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The Thirty Questions to Find Your “Silver Bullet”

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

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

Yeah, you can probably guess the rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I triple dog dare you …

How to Use Humor in Your Advertising the Right Way

Quit Making it So Hard for People to Buy From You

“Customer Service” is Dead

Invest in Your Education

Yesterday I gave you seven things you could do with your money when you have a windfall because of a better-than-expected season. Here is one more thing to do with that extra cash …

Invest in Your Education.

Invest in making yourself and your team smarter and better. Invest in training to equip your team with better tools for selling. Invest in classes that teach you more about advertising and marketing. Invest in programs that help you better manage your money.

“Always invest in this thing (your brain).” Darius Foroux

If I were to put “Invest in Your Education” in the priority list from yesterday it would solidly be #3 right behind Cash Reserves and Pay Down Your Debt.

My real recommendation, though, is that this should be a fixed part of your yearly budget. You and your staff are simultaneously your largest asset and your biggest expense. Whether you look at this as the former or the latter will make the difference whether you are truly a customer-first business winning the race to the top or not.

If I were to prioritize where to spend the time and money on training, the list would look like this …

  1. Selling/Customer Service: You’ll reap the benefits of this right away because your staff starts converting more of your current traffic into sales.
  2. Hiring/Training: You’ll see quickly who is cut out to be a retail sales clerk and isn’t when you up their game. Next it is time to up your game and find better people.
  3. Marketing & Advertising: I’ve heard many business owners lament, “If only I had more traffic …” First learn how to better take care of the traffic you have. Then, when you spend your money to learn how to get more traffic, you’ll reap twice the rewards.
  4. Managing Your Money: Good sales and a growing market cover a lot of sins. Those sins get exposed at the first downturn. Make sure you are measuring and managing the right numbers to protect yourself for the long run.

In a few days the dust will settle on 2018. As you set your priorities for 2019, keep this list in mind. I’m sure you can probably think of a few retailers (cough, Sears) that didn’t (cough, Toys R Us) invest in (cough, Kmart) becoming better at (cough, Bon Ton) what they do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I will be rolling out some new training programs based on the list above. Last fall, if you recall, I launched The Ultimate Selling Workshop designed for working directly with you and your team. Next month I will have newly revised programs, some designed specifically for working with business owners, some to work with managers and assistant managers, and some to work with your whole team. The priorities you set for 2019 will dictate much of the success you reap this time next year.

Small Business Academy Homework Part 2

I am taking a class to work on my business. It is a class for startups, primarily, but the exercises will not only help me with my business as a speaker, writer, and business coach, they will help me help you become a better business.

My instructor, Frances Schagen, has granted me permission to do all my homework worksheets live here on this blog. You can read the first worksheet here. Time for Part 2.

DISCOVERY DANCE – WHO?

The previous step was about me, what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. This next exercise is for me to think more about who I want to work with. I have three questions to answer …

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?
  • List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.
Don’t adjust your monitor. This is Alpine Soccer – a real thing!

What problem are you solving?

Giving tools other than the markdown gun to retailers and small businesses to help them create successful businesses that can compete on a field slanted against them.

What are the characteristics of the people you most want to work with? What is it about them that makes them a fit for your solution?

Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses who:

  • Can make their own decisions
  • Want to learn new and better ways to run their businesses
  • Believe in continuing education
  • Are open to trying new things
  • Care about their customers
  • Care about their community
  • Want a push in the right direction
  • Want to learn new skills

Notice that these characteristics align with my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. Your answer should align with your Core Values, too.

Notice also that I did not limit myself to just retailers. I go back and forth on this part of the answer. Although my background is in retail and some of my presentations are strongly retailer-focused, the characteristics listed above are not just limited to retailers. Nor are all my programs and teachings just limited to retailers.

My book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art works with any business that must hire people. I have a couple Fortune 500 companies that use this book and its teachings. I have a couple international companies doing the same.

There is something to be said for narrowing your focus so tightly that you become the known expert in a narrow field. There is also something to be said for keeping the net more broadly focused not on any single type of business or individual, but on the characteristics. I love that part of this question. If you own a non-retail business and have the characteristics listed above, I am sure I can help you.

There are still a couple problems with my original answer of “Business Owners and Managers of small, independent businesses.” Most of those people cannot afford my services on an individual basis and I prefer to work with large groups of these people at once.

