Monday, June 22, 2009

Merchant Mentality he didn’t even know what he was doing….

Written by Doron Levy

On Saturday’s, my daughter, the aspiring thespian, has a drama class at a local theater. She goes with her friends and it ends at 12, right around lunch time. We love this chain called Mr. Submarine so we decided to try a new location just across the street from the theater.

I like patronizing these small merchant franchises because chances are, you are being served by the owner. The person making your sub, putting on the toppings, getting your drink, ringing you up has a personal and financial interest in the store. Back to the story….

We were with another family so we basically took over half of the store. Everyone loves kids, right? Ordered our subs, ate our subs, all is good. I decide it’s time for cookies (they have really great fresh cookies). I ask the associate behind the cash for the price, 3 for $1.49, not too bad (I miss the 99 cent price point thought). I’m about to hand over my cash and the owner, Amir, walks over and says to the girl, ‘Just void it out and ask him how many kids there are’. All of a sudden, I’m handed 10 cookies and my money back. I’m in shock! Really I am.

The other father I was with didn’t know about the freebies and went over to the counter to order some for his kids and he was handed 6 more cookies at no charge. Not really what you would expect from a chain but without even knowing it, Amir embraced and exercised the ‘merchant mentality‘.

Don’t think I’m looking for a freebie wherever I go, but now my kids will not shut up about the ‘free cookies’ at Mr. Sub and I will have to return there for lunch for the duration of the class which ironically is another 8 weeks. My friend and his 4 kids will also have to return. Amir did exactly what he was supposed to do as a retailer, make us have to come back.

After all the kids were strapped in to everyone’s respective SUV/Minivan, I went back into the store to get Amir’s card and ask him about merchant mentality. He politely said he didn’t know what I was talking about so (without charging him) I explained ‘merchant mentality’ and how he unconsciously exercised it.

Imagine if the big guys developed an internal culture using the ‘merchant mentality?’

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Friday, June 19, 2009

Image is everything…yes, even in retail.

By Doron Levy

My retail spidy senses are always tingling and I love hearing stories, good or bad from friends and colleges about their retail experiences. My friend Brad changed his Facebook status to this: is frustrated that it takes 6 times longer to return defective goods to a retail outlet than to buy them in the first place. Naturally, I sent him a message asking him what was what. He speaks about his latest experience at Canadian Tire and a less than adequate light fixture they sold him. His reply and it has been censored for public consumption: …I literally waited in a line of 15 people (one rep at the counter) for 45 minutes to return it for a refund… Meanwhile - dozens of staff are wandering aimlessly about the store… No manager available…. Grrrr…. Why is retail in Canada so “third world?”

Well there you go. When I say image is everything, image really is everything. How many times have you stood in line at a bank with only 2 windows open and a bunch of people hanging around or sitting at desks behind the counter? Are you really thinking: ‘They must be busy doing something else essential to the survival of this bank‘? No you are not. You are thinking: ‘I don’t care what they are doing, they only thing they are doing is NOT helping me!‘.

I would say customer service is a priority in any industry that has customers. But in retail, it really is ALL about the customer. If you cannot effectively convey the message that customers are your number one priority, you will loose some of those customers. I was always trained to stop whatever I was doing and engage the customer no matter the task. Especially when retailers should have a 5 foot rule implemented.

I wonder if my friend Brad would experience something like that in other chains? I have returned merch to both Lowes and Home Depot and usually have never had issues. Long lines are common but you don’t see swathes of associates mulling around. In fact, the newer Home Depot location near us has a completely sealed off returns desk. You can’t see anything outside of the returns cluster (not that this is a good thing either, we are basically putting blinders on our customers and telling them to return their stuff and get out).

Getting back to Canadian Tire and Brad’s problem. This has got to be a leadership issue. Those associates that are just standing around (even if they are engaged in work) know that they can get away with it because management does it (or in this case is non-existent).

