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Self-Diagnosis Tool #5 – Marketing & Advertising

My favorite class segment in the Jackson Retail Success Academy was always the Marketing and Advertising Segment. One portion of that segment was dedicated to Media, Myths, and Money. We would discuss all the various forms of media and how/when to use them properly. We also discussed several myths about advertising. One of the biggest myths was this …

Advertising will fix your business.

No it won’t.

If your customer service sucks, advertising will only draw in more people to find that out and tell their friends to beware.

If your product selection sucks, advertising will only find you more disappointed and empty-handed customers.

If your market isn’t big enough to support your business, advertising will only drain your coffers faster, and hasten your demise.

That is why, of all the Diagnosis Tools, this one is last.

Abandoned Boat on the Pond by the House

Think of your business like a boat. Your Core Values are the hull and body of the boat. Your Market Potential is the size of the body of water. Customer Service is the driver of the boat. Inventory is the engine/oars. Advertising is the launching of the boat. Would you launch if you knew you had a leak, didn’t have a driver, or had an engine not working? Of course not.

You need to make sure your boat is rock solid and ready to go before you launch. (Check out Tool #1 Core Values, Tool #2 Market Potential, Tool #3 Customer Service, and Tool #4 Inventory Management if you think your boat has even the tiniest of leaks.)

Advertising will not fix your business, it will only speed up what was going to happen anyway. If your boat is leaking, advertising will just sink you faster.

DEFINE THE TERMS

First, let’s understand the difference between “Marketing” and “Advertising”. Marketing is everything you do to attract customers to your store. Advertising is a subset of Marketing. It is the paid marketing you do through a form of media.

MARKETING

Marketing includes your building, your signage, your front door, the “Open” sign on your building, the events, activities, and classes you hold inside and outside your building, the networking you do by joining clubs and being involved in your community, the free publicity your garner, etc.

One of the first steps in this self-diagnosis is to list all of the ways outside of Advertising that you are Marketing your store. For some ideas of different things you can do, check out the FREE eBook Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

You should have a healthy list of ways you are marketing your business outside the realm of traditional advertising. Fortunately most of these ways cost more time than money. If you don’t have enough customers—the whole reason you’re marketing your business—then you should have the time.

Once you have that list, see which Core Values are evident in each activity. All of your Marketing efforts must be aligned with your Core Values to be most effective. If there is anything you are doing that doesn’t speak to your values, change it or drop it for something else.

ADVERTISING

The next thing to do is to look at your paid advertising through the same lens as your other Marketing efforts. Pull out all of the ads you ran last year. Look closely at the message you sent. Ask yourself these six questions …

  • Does it look or sound like an ad? Chances are good that it does. Did you know our brains are hard-wired to ignore advertising? Maybe you should create something that doesn’t look or sound like an ad to keep from being ignored.
  • Does it tell a story? Stories are more interesting, get people to pay attention, and are more memorable than facts and figures. Your ad needs to tell a story if you want it to work best.
  • Does it make only one point? The person seeing or hearing your ad will only remember one point at best, so only give her only one point to remember.
  • Does it speak to the heart? Emotions always trump logic. Always. What emotion does your ad invoke?
  • Does it speak to your tribe? Does it align with your Core Values? If you want to attract better customers, speak more directly to those people who share your values and ignore everyone else.
  • Does it make your customer the star? Ads about you will be ignored. Ads about your customer and what you can do to help her will gain her attention.

The message is more important than the media. Here is another big myth in Advertising …

You must reach the right people.

Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. You can reach all the right people but if you don’t say the right thing, all is for naught. Also, everyone you reach is potentially the right person because even if they aren’t your customer, they know someone who is your customer.

It isn’t who you reach that matters. It is what you say to the people you reach.

Get the message right and everything else will follow.

(Note: to help you choose the right media for your business, go to the Advertising Media Reference Guide and check out your options.)

BUDGET

The last thing to check is your budget. How much should you spend on Marketing? Notice how I said Marketing, not Advertising? Part of your Marketing is your location. If you spend a lot in rent to be in a high-traffic area, you don’t have to advertise as much as the guy under the bridge on the wrong side of the tracks. The Cinnabon store at the airport doesn’t spend a penny on Advertising. He just bought a fan to blow that cinnamony goodness out into the terminal. That’s his Marketing Budget.

There are many formulas for calculating a budget. The one I like best came from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. He suggests you take 10-12% of your Gross Sales as your “Total Exposure” budget. Then multiply that by your Percent Markup (this is different than Profit Margin – the formula looks like this Percent Markup = (Gross Sales – COGS)/COGS) to adjust for your pricing and profit. Then subtract your rent from that number to find out what you should spend on Advertising.

For many businesses, however, that leaves a budget close to zero as rent is often 10-12% of your budget.

I will tell you to push that upper limit to 15% of Gross Sales, but only if you can find that money without taking it out of Payroll. If push comes to shove, Great Customer Service is always more important than Advertising. It is what drives your boat.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There you go … Five tools for evaluating your business to see where you need to improve as you sail into 2019. Take a critical look at all five in order and you’ll find your silver bullet for success. If you don’t think you can be those critical eyes because you are too busy trying to drive the boat yourself, call me. I’ll come do an analysis of your boat using all the criteria in these five Tools and show you where the boat needs work.

The Right Measuring Cups

When the recipe calls for 1 cup Vegetable Oil do you reach for a teaspoon? When it says 16 ounces Sour Cream do you grab a scale? Of course not. Sure, you can get close with those tools, but it won’t be as accurate nor as handy.

Yet we do that in retail all the time. We use the wrong tools to measure our business.

For instance, most businesses look at Sales Growth as a barometer of their business health. If sales went up, business is good. If sales went down, business is bad.

The problem with that tool is that it doesn’t take into account what happened in your local marketplace. If your sales went up 5% but your market grew by 10%, then your business is not on the right path. If your sales were down 2% but your market shrunk by 5%, you captured a larger share of your market.

You have to know how to calculate Market Share to truly know the health of your business.

RECIPE FOR MARKET SHARE

Market Share: your percentage of the Market Potential for your trade area. Calculate Market Potential by finding the Annual Sales for your entire industry, divide that by the population of the United States and multiply that answer times your own trade area population. Then adjust for income levels. The math looks like this …

  • Industry Sales = $20.2 billion
  • US Population = 325 million people
  • Your Trade Area = 150,000 people
  • US Average Household Income = $59,039
  • Your Area Household Income = $63,026 (6.75% higher than US average)

$20.2 billion / 325 million = $62.15/person

$62.15 x 150,000 = $9.3 million

$9.3 million x 1.0675 = $9.9 million Market Potential

(Note: that number can be adjusted again for one other factor dependent on your industry. For instance, if you’re in the toy industry you can adjust for the number of children in your area compared to the national average. If you’re in the boat industry, look for something along the lines of percentage of boat owners nationally and in your area.)

Figure out your percentage or share of that market and whether it is growing or shrinking. That will be a more accurate measurement than your top line sales.

CUSTOMER SERVICE MEASUREMENT

How do you measure something as abstract as Customer Service? One tool is Units Per Transaction (UPT). While several factors can influence this number including your merchandising skill of impulse items and whether the items you’re selling have more or less accessories than last year, the largest influence on this number is your sales force. Are they taking care of the customer properly? Are they completing the sale? Are they making the customer feel welcome, comfortable, and happy? Are they building trust?

The calculation for UPT is simple. Take the total units sold during the year and divide that by the number of transactions.

75,000 units sold / 22,000 transactions = 3.4 Units Per Transaction

If that number is going up, your team is doing their job.

Another measuring tool that is slightly harder to quantify, but equally effective in telling the true tale of your customer service is Repeat and Referral Business.

Repeat Business is a sign of Good Customer Service. Referral Business is a sign of WOW Customer Service. Your service was so good they had to bring their friends back with them. If you’re tracking transactions by name in your POS, you’ll know your Repeat Business. You can also ask when you enter someone new into your POS how they heard of you. If they say “from a friend” mark them as Referral.

The ideal business has a majority of their customers as Repeat and Referral. The raw number of Repeat and Referral Customers should hopefully be growing and should be a larger percentage of your traffic. The larger, the better.

MARKETING AND ADVERTISING MEASUREMENT

Sure, you can run a coupon or a Call to Action in every ad to see how many people it drives to the store. But if you have been reading this blog or following the wisdom of people smarter than me like Roy H. Williams or Seth Godin, then you know that kind of advertisement leads to short term gain and long term pain.

One other way to measure the effectiveness of your advertising is from your Repeat and Referral Business. Add those two numbers together. The remainder of your traffic is your marketing-driven business.

Yes, some of that traffic is based purely on your location. Your location is part of your marketing. Your signs on your building are part of your marketing. Your parking situation is part of your marketing. Your advertising is also part of your marketing. If the raw numbers of people coming through your doors for the first time and not by Referral are growing, your marketing is working.

Which part of your marketing is working? That is a little bit harder to measure. As famed retailer John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

At least you have a tool to see if it is working in general. (Check the Free Resources for Making Your Ads More Effective to figure out how to make all halves work.)

When you use the right measuring tool, you get a better result. That’s true for cooks, bakers, and small business owners. 

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Before you plan for 2019, you really need to know what happened in 2018. Even if your top line sales rocked the world and your bank account is fatter than usual, if your Market Share decreased or your Repeat and Referral Business fell off, you have important issues you need to address sooner rather than later. I’d love to help you address those issues.

The Ad Everyone is Talking About

By now you’ve probably already seen this ad. You may love it. You may hate it. You may wonder what all the hype is about. You may wonder who the heck is John Lewis and why should you care?

Since it is getting all the hype (and it made me cry, something very few ads do to me these days) I figure I would break it down for you to show you why it is going viral.

If you haven’t seen the ad, you can watch it below or follow this link here. It is just over two minutes long. (Note: spoiler alerts below.)

