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Something the Best All Have in Common

In every industry you have a handful of heavy hitters. These businesses and their owners have both longevity and a solid track record of sales and growth. They’ve seen it all. They’ve done it all. They’ve been involved in the industry, in their trade organizations, and quite often in their hometowns. They suffer from chronic hand-raising disease.

If you belong to a trade organization you can probably rattle off the names of those businesses and people in your industry quite easily.

The one thing I miss about my office at Toy House was the hutch full of books behind my desk.

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) recognized this. They realized their Marketplace & Academy conference every year offered sessions geared mostly to small stores, new stores, green stores. They recognized that the big hitters were not being served, but instead were the ones mostly doing the serving. ASTRA reasoned that the stronger they could make these stores, the better it would be for the organization and the industry as a whole.

ASTRA invited sixteen of the big hitters together a few years ago to see how we could benefit from being together with our true peers. I had the honor of sitting at that table for that first meeting and becoming part of what we eventually called the Masters Circle.

After that initial meeting, our group took on a life of its own. We planned other meetings, visited each other’s stores, and shared information freely with each other. We not only became friends, we became mentors to each other, people we could rely on to answer questions and offer advice.

I noticed something about these rock star toy retailers that I had also been seeing from the stage as I did more and more workshops.

The best stores were all eager to learn more. The best stores had intellectual curiosity.

At a customer service workshop I did in Manistee, MI a few years ago, the local shoe store—the rock star of their downtown retail scene—was at the workshop with a few of their staff. One of the other attendees asked, “Why are you guys here? You guys are like the best retailer in town.”

The owner replied, “That’s why we’re here. If we don’t keep learning new and better ways to do things, we won’t be the best retailer in town.”

Intellectual curiosity.

You don’t know what you don’t know. If you have intellectual curiosity, however, you have an understanding that there is a lot you don’t know.

Italian writer Umberto Eco has a personal library of over 30,000 books. Has he read them all? No. But by surrounding himself with such a vast wealth of knowledge, he reminds himself daily that he doesn’t know it all. He reminds himself daily that there is more to learn. It keeps him humble. It keeps him curious.

The good news for you is that you are here reading this blog. You are curious. You already have that one trait most common among the big hitters in your industry. Curiosity.

The other is longevity. Show me those two in a retail business owner and I’ll show you a heavy hitter in their industry.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The Masters Circle continues to meet regularly. In fact, they are meeting shortly after I publish this blog. ASTRA made the introductions. Their intellectual curiosity has kept the group going. (And their humility almost kept them from calling the group the Masters Circle. Sometimes they have to be reminded of their accomplishments in the toy industry.)

Now What? Applying the Lessons You’ve Learned

Many conference organizers have detailed instructions for their speakers. It makes sense since often those conferences will have a mix of professional speakers and members of their organization who have never done presentations like this.

On more than one occasion I have seen instructions to, “ask the attendees to write down one or two things they are going to do because of your session.”


You want your audience to not only learn what you’re teaching, you want them to apply it to their own business. When you ask them to write it down, you increase the chances of them actually taking action. In fact, it was this very request back in June 2007 that led me to this new career as a professional speaker.

I was listening to a presentation. I knew what the speaker was trying to say, but she was having a tough time getting her (incredibly good) idea across. At the end she asked us to write down one thing we were going to do.

I wrote, “I’m going to teach this class next year.” And I did.

Found this little gem from June 2007 in my “Notes from Workshops” file

Yesterday I wrapped up a five-week Retail Success Academy class with business owners in Clare, MI. The final assignment of the class was for every student to stand up and do a brief presentation on the one action they are going to take first because of the class including what they are going to do, why they are going to do it, and what they expect to happen.

It always becomes my favorite moment in the program.

I have taught you the What? So What? Now What? methodology of learning.

