Stay positive. Turn off the news channels that continue to hammer us about how rotten things are out there. Make your own magic. Talk up what’s great about your store! Listen to your “self-talk” – the thoughts running through your head – are you telling yourself about opportunities or doom and gloom? Tell yourself what you CAN do, not what you cannot. Positive self talk, coupled with the willingness to do just 1% more than everyone else is willing to do, has propelled many a person to higher levels of success – that 1% head start that will give you the jump on your competition. Here are some things to think about:
1. Eliminate the ONE customer service issue that occurs over and over.
Every business has that one customer service quirk that they just can't seem to get over. It might be greeting each and every customer you pass in the store. It could be the inability to implement a no hassle return policy. We're not sure what yours is, but you do. Ask your associates to help you decide where you continuously drop the ball. Once you identify you problem area, devote a store meeting to the topic, and eliminate it once and for all.
And if you think it's not a big deal because you do 99 things out of 100 remarkably well, well consider this: If 99.9% is good enough then 12 Newborns will be given to the wrong parents every day; 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped each year; 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled every hour; 2.5 million books will ship with the wrong covers; each day, two planes that land at Chicago's O'Hare Airport will be unsafe; 315 words in Webster's Dictionary will be misspelled; 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year; 5.5 million cases of soda won't have any "fizz"; and 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly. Still think a 99% service rating is okay? We didn't think so!
2. Network nationally and locally.
Each time you attend a trade show, you meet a group of remarkable people who share some of the same victories and frustrations that you do. You have a great time together in seminars and on the show floor and then you go home and forget about each other until the next show. Whatever problem you are trying to solve, someone you know has already solved it. Why waste your time and money on trial and error? This year work those connections!
Trade contact information at shows and seminars and agree to talk at least once a quarter. Or converse via e-mail if you don't have time to talk on the telephone. If you're having employee problems we guarantee everyone else is, too. Share ideas!
You can do this on a local level as well. Instead of your direct competitors, network with other retailers - even if you do not sell the same products you will still share similar issues. And you can trade vendor information that will help you save money or grow your business.
3. Become the local expert in your field.
Who knows more about your industry than you? You know that there is no one out there who can better represent your niche than you can, so why not share your expertise? Create a one page biography (with your photo) and send it out to all local media outlets. Throw in some candy – candy always gets their attention. (Food if Good!) And follow-up a week later with a telephone call or e-mail. You have to let the media know that you are a ready, willing, and able source. Go for it!
4. Attend your important industry trade shows.
Your travel budget may be tight, but this is not the time to skip trade shows! Everything new happens at trade shows and you can't experience the excitement if you're not there. Choose the shows that make the most sense for your business and put them on your 2012 calendar. Do it now. In ink.
Take advantage of all they have to offer. Try and stay at the headquarters hotel because that's where all the action is, and it's your best chance to network after show hours. Attend all the business seminars that you can. As the store owner or manager your time is much better spent learning how to improve your business. Register early because classes fill up fast. And if you can't get into a particular class, you can always buy the CD/DVD.
5. Give back to your community.
Giving back to your community is a no-brainer and it’s something you can do right now. It's important to be a good corporate citizen and Cause Marketing is a good way to do it. According to the statistics, 77% of consumers who participated in a Cause Related Marketing program said it positively changed their behavior or perceptions towards the store or brand involved. You'll not only raise money and increase the community's awareness of the charity, you'll gain valuable exposure for your store.
Holiday 2011 – today – is the perfect time to host a Cause Marketing event. We love the "Bags of Holiday Hope" Open House:
* Purchase and distribute blank, white shopping bags to grade school kids (ask your local schools to help). Have the kids decorate the bags with a holiday theme, then return them to your store.
* Hang the decorated bags throughout the store and in the windows; number each one so relatives and friends can vote for their favorite before and during your Open House. Charge an “admission fee” at Open House: a box of food goods and two canned items. Give shoppers a special, one night only sales and discounts.
* Announce the winner (or winners, you can judge entries by age if you like) and give each one a savings bond (get a local bank to partner with you) and a gift card/certificate from your store.
* The next day (or after your Open House if you prefer) round up kids, customers and staffers and fill the Bags of Holiday Hope with the donated food items and take them to a local charity.
* Invite the media! The kids + the Bags of Holiday Hope + your event + the charity of your choice = one BIG photo opportunity.
6. Up your Image Management.
Image what? Image Management is a fancy term for self-promotion, something that we whole-heartedly believe you should practice. Shamelessly. It's your job to tell the world how good you are and a press release is the perfect way to do it. Image management works hand in hand with becoming a local expert.
We read that a huge percentage of stories that appear on local medias are the result of someone sending in a single page press release. Drop us an e-mail for a copy of our "How to Write a Press Release" and then get busy. Send press releases on in-store events, seminars you attend, awards you receive, charities you support, even the trade shows you attend. Take your photo with every celebrity that you meet; newspapers are hungry for news but they are starving for pictures. But make sure that the information you send is truly newsworthy - media people are pros at sniffing out blatant attempts for free advertising.
7. Work on your website.
Your website needs to be an interactive place where customers want to spend time. Does yours fit this description? We are constantly amazed at the number of independent retailers who still do not have a website. Your website is your business card, it's a powerful perception and branding tool and you need to have a good one. Make sure it's created by someone who knows how to build a professional website, and that it's easy to navigate. Get started by securing your domain name NOW. You can do this on any number of sites, including Network Solutions and Go Daddy.
Make a point to renew your domain name every year. Better yet, put it on auto-renewal. This is important because if there is someone out there who wants your web address you could lose it. There are companies that specialize in waiting for a particular web address to expire; if the owner doesn't automatically renew, they grab it as soon as the contract expires. Don't let this happen to you.
8. Take advantage of those who offer to help you.
Remember that vendor who offered help at insert your favorite trade show here? How about the customer who said she'd lend a hand at your next big event? This year say yes to those who offer help or advice.
We offer all kinds for FREE stuff on this blog. At every single program we present we tell the attendees that they can call us for FREE advice. And you know what? Not too many people call. Maybe they don't really believe that there are no strings attached, but we can tell you that the ones who do call are thrilled that they did. They are the folks who are willing to do just 1% more than everyone else and it shows. Want to brainstorm about your business? We're all ears!
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