Leadership breeds ownership, especially in retail. Whenever I took over a location, I made it a habit to thoroughly clean the bathrooms (note to future clients: I don’t do that anymore, my charm is how I win you over). I can honestly say that I never had to clean the bathrooms ever again at any of my stores. In some cases, lower level associates would take over bathroom detail because ‘the boss expects the john to cleaned a certain way’.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What you see is what you get…the bricks and mortar part of your operation.

Written by Doron Levy,

I’m an Ops guy. Always have been and probably always will be. I succumbed about 5 years ago and started to embrace the internet and it’s usefulness in retail. I want wrap up my discussion on the Internet back in the store.

I actually did open up my recent ValPak envelope because we are looking to do some enhancements to the front entrance to our house. Where else is there to look for such things? Flipping through the little flyers (which do look good but are stale in comparison to a really effective website) I noticed a business just down the street from us that specializes in household demolition and porch design.

The website is prominently displayed on the front, so being the online guy that I am, I checked it out. Absolutely gorgeous site. Flash intro, colorful backgrounds, hi res pictures of their work, testimonials (which are also really important to have on your site) and a small ‘design your own porch’ interface that was very easy to use.

I will spare you the gory details but upon arrival at the store, I didn’t even think I was at the right place. The store had no sign on the front, the salesfloor was dark and dingy. The ‘customer service rep’ sitting (I should say slouching) at the desk seemed less interested in helping us and more interested in the Ho Ho he was scarfing down. Being the only customers in the store, we were provided ample (and when I say ample I mean infinity) time to browse.

After my experience, I showed that site to a web design colleague of mine and he mentioned that he would charge upwards of 10K plus plus plus for a site like that for a small business. What the heck? You are telling me that this business spent a huge chunk of cash to get a gorgeous site and put no money into the store? Doesn’t add up in my opinion (my spidy Ops senses are tingling).

The bottom line is that you if you are going to use the Internet to market your retail businesses, you better have a store that reflects what you have on the net. In fact, I would start with the store first, then work outwards. Turns out Ho Ho boy was the owner and has an awful reputation in the neighborhood. What you see is what you get.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Track Shoes.

Written by Bob Phibbs,

She sat in her chair eating the ice cream cone while telling me how her doctor is making her take her insulin before dinner, not after. She took another lick. She had swelled up over the years from a lack of activity, an increase in sitting watching TV and a general boredom that food could help fill.

As I looked at my relative it hit me how many business owners tend to do something similar; telling a sales rep how dead it is in their store while customer mill about unattended. Or when you ask them how their average ticket is doing they look back at you like you just passed gas. Or when there is less money for payroll they blame the economy while leaving to pick up their daughter at 2pm – leaving the store with one employee for the rest of the day.

So many speakers and consultants use sports analogies for a reason. Winning. Competition. Cultivating a team. One reason I like it is there are markers to your success. You know if you hit the 100 yard line and no one is next to you, you’re in the lead. Likewise if you are watching everyone pass you and are dead last, you have a visible marker of your place in the race.

When we don’t look at tracking our progress anything is bound to happen with no markers to say when we are in trouble or what we need to do to get back in the game.

How to correct it? Begin with your financials – increasing marketing without increasing sales training is assuming there is nothing you can do to drive sales in your store, it will be through new customers. The danger is that you believe that and continue to lick the ice cream cone by buying more product and possibly reducing staff.

You want to compete? You want to get some traction? Track your progress both good and bad. Then you can clearly see how far you need to go to win the race, instead of being sidelined.

Learn more about how to compete with You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting.

Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor, a small business expert, speaker, blogger, trainer and author of the book, You Can Compete. Get more free tips at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Slow Traffic? 3 Small Things Small Retailers Can Do

Written by Doron Levy

Ya ya, the economy is in the toilet and swine flu will destroy us all but we still need to buy milk and Ipod accessories and hairbrushes and party supplies. I’ve looked at a lot of ways that smaller guys are marketing themselves these days and I’ve whittled them down to 3 effective ways to build up your presence if you are a small shop operation:

Number 3:
You would be surprised at how much traffic community bulletin boards get at the local grocery store. I was at my local No Frills a few days ago and there was a crowd of people hanging around looking at all the ads and posters on the board. A daycare that we use advertise heavily on these boards and when speaking to the director, she stated that she gets at least 10 referrals a week from these posters. If someone can sell their 1982 Corolla, why can’t you sell your products? You can probably post up a flyer on there for free and the costs for maintaining a more permanent ad are minimal. Try to barter with the store manager.

Number 2:
The sandwich board. Oh how I love these. Obviously some merchants are going to read this and say, there is no way the landlord or mall manager is going to let me put a board out in front. You would be surprised. A very upscale mall here in Toronto is now allowing merchants to put small signs outside their locations in an effort to capitalize on foot traffic. Effective signs have big block letters with some sort of price on them. Having a price is important, it’s what draws them in.

And number 1:
Community presence. I have dwelled on this in the past but I cannot stress how important it is to get out there and build relationships with local kingpins. I will start with the cons: NONE. Okay, here ar the pros: it’s free marketing, it shows you care about the community, it shows that you are sensitive to local cultures, it will tell you what kind of products to carry, you will build a reputation for yourself in the community, it’s free marketing, it’s free WOM (there is that acronym again!) marketing, and the list goes on and on.

As you read this blog, these are things you can do right now. And I mean right now. Close this browser and hustle….

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Friday, May 29, 2009

Collision Course To Reality

Written by Bob Phibbs

Retail sales are up. Stocks are up. So why are so many independents down? They aren’t making money.

Truth is, many never had but it took the economy to pop like a balloon to bring them back to earth.

Is it that they are enamored with being “the boss?”

Their wife has an endowment she is supported by, so their business hasn’t really had to make a profit.

They may have a husband who has another job and this has been a hobby.

They like to buy pretty things regardless of whether they sell.

Maybe they own the building so rent is cheap.

But the reality is you have to pay attention to your business fundamentals before it is too late.

You’re either taking out a profit or you’re putting in money. And I’ll bet many of you would be surprised to discover you’re subsidizing your customers because you don’t price correctly, are over-bought or have no presence on the web.

I heard a speaker last week say you could double sales by just asking more people to buy. If you believe that or you think saying, “I refuse to participate in the recession” will result in more sales, I think you’re delusional.

Much like after 9/11, we are in a different environment than many of us have ever faced. We can’t hide from the truth - business is work.

A marriage is work. Raising kids is work. We see what happens when people don’t take care of those things.

When you’re in denial about your business, the financial results can be devastating. When it closes, everyone sees what the owners should have seen.

If you’re happy being in denial and flying blind in the plane, you are on a collision course with reality.

Best-selling author and speaker Bob Phibbs has helped thousands of businesses compete by using his sales approach and not discounting. His Book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting is the backbone of scores of businesses’ training programs because it teaches his methods for making a business successful. Download more free tips at his website. Follow him on Twitter at

Small Retailers Have an Advantage Over Big Boxes During Difficult Economic Times

Written by Doron Levy

I may seem like an outcast to say that, but I do believe that small retailers have an advantage over big boxes during difficult economic times. It boils down to control. Smaller merchants have more of it than their larger competitors.

Yes, smaller guys can control overhead better and can control shrink better and can control image better but what I want to focus on is the people aspect of the business. Providing sterling service in this environment is tough for anyone. Unfortunately for the box, they have a much more tougher time keeping everyone motivated and producing. Cut hours, reduced personnel and reduced customer traffic weigh heavily on the staff and if the manager and director doesn't have a strong presence in the store, it will only compound the issue.

