Friday, June 26, 2009

Raley's Supermarket: Leading or Following?

Yesterday I stopped at my favorite Raley's grocery store and as I was checking out, I slid my ATM card through the little pay device, then changed my mind to use cash. There was no way to cancel it on my end, so the checker had to do it. This is a newer system they recently installed. The old system had a cancel button. This got me to thinking a bit and I mentioned to the checker that sometimes new systems are not an improvement from the old. How many times have you run across the same thing? Some new thing or change is supposed to be so much better and your experience is the opposite.

So, after my remark to the clerk, she said that they changed it because the competition had a system like it, so we had to. I thought for a moment and said to her, there is no competition when you are leading. I have always thought of Raley's as the leader. I know places that are cheaper and bigger and they are nearby, but I have always chosen Raley's on purpose because I like the experience--the feel, if you will. I never even thought of them as competing against Safeway and others.

People get so hung up on competition. Really. Who cares what the store down the street or across town is doing? Lead. Carve your own path. Make your own decisions. Go boldly where no business has been before. . . It is the land of no competition. Let go of the competitive thinking and just focus on you being the best you and your business being the best business. You will never, ever get all the customers anyway. Just give the best: the best service, the best value, the best experience. I don't mean the best in the marketplace. That would be competing again. I mean the best that you've got to give. And, at the same time, it pays to keep your edge sharp by continual learning and growing so you can give ever better service, value and experience.

There is no competition when you are leading. Let the rest follow you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We Tried That. That Stuff Don't Work!

It is amazing how many times I have heard these two phrases. We are always offering suggestions to improve business and much of what we offer is tried and proven over and over again. Yet, we still hear these phrases.

I've learned over a long period of time that "swimming upstream" with people is not good for me or them, so when I hear these phrases, I might swim upstream a stroke or two and take another approach with them, but if I don't hear any interest in a few seconds, I completely back off and agree with them and find a way to leave quickly.

This just happened yesterday again and I just turned and floated back downstream and let them continue to say as I was leaving, "we tried that and it didn't work. . ." Oh, he even said how long he tried it: he tried it for four weeks. Whew! I'm glad he gave it his all. Four weeks. That's a long time. He also said that the customers came in, but they didn't act as he wanted them to, so he quit it. Well, there ya go! Four weeks, customers not doing as we want, we're out of here. . .

Of course, you are more willing to hear the whole pitch and to listen to the ideas and to see if they make sense and to try to understand, right? If others are successful using the idea, you might think that it could pay off for you as well, right? It could happen.

Let's change the phrase: We tried that and it changed our business forever! It is the most successful thing we ever did! Thank you!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

When People Are Left To Their Own . . .

When people are left to their own volition, you get to see their character. It's what people do when no one is looking or supervising that is important.

I see people who look busy, but it is obvious to me (an outsider looking in) that they are just looking busy for the sake of looking like they are doing something. When you don't want to be at work, it is more obvious than some may think.

What a boring, slow-moving day this makes. What an ineffective employee this makes. What an ineffective business this makes.

The answer is motivation. Yet this is not an easy thing. The real, effective motivation must come from within the employee. The management can only spark the motivation by helping the employee realize their own motives and make better use of them. The best way for both is to tie the work to the employee's highest values and that probably is not money, but something else more powerful. Find what those things are and the business and employees will thrive.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finding Good People Is Not An Option

Whatever you want to call this economic period we are moving through, the focus is on the bad news, yet there are so many good things that happen. For example, one business I talked with said that the slowdown gave him the perfect reason to get rid of some under performers and make his company more effective.

A few days ago, I went into Jos. A Banks clothing store to look at suits. They had a huge sale going on. I was the only customer in the store. I was greeted by a salesman and almost immediately got into a disagreement about their ad. I had it in writing and he was saying I was incorrect. I let it go. I told him what I was looking for and he took me to the suit rack. He guessed my size fairly close and to check it, gave me a suit jacket to put on. It didn't fit well. He was saying things to try and convince me that it did, buy I know when it doesn't fit, so don't you think he should? We moved up one size and it fit perfectly. He pointed out where the suits in my size were and he left. . . well, you're probably getting the idea, but it went from bad to worse and finally after being in the store only about 8-10 minutes, I said, I have to leave now and I just walked out. One of the worst salesmen I have ever encountered. I wouldn't buy a pair of socks from him, otherwise I might be encouraging him. They lost a nice sale and haven't even got a clue. Too bad. I truly cannot imagine this company lasting much longer here. Men's Warehouse is no better in this city. I have to leave town to get better. Sad.

Not to accentuate the negative, but in this economy with many looking for work, this spells opportunity to me. Get rid of the warm bodies and find someone who can excel. Now is the perfect time! When business is so good, it is harder to find good talent and you might have to accept a few warm bodies. Now is an opportunity.

