Headspace, creativity & cartooning

As kids, I suspect most of us doodled in school notebooks, etc. My cartoon doodles were ink blot simple. At some point, I stopped. For decades, my only artistic-related creativity outlet was photography – which I first learned to do with a film camera when I was five.

That’s the backstory.

Enter the cartoon

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking a cartooning class. In the coming months, you’ll see why. Right now, what’s important is how cartooning helped me reach an epiphany re: “real work”.

The cartooning course starts simply by learning better hand / pencil control. You develop muscle memory as you would when running football drills or practicing dance moves. Next, we trace & hand copy – all intended to improve drawing mechanics, make you better at editing yourself, seeing how subtle details make a substantial difference in the impact & realism of a cartoon.

Up to this point, I’m doing fine. My cartoons are better than I expected them to be so far (low expectations), but I’m no Gary Larsen.

Then it happens. We’re asked to start adding a handful of doodles to our daily drawing tasks. This means I have to make up stuff. From scratch.

Result: I hit a wall.

My day was so scheduled with tasks, professional and personal responsibilities, etc (including the specific cartooning assignments) that by the time I was ready to doodle, I’d exhausted the creative juices that doodling requires. I was left with a painfully blank page.

A blank page is an awful thing. When writing this piece each week, I usually have a topic or experience that bubbled up as “topic of the week”. Occasionally, there’s something to discuss that takes a few weeks (like two pizza teams). When I start these pieces with a blank page rather than having a seed of an idea, you (the reader) can probably tell. Those weeks, my writing seems weaker, at least to me.

Blank page. Blank slate. Empty lot.

Back to the cartoons. I stared at the blank page & didn’t know what to doodle. Eventually I got them done, but they lacked creativity and felt uninspired. Something was wrong.

Then it hit me.

I’d been struggling with a similar problem on a greenfield project that’s moving too slowly (vs. my expectation). It isn’t that I wasn’t allocating focused time to it, but it was stuck.

The blank slate is a challenge. But why?

“Greenfield” projects start from an empty page, a blank slate, an empty lot. “Brownfield” projects work with existing assets / projects, like remodeling an existing house.

Looking in from the outside

Fenced-off focus time has always worked for me when I need to get serious work-in-the-business (skill) tasks & work-on-the-business (manager) tasks done.

Sometimes high level (executive / investor) work gets done there, but historically, I’ve needed more of that time – particularly as I see things today. It’s a classic operations trap  (too much working in, not enough working on) that focus time usually cures.

However, focus time wasn’t doing it this time.

Here’s where cartooning provided the epiphany: The cartooning instructor suggested that I use references from line art, even when doodling. Why? Our mind fills in the gaps when we see fast moving actions like dancing and sports. This makes it difficult to visualize & cartoon a moment in time. Meanwhile, remembering those things is easy, like a movie in our head.

During the next doodle session, I realized the trouble I was having with doodling creativity was the same problem slowing down the creative process on that greenfield project. Worse yet, I realized that this could also affect higher level work & thinking on executive & investor level tasks.

My takeaway: I wasn’t using enough reference info for the greenfield project.

Your takeaway: Blank page projects are easier get rolling when using reference info (like seeds) to germinate creativity & accelerate progress. Give it a try.

Bonus takeaway: I’ve learned the “uninspired / unimaginative” thing can be my opinion only (rest assured, sometimes it isn’t). When I look at a page of cartoons right after I’ve finished them, I see through eyes that still feel the frustration of being unable to draw what the mind conceives. My reaction? “These need a lot of improvement.” When I look the next day, or even an hour or so later, they usually look much better. Let your work percolate a bit, then review it. Fresh eyes have value.

Photo by UBC Learning Commons

Groundhog Day with Ooompa Loompas

Recently, I had a series of “Groundhog Day” experiences with multiple vendors in the same market, in the same market area, while seeking the same product that all of them sell.

Of course, they’re competitors, though some of them may be owned by the same people or corporation. I didn’t look that hard, but I doubt that’s the case.

What I found most interesting about this situation is that they were identical in almost every possible way. If you switched the logo, phone number, business name and address between each of them, you’d find it difficult to figure out which was which. Nothing about any of them appeared to stand out from the others.

Long-time readers might assume that I would find this appalling. They’d be right.

So that there is no doubt about how I feel about this situation, let me make it clear: Being exactly like every other business in your market is a dangerous concoction of idiotic, risky, lazy and so on.