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I teach six principles that anyone can follow to make your ads more memorable and effective. Those principles are:

  1. Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Make Only One Point
  4. Speak to the Heart
  5. Speak to the Tribe
  6. Make Your Customer the Star

Don’t Look or Sound Like and Ad: Check! When I first clicked on a link for this ad that a friend shared with me, I thought I had accidentally linked to a trailer for the new Elton John movie Rocketman. This definitely doesn’t look or sound like any ad you’ll see on television outside of the first Sunday in February—if even then!

Tell a Story: Check! I love how they tell the story in a reverse timeline. Like any good storyteller, they take you from what you know to something you don’t know.

Make Only One Point: Check! I’m sure John Lewis sells all kinds of products and offers all kinds of services. They don’t talk about any of that. The tagline “Some gifts are more than just a gift” is about the thought you give into gift-giving and the thought John Lewis gives into the products it sells.

Speak to the Heart: Check! John Lewis is known for their touching, moving Christmas commercials. This one brought me to tears. Twice. Once at 1:45, again at 2:12.

Speak to the Tribe: Check! If you read the comments below the video on YouTube you’ll notice that not everyone is gushing over this ad. In fact, while 90,000 have given it a thumbs up (at the time of this typing), 8,500 have given it a thumbs down. Several people have written comments that they don’t get it. That, in my humble opinion, is the most telling point of how well John Lewis is speaking to the tribe.

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, has been teaching for years that, like a magnet, an ad’s ability to attract is equal to its ability to repel. The more powerfully you speak to your tribe—your customers, the people who share your Core Values—the more likely others won’t get it or like it. Roy also says, “Choose who to lose.” Don’t try to speak to everyone, just the most important ones.

This particular ad speaks to several tribes—Elton John fans, Musicians, people with Nostalgia as a character trait, Christmas saps, and people with Giving Gifts as one of their Love Language. I happen to be all of those. If you’re not one of those, you might not get why the rest of us are grabbing a tissue.

Some people loved the ad just because it was Elton. Some felt at the end he was lamenting the loss of his parents more than he was waxing nostalgic on the gift—another tribe. Some were remembering their own favorite Christmas gift that inspired them or that they still own today.

The ad evoked powerful emotions from several groups of people.

Make Your Customer the Star: No Check. I do have to agree with one comment on YouTube where the person said it looked more like an ad for Elton John’s next tour or movie than it did an ad for John Lewis. It certainly did feel that way up until the scene with the little boy coming down the stairs Christmas morning. Prior to that scene it was all about Elton. but in that one moment it was any one of us who has ever come down the stairs wide-eyed and full of excitement on Christmas morning.

That scene at 1:45 was the first part that really got to me emotionally. My first blog post ten years ago was about my favorite Christmas gift—a six-string guitar.

I’m okay that this ad didn’t fully make “you” the star. It works because of the story. The story works because we all know of Elton. You don’t have the budget to get Elton John into your commercials and that’s okay. John Lewis did and it worked for me.

Five out of six boxes checked. That’s why everyone is talking about this ad, and John Lewis.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Want to do a fun exercise? Go through all the John Lewis commercials here and write down the different tribes each ad is speaking to. It will help you when you start crafting your own powerful ads like these.

PPS If you didn’t get this ad or like this ad, that’s okay. It just wasn’t written for you. I watch ads every day that make me scratch my head until I remember, they weren’t written for me. Speak to your Tribe with your ads. That’s what really matters.

Who Challenges and Inspires You?

Every morning I check the email on my phone and see several familiar faces. There is always an email from Jackson Coffee Company, always something from Land’s End, Duluth Trading, Kohl’s, and DSW. Being a mostly Relational Shopper, these transactional discounts they offer Every. Single. Day. are somewhat of an annoyance.

I don’t unsubscribe, though. One of these days I’ll need to go to their stores. Since they are so regular with their discounts, I’m not going to ever pay full price again. Ever. (Yeah, there’s a lesson in there, but that’s for another day.)

I also get emails with links to stories from the New York Times, Chain Store Age, Retail Dive, and Total Retail Report.

Once a week I find out all the news in the toy industry by getting an email from The Bloom Report.

Most days I hear from retail speaker Bob Negen and Whizbang Training.

I also subscribe to different blogs. I start every single day learning from Seth Godin. Sunday nights I hear from Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor. Every Monday I read Roy H. William’s Monday Morning Memo. It is my favorite part of Mondays. Most weekdays I get posts from Josh Bernoff.

Josh writes about non-fiction writing, books, press releases, and the such. He also writes about analyzing data and drawing conclusions. His blog is called without bullshit and is quite instructive. In fact, because of Josh I play a game every day with the other articles I read. I put on my analyst’s hat and think …

“What would I say if The New York Times called me up for a quote on this article?”

I tell you this not to brag or sound important, to look like I am informed, or to give you my credentials above and beyond just running a high-level independent retail store. (I am sure I suffer from Dunning-Kruger Effect to some degree somewhere—I believe we all do. And every now and then I suffer from its opposite—Impostor Syndrome where I feel the need to prove to you I actually do know something about retail, besides what I learned working retail for thirty six years of my life.)