And, I cannot leave this without spelling one of the most important words for an employee: T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G. There is almost never enough of that going on. Of course, it may make all the difference.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wisdom of the Ages

"You are what you repeatedly do.
Excellence is not an event--it is a habit."
- Aristotle (384-322 BC)

"Our life is what our thoughts make it."
- Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD)

I love quotations and see many of them each day. They are thought starters and catch me quickly and lend me a tidbit of wisdom to mull over throughout the day. It amazes me when I see quotes like these. We get to thinking that these ideas are fairly new, yet they are very, very old. The question I have is, knowing this fact, why is it that I learn these things clearly in my later life? Where were the teachers teaching this wisdom in the first 40 years?

It must be that we get focused on the now and what's happening and let go of the real wisdom in search of the quick fixes. Alas, I am now paying close attention and am open to the wisdom of the ages. Aristotle and Aurelius are reborn!

Monday, May 11, 2009

How Much? It Is Totally Up To You.

How much are you willing to do to have things get better? What more will you do? Will you find time to network with other people and business owners? How much will you prosper?

Many people blame. They blame circumstances. They blame events outside their control. They blame other people. With this approach, I can very easily predict your future: More of the same.

A positive change in results is not dependent on outside circumstances, events, or other people. It is totally up to you. You are always in charge and you always have been. You decide and you dictate results with your thinking.

Not enough time or energy for a once a month chamber mixer where you can meet 50 new people in one place at one event? No problem. You get to keep your current results a little longer.

Not enough time or energy to read a helpful book? No problem. You get to keep your current results a little longer.

"Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound." --James Allen

I see a lot of people around me that want to change their results, but they are not willing to change themselves, and this keeps them bound to their current results.

Take a chance on a new plan. Commit to improving yourself and that will change everything.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

To Teach Is To Learn Twice

"To teach is to learn twice" - Joseph Joubert

This quote from Joseph Joubert is the best I have seen about learning and about teaching at the same time. I don't think you can really separate the two. If I want to really and truly understand and know something, teaching it is the fastest and most effective way. There is something about trying to help others understand that causes the teacher to have to know more, and not just more, but more in more depth as if you were looking at something from many different angles.

As I teach, I learn more about the subject and more about teaching and more about myself. I cannot teach and not be learning at the same time.

If you want to see how well you know something, try teaching it. Go ahead. You may very well find that you don't know it nearly as well as you thought, yet in trying to teach it, you have automatically risen to a new level of understanding. Great. Now, teach it some more. You will find after a short time that you now have a far greater knowledge and understanding of the subject and that you know it from a number of different perspectives. You will also find it to be the best learning experience.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You May Have To Look, But Find Some Good News

I made a call yesterday to one of our clients, Jim Fisk, who owns Fisk Cyclery in Dixon, CA. I was just following up on a website we did for their business district and asked him how business has been for him. Essentially, here's what he said:

He said business has been great! He said that last year business was up substantially and that this year it is up substantially from that. He said that he can tell things are loosening up because last year, even though business was very good, the parents were coming in buying and not so much the kids, but this year, the kids are coming in with money to spend. He says that is a great sign to him. He also said that it isn't just repairs or parts, but he is selling more bikes and not the cheap kind, but good bikes that cost $500 and up.

I very much enjoyed this conversation, because there has been so much of the "down economy blues" spoken aloud, that I was overjoyed with his enthusiasm and his business is up message. I told him that I wanted to write about this and he said that was fine.

You can call Jim Fisk yourself at 707-678-4330. Visit his website at If not Jim, find someone to talk to who is doing well and let a bit of it rub off on you. It will do you good don't ya know.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take A Shower and Brush Your Teeth

My wife gave me a parable tonight and I thought I would share it with you. She said (my paraphrase, of course):

If you're sick, that is not a good enough reason to not take a shower and brush your teeth. Put a number of days together without a shower and clean teeth and you are likely to go downhill in a hurry. When you're not feeling well and you take a shower and brush your teeth, just by doing this you will feel better and your day will feel better and everyone around you will feel better. So, when you're not feeling well, take a shower and brush your teeth!

It probably has a lot of different applications. I will let you decide how to apply this tidbit of wisdom.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Referrals Are The Best!

One of our new clients told us that he would not have bought from us except for the fact that people he knew and felt comfortable with liked us and spoke highly of us. He said, if not for this, he would not have even given us a chance to discuss his business.


It makes taking good care of the clients you have a bit more important. It makes networking worth the "work."

You know what else?

It's the best feeling! If I could only talk to these people, it would be so good. They are pre-sold. At least, partly pre-sold. That always makes the selling easier. And. . . way more fun.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Is Your Front Line Offensive?

This is a car dealership and three salesmen outside the front door. What is your impression of this business? What is right about this picture? What is wrong about this picture? How does this picture make you feel?

