Increasing Customer Traffic

The Dangers of Using 5-Legged Cow Marketing

Prairie Dog TownWhile you’re contemplating the title of this post, let me tell you a quick story.

When I was 22 years old, I drove from Colorado to Connecticut to start my first job following college. If you’ve ever drove east out of Colorado, you know that most people end up taking Interstate 70, which stretches for over 400 miles across Kansas.

For those of you who’ve driven this highway, no sooner are you over the Kansas border motoring east when you start seeing signs like the one above proclaiming that if you stop in Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, Kansas, that you’ll get to see a Russian Wild Boar, an 8,000 pound prairie dog, and a live 5-legged cow.

For a 22 year old like myself, starting his first career job and feeling very free and adventurous, the first time I saw this sign, I knew I had to stop. I mean seriously: Who doesn’t want to see an 8,000 prairie dog and a cow walking around with 5 legs?

Once you cross the border at Kanorado, Kansas (yes, that’s its name, and think about how few cities really have names that tell you their exact location), it’s about 75 miles to Oakley. And just to make sure you don’t forget that there’s an 8,000 pound burrowing rodent waiting for you, the owner of Prairie Dog Town placed hand-made-looking signs all along the interstate.

Now, some of you who are Kansas experts know that the Prairie Dog Town attraction is now closed, but let me clarify that their business closure happened fairly recently. For decades, this interstate highway tourist attraction remained open, so much so that any time I drove through Kansas, in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and nearly all through my 50’s, this place remained open, beckoning me with their signs to stop.

But let’s get back to when I was 22, and first decided to stop and see Prairie Dog Town. If my memory is right, it cost me $15 to get in. There were several rooms filled with stuffed animals (stuffed by taxidermists, not cuddly teddy bear stuffed animals), and many cages with animals stuffed in them. I remember one glass cage filled with rattlesnakes, and I do remember asking to see the Russian Wild Boar, which looked more like a small pig that had very little wildness about him.

Honestly, the cages didn’t interest me. I wanted to see the massive rodent and the 5-legged cow. I can share this with you now that the attraction is closed: The 8,000 pound prairie dog was actually a concrete statue. I remember protesting to the owner of the business that I had expected a massive live prairie dog, but he just kind of laughed me off as a City Boy that didn’t understand animals and pointed out that he never had said it was alive.

Which brings me now to the LIVE 5-legged cow: There were several cows out in the nearly-all-dirt pasture, but none that had 5 legs. It was easy to look at their legs from afar and see that every cow I spotted only had 4 legs on the ground. When I again protested that his signs had misled me, he took me out to a cow in the far pasture. We approached it together, and he told me that this was his live, 5-legged cow. Well, it really didn’t have 5 legs touching the ground, but it did have 4 on the ground and one long appendage hanging off its shoulder. Genetically, yes it was a leg that was horribly deformed that had sprung from this cow, but without his pointing it out, I would have assumed it was just some elongated shoulder growth, City Boy I was.

I left Prairie Dog Town a little disillusioned, feeling cheated out of $15, but moderately pleased that I had at least seen an animal oddity that I’d never seen before.

So here’s my question to all of you: In the 35+ years following my visit to Prairie Dog Town, do you think I ever stopped again to see how these animals?

Nope. Definitely not! I never stopped at that place again, even though I drove past it scores of times over the decades. One time, being conned and misled by this attraction, had caused me to decide that I’d never stop again.

My lesson to all of you is probably obvious, but I must say it: With today’s customer, you can ALWAYS get them to come in once. That’s not the problem. Getting a consumer to come into your business ONCE is NEVER a problem! It’s actually quite easy to run a nifty ad, place a creative Facebook ad or post, or use any of the myriad of social media tools that are available to your business today and it is EASY to get the consumer to come to your business. One-time!

But if you ever convince a consumer to come in your doors and you’ve conned them, or deceived them, don’t expect them back. It will be a one-time victory, but the negative ramifications of your one-time success will be devastating to your business, especially in this world of viral social media.

The sad truth is that there are business owners every day relying on 5-Legged Cow Marketing to lure consumers in for a one-time hit.

Don’t be one of them!

That’s all for this week, everyone! Have a great weekend!

Jon

It’s Time to Act Impulsively in Your Business

In the early 1900’s, there was a noted Harvard psychologist named Dr. William Moulton Marston.  You probably haven’t heard of him, and if not for my brain’s ability to capture the obscure, you probably never would. All his psychology writings are out of print.

Dr. Marston is generally known for two important creations. His first invention was the lie detector, which he created after he noticed that there was a correlation between people lying and the physiological changes that occurred in their bodies, including the elevation of their blood pressure.

