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Origin Stories – Getting People to Talk Part 2

We were sharing our origin stories at the hotel lobby bar last weekend. I was attending the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy as a speaker instead of a retailer. As a speaker I get to meet a whole bunch of new retailers.

One of them asked me how I got my start as a speaker. Another asked me how I got into the toy business. Pretty soon we were all sharing those stories. They were all quite fascinating.

Phil Wrzesinski on Toy House Float in Rose Parade 1970
Phil Wrzesinski, age 3, riding the Toy House float in the Jackson County Rose Parade 1970

One guy had an earlier career working for Publishers Clearing House. Another was a nanny. Several toy store owners I have met over the years were former teachers. I was working with juvenile delinquents before selling toys full time, but my first job at Toy House was riding on the float for the Rose Parade. When we get together we share those stories with flair and pizzazz.

Yet outside of our industry get-togethers I never seem to hear those origin stories.

Stories are fun to share. Stories posted on websites or told in ads or shared on social media come with an implicit authorization to share them. And many of these stories are Shareworthy.

In fact, many of the origin stories of the products you sell are Shareworthy, too. You probably have already heard how the Slinky was supposed to be a spring for keeping sensitive ship equipment safe and steady. You also may know that Play-Doh was originally designed to be a wallpaper cleaning compound.

When I launched the new and improved Toy House website a few years ago, I included a less-than-brief history full of pictures and details of our 67+ years of business, including how and why we got our start. I did the long form of our history with all the photos because Nostalgia was one of our Core Values.

I was surprised how much word-of-mouth it garnered, too.

On several occasions I had customers tell me how they had heard one of the facts from that page. That was an unexpected benefit.

We love to share stories.

Men love to tell stories because we speak vertically. For men, communication is like a ladder. Did what I say raise me up in your eyes or lower me down? Knowing and sharing a story raises me up a rung. (Asking directions lowers me down. Ladies, now you know why your guy won’t ask.)

Women love to tell stories because they speak more horizontally. Did what I say draw me in closer or push me away? A story is just an excuse to draw your friends in closer and bring them into your world of knowledge. (Men, now you know why she wants to ask for directions. It gets her into the inner circle.)

If you want people to talk about your business, you have to give them something to talk about.

Start telling the origin stories of your business, your products, and your services. You’ll be amazed at how quickly those stories make the rounds.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Over-the-Top Design and Story Telling are just two of the five different ways you can generate Word-of-Mouth for your store. As I told the audience at my talk last weekend, there are two types of customers who aren’t shopping with you right now: A) Those who don’t know you, B) Those who think they know you. That second group will only change their mind through word-of-mouth from their friends. To learn the other three methods, check out this.

PPS “Our History” was buried as a link off our “About Us” page. The About Us page needs to first establish those Core Values and begin building the relationship before you’ll get people to start sharing your stories. That’s why social media is an even better platform. Those people have already bought into you and your store. It was made for sharing. Give people something worth sharing.

Give Them Something to Talk About (Part 1)

My eyes always glazed over. Didn’t matter if it was Toy Fair, ASTRA, the All Baby & Child Expo (ABC), the Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association (JPMA) Trade Show, or SuperZoo. By the end of the day my eyes were glassy, my pupils were dilated, and my senses were overloaded. One booth after another melded into the landscape until none of them stood out.

” … until none of them stood out.”

Last Monday I walked the tradeshow floor at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. The day before, I did a presentation about how to get people to talk about your business. One of the ways is to have Over-the-Top Design.

Have some element of your store (or booth)be it the design of your building (like Estes Ark in Estes Park, CO), an element of your store like the chalkboards or directional signs we had in front and on the side of our building, an element inside your store such as our Circus Mirrors, Electric Train Display, or LEGO building/racing ramp, or even through the products you might sell such as the 32,000 piece puzzle we had that weighed 42 pounds and was almost 18 feet long when finished—be so crazy and unexpected that customers have to tell their friends about it.

Eighteen rows of vendor booths later and only two stood out.

Lenny and Mark from Marky Sparky

The first was Marky Sparky. Mark Rappaport and his company Marky Sparky had been honored earlier that morning as the ASTRA Vendor of the Year, an honor well-deserved. The day before, he and his sales manager Lenny Breeden sat through my presentation on word-of-mouth. Lenny came up afterwards and said, “Wait until you see our booth tomorrow.” He was right.

What they did was simple. It didn’t cost much either. But it was innovative, unexpected, interactive, and fun. Mark created a “target” for their Faux Bow out of straws jammed into a box. Now you could shoot their indestructible foam/plastic arrows into the target and they would stick just like real arrows into a bale of hay. People were lining up to take turns shooting the bow.

