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How to Find Out Your Business Reputation

Some of you read them. Some of you don’t. I often get asked why each blog post has a Postscript (PS) or two. Postscripts are also called “afterthoughts.” In the case of my blog, I use them to reinforce different points made in the post, without clunking up the writing. I also use them to clarify and/or sum up something I’ve said. Often the PS is an action step or an application of the idea posed by the post. Sometimes it is a humorous anecdote or story from my past experiences.

Sometimes the PS hints at the next post. That was the case yesterday.

According to Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, your brand is “every single interaction someone has with your business, plus how they feel about it.”

In other words, your brand is not your slogan, your color scheme, or your logo. It is the way people feel about your business. It is your reputation.

In 2005 I wanted to know what people thought and felt about Toy House. Before I could create a stronger brand, I had to know from where I was starting. To do that, I needed to do a survey. Here is what I did.

LOCAL COLLEGE STATISTICS CLASS

Image result for phone surveyI contacted a professor at Spring Arbor University who taught statistics. Fortunately I already knew him. We had met at a networking event (one more reason why you should attend those events).

I told him what I wanted to do. I had a survey. I had the questions. I just needed someone to figure out the sample size, do the calling, and compile the results. It would be a live exercise for his statistics students. I agreed that I would write a letter of recommendation for all the students who participated, and that I would host a pizza party for the students when they had the results.

The professor thought it would be a fun exercise, and put it into his lesson plan at the appropriate time.

The students did the math and figured out we would need a sample size of 400 Jackson County residents to accurately measure the entire county within an acceptable margin of error. They also devised a random way to find those 400 people using the phone book. Each of the twenty students was then tasked with getting twenty survey results back within a two-week window.

QUESTION #1

The script I gave the students came from Roy. In a class I took, he showed me how to get an accurate assessment of where Toy House stood in the minds of Jackson County residents. It also showed how I compared to other stores selling toys in the area.

When someone answered the phone, the student would say …

“Hello, my name is (____). I am a Spring Arbor University student. My statistics class is doing a survey on toy shopping habits in Jackson County. Can I ask you a couple questions?”

If they said yes, the first question was this …

“Please name all the stores you can think of that sell toys in Jackson.”

The students had a worksheet with all the possible places listed and a few blanks for some out-of-the-box thinkers. As the person named stores, the student would number them in the order they were named. After the person stopped, the student would say, “You named (list of all stores they named). Can you think of any others?” This went on until the person said they could not think of any others.

The beauty of this question is that it helps you see how much awareness people have of your existence. You also see how you compare to everyone else in your town. It was eye-opening to see what percentage of Jackson County shoppers knew we existed. The results looked like this.

  1. Toys R Us 84.1%
  2. Meijer 82.3%
  3. Walmart 69.5%
  4. Toy House 64.8%
  5. Kmart 59.1%
  6. Target 45.2%

Thirty-five percent of the population could not think of us when asked to name a store that sold toys in Jackson. That was a shocker. (So was the fact the 16% couldn’t name the iconic national brand of Toys R Us and over half the population didn’t think of Target as a place to buy toys.)

QUESTION #2

Once the first question was answered, the student would then say, “For the second part, I am going to read you a few words. From the list of stores you just gave me, I want you to tell me the first of those stores that comes to mind with each word. There is no right or wrong answer. Just blurt out the first store you think of.”

The list of words I had the students read included positive words like Affordable, Caring, Clean, Friendly, Fun, Helpful, Knowledgeable, Quality, Value, and Welcoming.

The list also included negative words like Arrogant, Cluttered, Confusing, Dark, Deceptive, Dirty, Expensive, High Pressure, Indifferent, Over-Priced, Pushy, and Rude.

The list also included one word that upon reflection could be considered either positive or negative—Cheap.

The deal here is that whoever is mentioned the most for that particular word owns that word in the minds of shoppers. That is your reputation, good or bad.

  • We owned the words Caring, Clean, Friendly, Fun, Helpful, Knowledgeable, Quality, Value and Welcoming from the positive list, and Expensive and Over-Priced from the negative list.
  • Walmart owned the words Affordable, Deceptive, Indifferent, Rude, and Cheap.
  • Kmart owned Dark and Dirty.
  • Toys R Us owned Cluttered, Confusing, High-Pressure, and Pushy.
  • Target and Meijer didn’t own a single word on the list.

(Note: in that first survey, no one owned Arrogant. We were in a virtual tie with both Walmart and Toys R Us for that word.)

The one thing I didn’t include in my list of words was all of our Core Values, but mainly because I didn’t know them in 2005 like I did in 2007. We did a second survey in 2007 adding Education and Nostalgia to the list and owned those words hands-down. The only other changes in 2007 were that Walmart tied us for Value, and we took over Arrogant.

RESULTS

There were several takeaways from these results. The first was the lack of awareness for our giant, colorful store that had been in business for 56 years in the heart of downtown Jackson. More people mentioned Walmart, yet they had only been open a couple months when this survey was done. When we did the survey again in 2007, our name recognition jumped from 64.8% to 76.0%, whereas Walmart’s only went from 69.5% to 76.5%. We were still fourth overall, but had closed the gap significantly. (TRU and Meijer held steady.)

