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Painting the Picture on the Web

I had a lunch meeting earlier this week at one of my favorite restaurants—Mat’s Cafe. Mat makes the best pulled pork I have ever had. I have eaten there so much that there is even an off-menu item called “The Toy Man” (a plate of his award-winning pulled pork and mac & cheese). You order and pay at the counter and they bring your food right to your table. Sit there long enough and they might even bus your table when you’re done.

The only problem is that there are no signs telling you this. There is a big menu hanging over the counter, but after that, you’re on your own guessing what to do next. (Did you get a fork from the table over by the wall? Did you grab a cup and get your drink or pick one out of the cooler over on the other wall? Did you realize the menu was just a suggestion and that Mat and his team will pretty much make you anything they can with the ingredients on hand?)

Image result for mats cafe and catering jackson mi
(Zeke Jennings, MLive)

Fortunately for my lunch partners making their first visit to Mat’s, I was there to help them navigate. Also fortunately for Mat’s, the food is so damn good that you aren’t deterred by any barriers or confusion that can be off-putting for many people.

We are creatures of habit. We like to do things that are familiar more often than we like to do things that are different. Different is scary. Not knowing how to do something is scary. Not sure of the procedures is frustrating and scary and often enough to keep a new person from trying you out. Only a small percentage of the population prefers the unknown over the familiar.

Roy H. Williams once said, “People only do that which they have already seen themselves do in their own mind.” We like to visualize before we actually do. That is why new and different and unknown are so scary.

That is why gaining new customers is far more work than just keeping the old.

That is also why you need a phenomenal website that helps your customers visualize visiting your store and know all your quirky procedures before they have to take that risk.

In today’s market, your advertising may reach the masses, but your website is where many individuals go first to visit you. They want to see whether you are worth the time and effort to actually visit. They want to know what to expect. They want to feel like an insider before they even arrive. Does your website paint the right picture? Does your website show customers what a visit to your store looks and feels like? Does your website give customers knowledge they need to have the best possible experience in your store?

If I was Mat, I would have a big picture of the counter where you place your order and content that read …

Welcome to Mat’s!
Follow your nose up to the front counter where you’ll find a menu over your head of the delicious meals we will make for you. Although we’re well known for our pulled pork and mac & cheese (both award-winners in MLive’s contests for best foods in Michigan), we can make you whatever sounds scrumptious from the ingredients you see on the board. Place your order, grab your drink and utensils, and choose a seat (the best table is in the front window). We’ll bring you your food fresh and fast. 

You’ll notice how in one short paragraph I painted the picture of what will happen when you enter and when you order. That knowledge is power. I also was able to squeeze in the fact that their specialty is pulled pork and mac & cheese, they’ll customize anything you want, and they can get you in and out on your lunch hour.

Here is some counter intuitive advice … When you build your website, don’t look at other websites for what to do. Look instead at what actions you want your customer to take. Look instead at how you can get your customers to visualize visiting your store. Look instead at what questions your customers will have about you and how easily you can answer them.

Build the website that paints the picture your customers want to see, not the website that follows a template to look like every other website out there. Then your website will be an effective tool to drive new traffic through your door.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Once you’ve designed your website around your customer, make sure it does have the familiar elements like About Us, Contact Us, Our Products, Get Directions, etc. Build it around exactly what questions you expect a new customer to ask and what actions you want them to take. Don’t make them “go looking” for answers. They won’t.

PPS Building a website based on everyone else’s website is a common mistake most small businesses make in their advertising. In fact, most of their advertising, regardless of the medium ends up being a copy of someone else. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “if everyone is doing it, it must be right.” Most businesses get advertising wrong. The best way to get it right is to first learn how advertising works. Attend the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop coming up on Tuesday, June 20th and you’ll know what works and why. Sign up today!

The Value Equation

As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation.

The Value Equation is this … Does the Perceived Worth of an item equal its Actual Price?

We beg for the price because we are always at least subconsciously calculating Perceived Worth on everything we see. We’ve been doing it our whole adult lives. We do it shopping for groceries. We do it shopping for tools. We do it shopping for clothes. As we walk the store we attach a Perceived Worth to everything we see. (If we don’t want it, the PW is zero. If we might want it, we attached a price to it and check to see if we are right.) 

When the Perceived Worth equals the Actual Price, we put the item in our cart.

The surprise is often in finding our Perceived Worth is far higher than the Actual Price. The first question we usually ask when that happens is, “What’s wrong with it?” or, “Is this marked down?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Wow, it must not be as good as I thought it would be.” Before we buy the product, we have to answer those questions satisfactorily.