At the end of the day, when I asked retailers what they saw that looked cool, the most common answer was, “Did you see the target at Marky Sparky? That was cool!”

Marky Sparky was winning the battle of word-of-mouth.

The second most common booth I heard about was selling jumbo hula hoops. Yes, jumbo! Hoops that were close to six feet in diameter! Apparently the larger the hoop, the easier it is to hula. These were designed to help adults get into hula-hooping (and the fabulous core exercises it offers). The booth stood out, not only because of the number of old people like me trying to hoop for the first time in thirty years, but because they had over-sized a product we all knew and loved. Interactive, unexpected, and larger-than-life fun.

In a trade show filled with 18 aisles of booths and over 500 vendors, only two booths had done something so over-the-top to stand out among the rest. I saw booths without decorations. I saw booths simply filled with chrome or wood shelves and products displayed military-style on those shelves. Some booths had active people manning the booth jumping out in front of us to shove catalogs in our hands as we walked the aisles. Other booths had people sitting in chairs staring at their phones, wondering why no one was stopping. But only two had done something worth talking about.

You have to do something to stand out.

This applies to any business anywhere. Whether you are a booth at a trade show, a retailer in a crowded retail market, or even an advertiser during the Super Bowl, all that matters is at the end of the day, are people talking about you? If they are talking about you, you’re winning. If they aren’t, you’ve melded into the landscape and become invisible, forgettable.

Yesterday I talked about the importance of change. One thing you need to change right now is to add some design element that is so over-the-top that people say, “OMG! Did you see that??!!” 

It can be outside where people see it driving by. It can be inside that gets people into the store. It can be a display or demo. It can even be a product you “sell” (we never expected to sell our 32,000 piece puzzle, we just used it to get people to talk—and sold three of them!!)

For best effect, make it unexpected, interactive, and larger-than-life fun.

Nice job, Mark & Lenny!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There was one other booth with a WOW Factor. The folks at Spooner Boards had a ramp for their mini-surfboard type toys and were showing off their product by doing tricks and stunts on the ramp. The problem is, they’ve done that every year so it wasn’t unexpected. Change. Once you set the bar high, you need to keep raising it higher to get more word-of-mouth. That’s why we were constantly adding new elements of over-the-top design to Toy House over the years.

PPS This is Part 1. I’ll tell you some other ways to get people to talk about you in future posts.

Five, Ten, Fifteen Years Ago

Do you remember the start of the Great Recession back in 2008? Did you see it coming? Were you prepared in advance, ready for it?

Okay, you can stop laughing. No one saw it coming. Very few were prepared. Yet if you remember it and are reading this blog, it means you likely survived the Great Recession.

No matter how you got through those tough years, I’ll bet your business looks a lot different now than it did in 2007. I’ll bet for most of you, today’s version of your store only merely resembles the store you had fifteen, ten, or even five years ago.

Things change. We learn new stuff. We grow. We adapt.

The business model that worked in the 80’s (open your doors, stand back, and watch the traffic roll in) wouldn’t last a month in today’s retail climate.

Here is another truth …

Flag Raising circa early 1970’s

The store you’re running five years from now will only merely resemble the store you’re running today. 

The name will be the same. The Core Values will be the same. Some of the services will be the same (some will be unnecessary, some will be enhanced). Some of the fixtures will still be there (but hopefully not in the same place as today).

August 6, 2016 Flag Raising

Yesterday, at the annual business meeting of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), the past chairperson, Ann Kienzle, gave a speech. Apparently she had heard from some ASTRA members who were there twenty-six years ago at the first meeting, where less than fifty people got together to do something for the independent specialty toy retailing industry. This past weekend the attendance was measured in the thousands.

Those people noted how ASTRA looks a lot different than it did just ten or fifteen years ago. I wasn’t there to know if they said it with admiration or disdain. I only know what Ann said at the meeting.

“I’ve heard from some of the original members of ASTRA who noted that ASTRA doesn’t look anything like it did fifteen years ago. You should be proud of that. … If we looked the same today as we did fifteen years ago, you should be hugely disappointed.”

The reality for ASTRA and for you is if you look the exact same as you did fifteen years ago, you’re likely already out of business. In fact, it would be harder to stay the same than to change and grow because the atrophy (and apathy) would take you down more and more each year.

If you have been in business the last fifteen years, as Ann said, you should be proud of what you’ve done. Your business has changed and will continue to change.

