Out of Stock

Quais de Seine, Paris
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zigar

When your store is out of stock on an item…what does your staff do and say?

When I was out of state not long ago, I looked around for a pair of light hikers for everyday wear. I knew exactly what I wanted right down to the model name.

I visited a locally owned store, but they didn’t have my size in stock. A few days later, I visited a box store. They had the shoe on the wall (which is never my size), but they didn’t have any others. They didn’t even have the match to the one on the wall.

As I got into the car in the box store parking lot, I called the locally owned store again just in case they had some new arrivals. Nope.

They offered to order a pair for me, but I told them I was visiting from elsewhere and wouldn’t be around when they arrived.

At this point, they had choices:  Focus on the sale, focus on the customer or try harder.

What’s your focus?

If your sales people are trained to focus on the sale, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any” and be disappointed that they didn’t get a sale. If that’s the end of the conversation, your customer might go elsewhere – losing the sale and the customer.

If your sales people are trained to focus on the customer, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any. Have you looked at (competitor number one) or (competitor number two)? They both carry that brand.

If your sales people are trained to focus on keeping your customers happy, they might say “Nope, we don’t have any. If you come by and let us fit you in a similar shoe in that brand, I can order that model in your size and have it shipped to you. If it doesn’t fit like you want, we’ll take care of you until you’re happy or we’ll give your money back.

What they did was refer me to two of their competitors (one was the store whose parking lot I was in). The second one had my size in stock, so 20 minutes later, I had my shoes and was heading for the in-laws place.

The “try harder” choice might not have been what I wanted, but I wasn’t given a choice. Keep in mind that you can always fall back from the “try harder” position if the customer isn’t interested in or cannot use that kind of help.

The important thing

You might think that the locally owned retailer lost a sale, but that isn’t as important as keeping the customer over the long term.

While I wasn’t able to buy the shoes from the place I wanted, they were able to help me find them.

They could’ve run me off quickly by saying “We don’t have that size.”

They didn’t do that. I suspect their handling of the call was the result of training driven by a management decision.

I wasn’t a familiar voice calling them on the phone. While I’ve bought from their store on and off for 20 years, they don’t know that because they keep paper sales tickets. I’m not there often enough to be a familiar face / voice and had not been in their town for two years.

Yet they treated me like someone they want to come back.

Do you treat your customers that way? Do your online competitors?

Competition from tomorrow?

Sometimes business owners complain about online competition.

Yet online stores can rarely provide instant gratification. It’s difficult for them to help you buy something you need today for a meal, event, dinner, date, meeting or presentation happening later today.

They can rarely deliver the kind of service a local, customer-focused business can offer.

Online often gets a foothold when local service and/or selection are poor and focused on the wrong thing. Even with online pricing, a product isn’t delivered until tomorrow.

When you aren’t competing strongly against tomorrow, you really aren’t even competing against today.

Focus on helping them get what they want and need. Whether they are local or remote, customers just want to be well taken care of and get what they came for.

An ethical lapse, or just not knowing any better?

~ THE EYE ~
Creative Commons License photo credit: KhayaL

Last night I was working on the web site for our local Scout camp.

Lots of Scout troops from out of state visit Glacier National Park every year.

Some of them use our local Scout camp property as a “base camp” for a week or two of treks they make into the Bob Marshall, Glacier Park and elsewhere.

One thing they depend on us for is referrals to quality local businesses for various outdoor adventures. We don’t have the staff, money or licenses to be an outfitter, so we refer them to professionals. Part of that process is providing these troops with contact info.

While looking up some websites to add to the “nearby activities” directory on the camp’s site, I noticed that when I searched for the name of one of the outfitters, a Google Adwords ad for their direct competitor appeared at the top of the page.

“How 1999…”, I thought.

What do I mean by that? It’s a reference to standard (and kinda dumb) stuff that businesses did online way back in 1999.

It could just be a dumb move. Or it could be unethical, which in this case qualifies as both.

Dumb and Dumber

I’ll address “dumb” first.

It could be that this business just doesn’t know any better and thinks they’re being clever by using their competitor’s name as a keyword to place their ad.