That’s why it is easy to under-price yourself to bankruptcy (or at least leave serious dollars on the table.)

The other problem is when your Perceived Worth is much lower than the Actual Price. You either totally dismiss the product as being “out of my range” or you wonder what you missed in your evaluation of the product.

Take, for example, the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class I am offering. I have to find that sweet spot of a price that fits what you believe a class like this should be worth.

I start by taking cues from what other similar programs charge. For instance, Bob Negen’s Whizbang Training two-day Retail Success Summit this summer is currently $997.  My buddy Tim Miles just announced a one-day workshop with Roy H. Williams, himself, for $1250. (By the way, I highly recommend both programs, and, no, I don’t get any kickbacks from these links.)

My workshop is $250* for a half-day —similar to Bob’s price for two days. Some of you will look at the price and see that it is about what you’d expect to pay for other, similar types of training. Some of you will look at the price and ask, “Where’s the value? What do I get in return?”

So I also look at the benefits you will get from the program. For instance, in this four-hour program you get:

  • Eight ways to market your business with little or no money at all
  • How to get free publicity from the media
  • How to craft a message that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon – three things that are incredibly hard to accomplish in today’s fractured, over-saturated media world
  • How best to use the media of your choice (and tips on how to choose the best media for your business)
  • Four ways to generate more Word-of-Mouth advertising than you ever thought possible
  • One year of advertising support including help with your message, your campaign, your media buys, or wherever you have questions or need advice.
  • Half-rate discounted tuition for any future programs I offer through Jackson Retail Success Academy™.

Some of you will still balk at the price. That’s okay. I know I won’t convince everyone.

Some of you will think that seems like a pretty fair trade for $250 and four hours of your time.  You’ll sign up now for the class on Tuesday, June 20th.

Others will wonder why the price is so low for all that you get. Most of you in that frame of mind have either been to one of my programs before or live in a city where prices for stuff like this are just a bit higher than they are in Jackson. Remember, Helping Others is one of my Core Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS If your business or you personally have taken one of my workshops through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™, you qualify for the Half-Price Alumni rate of $125.

PPS Why the half-price tuition for JRSA™ alumni? I believe strongly in continuing education. Now that I make my living speaking and writing, I am reading more blogs and books on speaking and writing, and I am attending workshops to learn all I can in those fields. I want to encourage anyone who takes one of my workshops to come back for refreshers or other programs, or maybe send a staff member to learn more. Plus, you’re always looking for a better deal. You know these classes are worth it at almost any price. Half-price just makes you feel good.

Spotlight on Marketing & Advertising Class Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Here is your chance to learn the equivalent of a degree in advertising in just one night. As one MBA professor told me after sampling the material, “No one is teaching this stuff even at our level, and it needs to be learned!”

If you are a small business owner, you should take this class.
If you are an entrepreneur, you should take this class.
If you are a student studying business at any level, you should take this class.

SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING 

Next Class: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – 6pm to 10pm

Tuition: $250 (Half-price for any businesses that are JRSA™ Alumni)

Famed retailer John Wanamaker said it best, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year. Most of it poorly.

This Spotlight covers everything from how different types of advertising work to the best ways to use social media to marketing on a shoestring budget to learning the secrets to getting the press to talk about you. You will learn best practices for marketing your business whether your ad budget is $500 or $50,000. You will learn how to create memorable messages that move customers toward your business and you toward your goals. You will learn how to get far more out of your advertising dollars than any of your competitors.

When you take this class you will get…

  • Better, Smarter, More Effective Advertising – You’ll learn secrets that only a handful of businesses know that get greater results per dollar than any of your competitors.
  • One full year of Advertising Support including help finding your message, creating a campaign and buying ad packages
  • A Network of current and previous JRSA™ graduates for support and encouragement
  • Half-Price Tuition for any future JRSA™ programs

Click here to sign up for the class.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, this will include the material from my new book MOST ADS SUCK. That will only make up about 25% of the material covered. If you have a business to market, this will be the best money you’ve spent on “advertising” ever.

The Power of Storytelling

“Phil, the Marshall Community still talks about your presentation on advertising.” That’s the message I received late last night from Scott Fleming, the head of Marshall Area Economic Development Authority. Scott hired me to do the presentation based on my new book Most Ads Suck. I did the presentation a week ago and he is still receiving positive feedback. He’s going to help me promote this presentation to other groups like his.