I was okay with owning the negative words Over-Priced and Expensive. That’s a common belief of indie retailers and I expected it. I was especially okay because we also owned Value. Value and Expensive are not exclusive. Value and Over-Priced don’t go together, but for every person that thought of us as Over-Priced, there was someone else who saw the Value in our offerings. I was okay with owning Arrogant in the 2007 survey, too, since I also owned nine of the ten positive attributes.

Most importantly, we owned the things we wanted to be know for. We owned our Core Values of Helpful, Fun, Education, and Nostalgia. We owned the things we were already advertising such as Friendly, Knowledgeable, and Quality. We owned the one word that made my mom the happiest—Clean! So we knew we were on the right track with our advertising, but more importantly we were on the right track with our actions.

Advertising cannot change your reputation. It can only enhance it. Actions speak louder than words.

Now you have the blueprint for doing your own survey to find out where you stand compared to your competition. If you don’t like your results. First change your actions.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The interesting question about doing a survey today is whether to do it online or by phone or both. Back in 2005 and 2007 most people still had landlines. Today, if you only do a phone survey with numbers generated randomly from a phone book (assuming those still exist), you’re missing out on a huge segment of the population. That will be the challenge for your statistics class to figure out. It might cost you a little more than pizza, but it will be totally worth it.

PPS One other benefit from the survey was that I had a classroom of 20 college students who now knew about our store and saw the reputation we had. That alone was worth the pizzas and a quick letter thanking them for running the survey.

You’re Going to Offend Someone

I heard someone argue that Memorial Day Weekend shouldn’t be about shopping and big sales at the mall. We need to be properly honoring our fallen soldiers. I also heard someone make the same argument about backyard BBQs and trips to the lake/ocean/river/woods. It isn’t about partying, it is about properly honoring our fallen soldiers. It begs the question … What is “properly honoring our fallen soldiers?” You better learn or you will likely offend someone.

Publix has suspended support for an NRA-favoring political candidate after “die-in” protests in their stores. Pretty soon you will see a backlash against Publix from NRA members for withdrawing that support. Either way, someone is going to hate them.

To some people, if you don’t automatically hate President Trump, then you’re a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, religious nut-job. If you even hint at defending any of the President’s actions (or decry any of the President’s actions), you’re going to have haters painting an unfavorable picture of you (whether true or not.)

Some people are offended by the football players who take a knee out of respect for the flag but to protest injustice in America. Others are offended by the NFL for creating a rule demanding they stand to “show respect for the flag.” The camps are divided and no posting of memes is going to change anyone’s mind. Both sides believe they are right and the other is wrong.

The tough part is that in many of these cases you are being forced to pick a side as if the world was black/white and either/or. No matter which side you choose, someone is going to hate you. Even if you don’t choose, your actions will cause someone to choose your side for you. People are looking for new ways to be offended. Tolerance is missing. Nuance is gone. Thoughtful discussion is rare.

Image result for pendulum book
Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew

How do you, as a business, navigate this world of hatred, intolerance, black/white, either/or?

Two months ago I wrote a post about when to take a political stand. The actions and attitudes since then have made it likely that whether you take a political stand or not, someone is going to assign a political stand to you for an action they perceive.

Since you’re going to offend someone anyway, you might as well do it consciously. 

No, I don’t mean pick a cause and go out there and piss a bunch of people off. What I mean is, become even more true to your Core Values. Amplify the Values and Beliefs you already have in everything you do.

If one of your Core Values is Helpfulness, add more ways to help your customers. If one of your Core Values is Nostalgia, add more nostalgic displays and tell more nostalgic stories. If one of your Core Values is Fun, make sure every single part of your business is fun down to the experience in the bathroom and the answer on your answering machine. If one of your Core Values is Education, add new educational signs and new instructional classes.

Evaluate everything in your business from the signs on the front door to the tagline on your receipt to make sure they accurately and boldly show your Values and Beliefs. The more consistent and observable your Values, the better.

  • First, it is easier to be consistent with your Values than try to be someone you are not. People will see right through you. The more consistent your actions are to your beliefs, the more you boost up the visibility of what you believe.
  • Second, the more obvious you are about what you believe and value, the less likely someone can paint you into a corner you don’t wish to be.
  • Third, yes, you will offend people, but primarily only people who don’t share your Values. That’s okay. Your business is at its best when you strongly attract the people who share your Values. Don’t worry about everyone else.
  • Fourth, the more obvious you are, the more likely you will find those people who share your Values. They are much more fun to work with anyway.

Not sure exactly what are your Core Values? Here is a worksheet to help you figure it out.

I’m working on a new resource, too, one that will help you write your Belief Statements. In the meantime, here is an example of I Believe … statements from Toy House. Here is one from LauraJoyWarrior. Here is one from PhilsForum to help you get some ideas flowing.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The stronger a magnet attracts, the stronger that same magnet repels. The more strongly you try to attract people who share your Values and Beliefs, the more strongly you will offend those who don’t share your Values and Beliefs. That’s okay. There are more than enough people who believe what you believe for you to have a rock solid business. Many of them just don’t know about you yet.

