More on this later today, but I thought Id include a link to this article, as it addresses many of the things I mentioned in my original post.
Ok, not me, but the blog did. I got tired of looking at the bunny every day and felt the blog needed more of a Montana feel, so here we are. I’ll be getting back to the Walmart topic shortly, been a busy week.
In the 7 step process I described earlier, I intentionally left a few things out – primarily because the post would have been a book otherwise. Well, the good news is that we’re going to do one of those “missing” things right now.
Next – You need to do some work on your USP. USP is an abbreviation for “unique selling proposition”. You’ll find other definitions, but we’re all talking about the same thing, your biggest “Reason Why”.
Dont mistake your USP for a mission statement so long that no one ever remembers it (useless). They arent the same thing.
A USP serves as the answer to this question:
“Why should I choose your business, product and/or service, rather than any/every other available option available to me?”
Before you put some thought into that, let me give you a couple of classic USP examples:
“Fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed”
“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”
Im sure you know who both of these belong to, but just in case, its Domino’s Pizza and Federal Express (Fedex).
While I dont expect you to come up with something as good as these, I challenge you to try.
Now think for a moment (or an hour…):
Why should I visit your business and purchase products and services from you, instead of every other competitor I can think of?
Dont give me some weak effort like “Our service is the best”. Everyone THINKS their service is the best. You know better.
Make me drive across town, passing 5 of your competitors just to do business with you.
Give me a reason that will get me off the couch and out the door on Super Bowl Sunday, 4th quarter, in the middle of an ice storm.
Make it clear to me why I HAVE to do business with you, and no one else. Then we’ll come back to the next step.
PS: This is NOT busy work. Mess this up and your marketing is sailing without a rudder.
Rule number 1 – Thinking you are going to beat WalMart on price is about as stupid as sending your daughter on a date with Mike Tyson. Get that out of your head, if by some wild notion it was in there. Thinking that you can muddle along doing the same things 2 years from now that you do now? Not gonna happen. Hamilton retailers, your mindset has to change.
It really doesnt matter what you are doing right now – if you are a Hamilton retailer, your business is likely going to change. When it happens and why it happens is. What matters is what you do with the time between now and opening day. Ive been watching the Bitterroot Star for months and its been mighty quiet about the date, or guesses at the date.
First off, I would suggest contacting the Miles City Chamber of Commerce and ask them for the names of a few retailers who they feel have reacted successfully to the SuperCenter that opened in Miles City in October 2006. When you get the names, call them up and pick their brain. What did they do, step by step, from the time the announcement came until the store opened?
What have they changed since October’s opening?
What worked? What didnt?
If the people you get in touch with really get it, and are experiencing successes that you want to duplicate – fly them to Hamilton (yeah, I know, Billings to Missoula) and ask them to speak at a meeting of Hamilton retailers.
Its critical to understand that this is NOT a networking meeting. Likewise, it is not a whine, complain and wring-your-hands session.
It MUST be a practical, nuts and bolts, “what did you do, how can we adapt that to Hamilton?” session. I would suggest recording it, with questions going to microphones so that the questions and answers are available when notes fail you.
Step 2, coming next time…
Havre retailers, I’d be interested in hearing your comments about this opening. What have you done to make sure your business can not just survive, but thrive in the shadow of this new WalMart?
One of my favorite towns in Montana is getting a Walmart SuperCenter.
Hamilton Montana, about 4 hrs south of me. This is a place with one of the best Main Street business districts in the state, a really vibrant downtown with most of its original architecture, a river with excellent fly fishing, killer mountain views and a nearby ski mountain, among other things.
No, Im not one of those anti-Walmart people. However, it will be disappointing if the town’s merchants dont stay focused on the task at hand and work on staying open rather than just giving up.
Certainly, some businesses will likely struggle to deal with WMT’s arrival. The unimaginative. The ones that directly compete – and keep trying to despite the obvious need not to. The ones that give up before the SuperCenter doors open because “they couldnt possibly survive”, at least in their mind. The smart ones wont give that a second thought.
I’m hoping they use the construction period to fine tune their businesses, get in touch with their clients and do the things they should have been doing all along to take care of (and attract) their clients. I suspect that isnt what many of them will do. Many of them will wring their hands, something else equally ineffective.
Here’s what I think they should be doing…
Walk around your own store. Think hard about everything you carry and why. Write em down on a yellow pad. Dont pretend you can memorize everything, WRITE IT DOWN.
Drive to Missoula and visit the nearest SuperCenter there. DONT take the yellow pad with your product list into the store. Find the products in the SuperCenter that Bentonville is going to give you a pounding on. Hint: They’re the ones with the retail price tags less than your wholesale cost, for starters. Make a mental note (mental notes keep you from getting booted out of the store for taking product notes). If you have to go back and forth to the car 20 times to update your notes, do it and get over it. Youll never remember all the details.
Drive back to Hamilton. Use the time to think about the products that you offer that compete directly with them. And be proud of yourself for not letting Walmart happen to you, but instead taking control of the situation. Im not kidding.
You really cant compete product for product with them, so you need to consider accompanying services, upscale versions of the same products, substantially higher levels of service than you likely offer today (hopefully not, but likely so).
Mark a note next to each product on your list as you assign them into these categories:
“D” – Directly compete – no upsell
These are products that WMT sells and there isnt an upscale version of the product (and you are POSITIVE of that). Likewise, there is little chance of upselling, both on service or an upscale version of the product itself.