The “don’t know any better” thing doesn’t wash with me. Would they buy a Yellow Pages or newspaper ad with the other business’ name in it but put their own phone number in the ad? Of course not. Yet they do it in the hidden keywords of online ads and in their web site’s html source. The ad itself isn’t misleading, of course.

Like the Wild West, whatever you get away with online is legal and ethical, right? I mean It’s online, so the rules are different (if they exist at all), right?

Not hardly.

It’s obvious that outfitter-in-the-ad is advertising their business on Google Adwords using the business name of a competitor as a keyword. It’s equally obvious from the site’s meta info (source code that isn’t visible). The former is subject to discussion. The latter is uncool in any legitimate web marketer’s unwritten rulebook.

If “Joe’s Climbing Wall” had bought an ad to display when “climbing walls” or “climbing walls Glacier Park” is searched, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But that clearly isn’t the case. And no, this isn’t about climbing walls.

A big deal

You might not think this is worth talking about, so let me elaborate a little.

Imagine Ford’s reaction if every search for “Ford Mustang” resulted in seeing a Google search results page starting with Chevy Camaro ads and links.

Should I expect to see both companies in the ads and search results displayed when I search for “American sports car”? Absolutely.

The key here is that this isn’t what the searcher is looking for when looking for a specific business name.

Yeah, I’m yelling. A little, anyhow. Misuse of trade names – even at this level – will sooner or later get you bit. Misleading people in search results also annoys Google, who wants people to find what they are searching for the first time they search.

Placing Gain next to Tide on the shelf at your grocery is fair game (thanks Shane). It’s obvious to the consumer which is which in that case.

How’s your icemaker?

Even for the ethically challenged, using a competitor’s business name as an advertising keyword is a bad idea.

If someone calls your HDTV store and asks a question about the newest 3D TV models and your salesperson say “Well, our refrigerators all have in-door icemakers”, would you expect that prospect to have a positive reaction? How would you react to a totally out-of-context response like that?

It’s foolish.

Likewise, so is advertising your business using someone else’s business name.

The other shoe

What troubles me most is the signal it sends. It makes me question how the rest of your business operates. It could be an innocent mistake. It could be something the web developer did and didn’t share with the business. Further research indicates otherwise.

When it comes to sending Scouts out into the woods or on the water, that wonder extends to…

  • Whether your safety equipment is up to par, or in another ethical lapse, you just say it is.
  • Whether your staff is properly trained, or in another ethical lapse, you just say they are.

It’s the last thought you want in the heads of folks who funnel hundreds of young, out-of-state visitors to businesses like yours.

Being Prepared

One of the things Scoutmasters teach their Scouts is the Scout motto – “Be Prepared.”

We don’t stand around saying those words all that much (or ever, really).

When I ask a Scout what it means to them, I get a lot of different answers. I talk about it with the boys because I’m curious what it means to them – which tells me where they are preparedness-wise.

Depending on their age and their seriousness when I ask the question, I hear answers that include things like:

  • knowing how to select the right gear for a campout,
  • having the right fishing lures,
  • making sure that bacon is on the menu (not kidding),
  • being in good enough shape for the upcoming hike,
  • making sure the car is full of gas and has proper levels of other fluids/air and so on,
  • having charged batteries in the camera,
  • having a sharpened pocket knife,
  • knowing how to tie a rescue knot, or
  • having the proper gear to safely canoe or kayak a river/stream.

What it ultimately means to me is being prepared for what life/business serves up, whether it’s a class V rapid, an unexpected flat tire during a snowstorm in a remote area, that five figure invoice that your “customer” still hasn’t paid, the new box store down the street, mention of your business in the Wall Street Journal, by Scoble and on TechCrunch, or stumbling upon an idea that changes your life and/or business.

Embarrassment? No.

To someone who has a job, I ask them what they would do if they lost their job today? Are they honing a new or enhanced skill so that they can react quickly to a downturn in what they’ve done for the past 20 years? Do they have a network of people in their current (or desired) line of work that could help them identify opportunities?

To someone who has a business, I might ask them what would happen if the building housing their business burned down, or if their biggest customer stopped buying from them, or if they suddenly got 100 new customers tomorrow.