Secondly, Dr. Marston was also the creator of the Wonder Woman comic strip. Yes, you heard that right. The same person who received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard, the inventor of the lie detector, is also the same guy who envisioned Wonder Woman wearing tights, indestructible bracelets, and her magic lasso which could tie criminals up, make them obedient, and unable to lie.

Old Doc Marston’s brain worked in mysterious ways, didn’t it?

But forget Wonder Woman for a second (if you can), and think about Dr. Marston, the psychologist.  In his studies, he talked about the importance of listening and acting on our minds’ impulses, and how there is a scientific justification for taking rapid action.

The next quote is a long one, but if I shortened it, you’d never get the full gist of it, and you’re likely to never come in contact with the CBS radio interview I found from the 1940’s where he spoke these words:

“For years, as a psychologist, I’ve sought in the careers of great and of everyday people, the inner springs that make for successful living. There are two which seem to me of prime importance. The first is hard work, governed by cool, logical thoughtfulness. The other is sudden, warm impulsive action…”

“Most of us actually stifle enough good impulses during the course of the day to change the current of our lives. These are inner flashes of impulse that light up the mind for an instant. Then, contented in their afterglow, we tend to lapse back into routine, feeling vaguely that sometime we might do something about it or that at least our intentions were good. And in this we win against the inner self. For impulses set up the lines of communication between the unconscious mind and daily action…”

“The person who follows his impulses is not necessarily flighty. The timid soul, however, is fearful, lest impulse lead him into all manner of mistakes. But mistakes are inevitable. We’re bound to make them no matter which course we take. Some of the worst mistakes in history have followed consciously reasoned decisions…”

“The mistakes of inaction flanked by heavy reasoning are likely to be worse than the mistakes of a genuine impulse.  For one thing, they make our inertia worse day by day. We all know people who go through agonies of indecision before taking any important step. There are always arguments for and against, and the more we think about them, the more they seem to offset each other, until we wind up in the state of paralysis…”

“Impulsive action, which originates in a swift subconscious appraisal of the situation, might have saved all worry. And when a painfully thought-out decision proves wrong, how often we remember an original hunch that would have been right. The way to get things done is to bring mind and muscle and voice into play at the very second a good impulse starts within us.”

“The life stories of successful people are full of episodes that have marked turning points in their careers.  True impulses are intelligent.  They reveal the basic interests of the subconscious mind.”

So what does Wonder Woman, a lie detector, and William Moulton Marston have to do with your business?  I’m glad you asked:

As of this blog post, we are nearly one-third of the way into 2014, and my question to you is: Are you achieving what you want in your business this year?

We’re 17 weeks into 2014, if you are NOT achieving the revenue you want or the revenue you need from your business, what is your plan?  Did you have a plan when you started the year?  If not, do you have a plan now?  What is your next step? What actions are you going to take to set the course of your business upward?

And please, don’t tell me that you’re going to keep doing what you’ve been doing.

I believe that most entrepreneurs and business owners know in their gut if their businesses are in trouble or if their businesses are going to be fine.

As you’ve heard before, hoping your business will improve is not a strategy.

We’re at Day 113 in 2014, and whether you get help from me by utilizing my Destination Business strategy, or you decide to reach out to someone else, take action.

Until next week,

Jon Schallert

PS:  Every year, we get business owners who come to our Destination BootCamp, who say to me at the end of the workshop:  “I don’t know why I waited so long to attend this.”  My response:  “I’m glad you took action to attend it now.”

Business Owners: Use Your Community’s “Secrets” to Grow Your Sales

teapothIt’s Summer, and that means consumers are traveling and vacationing. Inevitably during these travel months, you’re going to find that consumers and the media start becoming obsessed with finding the out-of-the-way place that no one else knows about.

Face it: Everyone wants to be “in-the-know” about the little-known, secret hideaways that haven’t been discovered yet. Whether it’s knowing about that great little restaurant that has wonderful food that’s never crowded, or that fantastic new store with the amazing selection that never advertises, or that great spot by the river where you’re guaranteed to catch fish but not find a crowd, we all want to be the one that knows about the Must-See Secrets.

This blog post is written for business owners, but all of you reading this have those favorite spots. For example, whenever we put on a Destination BootCamp in Longmont, Colorado, we always are asked by the people who come for the class to tell us which restaurants are the best.  And we always send people to an incredible Southwestern restaurant in Longmont that’s hard-to-find and whose owner never advertises.  It’s not a chain and it serves knockout green chili, but those of us who go there often also know that this restaurant has an owner won’t put up with screaming kids running rampant through his dining area. We always tell our guests to be on the lookout for parents who can’t control their offspring because this owner will kick them out, rather than ruining the dining experience for every other customer.  To us, this means you are guaranteed great food and great atmosphere, and possibly, if you’re lucky, excitement that’s not seen in other dining establishments!  Who wouldn’t want to eat in a place like that?

