Home » Advertising

Category: Advertising

Self-Diagnosis Tool #5 – Marketing & Advertising

My favorite class segment in the Jackson Retail Success Academy was always the Marketing and Advertising Segment. One portion of that segment was dedicated to Media, Myths, and Money. We would discuss all the various forms of media and how/when to use them properly. We also discussed several myths about advertising. One of the biggest myths was this …

Advertising will fix your business.

No it won’t.

If your customer service sucks, advertising will only draw in more people to find that out and tell their friends to beware.

If your product selection sucks, advertising will only find you more disappointed and empty-handed customers.

If your market isn’t big enough to support your business, advertising will only drain your coffers faster, and hasten your demise.

That is why, of all the Diagnosis Tools, this one is last.

Abandoned Boat on the Pond by the House

Think of your business like a boat. Your Core Values are the hull and body of the boat. Your Market Potential is the size of the body of water. Customer Service is the driver of the boat. Inventory is the engine/oars. Advertising is the launching of the boat. Would you launch if you knew you had a leak, didn’t have a driver, or had an engine not working? Of course not.

You need to make sure your boat is rock solid and ready to go before you launch. (Check out Tool #1 Core Values, Tool #2 Market Potential, Tool #3 Customer Service, and Tool #4 Inventory Management if you think your boat has even the tiniest of leaks.)

Advertising will not fix your business, it will only speed up what was going to happen anyway. If your boat is leaking, advertising will just sink you faster.

DEFINE THE TERMS

First, let’s understand the difference between “Marketing” and “Advertising”. Marketing is everything you do to attract customers to your store. Advertising is a subset of Marketing. It is the paid marketing you do through a form of media.

MARKETING

Marketing includes your building, your signage, your front door, the “Open” sign on your building, the events, activities, and classes you hold inside and outside your building, the networking you do by joining clubs and being involved in your community, the free publicity your garner, etc.

One of the first steps in this self-diagnosis is to list all of the ways outside of Advertising that you are Marketing your store. For some ideas of different things you can do, check out the FREE eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

You should have a healthy list of ways you are marketing your business outside the realm of traditional advertising. Fortunately most of these ways cost more time than money. If you don’t have enough customers—the whole reason you’re marketing your business—then you should have the time.

Once you have that list, see which Core Values are evident in each activity. All of your Marketing efforts must be aligned with your Core Values to be most effective. If there is anything you are doing that doesn’t speak to your values, change it or drop it for something else.

ADVERTISING

The next thing to do is to look at your paid advertising through the same lens as your other Marketing efforts. Pull out all of the ads you ran last year. Look closely at the message you sent. Ask yourself these six questions …

  • Does it look or sound like an ad? Chances are good that it does. Did you know our brains are hard-wired to ignore advertising? Maybe you should create something that doesn’t look or sound like an ad to keep from being ignored.
  • Does it tell a story? Stories are more interesting, get people to pay attention, and are more memorable than facts and figures. Your ad needs to tell a story if you want it to work best.
  • Does it make only one point? The person seeing or hearing your ad will only remember one point at best, so only give her only one point to remember.
  • Does it speak to the heart? Emotions always trump logic. Always. What emotion does your ad invoke?
  • Does it speak to your tribe? Does it align with your Core Values? If you want to attract better customers, speak more directly to those people who share your values and ignore everyone else.
  • Does it make your customer the star? Ads about you will be ignored. Ads about your customer and what you can do to help her will gain her attention.

The message is more important than the media. Here is another big myth in Advertising …

You must reach the right people.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. You can reach all the right people but if you don’t say the right thing, all is for naught. Also, everyone you reach is potentially the right person because even if they aren’t your customer, they know someone who is your customer.

It isn’t who you reach that matters. It is what you say to the people you reach.

Get the message right and everything else will follow.

(Note: to help you choose the right media for your business, go to the Advertising Media Reference Guide and check out your options.)

BUDGET

The last thing to check is your budget. How much should you spend on Marketing? Notice how I said Marketing, not Advertising? Part of your Marketing is your location. If you spend a lot in rent to be in a high-traffic area, you don’t have to advertise as much as the guy under the bridge on the wrong side of the tracks. The Cinnabon store at the airport doesn’t spend a penny on Advertising. He just bought a fan to blow that cinnamony goodness out into the terminal. That’s his Marketing Budget.

There are many formulas for calculating a budget. The one I like best came from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. He suggests you take 10-12% of your Gross Sales as your “Total Exposure” budget. Then multiply that by your Percent Markup (this is different than Profit Margin – the formula looks like this Percent Markup = (Gross Sales – COGS)/COGS) to adjust for your pricing and profit. Then subtract your rent from that number to find out what you should spend on Advertising.

For many businesses, however, that leaves a budget close to zero as rent is often 10-12% of your budget.