These are questions that people are answering in milliseconds as they drive by or drive up to the store. Do you dealers know what their answers are?

Having been a sales manager and sales trainer most of my life, I can tell you what I think about this photo. Here is my take:

  • I never let salespeople wear sunglasses on the lot. If their eyes are too sensitive, they can work in the dark somewhere else. Cool is not the rule.
  • It is my own experience and that of most customers that if I can't see your eyes, I can't build any trust. I just don't have a good feeling. It's fine if the customer wears sunglasses, but not the salesperson.
  • It looks like these salesmen have nothing to do. They aren't proactive, they are non-productive. This is typical car business however, and that is a sad notation of what can be a great business.
  • Salesmen complain that people drive in and look around and leave. Some dealers even go so far as to block off certain areas to try to force people to stop and get out of their car. When a customer drives up and sees this, why would they want to get out of the car?
  • The salesman with the unique goatee may please his girlfriend, but to many people, he looks mean. Facial hair is okay, but it is better to not look like the bad, nasty rock group photo. It is better to look like someone who is very approachable and that someone would want to talk with you.

The front line is the first line of defense. The manager and business owner needs to be fully aware of the front line at all times.

And, it is not just the car business, although it is so hard to pass up such a great example. . .

A couple of days ago I went into a clothing store and the only salesperson was a seriously obese gentlemen who was dressed so poorly that it looked like he slept in his clothes, nothing fit, and it didn't even look clean. He's working in a worldwide brand name store, selling clothing. Manager? The person running this store is more likely called a Mangler. What a sad presentation to the public when you first walk in. It was pitiful. What are they thinking hiring this person? Desperation? I just don't get it. Is your front line offensive? Business owners: need a real manager?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It Can Be Hard To Change, But That's All There Is

I see some businesses that are struggling in a desperate way under the current economic climate. The problem is less the economy and more they are unwilling to change. What I mean by change is to change their methods, question their previous strategies, to have a willingness to find new ways, adopt new attitudes, change their business.

Business has always been cyclical. It sometimes dips much lower than it may have in the past and it may last longer, and if your business can flex and change with that, or better yet, even ahead of it, you can grow even in this economy. Many are. Think of a tree in the wind, how it bends with the wind, absorbs the impact and flexes. Even in a storm, the tree will adapt to the change. That's what I mean.

I'll pick an industry I am very familiar with: the automobile business. In normal times, salespeople at a dealership are waiting around for a customer to come in and there are normally a good number. Maybe they make a couple or so sales per week each and life is good. Talk to a salesperson about following up with their customers and keeping a database falls on deaf ears. Even the management team rejects it.

Then business declines. Up and down, we've seen it before. No big deal. But it keeps going down and stays down for a long time. Is it time to wake up and try a new way--a better way? Is it time to find new strategies and methods, so when business comes back they have more control? The answer I see with many is no. I'm serious. From the salespeople and the managers both, it's no. Yet I hear the complaints about how crappy sales are.

So, I walk into the store and the manager is in his office and the salespeople are sitting around and they are all waiting for someone to come in that wants to look at a car. All day long. It has got to be torture to come to work and do that every day. Not only boring, but completely non-productive. Same old strategy: run an ad, hope someone comes in. Only right now it is run less ads and hope people come in. Bad strategy.

It can be hard to change, but change is all there is. It's always time to change. For auto dealerships, the time is now. There is only now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's Only Your Opinion, But It Is All That Matters

"Men are disturbed not by things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happened." - Epictetus

2,000 years ago it was still true. It is not what happens, but how we think about what happens. Weather is neither good nor bad, it simply is weather. It is our opinion of the weather that gives it the meaning we choose. The economy is the economy, and it is what we think about that--our opinion about it that determines how we are choosing to feel about it and respond or react to it. To one it could be a boom time, to others a down time. It is only the interpretation that means anything.

There is more joy in my life since I have really understood this. I have no need to be upset about anything, for that would be my interpretation of an event or situation. Since, I now know that I am in 100% total control of what I choose to think about anything, I now know that I can choose to have pleasant thoughts instead of unpleasant ones. They feel better, I feel better, people around me feel better, and my life is enjoyable without the need of drugs or other diversions.

Besides changing your life for the better, it will change your business for the better. A slow day, a busy day, those are all interpretations. It is a day. Think of what you can do to give joy to another person through your personality and your business offerings. It will change you and your business for the better.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I * N * S * P * I * R * A * T * I * O * N

I just love the Internet. What a huge difference it can make and does make in our lives today. There is so much out there, and possibly not all good, depending on your point of view; however, there is so much that is inspiring and uplifting.

Want some INSPIRATION today? Or any day, or time you choose?

Try this: Flawless

Though it is awesome, you need more than that. Here's another.

