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Be Yourself, Be a Unicorn!

I love those signs that say, “Be yourself. Unless you can be a Unicorn. Then be a Unicorn.” (Substitute Batman for Unicorn for those who identify that way.)

Be yourself is the best advice I could ever give to any business owner. Know your Core Values, what drives you in your life, and be them so clearly and proudly that everyone knows exactly who you are.

Those who share your values will become lifelong fans and evangelists of your business. You’ll always have a core of supporters.

HABA USA Unicorn Rainbow Beauty

To truly stand out in retail, however, you also have to be a Unicorn. You have to be so different from every other retailer that people believe you to be magical.

I say this in light of the article that came out last month stating that the Retail Apocalypse is still upon us with over 5800 stores closing in 2019 alone (and that’s only through March!)

Before you panic, 2,500 of those stores are Payless Shoes. Another 390 are Family Dollar stores closing after Dollar Tree bought them out. Other big chains with big closures include The Gap, JC Penney’s, Chico’s, and Gymboree.

None of those stores were Unicorns. 

The Gap was the closest, but no one under forty remembers when they made their splash on the retail scene. Their horn fell off decades ago.

The culprit most often blamed is Amazon, followed closely by Millennials. While Millennials probably had a lot to do with Victoria Secret closings (Hey, VS, have you noticed society has mostly shifted away from your idea of sexy lingerie?), they and Amazon are more symptoms than causes of retail store closures.

The real culprit is the stores themselves.

Chain stores are dropping like flies and they only have themselves to blame.

First, we are over-saturated with retail to begin with. Too many chains competing for not enough dollars. The chain stores work on the premise that the more stores they have, the more revenue they would be able to collect to “make it up with volume” which led to rapid growth and expansion well beyond what the market could bear.

Second, these stores invest next to nothing in training for their managers and staff. A couple of my former employees went to work for chain stores and showed me their employee handbooks. Sixteen pages on how to use the time clock and what will happen if you get caught breaking a policy, but not one word on how to create a relationship with a customer or even how to sell.

Third, there is little to differentiate one chain from the next. They all have the same merchandise from the same manufacturers. They all have the same lack of service that begins at the top with poorly trained managers who know nothing about team building, HR, or how to teach and motivate others, let alone how to merchandise and run a customer-centric store. They all fail to grasp how much of the population has moved on from the materialism in the 80’s and 90’s to more sustainable approaches to life. They all think big discounts = loyalty. They all chase the shiny new baubles like omni-channel, big-data, BOPIS, and social media, thinking those will be the big fixes that will help their businesses.

Nothing about any of these stores is or was unique, exciting or magical.

The downside for you is that all of these lousy experiences in other stores are driving customers online and making online shopping more prevalent and convenient.

The upside for you is that it is much easier to become a Unicorn of a store than ever before.

The bar is so low now that stores that care about their customers through their actions and policies stand out like lighthouse beacons on a desolate ocean of crappy retail.

Toys R Us is the only chain store closing where I actually heard customers lamenting the loss. No one is lamenting Payless going away. No one will even remember Charlotte Russ stores once they’re gone (if you even knew they were there). Heck, most people thought JCP was already closed!

Be yourself. But be the most Unicorny version of yourself you possibly can. Amazon is the default when you don’t give your customers a reason to believe in the magic.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If one of your Core Values is Nostalgia, celebrate those nostalgic moments in your customers’ lives with gusto. Ring a 32-pound brass bell on their birthdays and put their picture up on your wall. If one of your Core Values is Education, hit the road and do Free Classes on how to better use the products you sell. If one of your Core Values is Helpful, have a high school kid with a golf umbrella escort customers out to their cars on a rainy day.

PPS If you aren’t well-versed in Team Building, hire someone to help you build your team. (Note: check your local YMCA or Y-Camp.) If you aren’t well-versed in motivating your employees, I suggest you read Drive by Daniel H. Pink or Maestro by Roger Nierenberg. If you aren’t as good at teaching the sales process as you’d like, check out my Free Resources – The Meet-and-Greet, Close the Sale, and How to Push for Yes. The resources are out there to help you grow your horn.