Now smaller guys, and you know who you are, can control this much better than any of the big guys. Levels of communication are reduced and most deployment occurs face to face with your people and that's what's missing from retail nowadays. We have a basic need for human interaction and we can keep our people producing by embracing that. Memos, notes and checklists are fine, but when was the last time you got out on the floor to talk to your people? Find out what's wrong and what's right from the source.

I needed to pickup some Summer supplies for my daughter so I figured the local dollar store would be my best bet. I never go to these places expecting service. I'm in self serve mode when I'm dollar shopping. The experience was probably my best customer service interaction this year. I was greeted, asked if I needed help, I was shown where my items where and to top it all off, the associate got me a basket. I honestly wanted to keep shopping just for the heck of it!

Turns out they just had a meeting about customer service with the owner earlier that day. Music to my ears. He knows that he is working with low margin products so he has to build a bigger basket. That owner should teach Retailing 101.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Your Website Should Accomplish

The Following is an exert from Marc Gordon’s book The Edge Factor

Your Web Site
There are over 120,000,000 unique web sites. Each one owned by someone who feels they have something of value to offer.

Can you believe there was a time when many business owners could not understand the value of having a web site? That’s because they did not understand how to use it; therefore they could not understand how others would use it.

In some ways, not much has changed. While most would agree that every business needs a web site, there is still a lot of confusion about how to effectively use it as a marketing tool.

Clients often ask me if they really need a web site to succeed. I believe that it depends on the type of business they’re operating and the kind of marketing they want to do. The fact is, for most small businesses, a web site is not the deciding factor in whether or not they succeed. For example, word of mouth is far more influential that even the best designed site. With that, I would tell anyone that it is better to have no site than a poor one.

What your web site should accomplish
A web site is the most unique marketing tool ever created. While it has the ability to present a dynamic and ever changing message, people (or visitors) must actively seek out your site to receive that message. Unlike posters or billboards that are in open view of anyone in the area, web sites are “buried” amongst the millions of other sites all vying for attention.

Getting people to visit your company’s web site can be a job in itself. Being listed on search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo is a start. There have been dozens of books written on generating web site traffic and the art of search engine optimization (SEO). I myself have written an article about SEO for a popular computer magazine. You can download this article titled Appeasing the Search Engine Gods for free from my own site at

From my experience having worked with clients from many different industries, I would have to say that SEO is more important if you are a web based business or a business that uses the web as your primary tool for generating new business.

But for most small businesses where products and services are delivered personally, many other marketing tools can be just as, or even more effective, than a web site at generating new business. For these kinds of businesses, a web site should be viewed as one of many tools in your marketing toolbox, rather than as the most important one.

A well thought out web site can help you inform, promote, and communicate with your market place. Current clients can use your site as a way of learning about new products and services, or finding out about special offers and promotions. Prospective clients can learn more about the advantages of buying from you over your competitors, what products and services you offer, and how to contact you.

Beyond the obvious information about you, your business, your products, and how to contact you, one very key component is appearance. Just as you would not want to shop in a messy store or eat in a dirty restaurant, a cluttered, confusing and visually unappealing web site can do more harm than good. For many visitors, your web site could be their first point of contact with you. What do you want them to see?

Ask yourself these questions to see if your web site is doing all it can in helping your business succeed:
  • is the information contained within your site the kind visitors re looking for?
  • what is the purpose of your site? (to sell, to educate, or to promote)
  • are the messages contained in your site in sync with the rest of your business?
Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and the owner of Fourword Marketing, a branding and marketing firm located in Thornhill, Ontario. Fourword specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jumping On The Bandwagon

Written by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

Circus workers were skilled at attracting the public with the razzmatazz of a parade through town, complete with highly decorated bandwagons. In the late 19th century, politicians picked up on this form of attracting a crowd and began using bandwagons when campaigning for office.

Now it means a way of joining something, often in an opportunist way, when that movement is seen to have become successful.

McDonald’s has launched a massive ad campaign McDonald’s (did you hear they made a deal with HULU to block all advertising for eight hours so they could exclusively run a McCafe promotion?) Very broad and deep reach. At only $1.79, I know they are selling a lot of iced coffee.