Therefore, to truly reach them in the ways I can help most, I have a secondary customer that is in many ways my primary customer. I have to go through the gatekeeper.

My true customers are typically Trade and Business Organization Leaders who, along with the mindset above, also:

  • Plan learning events for their members
  • Hire people from outside their echo chambers to give fresh perspective, new insights, and sharper tools to their members

Those organization leaders are the gatekeepers to the first group because A) they have the money to plan learning events, and B) they can corral a number of businesses into a group setting.

Therefore, to reach my preferred customers, I have to find these gatekeepers who share these characteristics and reach them.

This is an important understanding and distinction. I write this blog and create the content on my website for you, the small business owner. I have to find another avenue to convince the gatekeepers to hire me. This blog isn’t for them, nor will it ever get me hired by them*.

When you understand your customers at this level, it changes the way you look at how and where to find them.

List 20 people who have those characteristics and who you think might need your solution.

I think Frances wants me to list specific people or businesses here. I’m going to take a slightly different approach in my answer.

I think the following businesses need my solution …

  • Independent Retailers & Restaurants
  • Locally Owned Franchise Retailers & Restaurants
  • Service-based businesses such as insurance agencies and beauty salons
  • Anyone involved in Sales

who belong to …

  • Downtown Development Authority districts
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Shop Local Organizations
  • Industry Buying Groups
  • Industry Trade Associations
  • Main Street Programs
  • Merchant Cooperatives

and/or attend …

  • Industry Workshops
  • Educational Conferences
  • Local Seminars

I also think the following people need my solution because it can help strengthen their members, which strengthens their organization …

  • DDA Directors
  • Chamber of Commerce Directors
  • Main Street Program Directors
  • Shop Local Directors
  • Economic Development Directors
  • Trade Association Educational Committee Directors

One of the first questions I always ask when I meet this last group of people is,

“Do you offer or have you considered offering any training programs for your members?”

Listing 20 people can be challenging. For your benefit, I thought about my business at Toy House and came up with this list:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Aunts & Uncles
  • Teachers
  • Home Schoolers
  • Hobbyists
  • Gamers
  • Librarians
  • Interior Decorators
  • Coaches
  • Athletes
  • Event Organizers
  • Daycare Workers
  • Therapists
  • Pediatricians
  • Dentists
  • Anyone with a waiting room with kids
  • Musicians
  • Entertainers

I’m sure with enough thought you can come up with a list like this for your business.

Here are my takeaways from this exercise for you.

If you can clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve and clearly identify the characteristics of the person with this problem you would most like to work with, you’ll understand more clearly the advertising and marketing you need to do to get more of the customers you want (and less of the ones you don’t want).

(Having read ahead in the course work, I think Frances will take this info to send us in a slightly different and more fascinating direction than that. Sit tight. I’ll explain it when we get there.)

Thanks, Frances!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS *This blog actually can get me hired by “them,” but it involves YOU. When you tell your DDA/Chamber/Shop Local/Trade Association person about wanting opportunities to learn more and having educational programming available to you, then they are more likely to hire me to do that. Tell your organization directors about me. Send them to this page.

This “Free” is Really Free!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you do me a favor?

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

Thanks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The five newest eBooks are:

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

Why, Why, Why, Why, Why – A Simple 3×5 Question We All Need to Answer

You know me. I like to learn. When a friend of mine offered me the chance to sign up for her new six-week online tutorial for launching a new business, I jumped at the chance.

Frances Schagen has helped over a thousand businesses get started. That’s an impressive number. You might remember her name because I quote her at the beginning of the Free eBook Reading Your Financial Statements.

“What gets measured gets done.” -Frances Schagen

Frances was instrumental in proofing and helping me get the math and concepts right in that eBook and also a bigger financial statements book I wrote for the toy industry. She is a smart lady and I’m lucky to get to learn from her.

You can join Frances’ club, too!

Her new project is “Six Stages to Building Your Effortless Business.” Earlier today she had an online chat with those of us in the current class. She also gave us homework.

With her permission, I am going to do my homework throughout the class live on this blog. 

Not only will you get to see how I am building my business, you’ll get ideas that will help you with your own business.

THE OWNER’S STORY

The first stage is The Owner’s Story. The first worksheet and homework for me to do is the 3×5 Whys Project. I have three questions I need to answer. For each question, however, I need to answer five “whys.” The purpose of this sheet is to really dig deep to uncover my story, why I want to start this business, why I want to go into this field, and what I hope to accomplish. Here are my answers:

Why are you starting a business? Why have you chosen this way to make your living?

