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Warm chocolate chip cookies and the big difference between you and them

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/WarmChocolateChipCookies.mp3]

Almost every day, I stumble upon someone looking for a way to differentiate their business from their competitors’.

Far too often, they try to compete almost solely on price.

Since I’ve beat the dont-compete-solely-on-price drum in the past (eg: all those WalMart posts), so today we’re going to take a different tack.

Is it the steak or the sizzle? Or maybe something else?

Ever been to Sizzler, Western Sizzlin’ or Ryan’s Steak House?

Likewise, have you been to Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Charley’s, Shula’s or Chicago Chop House?

Which would you prefer if you had a coupon for a free meal, or if someone else was buying?

My money is on Charley’s (followed very closely by Ruth’s) – though I have to admit I haven’t made it to Shula’s as yet.

Why? Because everything about the place is simply amazing. The steak, the experience, the service, and so on.

One of the best moments I’ve had with my dad was after a photography trade show (yeah, back in the software company days), where we found ourselves sitting at the bar in Charley’s near the Tampa airport.

If you eat at the bar (almost no one seems to), you get to watch the chefs fire the steak – away from the quiet luxury of the dining room – and you still get incredible service, quite possibly more attentive than the service in the dining room if that’s possible.

What about retail?

Over the last several months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the CPSIA situation.

Despite widespread knowledge of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act by some store owners, I see very few of them using it as a competitive advantage.

Maybe they’ve been too busy spending time trying to get their Congressional reps/Senators to change the bill. OK, maybe that’s a reason, but it isn’t an excuse. You know the difference, right?

Here’s an example: If you have a newborn and you walk into an upscale handmade baby clothing store and see a sign that says “All of our fashions for babies are tested and certified safe according to the CPSIA”, isn’t it obvious that it plants a seed in the mind of the persnickety shopper?

IE: “Shouldn’t everyone’s stuff be tested and certified safe?” Hmmm. Remember, in a store like that – the persnickety shopper is absolutely the one you *want* in your store.

If you wanted to get really aggressive about it, add “…Do the other stores you frequent care as much about your baby’s safety as we do? Ask them about the CPSIA and their testing and safety certification of the fashions they offer for your child.”

Fresh from the oven

If you have a choice, do you want warm, soft chocolate chip cookies made from scratch that are fresh out of Grandma’s oven, or do you want generic store-brand “chocolate” chip cookies that you know might have been baked a month ago?

I’d bet that you’d prefer the warm cookies from Grandma’s oven.

What about your business, product and service can create a chasm that wide, making it *that* easy to make a decision between your product/service and theirs?

Make a point of focusing on it. Educate your clientele to call attention to it so that they expect exactly what you do/sell if they find themselves elsewhere. You want to be the standard that everyone else has to meet.

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Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Homemade products Leadership Politics Retail Small Business

Sorry Buster, but Grandpa’s mess kit is off-limits

Hop On Pop
Creative Commons License photo credit: ginnerobot

Yes, today is the day that the CPSIA – the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – takes effect.

Today is the day that manufacturers, resellers and retailers of products for children start to see the reality behind all the discussion going on for the last several months. 

Some even call it “National Bankruptcy Day” because businesses all over the US close tomorrow rather than take a chance on selling an item that could generate a $100,000 fine.

Today is the day that anything for kids with 600 parts per million of lead (600ppm) or more is considered a banned hazardous substance, whether it was made today or 200 years prior. 

No, I’m not kidding.

Abel had it coming either way

That’s right. There is no grandfather clause for lead or phthalate content. It’s retroactive back to a few days prior to the arrival of the first at-risk children: Cain and Abel.

Even books printed prior to 1985 are likely to be considered “banned hazardous materials”, as most of the ink used prior to 1985 print them contained small amounts of lead.

That first edition Little Women that you were going to hand down to your granddaughter? Better wait till she’s 13. 

Confused yet? You aren’t alone. Many businesses of all sizes are confused.

Confusion reigns

Even the Feds are confused. The CPSC recently issued a 13 page small business guidance document for those wondering what to do about the CPSIA.

When I say “recently”, I mean one day before the CPSIA takes effect.  That leaves you with plenty of time to react, doesn’t it?

At the bottom, that CPSC staff-created document says that it might not be applicable to reality because the commission has to officially approve whatever they put in that document. And you know from history that non-binding doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost you anything.

Want a little irony? Even an enthusiastic consumer advocate organization like National Resources Defense Council, a fan of the CPSIA, doesn’t understand that they are liable for the “onesie” that they sell on their website. They also don’t appear to care about trademark law, as “onesie” is a trademarked term in the children’s product market. But…they think these things don’t apply to them because they didn’t manufacture the item.