  • What = The actions you take
  • So What = The lessons you learn from those actions
  • Now What = The application of the lessons to everything else

This writing down or presenting on the one thing you’re going to do because of the presentation is the Now What. It is the most critical part of any presentation because it helps your audience formulate their thoughts and find the actions that will help them.

It also helps you, the presenter, know if your audience got what you were trying to teach. If during Q&A all the questions are about the information you presented or not fully understanding how it all works, you failed as a presenter to get your point across. If all the questions are about how to apply the lessons to their own unique situation, then you nailed it.

I tell you this because as the manager or owner of a small business you are constantly in the position to teach others. Listen carefully to the questions your staff have after a staff meeting. If they are asking What? or So What? questions, you need to start over and find a new way to teach the material. if they are asking Now What? questions, then you know you are on the right track. If they are already answering the Now What? questions for themselves, then you know you’ve hit it out of the park.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS This applies to any type of business. If you’re a manufacturer and you’ve introduced a new product or program, the questions you get from your customers tell you a lot about how well you’ve explained the product or program. Heck, this even applies to salespeople selling direct to the consumer. You want to get your customers to visualize owning the product. “How are you going to use that?” is a great Now What? question to get them to take ownership.

PPS The best part about the presentations by the Retail Success Academy grads yesterday was they all chose something different and something was chosen from each of the five major lessons of the Academy. That’s when you know, as a presenter, you’re on the right track.

Not Everyone Is Expecting the Same Thing

A couple weeks ago I did a Customer Service workshop with the staff of Kingman Museum. In a workshop for a single entity I get to do some different things than I do in a presentation to a large and varied group, including focusing in on different elements of customer service that will truly make a difference for the types of customers you’ll see.

As you know …

Customer Service is a measure of how well you meet your customers’ expectations.

The minimum bar is simply to give the customer exactly what she expected. Anything less and she’ll tear you to shreds on Facebook or Yelp or in the hallway outside the MOPS meeting. Anything more, however, and she’ll sing your praises to the mountain top.

It is a fine line between failing and winning. Worse yet, the line is constantly shifting because not every customer is expecting the same thing.

In the planetarium at Kingman Museum. You should check it out.

Our first exercise, therefore, was to figure out the different personas that visit the museum. We came up with eight basic personas; The Member, The Young Family, The Homeschooler, The Field Trip, The Tourist, The Senior Citizen, The Passer-By, and The Donor. We then described the general characteristics of each persona, listing them on pieces of easel paper taped around the room.

Then, as we looked at all the interaction points the staff has with the visitor, we talked about how the expectations differ based on the personas. For instance, Tourists are looking for a far different experience than Homeschoolers. Senior Citizens want to see what is very new (because they are frequent visitors) and very old (for nostalgia’s sake). Young Families want activities to keep the wiggles at bay. The Donor wants to see where the money went.

First, by knowing these personas and the different expectations they might have, we were able to create different ways to exceed their expectations.

Second, we spent a lot of time on the importance of communication. It is through the relationship-building process that you learn which persona best fits their needs, and also what personal expectations they might have, so that you can apply those surprising moments.

This is a simple exercise you should do with your staff.

  • Start by describing the different types of customers. Give them each a name.
  • List the characteristics that define each persona.
  • Brainstorm questions you can ask (or answers you can look for) to help you identify each persona.
  • List the expectations each persona might have, especially how they differ from the other personas.
  • Think of what it will take to surprise and delight each persona.

Only when you know the different types of customers and what they expect from your store can you truly meet and exceed their expectations on a regular basis. Giving a group of kids on a Field Trip a list of your favorite nearby local restaurants is not nearly as delightful as it is when you give it to the Tourist.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Some of you are already ahead of me in figuring out that these personas also play a role in your marketing and advertising. When creating new advertisements, pick one persona and write directly to that person. It won’t be as effective for the other personas, but it will move the needle for her in ways you never imagined.

