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The Fallacy of Foot Traffic

I was at Great Lakes Crossing Outlet Mall in Auburn Hills, MI the other day. It is one of the few malls I truly enjoy, partly because it has an aquarium (I have an oceanography degree), a LEGOLand (I used to sell toys for a living), and a Bass Pro Shop (I used to lead wilderness trips and still love to go camping). With Haggar, Levi, and Bose stores, and tons of seating in the walkways in front of the ladies clothing stores it is definitely a man-friendly mall.

The place was hopping. Whoever said malls are dead hasn’t been to this mall. The main aisles were jammed with people on a lazy Sunday afternoon in late August. It wasn’t a back-to-school crowd. It was just people out shopping and having a good time.

The food court was especially crowded. The line at Starbucks snaked all the way around their kiosk. Almost every restaurant in that food court had a line four or five people deep.

The key phrase there is “almost.”

Two restaurants in particular had no lines at all. As I sat eating my pizza, I watched both restaurants with interest. Three young girls approached one restaurant, stared at the menu, and walked away. A mom with a kid in a stroller stopped at the other restaurant and ordered her meal. In the time it took me to eat my pizza, that was the only paying customer at either of those two restaurants.

All the other restaurants had lines of people.

It wasn’t like these restaurants were serving fried crickets on a stick or something else not on the American palate. In a busy mall they weren’t getting the benefit of any of that foot traffic. Somehow, either through previous reputation, the signage in their restaurants, their pricing, their selection, or their attitude, they were idle—even with plenty of customers all around them.

All the foot traffic in the world won’t help you if there is a flaw somewhere in the business. It might hide the flaw for a little bit, but until you find and fix that flaw, you’ll never grow.

The reverse is also true. If you have a fabulous business, your location may hold you back a little, but not nearly as much as you think.

Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop
1104 E. Ganson St.
Jackson, MI 49201

One of my favorite burger joints has been in the same location since 1927. The road was a dirt road back then and the location is still well off the beaten path. The only foot traffic they get is the traffic they generate themselves. The restaurant is just a counter with limited seating. Yet the business is still going and growing after 91 years.

Just last week new owners took over. Yes it was a viable enough business to sell (something very few restaurants can say). The big change the new owners are planning? They are thinking about adding a drive-thru to handle all the takeout traffic.

My point is that too often we think, “If only I had a better location with more traffic …” or “If only I could find that silver bullet in my advertising that would draw more traffic …”

Neither of those thoughts is the true path to success. I predict those restaurants at Great Lakes Crossing will be replaced by next summer. They had all the traffic they could stand but weren’t able to convert it into customers.

I also predict that when Schlenker’s builds their drive-thru it will be filled with cars every day without them having to spend a dime on advertising.

If you have ever heard yourself saying, “If only we had more foot traffic …” the better question to ask is …

“What do I need to do to make my business better so that people want to come here?”

You are a destination store. When you act like one, you’ll draw all the traffic you need without any silver bullets or malls to do it for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Even with a steady, solid, faithful customer base and a burger that was rated the seventh best in the entire state of Michigan, the other change the new owners of Schlenker’s are making is to switch suppliers to a higher grade and quality of the ground sirloin that makes their burgers so good. They have all the traffic they can handle, yet even they are answering that one question above. Are you?

Connecting Through Stories (Part 2)

For twenty years my mom and I would meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. My dad joined us for several of those years. Occasionally my boys would get up early, too, especially since they loved the French Toast and pancakes at the restaurant where we ate.

For my mom it was a chance to tell me all the things going on in her life. She’d share all her stories from the past week, usually referencing previous stories, too. Some people believe that an event didn’t happen until you share it with someone else. It certainly wasn’t memorable until you shared it. In fact, the act of sharing your stories is what makes them more memorable.

The stories also make you more personable and human. 

When you are a faceless sales clerk, customers feel they have the right to treat you like a subhuman person. When you become more human, the relationship changes.

Image result for dale carnegie you can make more friends quoteOne way you become more human is by sharing your stories. Another way is by listening to the stories of your customers.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

The way we get to those stories is through a Point of Connection. Find one thing about a new customer through which you can connect. Find something you have in common, something you can comment on, something about which you can ask a question.

“I love your shoes! I used to have a pair just like them. Where did you find them?”

I did an exercise with my staff where I posted a series of pictures of different people and asked them to find a Point of Connection. If it was a parent with a child, the child is an easy connection. The two things we love to talk about the most are ourselves and our children.

“Oh what a cutie-pie. He reminds me of my son at that age. How old is he?”

If it is a person who has some shopping bags from another store, you can ask about her previous trip.

“I see you’ve been to Toy House. I love that store. What did you find?”

If it is someone wearing the colors of their college, you can use that as an opening.

“A Michigan fan. Go Blue! My son goes there now. Are you going to the game this weekend?”

There are several ways to find that Point of Connection and it is an easy staff training to do. In fact, you can start each meeting with a quick Point of Connection quiz by popping up some photos on the screen and having your staff blurt out the Point they see. Within a few meetings they will be doing this automatically.

