Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for January 2009

Buy this now!

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circuit_city_logoAs any of my past teachers will tell you, when I get bored, I get into trouble. In order to keep out of trouble and to keep my mind sharp, there have been times in the past when in addition to my career, I take a part time job in an area completely different from what I do full time. In the past, I have served as a paid tax preparer, deli worker, photomat technician, I’m still licensed by the state to sell life insurance, and I am now coming to the end of my time as a sales associate at the soon to be defunct electronic retailer, Circuit City.

From my relatively brief time at Circuit City (started Oct and my last day will be in Feb), I have an excellent vantage point from which to see some of the failings of that company. First, a little background.

The store that I as employed at was not a traditional Circuit City. Instead, it was modeled as an “Experience Store” type offering. By that, it differed from the other Circuit City stores in the following ways:

– We had a greeter at the front door. At WalMart, this person’s role is to make someone feel welcome when walking into the store. At The City, the greeter asked if they could direct a visitor to a section of the store. That allows the greeter to tell everyone via mic/earpiece where a customer is going and that they need to be pounced on within 30 seconds (store policy).

– Someone would take it upon himself or herself to look to see how our store is doing in relationship to our daily goal and to push us toward selling harder, regardless of how we’re performing that day.

– Hidden behind the idea of teaching people about the technologies we offer, every part of the sales process is geared toward two basic concepts; what will it take to get you to walk out with something today and how can I get you to purchase an extended warrantee with that?

At this point, I feel obligated to mention that this post is not designed to be a gripe against The City. Far from it. However, as it is a large corporate failure happening today, and because of my perspective, my aim is to use it as a case study and a blueprint of what not to do if you hope to enjoy sales success long term.

Starting with the first encounter with a customer walking into the store, the idea that every single guest needs to be contacted at least once within the first 30 seconds generates a very fundamental negative scenario; due to a lack of communication and forced zeal, customers aren’t so much helped as they are hounded. This has left a very poor taste in the mouth of many customers and generated the appearance of desperation on behalf of the store.

When an eager employee takes it upon themselves to look up and announce daily store performance, that can be helpful. When that information is always couched with “…but we can do better,” it’s demotivating. Nothing the staff can do is good enough. Therefore, why try? Especially when most of the floor team within this type of company is younger, motivation is crucial to success.

I have been on the customer side of “What will it take to get you to buy today.” It’s uncomfortable. It creates, by nature, resistance. A wise customer should always feel like a good deal today will still be a good deal tomorrow. The recipe for success for The City would have included the philosophies of you’ll buy from us because we have the best selection, the best prices, the best policies, and we’ll spend time working on find the right item for you. Because we will only deal with you with respect and honesty, you will have the utmost confidence that we have your best interests in mind and if you don’t buy today, you will tomorrow. We buy items we need from manufacturers we know and people/companies we trust. The “buy now” concept is actually effective short term. Long-term success doesn’t rely on having someone buying an item today. It’s directly dependant on someone buying today AND tomorrow. Bully or pressure someone into buying now, they don’t come back. And, of course, they generate a whole negative word-of-mouth campaign against you.

The last item I mentioned, extended warrantees, are almost never a good idea. Thankfully, most people see through the smoke and mirrors and wisely decline the add-on. I don’t think additional discussion on the topic is warranted.

If you’re a retailer or other business owner within a brick and mortar storefront, have you taken the time to reexamine your company’s sales philosophies from the customer perspective? If you were a customer, would you feel welcome? Would you come back? Would you tell others to go there? Honest answers to those questions are key to generation of more sales.

Written by Jeff York

January 26, 2009 at 1:58 am

Let me be honest with you!

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All too often, people find themselves in a situation where their bosses or clients ask an opinion. However, from past experience that person doesn’t feel that they are in an environment where their honest opinion is welcome. Rather than being honest, it’s just easier to tell that person what they want to hear. A potentially contentious conversation is avoided in the short term, but nothing of value is gained. Or worse, the truth is kept hidden when having an open and frank conversation would have yielded results.

Whenever I’m put into a management role, I spend a great deal of effort and energy toward breaking down the natural barrier that exists between employee and employer. I reach out to my staff to make sure that they understand that I want the truth and honesty every time, no matter what the circumstances. If I’m working on a project and I ask an opinion about my output, I want to know if it’s pure crap. If someone disagrees with a decision I’ve made, I want to talk about it. If it’s something that’s goinng to hurt my feelings, I don’t care. As long as we’re sitting down and having a 2 directional exchange of honesty with an environment of respect, then I need to hear it. Bring it on.

If you’re a manager, ask yourself “Do I do everything I can to get honest input.” By simply being a manager and asking a question, you will get input. However, unless you have done substantial work beforehand to create an environment that’s condusive to honesty, you’re not going to get it. And if you don’t get it, you not getting what you need.

Written by Jeff York

January 18, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Read more blogs

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It’s rather odd to be reading  a blog that suggests that you would be wise to read more blogs, but there you have it. I believe this is a grand idea for a New Year’s Resolution (in case you were looking for one).

Why, you may ask. Simply put, it’s a great way to have you ear to the ground for what’s new in your area of interest. Wondering what’s coming out in the area of electronics? Many manufactures are more than happy to serve you up with a healthy dose of new. Politics? Even the president-elect has his own blog running.

While I strongly advocate reading trade journals, attending conferences and seminars, and doing anything else you can to remain current in your field, when you have only a short period of down time, a great way to get a quick fix of knowledge is a blog-reading. Little capsules of knowledge and information that can be swallowed in a few minutes are scattered all over the Internet for you to find.

Make yourself a promise to get ahead in your field. And keep in mind blogs.

Written by Jeff York

January 11, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Tell me your name

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df07_12_18_javaOnce upon a time, there lived a coffee brand. The ad agency for the coffee brand created a tagline for that brand that integrated the name of the product into the message.

Fill it to the rim with __________.

Unless you’re pretty young, you know exactly what the product is. Here’s a few more.

___________, take me away.

Please don’t squeeze the ___________.

Seemingly since the 80’s, there’s been a movement toward non-identifying taglines:

Just do it…It’s the real thing…Think different. Three exceptionally strong brands without indentification. Which is better? I don’t know if there is one right answer, but I’d love to hear your feedback on that.

As the (former) Creative Services Director for a FOX affiliate, I created the station’s tagline: Your FOX Station. I really didn’t care if people knew FOX 44. All I needed to achieve was people to know that they were watching the (only) FOX affiliate in the market and remember it long enough to write it in their ratings diary. When I did research before launching that tagline, I was shocked to see how many FOX affiliates were employing the same strategy. None.

In creating a tagline for your company, I suggest bucking the trend. Integrate your name or trigger into the brand. That way your messaging refinforces your brand.

What are you doing now for your tagline? What research did you conduct before launching the message? Do you have any lessons that you learned that you can share with us?

Written by Jeff York

January 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm