The Crushing of Retail Sales and The Box

Online retail sales are crushing brick and mortar sales in many areas and it will only continue. I'll get to the facts on that in just a moment Amazon Box but first a story:

Several weeks ago my wife purchased a new cup for our three year-old grandson. He likes the Hawkeyes. When she presented it to him he looked her and said, "Thanks! Where's the box?" The box? She went on to explain that she purchased the cup from a store and that it didn't come with a "box". He looked at her with a serious questioning face and said, "No box?" He is three and he could not imagine that something new was brought into his house and it didn't come in a box.

Thank you Amazon and now for the facts:

Retail giant Wal-Mart reported solid fourth-quarter results last week with the U.S. business producing another quarter of comparable-sales growth. But the star of the show was e-commerce. Online U.S. sales for Wal-Mart soared 29% year-over-year, an acceleration driven by the company's investments in the acquisition of Jet.com. E-commerce is still small, relative to the brick-and-mortar operations, but that won't remain true for long.

According to the Department of Commerce, total e-commerce sales in the United States rose by 15.1% in 2016, far faster than the 2.9% Online Add to Cartgrowth in total retail sales.

The times they are a changin'.

The reality is that consumers are quickly leaving brick and mortar stores for online deals. They are shopping price as well as convenience as they have seen their wages stagnate and are left with less time to "go shopping". However, the trend isn't always the same for small business retail stores. Especially if they offer a unique shopping experience. So, what can retail, maybe your retail, do to drive traffic to your store? Here are some thoughts:

  • It Ain't About the Product - I can go to big box or online and buy a set of kitchen knives but I can not get the experience that comes with visiting, say, The Kitchen Collage in the East Village of Des Moines or La Gourmet in Valley Junction of West Des Moines. No big box or online retail center can match that experience;
  • Personalized E-Mail Offers - Because your small business is gathering emails (you are right) you can build a very active email campaign to keep your loyal shoppers in the conversation;
  • Retail Celebrations - Places like the East Village and Valley Junction hold special events all of the time...that's not done for big box stores. Getting involved with your neighborhood organization or Chamber can make a difference;
  • Be Exclusive - When going to market find stuff that can't easily be found online and then market that through social media and your email campaign.

All of this takes work...go get 'em!

6a00d83452534069e20120a53db1ed970b-800wi

 

 

 


It's Nearly Here - Are You Ready?

Let's not "beat around the bush" the critical 4th Quarter is nearly here and for many businesses Time Hour Glass it's make or break time. Are you ready to take advantage of what could be the best quarter of 2016 for just about any business?  Let's roll through some opportunity areas:

Traditional Broadcast Media - As they say "Fa-git about it!" It's an election year and if you have not secured your broadcast slots by now...good luck getting airtime between now and November. Many broadcast outlets will bounce your ad in response to political advertising. Make sure you well understand the conditions before you buy.

Traditional Print Media - Depending on what you are selling and even though traditional print media is in a major slump there are still opportunities here with your newspaper. If you are a local business some of the "neighborhood" magazines are still a buy. Word of caution: Remember "Less is More" when it comes to print advertising. Use color, buy at least a half page and be very image focused with a minimum of words...trust us.

Facebook Specials - Start your planning now for your Facebook Ads and Facebook Rewards for your most loyal customers. Make sure your graphics stand out and that the call to action is clear. And, don't bother with a 10% off reward. People don't really start to get motivated unless it is 20% or higher.

Back-Story Blog - You do have a business blog...right? This week start writing down what you are doing to prepare for the 4th Quarter. Give your readers/customers a look behind the scenes as to what is going on as you prepare for THEM a great shopping season. Even if you are not seasonal but a professional business; people love to "look behind the curtain".

Social Media Efforts - Planning is key. First you must know WHERE your target market is spending time. If your target is young consumers try Snapchat and Instagram. Don't forget about targeted geo-marketing using digital and if you don't have an active social media presence now is the time to start...like today.

YouTube - If you can't buy television time because of the election cycle...create your own television station on YouTube and share your creative videos across several social media channels. You won't get the coverage but...it can build sales.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys - The business that cares about how they meet or exceed their customers needs wins. Look, all you have to do is ask. Use your email list of customers (you have one right) and design a quick survey and in that survey do not forget to have at least one "call to action", "If you were pleased with our service what is it we can do for you now to help you and make your day better?"  Gotta ask for the order.

Website Update - Update your website with images of fall and change some wording around. Remember, even on your website you should have a call to action...

There are all kinds of ways to take advantage of the 4th Quarter but it takes time and effort. This is not an exhaustive list...but it's enough to get you started.

Thanks for reading!

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi

 


Engage Your Loyal Friends!

I know lots and lots of business owners that have lots and lots of "friends" on their various Friends Selfiesocial media channels yet they often complain they are not seeing sales match the number of people who are following them.

Wanna know why?

Because you have not ASKED for their help.