What’s interesting has been a lot in the specialty coffee community taking the cynical side and mocking them. Like this from comments appearing after a related story in the Los Angeles Times, “Starbucks stumbled in part when they drifted far enough away from serving only excellent coffee that they alienated (with seemingly interminable waits whilst the 12 year old in front of you gets her decaf lo-fat frappe chai chino vente) the educated.”

Some independents use a cold-brew toddy and some brew fresh espresso shots over ice. It will be important for independent coffee houses to train their crews how to differentiate what they offer.

I’ve suggested owners hold taste tests to compare Starbucks and McCafe so their crew could speak about it intelligently. Again, someone who likes McCafe’s coffee should not be seen as a threat if they came to YOUR shop to try yours – you need to win them over not piss them off.

For coffeehouses, I say fish while the fish are biting so get banners, window clings and POP showing their iced coffee drinks.

On the opposite side of jumping on a bandwagon, retailers over the past several years have been on only one bandwagon – discount. At some point you have to look at whether there is any differentiating factor or opportunity left.

For retailers, what opportunities can you can get on the bandwagon for in your market?

Best-selling author and speaker Bob Phibbs has helped thousands of businesses compete by using his sales approach and not discounting. His Book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting is the backbone of scores of businesses’ training programs because it teaches his methods for making a business successful. Read his blog updated throughout the week at Download more free tips at his website or follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quality Hiring for Customer Service

Written by Doron Levy

Hiring for customer service can be a daunting task for any business. How do you go about finding the right candidate? What should you look for in a potential customer service representative? Is it enough to have a warm body at the register or answering the phones? Customer service is the one aspect of your business that can be controlled and will directly influence your bottom line through increased and repeat sales.

Here are some pointers on finding qualified candidates that will add your bottom line. There are things to look for before the interview process begins. Perhaps during a quick chat when someone drops off a resume or during the telephone call to schedule the interview. Note the general attitude of the candidate. Are they friendly, open minded and outgoing? Assess their outlook and opinions on what is good customer service. Does the candidate show enthusiasm in wanting to help solve customers’ problems? How is their body language and projection? A lot can be said about an individual’s extroverted-ness and self-esteem by how they carry themselves. Each are good indicators of how well they will engage customers and work with them. A final note: an individual’s grooming habits are important as this shows their level of self esteem as well as their attention to detail.

The first impressions are good and we have our candidate at the interview. This is the time to really get inside the candidate’s head by asking specific and open ended questions. It is effective is to ask some ramp up questions to get the individual thinking about customer service. A good opening question would be, “What is your opinion on customer service?” and a good follow up would be, “What do you feel is excellent customer service?” Asking the candidate about past negative and positive interactions that they have had opens the door to asking how they would solve the negative interaction. Avoid one word answer questions, such as yes or no, completely. Individuals that can provide longer and more explicit answers, demonstrate that they have used some thought process when thinking about the question.

During the interview, look at the individual’s posture and self esteem. Are they confident about themselves and their answer? Can they project their voice and command the attention of your customer? This will also indicate extroverted-ness and a genuine willingness to engage the customer voluntarily. A good wrap up to any interview is an interactive mini role play between you and the candidate. Create the role play based on your product or service and use a demanding situation that will force the candidate the think about what they need to do to provide excellent customer service. When hiring for customer service, it is important to remember that whoever you give the job to will be representing your business to your customer.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Monday, May 18, 2009

If money is the currency of good and services, then knowledge is the currency of the relationships.

The following is an expert from Marc Gordon’s book The Edge Factor:

There are typically two effective ways of sharing information in a way that is presentable and easy to read: print and electronic.