As a resident of your community, and a business owner in your community, wouldn’t it be great to be able to market your business, bring people in your doors, all the while helping those who are coming to your area to find these incredible secrets?  Sure it would. Here are some simple steps to help your business and community at the same time:

First, I want you to start thinking about how you can position your business as a place that knows your local consumer “must-sees”.  As you do this, the more attention your business will receive.  To begin, answer these four questions:

1.  What are the “Must See” events in your community, or in your business, this month that haven’t been well-publicized?  When you let customers know about these events, you are seen as being “In the Know”.

2. Can you think of some of the “Great Product Values” that you or other businesses you know are offering this month, that might not be reaching as large of an audience as possible?  Write about this in your e-newsletter and in your social networking posts.

3.  Can you name “Ten Extraordinary Products” in your business or in another business that you can talk about and that your customers probably don’t know exists?  Look for items that could be limited in quantity, or newly arrived.  You could be changing this list monthly!

4.  Can you list any “Secrets” or “Secret Places” that are must-sees in your community that you have to be an insider to know about?

When business owners are trying to find content to post on their Facebook page, put in their blog, write in their e-newsletter, and stay engaged with their customers, focusing on the secrets of your community can lead to a wealth of content.

Pinterest: Changing How Customers Shop and How Small Businesses Compete for Customers

I conducted a webinar in Destination University (www.DestinationUniversity.com) last month on how to use Pinterest. I decided I better learn what Pinterest was after I was asked multiple times in January what I thought of it, and I had no clue. Back then, I was totally ignorant of Pinterest. Not anymore.

If you’re still not getting what Pinterest is, think of this: In front of me as I type this article on my office wall is a huge bulletin board, filled with magazine articles, photos, 3” x 5” cards with words on them, all pinned to that board. Pinterest is just like that bulletin board, except you are collecting images from the Internet, and grouping them into collections of your choosing. These collections are called “Boards” and when you decide you like a particular image, you “pin” it (again, just like a bulletin board).

If you haven’t played around with Pinterest, my advice is to try it tonight. Right now, you’ll need an invitation to join Pinterest to start dabbling around in it. If you’re in Facebook, just post that you’d like an invitation to Pinterest, and your friends will invite you. You can also sign in using Twitter.

Once you start trying Pinterest, you’ll probably be hooked. You’ll see why consumers are jumping on its bandwagon, and why a whopping 84% are female users. Here’s even more key information about it:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, and it is the fifth largest social network and the third most popular. It is also the 16th most visited website, ahead of big names like CNN and the Huffington Post. Started in 2009 by Ben Silvermann of Des Moines, Iowa, the earliest people to start using it were females from the Midwest. The explosion of popularity has happened recently: only tens of thousands knew what Pinterest was in 2011, but 4.9 million site visitors used it in November; 11.7 million in January, 2012; and 17.8 million in February, 2012. According to some analysts, it is the fastest independent website to reach 10 million visitors. Best of all, the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes a month on the site, which is right behind Tumblr and Facebook’s usage numbers, with an average visit lasting 16 minutes.

Pinterest itself is not a large company. They are based in Palo Alto, California (where Facebook is located), with about 20 employees (they hired half their staff in the last 4 months). Obviously, the growth of their company is causing them to scramble, but like most Internet companies, they aren’t worried about generating a profit, given that they are funded by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (founded by Marc Andreessen, who co-created Netscape) and Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of Yelp. With the $37 million they raised last year and their estimated current valuation of $200 million, they aren’t going anywhere.

Why is this Pinterest phenomenon important to a small business like yours? Here are my big 6 reasons:

1. Pinterest is all about visuals and scanning the Internet for images that a person likes. Once they find a photo, a cartoon, or an image they like, they can “pin” it and it starts a process where other people who view the image, start spreading it. In the world of the Internet, this spreading is called viral marketing, just like a cold that self-replicates itself in multiple places. Since it’s really a form of online word-of-mouth marketing, it is less time-consuming than friending people on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, and posting your thoughts on a blog. The ease at which someone can engage with Pinterest makes it a social network that is easy to like, with minimal time commitment involved. It also allows people to connect with others that they might not know as friends, but with whom they have similar interests and style preferences.

2. Large companies don’t know exactly what to do with Pinterest. There are no ads on Pinterest, either, so advertising agencies don’t know how to recommend their clients to use it. Consequently, this is a marketing tool that can have a huge competitive advantage for small businesses that get in and play around with this, while big companies stumble trying to figure it out.

3. Now that Facebook is going to a new timeline configuration (I am doing a webinar on this in Destination University in May also), and Facebook has created a new Pinterest app, there are over 870+ million people who will have access to Pinterest through this linking with Facebook.