Why #1 – I have chosen this way to make a living because of my Core Values of Having Fun, Helping Others, and Education. I find writing and speaking to be incredibly fun, helpful and educational.

Why #2 – I am starting a business because I like being my own boss, calling my own shots, being responsible and accountable for my own mistakes, and choosing my own schedule. As a single parent, it gives me flexibility to be the parent I want to be, too.

Why #3 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I like travel and meeting new people.

Why #4 – I am starting a business because I need to make money. I have one child in college and another starting college next year. I have living expenses and not enough retirement money saved up.

Why #5 – I have chosen this way to make a living because I see a decent income potential. While I don’t ever expect to be one of those high-profile speakers who gets tens of thousands of dollars every time he steps on stage, if I can find two or three opportunities to speak or lead a workshop each month I can make a decent living. I also believe I can do this type of job long past the typical retirement age, which not only gives me more income potential, but also keeps me active and fulfills my own needs for a long time.

Why have you chosen this field? Why are you doing this work?

Why #1 – I have chosen writing a blog and books, and doing workshops and presentations for small business owners because it is the topic I know best and have the most personal experience.

Why #2 – I have chosen this field because I know how little true help there is out there for indie retailers. I have belonged to several retail owner groups over the years and have heard the questions. We all bring some expertise to the arena, but running a retail business requires you to wear so many different hats that it is impossible to know everything. Too much of our learning as business owners is done on the fly, often the hard way through trial & error and learning from our mistakes.

Why #3 – I am doing this work because I believe I have a talent in both the writing and the presenting. I have been told several times that my super power is the ability to break down seemingly complex ideas into understandable thoughts.

Why #4 – I am doing this work because it satisfies me. I take more pride in hearing how something I said or wrote made a difference for your business than I do in just hearing, “Nice job,” or “You did good out there.” My favorite testimonial to date came from a guy at SuperZoo a few years ago who said, “You’ve saved my business AND my marriage!”

Why #5 – I have chosen this field because I have been on the other side of the equation, asking the questions small business owners ask, searching for the resources and answers. I know a lot of the answers from making the mistakes and learning from them. I also know where to go to find more answers because I have done those searches. I want to be that resource for others.

What global problem do you want to solve? (however you define that) What change do you want to make?

Why #1 – I want to help small businesses, primarily indie retailers and entrepreneurs, to find their success.

Why #2 – I recognize that the field is slanted toward big businesses with deep pockets and strong lobbies, but I believe there are plenty of ways for small businesses to compete and thrive. The tools are available, but sometimes we need people to show us how to use those tools. I want to be that person.

Why #3 – I want to encourage shopping local. I have seen enough studies to know a strong local retail presence will further strengthen the local economy. But I also believe local businesses need to be better than they have been if they want to keep the local dollars in town.

Why #4 – I believe small business owners care more than large corporate CEO’s. CEO’s focus solely on the shareholder. Small business owners don’t have shareholders, so they care more deeply about their employees, their customers, their community, and even the environment. If I can help small business owners develop, grow, and find success, I can bring caring back to this world.

Why #5 – I believe in generosity. When we give more of ourselves, we encourage others to give. Whether they pay it forward or pay it back. I want to live in a world where generosity is the default, not an outlier. It starts with me. That’s why I have this blog and the Free Resources page. That’s why I answer every question emailed to me.

 

Whew! That was a little harder than I thought. Coming up with five answers to each of those questions was not as easy as I originally thought. But I can see the importance of this exercise. In our online chat today, Frances helped us try to clarify what we want to do and why we want to do it. Some of those answers above have helped me realize what I really want to do.

I would encourage you to answer these same questions for you and your business. Often we get into business because of one reason, but once we get there and have to juggle all the day-to-day problems and wear the many hats, we forget why we’re here in the first place. That’s when business is no longer fun and you’re merely in the game for survival. As you can see from the above answers, I don’t want that for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can still get in on this class if you want. We only just started today. The real meat begins next week. Contact Frances if you want to play along.

PPS Now you also know a little more about what drives me to do what I do. The ultimate goal for me would be to have two or three paid events each month where I am presenting or leading a workshop, leaving the rest of my time to write and mentor other business owners. If you know of any organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce, DDA, Main Street, Shop Local, or trade association looking for a professional speaker, please let me know. I’d love to do a live event in your town or at your next event.

