I remember the email clearly. Hit me like a ton of bricks. “Why aren’t you open later for the holidays?”
We were open later for the holidays. It just didn’t say so on our Google profile. Nor did it say so on Facebook. Nor did it say so on our own web page.
I had changed the sign on the door and the answering machine. Fifteen years ago that would have been enough. Today that’s the kiss of death.
If your website, Google Profile, and Facebook Pages aren’t all up-to-date with accurate information, you’re killing sales before they even happen.
It isn’t a generational thing, either. I’m 52 and I use Google Maps on my phone to check a store’s hours all the time. I use it to find their web page, too.
If your web page isn’t optimized for mobile, not only will Google bury you in the SEO game, these old eyes won’t even bother to look around. Unless I’ve already decided I want to visit you, I’m moving on to option #2.
After getting that email and missing out on a potential big sale because of it, I added “Change Hours Online” to my Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve checklists. (You don’t have a “changing of the season” checklist? Dude, we need to talk.)
I also started looking at those three online sources more critically.
Are they easy to navigate?
Are they answering the questions people who stumble upon them are asking?
Are they accurate?
Are they written for the customer, not some corporate lingo or legalese mumbo-jumbo?
Those sources are your customer’s first point of contact. It is the first impression people get of your business. It is the first point at which they judge your ability to solve their problems and take care of their needs.
They are either your worst or your best salespeople.
They either build or destroy the trust you are trying to win from your customers. Yet far too often we neglect to look at them in that way.
I gave you Five Rules of Websites last April. Take those same rules and apply them to your Google Profile and your Facebook Page. Your digital profile is more important than ever before. Don’t let it kill sales before they happen.
(For those of you who don’t like to click links, the rules are:
You don’t have to have eCommerce on your website to be successful.
Every single page must have a clear and distinct purpose.
Your website is your silent salesperson. Make it your best.
Your hours, phone number, and address have to be prominent and easy to find.
It has to be compatible for mobile platforms.
For an explanation of each rule, click and read. It will be worth it.)
PS If you have special circumstances for your hours such as certain times by appointment only, make sure those are clear as well. You actually do sometimes get a second chance to make a first impression, but it is incredibly hard to overcome the first first impression.
PPS The sixth rule is simply – Make sure your Core Values are evident on every page.
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.
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.
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 everythingyou 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I told you yesterday what I would do if you hired me to look at your business. Thirty questions inside of five topics to figure out what bullets you need to fire to get your business to the next level. Since one of my Core Values is Helping Others, I’m going to use the next five posts going over those questions more in detail so that you can try to help yourself. (Note: you can skip this post and just hire me to do this for you. Or you can read on. Your call …)
KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES
A business not aligned with the owner’s Core Values will not last long. You’ll constantly be fighting against yourself. If you haven’t done so already, take a few moments to read the eBook Understanding Your Brand (free download). Then download the Branding Worksheets. Those worksheets are designed to help you uncover your Core Values.
Mine are Having Fun, Helpful, Educational, and Nostalgic.
Once you know your Core Values, take a look at your store’s actions. Do they align? Actions speak louder than words.
SHOW YOUR CORE VALUES
You can figure this out two ways. Either first make a list of your Core Values then below each value list all the ways your business shows that value. Or make a list of everything your store does and then group those actions by similarity. That similarity will almost always align with one of your values.
Having Fun: Toy demos throughout the store, Monthly and weekly events including story times, game nights, and themed parties, Always willing to open a package and see what is inside
Helpful: Free Gift Wrapping, Layaway, UPS Shipping, Car Seat Installation, Carry-out and Delivery Service, Assembly, Gift Suggestions, Gift Registry, Bike Repair …
Educational: Free classes on buying baby products, Educational brochures on buying toys, Articles and links on our website, Posting of articles to social media, Email Newsletter, Educational signage throughout store, Belief that all toys teach (and knowledge about what each toy teaches)
Nostalgic: The Birthday Bell, New Baby, Birthday, and Christmas presents, A permanent history display, Classic toys like Lincoln Logs, LEGO, Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Slinky
You can see from that list how I incorporated all four Core Values into the day-to-day business operations.
ADD VALUE WHERE IT ISN’T
If there is anything on your list of actions that doesn’t fit into one of your values, how can you change that?
