Staying Vital in Small Town Iowa

It's a return visit from Lyle Muller of Iowa Watch - The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. Today we're talking about the Lyle Muller MPL 1118 incorporated and unincorporated communities in Iowa and the success/failure of business, population growth and quality of life. How some small communities are doing when it comes to all manner of business issues. We'll also talk about broadband and how some towns have been able to go it alone. It's a fascinating conversation that is not unique to Iowa.  Here is that article and here is our conversation. 

Thanks for listening! 

The award winning Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie is the only weekday business news podcast in the Midwest. The national, regional and some local business news along with long-form business interviews can be heard Monday - Friday. You can subscribe on PlayerFMPodbeaniTunesSpotifyStitcher or TuneIn Radio. And you can catch The Business News Hour Week in Review each Sunday Noon on News/Talk 1540 KXEL. The Business News Hour is a production of Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications. You can follow us on Twitter @IoB_NewsHour.


Getting Stuff is Getting Harder

There are two signs Americans are seeing almost everywhere. The first are the "Help Wanted" Out of Order Sign signs or the "We're Hiring" flags posted in the hope that somebody...anybody will show up. The second most common sign is "Out of Order". Here it is on an ice machine at a very nice property at Lake Okoboji in Iowa. The staff told me it's been out of order for a couple of weeks. "We just can't get parts", she said before she took my ice bucket into the closed restaurant (COVID Hours) for a fill up.

Getting stuff is getting harder and it's no wonder. As I write this there are 125 cargo ships at anchor off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California. Two weeks ago there were 75. Some have been there for weeks waiting to dock. But there are fewer dock workers, fewer trucks, fewer drivers.

The trucking industry says it is anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 truck drivers short. I spoke to one industry executive who told me they are no longer able to guarantee delivery on a specific date. His company recently had to settle with a customer who shipped a trade show booth by truck only to have it show up days late. 

Retail experts are saying that if you are planning on giving gifts this holiday season you might want to purchase them now because inventory is low and there isn't a light at the end of the supply chain tunnel. It's becoming more likely that what sits under the tree this year might be a picture of the gift...rather than the real thing.

All of this has a serious impact on price. If you remember your old Econ 101 class on supply and demand you get it. High demand and low supply means higher prices for consumers.

Maybe we're starting to get it. Retail sales numbers for August were up by .8%. Economists had predicted a drop of .7%. That is a major miss on the guess and should be a bright spot for the economy but what about the future?

I'm a journalist and a marketing/advertising professional. I don't have much of an answer other than to suggest that you shouldn't over promise, or perhaps even promise, delivery of your stuff by a date certain. Be honest with your customer. Let them know upfront that supplies are tight and that you'll do your best. 

Consumers have become conditioned to "one day shipping" so it's going to be tough for them to wait but, waiting is becoming the new reality.

One other point that makes a big difference is how you and your staff handle the supply chain crisis. The cheery woman at this property with the "Out of Order" sign told me there was another ice machine at the far side of the facility but then said, "Let me have your ice bucket, I'll fill it from our restaurant machine. It will only take me a minute."  Sure, I could have walked the hall but she made the effort, was honest and it was truly appreciated. And that little gesture boosted their brand and in the end that is what I'll remember.


Why Discount When You Have Peter Children?

I've had the pleasure of knowing, and liking, Peter Children for several years. Here is a guy who, in his mid-80's, works his business, Peter Children May 2017 Universal Products, every day. And I know because Peter calls or sends me an email almost daily asking about his ideas, sales efforts and more.  Some time ago he was on my radio show talking about sales and sales marketing. That's where the photo comes from.

Recently Peter has been working on several opportunities for major businesses to use what he is calling the Swarovski Incentive. It plays like this:  Rather than sell a product be it clothing to flowers at deep discounts why not hold the original price and offer a really amazing incentive like a pair of Swarovski studs?  And, the cost of the incentive is way lower than what the retail store would lose by selling at deep discounts AND (this is the best part) the word of mouth marketing from the effort will be huge.

Here is a quick 20 second video of the studs and a neat tennis bracelet so you can get an idea of the quality.

 

Nice huh?

Full disclosure: Peter didn't pay me a dime to write this or create the video. I am simply in awe of his work ethic and his ideas. Now, should you wish to connect with him (nope, he doesn't have a website) you can call 641-423-0184 or shoot him an email pchildren@mchsi.com.

Thanks for coming by.

