Is It, or Isn’t IT?

Happy Friday!  Your intrepid blogger does enjoy a good oxymoron.  (See Worth 2,000 Words.)  Here’s one I have to pass along.  Sorry for the poor quality of the picture, but it’s the best my Sprint phone could do.
In case you can’t make it out, the printed sign on the door says "NOT AN EXIT".

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I wonder what the fire marshal would think?

E-Gouging

If you’ve been following MYOB for a while then you know that one of this blogger’s pet peeves is over-priced hotels that charge big connection fees to use the Internet.  Considering that the $49.99 places almost always offer free high-speed, either via cable or wireless, I think it’s outrageous that the high-priced places think it’s ok to add another ten bucks to the cost of doing business from one of their rooms.

The irony is that your intrepid correspondent is attending the Excellence in Missouri Conference at the Tan-Tar-A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks.  Keep in mind that it’s mid-November and a room at the Lake is about as desirable as an Alaskan cruise this time of year.  If it weren’t for conventions like this one, the place would be empty.  But it isn’t.  It’s full of business people attending our conference or one of the other meetings that are going on.

Perception equals reality.  Had the hotel increased their rates by $10.00 per night and included the WiFi for no charge, no one would be the wiser or particularly care.  But the add-on price makes it look like they’re gouging Internet users and leaves a bad taste in most people’s mouths.

This may just sound like a tight-wad complaining about spending ten bucks, but I really want you to consider your own business.  Do you charge "extra" for anything that would be  better included in the price?  Can you bundle any accessories along with major items to make the total package look more attractive?  Are you charging for anything that might generate additional sales if you provided it free of charge?

Think about it.  Look at your business through your customers’ eyes.  You just might find a way to improve the perceived value of your offering without really giving up any revenue. 

Please comment if you have any good (or bad) examples to share.

Postcard Marketing

Postcards can be a very cost-effective way to get your message out to your customers and potential customers.  Many of you have been using them successfully for years.  Some of you may have never tried them.  One thing’s for sure, the way you present your postcard massage can have a big impact on your results.

Joy Gendusa at the Chief Marketer blog has some good advise on how to get the job done.  Her approach is simple.  The job of the postcard is not to make the sale, the job of the postcard is to get the reader to take action.  In a word, be brief and specific.  Don’t try to deliver your entire selling message a the 4" X 6" space.  BIG SALE!  COME ON IN!, followed by your address and phone number (and possibly your web site URL) is a good message.  A complete list of the 500 items that are on sale-not so much.

Those are the extremes.  Depending on what you want the customer to do, your message will fall somewhere in the middle.

Check out the article for more and please comment if you have any examples of how postcard marketing has worked for you.

More on Motivation

This may seem a bit self-contradictory after we posted this quote from Napoleon Bonaparte last week,

"A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon."

But when it comes time to hand out rewards for peak performance, don’t be cheap!  "But wait a minute," I can hear you saying, "colored ribbon is certainly cheap."  That’s true, but as any veteran will tell you, a military ribbon gets its value from the tradition and respect that are attached to it, not from the value of the material itself.

Here’s a true story:  A friend attended a conference recently.  As part of the proceedings, certain attendees received a "reward".  In trying to be charitable, the best word I can think of to describe this thing would be "cheesy".  Maybe "demeaning" might be another description.  And that’s how many of the people took it.

It was meant to be motivational.  Obviously someone thought it was a good idea and since there are thousands of people in this organization, even this cheap trinket represented a large investment.  But instead of motivating anyone, all it did was insult them.  Why?  Because there was nothing behind it.  The nature of the "award" made it obvious that no one really took the time to think about how it would be received. 

A sincere "thank you" note from the president would have been much more effective and would have cost a fraction of what the cheap trinket cost.  With today’s merging software, the note could have even been personalized.

Your employees have a pretty good idea of the economics of your business.  They probably aren’t expecting a new car or a trip around the world.  Well-placed compliments on a job well done will motivate them as long as they’re sincere.  If you want to back that up with some kind of gift, it doesn’t have to be expensive.  But it does have to be appropriate.  It has to show that you really do care and that you put some thought into it.

All any of us really want is to know that we’re doing a good job, that we’re important, and that someone noticed.

Veterans’ Day

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[This post originally appeared on November 10, 2006.  It still applies.]

On November 11, 1918 an armistice went into effect between the Allied nations and Germany, ending what was then called the Great War, “the war to end all wars”.

Today we know it as World War I.

One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 to be Armistice Day saying “the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”

In 1954, after World War II and the Korean conflict, Congress changed the name to Veterans’ Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

In 1968, as part of the Uniform Holidays Act, Congress made Veterans’ Day one of the “Monday holidays” but so many states continued to celebrate it on November 11 that in 1975 it was moved back.

Sadly, the day seems to have lost some of its significance, in spite of the fact that so many of our young people are in harm’s way today.  Hopefully all of us will take some time today to think about the sacrifices that have been made and are being made today to protect our freedom.

Thank you to all our veterans!

Microsoft Small Business Show

Here’s something you might want to check out next week from the Microsoft Small Business Center. If you can’t make it on Wednesday, these things are usually repeated.  You can check it out here.

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ASK FOR THE SALE!!

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving, the traditional beginning of the Christmas selling season.  Of course, every customer who walks through your door any time is like gold, but for the next few weeks, each one is even more golden.  If you’re ever going to “Mine Your Own Business“, now it the time!

Let’s start today with a basic truth.  Unless you’re either (a) giving away free food, or (b) you have the only public restroom within a few miles, no one comes into your store “just looking.”  This is especially true during the holidays.  Nowadays, people do their “looking” on the Internet.  They study specs, features, and yes, even prices before they ever leave home.  People are too busy to wander from store to store “just looking”.