PPS Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is a great exercise to work on over the course of several meetings. Start with simply identifying the different personas and what makes them unique. At the next meeting you can start to talk about their expectations and how you identify them. What you will find between those two meetings is that at the second meeting they may have a sharper definition for each persona. That means they were observing. Praise them for that. By the third meeting, however, you should be working on ways to surprise and delight.

PPPS If the veterinarian staff had done this exercise with the simple personas of Cat Person and Dog Person, they would have been OMG instead of WTF.

PPPPS Go to Kingman Museum and see how they are doing. The museum is really cool with a ton of stuff packed into an architecturally cool building. Plus, they have a planetarium! (Be gentle. This is the first time they have looked at Customer Service as a thing, let alone as a different thing for different people.)

The Aha Moment (Or the Simplest Business Success Formula Ever!)

I’ve been looking at different job titles and job descriptions lately. The two that seem to grab my attention the most are the Marketing & Advertising jobs and the Managing People jobs. At first glance I figured I was drawn to those because those were two of my favorite things to do at Toy House.

Another thought hit me this morning on my drive home from dropping my son off at school.

Those two different jobs are really the same thing. Stop and think about it.

  • Awesome Customer Service is about figuring out your customer’s expectations and then exceeding them with surprise and delight.
  • Top-Level Selling is about figuring out your customer’s needs and then fulfilling them better than she expected.
  • Powerful Advertising is about figuring out your customer’s desires and then offering a solution better than she expected.
  • Amazing Events are about figuring out what your customer likes and then offering her more than she expects when she attends.
  • Incredible Managing is about figuring out what tools your team needs to be successful and then giving them better tools that take them beyond what they thought was possible.

It’s all the same thing.

  1. Figure out what she desires, needs, and expects.
  2. Give her more than she desires, needs, and expects.

That is the formula for a successful retail business. That is the formula for a successful service company. That is the formula for successful manufacturer. That is the formula for a successful advertising campaign. That is the formula for successfully managing your team. That is the formula for being successful as an employee.

The first part requires research. The first part is about studying human nature, watching market trends, thinking like a customer. The first part is about asking questions, listening, and analyzing what you hear. The first part is about testing and clarifying and testing some more. You’ll get it right some times and you’ll get it wrong some times. The better you do your research, the more often you will get it right.

The second part is about having that character trait in you that wants to help others. When you hire and train your team, look specifically for that trait and you’ll find the second part of the formula becomes second nature to your company. Your team will already want to give. You just have to show them what to give.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS An employee that figures out exactly what the boss wants and then gives the boss more than she wants will always have a meaningful job. A manager that equips her team with tools to make them better than they thought possible will always find people wanting to work for her. A marketer that can figure out the true desires of the customer base and speak to those desires will always move the needle. A salesperson who can figure out the exact problem a customer is trying to solve and then offer a solution better than she envisioned will always make more sales. A manufacturer who anticipates the needs of both the end user and the middleman and sets up a business to exceed both their expectations will find growth.

PPS I answered my own question. My Core Values include Helping Others and Education. I already have that character trait of giving (that’s why I write this blog and publish all the Free Resources). The Education side of me wants to do the research to figure out what to give.

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

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.

Where I Can Help You

I gave you my resume. Now let’s talk about you and what you might need.

If you are a Small Business Owner …

You wear many hats, some better than others. Your choices are simple.

A) Learn all the skills you need on your own.
B) Hire someone else to do the things you can’t (or don’t want to) do.
C) Hire someone to teach you those skills you might be lacking.

Image result for wearing many hatsYou might need help with your Hiring and Training. I will help you identify the positions you need on your team, help you identify the traits and skills needed to do those jobs, write up a job description, write up a killer help-wanted ad to attract the right kind of applicants, and give you the interview questions that help you identify the perfect candidates. I will help you create a new-hire training program and teach you how to stage your own training workshops on a continual basis.