About their liability re: the CPSIA, they are dead wrong.

CPSIA – Closer to home

Me? I wonder about all those antique volumes for sale on ebay and specialty websites. That 1910 version of “Handbook for Boys” that was written by Lord Baden-Powell – the founder of the Boy Scouts.

That mess kit that your grandfather used in WWI or when he was a Scout. 

Both are illegal items for the 12 and under set. Can’t sell them. Can’t donate them. Can’t export them. That’d be “Commerce”, which is what is covered for these items. 

Still not too late to contact your reps and Senators. There is a stay on testing in place, but there isn’t a stay on liability, nor on the law itself. Only Congress can make that happen.

Update: Link to small business guide was changed by CPSC so it has been changed here as well.

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China Competition Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Homemade products Leadership Manufacturing Politics Regulation Retail Small Business

DeMint gives CPSIA instructions to small business owners

Look what happens when you step away from the CPSIA bonfire for a couple of days to get some work done…after all, *someone* has to bail out the country, may as well be me.

Senator DeMint from South Carolina is working on some legislative fixes to the CPSIA, but more importantly, in his blog he describes the steps you must take to get support for his changes. 

His common sense proposal to change the CPSIA is also covered in that same blog post. Clarity – a little shocking.

Once again, I’m asking you to call your senator’s WASHINGTON office (not the local, in-state one) as DeMint instructs.

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China Competition Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Homemade products Leadership Management Marketing Politics Retail Small Business Social Media

CPSIA 1 year stay granted: Proof of the might of social media for marketing

The letter to the Commission is here and the press release is here.

Good news. Buys some time to get the darned thing right.

Thank Kathleen Fasanella for getting it started, but also thank social media

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the power of social media is what made this happen.

Not directly, but as a viral means of getting the word out and getting a grass roots effort on fire.

Via Twitter and blogs, a fairly small group of advocates found the people and motivated them to call, fax, email and write to Congress and the CPSIA.

Now, if this is proof enough for you, maybe you can find a way to use it as a marketing tool.

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Consumer Advocacy CPSIA Homemade products Management Retail Small Business

Andy Hoffman tells CPSIA whiners to “grow up”

Pop-Tarts ARE Supposed To Be for Kids, Right?
Creative Commons License photo credit: CarbonNYC

Over at PopTort.com, consumer advocate Andy Hoffman says that opponents to the CPSIA need to “grow up”.

I shared this comment with Andy on his blog, but just in case he doesn’t see fit to mark my comment as public, I’ll repost it here. Feel free to join in with your own reply.

Here’s what I had to say to Mr. Hoffman:

You’re only missing one little issue, Andy.

This isn’t about greedy business owners wanting to avoid the lead law.

In a lot of cases, its about stay at home moms who squeeze a second income out of their cottage business and use that as a way to enable them to stay home and be a mom to their kids prior to their kids entry to school.

Some have managed substantial success, doing more than just squeaking by.

These moms (and others) who manufacture organic cotton onesies, tshirts and so forth for infants (along with a litany of other stuff) quite often started making these things *because* of the crap that is sold at WalMart and elsewhere that was found wanting in the environmentally-kind department.

Before you think that I too am just another whiner throwing a tantrum – be aware that I dont own or work for a children’s products business and NONE of my clients are in that category.

What the uproar is really about is giving small businesses who dont have the economies of scale on their side a means of testing that doesnt put them out of business.

When you manufacture (which often means “sew”) something for $6 and tell it for $12, you cant afford to spend $57 to test it. Anyone can see that math isnt going to work.

The big thing that many miss about this law is that it isnt limited to impacting those who make, retail or resell children’s products: it’s the ripple effect throughout the economy from there.

All of those businesses use accountants, lawyers, graphic artists, web site geeks, and so on. All of them will be doing less of that.

To get a full image of the ripple, I suggest you read the post linked to above (in his blog form) and take note that 80% (yes, EIGHTY) percent of the people in the room were standing when I was done asking them to.

If 80% of the businesses in your area are affected by a law that could easily be altered, it might be in your best interest to look at it without wearing the jaundice-tinted Consumer Reports hat.

Small businesses aren’t asking for an exemption and they arent asking for a different set of rules.

All they are asking for is the ability to use the component testing performed by the manufacturer of the lot of cloth, vat of vinyl, etc.

That allows everyone using that lot (etc) to absorb the cost, rather than every manufacturer having to absorb the full cost of the test for every line of items they make from that bolt of cloth and so on.

Thanks.

Your turn: Pay a visit to Poptort.com and let Andy know how grown up you are.