PPS This whole black/white, either/or, I’m offended mentality is going to take a few years to disappear. It was perfectly predicted in the book Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew. They predict a lot of other stuff in that book, some that has already come true (including exactly how Donald Trump won the election), and some that won’t be true for another ten, twenty, or forty years. It is a fascinating read and an eye-opener to what is happening around you.

PPPS To show you how easy it is for people to be offended, I saw on social media one person upset because another person thanked a veteran for their service. “Memorial Day is to honor fallen veterans. Veterans Day is to honor the living ones. Get it right!” 

Reading Better, First Impressions, and Setting the Mood

One of the fun things about moving is finding your “memory boxes”. One of mine was falling apart so I had to dig through everything and transfer it all to a new box. Yeah, that took a lot longer than it should. (Remember, one of my Core Values is Nostalgia.) One item I found that brought back a flood of memories was a short story I wrote back in 1990 about a spring break trip to Colorado and Utah.

Back in 1990 my favorite author was Pat McManus, a humor writer who wrote columns for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and other magazines. Pat also wrote several side-splitting books about camping, hunting, fishing, and growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s in the great outdoors. Rarely did I go camping without one of his books stashed in my backpack. It was a necessary weight.

Not surprisingly, my writing style for my short story back in 1990 was quite similar to Pat’s humor.

Back in 2005 Roy H. Williams told me that if I wanted to learn to write better, I needed to read better. In my notes from one of Roy’s workshops I had circled a book idea, Poem A Day edited by Retta Bowen, Nick Temple, Nicholas Albery, and Stephanie Wienrich.

Poetry is the language of emotions. Advertising works best when it reaches you on an emotional level. Poetry is looking at ordinary things from unique and surprising perspectives. Advertising is giving your potential customers a new way to look at your business. Poetry uses interesting word combinations to set the mood. Great advertising uses interesting word combinations to get your attention.

Back in 2010 I did a staff training using the opening lines from several great books such as …

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  C.S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”  Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  A.A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh

In that same meeting I played the opening music from Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for Common Man, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and The Who’s Baba O’Reilly.

We talked about how the opening sets the mood for everything else. We talked about the importance of first impressions. We talked about rhythm and feelings. We also talked about all the “openings” a customer has at our store.

It isn’t just the greeting that sets the mood.

We identified the following “first impression” moments:

  • Phone
  • Parking Lot
  • Front Window
  • Front Door
  • Store Atmosphere
  • Appearance of Staff
  • Greeting

Notice how many “first impressions” happen before you even say, “Hello. Thank you for coming in,”? That’s a lot of mood setting and emotion-creating before you even open your mouth.

When you read better, you write better. When you visit better stores and truly look at the moods and emotions they are trying to evoke, you’ll have better ideas for your own store.

Take that list above and go visit your favorite stores. See if you can figure out who is making the best first impressions. Then go back to your store and see if you can figure out what first impression you are giving your customers.

The better your first impression, the easier it is for your staff to make connections and build relationships necessary to compete in today’s retail climate.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you visit other stores, take good notes. When you attend workshops and presentations, take good notes. Then revisit your notes often. I don’t just look at those notes for a walk down memory lane. I read my notes from old workshops because there are often more nuggets in there than I could ever possibly remember. Sometimes when you get home from a presentation it isn’t the right time for one of those nuggets. But when you revisit it later, the timing may be perfect.

PPS Yes, in some ways this is a meta-post. Notice how my blogs often start with a story? Stories are powerful tools in advertising because they get your attention, speak to the heart, and are more memorable. In other words, they set the mood and make a good first impression. If you set the wrong mood, you put up obstacles to sales. If you set the right mood, you grease the skids for sales. I was lucky in that Toy House was a downtown business, but with our own parking lot. But you should have seen how I fretted about the cleanliness of that parking lot—especially in the winter.

Protecting Yourself From Your Biggest Threat

I’m in a precarious position. My job is to help you succeed by teaching you the stuff you need to learn. My job is to know what you don’t know, be the expert you can trust, and help you see things from a perspective you haven’t seen before.

My other job is to protect myself from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. (DKE)

According to Wikipedia, “the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability have illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”

People who suffer from this cognitive bias don’t know what they don’t know. They believe they have all the answers. They come across as arrogant, pushy, know-it-alls that annoy the heck out of true experts in that field.

As an author, business coach, and public speaker, I’m supposed to have all the answers. I’m supposed to know it all. Yet, how do I prevent myself from getting caught in the trap of illusory superiority?

Image result for stacks of booksThe simple answer is Read. 

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” -Mark Twain

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow …” -Lawrence Clark Powell

I subscribe to blogs and read books regularly, looking for new answers. Sometimes what I read challenges what I believe. I worry about my cognitive bias, wondering if the author knows something I don’t. Reading keeps me on my toes by presenting new ideas and opening me up to new worlds of thought.

The next best thing to do is Question everything you believe.

  • Why do I believe what I believe?
  • Where is my evidence?
  • Do I have the most up-to-date information on this topic?
  • Have I tested it?
  • Is my information relevant to today?
  • Are my sources up-to-date and staying current?

If all I ever did was give you information based off my own experiences running Toy House, then I might suffer from DKE. If all I ever did at Toy House was try to learn from my own mistakes without looking outside myself for help, then I most definitely suffered.

