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Two More Freebies For You

Why do I give it away for free? It is part of my Core Values to be helpful.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting paid to sell toys and baby products. I love getting paid to travel across the country and impart some of the lessons I’ve learned to a room full of peers.

I also love helping and sharing. I want my ideas and thoughts to spread farther and wider to help my friends and peers in the independent retail industry. Plus. more often than not, I’ve already been paid.

All of my Freebies are the notes written from presentations I have done. That is why they are short and sweet – so you can print them easily. I could make eBooks more like power points with full-page graphics, tight bullet points and simple messages spread out over 72 pages. But I would rather keep them down to seven pages or less so that I can use them as handouts. Short and sweet so you can print them at home and read later. Short and to the point for you to email and share with your friends.

Since I got paid to do the presentation, I have already been paid to write the eBook, too. Now we just need to spread the word.

Here are two new Freebies worth sharing.

Generating Word-of-Mouth – You know Word of Mouth is the best form of advertising. But do you know the five ways to generate it? Do you know how to get people to talk positively about your business? This Freebie shares all the secrets behind getting people to talk about you.

(Yes, I decided to put it under Great Marketing. Put your best stuff where the customers are most likely to see it.)

Making Your Ads Memorable – Most ads are ignored, because most ads are lousy. The truly remarkable ads are the ads most remembered. This Freebie will show you three things you can do to make your print and broadcast advertisements cut through the clutter and be seen, heard and remembered by your potential customers.


-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Some have argued that by giving it all away, no one will ever hire me to speak. Fair enough. Of course, the live explanations are always more fun and interesting and worth every penny. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t offer to do them.

Get in the Paper or On the Air

Rarely does a month go by that I don’t have my store mentioned in the local newspaper, on local radio, or local TV. Heck, rarely does a week go by, especially during the holidays, that I don’t get some complimentary coverage for something we are doing.

I don’t think it is because I am more newsworthy than anyone else. I think it is because I do a few things most retailers don’t.

Here are my top three secrets for getting into your local media.

  1. Make friends with the reporters
  2. Help them out for free
  3. Show them why/how what you’re doing is newsworthy to everyone else

Make Friends

You can find local reporters at business meetings, at city council meetings, or simply by reading the bylines of your local paper. Those of you who still have print papers will find that those reporters list their email with every story.

Make it a point to attend those meetings and sit next to the reporters. Ask them questions. Find out their take and their opinion on the topics at hand. Listen. Strike up conversations every single time you see them, whether at a meeting or not. Call them by their first name. Comment positively on things they have written.

When you become their friend, they will learn to trust you as an easy source for information when they are on a tight deadline.

Help Them Out

Read all of what they write. Send them an email with your thoughts. If you agree with them, tell them so. If you don’t agree with them, give them facts and sources for information why you might politely disagree. In fact, help them out. Send them information related to articles they have already written – information that has nothing to do with your business. Send them links to articles you have read and liked. Give them content totally unrelated to your store but in the same vein as what they typically report.

Most importantly, expect nothing in return.

If you think of the reporter as a friend, you are just trying to help your friend do a better job. Do this enough and they will help you in return when the time is right.

Show Why/How it is Newsworthy

The editor gets the final say as to what stories get run. The number one thing an editor wants to know is, why is this important to my readers? If the answer to that is because it will make you money, they will tell you to buy an ad. If it is only important to you and your business and your customers, it isn’t newsworthy. You have to find the angle that makes it newsworthy to everyone.

When you finally get around to sending your press releases to all your friends in the media, you need to find that angle or your friends won’t get it past the editor.

I had a chance to interview a local newspaper editor a few years ago about this topic. She gave a classic example. Having the president of Rotary International coming to your next Rotary Club meeting is only important to you. Having five hundred people drive from up to four hours away and stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants to hear him speak is newsworthy to everyone.

Find the slant in your story that is newsworthy to everyone including people who would never be a customer of yours. That is the story to tell. (If you don’t have one, tweak your event until you do have a newsworthy angle.)

Yes, all of this takes time. That time, however, pays off quite well. You are in this for the long run, aren’t you?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS It might seem like I am only talking about newspapers (print & online). The same applies to bloggers – flattery and complimenting information gets you far. The same applies to TV and radio – find out who the program directors and news directors are. They are your ticket in. The same works with networking – get to know the movers and shakers without expecting anything in return. Take the time. It is well worth your investment.

Thanks! It Works!

I have been teaching a class for new and expectant fathers through our local hospital for the past ten years.  Twice a month I sit these daddies-to-be around a table and teach them how to change a diaper, swaddle a baby, and take care of the mother.  Our two-hour time together is one of my favorite moments each month.