I don’t ask these questions to embarrass employees or business owners any more than I ask them to embarrass a Scout when asking them what would happen if their friend cut his hand or lost his water bottle on a week-long hike. I ask them so they’ll think about their level of preparedness.

Being prepared isn’t just about having a poncho in case it rains, having backups offsite, and having a marketing plan that never stops finding new customers for you. It’s also about being mentally prepared to deal with what happens next.

Be prepared, not only to take a punch, but to make big leaps when opportunities present themselves.

The wisdom of setting expectations from a 17 year old bacon lover

Best sign ever
Creative Commons License photo credit: miss_rogue

Last week I was at summer camp with the Scout troop so things were a bit quiet here.

Normally I would have posted a series of posts written in advance, but I thought both of us needed a break. Break time is over, so let’s get back at it.

As always, there are lessons in business to bring home from camp, often from unexpected places.

Like a 17 year old in the dining hall.

Before I get to that, the story requires a few facts to get you into the proper context:

  • Boy Scouts would eat bacon at every meal for a week if you’d let them. No, I am not kidding.
  • Bacon is a sneaky way of getting the boys to learn that cooking sometimes requires patience and that a camp stove’s burners have settings other than “Off” and “Blast furnace”. When a boy sees a perfectly cooked strip of bacon, they can respect the care that was taken to prepare it (right before they inhale it, that is).
  • At Scout camp, two things are essential: Good food and a great staff. If either one is bad, that camp will not be fondly remembered.

Now that you are properly educated, here’s the story.

Real Bacon? Are you nuts???

One morning at breakfast, the camp offered bacon to the 200+ campers and staff in attendance.

If you’ve been to Scout summer camp before, you know this is rare because of the expense and because it is difficult to cook bacon for 200+ people while having it anywhere close to hot when served and most importantly – in that situation, it is rarely cooked right.

Typically you find summer camp bacon limp and undercooked or charred and/or some combination of both – sometimes with all those conditions occurring on the same piece (again, not kidding – would I kid about bacon?).

Add to that, summer camp bacon is not normally what Mom and Dad would serve, instead it’s often some tiny strip of paper-thin re-cooked bacon. Pfft.

As folks head through the line on this fine morning, people are seen coming back to their seats with 3 strips of bacon – a rather unheard of serving size at summer camp.

Not only are they giving out 3 strips, but these strips are monstrous (OK, maybe they’re normal – but that’s shocking enough) *and* they are perfectly cooked.

Then the worst happens: They run out of bacon.

Folks, this is like running out of beer and pork products at an LSU home football game. Riots are possible.

The Great Bacon Fiasco

At our table, the event already has a name: “The Great Bacon Fiasco”. And you thought I wasn’t kidding about Scouts taking bacon seriously…

People are coming back to their seats with zero bacon and they are watching someone at the next table munch gleefully on 3 strips of porcine heaven.

Apparently some miscommunication occurred with the servers, who gave out 3 strips vs 2, thereby blowing the bacon budget.

The only thing stopping the second coming of the South Central Riots is that the head chef can be seen (through the service window) at the back of the kitchen where she has the entire griddle covered with cooking bacon.

Calmer heads prevail and eventually, 2 strip servings begin to go out to those who were previously left out.

Naturally, those in the Two Strip Club are grumbling – mostly because they know those other lucky dudes got 3 pieces.

Seconds

Not long after everyone is served, the crazy dude announcing the meal (trust me, gotta be there) announces that seconds will be served and he goes around table by table releasing folks to the seconds line so they can “get their pork on”.

Upon returning from the seconds line, my senior patrol leader (ie: the youth in charge of the troop) sits down with 1 strip of bacon. Perfectly cooked, but terribly lonesome. Everyone who went up for seconds got 1 more slice – which makes perfect sense so that the maximum number of people get seconds.

Problem is, a kid who would normally be happy to have received a 3rd, perfectly-cooked strip of bacon is instead mildly annoyed, or disappointed, or something along those lines.

His bacon-inspired wisdom: He remarks that everyone who only got 2 strips would be far less grumpy if they had given everyone 2 strips from the outset and then given out that same 1 strip second serving to anyone who wanted seconds.

Wiser than his years might reveal, the young man understands how setting expectations works – whether it’s with bacon, product delivery, service, follow up or what not.