Try this: Chance of a Lifetime

If you're not jumping up and down yet or grabbing the tissue, here is a whole bunch more:

This will do it: Much More

And that is just one single source on the Internet. . . amazing!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get Inspired. . . Daily!

I look for and count on inspiration every day. Some days I get busy with the stuff of life and don't remember to remember that I want to be inspired everyday. That doesn't last long because I'm an inspiration junkie. I need it, want it and will have it. It is glorious! I don't know how many people live without it on a daily basis. I see many who are ID (Inspiration Deficient).

I get inspired from all around me. My business partner inspires me, books inspire me, audiobooks, lectures, videos, movies, so many ways. All I need to do is to reach out and in a few minutes I will find some inspiration. It is not just in these things, but I find inspiration in the natural beauty around me, in a business trying something new, in a really better ad in a magazine or paper.

The inspiration encourages and helps to facilitate ideas and thoughts that take me in different directions or expand where I am. I now rely on them, and the good news is that I have control over them coming to me. I read a book, I get inspired to read another book and it is like a path. It all works together.

Reach out and find some things that inspire you. I don't think you can ever get enough inspiration. Fortunately, there is so much of it out there, it is an endless supply, so you can have all you want.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two Words That Have Come To Mean A Lot

In the last few years I have learned two common words that have come to mean a lot to me. They are React and Respond. Any time something comes up, especially the unexpected, I pay close attention to those words and decide whether I will react to the situation or event or whether I will respond to it.

I know for 90% of my life that I have been reacting. It is generally what most people are taught it seems. Stuff happens! Reacting seems to be a logical thing to do. Yet, those reactions--at least in my life--have caused unhappy feelings and frankly, many poor decisions. I was like a steel ball in a pin ball machine, bouncing from one thing to the next with all those reactions.

Now, I have learned the choice to respond rather than react. I can take appropriate action without reacting to the event. It is more matter of fact and less emotional. In addition, the unhappy feelings have evaporated and I am left with choices and that works so much better. Now I'm a practicing responder instead of a habitual reactionary.

React? Respond? React? Respond? React? Respond? Two words that have come to mean a lot.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reality Isn't Real--It's A Perception.

I've often heard that I should be paying attention to reality. To that I answer that I am. To which many might say otherwise, yet here is one of the most important lessons I ever learned: Reality isn't real--it is a perception. More than this, it is an individual perception.

Many say the economy is really bad and that everyone is having a hard time. That is total nonsense. It isn't true at all. I would probably agree that many are having a hard time, but a very far distance from everyone. Then again, what does having a hard time mean? Who's definition is used? To one a hard time might be this and to another, it is that. Who's to say?

". . . for nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. . ." was a line from Hamlet by Shakespeare. It is so true. What that then means is that everyone may choose their own reality. By that, I mean that what bothers and concerns me may be very different than what bothers and concerns you and that is two different realities.

If crime is stated as high in the media and some are in fear, that is one reality of high crime and fear. If I, on the other hand, have no fear and do not focus a moments attention on crime or fear, I have a totally different reality of the same reality. Really. It is thinking that makes it so or not so. It actually changes the reality to the person with the perception. What I perceive is my reality and what you perceive is yours. They co-exist and I have no problem with that.

What is your "reality?" It makes all the difference in what comes next. If you are in business, I would think you would know by now to choose a positive reality with a good outcome regardless of what appearances may seem to be or what some people may say. Paying any attention at all to anything that you do not want will cause you to accept that reality. The one and the other cannot co-exist in one person. You get to choose. You will choose. The choice you make will be your truth, as is mine.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Start Before You Are Ready

The best advice I have heard is this: You have to start before you are ready.

Some think that you have to have everything planned out and all of the potential downfalls covered including a full blown (generally total speculation) business plan and then after all that time and effort you might be ready to begin. The chances are that under this method, you will never get it going at all.

With a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and the will to proceed, you will learn what you need to know and you will find that your mental plans are being continually improved as you move forward. What you will end up with is far greater than if you tried to cover all the bases ahead of time. I don't think it is possible to cover all the bases ahead of time. Part of the growing process is refining your vision and goals. That comes from experience, not planning.

If you have a good idea and you feel strongly about it and are willing to commit to it, rather than just try it out, get going! The answers you need will come as you move forward. It is absolute fact.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Straighten Up and Fly Right!

I used to hear that phrase, "straighten up and fly right," when I was a young boy. I haven't thought of it in many years, but it is so, so true. Of course, it has a double meaning, yet both meanings are all about attitude, so really it has a single meaning, and many applications.