Print is pretty straight forward. A single or double page newsletter letter is considered acceptable. The amount of content you include will depend on the format and size of the letter. What wins out is quality, not quantity. If you don’t have enough information to fill a double page newsletter (4 pages in total), then use a smaller format. Often one really useful tip or idea that people can use is all you need. Remember to always include your contact information, your logo, and keep the design and look of the piece common from one issue to another to create a strong identity.

Electronic newsletters can be delivered one of two ways: either entirely contained within an email, or in a web page that people would access through a link contained within an email.
While I personally prefer everything contained within a single email that can quickly be scanned through, having readers click on a link to get to your site gives you greater opportunity to introduce additional information through downloads and promotions. Emails will be covered in greater detail in chapter 6. For now we’ll just discuss the content of an effective e-newsletter.

Because emails can be sent out for free as often as you want, there is no need to cram them full of information. While a printed newsletter may contain as many as 5 articles, an e-newsletter can contain just one. And as with print, it’s important to keep things clear, easy to read and to the point. This is especially true when all the information is contained within the email.

If you have a lot of material to cover, I recommend writing one or two sentences briefly describing each topic followed by a link to your site where the complete articles can be read. This will allow the reader to have access to the article that is of greatest interest with just one click. If you go this route, make sure that each article is on it’s own page. Do not make your reader have to scroll through pages of text to get to the article. Also, be sure to include links to your main site as well as the other articles. This makes is easy for the visitor to find more information and spend more time on your site.

E-newsletters do not need to be fancy. In fact the simpler the better. People receive a lot of email and if they know yours will be informative and quick to read, they will be more likely to open it. The content is more important than the appearance. However to avoid having your email tossed into the spam folder, make sure your subject line is attention getting and accurate.

People will see your subject line before they actually see the contents of your email. If the subject line makes it look like you’re selling something, it probably won’t get opened. For example, if you are a carpet cleaning company sending out an e-newsletter showing how to remove stains, you would get a better open rate with a subject line that reads “Three ways to get crayon out of carpet” instead of “Remove stains quick and easy”. The first one sounds informative and tells the reader exactly what they will get out of it. The second one sounds like a sales pitch.

Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and the owner of Fourword Marketing, a branding and marketing firm located in Thornhill, Ontario. Fourword specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) and Retail

Written by Doron Levy

The best marketing tool for any retailer is Word of Mouth referrals. That’s when a customer raves about your brand or service and their friends or family. This can be a double edge sword for merchants. Customers are more likely to relay bad experiences to more people then they are good ones. It makes sense to build an internal culture that embraces and capitalizes on WOM.

I always love those signs at smaller stores that say ‘The best advertising is a referral from a satisfied customer’. Those signs are so true and having them in your store will get customers thinking about that. I would add something like ‘If you had a bad experience with us, please do not leave the store until you tell someone and we fix it’. A lot wordy but you get the idea. This concept conveys the message that you are serious about customer service.

Talk to your staff about WOM and how important it is for success in retail. Asking open ended question to customers can reveal a whole cornucopia of information that can be used in WOM. Statements like, ‘Tell your friends about us’ or ‘what types of products or services would you like to see in the store’ are great closing statements that prioritize WOM. Talking about WOM with your team will also help build a culture of service. Learning about body language and physical cues can help you and your staff determine if there is a problem before it leaves the store.

Statistically speaking, customers are more apt to relay negative information about an experience. It’s up to the merchant to stop the negative flow of information. Building a culture of service will ensure that you and your team are sensitive to customer feelings. WOM is the strongest way to drive sales in a slumping economy. Use your team and your store to convey positive WOM messages. Just remember to back it up with service and value when those referrals come walking in.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Monday, May 11, 2009

"My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can. That's almost $7.00 in dog money." -Joe Weinstein

The following is an expert from Marc Gordon’s book The Edge Factor:

The job of any coupon is to either get someone to purchase something they would not otherwise or to encourage them to buy more than they normally would. This can be done by offering a discount on a single product, a discount on multiple products purchased together, or a free product either alone or when purchased with others.

