Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pride Goeth Before a Fall & Other Ways to Increase Sales

As a business owner you have pride in what you do, right? Maybe not the boastful, in your face, "talk to the hand" kind of pride - but strong confidence in your work and products.

And I know we struggle with infusing the same pride into our employees. To them, it's "just a job" but to us it's our life. There's a gazillion management books (and I love reading them) on ways to create engaged employees who take pride in their work.

Have you ever thought about how to instill the same pride in your customers? Wouldn't it be great if your customers were proud to say they worked with you? Or proud that they used your product? And bragged about it or flaunted it!

Some companies market themselves on this very principle - to evoke status and pride within their customers. Rolex, BMW, and David Yurman are a few examples of high end products that people are proud to have. Recently I was interviewed for a SmartMoney article about the Martha Stewart brand being sold in J.C. Penney stores. Experts argue that if customers have confidence in what they are buying then they don't need a brand name.

Here are products and services I'm proud to use and why:

  • My dentist and physician. (They are different people!). I've been going to both of them for 15 years. Both have had the same hygienist/nurse the entire time. Both doctors are involved in the community and I read about the philanthropic things they do in local publications. This makes me proud.

  • Kwik Kar Oil Change. One time I went in for a State Inspection and I didn't have my current insurance card. It was because I had been in a car accident and just gotten my car back without replacing all my glove box contents. The mechanic called my insurance company and verified my insurance was current and then proceed to inspect my car. This saved me tons of time and made me proud.

  • Scott Tissue. I can always find a coupon to use when buying it to save $.50 - $1.00 plus they participate in Box Tops for Education, which means they donate $.10 for every package I buy to my kids' school. This makes me proud.

Instill pride in your customers by:

  • Being involved in your community

  • Going way out of your way for them

  • Providing a good deal on price

  • Showing social responsibility

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How You Can Make Customers Feel Like It's Black Friday Every Day of the Week

  1. Be too busy to greet your customers when they enter your place of business.
  2. Make sure customers have to wait to make their purchase or talk to you about their needs.
  3. Let your phone ring 5 or 6 times - don't be in a hurry to answer it. Better yet, let calls go to voicemail so you can listen to them later.
  4. Make sure people feel anxious and in a hurry when they arrive at your place of business. Let them know that you have other things to do.
  5. Put off training new employees on how to help customers or how to make customer needs a priority. After all, your employees have a particular job to do and don't need to be sidetracked by helping customers or clients.
  6. Be rigid with your product or service offerings. You really don't have time to accommodate any special client needs.
I'm glad Black Friday is only one day a year. Make sure it doesn't last any longer than one day at your business.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sales Formula that Will Work

We all want to know "THE" formula to boost sales. There are so many formula options with combinations of Facebook pages, twitter, advertising, direct mail, brochures, event sponsorships, phone calls, promotional products, blogging, websites...and the list goes on.

If you just knew the right formula to invest your time and money then life would be good!

Here's the only formula that I know will work: consistency. Select 2 or 3 ways to market (or more if you can) and do them consistently over time. Quantity of your messages is just as important as the quality of your messages. Don't blow your entire marketing budget on one big campaign. Instead, do several smaller campaigns consistently over time.


If you use Facebook to market your business, use it consistently.
If you do direct mail mail outs to market your business, do it consistently.
If you advertise to increase your sales, do it consistently.

And don't forget, you must do a good job and/or produce a good product - consistently.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Why You Need Mad Customers

Today my family ate lunch at one of our favorite after-church restaurants and I ordered "the usual." This time it wasn't cooked properly. It's a fish dish and initially I thought the fish was bad. Then I realized that the fish wasn't bad -it was still raw (and it's not a sushi restaurant!). Without going into the details, I didn't like the way the restaurant handled my complaint. They handled it poorly. I could have caused a big scene and made demands on the manager and wait staff. Instead I'm choosing to do what will affect the restaurant's bottom line the most - I won't ever go back.