For instance, when I first learned about making my own values more apparent, I changed two things right away—my phone message and the bathrooms. Our phone message was very business-like and boring so I injected a little humor into it. Our bathrooms were dark, dingy, and plain. We added new light fixtures, painted the walls, and then posted fun and informational signs on the walls. Neither of those cost much money, but they turned negatives into positives.
We also bumped up those values where we could. Not everything on the above list existed before I decided to make those values more apparent. The history display, the educational signage, and an extra emphasis on toy demonstration stations all came from trying to make our Core Values more apparent and obvious.
ADD IT TO THE BACK END, TOO
I also attempted to make the back-end of the business more in alignment. I used my core Values in the hiring process to find people who shared those values. I tried to make our trainings more fun, helpful, and educational. I encouraged continuing education by helping pay for my staff to take classes and attend workshops on their own (even if it had nothing to do with selling—learning is learning and continued learning is a mindset).
I also used my Core Values in my advertising message. I learned quickly that ads filled with Nostalgia spoke to the heart much more deeply than anything else. I made sure every ad spoke clearly to one of my values.
One truth about human nature is we prefer to do business with people and businesses we like. We like people and businesses who share our values. Look at your strongest fans and followers. They share your values. They are part of your tribe. They figured out the values you’ve only so far been showing subconsciously. Imagine what will happen when you start showing those values consciously?
Here’s one more benefit …
When your business is perfectly aligned with your Core Values it will never feel like work!
I can honestly say there was never a day in 24 years where I woke up and said, “I’d rather be anywhere than at Toy House.” There were days I didn’t want to wake up, but not to avoid going to the store.
Aligning your business with your values helps you enjoy your business even more. It puts you in a better mood which puts your staff in a better mood, which puts your customers in a better mood. It also helps you attract the kind of customers you prefer—people who share your values. It also makes your decision-making much easier. Does what you’re about to do align with your values? Then do it. If not, then don’t do it.
Before you look at anything else, first make sure your business is aligned with your values. Then make sure those values are apparent in everything you do. Often that will solve some of the problems you are facing. More importantly, it won’t get in the way or hold you back from the other problems you’re trying to solve.
PS A big shout-out to Roy H. Williams of Wizard Academy and David Freeman from Beyond Structure who were instrumental in helping me uncover my own Core Values and learn how to harness their power. Roy helped me find Having Fun and Helping Others. David helped me find Education and Nostalgia. Yeah, those values were there all along, but uncovering them, dusting them off, and being them more openly and consciously has helped me in more ways than I could have imagined. It will help you, too. If you need help uncovering your values, if you’ve done the worksheets and aren’t clear on your answers, shoot me an email.
PPS What if you are the manager, not the owner? I get this question a lot. If the owner is an absentee owner, the business will likely take on more of the values of the manager. But be forewarned. If those values aren’t in alignment with the owner, the manager will eventually get fired because the business isn’t “going in the right direction.” That’s why it imperative to hire managers who share your values whether you are there or not. Every member of my team had a healthy dose of Fun, Helpful, Educational, and Nostalgic bones in them.
For a short period of time I was between bookkeepers. The job fell on my shoulders for a few months. While this was a godsend in one way because it helped me better understand the job and the skills necessary to do the job well, it also frustrated me because one of the most important tasks was filing papers. I hate filing papers.
I would have a small stack of papers, a nice, neat, organized set of file drawers, and folders already labeled and waiting, yet I couldn’t muster the energy to spend the ten or fifteen minutes to put those papers away.
Mock me all you want (those papers did) but it just wasn’t something I liked to do. My desk at Toy House was almost always a mess of piles.
I’m still that way. My keyboard is surrounded by piles of papers that just need to be put away. My mouse has the barest minimum of space to work. No one would look at my office here at home or at the store and accuse me of being a neat-freak.
Yet when I was out on the floor I was constantly straightening products on shelves, cleaning up messes, and rearranging merchandise to keep it organized and pleasing to the eye. I detested a messy store and worked long hours to keep it clean and neat.
Why the Jekyll and Hyde?
The office was for me. The sales floor was for my customers.