What kind of expectations does your business set? Do they meet or exceed what is delivered?  Would altering one impact the reception of the other?

Pass the bacon.

PS: If the bacon thing doesn’t resonate with you, substitute latkes. Same fervor, different food.

Someone keyed my Karma

Month before last during a coaching session, I had a pretty frank conversation with a client about freedom.

Not the Constitutional kind of freedom, but freedom from the ball and chain that a business can become. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that it can become a restriction to your freedom.

Not only that, but it’s common for small family-owned businesses to almost not be a business if the family isn’t there. If you aren’t there. Needless to say, this isn’t an ideal situation when unexpected events occur.

During that conversation, we talked about configuring the business so that it could stand an unexpected, required trip out of town for a month (or 3).

A month went by.

In last month’s session, we were talking about their retail business and once again, we talked (among other things) about how I felt they needed to spend some serious effort on figuring out how to grow and insulate the business from unexpected turns in life.

I gave them a few examples of things to work on, knowing that we’d need to revisit it and fine tune the strategy as we move forward.

And here comes Al.

Then I mentioned that I was getting to take my own advice, as I had just discovered that an immediate family member has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Result: Recent efforts to move a portion of my client base a little closer to home were going to have to be reversed.

My business is going to be changing because – as I advised my client – I don’t know when I will need to disappear for a few months. Not completely disappear or be disconnected from the net, but just not be home for an unknown period of time.

A few weeks went by, and I was hoping that the owner’s thought and effort was going into that project. I’m sure it is, but it’s not an immediate change to do this to your business – particularly if you are in retail, restaurant or hospitality (ie: hotel, motel, b&b).

Another month goes by.

Last week, we talked again to schedule our next call and it turned out that the very thing I had advised preparing for was happening.

Family responsibilities requiring out of town travel on little notice for an unknown period of time. Really sad.

Meanwhile, I look in the mirror and remind myself that my business is changing for the same reasons and that I need to accelerate the pace.

Are you prepared for that sort of thing? Depending on your age and your parents age, it might be more apparent to you – but it can happen to you even if you are a 26 year old entrepreneur.

If you don’t ask for help, you aren’t likely to get it.

In 70% of small business failures, a key factor was the owner not recognizing or ignoring weaknesses, and then not seeking help.” – SCORE / US Bank survey of failed small businesses

Do you have someone in your corner who will ask you the tough questions?

Your son’s Pinewood Derby car: a “banned hazardous substance”

Pinewood Derby
Creative Commons License photo credit: midiman

Random thoughts get me in trouble sometimes. Today I got a call from the service manager of one of our local Chevy dealers.

Every February, the troop helps them by hand washing 250-280 cars during the dealer’s annual customer care clinic. It’s a brilliant free event that gets the dealer’s customers into the showroom for 30-40 minutes, feeds them, offers them door prizes, and most importantly – gets their cars run through the shop for a head to toe diagnostic/safety once-over by their certified mechanics.

In addition to finding some safety issues that could be fatal because they stranded you somewhere remote during our Montana winters, it also does a nice job of filling out the repair shop’s appointment book for a couple of months. 

After the inspection once-over is done, it gives the Scouts a chance to be seen in public doing something people appreciate (ie: handwashing their cars in February in Montana – albeit in a heated auto shop).

Anyhow, that conversation and the related thought process got me to thinking about The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA otherwise known as HR4040) and Scouting. Yes, its a bit of a tangent, but I got there, so let’s move on.

Patches, Pinewood and Pants

Im wondering if Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Headquarters is aware that the CPSIA drastically tightens the rules for the sale and manufacture of children’s products, including clothing, furniture, toys and other items (basically, *everything* created for a young child).

Patches, gear and uniforms will fall under this law for Scouts in younger age groups. Old gear AND gear *currently in inventory* that has not been tested CANNOT BE SOLD, by Scout shops, on eBay, by retail stores, etc.

Even Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car kits are impacted. No manufacturers – not even one-of-a-kind (OOAK) products are exempted.

They didn’t leave out the Girl Scouts, of course.  All their gear and clothing are also under the watchful eye of this law.