I have said often that you should always be changing. Here are previous posts that tell you how or what to change …

JULY 6, 2017 – Some Things Change, Some Things Shouldn’t

AUGUST 9, 2017 – The Biggest Thing That Needs to Change

JUNE 15, 2012 – When and What to Change

SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 – A History Lesson About Change

APRIL 14, 2009 – What to Change, What to Keep the Same

I can’t tell you exactly what your store will look like in five years. Like you, I was blindsided by the housing crisis of 2008. But if your store more closely resembles your Core Values and has changed everything else that wasn’t productive or consistent with those values, it will look like my favorite store—an OPEN one!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you change what needs to be changed, do me a favor. Make it Over-the-Top! Go big or go home. Put the WOW Factor into it. Give people something to talk about. I’ll give you some ideas of what I’m talking about later this week.

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.

That One Memorable Thing

I was in Orlando for a trade show a few years back. I met up with some friends and the five of us headed to a steakhouse for dinner. It was one of those meals you talk about forever.

I could start with the off-menu ordering of a 20oz Filet Mignon so tender you could almost cut it with a fork. I could mention that three of us foolishly decided to add lobster tails to our entree. I say foolishly because that lobster was as good as if I had been transported to Maine. You couldn’t stop eating it, even after finishing off a perfectly grilled steak.

But the biggest, most pleasant mistake of the evening was ordering dessert. We shouldn’t have. We were all stuffed beyond belief. But someone had told us to make sure we ordered the chocolate fudge cake. At any other meal the five of us might have ordered a couple desserts to split among the table if we ordered dessert at all, but we were already pleasantly full and even considered passing on dessert. On this night we only ordered one. It was the best and worst move of the night.

Image result for charley's steak house chocolate cake
Charley’s Steak House Chocolate Fudge Cake

The slice of cake arrived and it stood almost a foot tall! It was taller than it was wide, three scrumptious layers of the richest, most moist chocolate cake I have ever eaten, with a hint of orange and a chocolate fudge frosting I could have taken a bath in. Thank God we only ordered one because, like the rest of the meal, we couldn’t stop eating it despite how much we had already eaten. I wish, however, that we had ordered a second one to go. I have dreamed about that cake several times since.

You have a meal like that in your memory.

We all have that memory of an experience that went far above and beyond what we expected. The details are burned into our minds, especially that one detail of the most unexpected moment, like when that towering slice of cake arrived. They didn’t have to make that cake that tall. It was so good that an average sized slice would have still been shareworthy. You could argue that they were probably losing money on that cake. I will argue back that they were buying advertising with that cake.

If you ever go to Charley’s Steak House in Orlando, I will tell you that you HAVE to order the cake. So will any others who have done so before. It is hard to order that cake when you’ve just eaten such a huge, wonderful meal, but you will because I told you to. You will because of word-of-mouth of someone who went before you, just as we did because of someone that went before us. Heck, you probably weren’t even planning a trip to Charley’s until I told you to go get the cake.

Think back on your favorite meal in a restaurant. What stands out? You will find that one unexpected surprise, that one detail that you build your entire story around when you tell your friends.

Now ask yourself …

What experience does a customer have in your store that is so unexpected and surprisingly delightful that they will have to tell their friends about it?

That’s how you generate word-of-mouth. You have to have that One. Memorable. Thing. It isn’t something you advertise, it is simply something you do so over-the-top that people have to share it with their friends.

Bonnie Raitt said it best. “Let’s give them something to talk about.”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you do what everyone else does, you don’t get talked about. You just fade into the landscape. Do something different. Do something no other business in your market would even think of doing. If it costs you a little money, think of it as an advertising expense. It pays in the long run. Just think how many times Charley got to add a piece of cake to the bill, not because he advertised it, but because he made it so memorable that I advertised it for him.

Stories From Toy Fair

The big show for the toy industry starts this weekend. It feels weird not gearing up for the trip to NYC. So instead of a trip to New York, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite stories…

Toy Fair LEGO Booth 2010

This first story goes back to my grandfather, Mayor Phil Conley’s first trip back in 1950. Munn Furman (Furman’s Clothing) pulled him aside and told him the vendors there did their “credit check” by the thread count of his jacket. Munn gave my grandfather a new suit to wear and told Phil to pay him for it after the trip. Sure enough, the first showroom my grandfather entered, the guy vigorously shook his right hand saying hello and welcome, all the while rubbing the shoulders and back of the suit coat with his left hand. My grandfather knew immediately he would be paying Munn for that suit (and that suit was already paying for itself!)

Lesson? Appearances do matter. They did back then and they do today. Make a good first impression if you want to be taken seriously.