 


Business News & More 2 September 2020

We've been busy grinding it out today...so much going on that this is the "Late Edition" of the business news...we usually try to get this Business News Image out before 5PM Central.  Here's what's on tap for today:

  • Google and their new planned community;
  • More airline job cuts;
  • Remember when politicians were afraid of the deficit;
  • More companies embrace "working from home";
  • Eviction due to COVID19? Not so fast...
  • The Wall Street Report
  • Is smaller...bigger?  Ask Macy's.

Those stories plus a really neat conversation with Rachel Trainum of Tero International. Not long ago Rachel was a summer intern at the company. Today she not only oversees the corporate marketing and communications but this year was in charge of the new crop of interns who, according to Rachel, did some amazing things. 

Thanks for listening! 


You MUST Automate!

Long ago I stopped going to Walmart for maybe ten years. It wasn't a political thing. It wasn't about low pay, no benefits and a crummy, dirty store. Nope, it was all about the service. It was the worst. Employees that could care less, a return policy that drove me nuts...and away. I was absent a Walmart until last year when my local re-opened after spending about $2 million. So, I tried it. And, I've been back a numbeMcDonalds Kiosk April 2018r of times. It's been a positive experience.

Enter McDonald's and this crazy tale of automation.

I stopped in to pick up an egg and cheese biscuit. I don't eat bacon and sausage is out so...egg and cheese it is. I walk in, with little time to spare as I headed to my next meeting. The person who was to be working the counter was working at something else so I waited, patiently, until she spied me.

"I'm sorry I was doing something else. How may I help you?"

I'd like an egg and cheese biscuit please.

"Let's go over to the kiosk and place your order."

Uhm...no let's just order here.

As she comes out from behind the counter and marches toward the kiosk she said, "Oh, don't worry I'll help you."

I'm not worried. I'd just like an egg and cheese biscuit.

"Well, come over here and let's use the kiosk. I'll show you how. Is this to go or for here?"

It's to go.

"So, how has your morning been?"

It's been fine until I walked in here. I just want to order an egg and cheese biscuit and I'll be out of your way.

"Here is our kiosk.(She said it in almost a reverent tone.) Now, would you like me to help you?"

No. I think I can do this.

So it went. I ordered my egg and cheese biscuit under the watchful eye of the young lady "helping me". I'd call her by name but she was working under cover...no name badge.

Egg and Cheese Biscuit. No, I don't want to customize the order. Yes, I would like a drink. What kind? A Diet Coke. What size? A small. All the time pushing the buttons. Finally I had ordered by Egg and Cheese Biscuit with a small diet coke.

McDonalds Bisciut April 2018We went back to the counter, she gave me my ticket and within 90 seconds I was handed a bag by a smiling young lady who said, "Egg and Cheese Biscuit to go, sir."

Thank you.

I gathered my drink, headed out to the car. Got down the highway, opened the bag and...

Yes, there was a biscuit. Yes, there was egg. Yes, there was bacon... BACON? Did I ORDER WRONG from the blasted kiosk?

Uhm...nope as you can see by the receipt. 

I wonder if, when I take this back...and I will...If I'll be forced to visit with the kiosk or (heaven forbid!) a human?

What should have happened? Yep, she should have just taken the order. Weary.


QR Codes - Hello Again...

It may surprise you to know that the QR Code (you know that funny looking image you may have seen on products and print ads) has been around for a very long time. In fact it was developed in Japan back in 1994 to track automobile production. IOB QR Code

Over the years we’ve used QR Codes (QR is short for “Quick Response”) for a number of our clients. Pet food clients put QR Codes on their pet food bags that points to short videos about the product, lawn and garden clients do the same. We’ve put QR Codes on shelf tags so shoppers can access short informative videos about what they are looking at.

Sadly, the QR Code fell out of use mostly because businesses that used them didn’t tell consumers what would happen when they scanned the code and, perhaps more importantly, you had to download a QR Code Reader for your smart phone. Many consumers didn’t know that or didn’t want to be bothered.

Welcome Back!

The QR Code is back and this time it’s due to the help of Apple. If you have an iPhone and you’ve downloaded the recent IOS update you can now go to your camera, point your phone at the QR Code and the camera will recognize it as such and ask you if you want to open the website in your browser. Android phones still have not made this as part of their update but that could be coming in the near future.

Now that QR Codes can be scanned without having a special app watch for more business and marketing applications. Like go ahead and check our our daily business news radio broadcast page. 

Go ahead, give it a try!


Are You Open for Business?

Those of you who follow us know that we believe in the Business Blog for several reasons: Open Sign

  • Fresh Web Content - Each time you do a business blog you create fresh content for your website and that is important for what is called Search Engine Optimization so people can find you;
  • Owning Your Voice - When you write a business blog you are creating a voice for your business. You can explain in a short and direct manner what you do, how you do it and more. But, remember to break it up and not write "War and Peace";
  • You Are Open for Business - If you blog on a regular basis people know that you are still around and still accepting clients and still in business.