Ten Mistakes, One FREE eBook

I actually did job interviews in a Halloween costume once. Okay, more than once. Several times, in fact, because the end of October was when I needed to start the hiring process. I’ve often wondered what an interviewee was thinking, sitting across the desk from a bird watcher, a king, Zeus, or Sorcerer Mickey.

Yes, we celebrated Halloween in costume!

When I was on my game I would have my seasonal help interviewed, background-checked, hired, and on the schedule by Election Day. That gave me two to three weeks of training before the Thanksgiving Weekend ratcheted everything up a notch.

There is one tool I now possess that I wish I had back then. It is a Free eBook I posted back in August called “Ten Mistakes that Sideline the Sale.”

While not the complete list of all the Customer Service issues I had to deal with in training, it is a powerful list of ten things you can easily correct, and that any employee of any experience can easily understand.

It would have been a mandatory part of the training packet I gave each new employee. It would have been a mandatory part of the post-training discussion to make sure they had read and understood everything clearly.

It is impossible to cover every issue, but these ten are so common and so simple to correct, that it would be a crime for any retailer to be losing business by making these mistakes. Before you download the eBook, let me tell you two things …

  • There is nothing in this eBook you don’t already know
  • Your staff are making these mistakes daily

Heck, I would find myself making these mistakes every now and then—especially #6 and #10—cringing every time it happened.

This is such a valuable training tool because it covers mistakes we make greeting customers, selling to customers, and ringing them up at the end—all the key things your new staff will be asked to do. It shows you what not to do, why you shouldn’t do it, and what you should do instead, all in four pages.

I shouldn’t be giving this away for FREE.

I should be charging you for this download because of how much it will improve your Customer Service overnight. Download it now before I change my mind. Download it, save it, print it, incorporate it into your training manual, and share it with your fellow retailer friends.

It will be the easiest staff training you do this fall.

Your team will be super heroes for your customers (and you won’t have to wear a costume to do it!)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You won’t even be asked to give your email to download this Free eBook. That’s how much I want you to succeed. (But if you want to subscribe to the blog and didn’t do it with the annoying little pop-up box, you can find the subscribe box here.)

PPS Yes, there is a Live Presentation of these Ten Mistakes. It is full of stories and experiences not in the eBook (including a bonus eleventh mistake you can also easily correct) that will drive home the points in a fun and entertaining way. It’s not too late to book me to teach this to your staff this fall. (I’ll even wear my super hero cape if you ask.)

PPPS Number Three is one of the most aggravating for me personally. Don’t tell me what I missed. Tell me what is going on right now.

Three Stats to Tell You All You Need to Know

I went to a presentation last night. As you know, I am all about continual learning. Education is one of my Core Values. This presentation was at TechTown Detroit, a small business incubator that helps launch tech and retail businesses. Mary Aviles of Connect 4 Insight put on the presentation. Mary is also the Director of Strategic Development for Tech Town.

The presentation was “Designing the Customer Experience.” (I’m sure you can guess why that piqued my interest.) The goal was to give these start-up and pop-up retailers some ideas to help them be ready for the holidays.

Mary gave out three stats I want to share here. (Note: I was not able to get the source from her on these stats but I know she did her research.)

STAT #1

24% of all Amazon Sales are from customers who went to a brick & mortar store first.

What does this mean? Nearly one-fourth of all of Amazon’s business is from customers who were disappointed by their in-store experience. Nearly one-fourth came from customers who chose to go to a store first but didn’t get their needs or expectations met.

In other words, customers are choosing brick & mortar, but our lack of selection or lack of service or super high price is driving them online.

STAT #2

40% of customers change their minds in the store because of the in-store experience. 

What does this mean? The in-store experience affects a large number of sales both to the good and to the bad (some of those 40% are more inclined to buy, some are less).

In other words, almost half of your customers are going to make their final buying decision based not on the product or the price but on your ability to offer them a quality shopping experience (or not).

STAT #3

80% of customers report that they would be willing to pay up to 25% more for an item because of a quality experience in the store.

What does this mean? Experience actually outweighs price. Four out of five customers say experience combined with the desire to own the item right away can get them to pull the trigger, even if the price is a little higher than online.

In other words, you can win over a lot of customers with your in-store experience, even if your prices are a little higher than the Internet.