My dad had an interesting story of being in a showroom once back in the early 80’s when the Toys R Us buyer entered the room. The man talking to my dad left him in mid-sentence – yes, with half a word still dangling in the air – to go meet the TRU guy. Another gentleman came and escorted my parents from the showroom as they closed shutters and locked doors behind them. I had a similar experience in a booth two decades later when a salesperson actually said, “You’re not as important to me as the Toys R Us buyer. You can find your way out.” In both cases, those companies lost our business. In both cases those companies were out of business long before we were. In both cases, politeness would have gone a long way.

Lesson? Sure, your best customers deserve top-level attention. But then again, so do all your other customers. If either company had been polite and apologetic toward my dad or me, they wouldn’t have lost any customers that day.

One of my favorite booths was Education Outdoors. They had a hunting lodge feel to their booth. Tim and Jesse were always welcoming and friendly. They had two camp chairs in the booth. Usually I would see them late in the day. After two days walking the concrete floors lugging a few hundred pounds of catalogs, those camp chairs felt like Lazy Boy recliners. One year I got to their booth and my phone battery was dead. They had paid extra to have electricity in their booth and let me plug in my phone and pick it up an hour later. I can count on one hand the number of booths I trusted enough to even ask such a request, let alone trust them to leave my phone behind. Yes, they were always one of my favorite vendors. Probably one of yours, too, if you ever played the game “Camp”.

Lesson? Relationships matter. Trust matters. Helping each other out matters. Little acts of kindness matter. Get those things right and the rest will follow.

My favorite part of attending Toy Fair had to be the basement booths. The basement was filled with a lot of smaller companies. A lot of game inventors were downstairs. Education Outdoors was always downstairs. A lot of single-item toy inventors were downstairs. A lot of treasures to be discovered were downstairs. You had to walk some of the aisles with blinders on. This is where the real salesmanship was happening. Everyone was trying to catch your eye. Everyone had their pitch ready. If you so much as slowed down or glanced in their direction, they pounced.

“This will be bigger than Tickle Me Elmo!”
“Come on, give a small guy a chance…”
“Boo! Made you look. Now you have to stop in the booth!”

Or my favorite line I heard once, “Hey Phil, my friend bet me I couldn’t get you to stop in my booth.”

There were people sitting on chairs in the back of their booths waiting to be discovered. (They never were.) There were people jumping out in front of you as you walked the aisle. It was dog-eat-dog selling. The line that worked best was simply, “Phil, can I show you something new?”

Lesson? Honest, sincere pitches always work best. Gimmicks might get my attention, but never got me to buy. (Same thing with your advertising.)

I don’t miss travel to NYC in mid-February (been there for several feet of snow over the years) but I do miss the trade show, especially the after-hour sessions talking shop with my peers over a few beers. A lot of lessons to be learned for anyone paying attention.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I stopped. But only after he agreed to split his winnings with me. Funny thing is that I don’t remember the booth or the product, only the gimmick.

Is Customer Service Dead?

I just spent several days in Las Vegas for the ABC Expo, the largest trade show for the juvenile product industry.

Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (btw, they mean the money you gamble stays in Vegas).

NO BEER FOR PHIL

One thing that didn’t happen in Vegas was me drinking beer. Not that I didn’t try.

I ordered a beer in a burger & beer joint in one casino. Took almost 20 minutes to arrive. I probably would have had two if I hadn’t filled up on water waiting for the first one.

I ordered a beer at another restaurant just as I started my meal. When the waitress finally returned to see if we wanted our check, I switched it from a tall to a regular.

I understand the concept of not bringing the check in a restaurant until they ask for it, on the hopes that people will continue drinking and run up the tab, but I wasn’t getting either the drink or the tab. It’s hard to pay 20% on over-priced meals when you get service like that.

NO PRICE LISTS EITHER

It wasn’t just the restaurants, either. I was in one of the largest booths on the trade show floor. I asked for a price list so that I could place my order. The sales rep said she was instructed not to give them out.

Huh?

I’m about to write an order equal to one month of your salary. You have a stack of price lists in your arm that I can see clearly. And you won’t give me one? Did you forget why you were here?

Time after time, booth after booth, I had to ask to make sure they gave me a price list with the catalog. It was baffling how hard many of these vendors were making it for us to do business with them.

CUSTOMER SERVICE IS DEAD

Another store owner and I, while waiting for our dinner check, had plenty of time to discuss the general lack of customer service everywhere. We shared stories of trips to the big box stores, department stores, mall stores, and yes, even indie retail stores where the bar was not met.