4. Pinterest, according to National Public Radio, is one of the top five referrers of web traffic to retailers’ websites. Many of you are retailers, and all of you should have websites. Wouldn’t you like more people to come to your websites? Once there, they can learn about your company, call and find out about certain products, or if you have an e-commerce site, buy directly off of it. Put another way, Pinterest is a powerful mechanism to bring more faces to your business.

5. When you start posting product photos in Pinterest, you’ll notice that you can add a price to the product description, simply by typing the price, preceded by the dollar sign ($). I think (and others concur), that this pricing feature in Pinterest might eventually lead to Pinterest being its own e-commerce site, where people will be able to make purchases directly through Pinterest as an online “shopping cart”. If this happens, those of you who sell products will find this could be a huge boom to your business.

6. Every time an image is uploaded to Pinterest, it can lead directly back to your website. This is critically important because if you have an e-commerce site, or if you’d like to sell more online to people you’ve never met, this linking feature of Pinterest’s could yield huge online traffic referrals to your business.

Hopefully, these 6 reasons are enough to convince you to take this social network seriously.

If this post was interesting to you, think about becoming a member of our Destination University business network. For less than a buck a day, you can stay abreast of the newest, most impactful marketing tools, simply by watching the nearly 100 webinars that are in DU (and more are posted monthly). To learn more about joining Destination University, click here.

Handling Your Great, Good, and Bad Ideas: A 3-Step Process, Final Step #3

For the last couple of days, I’ve been taking you through the 3-step process of handling your overload of ideas.

Here is the third and final key in this process, and you must remember this most important point:  24 hours is never enough time for a creative thinker like you, with too many ideas.

 

As an owner, you already feel like you work all the time. You don’t, but if you did, it wouldn’t make things much better.  Here’s why:  As you get past the 8 hour mark, up into the 10, then the 12, and finally to the 16-hour mark of working, your productivity drops off, and you start being not so nice.  People respond less well to someone with blood shot eyes who is screaming with too much caffeine in them.  Working too much will also cause your family, your dog, and those who were helping you to quit responding.  And let’s not forget those employees.  They’ll still show up for that paycheck, but have you ever seen unresponsive and uncommitted?  You will.

Think back a few days on my earlier blog post and remember how some of you had another person helping you, making it not just you, but you and someone else?  When you work all the time that person will leave, call you names, and you will be stuck with only you.  Just you and your caffeine, wide awake and alone.  And your situation will not be improved.  It will be just you, and you will still have too many ideas.

So here’s my advice.  In your big pile of ideas that you’ve sifted through, look for ideas that will IMPACT SALES IN A HUGE WAY!

 

This is the key to handling too many ideas!

Sure, this seems logical, but there is power in putting this into practice.

You must learn to identify those great ideas that you can put into place, with your limited amount of time and sanity, which will significantly change your business for the better by increasing sales the most.

These ideas have to be the BIG ones.  They will be the ones that change how you do business.  They are ones that could reinvent your business into a different revenue-generating entity that spins off much more cash and pulls in many more customers.

You must use your good judgment, and look at the remaining ideas, and say: “If I put this into practice, how much will it move our overall sales number?”  And if your answer is “A little” or “Not much”, put those ideas off to the side.

Let’s practice one idea together.  You pick up an idea from your pile.  It says “Hold another Open House”.  Will this really impact your sales and possibly reinvent your business?  You say No?  Yes, you are right.  This is not that BIG idea.

The best ideas will often create a disproportionately large increase in customers or immediate large sales for your business, or move your business forward with such momentum that the new sales might begin resembling an entirely new branch of your company.

Once you find these ideas, you must focus your limited energy, resources, spouse or partner, employees, and remaining team that doesn’t hate you, on these tasks, every day.  In your day-to-day operations of your business, you must find time to implement incremental steps in these move-the-needle, BIG ideas.

Here’s another hint:  You will find that ideas of this magnitude aren’t the ones that most of your peers at the tradeshows you’ve been attending have been repeating.  If your peers really do have BIG ideas like these, they are quietly keeping them to themselves.  I have found that the really BIG ideas won’t be found in your industry, but in an adjacent industry or a totally different industry and you will be able to apply the concept to your industry, where it will be brand new.

I have found this is one of the primary reasons that our Destination BootCamp works so well.  It’s not just me teaching you, but it’s also what happens when you take smart, dissimilar, dissatisfied business owners, all motivated to change their businesses, and the process that happens when they come together for three days of strategic over-thinking.  They exchange ideas under the 14-step framework of becoming a Destination Business and they begin to hear ideas that they’ve never heard before. And then it clicks.  Light bulb!  And as Einstein said, that’s a Eureka moment in the world of adult learning.  Yea!