I will tell you to push that upper limit to 15% of Gross Sales, but only if you can find that money without taking it out of Payroll. If push comes to shove, Great Customer Service is always more important than Advertising. It is what drives your boat.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There you go … Five tools for evaluating your business to see where you need to improve as you sail into 2019. Take a critical look at all five in order and you’ll find your silver bullet for success. If you don’t think you can be those critical eyes because you are too busy trying to drive the boat yourself, call me. I’ll come do an analysis of your boat using all the criteria in these five Tools and show you where the boat needs work.

The Thirty Questions to Find Your “Silver Bullet”

I got suckered in once. Long before the phrase “fake news” came into existence, back in the days when Norton and MacAfee were the only names in anti-virus protection, my computer started slowing down.

Then up popped an ad for a free diagnostic test of my computer, guaranteed to clean it up and take it to speeds the factory settings never could. I downloaded it and immediately all these warnings came flashing on the screen telling me I was infected and needed to download this fancy, official-sounding fix right away before I lost critical data.

Yeah, you can probably guess the rest.

I took the computer to a local shop who cleaned several viruses and Trojans off the hard drive and got me back to my normal, plodding, limited-by-my-service-provider-not-my-computer speeds.

We’re all looking for that quick-fix, aren’t we? That guaranteed, take-you-to-the-next-level tool that will transform your business? That’s why scams like that computer virus one worked so well. We all keep thinking there is that one silver bullet we’re missing that will make all our ills go away.

Here is where I’m supposed to tell you there isn’t a silver bullet. Eat less and exercise more, right?

The truth is there is a silver bullet. And a bronze one. And a gold one. And a titanium-plated, platinum-infused, diamond-encrusted, gold-leafed, emerald-cut, space-aged aluminum, time-released-capsule one.

The problem is that every business needs a different bullet. In retail there is no one-size-fits-all bullet.

You might be struggling with cash flow while your neighbor down the street needs help with a better marketing message. The store on the next block has a customer service problem, while the store across the street is in a market with too many competitors.

What retailers really need is a good diagnostic tool to help you identify the true problem(s). Unfortunately your business isn’t like an automobile where you can plug it in and see what’s wrong.

You can hire a consultant, but unless they have a background in understanding independent retail, they might not be able to diagnose your true problem either. You can try to do it yourself (I gave you a few Measuring Cups to use in an earlier post), but it is often hard to read the label from inside the bottle.

Since I am the DIY guy of retail, though, I want to show you the approach I would take to diagnose where your business needs work so that maybe you can find the demon holding you back. If you were to hire me, I would look at your business in this order …

  1. Core Values – Is your business aligned with your Values? If not, how and where can we change things?
  2. Market Potential – Where do you stand in your market? Who are your competitors? What is your share of the market? Is it shrinking or growing? What local factors influence your market presence?
  3. Customer Service – How much of your business is Repeat and Referral? How much training do your front line people have? What skills do they have? How well do they greet, meet, and interact with customers? How are their “closing” skills? What services do you provide? Do your services lean customer-friendly or business-friendly? Do you meet and exceed expectations?
  4. Inventory Management – How is your cash flow? What is your Profit Margin, Turn Ratio, Accounts-Payable-to-Inventory Ratio, Cash-to-Current Ratio, etc? What are the “must-haves” and how was your stock position on those items last year? Where is the fat that needs to be trimmed from the inventory? What systems do you use to keep from over-buying?
  5. Marketing & Advertising – What is your Marketing Message? Is it consistent across all platforms (including the in-store experience)? How can we make that message more powerful and effective? Where are you spending your marketing money? Are there cheaper, better alternatives for reaching the people you want to reach? Are there collaborations that make sense? Are you harnessing all the free publicity available to you?

Notice the order of things. Most businesses come to me saying they need help with their Marketing because they aren’t getting the traffic they want. Yet sometimes the problem is their business isn’t aligned with their values so they aren’t attracting the right types of customers. sometimes the problem is there aren’t enough customers in their market to sustain their business. Sometimes the problem is their service is so bad, those who do visit are telling friends to stay away.

Better Marketing won’t fix those other problems or help the business.

If you want to run your own diagnostics, there are several hyperlinks to articles and blogs related to the thirty questions posed above.

If you want to hire me to run your diagnostics, I’m going through that list in that order until we find the first problem.

There is no single silver bullet to fix any and all retailers, but there is a bullet to slay the specific demon holding you back. I encourage you to run your diagnostics on your own to see if you can isolate your problem. When you do find it, send me an email and I’ll help you brainstorm several solutions to solve your problem on your own or with help.

There is a bullet for you, but it’s buried in the haystack next to the needle.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I hired a consultant once. He compared my Turn Ratio to Walmart’s and told me my problem was inventory control and that I needed to go to “just-in-time” inventory where I had at most a one-week supply of inventory on hand. My dad hired a consultant. He compared our prices to Kmart and Toys R Us and said our prices were too high and then pitched a total revamp of our sales floor into a circus theme (not sure what that had to do with prices). If you’re going to hire someone, make sure they have extensive experience working with indie retailers. Make sure they have a list like this one, too, that spells out what they’re going to evaluate.