Now let’s break down the actual phrases used above to see how they incorporate storytelling.

First, each greeting starts with the point of connection. I love your shoes. Oh what a cutie-pie. A Michigan fan.

Second, each greeting has a (very) short story from you. I used to have a pair just like them. He reminds me of my son at that age. I love that store. My son goes there now. Yes, those all qualify as stories.

Third, it asks a question to get to her story. What did you find? How old is he? Are you going to the game?

Those three elements in that order change your relationship from customer/clerk to customer/human. 

The first part makes the connection and gives you the opening. The second part, sharing your short story, makes you human. The third part, by asking her about her story, makes her more interested in you. The more of her story she shares, the more you will remember her, which makes her next visit even better. The more of her story she shares, the more you will know what she is trying to accomplish. The more of her story she shares, the more likely you will find the best solution for her.

Once you get her sharing, keep it going. Keep asking open-ended questions. You can share your own (very short) stories along the way as long as you end with a question about her.

By the way, this isn’t a gimmick or trick. Dale Carnegie taught us this technique decades ago. Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is a way to create relationships and friendships. (If you have children going off to college who struggle to make new friends, teach them this simple technique. It will change their world.)

When you get your customers to tell you their stories, the connection becomes real. The event happened. (And it is going to happen again and again and again.) That’s how you connect through stories.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from American Author Alfred A. Montapert … “All lasting business is built on friendship.”

Go make some friends today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Do you know people who seem to make friends easily? Watch them. They employ this technique effortlessly, subconsciously, likely without any understanding of it and why it works so well. I am one who has to work very hard on this technique because I know I have a tendency to dominate conversations. Because of this character flaw, however, I can testify how well this technique works.

PPS The more you get your customer to talk about something not business-related, the more likely she’ll tell you her business-related problem she came in to solve, without you ever having to ask those deal-killing questions like, “Can I help you?” You’ll learn this technique plus a whole lot more in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Sign up by the end of the month for the best price on this intensive, power-packed, hands-on presentation. It will be the most profitable three hours you spend with your team.

New Technology Versus Old School: Where is Your Money Going?

She lived in Jackson, MI, but her folks, family, and friends were all still back on Long Island. After visiting our store, she knew exactly what she wanted for her new baby. With a clipboard in hand, we helped her choose her furniture, bedding, car seat, stroller, and all of the accouterments to go with it. The baby shower, however, was back on Long Island.

No worries. We had a phone. So did all of her guests. One by one they called and bought the items off her baby registry. We wrapped each gift and mailed a receipt and picture to the shower guest. She went to Long Island, had a party to remember, got almost everything on her list, and the gifts were all waiting for her back at her house when she got home.

Now that’s really old school!

We did it all by voice via the phone. Old school.

Earlier today I took a survey about which emerging technologies would have the largest impact on retail for 2019. One of those emerging technologies caught me by surprise …

Voice commerce. New technology.

What is voice commerce? The ability to order something by voice. Gee, haven’t we had that for a few centuries now?

Actually it is a fascinating new technology. At one end there is using voice through Siri or Alexa to order something. “Hey Siri, order my usual takeout from China House.” At the other end is you sitting on your exercise bike realizing your favorite water bottle has a crack, so you call Amazon and speak to a computer to order a new one because it is easier than trying to type while biking.

As I was pondering this new technology, however, several thoughts quickly popped into my head …

  • What if the computer doesn’t understand what you want?
  • What if you don’t know exactly what you want?
  • Will it make suggestions?
  • How much trust and bonding and relationship-building will it do for your business?

I can see on that last question, while many people have bonded with Siri and Alexa, they have the relationship with their device, not your store. Siri doesn’t work for you. Siri won’t curate a selection and “complete” a sale.

That’s my big fear with all of the emerging technologies. They decrease the interaction customers have with employees and decrease the relationships customers have with retailers.

The big chains probably love the idea of fewer interactions with employees, though. That removes any responsibility they might have to actually train their employees. Their don’t-care employees, poorly micromanaged by don’t-care managers, don’t know how to curate a selection or complete a sale anyway.

What if instead of spending money chasing these new technologies you spent your money training your staff? What if you taught them better ways to meet and greet customers that made lasting first impressions? What if you taught them better listening skills so that they could understand exactly what your customers were trying to accomplish? What if you taught them how to better solve problems and help your customers accomplish their goals? What if you taught them techniques that helped them make your customers’ days?

Here’s a better way to put it …

Would you rather go after the market that wants one specific item quickly and efficiently, and if you don’t have the specific item, they’re ordering it somewhere else? Or would you rather go after the market that has a specific problem, has an idea of the solution she thinks she needs, but isn’t quite sure, wants to find a trustworthy source that helps her understand her options, helps her make the best choice to solve her problem, and then brags to her friends about how wonderful you are?

If you want the first one, go after those emerging technologies. If you want the second one, train your staff.