Yes, there are situations that require that some things are pretty much identical from business to business. Regulatory requirements are a good example. Even though regulations might control some behavior in your market, they do not require you to become yet another Oompa Loompa.

You get the idea that I find it not only appalling but not too smart. Let’s talk about why.

Why being a clone is bad

Oompa Loompas are identical. While they presumably do good work, they produce the same results as every other Oompa Loompa. Why would someone choose your Oompa Loompa business over the identical one down the street?

If you’re all the same, what usually tips them in your favor is price.

Yet if everyone is doing things the same way, their overhead is going to be pretty consistent from business to business. With the exception of negotiation skills with vendors and the profit margin you choose when setting prices, what’s left to alter? Not much.

Of course, there will be pressure to price similarly, since there’s no difference between business A and business B. Welcome to the vicious circle.

Why not being a clone is good

When you’re not one of the Oompa Loompas, there’s always pressure to conform. Perhaps unspoken, perhaps not.

Pressure looks and sounds like: Work like us. Have a sign like us. Wear the same type of uniforms we wear. Offer the same delivery we offer. Don’t deliver, because we don’t. Provide the same level of service we provide. Don’t provide what we don’t provide. Advertise like we do. Sell like we do. Price like we do.

In industries where this is really rampant, it sounds like this: Get our industry certification because it says you do everything exactly like we do – and don’t change a thing after the fact because we’ll yank your Clone Stamp of Approval (CSoA).

While the CSoA badge is attractive and shiny while remaining artistically conservative enough that the CSoA committee somehow agreed long enough to sign off on it, you should think about how being a clone makes you feel and how it resonates with the reason you have a business in the first place.

Consider why you risked everything to start your business.

  • Was it because you had a better idea?
  • Was it because you wanted to serve people in a better way?
  • Was it because you thought so differently about the market?
  • Was it because you felt the clientele in that market were under served?
  • Or….Was it so you could march in lock step with all the other clones?

I seriously doubt the last one was anyone’s choice. Most business owners aren’t built that way, so how does this situation happen?

How it happens

Earlier, I mentioned “idiotic, risky, lazy”, describing behavior, not people. These behaviors can be active or passive. My experience and suspicion says there’s a mix of active and passive lazy going on here, perhaps mixed with a touch of fear.

At some point, I hope you decide that it’s riskier to be a clone than it is to stop being one. At that point, all that’s left is to overcome the fear of leaving Cloneville.

Moving out of Cloneville

How do you get out of Cloneville?

Think about what’s important to your clientele. What makes things easier, faster, smoother and more productive for them? Fix one thing at a time. Repeat.

Business frustrations? Project a cure

What things about your business are you fed up about?

Sometimes it might be everything or the very biggest things, but at other times, it might simply be an aspect of your business… the tiniest of things. Even in those cases, the frustration is just as strong. The only difference is the concern you have about the outcome and what’s at right.

Lies and cookies

So what do you do about it?

Whenever I’m having a conversation with someone about this, I always remember Jim Rohn’s Girl Scout cookie story.

Rohn answered the door one day to find a Girl Scout standing in front of him. She gave the perfect pitch and made the ask. Rohn told her that he’d already bought cookies from another Scout and apologized.

The girl thanked him and moved on.

As Rohn shut the front door, he was fed up. He had just lied to a Girl Scout because he didn’t have the two dollars it took to buy a box of cookies.

He was 25 and had a family. That he had just lied over two bucks was a seminal moment in his life.  His frustration with where business was taking him couldn’t have been more clear.

Obvious? Sure. Where to start? Not so.

While your everyday or even random massive frustrations might pale in comparison to Rohn’s cookie situation, it doesn’t mean they’re any less frustrating.

The problem that’s the source of business frustration tends to have an obvious solution. In my experience, most people have a decent idea what needs to be done. Some know *exactly* what must be done.

Yet these things often sit for days, weeks or months without action being taken.

Sometimes, where to start or how to start is the toughest part to identify, even if the solution itself is obvious.

A frequent cause is that you’ve not given yourself permission to start solving the problem because the mental / social baggage seems to have a steep price.

Permission? How so?

The permission thing might seem like an odd obstacle, but we’re strange creatures.

Quite often the mental barriers to solutions require mindset changes or decisions that we have trouble giving ourselves permission to make, or they require actions with the same barrier.

It isn’t that we don’t want to solve the problem. Instead, it tends to be conflict avoidance or a little dose of honesty with that person we see in the mirror.