PPS Sorry for the mixed metaphor at the end. It sounded good in my head.

The Right Measuring Cups

When the recipe calls for 1 cup Vegetable Oil do you reach for a teaspoon? When it says 16 ounces Sour Cream do you grab a scale? Of course not. Sure, you can get close with those tools, but it won’t be as accurate nor as handy.

Yet we do that in retail all the time. We use the wrong tools to measure our business.

For instance, most businesses look at Sales Growth as a barometer of their business health. If sales went up, business is good. If sales went down, business is bad.

The problem with that tool is that it doesn’t take into account what happened in your local marketplace. If your sales went up 5% but your market grew by 10%, then your business is not on the right path. If your sales were down 2% but your market shrunk by 5%, you captured a larger share of your market.

You have to know how to calculate Market Share to truly know the health of your business.

RECIPE FOR MARKET SHARE

Market Share: your percentage of the Market Potential for your trade area. Calculate Market Potential by finding the Annual Sales for your entire industry, divide that by the population of the United States and multiply that answer times your own trade area population. Then adjust for income levels. The math looks like this …

  • Industry Sales = $20.2 billion
  • US Population = 325 million people
  • Your Trade Area = 150,000 people
  • US Average Household Income = $59,039
  • Your Area Household Income = $63,026 (6.75% higher than US average)

$20.2 billion / 325 million = $62.15/person

$62.15 x 150,000 = $9.3 million

$9.3 million x 1.0675 = $9.9 million Market Potential

(Note: that number can be adjusted again for one other factor dependent on your industry. For instance, if you’re in the toy industry you can adjust for the number of children in your area compared to the national average. If you’re in the boat industry, look for something along the lines of percentage of boat owners nationally and in your area.)

Figure out your percentage or share of that market and whether it is growing or shrinking. That will be a more accurate measurement than your top line sales.

CUSTOMER SERVICE MEASUREMENT

How do you measure something as abstract as Customer Service? One tool is Units Per Transaction (UPT). While several factors can influence this number including your merchandising skill of impulse items and whether the items you’re selling have more or less accessories than last year, the largest influence on this number is your sales force. Are they taking care of the customer properly? Are they completing the sale? Are they making the customer feel welcome, comfortable, and happy? Are they building trust?

The calculation for UPT is simple. Take the total units sold during the year and divide that by the number of transactions.

75,000 units sold / 22,000 transactions = 3.4 Units Per Transaction

If that number is going up, your team is doing their job.

Another measuring tool that is slightly harder to quantify, but equally effective in telling the true tale of your customer service is Repeat and Referral Business.

Repeat Business is a sign of Good Customer Service. Referral Business is a sign of WOW Customer Service. Your service was so good they had to bring their friends back with them. If you’re tracking transactions by name in your POS, you’ll know your Repeat Business. You can also ask when you enter someone new into your POS how they heard of you. If they say “from a friend” mark them as Referral.

The ideal business has a majority of their customers as Repeat and Referral. The raw number of Repeat and Referral Customers should hopefully be growing and should be a larger percentage of your traffic. The larger, the better.

MARKETING AND ADVERTISING MEASUREMENT

Sure, you can run a coupon or a Call to Action in every ad to see how many people it drives to the store. But if you have been reading this blog or following the wisdom of people smarter than me like Roy H. Williams or Seth Godin, then you know that kind of advertisement leads to short term gain and long term pain.

One other way to measure the effectiveness of your advertising is from your Repeat and Referral Business. Add those two numbers together. The remainder of your traffic is your marketing-driven business.

Yes, some of that traffic is based purely on your location. Your location is part of your marketing. Your signs on your building are part of your marketing. Your parking situation is part of your marketing. Your advertising is also part of your marketing. If the raw numbers of people coming through your doors for the first time and not by Referral are growing, your marketing is working.

Which part of your marketing is working? That is a little bit harder to measure. As famed retailer John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

At least you have a tool to see if it is working in general. (Check the Free Resources for Making Your Ads More Effective to figure out how to make all halves work.)

When you use the right measuring tool, you get a better result. That’s true for cooks, bakers, and small business owners. 

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you plan for 2019, you really need to know what happened in 2018. Even if your top line sales rocked the world and your bank account is fatter than usual, if your Market Share decreased or your Repeat and Referral Business fell off, you have important issues you need to address sooner rather than later. I’d love to help you address those issues.

Looking Back at the “Top” Ten Blog Posts From 2018

Somewhere around the first of the year a lot of writers like to publish their “Top Ten” list of most viewed posts from the previous year. Wouldn’t it be smarter to post the least-viewed posts, the ones most people missed? Give people a second-chance to read your wisdom. As it is, just because a post is the most-viewed doesn’t make it the best.

This year I’m going to give you a variety pack of posts from 2018 and why you should read them (again).

The post you didn’t miss: Yes, I have Heard About Toys R Us. This was the post with the most views last year. I made a prediction in the PS of that post that has turned out to be right. Go read the post to see what I predicted.