Summing up and moving on:  There is only one you, and yes, you are like a snowflake, unique and one-of-a-kind, as your parents said.  Unfortunately, your ideas and mode of operation have become stale and like everyone else in your industry.  Then, there are too few hours in a day, and you have too many ideas.  Working on too many ideas for too many hours and your business begins lacking the focus it needs.

The alternative to doing what you’ve always done is to find BIG ideas that will move your sales needle in a big way.  Break down the BIG idea into smaller steps and plan the steps out month-by-month, week-by-week, on a calendar.  Finally, work the plan with you, your partner, and your employees, and delegate to those who can help.  Oh, yeah, and find mentors that have done this before.

Doing it alone feels right, but it’s not. It feels right to plow forward, work longer, and make it on your own.  This is your inner entrepreneur on a misguided quest to right your course.  Instead, you must step back and rethink your business strategy.

If you have more comments or questions, post them on this blog.  Or, make your way to our Destination BootCamp next month on June 21-23, 2011 (www.DestinationBootCamp.com) and watch the Eureka moments find you.

What’s Your Calendar Say?

Today is the 54th day of 2011. There are 311 more days to go before 2012.  I know this because every morning, I look at the calendar on my wall, and in tiny numbers, it tells me that information.

That’s just one benefit of a calendar like this.  The bigger benefit is that my calendar shows me how I’m going to grow my business in 2011.

What did your calendar tell you today?

Funny question, right?  But look on your wall, or on your computer, and do you have a physical calendar that details the step-by-step plan you’ve created to grow your business in 2011?

You probably don’t have one.  Most of my clients don’t have one when they begin working with me.  But I’m going to suggest you get one.  Get a big 2 foot by 3 foot horizontal 2011 Yearly Planner calendars that has all 12 months visible, that you can write on with a dry erase marker.  Put it on the wall where you see it every day.

When you first put it up, it will be uncluttered and blank.  Your future will never look so uncomplicated as when you put up your new calendar.  But after day 1, this calendar holds the promise of a brighter future.

Why is this calendar discussion important?  You can use your 2011 calendar like I do, as the physical representation of the twelve month revenue strategy you will be implementing.

I can see on the calendar my plan and my progress of achieving superior results in 2011 over 2010.  Best of all, on December 31, 2011, after a full year, if I am not satisfied with my company’s 2011 end-of-the-year revenue numbers, I don’t have to look any further than that calendar to see what I did, the order and frequency I did it, and decide what to change for the future.

You might be thinking:  “Wait a second, Jon.  What about the economy?  That’s going to impact my numbers in 2011!”

The reality is that you cannot blame the economy if you start now with a plan.  If you write a year-end sales decrease in 2011, or you write a lesser increase than you hoped for, your plan will be the reason.

For most owners, though, they have no proactive plan.  Where most owners dwell is in the day-to-day, adding-it-up-as-you-go, let’s-see-if-we’re-ahead-or-behind, reactive record-keeping mode.  That’s not an entrepreneurial plan; that’s a bean counter function that your accountant can do!

Your job as the owner is to create the vision and the plan that drives the totals you want!

Think back on last year:  If in 2010, you went day by day, waiting and hoping that the economy would turn around, shame on you!  Hoping the economy will get better is not a plan!  Hope itself feels good, but as one wise man once said:  “Hope is not a strategy.”

Onto 2011:  My empty calendar, already 54 days into the year, is ready for more of my future plan.  Your calendar is ready, too!  You can deviate from what didn’t work in the past, and set out a course for the year with new tactics that you didn’t try before.  Your goal should be that at the 365th day of 2011, you don’t look back on your past 365 days with regret, but with satisfaction that you learned from 2010 and didn’t repeat those mistakes in 2011.

Let me say it again:  If you are not happy with your year-end sales numbers this year, don’t blame the economy.  Blame the plan you created while in this economy.

Today, go buy that calendar.  Then check back on this blog tomorrow, as I give you Step 2 to grow your sales in 2011.

Free Webinar, February 2 and $200 Early-Bird BootCamp Registration Discount

Announcement #1:  No-Cost Webinar, Wednesday, February 2

Once a year I do a free webinar to help businesses and that time is next week.  Join me next Wednesday, February 2 for a no-cost one hour webinar.  I will be conducting this webinar online at two separate times during the day, so more business owners have a chance to attend.

Webinar Title: “Jumpstart 2011:  12 New Ideas and Powerful Tools to Grow Sales and Eliminate Headaches in Your Independent Business.”

Click here to register now.