When I’m discussing these things with business owners, they tell me I have such clarity and see through all the fog of problems they’re dealing with.

Really, though – I’m simply the only person who isn’t telling them what they want to hear. Instead, I’m telling them what they need to hear. Sometimes it seems as if I’m giving them permission, even though I don’t have a skin in the game.  All I’m doing is discussing the obstacle with them and at times, asking tough questions.

Again, it isn’t that these folks don’t know what to do, but the mental – and sometimes subconscious barriers – are often standing right in the middle of the path to solving the problem.

Breaking business frustration barriers

One exercise you might find useful is to project the problem onto someone else – someone you are sure is at least as smart as you. This person would certainly make the right decision if the right information was placed in front of them.

If you put this person in that situation, try a few of these tactics to pry loose a solution:

  • What would you say to this person?
  • What questions would you ask?
  • What’s the first step you would suggest for them?
  • What resources would you suggest for them?

I know. It seems like a stupid exercise. Yet that type of conversation is exactly how our conversations tend to go when this clarity comes out to play.

After I’ve had these conversations with someone, I often suggest that they try an exercise like this with themselves the next time they get stuck.

Most people find it useful, despite continuing to work with me. Some move along with the process and use it quite effectively, and some pass it along to their frustrated employees as a tactic to address their own challenges.

If you use another tactic to break out of these situations, I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

Who benefits when snow, cold and ice shut down a town?

All over the U.S., winter seems to be having a little fun with us.

While in many places, we’re also having fun with it – a lot of places are pretty well shut down by this year’s winter road conditions. Without the staff and equipment to handle serious (for their area) winter storms, many communities are left to play an economically troubling waiting game until the roads melt.

In Atlanta, the highways were strewn with abandoned cars. In Birmingham, traffic was bumper to bumper at one a.m., despite what looked like not much more than wet streets.

Having little experience with this sort of weather, no snow tires and living in a community whose plow staff and equipment are limited or non-existent for obvious reasons – people were just stuck, both at home and elsewhere.

Who benefits in normally warm climates?

For one, companies who support telecommuting.

The obvious benefit is that those employees or contractors were already home (or close – like at a local coffee shop) rather than some distance away in an office park or commuter traffic.

What isn’t so obvious is the lack of strain on their families because those people are simply… home. Yet they can still work. The technology to access everything that’s needed from home has improved vastly in the last few years and it continues to improve.

Not every business can support full-time telecommuting, but almost every business has “desk jobs”, such as design, technology, administrative, sales, and customer support – all of which are telecommute-friendly.

Consider being flexible enough to suggest that staffers with “desk jobs” work from home on bad weather days or when it’s expected.

It’s a simple idea… have you tried it?

What about trust?

You might say “We can’t trust some people to do a full day’s work at home.”

There are at least two problems with that.

1) If you can’t trust them to do a full day’s work at home, what else can’t you trust them to do? And if you can make a list of such things, why are people you can’t trust working for you in the first place?

2) If they struggle to reach the office and leave early in hopes of arriving safely at home, are they doing a “full day’s work”?

Opportunity with frost on it

One thing people tend to realize when they’re stuck at home is how sensitive their lifestyle is to “being out of (whatever)”.

If you sell “whatever”, I hope you deliver it. If you don’t want to deliver it, that’s OK.

However, if they buy it often enough, be thoughtful enough to recognize how often they buy it – and remind them so they don’t run out. You don’t have to be a nag, just remind a little – and offer to deliver if you wish.

Studded Snows

While these problems don’t impact people in the North too much, “bad” weather opportunities exist in cold climates as well as warm. When it’s nasty outside – regardless of what “nasty weather” means, people tend to stick close to the business until closing time.

Where’s the opportunity in that?

Restaurants properly equipped to travel in these conditions can deliver food. Grocery and other “retail essentials” like pharmacies could do the same.

Pickups and deliveries of products and employees are an option when normal means won’t work and time is critical. How can you help your clients simply get things done?

These things are common sense, but how many times has a restaurant called your office during a blizzard and offered to bring your staff lunch?

Have you gotten an email from a local shop or auto dealer asking if anyone at your business had a car that needed attention? On a day when the roads are not so hot, they could pick up and deliver a vehicle rather than having service people sitting around waiting for service appointment no-shows.

One more thing

These opportunities aren’t always limited to your community.