Making the “Experience” Over-the-Top

Last night my bracket got busted. As a diehard University of Michigan Wolverine fan, my NCAA tournament bracket lasts until the Wolverines bow out. (I know, I know. I shouldn’t always pick them to win it all, but then I would have to root for them to lose, and I can’t do that.)

Brackets for the NCAA tournament are fun. They are also an easy tool to implement for a promotion or event in your store.

One year we had a “March Games Madness” where every Friday at Game Night we played four games and voted on the best. After four weeks we had a “Final Four” and in week five we crowned a champion. We had brackets for people to fill out and seedings for the games. Not only was it fun and attracted a decent (and returning) crowd, it gave us fodder for social media marketing. (This game is a “Final Four Game.”)

Another year we set an unofficial world record for having the most people playing the game Snake Oil at one time.

At a Breyer Horse event we had a stick-horse obstacle course complete with a bale of hay and a water element.

For our Disney Princess Day we had a quartet from the local symphony play Disney songs on our stage.

Go big or go home.

Put some kind of Wow Factor into your events and two things will happen. First, your events will get customers talking about your store, coming back more often, and bringing their friends with them.

Second, and more importantly, you will separate yourself from the influence of negative experiences at other brick & mortar stores.

It doesn’t just have to be an event, either. Go big in other ways. I knew a jewelry store that had a $30K diamond engagement ring and special “throne” to sit in to try it on. I just visited a toy store recently with an eight-foot tall Steiff giraffe that sells for $20K.

Take the money from your advertising budget if you have to for a splash item because that’s what those two pieces represent.

Go big in your services, too. Serve food/drinks. Have valet parking. Do a coat check. Have expert demos. Have someone with a large golf umbrella walk customers to their cars on rainy days.

Those are the actions that set you apart, that insulate you from being lumped in with all the other retailers out there. Your toughest competitors now are not the other stores that sell what you sell. Your toughest competitors are the horrible experiences people have at other brick & mortar stores that keep them from shopping in any brick & mortar.

Set yourself apart and you become a category all to yourself, insulated from those negative experiences that drive people away.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Actions speak louder than words. Do these things. Don’t advertise these things. Talking about them makes them less special. Just doing it and letting your customers talk about it is what sets you apart. (Yes, you should advertise your event, but don’t give away all the surprises in how you’re going over-the-top. In time, your customers will be showing up just to see what crazy stunt you’re going to pull off this time.)

Getting Internet Customers Back Into Your Store

I did a mash-up of two presentations at an event for the pet store industry last week. I took elements from Selling in a Showrooming World and Generating Word-of-Mouth and put them into a new presentation we called “Getting Internet Customers Back Into Your Store.”

It worked.

One of the reasons it worked so well was because it went beyond Showrooming. Showrooming is less and less of a thing as people are becoming more and more comfortable with shopping online. Customers used to showroom a lot when they didn’t feel they could trust what they saw online, but easy return policies and trustworthy sites are changing that.

Customers are going online first and staying online to buy.

The real issue today is that many people have become so comfortable with shopping online that it is now the default position. They would rather order it from Amazon than stop in and see you or the product.

That’s scary.

The problem is that you and I are partially to blame. Although roughly half of the population would love to shop for reasons other than price (“trust” and “experience” being the two biggest of those reasons), in the absence of those other reasons, price becomes the default, and, right or wrong, Amazon has won the minds of people believing them to be the best price.

ONE BAD EXPERIENCE SPOILS THE WHOLE BUNCH

The real culprit is the collective experience your customers have in all their brick & mortar shopping. Every time they step foot in a store, that store influences whether they keep shopping brick & mortar or go online.

Yes, you get hurt because JCP didn’t train their sales staff very well, because Macy’s cut back on payroll, because Walmart installed self-checkout stands. Yes, you get hurt by experiences out of your control.

How do you win those customers back that are defaulting to the Internet? By doing the kind of things in your store that get people excited, the kind of things that get people talking about you to their friends.

In short, you do the same things you would do to generate Word-of-Mouth advertising.

GO OVER-THE-TOP

Make your services, your events, your store design, your displays, and even the simple little interactions you have with your customers so over-the-top and unexpected that they can’t wait to tell their friends and are already planning their next visit to see you.

There are four words that pretty much define most peoples’ choices for where to shop—Price, Convenience, Trust, and Experience.