I tell you this so you will know my influences. You will know where I find inspiration and ideas and new tools I can share with you for your retail toolbox. I want you to have more to offer your customers than just the transactional customer discount emails I get Every. Single. Day. from retailers where I would likely pay full price otherwise.

Seth Godin challenges me to create something of value to others. Roy H. Williams challenges me to look at human behavior differently and understand what motivates us to do what we do. Josh Bernoff challenges me to write with purpose, clarity, and insight.

They all challenge and inspire me to be better at what I do (so that you can be better at what you do.)

Now you know where I get my inspiration. Who challenges and inspires you?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I left off a few other emails I get and read regularly because they aren’t as helpful as they used to be. You’ll tell me when this blog is no longer helpful, right?

PPS When you get the Monday Morning Memo ALWAYS click on the picture at the top of the memo. (Click on the beagle picture in this blog to go to the MMM page.) It takes you into the Rabbit Hole where you’ll find all kinds of inspiration. It also ends at the Monday Morning Radio page where you can listen to a great interview each week. This morning I heard an interview with Steven D. Goldstein, former chairman of Sears Financial, who said this …

“Scale doesn’t help if you have two different businesses that are underperforming and don’t really know what their place is in the consumer’s mind.”

Yeah, I’m going to see if he has a blog I should be adding to my list.

Connecting Through Stories (Part 1)

When people ask me what was my favorite Christmas gift, I often answer my first guitar. I still have it—an Eterna EF-15 six-string acoustic guitar by Yamaha—hanging on the wall with my other guitars. I get a lot of joy from playing guitar.

When I first got the guitar I wasn’t very good at playing it, nor was I as motivated to learn how to play as I thought I would be. It was harder than I thought. Then I met Tim Murnen.

The Eterna is the second from the right.

Tim and I worked together at YMCA Storer Camps. Tim didn’t teach me to play guitar, he inspired me. You see, Tim wrote his own songs, powerful, emotional, poetic visions. I wanted to do that too. So I started learning how to play guitar. Tim had ignited a passion in me.

Recently I found an old notebook that had several of my early songs in it. I pulled a guitar down from the wall and began picking at a few of the tunes. It was amazing how quickly they all came back into my memory. They weren’t good. In fact, all but two of them would probably fall under the Geneva Convention rules for cruel and unusual forms of punishment. But it was fun to see the progress I have made from those early days.

The other Christmas gift that stands out in my mind was given to me by my radio advertising sales rep. Most years the radio station would give me a mug filled with candy or a clock with the station logo on it or some other tchotchke gift that collected dust on a shelf for a year or two. Linda, however, gave me a copy of Roy H. Williams book, Wizard of Ads.

That book ignited another passion in me. I was only halfway through the book when I found out there were two sequels. I ordered the trilogy the next day and started my journey into the world of advertising and marketing. The books spoke to me in powerful ways.

I was thinking about these two gifts recently, and the connection between them.

Both were about storytelling. Songs tell stories. The best ads tell stories. Tim told stories. Roy told stories.

Both were about emotions. Songs speak to the heart. The best ads speak to the heart. Tim spoke to the heart. Roy spoke to the heart. (My early songwriting didn’t really tell stories or speak to the heart. Hmmm … I’m sensing a pattern.)

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is the late Harry Chapin who wrote such fantastic, heartfelt songs like Cats in the Cradle, Taxi, and A Better Place to Be. He was the ultimate storyteller. His live album is even called “Greatest Stories Live.” It is an album I can never grow tired of hearing.

I’ve always loved stories. Love reading them. Love telling them. Every night when my boys were younger I would tell them a story. Often they would challenge me to make one up on the spot. I would ask them, “Real or made-up?” If they said made-up I would ask, “Funny or scary?” Then we’d get into the story. Those nights are some of my most favorite nights of all.

Where is the lesson in this for retailers? It is understanding the connections we make through storytelling.

Linda gave ten businesses the same book for Christmas. I was the only one who took it and ran with it. The other nine set the book on a shelf with the other tchotchkes and never went down that path. For them, Linda worked the same way she always had, with professionalism to a tee. But our relationship grew by leaps and bounds until I became one of her biggest fans and cheerleaders.

You’re going to tell a story. Not everyone is going to connect with it. But those that do connect will become the spark that sets your business ablaze. Don’t worry about the other nine. Focus on the connections you make, not the ones you miss. Those connections will always be deeper and more profound (and more profitable).

Speak to the heart and the hearts that respond will speak of you the way I speak of guitars and wizards.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My son wrote his college application essay on how he remembers facts and data better when they are in a story than just through plain old rote memorization. There is a lesson in that story for all of you teachers out there, too.

PPS This is the “why” stories work. Tomorrow we’ll discuss “how” to make them work. How to use stories is a big part of my workshops on advertising, but there is also an element of storytelling in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Make sure you sign up soon.

Do You Want Great or Life-Changing?

What is the difference between Free and $4,500?