It's that last point I'd like to address. This afternoon we were searching for potential news stories and individuals we might interview for Insight on Business the News Hour. We went back into our files a couple of years to see what stories were out there that we thought might be worth a follow up. We found one on care-giving, Alzheimer Disease and aging. Two weeks ago we had a piece on the Alzheimer Tsunami from Iowa Watch we thought a follow up on an old story might make sense.

So, we went to the website for contact information. (There was none. No phone no email...just a form to be filled out if we wanted to reach out.) Next we looked at blog posts to see what might have been new and, really to check and see if this business was still in business. The most recent blog post was authored well over a year ago.

What!?

We are now led to believe this company is out of business. No contact information and an outdated blog post. We moved on...and wrote this piece.

It's critical that potential customers/clients be able to reach you and your business quickly so make sure you have contact information available. If you do a business blog and it is part of your website make sure you continue to do so. It doesn't have to be every week (if you are well established) but at least once a month let's us know you are still...open for business.

Thanks for reading! 


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!

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Valentine's Day Marketing

Tis the Season! Soon, right after the Super Bowl, young (and old) men will be boosting retail sales as they scramble to prove their love Valentines Day gifts for Himand affection to their Valentine. If you are in retail and directing your marketing message to men...you are not alone but you may be missing an opportunity.

Let's face it, the vast majority of Valentine Marketing Messages are directed to men. Print, radio, television, digital tend to target guys who, by the way, spend nearly twice what women spend on Valentine's Day gifts. Last year the National Retail Federation said the "average person" spent about $143 to honor their Valentine. Men, however, spent $191 to the average of $97 spent by women.

So, marketing to men would seem to be paying off.

But, why not start a campaign targeting women as well? It would seem, just by looking at the numbers, there is room to improve on that demographic. After all, women love too. How about some ideas that might boost your retail sales to females this year?  And, while it may be too late for a full blown radio and TV buy...you can focus on digital and point of purchase.

Call Them Out - You might try any number of cute and sexy ways to catch the eye of the ladies. "Ladies, DO IT, with your Valentine!", "Women Love Too", "Remind him how HOT you really are..." Have fun, be creative and use your digital outlets;

Gifts for Him - Try an in-store display with a valentine vibe but with stuff for...him. Sometimes it's difficult to know what to get that male valentine...make it easy;

Video - Get some female friends together and do a sixty-second bit about buying gifts for the guys...and then share, share, share;

Play to the Super Bowl - "Part of my Valentines Day gift was watching the big game with you. That's just the beginning...";

The point is if you call attention to the fact that women too can play the Valentines Day game you may just move the needle and who in retail doesn't want that?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Referral Marketing - Just Ask

This week Mike Colwell, a guest on the Business News Hour, and I had a conversation about Mike Colwell MPL 14 Dec 2016referral marketing. If you want to check out that podcast, here is a link. Referral marketing works really, really well and to get there you don't have to buy fancy software or a third party platform. Much, if not all, can be done on your own. But there are some critical steps to help you get there.

  • Know Your Best Customers - Small and large businesses know who their best customers are, or you should. The first step in referral marketing is to identify who these people are. Who has made your business their favorite? Who is already a brand warrior for you? You may have five or five hundred, it doesn't matter...just know who they are;
  • Ask Them - Once you've identified who your best customer is simply ask them why they love doing business with you. Is it service, selection, price, location??? What? Reach out with a phone call or in person the next time you see them and just ask.  You are already halfway there;
  • Share the Love - The next step is to ask them to share, what they have already told you, with their friends and family. And, if they really do love your business they will not feel put upon to do so. After all they have already told you they love doing business with you now all they have to do is share it.

Because we live in a sharing world (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram...) there are plenty of ways for your best customers to share why they love doing business with you. Imagine the impact of a customer doing a thirty second video on their phone telling the world why they love you. You can then post that to your website and share across several of your social media channels. Other ways to share the love:

  • Remind them to rate you on Google or Yelp or Facebook;
  • Ask them to do a selfie with your logo or your product then post it and tag your business;
  • Ask them to re-tweet a message or two each week;
  • Share the love on Instagram;
  • Have them write a recommendation on Facebook, LinkedIn or just have them send you the email and use part of that...with their permission.

Remember, people do business with people they know and trust...your best customers can be your best marketing asset if if you do just two things: Identify and Ask

Thanks for reading...

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