The post you missed: Few Things Go as Planned. This was the post with the fewest views. I wrote this at the beginning of the year to remind you to plan, but to also understand that things don’t always work out the way you plan them and that you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Ask yourself, “Did 2018 happen the way you planned?” I’m betting right now your answer is No. Go read this post.

The milestone you didn’t know about: Christmas Quick Tip #3 – Sign ‘Em Up Before Checkout. This was post #1000. To some people, those numbers are kinda cool. I didn’t make a big deal about it then because it was the busy holiday season and those posts were designed to be short and sweet. by the way, this isn’t just a Christmas time tip. It is a smart business practice.

My favorite post of 2018: Five Proven Recipes. In this post I give you Paul Harvey’s recipe for a backyard mosquito spray, an all-natural weed-killer that works (if you spray regularly), and simple, tech-free recipes for raising the bar on your Hiring, Advertising, and Customer Service. Sometimes the simple ways are the best.

The post that got the most social media interest: So You Got a Bad Review? This post had the most comments on social media and was the first post of mine that was “shared” on LinkedIn (a new feature they’ve added). Best of all, it had no negative reviews, lol. If you’ve had a negative review, you might want to read this.

The best question you will ask your staff all year: How to Learn From the Best. This was actually the second least viewed post, yet the most telling about where you stand in your local retail marketplace and what you need to work on the most. Ask your staff this question and listen to their replies.

The post I wished you had commented on: This “Free” is Really Free. The site stats counter tells me I get hundreds of downloads of the different Free Resources each year. I’d love to know how you’re using them and what success you might be seeing because of them. Go ahead and leave some comments there (or here).

That’s your lucky seven posts you should have read (and hopefully did). I’m going to leave three more links in the PS below for the adventurous souls among you to round out the “Top Ten”.

Happy New Year!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I triple dog dare you …

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

“Customer Service” is Dead

The Ad Everyone is Talking About

By now you’ve probably already seen this ad. You may love it. You may hate it. You may wonder what all the hype is about. You may wonder who the heck is John Lewis and why should you care?

Since it is getting all the hype (and it made me cry, something very few ads do to me these days) I figure I would break it down for you to show you why it is going viral.

If you haven’t seen the ad, you can watch it below or follow this link here. It is just over two minutes long. (Note: spoiler alerts below.)

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I teach six principles that anyone can follow to make your ads more memorable and effective. Those principles are:

  1. Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Make Only One Point
  4. Speak to the Heart
  5. Speak to the Tribe
  6. Make Your Customer the Star

Don’t Look or Sound Like and Ad: Check! When I first clicked on a link for this ad that a friend shared with me, I thought I had accidentally linked to a trailer for the new Elton John movie Rocketman. This definitely doesn’t look or sound like any ad you’ll see on television outside of the first Sunday in February—if even then!

Tell a Story: Check! I love how they tell the story in a reverse timeline. Like any good storyteller, they take you from what you know to something you don’t know.

Make Only One Point: Check! I’m sure John Lewis sells all kinds of products and offers all kinds of services. They don’t talk about any of that. The tagline “Some gifts are more than just a gift” is about the thought you give into gift-giving and the thought John Lewis gives into the products it sells.

Speak to the Heart: Check! John Lewis is known for their touching, moving Christmas commercials. This one brought me to tears. Twice. Once at 1:45, again at 2:12.

Speak to the Tribe: Check! If you read the comments below the video on YouTube you’ll notice that not everyone is gushing over this ad. In fact, while 90,000 have given it a thumbs up (at the time of this typing), 8,500 have given it a thumbs down. Several people have written comments that they don’t get it. That, in my humble opinion, is the most telling point of how well John Lewis is speaking to the tribe.

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, has been teaching for years that, like a magnet, an ad’s ability to attract is equal to its ability to repel. The more powerfully you speak to your tribe—your customers, the people who share your Core Values—the more likely others won’t get it or like it. Roy also says, “Choose who to lose.” Don’t try to speak to everyone, just the most important ones.

This particular ad speaks to several tribes—Elton John fans, Musicians, people with Nostalgia as a character trait, Christmas saps, and people with Giving Gifts as one of their Love Language. I happen to be all of those. If you’re not one of those, you might not get why the rest of us are grabbing a tissue.

Some people loved the ad just because it was Elton. Some felt at the end he was lamenting the loss of his parents more than he was waxing nostalgic on the gift—another tribe. Some were remembering their own favorite Christmas gift that inspired them or that they still own today.

The ad evoked powerful emotions from several groups of people.

Make Your Customer the Star: No Check. I do have to agree with one comment on YouTube where the person said it looked more like an ad for Elton John’s next tour or movie than it did an ad for John Lewis. It certainly did feel that way up until the scene with the little boy coming down the stairs Christmas morning. Prior to that scene it was all about Elton. but in that one moment it was any one of us who has ever come down the stairs wide-eyed and full of excitement on Christmas morning.