The obvious way for your business to reach beyond your local community is your website. I know, it’s 2014 and maybe I shouldn’t have to mention it, but there are still a lot (yes, a lot) of businesses out there without websites.

Is there something you do that can be sold beyond your community’s borders?

Photo credit: Kevin W. Burkett

Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!” – Who knows, but it can’t hurt”

Broncos Defense

Any number of claims will be made about this weekend’s Bronco victory in the AFC Championship game, but one stands out above the rest.

Sponsorship evaluation firm Front Row Analytics said the city of Omaha got its money worth with each verbal mention of Omaha worth the equivalent of $150,000 in advertising.

This claim, from an ESPN story about Manning’s calls during the game – each of which generated donations to Manning’s Peyback Foundation, ignores marketing reality and most likely determines the value of advertising based on conference championship football game advertising rates.

Problem is, that’s not what determines the value of advertising – though it can impact the price.

While the PR and donation campaign by the Omaha Chamber is pretty smart, don’t even think about believing the claim that “each verbal mention of Omaha is worth the equivalent of $150,000 worth of advertising”. In no universe is this claim going to hold water.

It’s quite clear that Omaha Steaks’ SVP Todd Simon understands the nature of this project – in this quote from the same ESPN story:

“This is really great for Omaha as a community and for the businesses that are embedded here,” said Todd Simon, a senior vice president of Omaha Steaks, which his family owns. “Who knows whether any of this will translate to the bottom line, if ever, but it can’t hurt.

The emphasis in the above sentence is mine.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a very intelligent project by the Omaha Chamber and they should be quite proud of what they pulled off. It’s particularly impressive to see them jump on it so quickly and get something fun, beneficial and PR-friendly organized after last week’s game against the Chargers, where Manning said “Omaha” 44 times.

It’s also a great example of the “Use the news” tactic that we’ve discussed repeatedly in the past.

“It can’t hurt”

If each of Manning’s 31 mentions of “Omaha” are worth $150k, then Front Row should be able to describe how Omaha can track those mentions to purchase / investment and related actions made as a result. Obviously, I don’t believe they can do this. They can certainly inquire at every sale made over the next few months, but this is unlikely to produce results that would provoke someone into additional advertising investments.

Small businesses should not be investing their marketing budget in “who knows…but it can’t hurt” advertising.

Every bit of your advertising spend can be tracked so that you know whether it worked or not. Don’t let it out the door if it isn’t trackable.

Sarcasm, humor and a great dog: Do they sell anything?

While I have and will continue to remind you about the need for ads that don’t actually help move a prospect (or existing customer) closer to buying (or buying again), this one is hits home on many levels with Guinness’ customers.

It makes fun of typical male weaknesses, while making us love the working dog.

Does it sell more Guinness? Tough to say.

It could be tracked by doing something like asking customers to refer to the ad in some way when they visit their favorite pub or beer store, perhaps in exchange for who-knows-what.

Does it matter? Or is the entertainment and “brand-on-your-mind one more time” enough?

As a small business owner, you need to know before you spend the money.

How to use calendar marketing

SpaghettiOsPearlHarbor

When I say “calendar marketing”, I’m talking about using the context of historical events and dates, holidays and current events to spice up your marketing.

Done right, you can briefly tie what you do to the event, date or holiday, have a little fun and perhaps get the attention those about to buy.

Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it. Like any tactic, there are right and wrong ways to use it – as the SpaghettiOs social media team found out on Pearl Harbor Day.

While social media provides good and bad examples, keep in mind that your efforts in this area can be leveraged in almost any media.

Doing it right

Doing it right involves asking yourself a few questions.

Q: Who will see it?
A: If it’s good enough, everyone. If it’s stupid enough, everyone.

With that in mind:

  • How will you feel if everyone sees it?
  • How will your customers react?
  • What will they be inclined to do?
  • Will it makes things better or worse for your business?

No matter what – Think it through.

Oreo is a good example to watch, but even they slip up now and then:

AMCOreo

How do I know I’m about to do it wrong?

If your thought process is “Let’s use their memory, our logo and wrap them together in the flag in our marketing”, that would be wrong. Stupidly wrong.

This shouldn’t have to be explained to you.

Anyone who isn’t doing this in a strictly robotic fashion has to have this thought process going on:

  • Remembering Pearl Harbor – Good.
  • Slapping your flag-wrapped logo on it – Dumb.

While SpaghettiOs managed to apologize (and delete the earlier tweet), your goal is not to put yourself in this position. Some found it offensive, some stupid or at the least – felt the message could have done without the cheesy brand + flag graphic.