As you remember, one of my Core Values is Helping Others. Keeping a clean and organized office helps me. Keeping a clean and organized sales floor helps my customers. When you look at it through that prism, you can see why the former was so difficult and the latter was so easy.
This is just one of the many reasons why knowing your Core Values is so important. It helps you understand the decisions you make. It helps you understand why you put your priorities in a certain order.
As you’re evaluating the previous year and plotting your course for 2019, I encourage you to evaluate last year’s results through the prism of your Core Values. See just how much influence those values have on your everyday existence. You’ll be surprised to see how much of your pain was from when your business and your values were at odds and how much of your joy was when they were aligned.
When you begin to see it, you realize you have the power to harness your Values to bring you more joy.
I hired a bookkeeper to do the stuff that helps me and spent my time doing the stuff that helps others.
PS Sometimes you have to do the painful stuff yourself. I wrote about how to muscle through that here. Sometimes you need to hire someone to do the things you don’t like to do, don’t want to do, or don’t have the talent to do. I wrote about how to find those people here.
PPS If you aren’t sure of your Core Values, here is a worksheet I use to help people identify them. You’ll know it is a true value of yours when you see it in your business, too.
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:
Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
Tell a Story
Make Only One Point
Speak to the Heart
Speak to the Tribe
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.
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.
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 whatto 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 howto 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.
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 …
While I know I should probably avoid the drive-thru restaurants, I don’t. I go even though I don’t particularly like the drive-thrus. It isn’t the food. It is the experience, or more accurately the final moments of the experience.
Two things happen far too often at the end of a drive-thru experience that shouldn’t. One is partially my fault. One is simple training that would make the experience far more pleasurable.
Don’t you just hate when they give you your change?
They always stack the bills on your hand first and then drop a wad of coins on top of those bills. My only hope is that when the coins start sliding off (as they always do), they will slide into my vehicle and not on the ground.
The second problem is making sure I got the right stuff. I don’t want to hold up the line so I rarely ever check the bag. Sometimes they are polite enough to tell me what they are handing me. Sometimes they aren’t.
Yesterday, however, I found a third reason to be annoyed.
This picture is the dollar bill I got in change for my meal yesterday. I actually flattened it out some for the picture. It was pretty crumpled. I was afraid to put it into my wallet.
All I could think about as I drove away was why wasn’t this drive-thru cashier instructed to put the nasty, slimy, crumpled, torn, barely readable dollar bills at the bottom of the stack and only give out the good ones as change?
You do that, don’t you?
If there was anything I was OCD about at Toy House, it was clean dollar bills in the drawer. Every morning when I counted out the drawers I held back the nasty ones for the deposit and put the clean ones in the drawers. I used to beg the teller at the bank to give me the clean bills whenever I bought bundles of ones. (She used to hold the better bundles aside just for me—that’s customer service!)
It seems like a silly, minor thing, but it is those little details that set you apart from your competition.
Your customers won’t notice you did it, but sometimes the best customer service is doing something nice they don’t notice rather than having them flame you on Yelp for something not so nice they did notice.
Teach your staff to give back the right kind of change the right way. It quietly makes a difference.
PS Oh, I would love to go into a fast food joint and whip them into shape. After giving back change, the other thing I would teach them to do is to put the lettuce in the sandwich, not in the outer folds of the wrapper. I would have taken that picture of me becoming a salad yesterday if I wasn’t driving.
PPS I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant once where the cashier handed me back change the right way. It was so refreshing that I had to thank her. She said it was the way she was taught. See? It can be taught. While that isn’t the only reason why an average Chick-fil-A restaurant does over three times in sales of the average KFC, staff training is definitely a major contributing factor.
I haven’t told you what happened exactly two years later.
There was a guy, probably late 20’s, in his Carhart overalls staring at an empty place on the shelves. Back in 1982 we were a full-line dealer for this young and growing company called Little Tikes. They were making these amazing rotational molded plastic toys. They had a whole lineup of kitchen appliances including a stove, a refrigerator and a sink. (Yes, they were sold separately back then.)
This guy was staring at the empty hole where we would normally have stocked a sink.
Do you know the look of defeat? With his eyes glazed over, trying to hold back tears, this guy defined that look. I asked him if I could help.
“This hole means you don’t have any sinks left, right?”