That scene at 1:45 was the first part that really got to me emotionally. My first blog post ten years ago was about my favorite Christmas gift—a six-string guitar.

I’m okay that this ad didn’t fully make “you” the star. It works because of the story. The story works because we all know of Elton. You don’t have the budget to get Elton John into your commercials and that’s okay. John Lewis did and it worked for me.

Five out of six boxes checked. That’s why everyone is talking about this ad, and John Lewis.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Want to do a fun exercise? Go through all the John Lewis commercials here and write down the different tribes each ad is speaking to. It will help you when you start crafting your own powerful ads like these.

PPS If you didn’t get this ad or like this ad, that’s okay. It just wasn’t written for you. I watch ads every day that make me scratch my head until I remember, they weren’t written for me. Speak to your Tribe with your ads. That’s what really matters.

Change or Stay the Course?

I read a quote the other day and it has stuck with me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work it into a worthwhile post. The quote is from author William R. Inge. He says …

“There are two kinds of fools. One says, ‘This is old, therefore it is good,’; the other says, ‘This is new, therefore it is better.’ “

“This is old, therefore it is good,” is the trap we get into when we say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.”

“This is new, therefore it is better,” is the trap we get into especially whenever a new form of advertising comes along. We think we need to be on the cutting edge or we will get left behind.

The problem with both of those statements is that they are completely right and completely wrong at the same time. Some old things are really good and shouldn’t be changed. Some new things are truly better and will disrupt your industry and kill your business if you don’t adopt them.

I was at a presentation a few years ago when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we had any employees that had been with us twenty or more years. I raised my hand.

He said the best thing we could do for our business is to fire those people the day we got back. They were the keepers of the flame of everything old. They were the standard bearers for, “We’ve always done it this way.”

I didn’t fire those people (I had two at the time), but I took to heart his meaning and paid close attention to who was willing to change and who wasn’t.

The other side of the coin was fascinating, too. Back in the early 90’s we had newsprint, radio, TV, billboard, yellow pages, and direct mail as our advertising options. There was no social media, email, or mobile marketing. The movie theaters weren’t running pre-show ads. Most of us didn’t even know the word Google, let alone have our own website with SEO optimization.

Yet each one of those was going to disrupt the advertising industry and change it forever (or so we were told).

The sales pitch from every rep was the same. “If you don’t jump on this bandwagon, you’re going to miss out on the biggest change the industry has ever seen, and you’ll be left in the dust by your competition.”

Some of those new things (like email and having your own website) really have changed the game for small businesses. Some, like closed-circuit TV, haven’t been quite as lucrative as promised.

How do you know when to change and when not to change? For many of us, that is the biggest question and hardest task. I wrote about it once before and came up with these three points of what to change …

Never Change: Your Core Values, Putting Your Customer First

Don’t Change Now: Anything that is productive and efficient

Change Now: Everything else

The best way avoid becoming one of the two fools above is to have a process for when and how to change.

WHEN TO CHANGE

When someone asks you to change something you’ve always done, you get defensive. That is a natural reaction. Here is a process to help you decide when to change the old (or chase after the new.)

First ask this question …

  • Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?

If it is a tweak and the tweak makes the current process more efficient and/or more customer-friendly, you should do it.

In fact you should always be looking for tweaks, small changes that make things work better.

If it is a wholesale change—some shiny, new bauble—then you have to ask a few more questions …

  • Does the new process/system fit within our Core Values?
  • Is it customer-friendly?
  • Is it faster or more efficient than the old way?
  • Can it be easily taught to everyone on the team?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, then it is a good change.

If you answered no to either of the first two questions, you’re better off staying the course.

If you answered no to the third question, but a strong yes to the first two, it might be worth considering. sometimes it is worth giving up a little efficiency on your end if it helps delight more customers.

If you answered yes to the first three but not the last question, just understand there will be some growing pains to get the new system implemented, but it is still worth making the change.

If that isn’t enough to help you decide, you can do what I did. I always liked to ask two more questions …

  • Is the old way no longer working?
  • What statistics were slain to make this bauble look enticing?

Change costs time, money, and other resources. Change is not always easy. In Seth Godin’s book THE DIP, he shows how change often causes a dip in productivity at first, followed by the gains you were hoping to get when you made the change.

Sometimes it is better to keep the old ways. Sometimes it is better to embrace the new.

The true fool, however, is the business owner who doesn’t have a process to evaluate when and how to change your business for the better.

Fortunately, you’re no fool.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll explore how to change later this week.

PPS I had one more technique I used for making decisions on the shiny, new baubles presented to me, especially in advertising. I slept on them. If something new is good, it will still be available tomorrow. In fact, if it is really good, tomorrow there will be two more people trying to sell you on it.

When it came to new advertising methods, I would also ask …

This “Free” is Really Free!