Today I got a Thank You Card in the mail from one of the dads along with a birth announcement.  It totally made my day.  In the card he told me which tip he found to be the most helpful (it was about keeping more than one diaper bag packed and being responsible for packing them daily, so that his wife could leave the house multiple times.)  It was easily my favorite moment of the day.

In fact, it changed the entire outlook of my day.  And today was a heck of a day.  Mistakes on the cash registers, money shortages, a visit from the police (no, I didn’t do anything wrong), employee issues, scheduling conflicts.  All that faded into the background because of this one note.

Yes, thank you cards can be that powerful.  Which reminds me that I need to write more of them.

I need to thank my top customers, my big spenders.  And I should also thank some of the medium spenders and see if I can turn them into big spenders.

I need to thank my best sales reps and let them know how much I appreciate the time they put into working with me.  They work long hours, spend a lot of time on the road, and have to put up with a lot of crap. Yet the best ones still have my best interests at heart.

I need to thank my vendors.  After all, without them I don’t have the largest selection of toys under one roof. They are not my suppliers, they are my partners.  Some of them bend over backwards to help me, sending samples for display and prizes for giveaways.  They deserve to be appreciated for inventing and producing the great toys that make me money.

If I can feel this good about getting a thank you in the mail, imagine how good your customers will feel about you when you write them a personal, hand-written note.  Imagine how much more your reps will want to help your account when you acknowledge all the hard work they do.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised your supplier will be when he receives a thank you in the mail. Yes, he will look at your account more favorably.

Frankly, I will admit that I am bad at writing these kinds of notes.  But today was a stark reminder to me how powerful they can be and why I need to write more.  And now I’ve reminded you, too.  If I could just find a pen…

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  A friend of mine keeps a stack of blank note cards and envelopes on her desk.  She starts out every morning by writing notes and getting them in the mail.  She says not only does it help her stay on top of the thank you’s she needs to write, it also puts her in a good mood to start the day by being grateful to all those who have helped her.  (I also imagine her desk is a lot less cluttered than mine – but it is a worthy goal to aspire.)

Just For Baby Stores (and Anyone Interested in Marketing)

Last week I gave a couple presentations at the All Baby & Child (ABC) Spring Educational Conference in Fort Worth, TX.

Once again, Pricing for Profit was one of the biggest hits of the show. Many vendors were asking, “Who’s Phil?” as retailer after retailer showed them better ways to price their goods for more profit because,“Phil said…” (Love that people talk about it that way! That never grows old for me:-)

The other presentation was Baby Store Marketing on a Shoestring Budget. Unlike most retailers who rely on repeat customers, there aren’t a lot of repeat visits in the baby world. Stores that sell cribs and dressers have to constantly seek out new clientele.

Similar to Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, the Baby Store presentation covers eight affordable ways specific to baby stores that they can market themselves without spending a ton or giving away the profits.

And the Stork has arrived!

Everything in the presentation is now available in a newly published eBook. Download it for free. Share it with your friends. More importantly, use it as a guide to get more traffic in your store. (The smart ones among you will easily adapt it to your specific product mix.)


A Room Full of Sellers

I attended a networking conference yesterday for entrepreneurs. It was designed to be a way for people looking to go into business for themselves to meet people who could help them along the way.

It looked more like a shark feeding frenzy.

There were at least 5 people per entrepreneur in attendance. That’s 5 people hoping to sell their services for every one person with a dream.

And that’s the biggest complaint I hear from anyone who attends a networking event. It’s a room full of sellers and no buyers.

But networking is still a powerful tool for growing your business without spending a ton of money. You just have to be smart about how you do it. You have to know that you are walking into a room full of sellers.

The best advice? Be a buyer. Take the attitude that you are going in to meet only a handful of people and see how they might be able to help your business. Don’t worry if they have services you don’t need or want. Don’t worry if they give you hard sells. Just listen, ask questions, and give them a platform to talk. At the end of the conversation you’ll know somebody new, and if you listen hard enough, you’ll know them well.

And best of all, you will have planted a seed in them without turning them off. Yes, selling turns people off. Listening turns them on. So listen and learn, and plant seeds that will sprout somewhere down the road.

If you make it a goal to be a buyer in a room full of sellers and try to meet only one or two people per event:

  • You’ll have more fun
  • Your dance card will always be full
  • You’ll make connections that will pay off down the road

Now imagine the seller at a networking event who can’t find a buyer. He’ll call the event a waste of time. And you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.