All the big chains have been fighting over those first three (well, really, the first one or two) to the detriment of the Experience, not realizing that Experience is the one thing that brick & mortar can always win over the Internet. Plus, Experience is a short path that leads to Trust.

Want to win the Internet customer back to your store? Give her an Experience worth sharing. She’ll be back and will be bringing her friends with her.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You and I both know Amazon isn’t always the best price. You and I both know the hassles and inconvenience of shipping (lost or stolen packages, missed deadlines, etc.). You and I both know no one cares as much about their customers as you do. No other retailer frets over a mistake or bad experience like an indie retailer. Yet your customers don’t judge you solely on you. You are judged three ways—as yourself, as part of a collective known as “indie retailers”, and as a collective of “brick & mortar stores.” One bad experience in those latter two groups hurts you. Your best defense is to play the Experience card. Play it hard and play it often until you become the unicorn in those other two groups.

PPS Indie Retailers used to own both Trust and Experience. Go read that third paragraph again. I shuddered when I said it last week in the presentation. I shuddered when I wrote it today. If we lose that word to the Internet, it will be a game changer.

Different Eyes See Products Differently (And That’s Okay)

I got a new laptop. While I was preparing to transfer files from the old laptop, I figured now was a good time to purge. I went through all the document files one by one, deleted all the duplicates, consolidated all the pictures, and opened up files I haven’t seen in over 10 years.

One of them was a staff meeting idea. The concept was to flash certain words on a screen and have everyone write down their own definition of the word. Some of the words would be applicable to our situation like “service”. Others could be words that have dual meanings to begin with like “experience” (noun or verb?). The point of the exercise was two-fold. First, we would see how different people interpret words differently. Second, I would see how the members of my team interpret important words like service.

We all come from different backgrounds with different life experiences, so we see and interpret things in our own unique way.

Never was that more apparent than at Toy Fair last week.

My retail customers came in looking at our brand new offerings. For everything I showed I had some retailers who loved it, some who hated it, and some who just said, “Meh.” Not everyone who loved it, loved it for the same reasons. Nor did those who hated it, hate it for the same reasons. In fact, I had one retailer give me a reason for loving an item and another gave me the exact same reason for hating an item.

Just because the first customer who sees your new offerings hates them doesn’t mean they are bad.

Just because the first customer who sees your new offerings loves them doesn’t mean they will do well.

I missed one of the biggest fads of the last two decades in the toy industry. It was Webkins. I loved the toy. Loved it so much that when it was first introduced, I bought the display and the TV monitor to show the video of how it worked. Got it in August. By December 1st I had only sold 2 of 144 pieces. That night I clearanced them all at 50% off.

Do you know when the craze hit? December 2nd. The first customer of the day walked in and asked, “Do you have any Webkins?”

She bought six. By the end of day on December 4th we were sold out. I never reordered and never looked back.

Some of the negative feedback we got in the booth was really good. It was constructive criticism of things we can (and will) change. Some of the positive feedback was location-specific to the person and store giving us the feedback. Knowing the difference and knowing how to decipher the feedback you get goes a long way.

“You are not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” -Meg Cabot

We all see the world differently. When you look through the other person’s eyes, however, you see things in a whole new light.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Normally I like to give you something concrete to do in these posts—an action step or two. This post does not. But it does set up the next couple posts where I’ll try to show you what happens when you look through someone else’s eyes. It will transform your marketing & advertising, your customer service, your staff training, and even your merchandising. Stay tuned.

Your First Point of Contact

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:

  1. You don’t have to have eCommerce on your website to be successful.
  2. Every single page must have a clear and distinct purpose.
  3. Your website is your silent salesperson. Make it your best.
  4. Your hours, phone number, and address have to be prominent and easy to find.
  5. It has to be compatible for mobile platforms.

For an explanation of each rule, click and read. It will be worth it.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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.

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.

Self-Diagnosis Tool #1 – Core Values

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.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond – our Core Values that drive our business.

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.

(Note: this is page two and three of the Branding Worksheets.)

For instance:

  • 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.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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.

How Your Core Values Influence Your Work

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.

That’s me attempting to clean my desk once again! (Yes, that’s my Core Values Character Diamond in the background)

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.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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.

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 …