No matter what, it distracted from the reason for the post in the first place – to encourage their customers to take a moment to remember.

SpaghettiOsPearlHarborApology

Numerous major brands have misfired on things like this. In each case, you will see calls for whoever wrote the original tweet to be fired, or for their agency to be fired. That doesn’t make it any better – it just makes a few angry people feel better for a few minutes.

For a small local business, national outrage is unlikely, but you could provoke a local boycott or worse.

Have a “Reason why”

Earlier this week, USA Today had this headline re: Mandela’s death (hat tip to @JSlarve and @SameMeans for catching it):

MandelaUSAToday

The point is not to point out the mistakes that major brands make. Everyone makes mistakes. There are plenty of examples to learn from.

What you need to keep in mind is WHY you are creating this content (doesn’t have to be an ad) in the first place:

  • To honor someone? Fine. Keep your brand and schtick out of it. Stick to the topic. Say what you feel. The old GoDaddy always remembered Veterans Day and the Marine Corps birthday – and you never saw their typically cheesy stuff in those pieces.
  • To be funny? Make sure it really is funny, rather than funny at the cost of some group or individual.
  • To provoke someone to buy – see the prior two and then consider every bit of copywriting experience you have.

Your message has to be focused on that reason – whatever it is.

Connect rather than being just another “Me too!” marketer

Ill-advised content aside, calendar-based marketing is an effective tool when used thoughtfully.

The temptation is to do “Me too” marketing here. Things like a holiday-themed sale on a holiday weekend are not going to stand out in a crowd of me-too sales.

Sometimes connecting national to your business to local works well. For example, you might have Super Bowl-related promotion or event that encourages people to visit/buy and make note that you’ll be passing along a percentage of Super Bowl related promotion/event sales to a local youth athletic program. It doesn’t have to be football and it doesn’t have to be a percentage.

In Columbia Falls MT (pop 4000ish), Timber Creek assisted living facility hosts the Rotary “Brunch with Santa” community Christmas event in their public areas. While no one is selling assisted living that day, hundreds who would never go inside otherwise get to see how nice the place is – planting a seed that might sprout next week or years from now.

Not on my watch!

Watches (32) 1.1

Most everyone I’ve talked to who really cares about their work has that one thing that brings meaning, context and (as my kids used to say) “give-a-care” to the work they do.

You might have heard it described as “Not on my watch”, a reference to pulling watch duty on naval ships.

The best way I’ve heard it described is this:

What do you feel strongly enough about to say “That isn’t going to happen while I’m here.”

Whether you own the place or are working for the weekend, it’s that thing you just won’t rest about if it isn’t done right. It might be that thing you first notice when you visit someone’s home or business.

Are any of your employees working jobs that have little to do with their one thing? If so, they may be doing their assigned work while watching in frustration as the work involving their “one thing” is done at a level of quality or expertise that’s below their expectations.

Sometimes their response will be to take another job – one that leverages their one thing. Sometimes their response will be to take ownership.

Own it

You may see this when someone takes ownership of some part of your company – without being asked. It might be all or part of a process, a product’s quality or craftsmanship, a customer or a customer group. They take ownership by making the quality of that area their responsibility, perhaps going beyond your company’s standards. It’ll often happen without them being asked.

If you have employees, have you asked them (or put them in charge of) their “one thing”? If not, the signals will be there if they’re interested. They’ll make suggestions – often good ones – about how something is done. They may volunteer to help on projects that require expertise in their one thing.

If your company has people who seem less motivated than they should be, ask them if they’re doing their ideal work for you. If they could do any job in the company, is the one they’re doing the one they’d choose? If not, a pilot project can show you if they’re qualified to do that work.

If the pilot works out, you might find yourself with a newly motivated employee who really cares about the work they’re doing. New blood has a way of asking questions about things that’ve been forgotten, fallen in the cracks or weren’t considered previously – all because that new staffer (even if they’re simply new to that job) cares about that part of the business because it’s their “one thing”.

In the shadows

You may have departments within your company doing their own thing because they can’t get that work done any other way – at least not to their satisfaction and/or within the timeframe they need.

At a recent #StartupWeekend, I spoke on this topic with people from several different business sectors ranging from retail to light manufacturing. Each of them knew of a department within their company that had a “Shadow IT” group.

“Shadow IT” is a small departmental group (or a person) building technology solutions for themselves that they couldn’t get from their company’s IT (Information Technology) group.