Think about it. Here are two retailers who understand the challenges of retail. Our bar of expectation is probably more forgiving than others. Yet we were lamenting how we couldn’t find anyone to consistently give us even simple basic customer service.

Yet a new survey from SAP SE says that one of the keys to future growth is, “Improve the in-store experience, because while a focus for many years on the in-store experience has paid off, retailers must continue to evolve and innovate to keep up with changing customer needs.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE CPR

The key phrase is changing customer needs. Actually they aren’t changing as fast as you might think. But if you aren’t hyper-focused on your customer’s needs, whether it be a beer or a price or just a friendly smile, your customer service is dead and dying.

My fellow retailer and I came to a simple conclusion. Customer Service is really quite simple…

Give the customer exactly what she wants.

WOW Customer Service is not much more difficult.

Give her exactly what she wants and then a little more.

We didn’t find that in Las Vegas. But if you do that in your store, it will pay off in ways the slot machines never can.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your brick & mortar competition (chains and big-box behemoths) have pretty much given up on Customer Service. You know who hasn’t? The online stores. Amazon is hyper-focused on the customer. Other major online sellers are doing the same. If you can start exceeding your customers’ expectations, you can own the b&m landscape. Need an idea of how to raise that bar? Download Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! in the Free Resources section.

Mixed Message

I was in Louisville, KY last week for the ABC Expo, the biggest trade show for the juvenile products industry. A trade show this big deserves decorations just as big. And sure enough, right outside the Expo Center was a twenty foot tall rocking chair…

…with an unfortunate sign in front of it.

This was the first thing we all saw when we arrived at the show.  This was our first impression.

They might as well have said “Go Home!” or “Unwelcome!” or “Stay Out!” 

That sign was not there the first day. My best guess is that someone tried climbing on the chair which prompted someone from the organization to draw this crudely lettered five foot tall sign. Don’t you think it could have been handled in a far better way? Maybe a couple small signs attached to the legs for anyone who got close enough to think about climbing on the chair? Maybe better wording like, “For display purposes only,” or “Do not try this at home,”?

There are two lessons in all this.

First, go outside and walk up to your building. Be a customer. Look around you. See where you might be giving off a bad first impression. Fix it now.

Second, make sure everyone on your team knows the message you want to send. Make sure everyone knows the Core Values that drive you. Make sure everyone knows the impression you want to make. Even the most bottom person on your totem pole should know enough not to make this kind of mistake.

Yes, the little things like this do make a huge difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Managing your Brand means managing the impression a customer has of your store. When you send out a mixed message, your customer gets the wrong impression. Control the message and you control the way people feel about you.

That Kind of Customer

Don’t you just hate the customer who walks in, looks around, and then asks, “What kind of deal can you make me?”  No deal, no special, they aren’t buying.  Not only that, they are walking out grumbling as though you missed the boat. Everyone else has a special. Why not you?

Let me ask you this…

Would you rather have a customer who comes in once a month and spends $50 on regular priced merchandise or a customer who comes in twice a year to buy $315 worth of merchandise for $300?

We hate that second customer, don’t we?  Can’t stand seeing them walk through the door.

Yet we are all guilty of being that kind of customer.

I’m attending a conference and trade show for the juvenile products industry this week.  In a couple days I will walk the trade show floor asking every vendor what kind of incentive they will give me to place an order.  5% off?  Free freight?  Extended dating?  All of the above? Go big or go home.

And the vendors look at me the same way I look at my customers who do that.

Here is the funny thing…  Unless the deal is really big, writing two orders a year is the surest way to put you in the poor house. It’s bad for cash flow.  It’s bad for product mix.  It’s bad for flexibility for your store.  When you place orders that big, you tie up a lot of money, a lot of showroom, and a lot of warehouse space under the hope you can sell it.

But what if you don’t?

Your store will actually have more cash, more flexibility, and more profit if you made six or more smaller orders at full price than two big ones at minimal discounts.  First, you would have more flexibility to always be in stock if one item starts selling fast.  Second, you would have less dogs to markdown when an item dies on the vine.  Third, you would have the cash in hand to pay for the order before the terms came due.

And finally, you would become the kind of customer your vendor wants to do business with.

Be that kind of customer.  It will improve your relationships with your vendors and bottom line.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS  But still ask for those discounts when you do go to the trade shows.  Just don’t stretch your order to get them. More often than not you’ll lose all the discounts by buying stuff you don’t want or can’t sell. Better yet, ask for smaller minimums so you can make more small purchases throughout the year instead of just waiting for the next trade show.  For more on how to manage your cash flow and inventory download my FREE eBook Inventory Management