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Getting People to Talk – Part 3 (Domino’s for the Win!)

A new restaurant opens in town. Fine dining. The early reviews are good. Everyone is talking about it. Expensive, but worth it. The desserts are extraordinary. You call up some friends and the six of you make a reservation. While you’re waiting for your meal you see desserts going past. It looks like every table has ordered something scrumptious. You look at the menu and your mouth begins to water. Then you look at the prices and the six of you decide maybe you’ll share a couple of them instead of everyone buying one.

The meal is done and you’ve picked up the dessert menu one more time to choose a couple to share when your waiter walks over and says, “You guys have been such a fun table, I’d like to buy everyone a dessert on me.”

Would you be talking afterward about a meal like that? Of course you would! For the price of some sugar and flour (that the restaurant has already baked into the price of the meal), the restaurant is buying word-of-mouth through Generosity.

The key here is that they did not advertise it, it was given with sincerity, it had value, and it was unexpected. When you can give something away like that, people will talk.

Yesterday my son pointed out to me something that fits that criteria. He told me Domino’s Pizza is filling potholes. I had to Google it right away.

Image result for domino's pothole
Image from Washington Post

Domino’s Pizza is paying communities real money for their crews to go out and fill potholes. All the community has to do is take a few cellphone pics of the crew and spray chalk the Domino’s logo with the phrase, “Oh yes we did” onto the newly filled pothole when they’re done.

The city manager of Milford, Delaware explains how they gave him $5,000 to fill potholes in his town. With a budget of only $30,000 for fixing potholes to begin, an extra $5,000 goes a long way. The spray chalk on the logo might seem offensive to some, especially if you don’t like Domino’s Pizza, but the talk they are generating from that money is unbelievable.

Yes, it was unexpected. Yes, it brought value. Yes, it was done without advertising. You can argue sincerity all you want, but the comment from Kate Trumbull, VP of Advertising for Domino’s is spot-on …

“This idea came from when you hit a pothole and you have a pizza in your front seat. It’s kind of a dramatic moment and dials up the fear factor that something would happen to your delicious pizza,” said Trumbull. “It came down to how we’re so passionate about pizza – and every single piece of the experience.” (from Yahoo)

Here is the clincher. They spent $5,000. Their logo was washed away with the first rain. The town of Milford, DE was just under 10,000 people in 2010. You can look at it as only 50 cents to reach everyone in that city. You can look at it as a way to make the roads better for their delivery vehicles. But the best way to look at it is that the city manager wrote an article in the Washington Post about it. The news stations all did stories about it. People who saw it on the road all told their friends about it.

The word-of-mouth—even from the people who hated it—is through the roof! Everyone is talking!

Even the haters are probably acknowledging that the potholes needed filling. Their complaint is likely just about the commercialization of it and where that may lead.

I give Domino’s a hearty win for this campaign. It is the kind of creativity that helps a campaign budget reach far beyond the money you spend. That’s the power of Generosity.

Four elements to make Generosity work for you:

  • Don’t advertise it
  • Give freely from the heart
  • Give something of value
  • Give something unexpected

You don’t have to pave the roads to get people to talk, but I’m sure you can find something of value you can give away for free.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We gave away free helium balloons all day, every day. It helped parents get crying children out of the store, and helped them come in more often for “looking trips”. When helium balloons became expected, I brought in an art teacher to teach my staff how to draw doodle animals on the balloons. We never got the kind of talk Domino’s did, but people still talked, and that’s all that mattered.

PPS No, if you don’t like Domino’s Pizza, it probably won’t make you rush out and buy a pie. But it just might make someone on the fence, buy a “thank-you pie” just for fixing that pothole at the end of their street. It also has a long-term effect of making you feel just a little better about Domino’s as a company, and that ripple effect, while hard to measure, will be huge. Now, if they double-down and add some generosity to their product when they deliver it, they’ll knock it out of the park.

Reaching the People Who “Think” They Know You

I’ve been out at YMCA Storer Camps the last couple days teaching sailing again. This time, instead of teaching the kids, I’m just working with the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page for teaching the kids. While walking to the waterfront, one of the new instructors asked me where I sail when I’m not at camp.

“Nowhere,” I replied

They called me Admiral Graybeard!