One person from a large national retailer (not *that* one) is doing their own thing because they felt it was the only way to get the solutions they needed. Rather than wait or do without, they built it themselves.

This isn’t unusual – but it’s a sign of someone’s “one thing”.

That person doing the Shadow IT work might be the person who needs to take on that role (or join that team) in your company . Perhaps they become the official Shadow IT group for projects that don’t yet have an IT budget and haven’t appeared on management’ s radar.

As an employer, do I care?

You should. The under-served “one thing” staffers may not be disgruntled, but they may not be fully engaged. If you’re unaware of people (and their “one thing” assets) within your organization who could serve your business goals in ways you haven’t considered and at a level of quality that you might not have thought possible – what are you missing?

Ask them privately if there’s a project or job in the company that excites them. You never know what you might find. Having little startup-minded groups inside your business isn’t a bad thing.

Google India knows that Business is Personal

Brilliant.

What stories are you telling about your customers that can illustrate the power of the value you deliver?

No matter what you do, I’ll bet you have stories to tell. When will you start sharing them?

Showrooming and the sales prevention department

Last time, we discussed the often forgotten reason for showrooming that happens after price shopping: convenience and time/fuel savings.

Remember Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief? If you’ve forgotten, they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When applied to showrooming, it isn’t much different. Acceptance and the clarity that accompanies it are where the sales live. Even big retail is figuring it out.

Big retail embraces showrooming

Big retailers are starting to embrace showrooming because they’ve realized that reacting to and/or punishing it has proven ineffective. Learn from their mistakes, research and investments. Customers who showroom are likely to be better informed shoppers that you don’t want to lose. Their phone might help them decide that your store is the right place to buy.

Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile applications and wi-fi access — rather than fearing showrooming — can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales – particularly with the holiday shopping season approaching.

Shoppers armed with smartphones are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who do not use a smartphone as part of their in-store journey. – Deloitte study for Saks Fifth Avenue

Most small businesses don’t have the resources to embrace showrooming with a smartphone app, or don’t think they do. If that’s the case, what do you do?

The simplest answer is to side with the customer. Do this by making the in-store experience so much better than anything anyone can provide online. That’s where it pays to visit an Apple store – where nothing is like retail as you typically see it.

The last Apple store I visited was in Portland. In an average-sized mall store, there were 28 employees on the sales floor – and all of them were with customers. I thought this was odd, so I tried another Apple store.

Same thing.  There were over 100 shoppers in the store. Almost all of them were in groups engaged in a conversation while they used an Apple device. Many of those conversations included an Apple staffer.

The sales prevention department

Compare that to the shopping experience in a typical consumer electronics store.

Try to test drive a Kindle. It’s locked in demo mode. You can’t pick it up and hold it because of the security device and short “don’t steal me” cable attached to it.

The display of the device is focused on theft prevention. Why is this a bad thing? Because theft prevention becomes sales prevention.

In an Apple store, nothing’s locked down. Sure, there are lots of people around to make sure you don’t walk out the door with that fancy MacBook – but the products are presented in a way that is clearly designed to encourage you to pick them up and try them out.

Unlike most stores that sell laptops and tablets, the devices aren’t cabled down, nor is there a password protected screensaver that prevents you from doing any real examination of the machine.

They make this happen because no matter what you do to the device, at the end of the day, they have systems in place to “wipe” them and reset them to out-of-the-box new condition, software-wise. This assures that the next day’s sales aren’t impacted by what someone might have done to a device. They can also reset them during the day if someone went really crazy.

It’s almost unfair to sell against a setup like that. Perhaps that’s why Apple’s retail sales per square foot are higher than anyone else’s – over $6000 per foot.

What’s different?

If you’ve ever visited an Apple store, you’ve never seen a dead machine, much less one with a message that tells you it needs attention from a technical person. You won’t see a locked screensaver.

Now think about other electronics retailers. Their sales floor machines are locked down that you can’t do anything and there’s almost always one that’s off in never-never land, waiting for some tech help.

Step back a few paces. This isn’t just about Apple, laptops or tablets. It’s about encouraging someone to engage with your product, thus *enabling* a purchase.

No matter what you sell, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are your displays focused making it easy to fall in love with a product and buy it?
    OR
  • Are your displays focused on controlling the sales process and preventing theft?

Making it easier to buy is something every one of us can do. It’s price-based showrooming’s Kryptonite.