The gear, patches and clothing currently in inventory is what will cause the most interest by BSA National because 300+ council offices have lots of stuff in inventory in their stores and summer camp trading posts. 

All of it has to be certified or tested, or it must be removed from sale on Feb 10th. Or someone has to find an exemption. Right now, there are no exemptions.

Why pick on the kids?

This law was written primarily to deal with large multi-national firms importing containers of lead-tainted junk toys, so the fines are substantial.

This law is big trouble for people who make homemade clothing/toys/furniture, for diaper services, for resale shops, those making their living on ebay/etsy.com and many others (including everyone they buy items from to make their business run).

Lots of effort is taking place to try and get it fixed, but its already a law and many of the rules have yet to be written by the CPSC – despite the fact that the major components of the law go into effect on Feb 10. As written, the law impacts everyone.

Im curious if this is even remotely on the BSA’s radar because it will impact every council scout shop and every retailer who carries Scout items, new or used.

It will impact all the ordering of gear, patches and so on for NOAC 2009, for the 45,000+ attendees of the 100th Anniversary National Scout Jamboree at Camp A.P. Hill in Virginia, and every summer camp’s trading post for the 2009 season (and so on). That’s a lot of stuff. 

Is the CPSIA a surprise for you? You’re in luck

Ive posted a number of articles about the CPSIA, so if this is the first you’ve heard about it, I’d suggest starting your CPSIA education here and I would also suggest calling the BSA National office and ask them about CPSIA compliance of items from BSA National Supply. Don’t bother your council office with this (unless you’re on the council board) because they really can’t do much about it other than make sure they are ordering from CPSIA-compliant vendors.

In the meantime, you might also see if your Scout shop has a sale on Pinewood Cars – and buy your model car paint early. At present, there’s no telling what the status of model paints will be after Feb 10.

The reach of this law never ceases to amaze me.

Have you called your Senators’ DC offices?

[audio:http://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/PinewoodDerbyHazardousSubstance.mp3]

Two simple keys to easy revenue and better service

Upsell and follow up.

Simple, right?  You already know this. But are you actually doing it?

Two of the easiest things to do to increase sales without spending even a dime to chase new customers, something you shouldn’t need to do if you are doing things right, are asking for the upsell and following up.

Before you change the channel, note that when I say upsell, I dont mean badger the crud out of your client with mindless “Do you want fries with that?” list of questions.

Instead, I mean ask smart questions that provoke your client to ask for more help, and do smart things that helps keep them out of trouble.

One local example is a nearby Chevy dealer’s Customer Appreciation Day, which just happens to include a bumper to bumper vehicle check.

On a nice 80 degree summer day, you don’t think much about being stranded. In the middle of a cold Montana winter, it’s on your radar anytime you’re out in the boonies.

In the middle of the coldest part of our Montana winters, which also happens to be their slowest time of the year, the dealer examines their clients’ vehicles for problems.

That vehicle check is done at no cost, plus you get breakfast or lunch and a bunch of chances to win door prizes.

They also have extra salespeople around in case clients have questions, but it isn’t a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel sales event.

It’s a service/safety event that even includes a bunch of folks in the heated detail bays washing every car before the client takes it home.

The client goes home with a laundry list of stuff to keep get fixed or just keep an eye on, without any sales pressure. It truly is a courtesy check.

And of course, it’s a gold mine too.

Why? Because people see a bunch of stuff that they know might strand them on the side of a remote rural road at the worst possible time, so they either get it fixed at the dealer, or they take the list elsewhere (or home).

Even for those clients who don’t get a bunch of work done at the dealer, this serves a purpose: It gets that owner and their vehicle into the store once a year no matter what. It gets the service people an opportunity to check over the vehicle for potentially dangerous problems at least once a year. It gives the sales folks an opportunity to chat with former customers (there’s a reason why I call them that), offering them the chance to re-fire the connection with them.

While it would be a great idea for you if you are in any sort of service business, you don’t have to put on a big production like this every year.

You simply have to pay attention and take the opportunities presented.

When I bring my mower in for a new blade like I did earlier this week, you might take an extra 30 seconds to check the oil and see if it is low, or dirty.

You might check the air filter and see if it needs to be cleaned, or re-oiled. Even if those services only cost $5 to perform (plus the oil), that’s $10+ in incremental revenue, PLUS you make the point that you are trying to lengthen the life of my machines.