Yet isn’t that what so many business owners do? Especially the veterans who have been running their stores for years? They use their own experiences as the basis for everything and never try to learn from others.

“It is hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” -Roy H. Williams

Your biggest threat isn’t Amazon or the economy or the weather. It is in thinking you know all the answers and cannot be taught something new.

I fear this in myself. I have the confidence (arrogance?) to believe I have answers to pretty much any question about running an independent retailer. I guard myself against DKE, however, by reading and questioning everything I think I know. I did the same running Toy House. Didn’t know how to market and advertise? I turned to Seth Godin and Roy H. Williams. Didn’t know how to merchandise? I turned to Paco Underhill. I learned from them, tested it against what I thought I knew, and grew from the experience.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. You’re out there reading and learning from others (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my posts). Sometimes, however, we need that reminder to keep vigilant and protect ourselves from our own DKE.

Sometimes we also need permission to go out there and remind our fellow retailers there is a world of information available, and the strength of your individual business will rely on how much of that information you acquire and use.

(Yes, that is a request that you share this blog and the other stuff you read with others.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One other way to keep DKE at bay is to be in a constant state of learning. Some people believe “training” only happens to new staff. Teach them what they need at first and let them go from there. Some people instead create a culture of learning not only for themselves but for their staff. One way I fostered that culture at Toy House was to give each of my staff a $150 budget each year for taking a class or attending a workshop. It didn’t have to be retail-related. It only had to keep them in a mindset of learning new things.

Google AdWords – Wasted Money or Well Worth It?

On four different occasions I received coupons in the mail from Google. Each one was worth $10 to $25 to be used on Google AdWords. I started researching how to use AdWords. I learned about different search terms and how some terms will be more expensive than others.

For instance, the word “toys” was going to cost me far more per click than the word “crayola”. The more generic the search term, the higher the cost to get clicks.

Image result for google adwordsWait, let’s back up a moment. For those of you who have never used Google AdWords, here is how it works. You select a word or phrase you wish to use. If someone searches for that particular word or phrase, your name will appear in the paid section in the search (above the organic results) if—and this is the key—you agreed to spend as much per click to be one of the top three to five businesses who also chose that word.

Yes, it is a bidding war to get eyeballs to your link and clicks to your website. The more you are willing to pay-per-click, the more likely you’ll make it onto the page. That’s why it is important to pick the proper words. The more common the word appears in searches, the more businesses will pay to get on that page. The more obscure the word, the cheaper the pay-per-click.

In other words, Google AdWords is a game you play. You can pay more for the more common search words and fight the crowds trying to reach the masses, or you can choose cheaper words that might not get the overall traffic but can still draw people to your site. You have to find the right mix.

Oh, but it is far more complicated than that.

First, you have to choose the right words. Second, you have to write a short blurb—shorter than a tweet—that might actually convince someone to click on your paid link rather than the organic results. Finally, you have to have your AdWord link to a page that has the actual solution the searcher desires. Your account gets charged every time someone clicks, whether they spend ten minutes or ten seconds on your site.

Here is the truth about paid search results …

The only person who clicks on a paid search result is someone who has a problem and is looking for a clear-cut solution.

If you are considering using Google AdWords, you need to ask yourself the following questions …

  • Do I have a solution for a problem people are actively searching?
  • Is that solution on my website or can I create a web page with that solution?
  • Is my solution one that can be easily described in 96 characters or less?
  • Is my landing page optimized to convert traffic into sales/solutions?
  • Will I make enough money with my solutions to cover the cost of acquiring clicks?

Those are some tough questions. The last three are the heart of the matter. Not only do you have to have a solution, you have to have a landing page that the searchers go to that not only solves their problem but convinces them you are the best solution and gets them to buy from you right away.

In other words, this isn’t the place to put your Branding Dollars. This isn’t the place for building Top-of-Mind Awareness. This is the place for solving problems for customers desperate for a solution. If you can do that, you can drive a lot of traffic via Google AdWords.

If you’re going that route, here are some things to do:

  • First, work on the solution. Make sure your solution is simple, clear, easily understood, and exactly what customers will want.
  • Second, work on your landing page. You choose where the searcher lands when she clicks. You want her to land on the solution page. Make sure that page is optimized to be clear and simple and easy to navigate. She shouldn’t have to click more than once to know everything she needs to know. Take down as many barriers between the customer and the solution as possible.
  • Third, once you have your solution, figure out the most common words and phrases someone might type into a search bar if they are looking for that solution. The more exact you are, the more likely you’ll get the right people clicking. This, more than anything else, will help your conversion rate go way up.
  • Fourth, determine exactly how much you are willing to pay for each click. Google will give you a range of what to expect. Make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

The cool thing about Google AdWords is the analytics. They’ll tell you exactly how well your campaign is running. You’ll know how many people are clicking, what it is costing. You can figure out your conversion rate from there. (Conversion rate is simply the percentage of how many of those who click actually use your solution.) According to this article, the best ecommerce sites are converting over 6% of their pay-per-clicks. Your ROI, then, is to figure out what each conversion is worth to you, and whether you are getting the conversions you need for the money you spend.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is all about Direct Marketing. The return on your investment is in the strength of your solution and your ability to find the people with the right problem you can solve. Google AdWords is a powerful tool for that purpose, but only if you have a great solution people need.