One of the survey questions asked how I would measure the results of emerging technologies. Among the answers were things like Cost and Efficiency. I could choose two answers. I chose “Increased Customer Retention” and “Increased Customer Loyalty.” Those are the ones that truly matter.

Our shower gal not only became a lifelong customer, she bragged about us to all of her friends and brought them in to register for their baby showers. Two of her Long Island aunts continued to call us for Hanukkah gifts for several years after.

When Siri and Alexa can do that, the investment will be worth it. Until then there are smarter ways to spend your time, energy, and money.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Looking for a way to train your team to make the kind of connections that bring you more repeat and referral business? Call me today to schedule the Ultimate Selling Workshop, a power-packed three-hour workshop that teaches you and your team the best way to build those relationships and get those sales. I’ve discounted this workshop heavily this fall so that you can turn this holiday season into your best one ever.

PPS The most mind-boggling thing to me is how so many major retailers are spending huge dollars chasing all of the emerging technologies in this survey from AI to Augmented Reality to 3D Printing to Voice Commerce, when none of them have yet mastered the Customer Service Training they should be offering to their managers and front line employees. At the end of the day, no matter what fancy new technology you have, if your store sucks and treats customers like crap, you’re in the race to the bottom whether you want to be or not.

“Attracting Millennials” and “Ten Mistakes:” Two New Free eBooks for You

I have a file on my computer named SCHEDULE. It has every schedule I ever created for the Toy House staff dating back to the fall of 1996. That was the year my dad turned the hiring, training, and scheduling of the staff over to me. In 1997 I hired my first Millennial. Granted, the term was still in its infancy, and the defining characteristics of this new, emerging generation born between the years of 1981 and 1996 (according to The Pew Research Center) or 1982 to 2000 (according to the US Census Bureau) were yet to be labeled.

Regardless of the years (or labels) you use to define “Millennial,” in the twenty years from 1997 to 2016 I hired, trained, and worked alongside dozens of people from this generation. I even raised a son born in 1998 who falls under the US Census Bureau’s definition, and while I laughed at all the jokes and negative stereotypes given to this group of people, I knew many of the older guard were missing something.

I often run into people who hear the word Millennial and automatically think Lazy, Self-Absorbed, Selfish, Entitled, Snowflake.

Yet in 2005 when I was called for a job reference for the first Millennial I ever hired, I told the employer, “If you don’t hire this person, you will be making one of the biggest mistakes in your HR career.” She was one of the hardest, smartest, most intrinsically motivated people I have ever known. She just celebrated her thirteenth year with that organization.

What is funny to me is all those negative stereotypes assigned to Millennials were previously assigned to Gen X, and before that used to describe the Baby Boomers. I think we tend to look down on the younger generations and never believe they work as hard as we did. Do that at your own peril.

If you are looking to hire or sell to Millennials, instead of looking down your nose at them, I suggest you look up to what they aspire and meet them there.

They don’t have all the answers, but they are asking some interesting questions that we all should be considering.

Questions like …

  • How do I live more Eco-Friendly?
  • How do I create a more Sustainable world?
  • How do I stay out of Debt?
  • How do I avoid falling for the Hype?
  • How do I help the Collective to grow?

If you want to attract this generation and all their spending power to your store, you need to help them answer those questions and more. You’ll find plenty of ways to do that in my new Free eBook Attracting and Selling to Millennials on the Free Resources page of my website.

(PS The eBook is great, but this is one presentation where the live version is so much more mind-blowing than the print version. Contact me to schedule a time to talk to your team or organization.)

 

The other new Free eBook is called Ten Mistakes That Sideline the Sale. This is strictly a Customer Service book that focuses on some easily correctable mistakes we all make. Some of them are mistakes we make thinking we are offering Great Customer Service, when really we’re killing the mood. Some of them are mistakes that happened to me just this past weekend.

If you’re looking for simple things your team can correct that will immediately affect your bottom line, you might want to start with this list. Pick one or two to work on each month and you will be pleasantly surprised at how many more repeat and referral customers you’ll get this holiday season.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You might be wondering why I give these away for Free. Heck, I don’t even make you subscribe to my blog to get them. One reason is that I have subscribed to several blogs myself just to get information, and while I get some information, mostly I get email after email trying to sell me something to the point that I am afraid to subscribe to anything new.

I don’t want to be that person to you.

Another reason is that I want you to succeed. If the point of writing this blog is simply for me to make money selling stuff, then it doesn’t fit with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. The point of this blog, my website, and my purpose for Phil’s Forum is to help as many small businesses as possible. The money will take care of itself.

Finally, while I know you can bypass the whole concept of paying me to be a speaker or coach and just download all this content, I also know by hiring me you get an experience and information that goes far beyond these three to six page eBooks. In the live presentation you get this information tailored to your specific industry. You get context and relevancy and tips and ideas directly related to what you do day in and day out. You get the chance to ask questions, get clarity, and expand the topics to fit your needs. These eBooks are simply the notes from presentations, written generically to fit the most possible industries. They are reminders for those who have sat through a live presentation, minus some of the stories you’ll never forget that drive home the point but take too much ink.