If you attend, here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Four (4) key questions you must ask about your business if you want to have any chance on improving your business above your previous year’s sales.  As the economy comes back, we think sales should inevitably get better, but wouldn’t you like your business to accelerate more quickly than the mass of post-recessionary businesses?
  • One (1) key change you must make as an owner if you want to build your business into something that has value that you might actually be able to sell one day.
  • Four (4) key technology tools (3 are free), that you must be using in 2011 to stay ahead of your competition and to simplify the running of your business.
  • The simplest promotion that you can run during low traffic time periods that costs you nearly nothing, gives up minimal profit margin, but your customers will love it and think they are getting a ton!
  • One (1) new behavior that you can immediately implement in any size community that will give you better ideas and help you come up with better decisions than you could ever do on your own.
  • One (1) New Media marketing tool that can instantly raise your business website’s search engine rankings, and help you land free publicity at the same time, that most of your competitors never will have used.

Finally, I will cover all the new highlights that I’ve added to our 2011 Destination BootCamps, only held here in Colorado three times a year.  Yes, there will be a short promotion message at the end of this webinar, but that’s the price you pay if you want all this other great information for free.

Add all these points up, and you get twelve tools, tactics, and tips that you’ll leave with after this webinar.  It will take me no more than an hour to cover all this, and if I get done early, I’ll take your questions that you can submit during the webinar.

Again, that’s next week, Wednesday, February 2, and the two times you can watch are  6:00 a.m. and at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Mountain Time.  Let me say this again!  These times are in our Time Zone!  Every year, we have a couple of people who log-in an hour or two late, and call us and ask if we’ll do the webinar again, just because they didn’t read the times correctly.

If you want to learn what I’ll be teaching on February 2, you must attend one of these webinars.  These webinars will NOT be archived for later viewing.

If you want to take advantage of my one free webinar for 2011, just click here to sign up.

 

Announcement #2:  $200 Early-Bird Registration Discount

For the first time ever, we are offering an Early-Bird registration discount to our March 15-17 Destination BootCamp, which is only held in Longmont, Colorado.  Register by February 14 for our March BootCamp and receive a $200 discount off your registration cost.

This is a one-time offer, only for our March 15-17 BootCamp class, and this early registration $200 off bonus is not applicable to our June or September classes.  Those always fill up early.  Our March BootCamp is traditionally our smallest class, and this is a way to reward you as one of my blog readers, especially if you have ever thought about attending our BootCamp.

You can only get this $200 off, discounted registration form by clicking here to download it.  This form disappears after the February 14, the early registration deadline.

This offer is also only applicable to single, full-priced BootCamp registrations, and the $200 discount cannot be applied with any other discount, nor can it be applied to Community Reinvention Program registrations.  If you have already registered for the March 15-17 BootCamp, we will be crediting your account with this $200 Early-Bird bonus.

If you have friends or business associates who might benefit from the webinar or our $200 off, Early-Bird Registration offer, please forward them this blog address.

Thanks!

Jon Schallert

2011 Reality Check: How Really Different Is Your Business?

I recently had a great discussion with a business owner who had built, from the ground up, a very profitable retail store.  This business is loved by its customers.  Most of the customers in the community support it.  This owner has even studied like stores around the country to look for best-practices, and when he’s compared similar size businesses to his, he is achieving the same or better sales results than they are.

This owner should be happy with his success, shouldn’t he?  Unfortunately, this owner isn’t.  He wants more sales.  He wants to see the store’s growth accelerate more quickly.  He needs it to grow fast to achieve the financial goals he’s laid out for himself and his family.

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?  This business is operationally sound, functional and profitable, but it’s not meeting the expectations and demands of its founder.

In this case, it’s no consolation to hear other business owners in your field tell you that: “This is just how it is,” or “I think you’re doing pretty well.”  Changes have to be made to this business.

Here are a few questions this owner needs to ask himself before embarking on a series of tactical steps to pull in more customers.  If you are an owner of a business, you can ask yourself these questions, too:

Could your business be uprooted and transplanted into another marketplace, and do as well as it is now?  Would your business thrive and grow because of the new demographics?  Or, would it deteriorate and decline in sales?

Put another way:  How dependent is your business on its current location for its sales?

If your answer is that your business is VERY dependent on its location, you have a problem.

For example, some businesses cannot be moved without sales being impacted.  Some businesses are tied to their specific location, and moving them even 10 or 20 feet one way can cause consumers to stop frequenting that business.  (If you don’t believe me, you’ve never relocated retail stores for a living).  Businesses like these are solely location-dependent, and take the most work to reinvent into Destinations.  Put more bluntly, these businesses are parasitic and feed off their marketplace’s traffic and if you move them, they are going to be hurt.  Some even die.

These words always get shopping center developers stirred up.  When I say things like “Location doesn’t matter anymore”, I usually don’t get invited back to speak (example: International Council of Shopping Center convention, early 2000; lots of leasing agents feeling a little threatened when I said that comment).