You might need help with your Customer Service. I will lead you and your team through all the touch-points a customer has with your business, identifying where you are meeting their expectations and where you are missing the mark. You’ll learn simple tips and techniques that raise the bar across the board. Your staff will help develop the next level of service you offer with complete buy-in.

You might need help with your Marketing & Advertising. I will help you identify your core values and beliefs. I will help you identify and create content that attracts the right type of customers. I will help you identify the best use of your advertising budget and resources to get the most bang for the buck. I will evaluate your website, your social media presence, and your other marketing attempts to help you maximize your efforts.

If you are a Large Corporation …

You likely already have a specialist in each of the above areas. If you don’t, you might want to give me consideration. If you have someone internally you are grooming for those roles, you might need someone to come in and do one-on-one training for certain skills.

You also might need help with your general Training Programs. I can run your Team Building workshops for all levels of your corporate structure, fostering better communication, cooperation, and trust amongst your teams. I can help you roll out new initiatives through presentations and workshops that get your team to buy-in quickly and efficiently.

You might need help with Management Training. I can work with your managers teaching them better ways to identify, hire and train their teams. I can help them learn better ways to motivate and inspire their teams to greatness. I can give them tools for training and evaluating the individuals on their team to help them maximize production within their payroll budget.

If you are a Community Economic Developer …

You have read the reports that show how a strong, locally-owned businesses climate is better for the overall health of your economy.

You might need help to strengthen the presence of your local retail market by teaching retailers the foundational skills necessary to compete in today’s retail climate. The Retail Success Academy covers everything from Customer Service to Retail Math, designed specifically for mom & pop indie retailers and restaurants.

You might instead need someone to lead workshops and presentations for small businesses on individual topics such as Generating Word of Mouth Advertising or Marketing on a Shoestring Budget that gives them the competitive edge and helps keep your local economy strong.

If you are a Conference Planner …

You need to hit homeruns with your speakers and presentations and workshops.

You might be looking for a keynote speaker who can put on a presentation your attendees will be talking about for years, one filled with equal parts inspiration and realistic action steps that lead your attendees exactly where they want to go. I’ve been on the stage and in the audience. I know exactly what your attendees want.

You might be looking for an emcee to make sure all of your events and activities run smoothly and on time with a professionalism not always present among your volunteers. I know how to handle a microphone and handle a crowd.

You might be looking for a workshop leader, someone who can dig deeper into a topic to give your attendees a more comprehensive understanding of Marketing & Advertising, Hiring & Customer Service, or even Retail Math, I can take them to a level of understanding equivalent to an upper level college course.

If you are a College Professor or Dean …

You might be looking for a guest speaker to offer your students a fresh perspective from someone in the field.

You might be looking for someone to offer a relevant lesson or two not found in your current curriculum.

You might be looking for someone to teach an elective that is not currently available for your students.

I have ideas for all three of those.

You have problems you need solved. I have solutions. Let’s get together.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Conventional Wisdom says I need to pick a niche and then be the best option in that niche. The problem is there are a lot of niches out there where I could fit. I just haven’t figured out which one you want me in the most. Then again, I’ve also never been one to just do what conventional wisdom says (which is why my seminars and workshops are so highly rated.)

Measuring the Right Result

This is the year of confessions. I’ve told you I don’t like cleaning up and filing things away. I’ve admitted I only went to the University of Michigan to get football tickets. As much as it pains me to be one, I’ve even admitted I’m a Detroit Lions fan.

I have one more confession. I love musical theater. I get cranked up watching Broadway shows. I even get excited watching live Broadway-esque performances like the one Neil Patrick Harris did here.

Image result for disney newsiesLast night I watched Disney’s Newsies on Netflix. Not the 1992 movie starring Christian Bale but a filmed stage production. Loved it!

While reading more about the production on IMDb.com, I noticed it had a pretty high rating from the public. I started reading reviews and and they were mostly 10’s. The reviews that weren’t so stellar didn’t talk about the acting or singing or dancing or storyline. They talked about camera angles and editing of camera shots.