“C” – Competes, upsell or service possible
These are products that you have some leeway on. Example: A lawnmower brand and model that WMT sells that you also sell. Goal: to find a high end model of the same brand that WMT doesnt carry. Your goal – separate yourself from the price-sensitive client.
“N” – Not carried by Walmart
These are products that they dont carry, typically because they are for a specialized market, higher end items or something that WMT just doesnt carry. Dont assume they’ll never carry them.
Start collecting the full contact information of your clients. Its time to start communicating with them on a regular basis. You have until construction is over to work on improving the relationship, working your story and making them feel like an integral part of your business.
Ask them for their birthday month. You dont need the day or the year, and this helps you get around the privacy concerns that people legitimately have. Do the same for anniversary, if they are married.
If you get emails, put them on an email newsletter.
If you get mailing addresses, put them on the mailing list for your monthly print newsletter – even if they are on the email newsletter list. DO NOT make the mistake of just sending one or the other.
If you get phone numbers, consider using pre-recorded messages and outbound automated calls (but you have to do this RIGHT) to improve your communications, notify your customers of sales, events and completed services (“Your mower is ready to pickup”). DO NOT get into the mindset of “No one else here does this, so I cant/shouldnt”, “This wont work for MY business” and similar things. I can assure you, if you do what everyone else in Hamilton does in reaction to the new Walmart, you’ll be doing something else in a few years – if not sooner.
Thats a start. We can make this more complex, but right now, there’s no point it making this more difficult than it is.
There’s a goal to each of the steps above. DONT skip one.
More on this subject in the future. Get started TODAY.
Or were they….?
Yep, the stats are in for the 2006 holiday season and sales were down, despite early season stats that showed a positive start to the season’s sales.
WalMart reported their holiday season sales were “the worst on record”. What they really mean is that their holiday “same store sales INCREASE” was the worst ever. For them, that wasnt surprising given that “same store sales” numbers fell in November for the first time in TEN years. It isnt just Wally World. All major retailers except for JC Penney reported sales below their Christmas season expectations and reported having to do major discounting. JCP was about .4% above their expectations.
The next time you feel sorry for yourself or your business because of those “awful big box stores”, remember that they dont have the mystery solved. They have a weakness you’ll probably NEVER have.
Actually, they have several:
#1 – BILLIONS in overhead.
#2 – They dont know who their clients are. If they had to contact every single one of their customers for some important reason – THEY COULDNT DO IT.
You, on the other hand, if you’ve been listening…. dont have those two problems.
Think about how you can take advantage of that using the direct response marketing techniques that we talk about.
Stop worrying about Walmart. Start worrying about what your customers want (note that I didnt say “need”).
And remember, the world isnt as bad as Katie would have you think. Really.
What’s that smell? I hope its not your website:)
Here are 5 common mistakes we find on websites during our “Rescue My Website” evaluations:
1 – No opt-in email capture mechanisms
Opt-in email capture mechanisms come in many forms, including special reports, newsletters (See #2) and squeeze pages. Squeeze pages are a last resort vs the other 2, in my mind. A squeeze page is a page that requires you to enter your first name (usually) and email address before you can view any information – often including the sales pitch. While they are effective, they can annoy people.
2 – No sequenced email autoresponders
This one more or less requires #1, because without #1, it cant work because you have no email address. Once you get an email address, you should have a sequence of INFORMATIVE emails on a regular basis – for lack of a better term – and email newsletter.
3 – No mechanism to capture an address for print newsletters and other mailings.
Roughly the same as #1, but remember – the internet is just another media. Remember when broadcast fax was outlawed? Remember when the Do-Not-Call list was put in place?
If you only have ONE means to communicate with your prospects and some lobby-intoxicated elected official decides to shut down that media, you’re out of business. Get the mailing address. Offer a CD, a small book or gift. ANYTHING that will get you the address so that later, you can offer them other items, information, etc. Worst case, a postcard from Hawaii.
4 – No audio or video
It’s the 21st century folks. Video and audio aren’t geek toys, they are yet another media that is better than printed words for many people. Audio that your prospect chooses to start, not that annoying automatically started audio that makes you reach for the volume on your PC (or the X button to close the browser).
Ditto for video. You can provide SO MUCH MORE information via video. Don’t use it as a toy, use it as an effective way to get your message across. You don’t need a $15000 camera and a professional studio to make good web video these days. A cheap digital camcorder from Walmart will work if it has to.Â Video and audio allow you to establish a personal relationship with the prospect. Remember, companies don’t buy things, PEOPLE do. Even at companies.
5 – No contact form
Spam is getting worse by the minute. The last thing you need is another 300 Viagra emails or hot stock tips. If your email address is on your site in plain text, spammers can find it. Provide an easy to use contact form on your site so that people can contact you without opening their email program. You need to be careful with these, because of something called “injection attacks”, but any coherent web person or website portal software should have this under control by now.
Food for thought
Look at your site as if you have never heard of your product, service or company – or anything like it. What is missing that someone who has never seen your product simply has to have? Hint: here’s the perfect opportunity for a free report that requires an email or address capture.
Remember why your site is there. To inform/educate, to communicate what you offer to the prospect and to allow them to contact you. In the case of an online store, to do all that and lead the customer down your marketing funnel to make a purchase.
Do you have goals for your website? Concrete, measurable ones? What are they? How are they measured?
What are you doing to market the site now?
How does information get from your web store to your internal company systems? Same question, vice versa.
I could go on, but I suspect you already have work to do. I know I do.