Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Combine and Conquer!

If you have a retail store, it can be really beneficial to develop relationships with your neighbors and help each other by combining your sales, events and outside displays. Just as a neighborhood street will get a lot more action if most of the neighbors have a garage sale the same day and call it a street sale, they will all get more opportunities which means more sales for each member.

If you're thinking of doing a sale, talk to the businesses around you and think of ways that you can work together. One way is to run one ad in the paper featuring both stores and split the cost equally. Four stores would split it four ways. This allows you to get a larger ad, or multiple ads in different sections for less than you would have paid by yourself.

Another way is to have attention grabbing things going on outside your store and split that cost with your neighbors. For example, a juggler, popcorn cart, musician, a band, demonstrations and so on. Make it fun and interesting to help drive traffic to your area and to each others store.

The less you look at other businesses as competitors and the more you look at them as creative partners, the better the opportunities for each of you become--even if you sell the same things.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Motivational Messages

Yesterday, the post was about Retail Prison--waiting around for a customer to come in. One thing I found that really helped in addition to the things mentioned in the post was to listen to motivational tapes and audiobooks.

The great thing about tapes (or CD's) is that you don't have to look at them. You can keep your eyes where they need to be while you are "reading" by listening. Even today 25 years later, wherever I travel, I have motivational tapes or audiobooks in my truck. I now have a number on MP3 files so I can even listen on an airplane with my player.

There is so much nay-saying going on in the world wherever you turn, and I, for one, need the yeah-saying messages that keep me thinking positively. There is absolutely nothing quite like encouragement to lift your spirits and soothe the mind.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Retail Prison

Having owned a retail store, the absolute worst thing I experienced was standing around (or sitting) and waiting for a prospect to come through the door. Sometimes it was hours before the next one came through. I hated it.

It seems that there should be something in the store that is always in need of doing: dusting, re-tagging merchandise, straightening displays, creating new displays, updating computer database, repairing things, cleaning things, rearranging things, buying things, just all kinds of things to do. Of course, they all need to be done, but they don't do much for the waiting game except perhaps, make it go by quicker.

What is far better and much more effective to do is to send out some flyers, letters, notices, postcards to your customers and prospects. Your close customers could be reached by telephone. In today's world, email is a great way to stay in touch and make known your killer sales and grand opportunities--even just to reach out and speak to another person . . . a real live person.

With this kind of thing, you are moving forward. All that other stuff is of little importance in comparison.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Compliment Is Nice, But. . .

Not to take anything at all away from compliments. I love encouragement from anyone, anytime, anyplace. I could listen to it all day and never grow weary. But. . . when someone tells you how much you changed their life for the better, and how you helped them tackle that issue, or quit smoking or make a turn, that is very powerful. It is absolutely priceless.

I've received a few over the years. I'm always trying to help others since I've been helped in so many ways. Just sharing. And I got one today and it was very nice. It just makes your day, maybe even the whole week. It is pure love.

We should all get more of those because they are life changing for the receiver too. So, if you have had someone or several who have gone the extra mile and who have really looked out for you or lifted you out of despair, changed your direction in a positive way, is a source of inspiration to you, make sure you find a way to make it known that you are grateful and that it is of great meaning to you. Send a card, an email, make a call, send up a flag, and just let them know.

The warm fuzzy bag will never run dry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Lowest Price Is Meaning-less

Price has some star power, or at least you would think so since you see price advertising everywhere you go and on every TV and radio station. Yet, with all its star power, it is really meaning-less.

Selling a bottle of wine for $2.00 less than the chain store competitor is a bold move, but it is meaningless. I know its hard to believe, but it is true. If that really worked, you would be in real marketing trouble. Think about it. If that ad drew the customer from the other store, their next ad will draw them back. The customer will be going from this place to that place to this always looking for the lowest dollar amount on that product. Baloney. The hardest thing to learn in retail is that only 4% buy price, everyone else buys value.

Price is always an issue with a customer for two reasons: 1. They have been trained to talk about and to respond to price. Trained by their parents and by the media over time. 2. They want a fair deal, a good deal and they don't want to get ripped off. Though it is always an issue, the question is how much of an issue? It's really not that high on the list.

Time after time, studies have been done and on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the most important, price usually falls around number 8. Almost dead last! So if it is that far back really, why is it plastered all over the media? I think it is very similar to why it is an issue with a customer. 1. They have done it over and over and over again, so it is natural to do it again and over again. 2. It is one way to try to promote value, even though it may very well be a lie in terms of value. It has become a strategy to get attention.