In flying an airplane (where this phrase came from), it is all about attitude: your plane's attitude relative to the environment. In the case of flying, everything about attitude is related to the horizon. When you are flying right, you are flying level with the horizon and have all options open. They call that straight and level. As a pilot you always need to know where your plane is relative to the horizon, even when you can't see the horizon. In this case, you rely on an instrument called the artificial horizon to graphically show you your plane's attitude relative to the real horizon. It is easier than you might think to get disoriented in the air.

As in the air, in life, it is all about attitude. What is my attitude relative to where I want to be? Also as in the air, it is very easy to get disoriented and start paying attention to the events and opinions all around you and forget about your plane's attitude relative to the horizon, or where you want to be. This causes disorientation and confusion. It's easy to see it this way for me.

The answer then is for me to focus. I need to focus on my attitude relative to what I want. If I'm looking all around at events and opinions, much of which I do not want, I become disoriented and I feel it in my emotions. I feel bad, or unsure, or angry, or scared. Feeling any of those emotions, is an indicator that I need to straighten up and fly right! When my attitude is relative to what I want, I feel good, joyous, encouraged, or inspired. I particularly like being inspired. There is nothing at all like it. It is really beyond joy even.

The interesting thing to learn is that we always have so much more control than we think we do. If you were a pilot and you got disoriented, you wouldn't just quit trying. You would straighten up and fly right. They teach you how to do that in pilot training--even with blinders on! (Really, it's called a hood. It allows you to see the instruments, but you cannot see outside of the plane.) It's a requirement to successfully be able to straighten up and fly right several times before you can even get a license. Yet, in life, we just are not generally taught this, let alone have to demonstrate it successfully.

Even as a new pilot must learn it, in life we must learn to straighten up and fly right or suffer the alternatives. The information is here and it has always been here. It is your emotions. If you are feeling bad, scared, angry, unsure, these are the indicators that your attitude is disoriented. You are focusing on what you do not want. Your inner self, like the airplane's artificial horizon, helps you see the need to change your attitude. Once you are aware and awakened, you can recover, and get your attitude aligned with what you do want rather than what you don't want. Focus on what you want even if you cannot actually see the horizon. Trust the instrument inside you as a pilot must trust the artificial horizon. Straighten up and fly right!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some People Like To Complain

It's true. Some people like to complain. Some like it so much, they do it quite often about every little thing. It's all just unhappiness and it is not the least bit inspiring. The old saying that "misery loves company" is very true. You can walk past two people talking and hear it going back and forth like a tennis match. "Well do you know what happened when she. . ." "Jane at work is just impossible to get along with, she is constantly looking down her nose at me. . ." Back and forth, back and forth. It is interesting that there can never be any resolution, because that would break the cycle. You can't play the game if you resolve the issue. It can only be played while the issue is in play. The issue is the ball. There is no game without the issue.

I know the game like the back of my hand. I used to play it like a pro. Somehow, one day I realized what I was doing and realized that I didn't really want it resolved because then the game would be over. There was always something great about the match in the heat of it going back and forth, but it always ended with me feeling really crappy. So, I stopped over time, but made a conscious decision to not play anymore. This meant that when others lobbed the ball to me, I had to turn to the side and let it pass me by without a swing. It started feeling good. The other seemed upset, but I was feeling better.

Now I call it "swimming upstream" with people. I rarely swim very far with them, a stroke or two and that is it. Someone will complain, and I will suggest a solution, they will reject it, I will offer another, they have a reason not to and I'm done. See ya! Have a nice life. Don't need that anymore. Outa here. You have to get ruthless about letting the ball go past you if you want to get out of the game.

The alternative is less frivolous communication, and more meaningful communication and probably less communication overall. The trade off is well worth it. You can tell which is better by the way you feel--especially when the conversation is over.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Only A Depression For The Depressed

It's only a depression for the depressed. To those who aren't, it's an opportunity. Think about it. The housing bubble bursting is a huge, and very sweet opportunity to those who are prepared for it. It is an unprecedented time to buy up properties to turn into rentals. A home that sold for $400,000 two years ago, can be had for between $120,000 and $175,000 right now. Renting the $400,000 property would make no sense, but now at $120 or $175, it makes total sense.

You've heard it said, "for every up, there is a down." There are always two sides to an issue. Instead of focusing on what's wrong, all you need to do to change things is to focus on what's right, or what could be right. So, maybe you didn't prepare and you cannot take advantage of the opportunities, but you can still see them as opportunities and that change in thinking will have to have a positive effect overall on you and your results.

I have a little eBay and business online. Sales are currently off over 60% from two years ago. The good news is that prices have fallen dramatically and I can find some really exceptional buys on inventory to get ready for the return of the market. I just bought something for less than $20 that I sell for over $300. Another buy I just made was on some audio's that I would sell for about $800 give or take and I paid $89. That will work! I don't mind sitting on them for a while. I'm finding more buys like that than I have money to buy! That allows me to be selective and buy just the ones that are going to give me such a great return. In one product line, I have now bought up virtually everything on the market and now have the world's largest collection. It took three years, but it is now a huge collection worth thousands. Awesome opportunities are all around us all the time and not only now, but especially now!