Finding Help in Strange Places

Yesterday my wife had seven friends over for “Healthy Group”. Eight women around a table talking about vitamins, allergies, hormones and health care. Sharing stories, articles and anecdotes about the latest findings in the worlds of regular and alternative medicine.

None of them are doctors (although I think one of them stayed at a Holiday Inn Express recently) and none of them think they are the be-all-know-all expert when it comes to this stuff. But together they are learning at a rate far greater than they could all by themselves.

There is strength in numbers, especially when everyone is looking out for each other.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the International Toy Fair to see all the new toys for 2011. I’ll also be meeting up with a bunch of fellow toy store owners to “talk shop”. Those informal gatherings are every bit as valuable as the trade show. I’ve learned more about running a retail business in those get togethers than I could ever learn in a book.

We are all in the same boat so we are all looking out for each other.

The students of the Jackson Retail Success Academy are forming bonds with each other, and already sharing their own ideas or thoughts on the class work and how it applies to each unique situation.

The shared experience of taking this class will make them look out for each other.

Too many times I see retailers miss out on these opportunities, these chances to hang out with other retailers, other people who share their concerns. Either they say they are too busy to meet with others, or they say that no one can fully relate to them and their problems.

Sometimes it is the person who can relate the least to your problems that can give you the clearest insight. Sometimes it is the simple task of setting aside time for these activities that you learn better organizational skills or set different priorities that will help you farther down the road. Sometimes it takes a little kick in the butt to get going.

Here’s your little kick in the butt. Go find a group of people who can share in your journey and help you grow while you help them. See if your chamber of commerce has a group, or your industry, or just go knocking on some neighbor retailers’ doors. You might be surprised to find there are many more like you out there thirsting for knowledge.

Most of all, don’t be a martyr. Don’t try to succeed at retail alone. Not only is it easier with friends, it’s a lot more fun!


PS If you need something to kickstart the conversation, download one of my Free eBooks and get everyone’s opinions on the topic (and be sure to tell me what they thought).

Measuring ROI (or in other words… Did it Work?)

John Wanamaker of Wanamaker’s Department Stores in Philadelphia is credited with the famous quote decades ago,

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Since that quote marketers have spent billions of dollars trying to measure the ROI (return on investment) of their marketing and advertising efforts. Do not follow in their footsteps.

I repeat, Do Not Follow In Their Footsteps!

Trying to calculate the ROI on your advertising is like trying to decide which butterfly in Mexico caused the tornado in Texas. The variables would make a meteorologist’s head spin.

Oh, but the experts say measuring ROI for an event or coupon is easy. Oh yeah?

Cause of Success
Was the success of your last event because you posted it on Facebook?
Or was it because you posted on FB at the optimal time; two hours earlier or two hours later and no one of any influence would have seen it.
Or was it because you ran into a friend at the gas station and mentioned the event to her while she was heading to lunch with her very influential girlfriends?
Or was it because you put up the in-store signs just in time for the newspaper reporter who happened to be out shopping on her lunch hour to see them?
Or was it because the road two blocks over was closed for temporary repair and all the traffic came down your street all three days the tent-sign was out on your sidewalk?
Or was it… you get the idea.

(Look, you can come up with a list of excuses twice that long for why you failed, why are you so willing to credit your success to one thing?)

(Note: I didn’t address coupons because I don’t believe in them, but a similar list of variables can come into play making one coupon offer work while a similar offer fails.)

Marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Nor should it.

Cover Your Bases
If you are hosting an event at your store, you need to be plying every avenue you can muster to draw your crowd. Facebook, Twitter, email, in-store signs, and press releases at a minimum (because they are basically free). Radio, TV, newsprint, direct mail as the budget allows. And networking, networking, networking. Get your butt out in public and talk. The more you do, the more success you’ll see. And the harder it will be to determine which method made the most difference.

So don’t worry about figuring out which method worked best.

First, you never really know. I have on my sign-up-to-win forms a question, “How did you hear about this event?” At one event 30% circled newsprint – even though there wasn’t a single mention in any newspaper!

Second, it doesn’t really matter, because you can’t fully factor all those variables listed above. So anything you learn above and beyond the simple lessons that have already smacked you in your face is no guarantee to move the needle the next time.

Third, you don’t have the budget to properly test your ROI.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Let the MBA’s falsify their stats to prove whether one form of marketing works better than another. The reality is that if you use your chosen media right, they all work. And if you use them wrong, they all fail. And the best laid plans can be derailed by a snowstorm, an orange cone, a bad news day, or a butterfly in Mexico.

Don’t waste too much time trying to calculate ROI. If you’re hosting an event, pick the marketing where you feel most comfortable. Put your energies there with all your conviction and the results will follow.