Give a business those options for training and most often they’ll choose Free, figuring, “at that price I ought to be able to make something work, and if it doesn’t, no biggie.” You aren’t going to spend $4,500 without knowing for sure what you’ll get in return.

That was the dilemma I had back in 2005.

I had received a book as a gift—The Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams. It blew me away! I was learning new stuff with every page. But now I had a chance to fly to Austin, TX to attend one of his workshops. It was going to cost me about $4,500 for the trip including $3,000 in tuition. Was I going to get enough out of that trip to justify the cost?

I believed I would. My mom believed I would. My grandfather believed I would. The three of us convinced my dad and I went. It was the best money I have ever spent! The returns have been exponential. It made me a better retailer. It made me a better teacher.

That trip also helped me realize my true mission in life. I’m here to Have Fun Helping Others. That trip, in essence, launched PhilsForum.com.

Free was great, but $4,500 was life-changing!

I want you to succeed. That’s why I write you these blogs. That’s why I write and publish all the eBooks for you in the Free Resources section of my website. It is all about you.

Today, however, I am giving you a similar choice—Free or $2,000.

FREE: You can download all five of these new eBooks from the Free Resources page of my website:

  • The Meet-and-Greet: Building the Relationship
  • Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling
  • How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy)
  • Ten Mistakes That Sideline the Sale
  • Attracting and Selling to Millennials

You can also check out the three posts with ideas for training your staff on these principles here, here, and here.

None of that costs you anything other than time. You’ll find it helpful and it will make a difference.

*$2,000: You can hire me to come to your organization or business and present The Ultimate Selling Workshop—a three-hour, power-packed presentation that includes the best, most important principles found in the five new eBooks, along with the training activities and exercises to best teach this to your team. It will be a transformational experience that not only opens your eyes to new and better ways to do what you do, but shows you how simple tweaks make gigantic differences. You’ll see changes right away.

Key Takeaways include:

  • The best way to greet a customer
  • How to ask better questions to find better solutions
  • How to transition a customer from “Shopping” to “Buying”
  • Three ways to Close a Sale for Good
  • What to do when she says, “No.”
  • How to attract Millennial shoppers
  • Three things you cannot say at the checkout

… and a whole bunch of other stuff above and beyond the basics in the eBooks.

More importantly, if you are an organization, I will teach you how to teach this to your team. If you are a retailer, I will do those exercises with your team (while showing you how to plan similar exercises to teach any principle you choose) and leave you with a plan to follow-up on those lessons down the road.

I learned my lesson back in May 2005 on a trip to Austin, TX.

Free is Great, so the Presentation has to be Transformational.

Thanksgiving is eleven weeks from today. What are you doing to get your sales team ready?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS The $2,000 fee is a flat rate for the workshop, not a rate per person. It is also a special offer well below my usual rate for workshops of this kind. It also has a deadline. You must book by October 1, 2018 to get this special rate, and you must hold the workshop by November 21, 2018. I want you to succeed this year! Call or email me ASAP to lock in your date. (Note: depending on where you are, we’ll discuss travel expenses when you call.)

How to Find Out Your Business Reputation

Some of you read them. Some of you don’t. I often get asked why each blog post has a Postscript (PS) or two. Postscripts are also called “afterthoughts.” In the case of my blog, I use them to reinforce different points made in the post, without clunking up the writing. I also use them to clarify and/or sum up something I’ve said. Often the PS is an action step or an application of the idea posed by the post. Sometimes it is a humorous anecdote or story from my past experiences.

Sometimes the PS hints at the next post. That was the case yesterday.

According to Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, your brand is “every single interaction someone has with your business, plus how they feel about it.”

In other words, your brand is not your slogan, your color scheme, or your logo. It is the way people feel about your business. It is your reputation.

In 2005 I wanted to know what people thought and felt about Toy House. Before I could create a stronger brand, I had to know from where I was starting. To do that, I needed to do a survey. Here is what I did.

LOCAL COLLEGE STATISTICS CLASS

Image result for phone surveyI contacted a professor at Spring Arbor University who taught statistics. Fortunately I already knew him. We had met at a networking event (one more reason why you should attend those events).

I told him what I wanted to do. I had a survey. I had the questions. I just needed someone to figure out the sample size, do the calling, and compile the results. It would be a live exercise for his statistics students. I agreed that I would write a letter of recommendation for all the students who participated, and that I would host a pizza party for the students when they had the results.

The professor thought it would be a fun exercise, and put it into his lesson plan at the appropriate time.

The students did the math and figured out we would need a sample size of 400 Jackson County residents to accurately measure the entire county within an acceptable margin of error. They also devised a random way to find those 400 people using the phone book. Each of the twenty students was then tasked with getting twenty survey results back within a two-week window.

QUESTION #1

The script I gave the students came from Roy. In a class I took, he showed me how to get an accurate assessment of where Toy House stood in the minds of Jackson County residents. It also showed how I compared to other stores selling toys in the area.

When someone answered the phone, the student would say …

“Hello, my name is (____). I am a Spring Arbor University student. My statistics class is doing a survey on toy shopping habits in Jackson County. Can I ask you a couple questions?”