I have sailed other places in the past. I sailed for the University of Michigan Sailing Club. I sailed on the Great Lakes with a different, larger boat that the camp used to own. I’ve even sailed in races hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club (no, not The America’s Cup) a long time ago. But for now, my only chance to sail is out on Stoney Lake in camp boats.

Sailing is not my true heart’s desire. Teaching is.

At the camp I have taught Archery, Riflery (bb guns and pellet guns), Canoeing, Kayaking, Sailing, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Snorkeling, Wilderness Survival, Ropes Course Climbing, Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Biking, Team Building, Cross-Country Skiing, and Nature. Out in California I taught Earth Sciences, Astronomy, Geology, and Ecology. At Toy House I taught Car Seat Installations, How to Buy Toys, How to Buy Baby Products, How to Sell, and How to Work With Children of Special Needs. At Henry Ford Allegiance Health I teach new and expectant fathers how to be better dads. On the speaking circuit, I teach Marketing & Advertising, Customer Service, Hiring & Training, Inventory Management, Retail Math, Team Building, and Management Skills.

“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.” -Theodore Roosevelt

(Forgive me if it sounds like boasting. I’ve just said, “Certainly I can!” several times.)  What I’m really trying to do is find new and better ways to Help You (one of my Core Values) so that I can convince you that I can help you even more. Therefore, I teach.

Teaching is not only a love, it is a means to an end. If I can teach you one thing, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to want me to teach you other things. That’s one way I generate new business.

Last weekend I taught a group of toy store owners looking to capitalize on the disenfranchised Toys R Us shoppers that there are two reasons those people didn’t shop with independent specialty toy stores like theirs.

  • They don’t know you
  • They “think” they know you

That first group is fairly easy to reach. Any extra marketing or advertising you do will find them because they will be looking. That second group will be a lot harder. They have opinions about you (usually wrong) that won’t be swayed by a fancy radio or TV ad.

The best way to reach that second group is through Word-of-Mouth. Do something big to get your current customers to talk to them about you.

I told the toy retailers last week that was the only way to reach them. I was wrong. 

While I was walking down the trail to the waterfront with these soon-to-be sailing instructors I realized there is a second way … Teach!

Seriously. Just like me, you have some crazy, cool knowledge you could share. You have some wisdom and understanding of the products you sell that they won’t find just surfing the Internet. You have some tips and techniques for using and maintaining those products that might be a lifesaver for those customers.

The people who “think” they know you can be enticed to attend a free training program about the products they don’t know.

That was our Shopping for Baby 101 class. Free information about how to buy certain baby products including what to look for, what questions to ask, and what criteria to use when making buying decisions. The class was never a sales pitch, just useful information.

We picked up a lot of new customers that way who only thought we were a toy store.

We also began changing the way they thought about toys. Many of those same people who bought into our teachings about baby products also bought into how to buy toys, and became lifelong customers.

What do you include in the class? Answer these questions …

  • What info do most customers either misunderstand or not know about our products?
  • What info separates the smart customers from the average customers?
  • What questions does your staff have to answer over and over and over about the products?
  • What info would be fun and shareworthy?

Have a free class. Serve refreshments. Give out vendor-donated prizes. Make it fun and informative. You’ll sway a bunch of skeptics in the process.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Teaching is a lot like leading. Think of your lesson plan as a path. You want to guide your audience by starting with what they know and building onto their knowledge and assumptions until it is time to break those assumptions. Then lead them back to safety with new knowledge that shows them why their assumptions were false in the first place. This template works time and time again.

PPS Teaching leads to word-of-mouth, especially when you weave in a lot of stories for your audience to share.

PPPS If you didn’t see a topic up there that might work with your group, follow this link. That list above was already way too long.

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.

Some Inventory Management is a Customer Service Issue, Too

My mom shops like a man. Get in, get what you need, and get out. Her lifetime of being raised in retail, her always efficient use of time, and her preference to spend her free time playing golf, playing bridge, reading books, or doing cross-stitch needlepoint all have led her to this shopping style. Oh, she’ll browse the dozens of catalogs she gets in the mail each week, but spending a day at the mall is not her idea of a great time.

Even in a book store, her favorite form of shopping, she’s a hunter more than a browser.