One person gave it a 4 solely because of the choppy editing of the dance sequences. Tough critic.

It got me thinking about how we measure success of our business and how our customers measure success of our business. The two criteria are completely different.

Your customer considers your business a success if she comes in, gets what she needs, and feels good about it. You consider your business a success if you can pay all your bills and make some money for yourself. Two completely different sets of measurements, yet when you stop and think about it, the more you take care of your customer, the more likely you’ll have enough business to pay all your bills and make some money for yourself.

You need to measure what is important to your customers as much as you measure what is important to you.

Notice that I didn’t say, “instead of.” I said, “as much as.” You need to measure both.

You need a method of keeping track of how many times you say, “No we don’t.” to a customer request. I have a friend who has a “No List” she keeps by the cash register just for that purpose. Every time a customer asks for something they don’t have, the staff has to write it down. She figures if a lot of customers come in believing she might have a certain item, then it would be in her best interest to look into carrying that item.

You need a method of tracking how many customers are repeat and referral customers. Only customers who get their needs met and feel good about it will come back and bring their friends. If those numbers are rising, your customer service is succeeding.

Inventory levels, cash flow, profit margin, and sales are all important and need to be tracked, but they are as much a result of the first two numbers as anything else. The more your customers think of your business as a success, the better those other numbers will be.

If you have a lot of items on your No List then you need to figure out why your customers have such a different view of your business than you do. If you have a lot of new customers not referred by a friend, then either you’re a tourist destination, your advertising is stellar, or you need to up your game on taking care of your customers.

When your customers come in, get what they need, and leave feeling good, that’s the singing, acting, and dancing that gets you the standing ovation.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Speaking of measuring the right things, here is the survey that the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) uses for the presentations at their Academy.

Here are the averages of the survey responses from your presentation, “Cash is King & You are the Advisor:”

1—Unsatisfied  4—Completely Satisfied

Did the presentation meet your expectations based on the session description? Were you satisfied with the speaker(s) level of knowledge on the topic? Rate your overall satisfaction with this session:
3.9 4 3.9

Those of you who have followed this blog a long time know that the three things I stress the most about Customer Service are:

  1. You have to meet your customer’s expectations. (Question #1)
  2. You have to build trust. (Question #2)
  3. You have to leave them feeling good about the transaction. (Question #3)

Did the audience come in, get what they needed, and feel good about it? Those results were my standing ovation.

The Scary Truth of Averages

“Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average?” -Roy H. Williams

Did you hear the one about the statistician that drowned in a river with an average depth of three feet?

Image result for averagesIn business, everyone wants to know the averages, the average cost of rent, the average sales per square foot, the average level of inventory, etc. Averages are interesting. They can be a nice benchmark, but they can also be misleading, and sometimes downright dangerous.

Take, for example, average inventory at cost (a number you should all be tracking). If you were an average toy store doing around $500,000 a year in sales, your average inventory at cost would be around $100,000. But if you are that same toy store, your Thanksgiving to Christmas sales will likely be around $200,000, or pretty much all of your inventory if you only had the average on hand. As nice as it would be to sell to the walls, so-to-speak, you know you can’t sell it all. You also know you need some inventory in January for birthdays and post-Christmas.

Just trying to keep your store at the average will kill your holiday sales. You’ll need a lot higher inventory to start the busy season and much lower inventory the rest of the year. Rarely will you ever have the “average” amount of inventory on hand.

Another problem with that average is that $100,000 worth of toys looks a whole lot different in a 2,200 square foot store than it does in a 1,100 square foot store.

The bigger the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to keep the store looking stocked and full. The smaller the store, the more creative you may need to be with your merchandise to fit it all in. Sometimes your store space dictates your inventory levels more than just sales or industry averages.

Averages are a nice starting point, but it is worth exploring all the reasons you might deviate from the average, and be okay with those reasons.