Follow along on this for a moment. It takes seconds to "Like" a page and maybe...maybe comment... Once done with that task many of your "friends" feel as if their investment is over. And you, and your business, racks up another "Like" which will do little to boost your bottom line.

How do you fix that?

  • Say "Thank You" - Don't ignore new "likes" or "friends" they may have liked your page but without you engaging them with at least a "Thank you!" they have little reason to champion your business;
  • Reward Your Brand Warriors - It doesn't take much to know WHO really helps drive your business. Which of your friends/customers continue to share positive messages about your brand to their friends. Then invite them to enjoy a free SOMETHING as a "thank you" for their help;
  • Have a Party - Want to jump start engagement?  If I had a retail business with hundreds or even thousands of "friends" I would invite the most active of them to the business for a party...just for them. Thank them for their work and give them a simple assignment to keep it up;
  • Personal Friends - Outside of social media you no doubt have friends...you know...folks you know well and often hang out with.  Don't forget them. They already like you so why not ask them to share their thoughts about your business with their friends?  The next gathering where you are together slip them a note with the "ask"...ask them to become brand warriors. Bet they will.

You can do all of this with a little effort that will pay huge rewards. Engage your "Friends" and they will help champion your brand.

You're welcome!

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi

 

 


Listen to The Pitch

There isn't a week that goes by where we don't get hit up to listen to "The Pitch". Sometimes it's a phone pitch or a webinar or a cup of coffee. Doesn't matter we always try to listen.  Why? Silver Bullet

Because it might be the "Silver Bullet" that will solve an issue we're having or bring up an issue we don't even know we might have. Or it might be a great idea for one of our clients.

True, you can't spend hours each day listening to all the pitches that come your way but if you're not giving the person a chance how can you make a decision? And if you make the decision to simply shut out any new idea by refusing to listen to the pitch you are doing your business a disservice. 

It's that simple.

Besides, and this is self-serving, we never know when the pitch might need some help in getting better.  And, in the end, that's what we do.

So, do you listen to each pitch or...keep them away?

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi


Grow Your Business Through Engagement - 3 Tips

Never in the history of business has there been so many ways to engage consumers and grow Customer Engagement Puzzleyour business. At the same time you can use many tools to satisfy and retain your current customers. It may very well be "The Golden Age of Business".

But, it all takes work.

How about some first steps?

Know Your Current Customer Base - You would be surprised at the number of business people who don't know why people choose to do business with them. The best way to find out is to ask them. Ask what it is about your business that has driven these customers to you and make a list;

Rinse and Repeat - Once you've got a list of why customers have come to your business the goal is to keep them coming back. Look at your list. If they are impressed by what you've done...do more of it; 

Where is Your Customer? - This is a critical step in the process. Where does your customer hang out? What are they reading? What interests do they have? Once you know where they prefer to get their information, be it traditional or new media, start to spend more time in that space. This does two things: 1) Re-enforces their loyalty because they see more of you and; 2) If they are here so too are others that you want to reach, engage and turn into customers.

Three simple steps to get yourself aligned with your current customer so you can build your business through retention and recruitment.  

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi


It's About Relationships

Not long ago, on my daily business news broadcast, we had a story about how the Internet has  Car Sale Promotion
changed the way many buy their vehicle. It's not only that you can buy "on-line" but, more importantly, the consumer now has the same, or more, information about the vehicle than the car dealership.

That fact changes the dynamic greatly. Now, the purchase isn't so much about "best price" or "availability" but how the salesperson at the dealership builds a relationship with you the customer.  

No longer "hard data" it's now all about "soft skills".

This shift has happened across the business landscape. The power of knowledge is in the hands of the consumer in most instances. Now the focus, for salespeople everywhere, is about building long and lasting relationships. And, given the availability of social media, it is easier than ever to engage your existing and potential customers.  

Oh, and that hand-written note that's put in the mail with a real stamp...bet your customer will smile and keep it long after that shout out on Facebook.

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi

 


Why Knowing Trends Matters

We follow trends because it's important to understand where business is going rather than Closed Storewhere we've been. Not to say we should forget about our history but our eyes should always be on tomorrow so that business can adjust to the market. And we're not just talking about color schemes. We're talking about major shifts in consumers that drives marketing/advertising.

Home Depot is a case in point.

Last week, on the Business News Hour, we had a story about how Home Depot was changing their marketing mix away from the Do It Yourself person and focusing more on professional re-modelers and contractors. For a business that has built their brand on DIY this is a seismic shift.

Why?

Because the understand the trends in home-ownership. Consider:

  • Home-Ownership at an All Time Low: Only 63.5% of Americans own their home the lowest number since 1967;
  • DIY Gives Way to Do It For Me: As Baby Boomers age they are not as interested in tackling a kitchen or bathroom re-do and would rather hire it done;
  • Got No Skills: In many parts of the country "Shop Class" is a thing of the past. Shop was replaced by computer science and a generation didn't learn about building stuff;
  • More Renters: Blame it on the recession, stagnate wages, the desire to have fixed monthly expenses; whatever the reason more and more people are turning to rentals. Check the chart below.