Just because you don't have customers complaining doesn't mean you have happy customers. If customers are yelling at you, at least they are still talking to you and you might have an opportunity to win them back over. And they may even have valid complaints that your "silent but deadly" customers never told you.

Keep this in mind the next time one of your customers gets angry with you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Not Feeding the Seagulls Can Increase Sales

On a recent trip to Panama City Beach in Florida I saw this sign, "Please...Don't Feed The Seagulls." It was posted near our restaurant table where we had a beautiful ocean view.

Guess what this sign made me think about? Yep- feeding the seagulls. I probably wouldn't have thought about throwing food out to the birds, but seeing the sign all of a sudden gave me the idea of feeding them!

And come to find out, I'm probably not the only one.

In his book, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, Martin Lindstrom introduces the concept of neuromarketing. Using brain scans scientists monitor brain responses to certain products and ads. In an extensive 3 year study he researched the effects of cigarette warning labels and anti-smoking ads on smokers' behavior. While smokers claimed that warning labels were effective in curbing their smoking habits, it was discovered that anti-smoking ads stimulated an area of the smokers' brains called the nucleus accumbens, also known as the "craving spot." In other words, cigarette warning labels didn't deter smoking. Instead the labels actually increased a smoker's physical craving to smoke and encouraged them to light up.

As a business trying to jazz up your sales Lindstrom's study tells me this:
  • What customers say they want isn't always what they really want.

  • A suggestion you make to a customer can have the opposite effect of what you intended.

  • Your customer may not truly know why he/she bought from you.

  • Focus groups and customer surveys may be a waste of time (gasp!)

Be mindful of what you are selling. Your customers do have choices - they can buy from you or someone else. However, it's up to you to decide what your services include and what your product offerings are. Allowing your customers to totally dictate how your product works or service is delivered can actually decrease your sales.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

What Shopping Malls Won't Tell You

I enjoyed being interviewed by Jonnelle Marte about my recent mall shopping experience a few weeks ago. The article is called 10 Things Shopping Malls Won't Tell You and was published in SmartMoney.

After reading her article it's hard to figure out what a shopping mall can do to generate more traffic. I've found that many times retail employees don't know much about the products in the store and sometimes don't really care to help me. So it's better for me to do my research online about what I'm buying and then take the next easiest step and just buy what I need online.

But I do feel nostalgic for the shopping malls of the 80's. It was fun to get dressed up with my girlfriends and go hang out for the day or take a mother/daughter trip to a mall a little out of the way.

My first job was at a retail store in the mall. I worked there all through high school and one summer during college. The mall was always busy and I took my job seriously. It was tiring being on your feet all day, dealing with customers of all types, having a boss that was burned out and then getting up the next day and doing the exact same thing. Seems like that may be how malls feel now - tired and worn out.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

What Tennis and Sales Have in Common

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, England. While on a family vacation we had a free day and decided to take the Tube (our version of the subway) to the tennis grounds just to walk around. Much to our surprise we were able to see players warming up and were able to watch a few junior matches and women's matches. Here's a picture of Andy Murray warming up that I snapped (just to prove I was really there!).

What impressed me the most was the intense focus the players had on what they were doing.
-- Making a sale takes focus and keeping your eye on the ball.

The players made every shot their best shot possible.
-- Making a sale requires knowing your product & what you have to offer so that every customer conversation helps to advance your position.

You can have all the tools to be a good tennis player (shoes, racquet, etc.) plus skill and athletic ability but no player can predict where each ball hit will go.
-- Making a sale requires preparing for the unexpected.

Players study their opponents strengths and weaknesses.
-- Making a sale is dependent on you knowing what you have to offer versus your competition.