Phil presenting for Marshall Area Economic Development Authority

One of my favorite parts about doing this presentation is the stories I get to tell. I told the story of a jeweler in rural Washington. I told the story of a couple of my trips to Wizard Academy. I told the story of the copywriter and the frying pans. I told the story of how I made Sheila cry on her birthday (Shelia and I laughed about that story last night at a high school band concert her daughter and my son were in.) I told the story of my first Christmas Eve working at Toy House at the age of fourteen and how I should have known then that I was destined to make people happy. I told the story of my boys plummeting to certain death in the fastest, ugliest sled ever created. I told the story of how customers used to approach me at the grocery store to ask what was going on in the men’s bathroom at Toy House.

Not only do stories make presentations more powerful and memorable, stories do the same for your advertising and your business. In fact, one of the six principles outlined in my book and on stage is Tell a Story. Stories fire up the brain differently than simple facts and figures.

Here is what other people are saying about stories …

Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tells you, “Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them.” (10-16-2013, www.fastcocreate.com)

Rachel Gillett says, “When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.” (6-4-2014 www.fastcompany.com)

Pamela B. Rutledge, Ph.D., M.B.A. writing for Positively Media, “Stories are how we are wired. Stores take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses.” (1-16-2011 www.psychologytoday.com)

Catrinel Bartolomeu says, “Unlike statistics, stories trigger emotions—actual physical and chemical changes in our body.” (11-10-16 www.contently.com)

Yes, stories change you physically and chemically. Stories happen in your brain as if you were in the story yourself. Stories are more powerful than data.

Start telling stories in your advertising and you will start seeing a different, better result.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Please help me get this book printed. Go to the Indiegogo Campaign and make a donation today. Not only will you get an autographed copy of the book, if you make a large enough donation you can get a live webinar, or even a half-day workshop at your place for you and your fellow business owners.

PPS Here is the meta of all metas. One of the companies featured in the Samples chapter of the book is a company that tells your story for you in the form of a magazine for you to use to advertise your business. In other words, a story about telling stories for advertising features advertising stories about a company that writes stories for advertising. That will make your head spin!

What Your Website Needs

You’re not going to do it yourself. You’re too busy. You have ordering and managing your inventory, hiring and training your staff, processing all the paperwork, creating and executing an advertising campaign, and all the other stuff like merchandising, selling, and even cleaning the bathroom on your to-do list. The last thing you want to do is learn how to build your own website.

I get that.

Instead you’re going to hire someone else, tell them what you want and trust their expertise to get it done. A good web designer will ask you a few questions, maybe even get you to write some of the content. A great web designer will dig a whole lot deeper.

Your website is the most important tool in your advertising and marketing toolbox. It is often the first contact someone has with your business. It sets the mood, creates the expectations, and tells people what you believe. It is the salesman who is working while you’re tucked safely between the sheets after a long day of unpacking boxes and putting out fires. It is the yellow pages of information that helps people find when you’re open, where you’re located, and what you offer. It is an expectation of today’s digital natives that you will have a mobile-ready website that answers all their questions.

To help you find that great web designer (or maybe turn a good one into a great one), here are a few things you should know your website needs.

GOALS

Your website needs to have an overall goal, a purpose. Is it to drive traffic to your store or drive sales on your eCommerce pages? Those are totally different sites. You have to decide which one. Your goal has to be clear on every single page what you want people to do.

Speaking of every single page, each page should also have its own goal, or more importantly its own call to action. What do you want someone viewing this page to do? Click on a link to another page? Make that clear. Call the store? Make that clear. Buy a product? Make that clear. Go back to the Home page? Make that clear.

VALUES

Simon Sinek, in his famous TEDx talk said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

What do you believe? What are your values? Do you spell out those beliefs? Roy H. Williams is getting all of his clients to rewrite their About Us pages and spell out their beliefs. (Mine are spelled out here. The Toy House’s beliefs were spelled out here.)

You need to make your beliefs known. You need to let your Core Values shine through on every page. Your best customers will be those who share your values. Speak to your tribe. Let them know you are here.

YOUR CUSTOMER

Make it about your customer. Think about all the reasons why your customer would visit your site. Are you solving your customer’s needs? Are you answering her questions? Are you making her life better, easier, more fun, more convenient? Are you speaking directly to her? Imagine one customer in your head, your best customer. What does she look like? Talk like? Act like? Write all of your content directly at her and no one else. Speak to her in her language. Assuage her fears. Make her feel comfortable. Let her know that you understand her and you will make her life better. Make her the true star of your website.

Now go find a great web designer (or become one yourself – there is power in being able to tweak your content any time you want.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, you can actually have eCommerce and drive-traffic-to-the-store on the same website. You just have to have different landing pages and different calls to action for the different ways those two different customers might search your site. It takes skill and an amazing web designer to pull it off. If you don’t have that (yet), choose one or the other and make it work.