Last weekend, however, she took my boys on a shopping trip, hitting several stores in the Ann Arbor area. Of course, she hit those stores the way she always does, with purpose, focus, and an eye for efficiency. At one point in Macy’s, while my older son tried on some shorts, she asked my younger son to go find a cash register that was actually open. Her keen eye had not seen any employees at any registers yet, and she had to have her exit strategy mapped out.

She’s training my boys to shop like her, much in the way she trained me. When I’m in buying mode, I go in, get what I want, and get out. If I’m in a store to browse, I’m doing it to gather information for future blog posts, researching for my clients, or spending time with friends who love to shop (while I’m doing research.)

You might think from that description that my mom and I are mostly Transactional Shoppers who know what they want and are just on a hunt to get the best price. You would be wrong. Other than my bad habit of Diet Mountain Dew (I call it my “green tea”) that I’ll buy wherever it is on sale, I have my favorite stores where I’ll go first for all my needs. My mom is the same way.

If you consistently have the stuff we want, we’ll consistently shop at your store—even if someone else is selling it slightly cheaper.

The key phrase is “consistently.” If you are often out-of-stock of the items I regularly buy, I’ll stop shopping at your store, no matter how well you treat me.

Image result for empty shelvesIn a few days I’m going to give a new presentation at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy. The title is “Profit Margin is Not Your Only Money Maker”. The premise is about how and when to sell lower-margin goods. One of those times is when you are the store people “expect” to sell that product. You don’t want to disappoint those customers and drive them away.

Not all hunters are Transactional. Some like to hunt at your store because they always know they’ll find their prey. Listening to my mom regale the tales from shopping with the boys reminded me of that important distinction.

Ask yourself …

  • What products do you sell on a regular, consistent basis, day-in-and-day-out?
  • What products do you sell at the highest turn ratio?
  • What products do people walk in asking for directly the most because they expect you’ll have it?
  • What products do you know your customers will buy online if they can’t get it at your store right now?

Those are your Must-Haves. Those are the products that keep your Relational Customers like my mom and me happy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your buying. If you need to add to the order to reach a better deal, add some Must-Haves. Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your marketing and advertising. Being out-of-stock often is one way to get bad Word-of-Mouth circulating. Identifying the Must-Haves helps with your overall customer service. The more your staff can say, “Yes we do!” the better they feel and the better the customer feels.

Yes You Can Buy Word-of-Mouth Advertising

Celebrity endorsements don’t work like they used to. Sure, some fanboys will buy a particular brand because their favorite star told them, but the general public knows these actors, athletes, and entertainers only promote the stuff they get paid to promote. We see right through the pay-to-say ploy and aren’t convinced to buy.

The idea behind celebrity endorsements, however, was a sound investment at one time because Word-of-Mouth advertising was and still is the best, most powerful form of advertising. You are far more likely to try a new brand or a new store or a new product because someone you know and trust told you than you are because that brand or store told you.

The majority of Americans see advertising as the hype that it is. According to an omnichannel retail study done by Euclid, only 53% of Baby Boomers are inspired by traditional advertising to try something new. Generation X is even more skeptical at 40%, and the Millennials are under 33%.

After spending the last two weeks trying to tell you how to use traditional advertising more effectively, I’ve just linked you to a study that says the majority of shoppers won’t believe your ads anyway. (Note: the real reason behind those paltry numbers is because Most Ads Suck and violate the six principles of effective advertising, but that’s a post for another day.)

As the trustworthiness of traditional advertising declines, shoppers are looking more to their friends and family for advice where to shop and what to buy. Word-of-Mouth.

The good news for you is that you can still buy Word-of-Mouth. That’s what celebrity endorsements really are—a company paying someone trusted and known to talk about their products. But I’m not advocating you buy that kind of Word-of-Mouth. The way you buy Word-of-Mouth effectively today can be done four ways:

  • By spending money on the design of your store to make it so fabulous and unexpected that people have to talk about it.
  • By spending money training your staff to the point that they exceed your customer’s expectations to the point your customer has to tell someone just to validate that it really happened.
  • By being so generous giving away the unexpected to your customers, that they have to brag to their friends..
  • By showing off products in your store so outrageous that people have to tell their friends what they saw.
32,000-piece Jigsaw Puzzle!