If a player breaks the rules or is unsportsmanlike he loses the point.
-- Making a sale has unwritten rules of integrity and honesty. Break this rule and you'll pay the price in the form of unhappy customers, a bad public image and lost business.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The 5th P of Marketing: Planet

I know not all small business owners are Marketing geeks like me, but if you've studied Marketing you've heard of the 4 P's: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. About 20 years ago I majored in Marketing in college and the 4 P's were ingrained in every paper I wrote and every project I completed.

I recently read a thought-provoking article in the Spring 2011 edition of @Mays published by the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University called "Marketing 3.0." In this article, author Philip Kotler discusses value-driven marketing that focuses on profits, people and planet.

And that's when the 5th P occurred to me: Planet. This is how your business strives to make the world a better place. It takes "Cause Marketing," which I blogged on a few years ago, a step further. Cause Marketing is aligning your company with a nonprofit cause, like a health food store and the American Diabetes Association, so that your company can enjoy additional PR and exposure from contributing to the cause.

According to Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico “Many companies focus on the financial performance and have forgotten the fact that they owe every society that they operate in a duty of care." Marketers today must consider how their product, service, brand, company and employees impact the planet in the following ways:
  1. Sustainability. "How can we design and build a world in which the Earth thrives and people can pursue flourishing lives," is how the MIT Sloan Management Review defines sustainability. When the notion of sustainability first began hitting corporate America the focus was on regenerative byproducts, carbon footprints and the environment. For example, Kimberly-Clark recently revealed their 2015 Sustainability Goals as follows:
    • 25% reduction in water use and maintain quality of discharge
    • 100% certified fiber
    • 5% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
    • Zero manufacturing waste to landfill

    Furniture store IKEA recently developed a Sustainability Product Score Card so they can stock the greenest shelves, couches, chairs, and tables possible. It doesn't rate suppliers but instead rates products.

  2. Going green. Greener offices, work spaces and supplies are ways non-manufacturing businesses focus on the planet. A few examples are:
    • Carpooling
    • Recycling and placing recycle bins in high traffic office areas
    • Going paperless when possible
    • Work from home days
    • Energy efficient lights and light fixtures
    • Turning off lights and computers at the end of the day
    • Making 2-sided copies
    • Using non-toxic, "green" cleaning products or requiring your janitorial vendor to use them

  3. Philanthropreneurship: With "Cause Marketing" corporations partner with a nonprofit to help build both brands. Philanthropreneurship, also known as sustainable philanthropy, builds social responsibility into the brand. (I first saw the term in this article in the Spring 2011 edition of @Mays.)

    Think TOMS Shoes - who for every pair you purchase will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need "One for One." Social responsibility is integrated into the TOMS business model. And it pays off. According to the Edelman "Goodpurpose" survey of 6,000 consumers, aged 18-64, across 61 percent in the United States, buyers have a better opinion of corporations that integrate good causes into their business, regardless of the reasons why they do so.

Why is the 5th P so important? People want to feel good about their purchases. Protecting the planet is more economical in the long run. It connects people to your product or service by sharing values. And it boosts another P: Profit!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Power of the Stall - What I Learned from Burning my Eyelashes Off

I burned my eyelashes off! It happened so fast.

I was cooking on the gas stove while wearing a terry cloth robe when my left sleeve brushed across a flame and caught the sleeve on fire. To put it out I began brushing the fire with my right hand which then caught my right sleeve on fire. Realizing that was dumb, I calmly ran outside, threw my robe on the ground and watched the flames die out. Then I returned to the kitchen and finished cooking breakfast. The event was, in fact, completely uneventful. But my daughter did ask, "Mom, what's that smell?"

Later that morning, when applying mascara, I realized something wasn't right. My eyelashes weren't just extra short - they were gone. I had burned my eyelashes off. It was then I freaked out. A delayed reaction set in where I began to panic with what might have happened. My heart started to race as I went through the possible scenarios and horrific outcomes of catching myself on fire!