In 1982 I didn’t have a computer to look up my stock numbers. I did, however, remember seeing one in a box in the warehouse. I told him to hold on while I checked just to make sure.
The one in back had just recently been canceled from a layaway. You should have seen his face when I brought out the box from the back room. It was magical!
We hugged and cried and I watched this guy literally dance his way out into the parking lot. It wasn’t until years later that I heard the term “happy-dance” but I saw one on Christmas Eve in 1982.
I don’t know if I am blessed, lucky, or just happened to have worked too many years in retail, but I actually have several more stories just like this one.
Twenty years later I had the staff together for our final meeting before the Christmas Season kicked into full gear. I called this our Pep Rally meeting. I liked to have a theme I unveiled at this meeting each year, something easy for the staff to remember.
In 2002 the phenomenon sweeping the nation was Harry Potter. The books were huge and the first movie had just been released. So our theme was Believe in the Magic. I told everyone the Simon Story and the story above. I told them a couple other “magical” stories.
We talked about the difference between service and “magical service.” We discussed the differences between selling toys and creating “magical memories.”
Then I handed everyone their own magic wand that said “Believe in the Magic!”
It was a powerful meeting, and it led to a magical season. The key was the theme.
I didn’t teach them anything new that I hadn’t already been teaching. I didn’t give them new information they didn’t already have. I didn’t introduce new concepts, techniques, or skills. It was the same stuff I always teach. The difference was the word “magical.”
By giving the season a theme and linking it to one single word or phrase, I made the meeting more memorable. I made the concepts come alive. I breathed new life into old teachings. I gave them one simple thing to focus on—being magical.
I gave them a Purpose.
As you prepare your team for this upcoming selling season, give them something to believe in. Give them a Purpose that makes it simple for them to remember their training.
One year I used the Super Hero theme. I told them stories about when we had been the hero for our customers and talked about what heroes do. (I even dressed up in a cape. If you’ve seen one of my live presentations, you’ve seen the picture of me in that cape.)
One year the theme was Become an Expert. We talked about how experts build trust through honesty and accuracy. We discussed how experts do research and know their stuff.
If you have read Daniel H. Pink’s book DRIVE, you know the three ingredients needed for motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Your meetings give them Mastery. Sprinkle in some Purpose, though, and the recipe gets even better.
Create a theme for your Pep Rally meeting. Not only does it give them a purpose, it makes the meeting more fun and it makes it easier for your staff to remember one big thing rather than several little things.
PS Some of you are jealous. You’re thinking how fun it must have been to be a toy store and play all those games and have fun themes like magic or super heroes or Disney Princesses. You can’t do that because you’re an insurance agency, a dentist, or a doctor’s office so you have to be serious all the time. Or you’re a shoe seller or a pharmacy or a grocer, and there’s nothing fun about that. Oh really? We still need heroes and experts in all those fields. We still want magical experiences. Just imagine the difference when one dental office in your town decides to become “magical” or one grocer puts an emphasis on being your “hero.” That’s a game changer.
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.
Yet, 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.)
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.
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.
You know me. I like to learn. When a friend of mine offered me the chance to sign up for her new six-week online tutorial for launching a new business, I jumped at the chance.
Frances Schagen has helped over a thousand businesses get started. That’s an impressive number. You might remember her name because I quote her at the beginning of the Free eBook Reading Your Financial Statements.
“What gets measured gets done.” -Frances Schagen
Frances was instrumental in proofing and helping me get the math and concepts right in that eBook and also a bigger financial statements book I wrote for the toy industry. She is a smart lady and I’m lucky to get to learn from her.
With her permission, I am going to do my homework throughout the class live on this blog.
Not only will you get to see how I am building my business, you’ll get ideas that will help you with your own business.
THE OWNER’S STORY
The first stage is The Owner’s Story. The first worksheet and homework for me to do is the 3×5 Whys Project. I have three questions I need to answer. For each question, however, I need to answer five “whys.” The purpose of this sheet is to really dig deep to uncover my story, why I want to start this business, why I want to go into this field, and what I hope to accomplish. Here are my answers:
Why are you starting a business? Why have you chosen this way to make your living?