PPS One last thing … I also know not every independent retailer has the budget to hire a coach or go to a big retail conference. If you’re in this category, you deserve to have access to this kind of information as much as the next person. Consider me a library. Borrow as often as you’d like.

Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling

Our realtor turned to us and said, “Now, where would you put your couch in this room?”

Immediately we started mentally arranging the furniture in the house she was showing. By the time we had visualized the family room, kitchen, and office we were ready to write the offer.

Visualization is the key to getting a shopper to move from gathering information to making the purchase. Realtors know this technique. You should, too.

I have just posted a new FREE eBook on the Free Resources page of my website titled Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling based on the presentation I did for the Independent Garden Center Show a couple weeks ago. The eBook shows you how to get customers into Visualization Mode and also shows you other smart things you need to do at the close of each sale to help your customer solve the problem that brought her into your store.

Today’s post talks about how to teach these concepts and techniques to your front line and sales staff.

(Hint: you should read the eBook Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling before reading the rest of this blog. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

FINDING THE BENEFITS

If you have ever been involved in sales training you have heard about Features and Benefits. You have to show the customer the Features and Benefits to make the sale. While I agree wholeheartedly with that approach, the real problem is that most sales people spend all their time on the Features without showing the true Benefits. Why? Because Features are easy to explain. The packaging often tells you everything a product does. Benefits are a lot harder to determine, especially because the Benefit for one person might be completely different than the Benefit for someone else.

DUTCH AUCTION

The best game I ever played with my staff to get them to think about Benefits was a “Dutch Auction.” I broke the staff into teams and asked each person to pick three items off the shelf. Each team ended up with a dozen items. Then I would call out a Benefit. The team had to bring me one item from their collection and explain to me how that item offered the prescribed Benefit. If they were successful with their explanation, they got a point.

Some Benefits you can use are:

Show me an item that …

  • Saves a customer time
  • Makes a customer healthier
  • Keeps a customer from having to bend over
  • Helps a customer feel smarter
  • Helps a customer feel stronger
  • Will make all of her friends jealous

This game gets your staff into a different mindset away from just what an item does, but how that will help a customer.

A Feature is what an item does. The Benefit is why that is important.

Another quick way to get your team up to speed on the Benefits is to bring your top ten new items to the next meeting and have the staff brainstorm all the possible Benefits of each item. Write up the list after the meeting and give a copy to everyone.

COMPLETING THE SALE

Have a contest at your next meeting. Have each person pick one item off the shelf. When they bring that item back to the group, explain the importance of Completing the Sale. Then send them out to collect every possible item related to the original item that a customer might need. Once they return, tally up the prices and reward the person who had the highest total. (Note: if no one has Completed the Sale to your satisfaction, send them back out with a total amount they have to reach. This will stir their creative juices.)

Follow up: Have each person create a checklist for their item of the complimentary items you’ll want to ask the customer to see if she has. Do that with your top ten items in your store. Those checklists will bring you gold.

TIPS AND HACKS

There are certain items you sell that people often misuse. There are certain items you sell that have a downside to them that sometimes kills the sale. There are certain items you sell that get the most negative feedback post-sale. Identify these items and bring them all to the next meeting.

Assign a different product to each person and have them research how and why each item is misused, mistrusted, or complained about. At the next meeting have them do a quick presentation with two points:

  • Here is the issue
  • Here is the tip you can give to make the customer enjoy the product and get the best use out of it

Nipping objections and complaints in the bud before they even happen makes happier, smarter customers who will return more often and bring their friends with them.

Now you know how to get your team to Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One Assumption I am making is that you have read and followed the steps in The Meet and Greet eBook I published yesterday. If you Meet and Greet properly at the beginning it is far easier to Close the Sale at the end.

PPS Yes, you can hire me to do these presentations for your organization. You can even hire me to do a workshop with your sales staff using some of the activities I have shown above and in yesterday’s post. A training workshop like the latter takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and will transform the way your staff works with your customers. When you’re ready to make your customers happier to buy more, contact me.

Winning the Millennial Vote

While doing research for a presentation I am making next week on selling to Millennials I came across an interesting statistic …

Only 51% of eligible Millennial voters voted in the 2016 presidential election compared to 63% for Generation X, 69% for Boomers, and 70% of everyone older.

Image may contain: Phil Wrzesinski, smiling, closeupOf course, the young adult vote has always been hard to come by, but even by comparison, Millennials are behind the other generations at this stage of their development. When Gen X was this age, they were voting at 57%. When Boomers were at this age, they were voting at 60%.

Some of my other research has led me to a possible conclusion why they vote at such low numbers and it can be summed up in one word—Lies.