If they said yes, the first question was this …

“Please name all the stores you can think of that sell toys in Jackson.”

The students had a worksheet with all the possible places listed and a few blanks for some out-of-the-box thinkers. As the person named stores, the student would number them in the order they were named. After the person stopped, the student would say, “You named (list of all stores they named). Can you think of any others?” This went on until the person said they could not think of any others.

The beauty of this question is that it helps you see how much awareness people have of your existence. You also see how you compare to everyone else in your town. It was eye-opening to see what percentage of Jackson County shoppers knew we existed. The results looked like this.

  1. Toys R Us 84.1%
  2. Meijer 82.3%
  3. Walmart 69.5%
  4. Toy House 64.8%
  5. Kmart 59.1%
  6. Target 45.2%

Thirty-five percent of the population could not think of us when asked to name a store that sold toys in Jackson. That was a shocker. (So was the fact the 16% couldn’t name the iconic national brand of Toys R Us and over half the population didn’t think of Target as a place to buy toys.)

QUESTION #2

Once the first question was answered, the student would then say, “For the second part, I am going to read you a few words. From the list of stores you just gave me, I want you to tell me the first of those stores that comes to mind with each word. There is no right or wrong answer. Just blurt out the first store you think of.”

The list of words I had the students read included positive words like Affordable, Caring, Clean, Friendly, Fun, Helpful, Knowledgeable, Quality, Value, and Welcoming.

The list also included negative words like Arrogant, Cluttered, Confusing, Dark, Deceptive, Dirty, Expensive, High Pressure, Indifferent, Over-Priced, Pushy, and Rude.

The list also included one word that upon reflection could be considered either positive or negative—Cheap.

The deal here is that whoever is mentioned the most for that particular word owns that word in the minds of shoppers. That is your reputation, good or bad.

  • We owned the words Caring, Clean, Friendly, Fun, Helpful, Knowledgeable, Quality, Value and Welcoming from the positive list, and Expensive and Over-Priced from the negative list.
  • Walmart owned the words Affordable, Deceptive, Indifferent, Rude, and Cheap.
  • Kmart owned Dark and Dirty.
  • Toys R Us owned Cluttered, Confusing, High-Pressure, and Pushy.
  • Target and Meijer didn’t own a single word on the list.

(Note: in that first survey, no one owned Arrogant. We were in a virtual tie with both Walmart and Toys R Us for that word.)

The one thing I didn’t include in my list of words was all of our Core Values, but mainly because I didn’t know them in 2005 like I did in 2007. We did a second survey in 2007 adding Education and Nostalgia to the list and owned those words hands-down. The only other changes in 2007 were that Walmart tied us for Value, and we took over Arrogant.

RESULTS

There were several takeaways from these results. The first was the lack of awareness for our giant, colorful store that had been in business for 56 years in the heart of downtown Jackson. More people mentioned Walmart, yet they had only been open a couple months when this survey was done. When we did the survey again in 2007, our name recognition jumped from 64.8% to 76.0%, whereas Walmart’s only went from 69.5% to 76.5%. We were still fourth overall, but had closed the gap significantly. (TRU and Meijer held steady.)

I was okay with owning the negative words Over-Priced and Expensive. That’s a common belief of indie retailers and I expected it. I was especially okay because we also owned Value. Value and Expensive are not exclusive. Value and Over-Priced don’t go together, but for every person that thought of us as Over-Priced, there was someone else who saw the Value in our offerings. I was okay with owning Arrogant in the 2007 survey, too, since I also owned nine of the ten positive attributes.

Most importantly, we owned the things we wanted to be know for. We owned our Core Values of Helpful, Fun, Education, and Nostalgia. We owned the things we were already advertising such as Friendly, Knowledgeable, and Quality. We owned the one word that made my mom the happiest—Clean! So we knew we were on the right track with our advertising, but more importantly we were on the right track with our actions.

Advertising cannot change your reputation. It can only enhance it. Actions speak louder than words.

Now you have the blueprint for doing your own survey to find out where you stand compared to your competition. If you don’t like your results. First change your actions.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The interesting question about doing a survey today is whether to do it online or by phone or both. Back in 2005 and 2007 most people still had landlines. Today, if you only do a phone survey with numbers generated randomly from a phone book (assuming those still exist), you’re missing out on a huge segment of the population. That will be the challenge for your statistics class to figure out. It might cost you a little more than pizza, but it will be totally worth it.

PPS One other benefit from the survey was that I had a classroom of 20 college students who now knew about our store and saw the reputation we had. That alone was worth the pizzas and a quick letter thanking them for running the survey.

You’re Going to Offend Someone

I heard someone argue that Memorial Day Weekend shouldn’t be about shopping and big sales at the mall. We need to be properly honoring our fallen soldiers. I also heard someone make the same argument about backyard BBQs and trips to the lake/ocean/river/woods. It isn’t about partying, it is about properly honoring our fallen soldiers. It begs the question … What is “properly honoring our fallen soldiers?” You better learn or you will likely offend someone.