Before you embark on Direct Marketing, though, please read this article from Roy H. Williams. It will help you understand a little more about the solutions you might want to offer.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I call them solutions instead of offers. That is the mentality you need to take if you are going to use PPC advertising effectively. The people searching aren’t looking for “offers”. They are looking for solutions. Make sure you give them one or your money will be wasted, and wasted quickly. The first $100 I spent on Google AdWords was gone in less than an hour at an average rate of about 33 cents per click. They all went to my home page where they stayed an average of less than eight seconds. There was no solution on that page. No conversion.

PPS A lot of businesses like mine (speakers, consultants, etc.) will use PPC advertising to get your email. The method of operation goes like this. You search for something. I offer you a free solution. You click on my link. I make you subscribe with your email before I give you your free solution. Then I bombard you with emails trying to convince you to sign up for my paid services. It is the tried and true method for many in my position. (Well, okay, I don’t know how “true” it is, but it is tried by several people.) It also isn’t me. I believe if my free content helps you, I’ll get enough paid business to keep doing what I do.

PPPS The analytics that Google offers in their AdWords program is one of the best tools out there. You can A/B test your solutions, your blurbs, your landing pages, your budget, and every other element of the campaign to see what works best. But if you don’t first have a great solution and know exactly what words people are using to search for that solution, nothing else will move the needle enough to make it worthwhile.

Radio – The Marathoner

I love my radio sales reps. Seriously. I have Linda to thank for turning me on to Roy H. Williams. I’ll never repay that debt. Scott and I still play golf. When I see Mike or Stacy or Fanny any of my other reps, we stop and chat like old friends. The good reps will do that. I was blessed to have some great reps.

The great reps also understand things like frequency. They know that for my ad to be successful, not only does it have to be impactful and tell a great story, it has to be heard several times by the same people in one week. The goal is for the same ears to hear my ad at least three times each week for as many weeks until they are in the market to shop for my goods.

Radio Ads, Toy House, JacksonThat is the beauty of Radio. Unlike Television, where viewers change channels faster than a butterfly changes direction, Radio listeners tend to stick with one channel through multiple commercial breaks. Sure, satellite radio and music services like Pandora and Spotify have eroded some of the ears on radio, but that can be said about every medium. The one difference is that the people still listening are “still listening.”

The advantage of radio is that people don’t fast-forward through the breaks. They don’t look away, or run to the bathroom, or go get some food. Their ears are always open. They listen with some regularity, whether it is the morning drive, at the office at work, or while getting dinner ready for the kids.

The disadvantage of radio is that most people don’t actively listen to radio. It is background noise while driving, working, or cooking. Most people are doing something else when they listen to the radio. That means you have to say something truly interesting to capture their attention. Boring ads that sound like everyone else’s ads won’t get heard. They just blend into the background.

Because of Radio’s strengths, however, it makes a great choice for long-term branding campaigns because you can reach a lot of ears with a lot of frequency for a lot less than most media. The key is to make sure your schedule has that frequency of three per week, and that you run it at that pace for at least as long as half your purchase cycle before you can expect traction.

Now, please understand that many radio advertising salespeople don’t know about the frequency of three. I know this because I have sat through many presentations done by radio salespeople. In one such presentation, after the video they showed, you had to be on Valium to not want to sign up for radio. But the package they tried to sell me had a frequency of only 0.5/week. They were dumping their unsold inventory on me through this package, and it wasn’t going to help anyone but them!

You have to be adamant about getting enough frequency. Fortunately, because I had such wonderful radio sales reps, I got the chance to sit down and explore different packages to see what kind of frequency I could get. Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, taught me that running 21 ads per week ROS (Run of Station), I would typically get pretty close to the frequency I wanted. Unfortunately I didn’t always have the budget for that. I found, however, that if I ran ten ads, two per day in back-to-back hours, Monday through Friday, I could get my frequency. I didn’t reach as many people, but I reached them well enough. (Roy also taught me that you can try to convince 100% of the people 10% of the way or 10% of the people 100% of the way—they both cost the same, but have wildly different results for you.)

If you want to run a radio branding campaign here are some tips for making it more effective.

  • Buy a schedule that gives you a frequency of three per week for the same people hearing your ad. (Your sales rep can help you with that, even a bad one.)
  • Buy a schedule that is at least 50% as long as the purchase cycle for your industry. (Longer if you can. In fact, the longer a contract you buy, the better rate the station is willing to give you.)
  • Create ads that are far more interesting than whatever the person is already doing while listening to the radio. (Remember that radio is a background noise more often than a primary channel.)
  • Change your ads (but not the emotions or message) at least once a month. The more creative and impactful your ads, the more often you should change them.
  • Don’t buy a station just because it is the top ranked station in your town. The top-ranked station often charges the highest rate. Why? Because they can. The funny thing is that often the difference in the number of listeners between #1 and #4 is not that significant, but the rate card varies greatly. A good ad salesperson will tell you how many people you’ll reach for the dollars you spend. Find the best value. (Pro note: the number #2 station in a particular format in your town is always more willing to negotiate rates than the #1 station. Give them a one-year commitment and you’ll be surprised the deals they can offer. You’ll still reach a whole bunch of people—without spending a whole lot of money)
  • Don’t buy a station just because that station has “your demographic”. Your customer base is not a demographic. It is a psychographic. It is the people who share your values and beliefs regardless of age, income, or education. You’ll find them on almost every station.
  • Don’t ever buy a prepackaged deal until you know it has the frequency you want at a price you can afford.