When done properly, a coupon campaign can bring in new business faster than almost any other type of campaign. Here are some of the reasons I am such a fan of coupons:

Control: You have the ability to choose what the coupon is for, when it can be used, how it can be used, and who gets to use it. No other marketing tool give you this much control.

Event specific: Coupons can be timed to coincide with holidays, sporting events, store openings or virtually anything that people can relate to. This allows you to create a “hook” that gets people’s attention.

Distribution: Coupons can be mailed, delivered door to door, piggy backed with an outside marketing program or publication, given out in person, given out at events, emailed, or inserted in a newspaper or magazine. With so many options, it’s easy to find the right method of distribution to match your budget while reaching your target market.

A compound marketing tool: Instead of giving out coupons directly to new or potential clients, they can be used as an incentive for people to visit your web site. Visitors would be able to download a coupon and
learn about your company or products at the same time. Best of all, this reduces your costs by eliminating printing and distribution costs.

Mass appeal: Everyone like to save money. And the idea of saving money on something they already need (like food for example) will often be enough of an incentive to get them to try something new.

Incentive or reward tool: For many companies, coupons are given out to select clients based on their spending habits. A coupon can be given to a client to encourage them to purchase more than they might otherwise. This incentive is common among industrial or wholesale businesses. For retail, coupons can be used as a way of saying thank you to clients that have purchased a specific product or have spent a specific amount over a certain period of time.

Customer Service: You will eventually be faced with a dissatisfied client at some time in your professional life. And while circumstances may not allow for immediate compensation, a coupon or voucher will show that you are serious about keeping them as clients.

Every industry is different and as such, so will the coupons. A coupon for an upgraded car wash will not have the same monitory value as a coupon for a free session at a tanning salon. However the intrinsic value may be higher. Someone who drives a nice car but doesn’t like to tan might find the car wash coupon more useful than the free session.

Where most coupon programs fail is in the perceived value they offer. While 50 cents off a box of cereal might seem attractive, 50 cents off a steak dinner is virtually an insult. What’s important is that any new coupon program be tailored to meet the needs of the business while appealing to the wants of the market.

Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and the owner of Fourword Marketing, a branding and marketing firm located in Thornhill, Ontario. Fourword specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Challenge to Motivate Employees

By the motivational speaker, Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

I was blindsided last month by an innocent question during a manager training session, “How can we motivate our employees?” I off-handedly answered, “The truth is no one can motivate another. You can hold a carrot, but it will only work if the person wants a carrot. Motivation comes from within to want to do a good job.” I then went on with the rest of the session.

I was there to teach how to identify, interview, hire and manage the best. When I asked one guy if he had someone he should get rid of, he answered, “Yes. But she’s a great employee when I’m there.” That’s the crux of motivation.

A good employee has to be motivated from within to do the right thing when you are not there watching everything. A great employee finds things to do, exceeds expectations and makes the manager look good.

Too often we find people who are not self-directed, not friendly and not ready to work in retail but hire them anyway. Then we scratch our heads trying to come up with bonuses, contests and rewards to get them do to the requirements of the job.

That’s wrong.

You shouldn’t have to find ways to get them to do the basics. The rewards come for exceeding expectations – adding-on to every sale and driving average check – that gets a bonus. Increasing average number of items on a sale – that gets a bonus. In that sense you can motivate/reward them for exceeding the job; that’s why I like commission sales.

But doing a cleaning checklist? No way.

Some have said managing the younger generation requires different skills. The thinking is they will take things personally if you approach them the same way as the baby boomers. That we need to “be careful to empower them, help them understand why, let them ‘come to it.’”

I wrote about this in a post about the damage of a "Trophy Day" mentality at my blog.

Maybe that works in therapy but not sound retail management. A manager has to make the tough calls, the most basic of which is hiring a good crew and saying if necessarily, “You’re not cutting it. You’re fired.” Not waiting for the person to “be motivated to change” by you but motivating their butt to do the job for which they were hired.