Thankfully I was able to stall my panic until the fire was out which helped me manage the situation better. This leads me to a concept I call the Power of the Stall. To increase sales stalling can be an important tactic. It's true that sales people want to speed up the sale and buyers tend to stall the sale. But here's how to use the Power of the Stall to jazz up your sales:

  • To make a sale you need to be a quick thinker. But sometimes in our haste to "cut a deal" we make a decision with costly ramifications. Be careful about making quick pricing decisions especially. I once sold a product below cost because I thought the customer would buy other full priced products from me. They never did.

  • Knee jerk reactions can be costly and hard to undo. When a traumatic event occurs in your business, the knee jerk reaction can be to overreact. I once worked for a company where a driver had a car accident in a company vehicle and so they took away all the company vehicles. The backlash from this was costly - valuable employees quit and went to work for the competitor and morale was the pits for years.

  • Stalling gives you a chance to think through the best way to respond. Use the excuse that you need to check with your boss or your operations manager before committing to a sale. This is a legitimate reason to stall in the customer's eyes and it will give you time to think about what is best for your business.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Volunteering Will Jazz Up Sales & Make You Enchanting

Building a successful small business includes volunteering in your community. Even if it's just a membership in your local trade association or Chamber of Commerce, you will want to join a group that can help you learn more about your industry and connect you with possible customers.

Working on fundraisers and community service events is a great way to network. Serving on a Board of Directors or an association committee is a great way to gain a reputation for being a hard worker and to let people get to know you and your business. Plus, it makes you feel good to help others!

I recently read Guy Kawasaki's new book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. A section of his book is called "How to Enchant Volunteers." As a long-time community volunteer who has had my share of good and bad experiences, I loved what he had to say. He lists 8 rules of enchantment for volunteers. Here are my favorites:

  • Set ambitious goals. Volunteers want to know what they are doing is important and that they are making a difference. Set challenging goals so you don't waste their time. The only thing worse that overusing volunteers is underusing them. Amen to that!!

  • Enable them to fulfill their needs. Why did you join a nonprofit organization? I joined Junior League so I could meet other women who liked to volunteer. I joined a trade association when I worked for an elevator company so I could meet potential customers and hang out with existing customers. I volunteered at my church because I felt an obligation to help. Reasons that people join nonprofit organizations are: duty (I should help at my kid's school), belonging (I want to be part of a group with similar jobs or values) or mastery (I want to learn a new skill). Fulfill these needs to enchant volunteers.

  • Give feedback. This is especially important with volunteers because they aren't receiving money as a feedback mechanism. Let your volunteers know how they are doing and recognize them for the hard work they are providing.

  • Ensure the paid staff appreciates them. Volunteers often give their heart and soul to organizations. Be sure your paid staff honors their commitment.
Kawasaki goes on to say that these tips for enchanting volunteers can also be applied to your employees. So true!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dumb Rules That Make Customers Mad

Tom Peters calls it "a failure to overcommunicate." I call it "dumb rules that make customers mad."

Here's the story: Last week I was in Half Price Books with a handful of books to resell. (Don't you just love Half Price Books? I feel so "green" shopping there.) When I dropped of my books at the resale (or is it resell?) counter the rep asked for my driver's license and told me she'd call my name when my books were ready. I told her I was going to walk next door and get lunch and would be back shortly which prompted her to say in a booming authoritative voice,


I explained that I would be back in a few minutes and that I would just be next door to which she repeated,


I then explained that I was on my lunch break and wouldn't have time to wait in the store and then get lunch. I needed to get lunch while I waited on the books. And again she said,


At this point I felt like a 3rd grader getting in trouble for talking in class (which I did get in trouble for in 3rd grade). The sales clerk was talking so loud in my face and other customers were staring. I picked up my books and left.

I'm a rule follower by nature. And I respect rules. This situation brings to light that it's important not just to train your employees on rules - but to train them on the reasons behind the rules and how to explain them to customers. Clearly, this clerk was doing the job the way she'd been trained. She was determined to follow what seemed to be a dumb rule to me. All this sales clerk had to do was communicate to me why it was necessary for me to remain in the store. Instead, she really made me mad.