Your customers will put price where it really belongs, IF, you have more to say that is convincing. Don't try to justify price, but put yourself in the shoes of the customer and ask yourself why you would buy this product or service? Tell a better story. Pretend you're the highest price and determine your story from there. What is value to you?

Monday, February 16, 2009

How Far Do You Go?

How far do you go to take care of a customer? What do you do to encourage your customers to complain to you if there is a complaint? Do you know the value of one happy customer to your business? Do you know the value of one unhappy customer to your business?

In today's world it is so easy for a customer to talk about you or your business and they are probably ten times more likely to talk about it if their experience is not positive. Twenty years ago, that would have been a very small circle of people, now it can be a very large circle of people. With the advent of social websites like Facebook, Twitter, My Space and others, people can tell each other things in less than a second.

My training in business from the people I worked for in the past was that, you do everything possible to not give money back if someone is unhappy. That would go to some serious extremes from my early days in the car business. All it did was make the customer more angry and to be very stressful on the seller as well.

I found through experience and trial and error, that the best thing is to be willing to do whatever is possible to take care of the customer and the vast majority of the time, giving money back turned into a long-term happy customer instead.

Here's a recent example. I sold an expensive book. It was brand new, but I had owned it for some time. When the customer received it, there is a note in each book stating that if they are not pleased with anything at all to contact me immediately and it will be taken care of. So, he contacted me stating that he thought the book might be used and not new saying there was a crease in the spine. I immediately answered that his satisfaction was paramount and that I would be happy to send him another new copy or refund his money in full as he desired. He replied that he was glad that I was willing to go the distance, but that he was satisfied after all and thanked me for my willingness to take care of him. I offered again and he declined and so the issue is closed. I absolutely would have replaced it regardless of cost and sent it Priority Mail to boot, but I didn't have to. In many cases, I have done so.

You might say, well, that is all well and good for lesser expensive things, but things like automobiles is a wholly different story. I say baloney. In my later years in the car business as a manager that had the power to do so, I have easily given people their money back to resolve an issue. Some even came back to become customers again. Yet, in today's world of massive communication so quick, a business needs to really consider that it may be far cheaper to take a small loss and take care of this customer than to lose untold numbers of sales from an unhappy customers communications.

We need each other. I think the Golden Rule is still alive and well. Treat others as you would like to be treated and it should serve you well as it has for a few thousand years.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The 50-Yard Dash

I was thinking about winning and losing and how most of us have grown up with seeing competing people or teams winning and losing. Maybe they win the Gold Medal or the Super Bowl title and the ring and the hat, or maybe the prize is smaller. We grew up wanting to be winners and feel sorry for the losers. Whenever there is a limit to the number of prizes, the game is not really so much fun except for the winner. But are they really winners? Why couldn't we change that thinking?

I watched the Super Bowl (capital letters even. . .) this year and it was absolutely an exciting game right up to the last minute. That is what people want, right? I saw that it was clear that one team was making more mistakes than the other team and, indeed, it cost them the title. Nontheless, I see both of them as winning the Super Bowl.

I had a time warp back to 7th grade and in P.E. class we had to run the 50-yard dash and get timed. My best time was 7 seconds flat. Relative to someone who knows how to run very fast for a short distance, that number is really slow. Many good runners beat me by between 1 and 2 seconds. I gave it all I had and that was all that came out. It was good. It was the best I could do--and the best I was interested in doing.

It really isn't about winning and losing with me anymore because competitiveness is not an essential, nor even desireable trait for business. In business, it is about creativity, continuing to clarify and seek the best you, your company and your employees can be. Profitability is cool too, and these traits will create more of that than competitiveness any day. Google isn't competing against MSN Search, Yahoo Search, ASK and others. They are leading and they are doing that by continually clarifying what their business is and how deep and wide it can become, using the creativity of hundreds of brilliant people (like you and me), and they foster a business climate that promotes more of this. It is all about creativity. Perhaps they all ran the 50-yard dash in 7 seconds (or 8, or 9 or more) as well. . .

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Staying In Touch. . .

I watched a good video presentation on one of my favorite sites. The site is TSTN, The Success Training Network. It is very inexpensive to be a subscriber and there are tons of great videos to keep you pumped and inspired.