The bottom line to all of these stats is this …

The in-store experience you are providing has more of an effect on your sales than pretty much everything else you do.

If it isn’t your number one focus, you might want to change your gaze.

The good news is that you still have time to schedule The Ultimate Selling Workshop for your team prior to this holiday season. Mary has the stats to convince you why you need to improve the customer’s experience. I have the nuts and bolts of exactly how to do that. Call me.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You have four days to lock in the special fall savings offer of only $2,000 for The Ultimate Selling Workshop. At 12:01am October 1st the price goes up to $3,500 (or more depending on time and travel). It is still a steal at the regular price. We already did the math. I’m offering the incentive price to get you to book now so you can have your best holiday season ever.

PPS If you are a retailer in Detroit or considering starting a retail business in Detroit, TechTown has amazing resources and programs, and a dedicated, smart, caring staff. You should check them out.

How to Learn From the Best

Yesterday, I buried this little gem in the post. Let’s take it out and polish it a bit.

“If your store isn’t the store everyone points to in town for having the best customer service, your service isn’t good enough. Yet.”

There is always that one business everyone believes is the best retailer in town. Several years ago, when I did a full-day workshop on Customer Service in Manistee, MI, a sleepy little Lake Michigan town with a year round population of around 6,000 people and summer visitors measured in the hundreds of thousands, I found their best retailer.

I came into town a day early to check out the shops. I braced myself against the sleet and snow on that cold, wet, wintery March day and made the rounds. The shops were open, but mostly empty. It was off-season, and not the best day to be out on the streets. One store, however—Snyder’s Shoes—was hopping. They had several customers in the store when I entered, but the staff still made a point of greeting me. Even in a sleet storm it was obvious who was the king of retail in town.

Snyder’s Shoes, Manistee, MI

The next day, as the attendees were filing in, I got the confirmation as I overheard one person say, “What is Snyder’s doing here? They’re already the best retailer in town.”

At the end of the day, however, when he was asked what strategies he hoped to implement from the day-long training session, Dan, the co-owner of Snyder’s said, “Every single one I possibly can.”

I feel for the other retailers in Manistee. They aren’t being measured against their competitors. They are being measured against Snyder’s.

Customers don’t measure you against your competitors. They measure you against every retail experience they’ve ever had.

So how do you compete against that? How do you raise your bar that high?

You have to do your homework. Ask your staff to name the stores they think offer the best customer service in town, then plan a road trip to visit them. Watch how those stores interact with their customers. Look for the differences between what they do and what you do.

Visit all the stores your staff named. You can do it in groups or pairs. Take notes. Ask these questions …

  • What do they do better than us?
  • What do they do different than us?
  • What do we do better than them?

The first question shows you what you need to tweak or improve. We all have things we need to tweak or improve. Getting a list by comparing to what other stores do is far better than just trying to brainstorm it yourself.

The second question shows you where you are different. Sometimes different is good, sometimes it isn’t. You have to decide, based on your core values, if you want to change things or highlight the difference.

The third question is your calling card. This is the area where you’re winning in the minds of your customers. If there isn’t anything you are doing better, you have serious work to do. If there is something you’re doing better, find out how to do it BEST. Raise the bar so high no one will be able to match it.

Now is a good time to take this road trip. You have time to visit stores before you get too busy. You have time to implement those changes before the holiday season hits. You have time to tweak your advertising message, your promotions, and your marketing to highlight your strengths and differences.

Two more questions you might also want to ask …

  • What do they do that we can’t?
  • What do they do that we won’t?

The first shows your limitations. The second is your biggest differentiating factor. Both answers give you power and show you where you stand not only in the retail landscape, but also in the eyes of your customers.

“Knowledge is power.” -Sir France is Bacon.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Note: If you ask your staff who is best and they don’t immediately say, “We are!” then you know you have some serious work to do. If they say they are the best, ask them who is second best and go visit those stores.

PPS One more thing you still have time to do … Hire me to do The Ultimate Selling Workshop with your team. You’ll transform your team to the point that when they say, “We are!” you and your customers will nod in agreement.

Change Your Viewpoint to See Your Business Better

I was sitting in a conference center in Louisville, Kentucky for a presentation by Rick Segel in May 2009.

Rick asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if your product selection sucks, if you just don’t have the goods people want.” No hands went up.