I was looking at the Free Resources page on my website yesterday. There are nine eBooks on Marketing & Advertising, twelve on Customer Service, and five on Money. You can download any and all of them for free. No strings attached. No limits to how many or how often you can download them. No limits to how far or wide you can share them. I don’t even ask for your email address first, just credit for having written and produced them.

Yeah, pretty stupid to give it all away like that for free.

Free eBook Icon from Phil's ForumYet, if you read yesterday’s post, you would understand why I do it. Of the three questions and the fifteen answers I gave yesterday to why I am doing what I do, the last question about the problems I want to solve and the last five answers were the easiest.

Helping other businesses succeed drives everything. It is the starting and ending point. If these eBooks can make a difference, you should have them.

  • You’re more likely to download them if you don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops.
  • You’re more likely to read them if they are short and to the point.
  • You’re more likely to share them if they are smaller files that you could even print if you wanted.

“A man who doesn’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t.” -Mark Twain

My sales staff got a copy of everything I had written about customer service at that time either through a staff training or by printing copies for their handbooks. (That included Generating Word of Mouth which is technically a Customer Service issue even though you’ll find it under Marketing & Advertising.)

My buyers all got copies of the Inventory Management and Pricing for Profit eBooks (the latter of which is the second most downloaded after Understanding Your Brand). 

While the stats counter shows how many times each gets downloaded, it doesn’t tell me how you’ve used them.

Would you do me a favor?

Drop me a comment on this post or an email and tell me which eBooks you’ve used and what, if any, difference they have made for your business. I’d like to know which ones have been most useful and which ones need to be revised, revamped, or removed for better content.

Thanks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The five newest eBooks are:

Those first four make up the basis of the new half-day workshop The Ultimate Selling Workshop. (They also stand alone as great Breakout Sessions!) Yes, the live event for any of these eBooks is a far cry better than the eBook, itself. You get more stories and examples. You get the whole presentation tailored to your specific industry or region. If it is a session with owners and managers, you also get tips and techniques for teaching it to your staff. If it is a session with the staff at your business, you get hands-on activities to really drive home the points. While I encourage you to hire me for a live event, please keep sharing and using this information. Together we can tilt the playing field back in your direction.

What Value are You Selling?

Sell “Play Value”

That’s the first line of the business plan my grandfather wrote back in 1949 when he founded Toy House. I found his spiral notebook with the plan while looking for something else in the archives of the store. Page two outlined the possible names for the store including Toy House and House of Toys.

Having written a few business plans over the years, what fascinates me is the simplicity of what he started out to do. He didn’t say he was going to open a retail shop. He didn’t even say he was going to sell toys. He was going to sell something of value—“Play Value.”

In an interview I did with my grandfather a couple years before he passed away I asked him what he thought was the reason for the long success of Toy House. We were about to celebrate our 60th year in business. He said, “I think its because we didn’t set out to be just a toy store. We wanted it to be a store of value. I’ve always sold on the value.”

In a 2005 survey I sanctioned about toy shopping in Jackson, the survey respondents were asked to name the first store that popped into mind when certain words were read. We were mentioned most for words like Friendly and Helpful. Walmart owned Affordable and Cheap. Kmart owned Dark and Dirty. Toys R Us owned Cluttered and Confusing.

The most surprising result from that survey was that we also owned the word Value.

While my competitors were advertising low price, I was talking about Play Value. While my competitors were offering discounts, I was teaching customers how to calculate the True Cost of a Toy (Cost per Hour of Play).

Value.

Products come and go. Nothing is exclusive anymore. You’ll never make it in retail if your only calling card is exclusivity of product. You need to be clear on what you are really selling.

Your competitors are going to advertise the heck out of brands and discounts. If you want to stand in stark contrast to them, advertise the Value your customers are buying.

For instance …

  • A shoe store customer is really buying health, comfort, or safety
  • A clothing store customer is really buying self-esteem, success, or comfort
  • A jewelry store customer is really buying love, romance, or gratitude
  • A candy store customer is really buying happiness, comfort, or indulgence
  • A gift shop customer is really buying nostalgia, relationships, or contentment
  • A sporting goods store customer is really buying health, happiness, or even time

What Value are your customers buying?

Does your staff know this? Do you talk about it daily, weekly, monthly? Do you do things to reinforce this ideal?

Do your customers know this? Are you making sure your social media posts, email newsletters, and other advertisements all portray this message?

Here are some radio ads I ran back in 2016 …

Happy Dance
Last year, a professor said the toys that are most open-ended and creative are the toys kids play with the longest. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s. Another professor last year said that a toy should be 10% toy and 90% child. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s, too. When the professors confirm something you’ve already known, there is only one thing to do… A happy dance. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. Come join us in our happy dance.