Rise of RentersIt all adds up to a trend and Home Depot responded even though it meant moving away from what made them the best DIY store in the nation.

So, here are some questions for you:  Are you staying ahead of the trends? Are you paying attention? If sales are in a slump, or just not as robust as they once were, is it a trend away from your product or service? Do you know?

Maybe it's time to think about it...

Thanks for reading!

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi


Social Media Marketing in Northern Iowa

I'm honored to have been asked to be part of this amazing group of  NIACC Oct 2015 Two Use
professional marketers who will do a full day event about Social Media Marketing for Business.  I'll post a link to the registration page toward the end of this post.

Here's the deal: As a business person you've been told "Social media is free and everybody should use it." That, my friends is a lie. Social Media Marketing is not free it takes time and talent. That being the case why not attend a session where some of the best professionals in marketing will share their tips, suggestions and demonstrate what works...and what needs work. Here's more:

 

If you are in business you want to add more to the bottom line...while engaging consumers with your story.  Spend some time with us on 24 October at NIACC during the Midwest Social Media Summit! Here is that registration link.

Seek...answers.

Thanks for reading, watching coming by!

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi

 


Turning a Blind Eye...

Have you ever been so enamored with one or two forms of media Woman Blind Eyeadvertising that you turn a "blind eye" to everything else? Hey, you're not alone. That's why, years ago, we made the decision to listen to all the pitches we got from advertising folks. You never know when you might hit on the "silver bullet".

So, let's talk about an ancient advertising vehicle that you may dismiss because, heck, that "social media stuff" is new, flashy and..."free"! (Well, not really but you know what I mean.)

So, let's talk radio.

What? "Boring old radio?", "Nobody actually listens to radio anymore." "I only listen to satellite radio!" I've heard them all and never mind that, according to the Pew Research Center on Journalism and Media"Traditional AM/FM radio, meanwhile, continues to reach the overwhelming majority of the American public – 91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened in the week before they were surveyed in 2014."

Yeah, never mind.

Chuck Meford MPL Talking Two 3 march 2015The issue isn't that "nobody listens" to AM/FM radio the issue is that you don't know how to advertise on radio and you won't listen to people who know the business. So, rather than seek the answers, rather than ask the question, rather than do the work...you turn a blind eye toward radio.

So, let me make this really easy for you. And if it seems like I'm shilling...well fine...but it's because I believe this might help your business.

On the 3rd of November, here in Des Moines, a fellow by the name of Chuck Mefford is presenting a FREE seminar on branding and radio. Chuck isn't some "fly-by-night" huckster he's got years and years of success in Chuck Mefford Book helping big and small corporations focus on their brand and their brand message with a focus on increasing sales. (Because that's the real measurement.)

Here is a link to the Des Moines Radio Group Registration Page and NOPE they are not paying me, they did not ask me, they don't even know I wrote this (until now). If you need more proof here is a link to Brands Formation the Chuck Mefford company. (Don't let the BIG NAMES scare you..radio is still affordable!)

Your cost to attend?  A little time.  And, if you tell me, "Michael, I've been to these free radio seminars before and they don't work!" I'll tell you that the reason they don't work is that you didn't work the system.

Does that mean "print is dead"? Nope but that comes later.

Thanks for reading! 

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi

 


How To Buy Stuff - Chapter Two

My friend and I have been working on a book idea.  Both he and I believe How to Buythere are enough "How to Sell" books.  What business needs is a book on "How to Buy Stuff".  Tips on how to move your business forward by paying attention to sales and marketing...not yours...but "The Pitch" and then how to and how not to take action.

Chapter Two, we've decided is "How Not to Allow Deadlines to Assist in Not Buying". Ready?

Here is the set up: Let's say you manage or own a business and every day of the week you are called on to listen to a pitch. (Here's what I think about your duty to listen to every one!)  When the pitch is complete you say to the salesperson, "This is fantastic! It's exactly what we need. Let me get back to you in a week."

Then the week goes by and the salesperson, who has kept in touch with you during the week hears nothing back. Crickets!  

The day comes and the salesperson finally catches up with you and you say, "I know today is the deadline for the offer but, I just can't get it done today.  I'm sorry!"

So, we went from "Gotta have!" to "I don't have time to put my signature on a document."

The customer used the deadline to help him/her fail to follow through with the buy.  Sad.

What should happen is the buyer, during one of the interactions between the pitch and the deadline, should have said was, "Look we considered this but, in the end, it's not going to work for us because..."  It's important the salesperson hears the "Why.." because perhaps the objection is something you just don't understand.

Or...you just made up your excitement during the pitch which is phony and not a good way to do business. 

Your thoughts?

6a00d83452534069e201a3fd12f548970b-800wi