If you plan to be in business a long time and have the budget for it, Radio makes a nice long-term partner to run that business marathon with you. If you’re looking to get on and off like a ride at the state fair, it probably isn’t your best bet.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS While Radio is best suited for long-term branding campaigns, if you want to use it for an event or sale, do what Roy taught me. Schedule the ads beginning with one hour before your event, and then schedule backward in time running one ad per hour (two, if they’ll let you) until your budget runs out.

PPS Often times sales reps will throw in “live remotes”, special events where the deejay visits your store and reports back to the listeners several times an hour to tell them how much fun he is having. While fun to have that happen, unless the deejay is a huge celebrity, they rarely draw a crowd. And if they do, the crowd is there to see the talent, not you. That’s okay. Just make sure that what they say on the air to the 99.99% of the listeners who didn’t stop by is on point with your message. That’s the true value.

PPPS Thanks, Linda! You are the best!!

Television – The Super Bowl of Advertising

You watched the Super Bowl for the ads, didn’t you? That’s the trendy thing today. Whether you root for (or against) one of the teams in the game, you tune in mostly to see the ads. I have actually seen Super Bowl Parties where everyone gets a scorecard to rate the ads they see.

In fact, I use the Super Bowl ads and a Super Bowl party as the premise for my book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t).

Television has been, from its moment of inception, one of the greatest media for advertising. Why? Because it combines the three most important elements—Words, Music, and Pictures.

“Use a picture. It is worth a thousand words.”Tess Flanders

Pictures are storytellers by nature. Storytelling is one of the most powerful principles for making ads more effective. With thirty seconds you can tell a powerful, emotional story just with pictures alone.

“Control the music and you control the mood.” -Roy H. Williams

Music is emotion. Music allows you to speak to the heart. Regardless of the words or the visuals, music can change the way people feel quickly and fully. Don’t believe me? Think about the TV Show M*A*S*H.  Can you hear the soothing melodies of the theme song? Feel-good music for sure. Now go ahead and Google the lyrics to this song entitled “Suicide is Painless.” If that isn’t enough to make you scratch your head, check out the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife. Music controls the emotion. (I’ll bet the politicians who try to use the Boss’s song for their campaigns never bothered to read the lyrics.)

“In the beginning was the word …” -John 1:1

Words power the imagination. Words call whole worlds into existence. The right words in the right order can change history. When Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address many people of that day felt it was the worst presidential speech ever, mainly because of its brevity. Most presidential speeches lasted an hour or so. But Lincoln knew the power of fewer, more tightly written words. Now we consider it one of the greatest speeches ever because he said so much in so few words. God spoke the world into existence. You speak worlds into the imagination of your listeners.

What this trifecta means for advertising is that Television Ads have the ability to make a much stronger impact than any other form of advertising out there. A well-crafted television ad can be impactful with only one viewing. Just last month I bought two different flavors of Pringles because of the Super Bowl Ad I saw. Once.

The downside to Television?

  • It is expensive.
  • It is difficult.
  • Fewer and fewer people watch the ads.

It is expensive and difficult to create a great television ad that moves the needle. Just look at how many flops and failures to move the needle we had from this last Super Bowl. And these are companies with millions of dollars at their disposal. Too many companies try to be too clever. You simply need to step back and look at the three elements—pictures, music, words—and make sure they tell the story, invoke the feeling, and implant ideas into the imagination of your viewers so that they think of you first.

It is also expensive and difficult to schedule a television campaign so that your not-so-impactful ad can be seen enough times to make a lasting impression. Unlike radio, where listeners pretty much stick to one channel and don’t switch, television viewers are not as station-loyal. Some stations such as ESPN and HGTV do have a loyal group of followers, but those viewers often have the station on in the background, making your ability to attract their attention even more difficult. Most viewers, however, never let the remote control get out of reach and are quick to change stations as soon as a commercial break begins.

People are using DVR’s, Netflix, and Hulu to avoid advertising as much as possible. I know I am guilty of taping shows to watch later, fast-forwarding through all the commercials. Part of it is that I don’t have time to commit to the full show. I can save about ten minutes an hour watching on my own schedule. Also, frankly, most television ads suck. I don’t want to watch them. Even from its first days as a medium, people used the commercial breaks to go to the bathroom, get more food, or take the dog outside.

If you want to use television to get your branding message out to the world, here are some tips to helps.

  • Choose the words, images, and pictures carefully. They need to tell a story, invoke a feeling, and spur the imagination. Period.
  • Make it about the customer and her life, not about you.
  • Say something memorable, powerful.
  • Have your images move/change slowly. This way your images are more visible to the fast-forwarding crowd.
  • Choose shows or stations that people watch repeatedly. News shows, talk shows, and specialized programming stations are usually best.
  • Change the story (but not the message or the feeling) every three-to-four weeks. Ads grow old quickly, especially when humor is part of the ad. The joke wears thin after several tellings.