Let me just say that location-dependent stores are fine IF the marketplace never declines, or IF new competitors never come in, or IF the underlying costs of that location never increase.  That’s a lot of IF’s.  But the truth is that marketplaces do decline, and competitors do come in, and other business owners that are less creative start copying what creative owners do, and then, some manufacturers start selling the same product to your competitors and tell you:  “Hey, it’s not in your marketplace.”  Yes, all of this stuff happens.

Unfortunately with this owner, when I evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of his business, and compared the business with other like businesses, this business was near identical to most of them, with no inherent core strengths that made it one-of-a-kind.

Here’s the reason I tell you this story:  The process of creating a destination is really an alternative marketing strategy that positions your business differently from every other business in your field, from every other business that sells the same product, and offers similar services, to what you do.

Unless you as an owner, step outside the “traditional” business model you have created, your business will never be a true Consumer Destination.  Now, you’ll get a lot of flack for deviating from the traditional way businesses like yours are traditionally operated, which is often proclaimed as the “Only Way to Do It” by some trade groups that you might belong to.

But the test of a Destination Business is if a consumer will illogically go out of their way to come to your business, past your competitors, and willingly spend more time seeking you out, versus purchasing from or choosing your competition.  If your uniqueness is not compelling enough, and your points of differentiation are not strong enough, consumers buy elsewhere.  This means your business never maximizes its sales and profit potential in your immediate marketplace, nor will it maximize the greater potential sales and profits from the distant marketplaces it could tap into.  And that applies in this recovering economy, and the prosperous ones we can expect in the future.

It all comes down to one challenge:  What makes your business different from everybody else?  If you have trouble answering this question, this is your logical starting point for 2011.  It’s not an easy starting point, but without addressing this question, every step you take trying to turn your business into a preferred Consumer Destination will fall short.

Creating an End-of-the-Year Sales Increase

Want to create a sales increase in your business before the end of the year?  Here are four simple keys that every business owner should be doing right now, but most aren’t.

First, identify the sales increase you would like to have.  This seems obvious, but many owners can’t tell me what percentage increase they would like to achieve by this year’s end.  It’s also important to be specific about the amount of dollars you’d like to generate.  Why?  It’s impossible to achieve the sales increase you desire, if you aren’t certain what you desire. That’s not my rule; that one of those Universal laws that regularly returns to bite the unfocused, short-attention spanned among us.

Without a specific number, you won’t know if you’re on track to hit your goal, nor will you know if you have to change what you are doing to reach it.  You’re flying blind.  You’re driving without a map.  You’re considering asking someone out on Match.com who doesn’t have a photo.  Whatever the metaphor, you’re probably going to end up with a lesser result than you intended.

Second, it’s important to know how many dollars that percentage increase requires from each person entering your business.  This means that you must know your business’s Individual Average Transaction of each customer.  We call that IAT.  How much is each person spending in your business?  Again, this is simple, but ask a business owner this question and watch how many stammer and can’t tell you the amount.

Third, it’s important to quantify the additional items or services that would need to be purchased to make this happen.  For example, when I worked with gift shops and greeting card stores, the customer IAT was about $7.25 per person.  So, if the store wanted to increase sales by 25% for the month, it seemed challenging, until one realized that 25% of $7.25 was only $1.81.  The stores I worked with looked around for items that were high demand items that customers often forgot, that at least retailed for $1.81.  At Christmas, you could sell a customer a roll of Scotch tape, red ribbon, red bows, and white tissue paper, all within reach of the register.  Then, the cashier could say, “Do you have enough of these?”  And most of the time, you could create an add-on sale that way.  Your particular situation will probably not be as simple, but the implementation is the same.  Break the increase down to an attainable purchase, and plan what needs to be sold to make that increase.

Fourth, one of the most successful tactics to raise the overall sales of a business is to get a customer to come back for an additional unplanned visit.  This works especially well in December and January.  This technique is called a Bounce-Back Promotion, and you have had it practiced on you.  You were in a store, and you bought something.  Right before you walked away, you were invited to return for some special event.

Here’s how you plan a Bounce-Back Promotion:  Look at your upcoming monthly calendar and determine a day where customer traffic is traditionally low.  Plan some type of event, open house, special offer, or special occasion for that day.  Then, create a simple invitation that you can hand to customers who are in your business that invites them back to that event.  The key in making this successful is creating a compelling reason to return, and having enough time to hand the invitations to your customers who have already come one time to your business.  Best of all, a Bounce-Back Promotion works because statistically, it is easier to lure a customer to your business for a second, unplanned visit than to keep them in the business longer, spending more.

If these ideas seem simple, it’s because they are.  Unfortunately, the reason I’m writing this is because so few business owners use these simple ideas to plan for an increase.