We sold jigsaw puzzles, over a million pieces worth of jigsaw puzzles a year. (I did the math once.) Mostly we sold 1,000-piece puzzles and 300-piece puzzles, but we showed on the shelf a 32,000-piece puzzle. The box alone weighed forty-two pounds and came with its own little handcart for hauling it away. The finished puzzle was over 17 feet long and over 6 feet tall. I spent $160 to put that puzzle on my shelf. I never expected to sell it. I never really wanted to sell it. In fact, I sold it three times and immediately ordered another one.

Why?

Because every week someone would take a selfie with that puzzle and post it on social media with #toyhouse. It was worth more to me for advertising than the profit from selling one every couple years.

 

I spent $200/board for three chalkboards on the outside of our building where customers could write their own answers to the questions posed on each board.

Why?

Because every time a scavenger hunt took place in the city of Jackson, one of the stops was to write something on that board.

 

I spent another few hundred dollars to create the mileage signpost outside our store.

Why?

Rarely a day went buy that someone didn’t take a picture of that sign with our logo conspicuously in the background. Those pictures invariably made their way onto social media.

I spent about a thousand dollars a year giving away helium balloons free to children of all ages. No questions asked. No purchase necessary.

Why?

Not only did it help with crying children who didn’t want to leave the store, it made it more likely that parents would bring their kids in the store, knowing they could get out the door with a free balloon (and on Saturdays with free popcorn). Many customers told me that was what they bragged to their friends when asked why they shopped at my store.

You can get your customers to talk about you to their friends and family. You just have to do something worth talking about. Spend the money to be fabulous, outrageous, unexpected, and over-the-top and then let your customers do all the advertising for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can read even more by downloading from the Free Resources section of my website the pdf Generating Word-of-Mouth.

PPS In 2009 Toy House was featured as “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. Every single business in that book got there because of Word-of-Mouth. Whenever George traveled he asked everyone he met about their favorite places to shop. The stores he heard the most made it into the book. In other words, it was worth it for us to spend so much time and money trying to buy Word-of-Mouth. Oh yeah, and it worked, too!

PPPS Here are the links to the posts on the other forms of advertising … Television, Radio, Billboards, Newsprint, Magazines, Websites, Email, Direct Mail, Social Media

Being World Famous

I hope someday to be world famous. I could almost say that I already am world famous. I do have a follower in Russia. I have another in Serbia and one in Austria. I have a couple followers from the southern hemisphere. I have shipped my Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel book overseas on several occasions. I’m not exactly a household name, but getting there.

Some places claim to be world famous on even less than that. Some places truly are world famous. I talked about two of them yesterday.

Here is another worth mentioning.

Image result for pike place fish market
World Famous Pike Place Fish Market

Pike Place Fish Market, the retailer highlighted in the excellent training book FISH!, wasn’t world famous at one time. They were just a fish market in Seattle trying to carve out a niche in their market. Business was okay. Like every retailer on the planet, they wanted it to be more than okay. The staff and management got together and decided they wanted to be World Famous.

Deciding you want to be World Famous is powerful. Acting on that decision is the true magic.

When the team at the fish market made that decision, the first question that popped up was the one that would change their fortunes forever.

“What does a World Famous Fish Market look and act like?”

The simplest answer was that it doesn’t look and act like all the other fish markets out there.  It does things differently.

A World Famous Retailer …

  • Offers services no other retailer in their industry offers
  • Treats customers better than they could ever imagine
  • Has hard-to-find products no one else sells
  • Makes an emotional connection with their customers
  • Makes people feel good about themselves, about their purchases, and about life in general
  • Is an experience, not just a shopping trip
  • Is prepared for crowds (heck, they are prepared for anything)
  • Always, always, always has the right attitude
  • Always, always, always does more than the customer expected
  • Foresees problems before they happen, and nips them in the bud
  • Fixes problems right away without hassle, and to a level better than the customer expected

Being World Famous is a mindset first, a recognition second, and a designation third. The path to World Famous is pretty simple. Decide you want to be world famous and do everything on that list consistently year-in-and-year-out, or open up a few thousand stores. Either way, you’ll become World Famous.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I was looking through one of the Memory Books we had for people to sign when they visited Toy House. (People love to sign books like that at World Famous locations, hint, hint.) Found this one …

“Awesome store! What a pleasant surprise! Greetings from the Netherlands, Europe”

Right below it was …

“Thank you for such a wonderful evening and such a wonderful store. -Amiye, Cairo Egypt”

You don’t have to be World Famous to act World Famous. Do the acting part first and the rest will take care of itself.