Publix has suspended support for an NRA-favoring political candidate after “die-in” protests in their stores. Pretty soon you will see a backlash against Publix from NRA members for withdrawing that support. Either way, someone is going to hate them.

To some people, if you don’t automatically hate President Trump, then you’re a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, religious nut-job. If you even hint at defending any of the President’s actions (or decry any of the President’s actions), you’re going to have haters painting an unfavorable picture of you (whether true or not.)

Some people are offended by the football players who take a knee out of respect for the flag but to protest injustice in America. Others are offended by the NFL for creating a rule demanding they stand to “show respect for the flag.” The camps are divided and no posting of memes is going to change anyone’s mind. Both sides believe they are right and the other is wrong.

The tough part is that in many of these cases you are being forced to pick a side as if the world was black/white and either/or. No matter which side you choose, someone is going to hate you. Even if you don’t choose, your actions will cause someone to choose your side for you. People are looking for new ways to be offended. Tolerance is missing. Nuance is gone. Thoughtful discussion is rare.

Image result for pendulum book
Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew

How do you, as a business, navigate this world of hatred, intolerance, black/white, either/or?

Two months ago I wrote a post about when to take a political stand. The actions and attitudes since then have made it likely that whether you take a political stand or not, someone is going to assign a political stand to you for an action they perceive.

Since you’re going to offend someone anyway, you might as well do it consciously. 

No, I don’t mean pick a cause and go out there and piss a bunch of people off. What I mean is, become even more true to your Core Values. Amplify the Values and Beliefs you already have in everything you do.

If one of your Core Values is Helpfulness, add more ways to help your customers. If one of your Core Values is Nostalgia, add more nostalgic displays and tell more nostalgic stories. If one of your Core Values is Fun, make sure every single part of your business is fun down to the experience in the bathroom and the answer on your answering machine. If one of your Core Values is Education, add new educational signs and new instructional classes.

Evaluate everything in your business from the signs on the front door to the tagline on your receipt to make sure they accurately and boldly show your Values and Beliefs. The more consistent and observable your Values, the better.

  • First, it is easier to be consistent with your Values than try to be someone you are not. People will see right through you. The more consistent your actions are to your beliefs, the more you boost up the visibility of what you believe.
  • Second, the more obvious you are about what you believe and value, the less likely someone can paint you into a corner you don’t wish to be.
  • Third, yes, you will offend people, but primarily only people who don’t share your Values. That’s okay. Your business is at its best when you strongly attract the people who share your Values. Don’t worry about everyone else.
  • Fourth, the more obvious you are, the more likely you will find those people who share your Values. They are much more fun to work with anyway.

Not sure exactly what are your Core Values? Here is a worksheet to help you figure it out.

I’m working on a new resource, too, one that will help you write your Belief Statements. In the meantime, here is an example of I Believe … statements from Toy House. Here is one from LauraJoyWarrior. Here is one from PhilsForum to help you get some ideas flowing.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The stronger a magnet attracts, the stronger that same magnet repels. The more strongly you try to attract people who share your Values and Beliefs, the more strongly you will offend those who don’t share your Values and Beliefs. That’s okay. There are more than enough people who believe what you believe for you to have a rock solid business. Many of them just don’t know about you yet.

PPS This whole black/white, either/or, I’m offended mentality is going to take a few years to disappear. It was perfectly predicted in the book Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew. They predict a lot of other stuff in that book, some that has already come true (including exactly how Donald Trump won the election), and some that won’t be true for another ten, twenty, or forty years. It is a fascinating read and an eye-opener to what is happening around you.

PPPS To show you how easy it is for people to be offended, I saw on social media one person upset because another person thanked a veteran for their service. “Memorial Day is to honor fallen veterans. Veterans Day is to honor the living ones. Get it right!” 

Reading Better, First Impressions, and Setting the Mood

One of the fun things about moving is finding your “memory boxes”. One of mine was falling apart so I had to dig through everything and transfer it all to a new box. Yeah, that took a lot longer than it should. (Remember, one of my Core Values is Nostalgia.) One item I found that brought back a flood of memories was a short story I wrote back in 1990 about a spring break trip to Colorado and Utah.

Back in 1990 my favorite author was Pat McManus, a humor writer who wrote columns for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and other magazines. Pat also wrote several side-splitting books about camping, hunting, fishing, and growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s in the great outdoors. Rarely did I go camping without one of his books stashed in my backpack. It was a necessary weight.

Not surprisingly, my writing style for my short story back in 1990 was quite similar to Pat’s humor.

Back in 2005 Roy H. Williams told me that if I wanted to learn to write better, I needed to read better. In my notes from one of Roy’s workshops I had circled a book idea, Poem A Day edited by Retta Bowen, Nick Temple, Nicholas Albery, and Stephanie Wienrich.

Poetry is the language of emotions. Advertising works best when it reaches you on an emotional level. Poetry is looking at ordinary things from unique and surprising perspectives. Advertising is giving your potential customers a new way to look at your business. Poetry uses interesting word combinations to set the mood. Great advertising uses interesting word combinations to get your attention.