Do the best you can with what you have to work with, but always looking for the opportunities instead of the problems will serve you so well, you will wonder how you lived the other way for so long!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Go Ahead! Talk To Yourself Out Loud!

It's a technological breakthrough! It's finally okay to talk to yourself--out loud. Some have been doing it for years and they probably feel a bit self-conscious about it if others see or hear them. I've caught a few by surprise myself. But, hey, now it is just plain okay to do it. Matter of fact, I see people doing it everywhere I go--in the supermarket, airport, the mall, the cleaners, you name it. They are doing it everywhere.

Well. . . not quite. They are talking into their barely visible bluetooth unit and it looks just like they are talking to themselves out loud. You've probably even said, "what did you say?" to someone, just then seeing they are really not talking to you.

But, here's the good news about this technology: now you can talk to yourself out loud and no one will be the wiser. You can even get animated and make it a real talk instead of just chit-chat. Go for it. Now it's legal. Even I'm doing it now. It's fun too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why Should People Buy From You?

Following along with yesterday's post, on why people buy from you, a great question to ask is why should people buy from you?

It could be your relationship with them, or your outstanding service. Maybe it's your services in general. Perhaps it is the uniqueness of your service or your products. It could also be your display and how it is so attractive and attention getting. I went to the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and I was amazed at the attention to detail of dramatic displays in selling fresh fish! It was certainly nothing like any supermarket.

Is there something that sets you apart from others? Maybe a certain style or look. It could be a certain pleasing atmosphere or carefully selected background music.

So, why should people buy from you? Can you explain that in a paragraph and spoken in less than 30 seconds. If you don't already, I suggest getting that down pat. It is a great exercise. Do it often.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why Do People Buy From You?

Why do people buy from you? It's a good question that deserves an answer. Ask them.

Is it location? You just happen to be in their neighborhood? They were going somewhere else and saw you? You happen to be next door to their favorite store? Location is not a good enough answer, it must have more detail. What does location mean? Is it convenience? What does that mean?

Were they referred to you? Who referred them? You will want to thank the person who referred them. Referrals are very cool.

Is is product? Do they buy from you because you happen to have a product they want or need?

Was it media? Yellow pages, Google or other search engines? Newspaper, magazine, newsletter?

The more specific you can get in why they are buying from you, the more you learn how to get more people to buy from you. It will help you to know best where to put your advertising dollars so that you actually get a return on that investment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your Website As A Tool On Phone Calls

One of the best uses of a website is having a central place for you to communicate with your prospect so each of you can view the same thing. It will help immensely in closing deals or clearing misunderstandings.

When talking about a product you sell, even if you don't actually sell online, having the information and photographs available so that you and your prospect can see them together and discuss things will payoff big. How many times have you received a phone call with a question on a product and you are trying to describe it over the phone. When the other person on the phone can see it with you without leaving their home or office, you both win.

We've built websites for some body companies and some of these sites have well over 500 photos. It then becomes easy for the salesperson at the body company to talk with a prospect while they are both online and have them follow along while you are able to show them photos of the product that you think is right for them. You can close the deal right then and there. It is amazing how well this works.

It doesn't matter what business you are in. If you have products, filling your website with photos and information will be extremely beneficial to your prospect and your bottom line.

Can you do this effectively with the website you currently have? I have seen hundreds of sites that have dinky little photos of representative product that are of little value. That is more like a business card or flyer than an effective website. Think of your website as helping you make deals! How pretty it looks is important but compared to effective useability, it is insignificant. Some are obsessed with how professional a site looks. I'm not real sure what that means exactly, but it usually means pretty (or clean) but ineffective. Concentrate on effective and the rest won't matter. All the more reason to have someone like us build a site because all of our background is in selling products and services rather than website design. When we design a site, we think of it in those terms.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

At What Point Is It Okay To Give Up?

Maybe you have a product that isn't selling. You say you've tried everything and it is still not selling. You're frustrated and maybe even a little angry about it, but it is still there. So, you say you've given it your all and it hasn't changed. At what point is it okay to give up?

The other day my partner and I were talking with an associate and he was stating that his product was not selling and hasn't sold for over 18 months. So, we in our marketing mentality asked, "what have you done to move them?" Logical question. So, he states a few things: Put it in an ad in the paper and a regional publication, have it on prominent display, tell people about it. That was it. THAT WAS IT!!! He gave up.

I don't think it is okay to give up with that little amount of creativity and effort. What do you think?

We could have given him a long list of things to do about this situation, but we also knew that he didn't want to hear them, so we didn't waste any energy sharing them. Instead, we just acknowledge his assessment of the situation and move on to another subject. We know better now.

