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.

 


Area Diesel Service and ISO Certification

OK, we have to admit, we're not really up on what ISO Certification means for the company that goes through the effort or, more Von Linda Leefers Trade Show importantly, what it means for consumers. That gets fixed today.  Recently the family owned company Area Diesel Service was awarded an ISO 9001:2015 Certification. What does that mean for the company and its clients? How does it impact their brand and their marketing?  You can bet we asked. Here Von Leefers and his wife Linda explain what this is, the impact on their business and, more importantly, what it means to the people who, internationally, are buying from them. 

This from our daily business news program and thanks for listening!

The award winning Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie is the only weekday business podcast in the Midwest. The national, regional and local business news along with long-form business interviews can be heard Monday - Friday. You can subscribe on Google PlayPlayerFMPodbeaniTunesSpotifyStitcher 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.


The Apostles with Peter Children

Over the years we've met and done business with many entrepreneurs to established businesses. One that stands out is a guy we've known Peter Children May 2017 for well over a decade. Peter Children is in his mid 80's and works his business, Universal Products, each day.  And, what is that?  Peter has been, for generations, providing other companies with beautiful artwork and promotional items. Now, we're not talking about ice scrapers, although I bet he's done that in the past, but real works of collectable art.  One that stands out is this coin collection that features the Twelve Apostles. Check this brief video....

Told you.  

Peter is somebody that we visit with several times a week and he not only has The Apostles coin set but he also has beautiful Swarovski Jewelry that so many companies, that are attempting to incentivise their customers, give away with a purchase. But, that is for another post.

If you are at all interested in learning more about this great entrepreneur and what he might be able to do for you and your business though some beautiful incentives you can reach Peter, by phone, at 641-423-0184. Nope, he doesn't have a website (something we've begged him to do) but he will call you back.  Thank you Peter for being such an inspiration for so many of us.


Random Marketing/Advertising Thoughts

Every so often stuff happens that business people need to better understand when it comes to marketing and advertising. Here are just two items that should get you to think about your approach to consumers. Pepsi bottles

Pepsi Wins

Even in light of downward pressure on Wall Street Pepsi this week posted some impressive gains as the company posted third-quarter gains that beat expectations. Analysts had expected revenue of $16.93 billion however Pepsi turned in revenue of $17.19 billion. What does the company say contributed to the unexpected increase in revenue? Advertising. Pepsi CFO Hugh Johnson said, “The increased advertising that we have is causing consumers to shop us more aggressively, and our customers are rewarding us with that [grocery] space because they know that we can help them grow."

Yeah....advertising.

Podcasting

Podcast MicRemember when people said social media was a fad? Sure you do. I remember traveling around the country giving presentations about the power of social media and many times attendees came up to me and told me, in no uncertain terms, "Social Media is going to go away. It's a fad and we'll get over it."  And, to be honest there are still some folks out there who believe that...even though social media platforms continue to grow.

Now it is podcasting that some say is a fad. However, consider this piece of news: "The Interactive Advertising Bureau/PwC forecast predicts $678.7 million will be spent by advertisers on podcasts this year. And revenue will top $1 billion in the next two years." And that, my friends, comes to us from the publication Inside Radio.  So if radio is paying attention to podcasting...shouldn't your business?

Marketing and Advertising thoughts...it's what we do...every day.  And, if you want to check out our Insight on Business the News Hour podcast you can find us on your favorite podcast platforms:  Google PlayPlayerFMPodbeaniTunesSpotifyStitcher or TuneIn Radio. And you can catch The Business News Hour Week in Review each Sunday at 2pm on News/Talk 1540 KXEL.

Thanks for reading...now go sell something!

 


The Wrong Messenger?

In my presentation "Five in 24" there is a section about the three reasons people are not buying what you are selling. Yes, there are only three.

One of those reasons is that you are using the wrong messenger to communicate with your customer. It may be that your core customer is Megaphone Vintage not in that communication channel or it might be that the channel is antiquated yet still around soaking money from the unsuspecting advertiser.

We see both of those issues all the time. A trendy new restaurant with a focus on young professionals advertising in a regional newspaper or a high-end jewelry store advertising on a cable channel where the viewers simply are not in their demographic.

So, how do you fix it. Better yet, how do you stop the outflow of marketing dollars that's not returning on your investment?

Well, you could ask a professional...somebody that is a trusted source of information. But, you can also do it yourself. Here are some ideas to get you pointed in the right direction:

  • Know Your Customer - Seems pretty simple but not every human out there is your target customer, unless you are selling a commodity. Then you've got other issues. So learn as much as you can about your current customer. What they like, don't like. What they are buying or not buying. This takes some time and some interaction but it can be done;
  • Understand Trends - The newest, hottest social media channel may not fit your current or future core customer. I've seen people spend loads of time and money chasing a trend only to, finally, learn it didn't work;
  • Watch & Read - What are other successful businesses doing that are in your space? What do your association magazines and communications say about how to best reach core customers?  Spend some time thinking, really thinking and learning more about how to market successfully;
  • Trust but Verify - Every media sales person who comes through your door has "the answer". But, remember, what works for one may not work for you. I once had a broadcast outlet tell me their audience was made up of thousands of people but when we went digging learned it was more like several hundred in our client's prime demographic.

Let me offer one other piece of advice, and this came from a conversation just this week. If you are a small business seeking to do business with another small business wouldn't it make sense to market in something that is directed toward small business owners?

Let's say you have an accounting firm or a office cleaning firm or a business law firm and your prime customer group is made up of other small businesses. What the heck are you doing in an advertising channel that is marketing to the masses? Doesn't make an ounce of sense.

It doesn't but, man, that sales person had a good story.

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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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!

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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!

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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?

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