Trust me, if it burns gas, uses oil and I own it, it’s probably begging for help.

And I guarantee you, I’m not alone.

In many ways, your goal is their goal: Make sure that the client is as prepared to go into tomorrow, much less the rest of today, with as few detours as possible.

Yesterday, I had a pitman and idler arm replaced on my Suburban aka the Scoutmobile. I couldn’t pick them out of a box of parts but I do know they are part of the front end suspension and messed up ones like to ruin tires.

Meanwhile, another lady walked in to get a tire repaired. She was happy to find that the tire repair was free, but had to ask if someone would check her battery.

She shouldn’t have had to ask.

When her vehicle was taken in to fix the tire, it should have been part of their procedure to check the battery, tire pressures, fluid levels, wipers, brakes, shocks and tire tread.

Not just to upsell, but to make sure the client’s vehicle is safe to operate. And of course, to give yourself the opportunity to show the client that you are looking out for them and their vehicle.

But that didn’t happen, even though we were in a place that’s known for offering good service. You can tell they are trained, but they could be doing even more.

By the way, it turned out that the lady needed a new battery. The well-trained car guy offered her choices, let her make a decision and made the sale. But if she hadn’t asked…no sale.

Could you and your staff be doing more, all while being more helpful?

Does your business run at the speed of trust?

The speed of trust is something Covey’s son came up with, and is discussed nicely here on Robert Ringer’s blog.

During our campout this past weekend at Lake McDonald in Glacier Park, I had an incident that reminded me of this article, which if you think about it, speaks to everything from day to day business to systemic health care issues in the United States.

Trust (via “trustworthy”) is also the first point of the Scout Law. I think there’s a reason that it’s first.

Quoting Ringer on Trust:

The truth of the matter is that the greatest threat to America is its loss of virtues, and at the top of the list of decaying virtues is trust. Americans don’t trust religious leaders, they don’t trust schools, they don’t trust corporate chieftains, and, above all, they don’t trust politicians. And, I should add, all this distrust has been well earned.

Yeah, it’s a broad brush, but if you look at all the programs in place that are there simply due to a lack of integrity in business, there are billions of dollars spent just because we have serious trust issues with parts of the business world that should expect (and generate) implicit trust.

Leaf and frost at Glacier ParkUnfortunately, their behavior over time leaves a lot to be desired.

Back to this past weekend. I had a 13 year old patrol leader (PL) who took advantage of his leadership position a bit. He and a partner made breakfast and then left the dishes for 2 other patrol members. We don’t do that in our troop.

I don’t have many publicly visible, meddlesome adult-issued rules in our troop because I believe the boys have to take command and have that be seen, otherwise they’ll never get the trust and respect they need to actually BE the leaders of the troop’s boys. I guide and mentor from behind the wizard’s curtain, not by the heavy hand.

One of the few places I do meddle (sorta) is by setting the expectation that cooks should clean up the mess they make after cooking a meal. The logic is that if they know they have to clean it up, they’re more likely to either clean up as they go or at least, make less of a mess. They’re also more likely to give a rip whether or not they burn something to the bottom of a pan, whether or not they’ll put dishwater on after serving so it’ll be ready to use when they’re done eating (we have to heat our water in the field, obviously), whether or not they’ll fill a gnarly pan with water so it can soak while they eat, etc.

Once you’ve watched enough 11-13 yr olds cook, this is fairly obvious:)

That didn’t happen on this meal and the 2 newbie Scouts who got stuck with cleanup duty got the stinky end of the stick, dishes-wise. Eventually, they stumbled and asked me what to do (they should have asked their PL first, but they didn’t – they’re new). After a brief lesson in saving yourself 30 minutes of fruitless scrubbing (ie: soak the pan) and a few other pieces of advice, I had a moment with the PL and told him that he would be taking the dish box home with him.

When he asked why, I reminded him that cooks clean, but more importantly that I wanted cleaning the box contents to remind him of how patrol leaders can get the respect of a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds. IE: It isn’t by dumping crappy work on them. I suggested that he would earn their respect, and thus, their cooperation by taking care of his responsibilities rather than delegating the ugly ones. Finally, I suggested that they would start to trust (much less take action on) his instructions when they trusted there was no ulterior motive to them.