For instance, my payroll at Toy House was a significantly higher percentage of our expenses than the average toy store. But I could afford that because my rent was significantly lower. Our sales per square foot was extremely low compared to the average, but that was because we had wide aisles to allow for shopping carts, four cash registers lines, a large gift-wrapping area, and a stage with seating/playing area—in other words, a lot of square footage not used for showing merchandise. Our average ticket, thanks to shopping carts and toy demos however, was significantly higher. Each deviation from the norm was on purpose and with a purpose.

I do many talks about the financials of independent retailers. Whenever possible I try to use an average store for that industry. But I remind everyone in attendance that these numbers are average and they should be striving to be spectacular. If all your numbers are average, you haven’t found the place to stand out and make a name for yourself.

In retail, there isn’t a prize for being normal.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The upside to averages is that they give you a quick check of the health of your business. If you have a number way off from the averages and you don’t know why, that might be a good place to focus your time and energies on changing. The downside is that you don’t ever want to be an average store. You are destined for greater than that.

PPS Rent per square foot and sales per square foot go hand in hand. You need to be selling at least 10x more per square foot than what you pay in rent (if your profit margin is around 50%). That’s a far better benchmark than average rent or average sales per square foot for your industry. Those averages tell you nothing.

Death by Typo

My buddy was at a conference recently and the presenter for his breakout session had a major typo in big bold letters at the top of one of his opening slides. My buddy couldn’t resist. He took a photo of this typo—and I’m talking not just a single letter but a major butchering—and posted it with the comment, “Why am I listening to this guy for advice?”

After we all agreed the comment was a bit snarky and we all agreed the speaker probably had some good content, I couldn’t quite let this speaker off the hook. After all, even PowerPoint has spellcheck.

The real problem was that a major blunder like this on something so easily proofread and corrected meant two things …

  1. The guy wasn’t prepared. He hadn’t given his presentation enough time to check for errors which sent the signal that the rest of his presentation was hastily slapped together, too.
  2. My buddy was so turned off and distracted by one little misstep, that he missed the message.

Your business sends similar signals to customers all the time. When you have typos or grammar mistakes in your signs and posters and emails and social media posts, you send the signal to many of your customers that you hastily slapped things together. You distract them with these errors and keep them from seeing what you want them to see.

It doesn’t have to be typos either. It can be a staff that is ill-prepared for an event or special offering. It can be contradicting terms from two different sales people. It can be trash by the front door. It can be poorly merchandised areas of your store. It can be dust. It can be a messy bathroom. It can be an answering machine with the wrong hours because the seasons have changed. It can be a website with the wrong hours. It can be a funny smell coming from the backroom staff area. It can be an old, faded, worn-out, been there since the 90’s sign that has a corner missing. It can be footprints of mud leading back to the model section from the work boots of one of your best customers. It can be disheveled clothing on your staff. It can be music that is too loud or too harsh for your shopping environment. It can be window and door glass with smudged finger and hand-prints. It can be products not matching the shelf signs.

It doesn’t have to be much to distract your customers from your awesome staff and fabulous product selection. That little typo can do more damage to your branding than the thousands of dollars you spend on advertising can do good. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

The band Van Halen used to put a clause in their contracts asking for M&M’s with all of a certain color removed. A lot of people thought they must be divas because of that. I was part of that crowd until I heard an interview with David Lee Roth, the acrobatic lead singer who used to fly around the stage. He said they had very intricate, detailed instructions for how to assemble the stage for his safety. If the show organizers were detailed enough to do the M&M’s right (something small and trivial in the grand scheme of things), he had more confidence the stage would be built right. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

You have a fabulous staff and wonderful products. Don’t do anything that signals the customer otherwise. Don’t do anything that distracts the customer from the prize. Yes, those little things mean a lot.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS There was another lesson from that presentation about bullet points, but I’ll save that for another day. You have enough to do looking for all those little distractions that mean a lot.

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

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.