If you have the budget, the creative talent, and the knowledge how to use it correctly, Television still works incredibly well for delivering your branding message and driving traffic to your doors.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This is the first post in a series of posts on the different forms of media and how they work best. As I said before, all advertising works, but only if you know how it works best and use it the proper way. One area that Television is becoming less and less effective is in the Hype ads. Not only are Millennials “hype”er-sensitive and skeptical, they are teaching the rest of us to view hype that way. Even though one television ad can be quite impactful, if you have an event or sale to hype, there might be better, more affordable ways of getting your message across than television.

All Advertising Works (And All Advertising Doesn’t)

“Who are you trying to reach?”

That’s pretty much the opening salvo in every advertising salesperson’s repertoire. Give them your answer and voila! “That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!” Then they show you some study that “proves” their advertising works.

Westwood One, a major radio company with stations across the US, commissioned a study to show the ROI of radio advertising. Of course the results were quite promising. Are you surprised that a study by a radio company would show that radio advertising works?

“The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself.” -Winston Churchill

My Yellow Pages salesperson showed me a similar result that when asked where they would go to search for a new business, 87% of the people surveyed said, “The Yellow Pages.” Granted, this was when the Internet was still in its infancy. But it was still false because it asked the question, “What would you do?” instead of, “What did you do?”

Here is the funny thing about advertising …

The advertising salespeople are asking you a question to which you invariably give the wrong answer, yet their response is still accurate.

“Who are you trying to reach?” The right answer is …

People who share my Core Values and believe what I believe.

“That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!”

Of course, all the other media reach those people, too. They also reach a bunch of people who don’t share your Core Values or believe what you believe. You need to target your message, not your media choice, to reach the “right” people.

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, says time and time again that he has never seen an ad campaign fail because it didn’t reach the right people, but he has seen many fail because they didn’t say the right thing.

Although your advertising salesperson doesn’t know he is asking the wrong question (or, frankly, an irrelevant one), that question is not what will derail the success of your advertising campaign. It is the second question he asks (or sometimes fails to ask) that is the real crux of the matter.

“What do you want to say?”

If you cannot answer that question, he’ll put together some template of an ad that sounds like everyone else’s ads and you’ll be lost in the shuffle, unremarkable and unremembered. (You should read Roy’s post on Template Advertising. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

How you answer the second question is the biggest difference between a successful campaign and a waste of time and money. Every form of advertising works and every form of advertising doesn’t work. It is all in how you use them.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS How you answer the second question isn’t the only difference between success and failure. Each media has its strengths and weaknesses. We’ll explore some of those in the coming days.

Reconciling Yes and No

Teddy Roosevelt 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.”

On the other hand, Steve Jobs said, “It’s only by saying ‘No’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Yes and No – both valid answers!

Teddy wants you to take on any job you can. Steve wants you to only take on the important jobs.

Who is right?

Teddy is right when it comes to serving your customers. If a customer asks if you can do something for them that you have never done, you should seriously consider doing it. First, if the customer is asking, the customer must believe it is something you can do. Second, it meets and/or exceeds their expectations, which is the hallmark of WOW Customer Service. Third, it might just become the new calling card you need to set yourself apart from your competitors.

You should always be looking for new ways to take care of your customers.

Steve is right when it comes to advertising. It is easy to “dabble” in advertising, doing a little here and a little there, clinging to the false hope that the more different things you do, the more people you will reach to drive into your store. We mistakenly believe that advertising is simply a numbers game and the more people we reach, the more traffic we’ll get. Yes, it is a numbers game, but not all numbers are equal.

Roy H. Williams often asks the question, “Would you rather convince 100% of the people 10% of the way or 10% of the people 100% of the way? In advertising, both cost the same.” The goal of your advertising is to convince people to visit your store and shop with you. You don’t convince people if all you do is “dabble”. You simply annoy them. It takes time, frequency, and focus to convince the people you reach to finally decide to shop with you. You have to pick and choose your media carefully and then be in full in with that media. If you aren’t, you are wasting your ad budget.

Both are right when it comes to inventory. You need to follow Steve’s advice and make sure you first stock your store with the most important items. When cash flow is tight, focus on the must-haves. Focus on the items that customers come in asking for by name. Make sure you have plenty of the requested items and you’ll make the sales you need to keep the cash flowing. You also need to keep looking for new products and new opportunities. Unless you’re strictly in the commodities business, customers want to see what is new and fresh. If you don’t have new and fresh, you are boring your customers and eventually they won’t bother coming back.

After the must-haves, the second most important inventory spending should be on the brand-new. It keeps your store fresh, keeps your staff energized, keeps your customers returning.

Sometimes you have to follow President Roosevelt. Sometimes you have to follow Mr. Jobs. Knowing when to say Yes and when to say No is the key to your success.

Perhaps Neils Bohr said it best when he said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I used both quotes in presentations lately and it struck me how profound, yet at odds, they both seem to be. I also have found myself using both quotes in my own life. I have been asked to do a lot of new things lately. I have said Yes to creating several new presentations, different from the homerun talks I do. I’ve also said No to some opportunities because they didn’t push forward my main industries of speaking, writing, and consulting. I think knowing when to say No is truly an art, one in which I am still the amateur, but I am learning. How about you?