 

Happy Valentines Day (or Harnessing the Power of the Heart)

People don’t buy products. They buy feelings. You aren’t selling toys or pet supplies or carpeting. You’re selling joy, contentment, pride, satisfaction. You’re selling the way someone feels after she makes the purchase. You’re selling the heart. For you, every day is Valentine’s Day.

How would your business change if instead of selling products, you decided to sell joy? Pure, unfiltered, even-the-toes-are-tingling joy. How do you sell joy? How do you service joy? How do you show off joy? Sure changes what you say to the customer, doesn’t it?

“You’ll find joy because…”
“This will bring you joy when…”
“The joy is in…”

Maybe you sell nostalgia. Here is an ad I wrote for the 2006 Christmas season (one of our best ever)…

Christmas Eve, nineteen sixty-five. He didn’t know if he would make it. Nine months of active duty, he missed his family. And he was an uncle now. His sister had a baby girl, a precious little child for which a stuffed animal from an airport gift shop just wouldn’t do. As his dad picked him up in the family sedan, he asked, “We got time to stop by the Toy House?” “Of course, son. Welcome home.” Merry Christmas from the Toy House in downtown Jackson where Christmas magic happens.

The big box stores sell commodities. That’s the race to the bottom. You sell emotions. That’s the race to the top. The key is to know which emotions you are selling. Get that right and you’ll own the hearts of all your customers all year long without having to buy them chocolates or flowers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We sold Nostalgia, Fun, Education, and Help. Wanna know what you should be selling? Read the article Understanding Your Brand and then download the Branding Worksheets. Email me if you get stuck.

How Do I Make My Emails More Interesting?

I said earlier that you should send out an email newsletter only when you have something new and interesting to say. Coming up with something new is easy. As a retailer you have more new products and new events and stories than you could ever find time to write them up – especially since it takes so much of your energy to write them up in an interesting way.

Here are some easy easy-to-follow templates to make your emails more interesting. (Think of it as Mad Libs for retailers.)

NEW PRODUCTS

Simply finish these three statements.

  1. I bought this product for the store because…
  2. You should buy this product because…
  3. When you use this product you will get…

You can give them all the facts, but what people really want to know is how will this product impact their lives. The first question reminds them you are the expert. The next two questions help them understand why they need this product and what life will be like when they own it. Get them to visualize owning it. People only do in real life what they have already seen in their own mind. Use phrases like, “When you use this…”

NEW EVENTS

Yes people need to know when and where and if there is a charge. That is a single line below the title of the event.

Disney Princess Dance
Saturday, February 17 at 6pm – FREE

After that you follow a similar template as above to get your potential crowd to visualize attending. Use phrases like these…

  1. [Expected Audience] will love coming to…
  2. You will… [talk about what they will do]
  3. You’ll walk away with… [benefits of attending]

STORIES

Telling stories about your staff or your vendors or how you got where you are today help you build relationships and set yourself up as the expert they can trust. Stories make you real. Stories give your fans something to share with their friends.

Here are some easy ways to start your stories…

  • “You know [staff name], but did you know…?” (Then tell them something interesting, cool, weird, unknown.)
  • “You bought many things from [vendor] but did you know they…?” (Then tell them something interesting, cool, weird, unknown.)
  • “You know us as [current reputation] but there was a time when…” (Then tell them something interesting about your history that led you to here.)

Stories don’t have to be long. They just have to capture someone’s interest. In fact, the shorter the story, the more memorable and easier to share.

You don’t have to be a great writer to write interesting emails. Just use these simple templates to keep the focus on what is in it for your customers. Make it about them, not about you, and your engagement will go way up.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Go back through this email and see how many times I used the word “you” versus “me” or “I”. The easiest way to make your emails more about your customer is liberal use of the words “you” and “your”.

How Often Should You Send Your Email Newsletter?

Google the question, “How often should you send your email newsletter?” and you’ll get a plethora of answers. According to my inbox, Lands End seems to think the answer is several times a day. For others it is daily. One report that actually surveyed US adults is suggesting weekly or monthly. In that survey the number one reason people who opted into your mailing list still mark you as spam is because you emailed too frequently.

On the other hand, send out your email too infrequently and they’ll forget about you.

The true answer to How Often is, “Whenever you have something new and interesting to say.”

Every week you should have something new to say…

A new product…
A new story…
A new display…
A new event…

Just make sure you say something new… and interesting.

Don’t tell me about your new product. Tell me why you bought it and why you think I need it and how it will benefit me. Don’t tell me about your new event. Tell me why you are doing the event, why I should come, and how it will benefit me.