PPS You can call yourself World Famous before you actually are, but then you better perform like it. Anything less and the marketing will be all for naught.

Pay it Down

You’ve heard the phrase Pay it Forward. Someone does something nice for you, and instead of doing something nice back, you do something nice for someone else. I have several things I need to pay forward in my life, including one act of generosity that happened this fall.

I love the concept of Pay it Forward. I love the concept of generosity in the first place. Generosity leads to positive Word-of-Mouth.

One area of generosity I encourage my indie retailers is to Pay it Down. Be generous with those who work for you.

I served my team bacon and eggs.

Be generous with granting them time off. This business is your every waking moment and your life. It isn’t theirs. They have more on their mind than just your business.

Be generous with your praise. This is a stressful time of year no matter how enjoyable it is supposed to be. Retail workers not only live that stress, they are on the receiving end of everyone else’s stress. Praise reduces stress.

Be generous with your time. Especially in these next few weeks. A little extra time listening to your staff may gain you some incredible insights for ways to improve your store. A little extra time showing you care about your employees will cause them to care more about you and your store.

Be generous with your giving. If you’re running your store right, your staff are making you money. Sure, you’re paying them to do that. At the same time, a little extra this time of year makes a world of difference. If you plan to give a gift instead of just money, make it personal and you’ll reap benefits fare beyond your imagination.

When you Pay it Down to your staff, you show them how much you appreciate them. We learned from Charles Dickens that’s the better way to act this time of year.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Little things mean a lot. Hire a masseuse for a day. Cater a big lunch on busy days. Bring in coffee. Give extended lunch hours. Give gift cards to local restaurants and shops (you can often get those businesses to trade gift certificates with you.) Share treats from sales reps with the team. Bake cookies and make a few extra for everyone to take home. Say thank you. A lot.

PPS Be amazingly grateful if someone pays it up. You owe them a lot more than they owe you. Without you, they don’t have a job. Without them, you don’t have a business.

It is an All-the-Time Kinda Thing

One of the phone calls I dreaded most while running Toy House would happen occasionally on my lunch hour. I’d look down at my cellphone and see “Toy House” was calling. It rarely was a “problem.” My staff knew exactly how I liked problems to be handled. The phone call I dreaded was most often this simple question …

“When will you be back? We have a customer waiting to get her car seat checked.”

I hated that call. Not because it meant cutting my lunch short. If you’ve seen me, you know I could stand to skip a few meals now and then. I hated that call because it meant a customer was not getting served properly. If you offer a service, you need to offer it every single moment you are open.

That’s me teaching a class on car seats and stroller.

Although we started checking car seats back in the late 1990’s, we didn’t publicize it as a service until 2005 because I didn’t have enough people trained to offer that service full time until 2005. With the exception of trade show weeks and vacations, I made sure someone was scheduled to offer this service almost every single moment we were open.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I stopped in a Meijer store early one morning. I was in this store that is open 24/7 at 7:50am to do a return. They have a Customer Service desk where you go for returns. I went there and spoke to the nice lady behind the counter. She informed me they weren’t open yet. Not open? The store is open 24/7!

“Could I take my items to a cash register lane to do the return?”

“No, you’ll have to wait until 8am.”

The store may be open 24/7 but the Customer Service desk is only open 8am to 10pm. Apparently they only offer service for 14 of those 24 hours.

It reminded me of the time I once went to a Sam’s Club. They had the item I wanted in stock, but it was “up in the steel.” Unfortunately there were no forklift drivers to get it down for me. I would have to wait until morning. Really???

I point these out because these are the kinds of stories people like to share with their friends. These are the negative stories that get passed along from person to person, growing in scope and stature with each re-telling.

That’s why I hated to get that phone call. That was one more customer who could potentially have a negative story to share about my store. 

If you advertise you offer a service, you have to offer that service the entire time you are open. Period. Otherwise you open yourself up to that other kind of advertising that is extremely difficult to overcome.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you have a service that is impossible to offer the entire time you are open, make sure the restrictions are known well in advance. Let people know clearly if it is by appointment only, or limited hours, or only on certain days. Control the stories people tell about your business and you’ll control the growth of your business. Oh, and always keep your cellphone on when you go to lunch.

Not Everyone Is Expecting the Same Thing

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

As you know …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

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

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