If we can’t get managers to do this for themselves then we need to train them as well. But if it is fundamental to who they are to constantly need reassurance to perform, then it is up to us to show them the door, not a shoulder to cry on.

Can you motivate someone? Yes. “My way or the highway,” seems to work well.

Best-selling author and speaker Bob Phibbs has helped thousands of businesses compete by using his sales approach and not discounting. His book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting is the backbone of scores of businesses’ training programs because it teaches his methods for making a business successful. Download more free tips at his website. Follow him on Twitter at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Developing A Unique Selling Proposition

The following is a book excerpt from “The Edge Factor” by Marc Gordon of Fourword Marketing

Regretfully for many companies, the best reason to do business with them is often a reason only they know.

If you were to stand in line alongside all of your competitors, would you be more noticeable from the others? If you were asked by someone why they should give you their business instead of to someone else, what would you say?

It’s surprising how many business owners would have difficulty answering that question. In fact in many industries it seems businesses work hard to look just like each other. And this makes it almost impossible for most business owners to explain why they should get your business. After all, if they look and act just like every other business, then there’s no reason to pick one over the other.

For a business to define itself as something that is above and beyond the others, it must develop a unique selling proposition (USP). A USP is a trait that makes a business more appealing to a potential client relative to other businesses. It is a strength that other businesses don’t have (or don’t clearly say they have) and is a motivating factor for new clients when deciding where to buy.

An attractive USP can cover almost any facet of the business that impacts on its relationship with its clients. These are some common USPs and how a business might use them:
Price: Your business offers the lowest prices in town
Quality: You sell the highest quality line of products in your industry
Selection: You carry the widest range of products in the area
Service: Your business offers around the clock service when others only operate during regular business hours
Guarantee: You offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee
Location: Your business is located in an area that offers free parking and easy access by public transportation
Knowledge: You and your staff are extremely knowledgeable and can better assist a client with their buying decisions
Exclusivity: A certain brand of product is only available from you
Customization: You create a unique product specific to each client
Free shipping: You will ship orders at no charge

One or more of these traits may apply to your business. It’s also possible that none may apply to you. One the surface it may appear to you that you are no better or worse than any of your competitors. That you have no USP. But without knowing anything about your business, I’m willing to bet on at least one of three things: First, that you do in fact have a USP that perhaps you don’t give yourself credit for. After all, you may have been offering something special for so long that to you it has become routine and lost is distinctiveness. But to your clients, it is something they place a lot of importance on when making a buying decision.

Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and the owner of Fourword Marketing, a branding and marketing firm located in Thornhill, Ontario. Fourword specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns. Marc can be reached at (416) 238-7811 or visit

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Layout Optimization

By Doron Levy, President, Captus Business Consulting

We are probably in the most challenging time for retailing. Customers discretionary spending has come to a stand still and what little money or credit they have left is going to retailers that provide necessities such as groceries and pharmacies. This climate could provide lucrative opportunities for chains that sell daily needs merchandise.

So we’ve managed to get some customers into the door. As retailers, it is our job to get customers to spend in our stores. We do that by merchandising. Big, bright aisles filled with product, colorfully and logically displayed with price signs. I am here to tell you that is NOT enough. We are going to have to kick it up several notches to get some of that precious margin we are all after.

Every retailer, big or small, needs an organic and flexible layout optimization program. Things are always changing for us in this industry and we must be adaptable. Layouts and merchandising plans must be changed to suit the current environment. Plans-o-grams must be flexible enough to accommodate new and unique products that should be offered to your core customers. High margin and high velocity stock should have extra displays throughout the sales floor. Hot promo price items must be shielded with high margin associative merchandise. A great example: If Scope or Colgate toothpaste is on sale that week, place your own house brand toothbrushes or floss in bins within the display.

That’s how you keep the margin gods happy in this current economic environment.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

Monday, April 27, 2009