Millennials were born into the world of hype. They grew up with marketers lying to them. Their BS Meter is more fully attuned to what they read, see, hear, than any other generation before them. They don’t like being lied to. They don’t like being misled. They can spot the BS faster than the FBI. They’ll forsake you at the first hint of falsehood.

They don’t like politicians in general because of how they constantly twist and mangle the truth.

I believe this is what keeps them away from the polls. If you were to give them a “None of the Above” box to check, not only would more of them would vote, but our candidates would become a lot better.

(Note: I have yet to prove this theory. If you know anyone who already has, let me know.)

As for an election, appealing to the young adult voters is not always the best strategy because they typically are the smallest voting block.

As a retailer, however, this group is the current customers of today and the bulk of your customers tomorrow. How well you reach them now could go a long way toward how well you are doing in the future.

The recipe is simple. Avoid the lies. Avoid the hype. Avoid the misleading statements, half-truths, and generalizations. Be honest, especially about the downside of the product. This group of consumers is savvy. If they don’t figure out the misdirection on their own, their online community will spell it out clear as day.

It might not win you an election, but it will win you a whole lot of long-term customers.

I’ll tell you more of what I’ve learned after next week’s presentation.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Although many generalizations are being made about Millennials, (including the one I made in this blog), I caution you to avoid the stereotypes, especially the negative ones about Millennials being lazy, self-absorbed, and entitled snowflakes. You’ll find an ample supply of those people in every generational group, and plenty of amazing kick-ass-motivated, hard-working Millennials making a difference in this world.

Having Fun, Helping Others, Eating Lunch

For the past three weeks I have been making several drives from my home in Jackson to the Oakland County area for lunch. For those of you not in Michigan, Oakland County is one of the three counties (including Wayne and Macomb) that makes up the Greater Detroit Metropolitan area. Oakland County is the northernmost of the three and includes several cities, villages, townships, and lakes.

Oakland County is home to twenty-one Main Street programs in the various cities, villages, and townships, and also home to one of the largest county-wide Main Street support programs. It was Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) that hired me to make these drives each week to do a “Lunch-and-Learn” series of workshops. The workshops are four-week-long tracks on one of three topics: Selling & Customer Service, Marketing & Advertising, or Retail Math.

We rolled this out to three different communities. Two of the communities chose Marketing & Advertising, one chose Selling & Customer Service. All three are reporting back with incredibly positive feedback. Other communities are already bugging MSOC to be included in the next round.

The fun part for me is that I like driving and I love doing these presentations, mostly because I know the difference one or two good tips or techniques can make for a small business.

The fun part for the attendees is that they get a free lunch (or breakfast) and four 45-minute presentations jammed with eye-opening ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and surprisingly simple techniques to improve their businesses.

The fun part for you is that there is still time to plan a Lunch-and-Learn in your neck of the woods (as long as you are within two hours driving time from Jackson which would include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Fort Wayne, Toledo, Detroit, Flint, and Lansing areas).

Here are the three tracks with class titles and descriptions.

Option A: Marketing & Advertising

  • Week #1 Boosting Your Brand to Attract the Right Business – A quick lesson in branding to show you how a well-crafted brand makes a huge difference in attracting the right types of customers and business. You’ll learn how to uncover the true value in your brand and make your brand stand out in the crowd
  • Week #2 Marketing Your Business on a Shoestring Budget – Seven different ways you can get the word out about your business and draw traffic in without spending a fortune. You’ll learn how to leverage your talents and time to attract more customers to your business right away.
  • Week #3 Making Your Ads More Effective – We hate ads, not because there are too many, but because most ads suck. This presentation will show you the six principles that make the difference between your ad being remembered and acted upon or being simply ignored. You’ll learn techniques even the most highly paid professionals sometimes get wrong, and how you can apply them to your own advertising efforts
  • Week #4 Generating Word-of-Mouth Advertising – We all know Word-of-Mouth advertising is far more effective than traditional advertising, but do you know what it takes to actually get your customers to talk about you? This presentation shows you four proven ways you can generate word-of-mouth advertising. You’ll walk away with tips and techniques that get people talking the very next day.

Option B: Selling and Customer Service

  • Week #1 Selling in a Showrooming World – Online shopping is here to stay. So is the concept of Showrooming, where a customer uses your store to touch and feel the product before ordering it online cheaper. This presentation shows you the two types of customers, how to recognize them, and the very different ways you sell to them. Learn this and you’ll close far more sales than ever before.
  • Week #2 Raising the Bar on Customer Service – Every store thinks they offer Great Customer Service, but every customer can regale several stories where the customer service fell far short. This presentation gives you a different perspective on customer service and shows you how to up your game so that Great Customer Service is only the minimum. You’ll learn how to surprise and delight customers at every turn.
  • Week #3 Building the Perfect Salesperson – Finding the right salesperson is the key for any organization. But how do you identify the perfect fit? This presentation will change the way you look at interviewing and hiring and even training. When you’re done you’ll have a better understanding of how the best companies find the best employees time and time again.
  • Week #4 Training and Motivating Your Team to Perform Their Best – The carrot and stick might be good for a donkey, but it won’t get the best out of your team. This presentation will show you what really motivates people to do their best work and how to get the kind of creativity from your team that sets you apart. You’ll also learn how to turn staff meetings and training times into something your staff looks forward to attending.