Back in 2010 I did a staff training using the opening lines from several great books such as …

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  C.S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”  Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  A.A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh

In that same meeting I played the opening music from Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for Common Man, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and The Who’s Baba O’Reilly.

We talked about how the opening sets the mood for everything else. We talked about the importance of first impressions. We talked about rhythm and feelings. We also talked about all the “openings” a customer has at our store.

It isn’t just the greeting that sets the mood.

We identified the following “first impression” moments:

  • Phone
  • Parking Lot
  • Front Window
  • Front Door
  • Store Atmosphere
  • Appearance of Staff
  • Greeting

Notice how many “first impressions” happen before you even say, “Hello. Thank you for coming in,”? That’s a lot of mood setting and emotion-creating before you even open your mouth.

When you read better, you write better. When you visit better stores and truly look at the moods and emotions they are trying to evoke, you’ll have better ideas for your own store.

Take that list above and go visit your favorite stores. See if you can figure out who is making the best first impressions. Then go back to your store and see if you can figure out what first impression you are giving your customers.

The better your first impression, the easier it is for your staff to make connections and build relationships necessary to compete in today’s retail climate.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When you visit other stores, take good notes. When you attend workshops and presentations, take good notes. Then revisit your notes often. I don’t just look at those notes for a walk down memory lane. I read my notes from old workshops because there are often more nuggets in there than I could ever possibly remember. Sometimes when you get home from a presentation it isn’t the right time for one of those nuggets. But when you revisit it later, the timing may be perfect.

PPS Yes, in some ways this is a meta-post. Notice how my blogs often start with a story? Stories are powerful tools in advertising because they get your attention, speak to the heart, and are more memorable. In other words, they set the mood and make a good first impression. If you set the wrong mood, you put up obstacles to sales. If you set the right mood, you grease the skids for sales. I was lucky in that Toy House was a downtown business, but with our own parking lot. But you should have seen how I fretted about the cleanliness of that parking lot—especially in the winter.

Protecting Yourself From Your Biggest Threat

I’m in a precarious position. My job is to help you succeed by teaching you the stuff you need to learn. My job is to know what you don’t know, be the expert you can trust, and help you see things from a perspective you haven’t seen before.

My other job is to protect myself from the Dunning-Kruger Effect. (DKE)

According to Wikipedia, “the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability have illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”

People who suffer from this cognitive bias don’t know what they don’t know. They believe they have all the answers. They come across as arrogant, pushy, know-it-alls that annoy the heck out of true experts in that field.

As an author, business coach, and public speaker, I’m supposed to have all the answers. I’m supposed to know it all. Yet, how do I prevent myself from getting caught in the trap of illusory superiority?

Image result for stacks of booksThe simple answer is Read. 

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” -Mark Twain

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow …” -Lawrence Clark Powell

I subscribe to blogs and read books regularly, looking for new answers. Sometimes what I read challenges what I believe. I worry about my cognitive bias, wondering if the author knows something I don’t. Reading keeps me on my toes by presenting new ideas and opening me up to new worlds of thought.

The next best thing to do is Question everything you believe.

  • Why do I believe what I believe?
  • Where is my evidence?
  • Do I have the most up-to-date information on this topic?
  • Have I tested it?
  • Is my information relevant to today?
  • Are my sources up-to-date and staying current?

If all I ever did was give you information based off my own experiences running Toy House, then I might suffer from DKE. If all I ever did at Toy House was try to learn from my own mistakes without looking outside myself for help, then I most definitely suffered.

Yet isn’t that what so many business owners do? Especially the veterans who have been running their stores for years? They use their own experiences as the basis for everything and never try to learn from others.

“It is hard to read the label from inside the bottle.” -Roy H. Williams

Your biggest threat isn’t Amazon or the economy or the weather. It is in thinking you know all the answers and cannot be taught something new.

I fear this in myself. I have the confidence (arrogance?) to believe I have answers to pretty much any question about running an independent retailer. I guard myself against DKE, however, by reading and questioning everything I think I know. I did the same running Toy House. Didn’t know how to market and advertise? I turned to Seth Godin and Roy H. Williams. Didn’t know how to merchandise? I turned to Paco Underhill. I learned from them, tested it against what I thought I knew, and grew from the experience.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. You’re out there reading and learning from others (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my posts). Sometimes, however, we need that reminder to keep vigilant and protect ourselves from our own DKE.

Sometimes we also need permission to go out there and remind our fellow retailers there is a world of information available, and the strength of your individual business will rely on how much of that information you acquire and use.

(Yes, that is a request that you share this blog and the other stuff you read with others.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One other way to keep DKE at bay is to be in a constant state of learning. Some people believe “training” only happens to new staff. Teach them what they need at first and let them go from there. Some people instead create a culture of learning not only for themselves but for their staff. One way I fostered that culture at Toy House was to give each of my staff a $150 budget each year for taking a class or attending a workshop. It didn’t have to be retail-related. It only had to keep them in a mindset of learning new things.