Another basic truth is that selling is a skill.  It’s something you can learn.  It’s not hard, but is work.  It’s very unusual to find a “natural-born” sales person.  If you find one (or if you are one) consider yourself extremely lucky. 

Here’s a little secret.  There are hundreds of experts in the field of sales training and every one of them has books and tapes and CDs (or maybe a blog).  From Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar, all the way back to Earl Nightingale and Napoleon Hill, they all have something to say.  But if you line them up side-by-side, they’re all saying the same thing, each in their own way.  Selling is an art and a science.  The science part is simple.  You do A, then B, then C and a sale happens.  It’s like mixing the right amounts of hydrogen and oxygen and getting water.  How you do A, B, & C is the art.

So, if you were to take one thing away from all these selling stars, one thing that would guarantee that you get the most from every customer contact, what would it be?

It’s simple, really.  ASK FOR THE ORDER!!  It’s amazing how often people walk away from a purchase because no one asked them to buy.  Each one of us has a certain number of “no’s” we just have to get out of our system before we can say “yes”.  It may be just one.  It may be two, or three, or more.  But most sales people stop after just one or two at the most. Some don’t ask for the order at all. And the customer walks away empty-handed.  How many more sales would be made if the sales person closed just one more time?

Remember, not all the time, but most of the time, the customer who says “I’ll be back” won’t.  If you don’t get the sale while they’re in your store, chances are good that they won’t be back.  Not to be repetitive but ASK THEM TO BUY!!  You’re not going to pick up tomorrow’s paper and see a headline “Retailer Shot and Killed for Asking Closing Question”.  It won’t happen.  ASK FOR THE MONEY!!  No, let’s rephrase that, ASK FOR YOUR MONEY!!  It is your money, they just haven’t given it to you yet.

From now until the end of the year people will be in a buying mood.  They don’t have time for recreational shopping.  They’re in your store for a reason.  Find out why they’re there, give them your best demo, then ASK THEM “WILL THAT BE CASH OR CHARGE?”

Keep asking until they buy.  Once they say “yes” don’t stop there.  You know those dogs that sit in the back window of the car, the ones who nod their heads when the car starts and stops?  Once they start nodding, they keep doing it for a while.  People are like those dogs.  Once they nod “yes” their tendency is to keep nodding.

Once the customer says “yes”, show them something else.  Show them accessories.  Show them add-ons.  Show them related products.  Ask them if they’d like a second widget to give someone else for a gift.  CLOSE THE SALE!!  Keep asking until they run out of money or you run out of merchandise.

You may have noticed that in this post we used the phrase “ASK FOR THE SALE!!” or something similar a very redundant eight times.  You may have also noticed that each time it was phrased a little differently, just as your closing attempts should each be phrased a little differently.  It may be bad writing, but it’s good selling.

The point is this, your time and your customers’ time is valuable, especially at this time of year.  Do your customer a favor by letting them cross at least one item off their shopping list before they leave your store.  You’ll both be glad that you did.

Motivation

As we enter the busiest selling season of the year, not to mention the season where personal demands compete for a bigger-than-usual chunk of our time, it’s easy to let the little things slip by.  One thing that seems little but that’s actually HUGE is positive reinforcement for our associates. 

One reason that’s often given for failing to recognize good performance is "I just don’t have time."  Sorry, but you don’t have time not to do it.  Keeping your team positively motivated will put just a little extra energy into their work, letting them get more things done, and taking some of the pressure off of you.

You should make it a top priority to catch each member of your staff doing something right every day and commend them for it.  It will do wonders for their morale and your sales.  Napoleon Bonaparte said:

"A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon."

How Not to Lose

Here in the heartland, pro football fans have been suffering through the St. Louis Rams 0-8 season.  But today there’s good news.  They didn’t lose yesterday.  The bad news is that they didn’t win either.  They didn’t play.  Which made me think about the difference between winning and not losing. 

Playing to win is one thing.  Playing to not lose is something else entirely.  Face it, if you don’t play, you can’t lose.  The trouble is, you can’t win either.

If you never spend money on promotions, you can’t lose the money.  If you never spend money on improving your store, you can’t lose the money.  If you never take the time to find out what your customers want and need, you’ll never lose the time.

Since the television writers have gone out on strike, shutting down David Letterman for the time being, as a public service, MYOB offers a replacement Top Ten List, the Top Ten Ways to Not Lose:

 

10.  Surround yourself with negative people.

9.  Watch and read the news reports that explain why the    economy’s in the tank and consumers aren’t going to be shopping for Christmas.

8.  Don’t keep your store displays fresh and current.

7.  Don’t keep your store clean, bright, and inviting.

6.  Set your store hours for YOUR convenience, not your customers’.

5.  Ignore the Internet, especially the social media.

4.  Don’t pay attention to what your competitors are doing.

3.  Don’t read Mine Your Own Business.

2.  Don’t waste money on advertising.

And the number one way to not not lose:

Don’t ask for the sale every single time.

Fall Back

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Just a friendly reminder that Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend.  Chances are you had at least one computer try to make the change last weekend, but this time it’s for real.  Remember to set your clock back one hour before you go to bed Saturday night.  Also, it’s a good time to check the batteries in your smoke detectors. 

Oh, by the way, I know this is a business blog and no place for personal stuff, but say "Hello" to Michael Harold Buckley, my new grandson.  He was born this morning (Friday) at 7:58.  He weighted 7 pounds and 6 ounces and is 20 1/2" tall.  I promised him I’d get him on the Internet before he was twelve hours old.  So, here he is.

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