Option C: Retail Math

  • Week #1 Reading Your Financial Statements – Your accountant will be glad you attended. This presentation will show you in layman’s terms how to read the two most common financial statements – the Profit & Loss and the Balance Sheet. You’ll learn how they are calculated, what they show, and an intuitive way to use them to check the financial health of your company. It isn’t as scary as it sounds.
  • Week #2 Inventory Management – Cash is King. In retail, the biggest use of your cash is your inventory. This presentation will show you simple and smart ways to manage your inventory levels better including how Open-to-Buy programs work and easy ways to increase cash flow. You’ll learn how to turn slow moving merchandise into cash and make your inventory work for you.
  • Week #3 Pricing for Profit – Most businesses leave thousands of dollars on the table because they don’t understand the principles behind how to properly price their products or services. This presentation shows you how you can raise prices and increase unit sales by harnessing the power of perception. Learn these techniques and you’ll start making more money the very first day.
  • Week #4 Unlocking the Hidden Cash in Your Business – There is more to retail than just buying and selling product. This presentation will show you some different ways to measure your business and some simple ways to make a little extra cash that might just be the difference you need to pay yourself a bonus this year.

If you just read those and said, “Dang, I could use this!” pass this post along to your DDA Director, your Chamber of Commerce, your Main Street Director, your Economic Development Director, your Shop Local director, and tell them, “Dang, we could use this!”

(Heck, you don’t even need one of those organizations. Just get a few other small businesses together and give me a call.)

Then contact me. We’ll go over what it would cost, creative ways to finance it, how to get the food and venues, and what dates to schedule this fall to have some fun helping small businesses grow and thrive, all while having lunch.

Sound yummy to you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not within that two-hour drive? No worries. Instead of four lunches, we’ll do one big brunch and put all four lessons into a three-hour workshop. Call me.

PPS The beauty of what you’ll learn in these tracks is that the dividends are immediate. With many of the lessons you’ll see results right away. Having this information fresh in your mind leading into the busy holiday season will make a huge impact on your bottom line this year. Lets get some dates locked in now.

PPPS If you’re in Oakland County, MSOC is already working on the budget for 2019. Contact John Bry at MSOC and let him know you want in. If you want something this fall, however, check with the other organizations in your community to see if they will help you organize this.

Ask Your Customers What They Want

The one “service” my biggest competitor had that I didn’t was a Birthday Club. I wanted one for my customers. I already knew one thing I would do differently. That was the big Birthday Bell you got to ring when you came in to celebrate your birthday. What you probably don’t know was that I actually wanted a bigger bell than the 32-pound brass bell we ended up getting.

Phil holding the Birthday Bell

I wanted to run a hole through the ceiling and put a little steeple on top of the store with bronze church bell inside. That way, when you rang the bell, not only would everyone in the store know you were celebrating your birthday, so would everyone outside the store.

Unfortunately that would be a potential violation of the noise ordinance, so we went with the indoor bell.

The two parts of the Birthday Club I wasn’t sure about were the offer and the age limit. So I asked my fans on Facebook.

I first asked what people got from other birthday clubs for kids. Most birthday clubs offered a small coupon good on a larger purchase with a limited time frame to redeem. The general sentiment was that $2 and $3 coupons, especially when they came with strings attached such as a limited window to redeem and a minimum purchase, were of little interest to the child and often not enough to even garner a visit to the store. That was useful information. I knew I had to go big or go home.

With this knowledge, I sent out a postcard that was a $10 gift certificate—no strings attached. Well, okay, we had one string attached. It could only be used by the birthday person. Period. How that person used it was up to the individual. The postcard never expired. The postcard didn’t have to be used with anything else. There was no minimum purchase (although you didn’t get change back if the purchase was less than $10).

A lot of people gave us the postcard and 59 cents for their birthday purchase ($9.99 plus 60 cents for MI sales tax).

A lot of people spent way more.

Our average ticket for the birthday postcard was just under $30, which meant we made a profit (albeit a small one) on those transactions. More importantly, the postcards drove traffic. Over the last couple years we averaged over 300 postcards a month. That’s over 10 per day. Imagine ten happy customers ringing a bell and having fun spending their free money. Not only did it create excitement in the store and drive traffic, it drove word-of-mouth advertising. Everyone took pictures and video of their kids ringing the birthday bell that they posted on social media. On top of that, it created lifelong memories. I have had several customers come up to me since we closed saying that was the one thing they miss the most!

I had one more question to ask … “How long should the Birthday Club last?” Some stores aged you out at 10 years old, some at 12 years old. I wondered what my customers thought.

When I asked that question of my fans on Facebook one mom answered, “40?”

