Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

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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

Marketing in a difficult economy

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As a business owner, current economic times provide you with endless challenges and possibly sleepless nights. When you’re worried about dwindling sales and if your bank is going to pull your credit line, it’s hard to think about growth. Ever wonder what the smart business owners are thinking about during these turbulant times?

How do I grow market share?

There it is. The smart businesses around us are thinking about turning these challenges into an opportunity. They are getting the message out there about their goods and services. They are developing top-of-mind awareness in the public at a time when their competitors are pulling marketing dollars off the table. Why? Exactly for that reason. The best time to build market share is when there’s no opposition.

In the past, I’ve written about cutting through the clutter and getting your message heard. Times like these make that task much easier. Fewer messages mean it’s easier to remember yours. Put your message out there. Repeat it over and over. If you do that, what do you think will happen?

In a recovery situation, you will be miles ahead of your competition. You will have built tremendous value in your brand and increased your opportunity to gain market share.

I know it’s hard to think along these lines when it seems like the sky is falling and money is tightest. But this truly is an opportunistic time. If you’re thinking about cutting back on your marketing budget, I would caution you to perhaps examine your strategies and concentrate your efforts to maximize success. If you’re thinking about cutting your marketing budget altogether, I have a message for you from your competitors:

Thank you.

Honey…I’m home.

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The moving truck has left. The boxes are unpacked. And here’s our new home. The blog has the new look and the new address. I’m still using WordPress and all of the old posts seem to have made the move without any left behind.

On the off chance that you didn’t read my last post left at the old address, moving to this new place was a function of me taking my own advice. Since Buzzworthy Media no longer exists as a stand alone entity, my focus has shifted to building the “Jeff York” brand. It may be October, but I still haven’t forgotten my New Year’s resolution of building my own personal brand.

So, here you’ll find all the weekly business and marketing thoughts and discussions you’ve gotten used to seeing at the old location.

I’d love to hear feedback on the move and the new look. This is also the perfect opportunity to open the floor up for a discussion on what you’d like to talk about in the forum. I don’t write this blog for me. Well, mostly not for me. I write it to open discussions about marketing and business in general for you, the business owner or professional, looking for the nugget of information to launch a whole new thought process.

Written by Jeff York

October 12, 2008 at 2:49 am