Is Shopping Better than Chocolate?

So you're too tired to exercise and you know that piece of chocolate will settle right in your midsection.  What can you do to get a similar high without the sweat or the calories?  According to recent research reported by Shopwise.com, shopping just might fill the bill.

It seems that shopping releases two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and dopamine.  Both produce a "high" or feeling of pleasure.  Serotonin is associated with mood.  Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.  Dopamine gives us an intense level of pleasure. 

It's the release of these two chemicals, according to researchers, that make shopping such a pleasurable experience for some people.  A successful shopping trip leads to positive feelings of success, attractiveness and self-worth.  Of course the down side to all this is that people can become addicted to the good feelings that they get from shopping.  These "shopaholics" can get themselves into serious trouble, running up debts that they can't pay and destroying relationships.  But true shopaholics are rare.Happy_shopper

But for the average person the shopping experience can be better than chocolate, exercise, or even love-making.  Besides providing the goods and services that are necessary for our standard of living, retailers provide a kind of "therapy" that can be very helpful to stressed-out consumers.  By providing a pleasant shopping environment for your customers, you can add to the "high" that they experience and help them to relieve stress. 

It's a win/win situation.  And, it's calorie-free!

Here's a link to a CBS news video on this story, but I couldn't get it to work.  Maybe you'll have better luck.

Small Business Tool from VISA and SCORE

VISA_score
Here’s some help in running your business from SCORE “Counselors
to America’s
Business and VISA.  It’s called The
Financial Management Workbook
and it provides ideas and guidance on topics from
securing funding to managing cash flow.

According to SCORE, in addition to funding and cash flow
management, the workbook also includes topic like managing collections, minimizing
expenses, funding options, and being prepared for your business’ growth.

The 55 page workbook is free for download either from SCORE’s
web site or from the Visa Business Network.

Motivation

Here's something kind of fun for a cold, icy Monday.  Matthews Belinkie has put together forty motivational quotes in a video that runs just over two minutes.  Something here is sure to ring your bell.  Even the Grinch is included.  Enjoy.

What’s Your Web Site Trying to Do?

As you're reading this, I'm on my annual Christmas pilgrimage to Branson, MO.  As many times as we've been there, we've never gone to the Andy Williams Christmas Show.  Before we left, I decided to check it out on the web.  There's a web site with information on all of the different shows that the theater offers throughout the year.  In fact, there's a separate page for each show.  Here's part of the page for the Christmas show.  What you're seeing is just under half of the page.

Andy_williams

Here's the thing.  What's the point of this page?  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it's probably to sell tickets.  What's the least prominent thing on the whole page?  It should be easy since I circled it.  SELLING TICKETS!  There is no reason for this page to exist except to get people to buy tickets.  So why is the "Buy Tickets Now" link so gosh-darned small?  It should be the biggest thing on the page.

This is where a lot of businesses get into trouble on the web.  You pay a high-priced web designer to do the page for you.  He or she creates a thing of beauty.  The colors are great.  The pictures jump off the screen.  There's audio and video, java scripts and flashing lights, but the potential customer can't figure out how to do business with you.  It's like having a retail store where the customers can't find the cash register.

BUY_TICKETS_NOW
The heck with aesthetics, Williams' page should have a giant red button that says "BUY TICKETS NOW!"  Pretty?  No.  Effective?  Yes.

The bottom line is this.  If you're going to have a web page, before it goes live have a real person look at it.  Is it easy to navigate.  Does it give the important information like store hours, address, phone number, and all the other things your potential customer is looking for.  Most important, if you want the customer to take action, make it so easy that a cave man can do it.

Give Local Business a Gift

A letter to the editor ran today in the Richmond (British Columbia) News.  The letter outlines all the reasons why readers should shop for Christmas with local merchants.  I hope the fine folks who read the letter take it to heart.  There's nothing here that you and I don't already know, but it's nice to hear it and to be reminded just how great you really are.

The percentages vary by community, but not by that much.  You might want to print it out and post it in your store where customers can see it.  Better yet, you might write a similar letter to your own editor.  If you do, and if it gets published, please share it with us.

The Man Who Said “No” to Wal-Mart

From Fast Company.com:  Jim Wier is the former CEO of Simplicity Lawn Mowers.  His goal in life at Simplicity was to produce high-quality American-made lawn care equipment.  Yet, his company sold mowers through Wal-Mart under the Snapper brand.  But Jim had the foresight to recognize that he had to make a choice.  High-quality, American-made and Wal-Mart just don't go together.

The article describes Jim's trip to Bentonville, AR including some of the details of the buying-office environment.  You travel to the Arkansas Ozarks which is a feat in itself.  Then you face an interview with a buyer in a space that's designed to intimidate.  Frankly, the whole thing is on a par with getting a root canal without the free toothbrush at the end.

Jim traveled to Bentonville with the intention of breaking off the relationship.  Even though Wal-Mart represented 20% of his business, he had to cut the chain loose to protect the other 80%.  To make his job just that much more difficult, the marketing VP Jim met with didn't just want to continue the relationship, he wanted to expand it, making Snapper the centerpiece of his law equipment program.

When Jim pointed out that his mowers were just too high-priced for the discount store chain, and that he was already losing money on the program, the buyer suggested that he build a cheaper line in the Orient with the Snapper label.  Others have tried that strategy with less than stellar results.  Jim knew that a bad experience with a Snapper mower purchased at Wal-Mart would reflect badly on his company, not so much on the discount chain.

So Jim fired Wal-Mart as a customer, a decision he still questions.  But a reality of manufacturing life is that a long-term relationship with the largest retailer in the world is always stacked in favor of the retailer and more than one manufacturer has closed its doors when it just didn't have anything left to give.

I’ve Chosen not to Participate

This is not, repeat, not a political statement.  But it is something that we might all want to paste on our bathroom mirrors.  Barbara Walters interviewed Rush Limbaugh the other night.  When she questioned him about his rather substantial salary in the midst of a "recession" his response was "I've chosen not to participate (in the recession)."

Good advice for all of us.

Episode 15

This is a special edition of Mining the Store.  On September 27, 2008 I had the privilege of leading a session at Podcamp Ireland.  The one-day event was held at the Hotel Kilkenny (pictured) in the beautiful city of Kilkenny.  Episode 15 is a recording of the session.  I hope you enjoy it.

Our music is The Christmas Song by Calvin Owens and you can find it at the Podsafe Music Network.

Comments are always welcome and our contact information is listed to the left.

Direct download: Episode_15.mp3
Category: podcasts — posted at: 12:07 PM

Why Is Burger King Trying to Make Me Look Bad?

Just two days ago I wrote a post on "viral" videos.  You may recall that I wrote "The best, most viral videos are usually done at very little cost."  And, "It's almost impossible to create something "viral" on purpose."  Then along comes Burger King with its "Whopper Virgins" campaign which looks very much like it will go viral.

Whopper_virgins
If you haven't heard about it, Burger King has conducted taste tests between its Whopper and the Big Mac in places where the people have never tasted a hamburger, hence the name "Whopper Virgins."  They've produced a documentary that will be released in 2 days, 11 hours, and 21 minutes (as I write this) according to the countdown timer on their web site.  I'm just guessing but I'll bet that first-day views of the video will be in the millions.  Admit it, your curiosity is almost sure to make you hit the link above and probably come back to see the video.  That's just how this stuff works.

In my own defense, notice that I said "usually" and "almost impossible" and I still stand by my original post.  This is an expensive campaign that should have impressive results.  Whether or not the fact that someone from "an icy village in Greenland" likes the Whopper better than the Big Mac makes people rush out to their local BK remains to be seen.  But the campaign has people talking and isn't that what it's all about?

Which is the better investment?  Burger King spending millions and getting more millions in return, or you or I spending $150 for a video camera, posting a video on YouTube and getting thousands in return.  The exception proves the point.  Information spread on the web is more a function of content than it is of cost.

Have a great weekend!

Email from the IRS?

I received an email yesterday with the dreaded "Internal Revenue Service" in the "From" column.

 
IRS_email_1
 


Naturally, anything you get from the IRS is likely to cause a chill to run down your back.  Maybe your mouth gets a little dry and your hands start to shake a little.  But this message is potentially much more devastating than a real IRS message. 

Notice the subject, "please see the attachment".  I didn't open either attachment (There are two.) 

IRS_email_2

That was red flag number one.  Shouldn't the people who collect the money be able to count to two?  Shouldn't the subject be "please see the attachments"?  Maybe I'm being nit-picky but isn't the Internal Revenue Service the poster child for nit-pickyness?  I'm just saying.  [Note:  Nothing here should be construed as criticism of the faithful public servants who collect our taxes.  They're just doing their jobs.  Some of my best friends are retired IRS employees. I love the IRS.]

So, in the spirit of the season, I did some research hoping to save you, loyal readers, from any potential problems.  Here's what the IRS says on their web site

"The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail.

  • The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail.
  • The IRS does not send e-mail requesting your PIN numbers, passwords
    or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other
    financial accounts."

That's pretty clear.  If you receive anything like this, the IRS wants to know about it.  It's called phishing.  You can forward the email to them following the instructions on their site.

But most important, the last thing you want to do is turn any personal information over to crooks, even if they're posing as the IRS.