Why #1 – I have chosen this way to make a living because of my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. I find writing and speaking to be incredibly fun, helpful and educational.
Why #2 – I am starting a business because I like being my own boss, calling my own shots, being responsible and accountable for my own mistakes, and choosing my own schedule. As a single parent, it gives me flexibility to be the parent I want to be, too.
Why #3 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I like travel and meeting new people.
Why #4 – I am starting a business because I need to make money. I have one child in college and another starting college next year. I have living expenses and not enough retirement money saved up.
Why #5 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I see a decent income potential. While I don’t ever expect to be one of those high-profile speakers who gets tens of thousands of dollars every time he steps on stage, if I can find two or three opportunities to speak or lead a workshop each month I can make a decent living. I also believe I can do this type of job long past the typical retirement age, which not only gives me more income potential, but also keeps me active and fulfills my own needs for a long time.
Why have you chosen this field? Why are you doing this work?
Why #1 – I have chosen writing a blog and books, and doing workshops and presentations for small business owners because it is the topic I know best and have the most personal experience.
Why #2 – I have chosen this field because I know how little true help there is out there for indie retailers. I have belonged to several retail owner groups over the years and have heard the questions. We all bring some expertise to the arena, but running a retail business requires you to wear so many different hats that it is impossible to know everything. Too much of our learning as business owners is done on the fly, often the hard way through trial & error and learning from our mistakes.
Why #3 – I am doing this work because I believe I have a talent in both the writing and the presenting. I have been told several times that my super power is the ability to break down seemingly complex ideas into understandable thoughts.
Why #4 – I am doing this work because it satisfies me. I take more pride in hearing how something I said or wrote made a difference for your business than I do in just hearing, “Nice job,” or “You did good out there.” My favorite testimonial to date came from a guy at SuperZoo a few years ago who said, “You’ve saved my business AND my marriage!”
Why #5 – I have chosen this field because I have been on the other side of the equation, asking the questions small business owners ask, searching for the resources and answers. I know a lot of the answers from making the mistakes and learning from them. I also know where to go to find more answers because I have done those searches. I want to be that resource for others.
What global problem do you want to solve? (however you define that) What change do you want to make?
Why #1 – I want to help small businesses, primarily indie retailers and entrepreneurs, to find their success.
Why #2 – I recognize that the field is slanted toward big businesses with deep pockets and strong lobbies, but I believe there are plenty of ways for small businesses to compete and thrive. The tools are available, but sometimes we need people to show us how to use those tools. I want to be that person.
Why #3 – I want to encourage shopping local. I have seen enough studies to know a strong local retail presence will further strengthen the local economy. But I also believe local businesses need to be better than they have been if they want to keep the local dollars in town.
Why #4 – I believe small business owners care more than large corporate CEO’s. CEO’s focus solely on the shareholder. Small business owners don’t have shareholders, so they care more deeply about their employees, their customers, their community, and even the environment. If I can help small business owners develop, grow, and find success, I can bring caring back to this world.
Why #5 – I believe in generosity. When we give more of ourselves, we encourage others to give. Whether they pay it forward or pay it back. I want to live in a world where generosity is the default, not an outlier. It starts with me. That’s why I have this blog and the Free Resources page. That’s why I answer every question emailed to me.
Whew! That was a little harder than I thought. Coming up with five answers to each of those questions was not as easy as I originally thought. But I can see the importance of this exercise. In our online chat today, Frances helped us try to clarify what we want to do and why we want to do it. Some of those answers above have helped me realize what I really want to do.
I would encourage you to answer these same questions for you and your business. Often we get into business because of one reason, but once we get there and have to juggle all the day-to-day problems and wear the many hats, we forget why we’re here in the first place. That’s when business is no longer fun and you’re merely in the game for survival. As you can see from the above answers, I don’t want that for you.
PS You can still get in on this class if you want. We only just started today. The real meat begins next week. Contact Frances if you want to play along.
PPS Now you also know a little more about what drives me to do what I do. The ultimate goal for me would be to have two or three paid events each month where I am presenting or leading a workshop, leaving the rest of my time to write and mentor other business owners. If you know of any organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce, DDA, Main Street, Shop Local, or trade association looking for a professional speaker, please let me know. I’d love to do a live event in your town or at your next event.