Just so I could get closure on this dumb rule, when I got back to my office I called the corporate headquarters of Half Price Books and asked why it's a store policy for customers to wait in the store after dropping off books. Guess what I was told? "No, it's not a company policy. It must be something that particular store does." I'm still trying to get closure on this one.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Why You Should Invoice Your Customers on Time

Our neighborhood has a lawn service company that mows yards for a reduced price - so almost every home in the neighborhood uses them. We just received our bill from them for the first time in 6 months! Instead of billing monthly they sent us a bill for September, October, November, December, January and February. Needless to say, what seems like a great monthly price is pretty stout when it's billed in 6 month increments. (The long story is that they have consistently billed late like this for the last 3 years).

This brings up the importance of invoicing your customers. To jazz up your sales invoice your customers on time. Here's why:

  • When I receive a late invoice it makes me feel like the company is overcharging me. It makes me feel like they don't need the money. After all, how can a company make payroll each month if they aren't receiving payments from customers?

  • Late invoices are confusing. Now I'm confused because I can't remember when the lawn care company trimmed the weeds back in September. Invoicing on time will avoid confusion and payment disputes from customers that will take extra energy to figure out.

  • Invoicing on time will get you paid on time. For a small business cash flow is the key to life. A late invoice can mean your customer no longer has the money set aside to pay you. A late invoice may cause your customer to not remember exactly what they are paying you for. A late invoice tells your customer you didn't need the money at the time services are rendered so paying on time isn't that important.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Are you an Effectual or Causal Thinker?

A recent article in Inc. magazine called "How Great Entrepreneurs Think" revealed the findings of University of Virginia professor Saras Sarasvathy. She discovered that entrepreneurs relied on "effectual reasoning" whereas corporate executives relied on "causal reasoning."

Below is a breakdown of the 2 types:

Effectual Reasoning (Entrepreneur)
- Values improvising over planning
- Develops goals on the fly & then reacts creatively to problems
- Doesn't need to predict the future because contingency plans are the fun part
- Operates using "Ready, Fire, Aim"

Causal Reasoning (Corporate Executive)
- Values concrete goals and steps for achieving goals
- Takes the MBA approach
- Values quantitative analysis and market research
- Operates using "Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim"

In her study of successful entrepreneurs Professor Sarasvathy found that only 12% had done market research and 60% had not written a business plan before launching their companies. It seems that effectual thinkers feel that taking "aim" is a distraction that takes valuable time away from actually "doing" what needs to be done.

Having worked in a corporate environment for 15 years and earning an MBA I lean toward the causal approach because it was beat into me. To jazz up the sales of your business I believe you need a combination of effectual and causal thinkers. Each type will hold the other accountable for decisions they have made or need to make.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Birthday Effect

I had a wonderful birthday last week. It was a REALLY busy work day plus I had a doctor appointment for my daughter, after school kid chauffeuring to do and dinner with friends and family. I love going to the gym and find that I skip it when life gets busy. But I went to the gym on my birthday because, well, it was MY BIRTHDAY, and I felt entitled to do what I wanted to do. I felt special. As a matter of fact, I felt entitled to do as I pleased (in a humble sort of way) for the entire day. I even thought people might know it was my birthday by looking at me. Isn't that silly?

Think about how you feel on your birthday? Here are some words that come to mind when I think about how I feel on my birthday: special, happy, thankful, excited, giddy, unique, acknowledged, appreciated and noticed.

How can you make your customers feel this way? How can you create the Birthday Effect for your customers?

Part of the Birthday Effect is that it only lasts one day. It has a clear beginning and end. It doesn't last long enough for you to truly get used to the feeling. Maybe that's part of the charm? It lasts just long enough to leave you looking forward to next year.

Until next year I'm going figure out how to implement the Birthday Effect with my customers. And if all else fails, I know how to bake a tasty chocolate cake and light candles!