I didn’t need any more answers (although I got several that echoed her sentiment). I knew right then and there our Birthday Club would have no age limit. Sure, some of the parents and grandparents used their postcards to buy gifts for the little ones. Some, however, bought stuff for themselves. One young lady celebrated her 96th birthday by ringing the bell and buying two new decks of cards.

Without asking my customers, I might have structured the Birthday Club quite differently and it wouldn’t have been the successful program it was.

Toy House Birthday Bell

Find out what your customers want. Give them that and a little more.

We only had the Birthday Club and the Birthday Bell in the last decade of our operations, but it quickly became the highlight and focal point of a visit to Toy House. The bell was engraved and now rests in the capable hands of Ella Sharp Museum where they pull it out for special displays of Jackson’s history.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The Birthday Club worked on a variety of different levels. The ringing of the larger-than-life, 32-pound brass bell was about creating memories and spreading the word through social media posts. Rarely a day went by that we weren’t tagged in a photo or video somewhere. The $10 gift certificate was an act of generosity that outshone our competitors and positioned us as being more customer-centric than they were with all the strings attached. The no expiration on the postcard allowed customers flexibility for using it whenever it worked best for them. One family saved them all up and made a family trip in for everyone to spend their cards on one special day. One family was always traveling around their daughter’s birthday so they appreciated not having to “use-it-or-lose-it.” Another family held it for their son to celebrate his December birthday in July. Any time you can delight your customers, you should.

PPS If Goodyear had asked its dealers (its customers), I’m sure they could have helped create an even better system that would surprise and delight the end-users more than the frustrations they caused yesterday.

Good Idea, Poor Execution

I need new tires for my vehicle. I’ve been through this process before. It used to be easy. I had a downtown Goodyear Tire place. I went there. Supported my fellow downtown business. They always took care of me. Knew me on a first-name basis. It was only two blocks from Toy House. No worries.

They’re closed now.

Image result for goodyear assurance tripletred all-seasonSo I did what a lot of people do these days. I went online.

Let’s face it. Tires are scary. There are so many different makes and models. Each vehicle has its own requirements. Without trust between buyer and seller, it is easy to feel afraid of being ripped off. I wanted to know more about tires before I set foot in a store. I wanted to research different models, check prices (last time I got tires there was a $250 difference between the tires I got and a couple other places offering the same tire), and be prepared.

I’ve always been a fan of Goodyear, probably because of the Goodyear store downtown, probably because there used to be a Goodyear plant in Jackson that spent a lot of money at Toy House both as a company and the individuals that worked there. I found myself on the Goodyear website comparing different models the right size and style for my vehicle.

The website was good. It had side-by-side comparisons, reviews and ratings, plus all the specs like warranty, fuel-efficiency, season, comfort, etc. I narrowed it down to a couple choices and felt a whole lot smarter.

GOOD IDEA

Then the website took it a step farther. I had the ability right then and there to purchase the tires online and have them installed locally. Before I clicked, however, I went to a few local tire place websites to compare prices. No one had the tire I wanted as an offering, but their pricing on the other Goodyear tires was similar to the Goodyear site. I felt a little more confident that I was getting a fair deal.

The good idea at Goodyear was to get the purchase right away. Don’t let me go to a local shop and have them sell me on some other brand. When I clicked on the purchase button, it then gave me a choice of shops in the area where I could get those tires installed. Even better! I knew most of them, but didn’t have a relationship with any of them, so I chose the place closest to my home.

Then the Goodyear site let me choose an appointment time. It had to be two days or more later. That made sense to me, since the shop might not have the tires in stock. I chose two days later at 10am, paid for my tires, and got my confirmation email.

I will be willing to bet this website drives a lot of traffic to these tire shops because of people like me shopping online.

POOR EXECUTION

This morning I arrived for my appointment. No tires. The delivery truck doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. Plus, even if the tires were there, the shop had already booked all their bays for the morning. The shop had only received the email from Goodyear about the shipment and appointment this morning.

The guy at the shop was quite apologetic. He said he has this problem with Goodyear all the time, even though he has called them several times trying to get minor changes to their program like scheduling out three days instead of two so that he was sure he would have the tires on time and be able schedule installers. They tell him, “Sorry, that’s the way we do it.”

Fortunately for this shop, and for me, I have a wide open schedule this afternoon. So does the shop. As soon as the tires land I’ll be back and they’ll be able to get me right in. But just imagine the person who had to work their whole schedule around this appointment.

Maybe you had to drop off the car before work and find someone to take you to work, then pick you up after. Maybe you had to get a babysitter because you didn’t want to take your two-year old to sit in the waiting room of a tire shop. Maybe you had a business meeting out of town in the afternoon and really wanted those new tires before making a two-hour drive. Maybe you were leaving on vacation and were waiting on another paycheck to afford the tires, scheduled the purchase as soon as possible, but now had to delay your entire vacation a day because of this fiasco?

