless paths to more boring, useless, ineffective advertising. My own Core Values are Having Fun, Helping Others, Education, and Nostalgia. See if you can spot them throughout this book.
I first presented this information at the Jackson Retail Success Academy™ back in 2011. Fourteen frying pans later, it is an audience favorite because the applications are endless. You will find yourself using the principles in this book for far more than advertising. You’ll see the influence of this book in all of your writings, presentations, sales calls, and trainings. In fact, I have a ten-minute TED-style talk centered around how Chapter 4 applies to all levels of communication. (I’m still waiting on a true TED or TEDx event to call.)
I want you to share this book. I expect you to dog-ear some pages, underline some passages, write your own notes in the margins. I also expect you to pass this book along to your friends in a similar position as you (or preferably, buy them a copy of their own). I expect you to take exceptions to different principles based on your own experiences. That’s why I call them principles instead of rules. (And also because you’re the kind of person who hates the word “rules” and would immediately try to find ways to break them.)
I especially expect or even encourage you to find fault with many of the sample ads in the back of the book. That’s okay. As Roy H. Williams taught me many years ago, an advertisement is like a magnet. Its ability to attract is in exact proportion to its ability to repel. If you feel any emotion at all towards the ad samples, I will have done my job. If you really don’t like them, I challenge you to write better ones. Send them to me. I would love to read them.