Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘customers

It’s on sale

leave a comment »

L4-77782As I write this, today is one of the major national holidays: Independence Day. Around many of the holidays, many retailers (and other small businesses) decide to take the opportunity to go into sale mode.

On a fundamental level, just what is a sale? It’s when you take your goods and/or services and discount their price point in hopes of spurring buying behaviors.

Is this a good idea? To help you decide, let’s take a look at both sides of the equation.

Pro:

Lowering your price is the perfect reason to ramp up your marketing efforts. You have an intrinsic reason for advertising. Your advertising takes on a more active voice rather than branding-oriented and compels immediate action. Generating more traffic to your business increases the likelihood that customers will buy more than what they came for. Decreasing the price of certain merchandise helps move that product making way for new items for which you might want to dedicate shelf space.

Con:

Lowering your price implies that you’ve been overcharging all along. Having sales increases foot traffic which demands that you increase staffing to accommodate. Creating a sales mentality with your customer base may create a situation where they will not buy an item until you place it on sale. Lowering price means you have to sell more product to realize the same profit.

Before going into sale mode, determine if the reasons for having a sale benefit you in the long run. If your product/service is currently priced correctly, then there might not be a need for lowering it. Having a sale is often a good short term cash flow fix which in turn creates long term branding issues.

Written by Jeff York

July 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

You’ve got the whole world in your hands

leave a comment »

iphone_homeA recent post made on Twitter: New phone books arrived yesterday. I’ve already recycled them today. Have they not heard of the Internet?!?

Between my wife’s iPhone and my Blackberry, there is little that we can’t do from the road. Email, phone, data from the Internet, media consumption all are easy and convenient with one of these two devices.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Pandora for Blackberry. Connecting the phone to my car’s audio system, I now have a music delivery system that I find superior to my XM radio. The business model for Pandora? On screen ads.

As one of the majority of drivers that has to endure morning and evening rush hour commutes, I signed up for a free email subscription to Traffic.com. Their business model? Embedded ads.

With both of these services, I find myself paying close attention to the ads that are placed. Typically, the products and services offered interest me. For example, recently Land Rover sponsored Traffic.com’s reports. I haven’t checked out Land Rover lately and I wondered what they were offering. Land Rover would have continued to have been out of sight/out of mind for me if not to reaching me where I use media today.

How about your business? Are you looking closely at handheld and portable devices as an avenue to reach new customers? Free apps offered to iPhone users or pushed data to handhelds are just a couple of the new routes that advertisers can take.

Buy this now!

leave a comment »

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

Get paid!

leave a comment »

Once upon a time, I ran a video production company.  On our website’s profile, I wrote that we would do the work for free if we could, but we have to pay bills.  If you love what you do, you would probably do it for free if you could.

But alas, like me, I’m sure you have bills.

One of my downfalls is that I don’t concentrate on the cash enough.  I blame that on loving what I do.  Just yesterday I was telling my wife that if I hit Powerball today, I would still do what I do.  I love it so much that there are times I forget to ask for the deposit.  Fortunately, I have people around me that keep me in line.

Do as I say, not as I do.

You may have real passion for what you do.  You may be focused on your primary responsibilities to the point that you have blinders on.  But trust me, you ability to continue to do that great work depends entirely on your ability to price your goods and services correctly and to collect accounts receivable.

First, before you can tell your clients/customers what you want to charge, you need to make sure that you are pricing correctly.  It’s OK to be more expensive than your competition if you provide more value.  Then the weight falls on your shoulders to illustrate and prove that you are worth it.  Market research and advertising are the tasks at hand here.

Then go get your customers.  You sign them up.  Get the cash.  You need cash flow to keep afloat while you’re executing.  If you’re like me and you are a service-based industry, then make sure that you have a payment schedule ready and fully understood by all parties.  Often when working on video projects, I ask for 50% up front and 50% on completion.  When working on multimedia projects, sometimes it’s 50% up front, 30% on reaching some milestone in the project, and 20% on completion.  With these examples, you can see that I’m getting at least half up front to get moving.

Thoughts?

Written by Jeff York

August 24, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Are you the right customer for me?

with one comment

Much is made of marketing customers searching hard for the right marketing company to help them grow. As there is a huge number of marketing organizations out there, customers/businesses must work hard to vet each one to find that special organization that has a mix of experience and expertise to help them move ahead of their competitors and grow.

Internally to the marketing companies, sales representatives spend enormous amounts of effort prospecting, qualifying, and landing leads and turning those leads into clients. The future of a marketing company depends on the ability to generate new project work.

However, smart marketing companies take that extra time before pitching a client to ask themselves “Is this prospect a good fit for us?” We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. As it applies to this former Production Manager, it means that I had to spend 80% of my time holding the hand of 20% of our clients. This is a reflection of finding a client that’s smart enough to know that they need marketing to grow, but is somehow uncomfortable with the cost they are spending or perhaps they don’t fully understand the process. Or maybe their superiors are directing pressure on them for the same reasons. Innocently, these clients place a drag on the process by not trusting that the agency they hired isn’t working 100% in their best interests.

Or worse. A green sales rep at the marketing company signs a client whom believes they know marketing better than the agency. Maybe they think they know graphic design because they own a pencil or web development because their son used iWeb. In any event, endless rounds of changes ensue dragging the process to a halt and raising expenses on both sides of the equation.

The bottom line here is knowing the importance of spending time analyzing your ideal client profile and targeting potential clients that fit that spec which will pay you dividends in the long run.

Do you spend any time determining who your ideal customer might be? How do you turn away business that might not be a good fit, especially if times are tight? Do you have any strategies that you might be able to share?

Written by Jeff York

June 28, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Beware of your own success!

with 2 comments

Before embarking on a marketing campaign for your business, you have to have set defined goals for what you hope to achieve. Typically the broad idea is to generate new business and revenue for your company. This is obviously an excellent expectation, however with it comes a hidden danger. What happens if your marketing campaign is too successful? What happens if you have opened yourself up for so many new customers and clients that your current infrastructure can’t handle it all? What will you do then?

Before investigating new marketing strategies for your company with your marketing partners, make sure that you take the time to honestly evaluate your current ability to handle new business. If you suddenly get overloaded, new customers will see your business as unable to satisfy their needs. You can garner a bad reputation quickly and your best efforts at marketing will end up being your undoing.

It’s wise to have a set metric in mind so that you can best gauge if you are coming up short in your marketing efforts or if you are about to become overwhelmed. Hopefully, your marketing partners will have this conversation with you before the implementation of a campaign, but if they don’t, make sure to raise the idea yourself. They should be well prepared to scale back the campaign, or even put it on hold altogether, should you start to approach critical mass.

Clearly, this would be a great problem to have, but it is still a problem. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you started to become too successful? Do you have any horror stories you can share that we can all learn from?

Written by Jeff York

June 21, 2008 at 8:39 pm