This one was a talk put on by Harvey Mackay, who became very popular writing a book titled, "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He said something in the talk that jumped out at me. He said that his father told him when he was 18 to start a listing of everyone he ever meets and to keep track of them and to find a way to communicate periodically with them and it would serve him extremely well in later years. Of course, he said that it had been a very powerful lesson and he has followed it since he was 18. He said that a good life is an accumulation of who you know and what you read.

I thought, my goodness. . . that would have been a project and then some, but there are probably others who have done something similar. It would be interesting to see what possibilities and interest there would be in my life had I done this. Maybe you can relate. Maybe it isn't too late to start!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Competition Cannot Take Your Place

There is only one Disneyland, yet there are many, many amusement and theme parks. There is only one Kleenex, yet many, many brands of tissues. There is only one, yet there are many, many, online sellers of books. And so it goes on.

When you think of competition and the possibility of them taking your place, it is not that they are better, cheaper or larger, it is that you have not carved out your place in a unique way. Think of Disneyland. They have lots of rides, yet none compare to the rides at some of the Six Flags parks, and others around the country. Yet it is their uniqueness that keeps people coming back again and again. I've been to the one in LA at least 12 times myself, yet other amusement parks are not even on the radar screen.

I like to say that there is no competition--and, I believe it. No one can come and take away what is mine without my permission. It is so easy to carve out your own niche and uniqueness that no one can match. We could even call it personality to make it a human element. There are no two people exactly alike--each is unique, no matter how similar some may seem. That applies to twins. They look alike, yet they are not at all.

If you think of competition, you are thinking with a lack mentality; i.e., there is only so much to go around--so many customers, so much product, so many opportunities, etc. It will be that thinking that will cause you to lose your place. If, on the other hand, you think with an abundance mentality, there will always be enough for everyone, no matter how many there are. It is a challenge to think that way if you watch the news, read the paper, listen to lack thinkers, but the more you do it, the easier it is and you will find that will be your truth. You get to choose your truth. William Shakespeare said it so well a long time ago: ". . . there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Delete competition from your mind. You are in charge of your own destiny! Go for it and make it your own.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Have You Had Your Fix Today?

It's all around you. You read the newspaper and news magazines at the doctors office, watch the news on TV, hear it on the radio, see it on the Internet, hear it from your friends. A few doses of that stuff is a few doses too many, so it is no wonder you are in need of an escape at the end of the day.

Something that will improve your outlook and response to this kind of attack on you is to make sure and get your daily fix of positive, uplifting, inspiring messages. I get a bunch of them everyday and it really helps to keep me thinking positive thoughts. Here's a few links that I subscribe to that you may also find beneficial.

Daily Inspirational Quotes

Daily Thought of Power

One of my favorites: Notes From the Universe

You can never get enough encouragement, uplifting words, or inspiration. I probably subscribe to about 10 things like this. What an advantage!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Advantage of the Small Business

There are some serious advantages of the small, independent business. These advantages can blow the competition away if they are effectively utilized. Here's an example of what I mean:

I went to Jos. A. Banks last week and took advantage of a very good sale to buy a sportcoat and a couple shirts. The manager waited on me and I got to talking with him about business and how it could be much improved.

I am on their email list and get at least one email a week about yet another sale. I don't mind getting them and most of them, I quickly open and then delete. The last one was a somewhat larger sale, so it got my attention and I went in. I expressed this to the manager and stated that they could have a great deal more business if they would approach these emails more personally. I said that I get them from the Men's Warehouse also, but not as often, yet no one is marketing to me specifically, but to a very wide audience instead. If they were to take charge of the emails and focus on a group of customers with different emails, they could seriously change the traffic into the store and get people to respond with regular purchases.

I said they might send an email to suggest certain things that I might have stated I would be interested in. I could always use a new belt or two, but I don't think about going in just for that very often. They could send me a email about a new belt selection they just received and that they have so many in my size with a special deal just for me. Or, they just got a fresh selection of shirts in that are in my size, or some nice new shoe selections just arrived in my size. How could I resist that? Even if I didn't really need it.

But they don't do this. I asked why not? He said, "it's all handled by corporate." I know this is true and it is a problem with a large corporation with multiple outlets. This will kill them eventually as it has many other companies. Yet, here's the cool part: It is a perfect opportunity for the small, independent business to get excited about! It is their way to shine! Do the things that the "corporate" stores are not willing to do, and you can make your cash register ring!

Get to know your customer and their preferences and then make regular contacts with them to make suggestions that will be of value to them. Create your own traffic! Need help? This is one of the things we specialize in. Give us a call at 707-480-0959.