Rick Seigel, a retail consultant, used to include a joke at the bottom of each email. He knew the joke made people more likely to open the email and scroll all the way to the bottom, whether they read the rest of the email or not. It was new, fun, and interesting.

You have to say something new and say something interesting. Do those two things and you’ll never be accused of sending out too many emails. (Well, okay, there is always one in every crowd. Ignore him.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS What is black and white and red all over? An ugly blog template. (More bad blog jokes here.)

PPS Add your media contacts to your email list. Keep them in the loop of what is new with you. You never know when they need a new story that dovetails nicely with what you’re doing.

PPPS Yes, make sure you always share your newsletter on your social media platforms. I regularly got more comments and interaction on Facebook than I did from the actual email.

Friends With Benefits

Align yourself with charity. Pick one or two local organizations (or more if you’re up to it) that you feel strongly about. Do something special for them. Help them out. Be their friend and ally.

You’ll both benefit from the friendship.

Santa Paws 2015 #1

This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society doing their annual Santa Paws event – pictures of your pet with Santa Claus. They called me a few weeks ago looking for a space to take the pictures. I have a stage. I love dogs – especially rescued dogs. I said yes.

They coordinate getting Santa here. They hire the photographer. They set up the backdrop. They sign up and schedule the photo shoots. They work the tables. They get the profits.

We get the traffic. We get the goodwill. We get the customers telling us how nice it is that we are doing this for them. We get the social media exposure. We get exposed to everyone on their mailing list. We get our name mentioned in their press releases (and non-profit press releases get picked up far more often than for-profit press releases).

Our friendship with them brings benefits to both of us.

When you partner with a charity, you expand your reach. You get exposure to a crowd of generous people who love to give to charitable causes (can you think of a better demographic for the independent retailer?). You get touchy feely goodwill because you are helping out. You don’t just look like a greedy merchant. You strengthen your community (the better the non-profits do, the better everyone does).

Make friends with a charity or two. You’ll reap the benefits.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your charity doesn’t have to be aligned with what you sell. We don’t sell pet toys or pet food. Pick charities based on a few different factors such as…

  • Do they have an active base of followers?
  • Do they want to “partner” with you (or simply have you do all the work)?
  • Do they align with your own personal core values?
  • Are they well-respected in the community?

Those are all good reasons for making friends.

My Big Fat Email Subject Line Mistake

Your subject line is the most important part of your email. Period.

Get it right and your email is a success. Get it wrong and nothing else matters. I learned that the hard way yesterday.

We’re doing a big promotion on Election Day. Something new. The subject line in my email read…

“Election Day ONLY – 20% Off all Gift Certificate Sales! See inside for details…”

The first two people I talked to about the promotion asked the same question. “Do we get 20% off the purchase of a gift certificate or 20% off purchases made with a gift certificate?”

I went back and read the content of the email. It clearly states that you get 20% off the purchase of a gift certificate. How did they get so confused? Then I read the subject line again. I saw the error of my ways. It wasn’t as clear and concise as it should have been. I left room for interpretation.

TWO LESSONS

First, before you send an email, understand that many people will only ever read the subject line. They get so much email that they scan subject lines and hit the delete button. Therefore your subject line has to get your point across clearly and quickly with no room for doubt. Clever and cutesie subject lines leave too much room for interpretation. There should be no doubt about the purpose of your email. There should be only one interpretation of your subject line.

The best way to make sure your subject line is tight and to the point is to ask for help. Ask someone outside of your bottle to read your subject line and tell you what it means to them. Try to ferret out all the possible meanings. Then rewrite it to eliminate any confusion or misinterpretation.

Second, if you can’t make your point in the subject line, perhaps because it is too nuanced or complicated, then make sure your subject line has enough enticement to make people want to open the email. According to MailChimp, the average open rate for email from retailers is about 22%. In other words, 8 out of 10 people likely won’t open your email. You have to give them a reason.

Make it clear. Make it concise. Make it work for the 8 out of 10 that don’t open emails. Make it legitimate and not sounding too spammy. Make your subject line get people to want to open your email.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS In case you’re wondering why I am doing a promotion like this for the store, here are the reasons…

  1. I get a huge influx of cash right when I need it most to help stock up for Christmas.
  2. Customers who redeem gift certificates often spend much more that what the gift certificate was worth.
  3. I get my customers to commit to shopping with me now before some shiny bauble from someone else catches their eye later.
  4. I get to promote Election Day as an important day.
  5. My Transactional Customers get a great deal!
  6. About 10% of all gift certificates go un-redeemed, so I’m really only giving away a small bit of margin.