Two Lessons From Selling a House

I’m typing this while surrounded by boxes, some full, some waiting to be filled. I’ve told you many times I’m not the most organized guy. I fear that most of the contents of my home office are just going to get dumped into whatever open containers are left, to be sorted (if at all) at some later date.

Yes, my house sold. It took seventeen months from listing to closing.

It took seventeen months, a dozen gallons of paint, a new stove, two dozen borrowed items for staging, fifteen open houses, four prices changes (the last one upward), and three written descriptions of the house before the sale happened.

I want to talk about those last two.

For the first year, we started with the house listed at $249,900, hoping to get $230,000 plus. We listed in late July 2016 so we missed the window for the families who wanted to move over the summer and be in the new place before school started. Although we had some traffic early on, most people complained about the old, dated kitchen.

Our old, dated kitchen

To their credit, the kitchen was old. And dated. And included four different types of wood (light maple pergo floors, dark cherry cabinets, dark oak trim around a tile counter, and medium oak trim around the light fixtures, oh and wood paneling—yuck!) But it was also functional and efficient and filled with good, usable storage.

No offers.

We lowered the price to $245,000 and then to $239,900 hoping to refresh the listing (by the way, the comparable values put it in the $250,000 range.) The rest of the first year was all the same. Plenty of traffic. Everyone had the same comments. Loved the location. Loved the spacious rooms. But the kitchen was dated. A few commented that the price was too high because of the kitchen.

No offers.

At the end of the first year I took it off the market for a month. I painted the remaining rooms that had yet to be painted, re-staged it, and put it back on the market at $259,900.

I also rewrote the listing to include the following paragraph …

The kitchen is dated—but completely functional—and will serve you well until you decide to build the kitchen of your dreams and turn this house into the home you’ve always wanted.

The higher price meant fewer lookers, but one thing changed dramatically. Not one person mentioned the kitchen as being an issue. Surprisingly, no one mentioned the price either.

Those two changes led us to the buyer we needed—someone who would see the house for the incredible value that it is, and not be scared away that the kitchen has to be redone.

Through our new price and new description we eliminated all the traffic that was pointless, and only brought the traffic that would be interested in a house like ours.

NEW PRICE

As I have been teaching for years, price is a perception game. In housing, that game has changed dramatically thanks to the Internet. Almost every house hunter goes online first. One of the first filters you use is price. You put a minimum and maximum price into the filters and your search appears. With a price of $249,900, we were at the top end of the $250,000 filter. People who put $250,000 as their top filter are not looking to buy a $249,900 house that needs a $20,000 kitchen. We needed to get out of that search mode.

Going to $259,900 put us into searches for people who put $300,000 as their upper limit. Now our $259,900 price looked like a value. Even with $30K worth of work, the buyer will have a $300,000 house for less than $300,000.

Yes, the perception of this new mode of search is that every house that pulls up in a search of houses between $200,000 and $250,000 has a maximum value of $250,000 because they put “$250,000 maximum value” in their search. Every house that pulls up between $250,000 and $300,000 is likewise a $300,000 home.

By changing our price, we changed the perceived worth of our house. Instead of being an expensive house that needed a lot of work, it went to being a value-priced house that needed a little bit of work.

NEW DESCRIPTION

My agent was good with my new description—even the part about the kitchen being dated. I heard from other people in real estate that you should never say anything negative about a house in the description. I respectfully disagree. By admitting the downside, I earned the trust that the other statements would have a better degree of accuracy.

Most of us know that keywords like “cozy” means “cramped” and “charming” means “hasn’t-been-updated-in-years.” Yet, by admitting the kitchen was dated, not only did it make the other statements feel more truthful, it eliminated any house hunters who didn’t want to remodel a kitchen.

Our traffic was down, but we got a buyer and closed the sale.

The lessons are two-fold.

First, price has a huge impact on the perception of an item. Sometimes a higher price is actually better than a lower price. You have to look at your prices through the eyes of a customer and see what she sees and reads into your prices. Do that and you can find the sweet spot that gets you the most bang for your buck.

Second—and this is something Roy H. Williams has been drilling into my head this entire century—you have to choose who to lose. Through our description and pricing we eliminated a lot of potential buyers, mainly because we knew they weren’t going to be the right buyers. Just having traffic to your website doesn’t make it good traffic. Just having traffic through your door doesn’t make it good traffic. You want to specifically attract your kind of buyers. You do that with your message. Our new message brought us the buyer we needed and got the house sold.

Time to go fill up those boxes.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you ask, we got $230,000. We got where we wanted, but only after attracting the right people. The housing market hasn’t changed much in our area. We didn’t get any offers with the old description and old price during the peak selling season of April to July. We got our first offer during the off-season and only after the new price and new description. (Speaking of off-season, I am currently staring at a snowstorm out my front window that has closed one of the major highways through town. This is Michigan. When they close the highway here, it’s a real storm. Fun for my son because school was closed, but not so fun for packing and moving.)

PPS I apologize for the sporadic posts the last few weeks. It will probably continue into next week as well while we make the move. Stay tuned, though. I have some fun thoughts for how we can make 2018 amazing. You might want to tell your other retailer friends to sign up for the blog here.