Without that respect, he will have to constantly nag his patrol members to get stuff done. It’ll take forever, every time they do something. The dishes are a prime example.

He’s a good kid, he just made a mistake. The lesson sunk in, and he admitted that he shouldn’t have done what he did – and did so without asking. Of course, he still got to take the dish box home (meaning: He gets to clean everything in it and bring it back Tuesday night).

Trust earns respect and cooperation, and not just in a Scout troop.

Can your clients trust you? Is that reflected in the speed your business gets things done?

Think about it.

What holiday generates the 2nd highest spending by adults?

Halloween (yes, Valentine’s Day is first).

Obviously we’re not including Christmas, which is head and shoulders spending-wise ahead of both of those days. I don’t figure I have to advise anyone to market their business around Christmas, particularly since Wal-Mart has had lights and ornaments out since last May, or at least it seems like it’s been that long:)

No matter what kind of business you own, you can take advantage of Halloween in some fashion, have a little fun and generate some PR. Oh yeah – and make some sales!

The obvious thing is for you and your staff to dress up on Halloween, but that doesn’t help you much if you don’t have a retail or service business where the public is in and out of your store all day.

If you do ask your staff to dress up, be sure and provide them with Do’s and Don’ts well in advance so they can make good choices and still enjoy the fun. Some costumes might create safety issues in your workplace, and some people always need a little reminder of what is and isn’t tasteful. You more than likely don’t want your VP of Consumer Loans coming to the bank dressed up like Madonna or Britney. Too much information:)

Everyone has options if they plan ahead a little. You still have time if you hurry, and can include Halloween-related marketing in your print, direct mail and radio ads.

The themes should be obvious. An accountant can have their staff dress up like some scary creature (a politician comes to mind<g>) and put a headline on their ad that says “Scared of paying too much of your hard-earned money to the IRS?” and then proceed to describe and make an offer.

An attorney might send a mailer to their clients reminding them that a hard deadline (December 31, for example) is coming soon and include a picture or clip art of the Grim Reaper, or similar character.

An quick lube oil change store could show their staff dressed up as creatures down in the bay below the vehicles and talk about the dungeon and how they are ready to keep your car in tip top shape so that you don’t get stuck on the side of the road, only to be caught by the boogeyman.

An on-site event at your store or service location is another obvious, but rarely used, idea. People have live remotes with a radio station all the time. Rarely do they have any fun with them and make them interesting and worth driving across town to attend. You could make this a customer appreciation event as well. It won’t be long before the hectic season is here, may as well do it now and start a tradition.

Obviously, you can make these ads, events and offers as edgy or sedate as you like – just try to have some fun with them. Even the clients of accountants and lawyers like fun stuff.

Be absolutely sure to craft these offers so that you know how much business comes from your day of silliness. You might find that you want to do these kinds of things more often.  You want to know what works and what doesn’t, even the fun stuff.

Even if your business doesn’t appear to have much synergy with Halloween (or has a different idea of fun), it’s easy to turn it around and still make use of the day.

For example, if you own a store that offers religious goods/services, you may have some clients who wouldn’t appreciate it if your staff came to work in costumes and festooned the store with black and orange, goblins and ghosts. Only you know your clientèle well enough to decide what you should and shouldn’t do. Still, do something.

There’s no reason why you couldn’t provide a fun alternative. Perhaps the staff arrives for work dressed as their favorite person from the Bible. Or you have your own version of a Haunted House, with a religious theme. And obviously not scary, but instead a lesson, scene or room from your favorite story.

There’s room for almost every business to do something with Halloween, you just have to put a little thought into it. And don’t stop with Halloween. There’s a trick or treat bag full of holidays and other special days between now and March (see, even I can do it).

One kid’s project turns into smart marketing nationwide

Looking for a star salesperson? There’s someone here in the Flathead who over the last 3-4 years has outperformed his peers across the state.

He sells popcorn.

The downside for you is that he’s 12 years old, so you’ll have to hire a driver for him (or wait a few years).

Continue reading One kid’s project turns into smart marketing nationwide