Real Play Value
Remember that toy your child saw on TV that he begged and pleaded and wore you down until you bought it? Only to find he never played with it again? Quit making that mistake. Anyone can make a toy look good for 30-seconds. Do your child a favor, don’t cave. Get toys with real play value. Your kids will be playing, laughing, and growing. They won’t even turn on the TV. Go to Toy House in downtown Jackson, the largest selection of toys in America. We’ll make you smile, while your kids play

Play is Important
Everyone is talking about education and how to fix it. The answer is easy – Play. Google Play. You’ll get thousands of studies why kids who play more do better in school. Don’t wait for the politicians to figure this out. They don’t win votes stumping for recess. For the greater good of this country and your child, you need interactive, open-ended, creative play. The same kind we’ve been advocating for sixty-seven years. Toy House in downtown Jackson, because Play is actually quite important.

While Target was trying to cram as many brand logos into one TV spot as possible, we were talking about making a difference. Value.

When you make it clear what Value you are selling, you’ll find plenty of customers who want to buy those Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Does selling Value really work? When we closed shop in 2016, our Market Share was at 16%—far larger than the typical indie toy store, the largest in our market, and the same it had been for several years even as Amazon was growing. It was only the shrinking local market that helped us decide to hang it up.

PPS This “value” is only slightly different than your Core Values. I know the terms can be confusing because of similarity. Think of your Core Values as being the driver behind what you do. Think of the Value you Sell as being the Benefit your customers buy.

Reviews: Good, Bad, Necessary Evil?

I remember the first presentation I saw about the power of online reviews. The speaker instructed us how to use our smartphones to take quick testimonials right on the sales floor whenever we had a happy customers. I looked at my notes from the presentation and read …

“Get them to post their reviews before they even checkout. That’s when they are happiest.”

I also remember around the same time reading about Yelp and the problems with reviews there. Yelp was accused of suppressing good reviews and only showing an equal mix of both good and bad reviews. Yelp’s argument was that most good reviews were false anyway and that the people reading the reviews needed to see both the good and the bad.

I had never even looked at Yelp because I thought it was only for restaurants and west coast businesses. I immediately checked out our listing. To my surprise (and delight), there were no negative reviews posted, mainly because we didn’t have any negative reviews.

Then I got the extortion letter from Yelp. If I signed up for advertising with them I could control (somewhat) my negative reviews. I remember thinking three things at that time.

First, I didn’t have any negative reviews to control on Yelp.

Second, I didn’t see the return on investment for running ads on Yelp, partly because I didn’t and still don’t see much return on investment for any brick & mortar running online ads, and partly because I didn’t see Yelp as a big deal for indie retail.

Third, anyone that was already looking me up or finding me on Yelp was either going to visit me because I was an indie toy store or not visit me because I was an indie toy store. The reviews were a minor part of the decision process. More importantly, anyone who didn’t know me, then found me on Yelp, and was debating whether to visit was basing their decision on every single interaction they had ever had with an indie toy store.

The reviews were just the reinforcement of their already-established bias.

That’s the reality of how we read reviews. We first have an established bias based on our own beliefs and previous experiences. We look at reviews to reinforce those beliefs. We’ll justify away negative reviews for places we expect to love, and discount the reviewer’s opinion when it is at odds with what we expect.

In the back of our mind, we’ll also wonder how many of these reviews—good and bad—are simply made up.

About the only time we’ll heed the reviews is when they are heavily slanted to the negative. When everyone is saying something bad, we’ll decide the business is an outlier and shun them.

(Note: I talked about how to deal with negative reviews here.)

Does this mean you should ignore reviews for your business? Absolutely not! You should always be checking your reviews. If they slant negative then you have a problem you need to address with how you run your business. Even one bad review might be enough to warrant a change in policy to make the experience better for your customers.

If they slant positive, great! Keep up the good work!

Only if you don’t have any reviews (because you’re a new business or have only recently claimed your online profile) should you actually go after getting them. If you’re running your business correctly, the good reviews will take care of themselves.

Because of confirmation bias, though, you don’t have to lose sleep over your reviews. Just keep an eye on them from time to time and make sure you run your business so well that the positive organic reviews outweigh the negative ones.

At the end of the day the most important “review” is the one-to-one where your current customers talk about you to their friends.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Of all the reviews online, pay most attention to your Google reviews. These are the ones that most people will see because A) Google is the top search engine. B) Google Maps is the top Map App.

PPS If you are a restaurant, reviews are much more critical than if you’re a retailer. How you respond to each review goes a long way to how people will view your restaurant. Read this about negative reviews.

Is it the Best Place to Spend Your Money?

“It’s only $400. What have you got to lose?”

If you’ve ever run a small business you’ve heard that question before, usually spoken by an advertising sales rep trying to sell you on some new marketing fad, or maybe an add-on to a package you’ve already bought. You fall for it, too. I know I did, several times.

You fall for it like I did for one of three reasons:

  • You didn’t have a marketing plan
  • You didn’t have a goal, or expected outcome you knew you wanted from your marketing plan
  • You didn’t do the ROI and truly answer that question
Close up of a pen and blank check

What have you got to lose? For starters, the $400 check you just wrote. Secondly, the chance to spend that $400 more wisely. The better question to ask is …

“Is this the best place to spend that money?”