You could probably give him a long list too, right? If not, start asking people and if you are willing to open your mind a bit, you'll get plenty of good ideas. One of those may be the one that gets the product moving. That will be a great day.

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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bubble Wrap Heaven

In yesterday's post, I talked of shipping supplies and bubble mailers specifically. Today I want to add one of the hardest things to find: the best price and value in bubble wrap. Last year I used 10,000 12"x12" sheets of it, so I need a good price and I found it in a place you wouldn't have thought of for this product.

The best price and value goes to Sam's Club. It is made by 3M using the Scotch brand. It comes in a box, which I cut up and reuse in shipping which is helpful for my shipping needs since I ship a lot of books and use cardboard backing for softcover books. It has 240 sheets on a roll in each box and the cost is under $13.00 per box. That gets each sheet down to about $.06 each. The previous best price I could find was $.07 and then that company began raising the price each quarter. I am thrilled to have found this bargain!

I have found some very good prices online and even through Value Mailers that I talked of yesterday, but none are below $.07 except Sam's Club. A big thank you to Sam's Club for providing maximum value and thank you to 3M for the outstanding product.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Best Value In Shipping Supplies: ValueMailers

Today I am plugging a company that I am pleased to have found: ValueMailers. I found them on eBay (their eBay ID is THREERB) while looking for a good price on bubble mailers. I not only found the best price, but the best and consistent service, a superior product and a huge selection. They ship immediately, notify you of shipment and tracking numbers and their communications are complete.

If you have need of shipping products like bubble mailers, poly bags, Zip Lock bags, carton sealing tape, stay flat mailers, bubble wrap, labels, packing peanuts, tissue paper, record mailers, or boxes, this is a good place.

I buy a lot of bubble mailers in a number of different sizes. Last year, I bought several thousand of them. They have the best price I have found and also the best product, service and in-stock selection. I love that I can buy and have them shipped the same day so that I need not carry too much inventory. So far, I have only been buying bubble mailers from them, but I just found out they carry the extra large Zip Lock bags in various sizes. I have been looking all over for those and they have over a million in stock ready to go, so I will be buying some of that product from them. They are not the best price on bubble wrap, but it is a very good price.

All in all, this company is worth sharing with everyone I know. If you ship products and have need of shipping products to get them there safely, you can count on Value Mailers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Website & E-Marketing Seminar

Local Seminar

Vacaville, CA
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Websites Made Simple
(and Effective!)

* Understand the value of a website for your business.
* Common misconceptions of websites explained.
* Tools and Methods to creat effective websites.
* Plus, Bonus E-Marketing Tools!!

Galaxy Banquets
600 Orange Dr
Vacaville CA 95688

Admission is only $7.00
Refreshments provided

Hosted by The Queen of Marketing and Galaxy Banquets
Presented by Upward Trend Management Services, LLC
Call 707-480-0959 or 707-591-1632 for more details!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Want More Business? Expand Your Market!

Do you want more business? If so, expand your market. One great way to do this is to get on the web with your products or services. The great benefit is that it will be incremental business and business you would never have seen before.

I have had a little eBay business selling mostly used books since 2004. Just a couple of minutes ago, from a listing I had in my eBay store, a person made me an offer on an audiobook in Spanish. It is a rare item--especially in Spanish. The offer was reasonable and I accepted it. When I sent the invoice, I notice that it is a person in Germany! My little business is in California. How cool is that?

Here's another point: My little business is in Northern California and I charge sales tax as required for sales inside the state of California. Guess what percentage of my total business last year was inside California? It was 16.7%. Let's flip that number: 83.3% was outside the state of California! This is a clear and very good reason to get on the web with your product. Look at all the business I would miss. Indeed, my business is Internet only. I do not have a place for people to come and buy. Only 2 people from my city bought anything last year. That means that 99.9% are from out of town.

Want to increase your business? Get on the web. There is a learning curve, and you can do it. If you need help, give us a call.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creation vs Competition

How do you want to build your business? Do you want to compete or create? Think of it this way: To create is a glass half full and to compete is a glass half empty. Competition means that there are limitations, that only a few can win and the rest must lose. Creation means that all can win and there are no losers. Thinking in terms of competition means that you are always looking over your shoulders. Creation means your eyes are on the horizon.

My best advice that has been hard to learn, but I finally got it is this: build your business with the creative method and forget about competition. Keep your eyes on the horizon and continue ever-clarifying your business. It works like magic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Focus On Your Customer

It's so easy to be thinking about you and what you want and what you need and how business is affecting you. It is better to be thinking about your customer, how you can serve them better, how you can help them get what they want and need and how your business is affecting them. Build your business around how you can serve your customer and you will be well cared for.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finding Your Niche, Part 3

This is the third and final piece about the music store niche, and it really is the first part. One of the things we did in the first few weeks was to find a good guitar teacher with a list of students already and give him a good place to have his students come to and for us to have an opportunity to market to as a matter of course. This turned out to be the smartest of all the things we did. It gave us an immediate market and traffic which gave us great word of mouth advertising.