Then get out there and sell the dickens out of the crowd you draw!

Merry Christmas!


PS Some of you might think this runs counter to my discussion of mixed media. That discussion was geared towards long-term branding. This is about short-term event marketing. Different beasts requiring different methods.

How Much Marketing Does it Take?

Here are some of the ways I have decided to market my new book…

  • Face-to-Face Sales – I do speaking engagements all around the country and get opportunities to sell my book one at a time to attendees. Plus, I sell it in my store. And I always have a few copies with me wherever I go (sold two at a recent birthday party!)
  • Web Marketing – I have it for sale on my website
  • Blog Marketing – Yeah, this is the fourth time I’ve talked about it to you.
  • YouTube – already one video review online about the book, more coming…
  • Facebook – The book has it’s own page, positive reviews starting to come in.
  • Friend Blogging – I have given away a few free copies to influential friends who have blogged about it or at least given it some link love (one of those links increased my blog traffic by a factor of 15!)
  • Direct to Buying Groups – There are retail buying groups made up of independent retailers to whom I am reaching out.
  • Radio – I already did one radio interview, working on setting up more
  • TV – Ditto
  • Newsprint – I will be profiled soon in the local paper as a local author, working on getting profiled in other papers, too.
  • Human Resource Professors – this is tougher nut for me to crack, but I am working on making contact with HR Professors to try to get this book into their hands and into their classrooms
  • Human Resource Professionals – I have been following HR groups on LinkedIn, posting where applicable, getting involved in discussions, and getting to know other people there. Soon I will be enlisting their help in spreading the word.

As you can see from this list, there is a lot I am doing to market one tiny little book on Hiring & Training.

How does this apply to your business? Simple. All of the above marketing techniques are basically free. They only cost me time and a few free books. If you don’t have enough business, then you have enough time to get cranking on any one of them. (Yes, they are all applicable to your business – email me if you can’t see how.)


I’m Going to Learn

Next week I’ll be attending the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2010 in Providence, RI. Four days of workshops, keynotes, small group discussions, panels and a mini-trade show.

I’m going to learn.

I’m going to learn new ways to improve my marketing.

I’m going to learn new ways to train and motivate my staff.

I’m going to learn how to increase our profit so that we can weather tough economic times and grow in the good times.

I’m going to learn about new games and new activities and new toys.

I’m going to meet new people, network with old friends, hear interesting stories.

I’m going to give a presentation on Inventory Management to help others learn from what I know.

Yes, I’m going to learn, because when you stop learning, you start dying. And I’m in no mood to stop learning.

What have you learned recently?


PS The most observant of you reading this post probably got the double meaning of the phrase “I’m going…”

When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I just got back from Grand Rapids. As a favor, Jackson Radio Works invited me to join them for the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference to see Roy H. Williams, aka the Wizard of Ads, do a 3-hour presentation on how radio broadcasters can turn around the Michigan economy.

Whenever I see Roy, it rocks my world and gets my juices flowing. He makes his points more clearly and in a more convincing way than any speaker I have had the pleasure to see. Unfortunately, he made so many points in those three hours that I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around all of them.

The one thing I learned is how much I don’t know what I don’t know.

When you are aware of what you don’t know, you get to choose whether or not to learn it. The problem, of course, is when you don’t know what you don’t know. Then you don’t know what to learn. When I see speakers like Roy, I realize I have that problem. I don’t know what I don’t know.

Do you have that problem, too?

So I thought of some simple solutions.

Attend classes and trainings. If you’re a retailer, the Jackson Retail Success Academy is a good start. Also look at your industry to see if there are any conferences with speakers. The American Specialty Toy Retailers Association (ASTRA) hosts a great conference every spring. Maybe your industry has a similar event? At every training, class or seminar you learn something new, something you probably didn’t know you didn’t know.

Attend events with speakers and presentations. Here in Jackson we have events like the Economic Luncheons of the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Midtown Morning Breakfast, among other events that have speakers of interest. Because each speaker brings a different perspective to light, you are almost guaranteed to learn something you didn’t know you didn’t know.

Pick the brains of your peers and contemporaries. Have lunch sessions with these people and choose topics of discussion that you publicize before you meet. Have each member of your lunch bunch pick a topic of discussion. They may bring up a topic completely foreign to you. Ta da! Something you didn’t know you didn’t know.

Actually, it’s quite easy to learn stuff you don’t know you don’t know. You just have to be willing to learn.

Your business decisions are only as strong as the info you have. When you don’t know something, your business suffers. When you don’t know what you don’t know, your business suffers more. What are you wiliing to learn?