When you have a plan, you have a better idea of where you want to spend your money, how that money will be used, what you hope to accomplish, and how you’ll measure the results. You’ll also have a budget that you’re checking regularly so that you’ll know if you even have that $400 to spend in the first place. When I started budgeting, I had set amounts to spend in certain places where I knew I would get the best bang for my buck. I also had some flexible money for opportunity buys.

When you have a goal or expected outcome, you have another measuring tool. When I finally got smart about my budget, the question I would always ask before spending that flex fund was, “Would this money be better spent on this new thing or just added to the money I’ve allocated elsewhere?”

The ROI is the hardest question to answer. One truth about marketing, advertising and even sales training is that there isn’t a simple plug-and-chug equation that says if you spend X your results will be Y. Anyone who tells you otherwise has a good ROI—for him, not necessarily you. At best you have generalizations based on previous experiences, trial-and-error, and hope. Yet being able to figure out the ROI, even in the most general sense, is the only way to really know what you have to lose.

DOING THE MATH

I’m going to do a math problem to give you an idea of how to calculate ROI. To do it, I will be using some basic assumptions. You can adjust your numbers accordingly.

  • Traffic = 200 people/day
  • Conversion rate = 20% (40 people/day)
  • Average Ticket = $50
  • Sales for 30 selling days = $60,000 (40 people x $50 x 30 days)
  • Profit Margin = 50% ($30,000 on that $60,000 in sales)

If we do the math backwards, it might look like this: I need to do $60,800 in sales just to break even on the $400 I’m going to spend. Realistically, though, to make it worthwhile, I’d like to make back at least an extra $400, so I need to do $61,600 to get any kind of return worthwhile. Therefore, at $50/per ticket, I now need an extra 32 paying customers over the 30 days. Since my conversion rate is only 20%, however, I need to attract an extra 160 customers over the month just to break even. So the real question becomes, “Will this $400 attract an extra 5-6 people a day or more (3%)?” Considering one of the most highly measured advertising models—direct mail—has only a 1-2% expected return, that might be asking a lot of any marketing effort, especially something new and untested.

Remember, too, that the effects of this advertising will likely end with the season. If it isn’t already in your budget, being able to do the math like this can save you from losing a lot.

You can play around with this basic formula to find out all kinds of cool things. For instance, if your Profit Margin was 52% instead of 50%, you’d have an extra $1,200 in your pocket. (To find out how to increase your profit margin through a better pricing strategy, download the FREE eBook Pricing for Profit.)

What if you raised your conversion rate from 20% to 22%? (By the way, that’s converting 4 out of the 160 people that didn’t convert before.) Now, instead of 40 people a day, you have 44 paying customers. Over 30 days that equals $66,000 in sales, or an extra $3,000 in profit.

What if you also raised the average ticket just 2% to $51? Now you have 44 people x $51 x 30 days = $67,320 in sales, or $3,660 in extra profit.

Wait. Did I just show you the ROI for The Ultimate Selling Workshop? Maybe I should add in a few other benefits.

Unlike most advertising that ends when the season ends, Sales Training keeps creating results long after the season ends. Your staff will learn new skills that they will use the rest of their lives. You’ll see your culture change for the better as your staff focuses more on relationship-building, not only with your customers, but with each other. They’ll also be more intrinsically motivated because you’ll be offering them Mastery and Purpose, two of the three elements (along with Autonomy) that Daniel H. Pink, in his book DRIVE, says motivates people to do their best.

Better Sales Training also leads to happier, more satisfied customers which leads to more Repeat business as your happy customers want to come back more often and Referral business as those happy customers tell all their friends about you. Yes, you can actually “buy” word-of-mouth by teaching your team to be better at selling. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Here’s one last nugget for you to chew on …

If your customer service is substandard—and let’s face it, a lot more stores have lower levels of service than they’re willing to admit—then just increasing traffic through advertising will only help speed up your demise as more and more people will talk about you in a negative way. Shore up your Customer Service first. Teach your staff how to build relationships, how to surprise and delight, how to convert more of your traffic into paying customers, and how to make your customers happier. Then you’ll have all the money you need to attract more people through the door.

The ROI is there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If your business is going to do $60,000 or more this December, The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a really good deal for you. In fact, the higher your traffic count, the better the investment becomes. I’ve shown you how this pays for itself and then some with just a modest growth of 2-2.5% in conversions and average ticket. Now do that math over the whole year to see the true benefit.

PPS Yes, you can download the FREE eBooks on Selling that I’ve posted and you can read my blogs to do this yourself. You’ll save the $2,000 you would have spent on me. You’ll instead spend it on time and energy planning your own trainings and extrapolating all those idea to your industry. Or you can hire me and not only will I do all that work for you, there is something about bringing in an outside expert that gets your staff fired up even more. They might love you, but they’ve heard you speak before. I know when I brought in new people to my meetings the staff perked up and listened even better. The introductory price ends at midnight September 30th. Let’s make this your best December ever and kick start 2019 all at once.