It was this along with the focus on guitars and the guitar strings. We started the business at the beginning of the 1979-82 recession and with this 1-2-3 punch did $100k in sales the first year. Not bad for starting with so little and three other well established stores already in town. If we would have continued to try to cover the bases with products, there is no way we could have done as well. It pays to carve out your niche and fine tune what your business is. Today we call that clarification. Yes, that is a good word for it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finding Your Niche, Part 2

Continuing with yesterdays post on Finding Your Niche, another thing that we did was to focus on certain accessories. Accessories in a musical instrument store can run up the inventory dollar cost quickly, especially in things like guitar effects pedals and other electronic items. So we decided on a niche in our accessories that was totally compatible with the guitar niche: Guitar strings. To keep good tone, guitar strings should be replaced regularly.

So we decided to go into some serious depth in strings. A few advantages were clear: 1. we could carry a wide and deep selection and have strings that other stores would have to special order, such as individual strings for custom gauges or replacing just one broken string. 2. we had a strong base of guitar students, so there was consistent demand. 3. we could create a marketing system that would help to keep business coming back--the String Club.

We chose a 6' wide section of wall and ordered up some nice spring loaded displays so the strings were attractively displayed and people could instantly see the volume of strings we carried. Because strings are a fast moving commodity, string discounts were very good and considerably better in volume. By buying in quantity and taking full advantage of maximum discounts, we were able to discount the strings to our customers and still have a full margin, unlike everything else in the store.

Next, we started the String Club. We had cards made (actually, we typed on the back of our business cards . . .) and we gave 10% off each set and every 4th set was free. This amounts to a 33% discount at the 4th set, but if they stop buying prior to buying the 3rd set to get the 4th free, the discount was just 10%. Sometimes people would buy three immediately to get the 4th free. We had a special punch to punch their card to show where they were in the buying cycle and we also had a master sheet at the store. The String Club was one of the best things that we did. We sold a serious number of strings and had the largest selection within 50 miles--all on our relatively small budget.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Find Your Niche, Part 1

Many years ago I owned a musical instrument store. We started with $5,000 worth of musical instruments and accessories. With that small amount of capital for inventory, it is really hard to cover very many bases, but we did our best. We focused on guitars, but had drums, cymbals, a flute, a trumpet, a saxophone and a couple of amps and some accessories. As time went on, we decided to give up the band instruments entirely along with the drums and cymbals. We began to build a niche in guitars and focus about 80% of that inventory into acoustic and acoustic electric guitars.

We honed it down to two basic brands: Yamaha and Ovation. These decisions and changes allowed us in a town of about 40,000 to carry more models in these lines that the huge stores in San Francisco. We probably outsold almost all the stores in Northern California on Ovation guitars. Yamaha was our entry and beginner level. These were quality instruments so a student had a good chance by not having a bad instrument where it fights the student all the time. We would give a 100% trade-in toward the up line Ovation models and that worked extremely well. About 70% of the students who kept with it traded up. The store down the road wouldn't give them even 50% trade in. We got to sell the Yamaha as a slightly used instrument and did very well.

This strategy is something I would recommend. Find your niche. Better to have a lot of one brand than one of a lot of brands. You can also attract a wider audience who will come from far away to visit such a store. In addition, the Internet store will make you famous. Focus is a good thing. Find your niche.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Your Website Needs You!

Last year we started this business and have built a good number of websites. We are learning so much every day. One thing that we have noticed with many customers is that they want their website to be complete and effective with very little input from them. Isn't that what we all want? Someone to come in and take care of it, take it off their minds and then go away. I've had those fantasies too, but this I now know from experience: your website needs YOU. It needs your information, your photos, logos and other graphics. It needs your personality more than anything. It needs your consistent follow up and follow through. It needs you. It requires participation and attention.

A website that is built and is complete and done is not worth building to begin with. A good website will be constantly changing, growing, enhancing, informing and entertaining. The better it is at those things, the better the website effectiveness. It is truly all about content.

The good news is that we can help you. You don't have time or interest in doing it all or you would have done it by now. You know you need the website to be an effective tool for your business. We can take care of the building and expanding and changing part if you will provide the personality and content. You don't have to do it all at once. It is really better to do this over a period of time. You want it built and online quickly, but changing and evolving constantly.

We can help you help your website and make it easy on your budget and your busy schedule. Give us a call today and find out how great it will be to have some help to get this project done well. Call Ryan at 707-480-0959 or Terry at 707-434-9967.