Rick then said, “Raise your hand if your store has lousy customer service, if you’re treating customers poorly.” Again, no hands went up.

One more time Rick said, “Raise your hands if you are gouging the heck out of your customers with your prices.”

Since two surveys I had done showed customers already believed that about us, I raised my hand. “Ooh, me! I do!” Rick tossed me a free copy of one of his books and said thanks for being honest.

The point Rick was trying to make was …

Every business thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices.

Most of us are wrong. We have either wrongly convinced ourselves of our greatness or justified away our flaws. We think, “If only more people would come through the door they would see how great we are.”

The truth is …

If you were truly Great, more people would come through your door.

Our problem is one of perception. We see the business through our own perception, from inside the bottle. Our customers have a completely different frame of reference. We compare ourselves to our mass market competitors and say, “See? We are soooo much better than them.”

Our customers compare us to every store they’ve ever visited and say with a sigh, “I wish [your store] was more like [my favorite store].”

If you want to find your blind spots, you have to look at things differently. You have to look at your business from your customers’ perspectives.

PRODUCT SELECTION

To improve your product selection, create a “No List”. This is a list of all the items customers come in asking for that you have to say, “No, I’m sorry we don’t. Can I show you an alternative?” (By the way, that or “Can I suggest a store that would have that item.” are the only two acceptable answers when you don’t have a certain product.)

If a customer walks through your doors or calls you on the phone asking for a certain product it is because the customer perceives you to be the kind of store that would carry that product. If you’re constantly saying no and not showing the alternatives you would rather carry, you’re flying directly in the face of customer perception. If there are one or two products on that No List every week, you need to look into either carrying those products or the next best alternative to those products. Otherwise your product selection will not be considered “Great” in your customers’ eyes.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

What percentage of your business is repeat business? Make an educated guess. Your repeat business is a direct reflection of your Customer Service. If your Customer Service is Great, meaning you’ve met her every expectation, she will be back.

What percentage of your business is referral business, people who have never been in your store but came in because a friend told them (or better yet, dragged them in)? This is a direct reflection of how often you did more than a customer expected.

“Surprise is the foundation of delight. If you expected something to happen and it happened, there is no delight.” -Roy H. Williams

If all you do is meet expectations (Great Customer Service), you’ll get some repeat business. To get referral business, however, you have to raise the bar even higher. If you aren’t getting a lot of repeat and referral business, then you don’t have Great Customer Service in your customers’ eyes.

One last thing to consider … If your store isn’t the store everyone points to in town for having the best customer service, your service isn’t good enough, yet. (And if it is, then the bullseye is on your back so you better be doing something to keep raising the bar.)

PRICE

This is one area where you’ll have a hard time changing perception. When we did our surveys we were regularly considered “Over-Priced” and “Expensive” compared to Walmart, Toys R Us, Meijer, and Target. All four of those stores talk about low prices and saving money in every ad they run. There is a built-in perceptual bias that all indie stores are more expensive than their mass competitors. The interesting part of the survey for me was that we also owned the word “Value.” That’s when I knew my prices were okay. Yes we were Expensive because we carried more expensive items. But the customers saw the Value in those items.

Remember, too, that not everyone shops on Price. Make your prices competitive and sharp, but more importantly, hone up on the Product Selection and Customer Service elements, and people will see the value you offer.

Every store thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices. Most stores are wrong. You can’t measure whether you have Great Selection, Great Service or Great Prices from any of your spreadsheets. You can’t see it from behind your cashwrap. You have to look at it from the customers’ eyes. That’s the only point of view that counts.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can win over some of the perceptual bias on Pricing. The blueprint is in the Free eBook Pricing for Profit. Most stores who have followed this pricing have reported back how customers perceive their pricing to be much more competitive. All of the stores who have followed this pricing have reported back increases in profit margin because of it. What do you have to lose?

PPS Even if you think your Customer Service is Great, ask yourself …

  • What would happen if your staff was better at building relationships with your customers?
  • What would happen if your staff was able to close more sales?
  • What would happen if your staff was able to increase the average sale?
  • What would happen if your staff learned to work together better as a team?

How would that change things for you?

One downside is that you would be busier. You’d have to write more orders (increasing your turn ratio and your cashflow). You’d have to look into hiring more people to handle the increased traffic. You might even have to consider a new location to expand your business. If you’re okay with those hassles, contact me to run The Ultimate Selling Workshop with your team.