Can you imagine any of those people being completely upset and irate? Can you imagine any of those people taking their frustrations out on a tire shop manager for something that was totally out of his control? Can you imagine any of those people writing bad reviews of the tire shop on Yelp?

VENDORS ARE PARTNERS

As a retailer, I understand the flow of products. If I had called this shop directly, placed the order, and made the appointment, only to find that morning that they didn’t have my tires, that would have been one thing. But these guys were at the mercy of Goodyear (and, by my guess, the mercy of Goodyear’s web guys not knowing how to add holidays into their calendar).

I applaud Goodyear for taking the steps to offer this service online. That’s what a good partner does—drives traffic into your stores.

I chide Goodyear, though, for not understanding the levels of frustration and complaint they also cause their retailers because they don’t listen and adjust the system to fit the retailers. I hope the tire shop makes their full margin on these tires, if nothing else but for the hassle of having to work around Goodyear’s “system.”

In fact, I’m going to ask if that’s the case so that next time I need tires, I can find a way to make sure my local stores get what they deserve.

If you have a vendor who is truly your partner, driving traffic into your store, thank them and support them!

If you have a vendor who is causing your customers to hate you because of things out of your control, send them this blog post. 

If you are a vendor, recognize that you can do just as much damage as good, especially when you don’t listen to your retailers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Just a cautionary tale for vendors … I have known several vendors over the years who have offered programs to try to drive traffic into stores, but either didn’t consult the retailers first, or ignored their suggestions. The programs always fell flat and often turned the retailers off from buying their products. Many of those vendors are now out of business.

PPS This goes for retailers, too. You are a partner with your customer. Before you start offering something you think is good for the customer, you might want to first ask your customer exactly what she wants. I’ll tell you a tale tomorrow about what I learned when I asked my customers questions.

The Internet Isn’t Winning

You’re losing.

Case Study #1

Image result for a5 scooterMy son wanted to buy a scooter for getting around campus. Not an electric scooter, mind you, but a simple two-wheeled scooter similar to the one he had as a child but with higher handlebars and a larger weight limit. He is a college student with Amazon Prime. He researched it online as do most kids his age. He could have bought it and had it in two days. Instead, since the website said Walmart had it, he asked if I would take him to Walmart.

Two stores later, no scooter, no sign of that scooter having ever been in either store. Guess where he’s going?

Case Study #2

A friend needed a specific type of blood sugar test strips for the machine she got. The store where she used to get them had an empty slot on the shelf for over a week. Two other stores she tried didn’t have that style. Another store had them but for over double the price.

Guess where she went?

Case Study #3

I went shopping with my other son. He has particular tastes when it comes to pants. The last style that he liked has been discontinued. After trying several stores and pants we finally found another style he liked at REI. They had one pair—in one color—in stock in his size.

“You can get more colors and sizes online,” said the clerk.

Case Study #4

Another friend was in Dick’s Sporting Goods. She found a pair of shorts she liked but not her size. The clerk, after telling her they didn’t have her size, didn’t even offer for her to go online where she not only found her size, but also found they were on clearance, even though no one had bothered to mark them as such in the store.

Case Study #5

Another friend told me she stopped shopping at Younkers because the prices at the register never matched the prices on the shelves. Sometimes the prices were higher, which meant she had to get someone to go look at the shelf tags while customers lined up at the register behind her, and then fight for the right price. Sometimes the prices were lower, which, had she known, she would have bought more than one. Either way, each trip to the checkout was fraught with anxiety and stress.

I could go on and on about several times the customer service was so poor, the selection so lacking, or the experience so frustrating, that the best solution is to avoid going shopping in brick & mortar stores at all.

When I moved back to Jackson in 1993 the Jackson YMCA was transforming one of its squash courts into a rock climbing gym. Because I had led rock climbing trips before, they hired me to supervise it. When I met with my new staff for their first day of training I explained to them that there were NO regulations guiding how rock climbing gyms should be run, mainly because these gyms were relatively new and there hadn’t been enough injuries or accidents or insurance claims to force those regulations.

I told the staff that we would NOT be the cause of any such regulations. Our gym would be run at the highest standards of safety. We only had two incident reports in eight years and no major injuries.

Today you need to have the same conversation with your staff.

Your store will not be the cause of driving anyone to the Internet to do their shopping.

  • Your store will have the must-haves in stock.
  • Your store will have the merchandise properly displayed, priced, sorted, and available.
  • Your store will have a staff that knows the products inside and out including not only what you sell, but the most popular products you don’t sell (and why you don’t sell them).
  • Your store will be the store that offers solutions to problems.
  • Your store will be the store that makes checkout a breeze.

That’s what keeps people in the store and off the Internet. That’s what winning in the store looks like.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My son is living proof that even today’s youth still want to shop in a store. The stores just aren’t doing their job of making it worthwhile. Worse yet, each poor brick & mortar experience reflects poorly on all brick & mortar stores, especially when it happens at an indie store that is supposed to be the pinnacle for customer service.
Don’t be that store that brings everyone else down.