Put these steps to work tomorrow in your business.  Curb your attention-deficit, spontaneous-owner behavior for a minute and focus!  Tell your staff what you’ve decided.  Get everyone to realize how simple it could be to reach a tangible sales increase.  Then, report your positive results to me at Info@JonSchallert.com.

I love hearing your successes.

PS:  A Bounceback Promotion is just one of 23 Last Minute Marketing Ideas that I shared in my webinar last week that is now available in our Destination University Student Center.  For $29.95 per month (less than a buck a day), you could be learning these ideas and generating more sales.  To apply for membership, just go to www.DestinationUniversity.com.

You’re Invited to a Free Webinar: Your Organization Could Win a $1000 Scholarship to our Destination BootCamp By Watching

Your organization could win a a $1000 Scholarship to our Destination BootCamp, just for watching our free webinar!

This invitation is for you if you are a President, Director, Board Member, or leader of any of these organizations:

  • Business Association
  • Downtown or Main Street organization
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Economic Development organization
  • Private company

You are invited to join me for a free webinar on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time when we introduce our new Destination University Partner Program.  Just by watching, you might also win a $1,000 scholarship to one of our 2011 Destination BootCamps.

If you know business owners who are struggling in this economy, you owe it to them to attend this webinar. It’s taken us 5 years to get Destination University to this point.  Destination University is a one-of-a-kind, online learning, social network of progressive business owners who are growing their sales, their customer traffic, and their profits.  Owners can access the network on their own, 24-7, from any computer or their mobile smart phones, making DU the first totally mobile, online learning program exclusively for small business owners.  (My consulting competitors hate to admit it and they’ll say I’m hyping it up, but no other company can offer your organization a business improvement program that is this comprehensive.)

It doesn’t matter how large or small your company, organization, or community is.  During this webinar, you will learn how you can become part of this world-wide business-support network, add huge value to your organization, while offering your members this cutting edge technology, all for a minimal investment of less than $1 per day.

I know you are busy during this holiday season, so as an incentive for participating, every organization who takes the 35 minutes to attend this free webinar will receive a certificate for $49, which can be applied to the Destination University registration fee.  Additionally, one organization will win a $1,000 scholarship to one of our Destination BootCamps in 2011. What a great prize to give to one of your business owners in your organization!  To have a chance for this scholarship, you must register and be watching, as the drawing will take place at the end of the presentation.

To register, click here.

I look forward to telling you about our new Partner Program on November 30.
Thanks,

Jon Schallert

PS: Feel free to share this post with any of your peers or other directors of organizations that you think could use this.  They will thank you for it later.

Why Business Owners’ Skills Aren’t Like Baseball Players’ Skills

A friend of mine called to ask if I’d like to go to a baseball game, and I told him that I couldn’t go.  Our Destination BootCamp is next week, and there’s a lot of work preparing for 30 business owners to arrive here for that two and one-half day workshop.

But what I didn’t share with him was if the BootCamp wasn’t next week, I still wouldn’t have gone.  You see, I’ve really never liked baseball, and that’s mostly because I stunk at playing it.  I tried to play it, but I was horrible, so that bad experience transfered into my dislike of watching it.

Playing baseball was always frustrating for me because I couldn’t hit the ball, and I couldn’t really catch it.  I was slow running the bases.  For some reason, my baseball cap just always seemed to look dorky on me and cool on the other kids.  Since none of my older brothers played baseball, I knew none of the rules, and it wasn’t too long after my parents quit signing me up for Little League teams that I decided that I didn’t like baseball that much anyway.

But I was thinking last night while drinking a Sawtooth about how not having the skills to perform a sport is different from how most business owners think about their skills to create a successful business.  For example, I readily admit I can’t hit or throw a baseball well.  But when I explain to an owner that they need help with their advertising, they’ll say things like: “Advertising in a newspaper doesn’t work.”  They don’t say: “You’re right. I am not good at creating newspaper ads and call-to-actions that get results.  I need someone to help me with this.”  Instead, they blame the newspaper.  It’s not their involvement in the ad creation; it’s that ink on newsprint that causes their customers to stay away.

That’s like me saying: “This bat doesn’t move fast enough and this glove doesn’t close over the ball!”

The most successful business owners don’t blame the ball and bat.  They readily admit that they lack business skill sets, and they find resources who can help them do what they can’t.  They delegate.  They network with people smarter than they are.  They ask for help when they’re stumped.

But out there in left field, you’ll often find the most unsuccessful owners thinking they’re doing everything they could, and thinking that they’re doing it well.  Something else or someone else is to blame for their sales decline and their customers not coming in.  And every now and then you’ll hear them yell:  “When is someone going to give me a new glove and a faster bat?”