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Tip Sheet

Tip Sheet: September 2007

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Seven fresh ideas to better your business

Broken eyeglasses could be quick cash; check your postal times; more.

[componentheading]MENTIONABLES[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Make ‘Em Talk[/contentheading]

For the last few years, every business-advice book and consultant has touted word-of-mouth advertising. But apart from typically inane advice like “do it through a relentless focus on excellence,” few have suggested how you can really generate it. Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath come closer with their “105 percent rule.” The 5 percent refers to the little things that will make you stand out from the crowd and which should be part of any product or service design process. In a Fast Company column, they cite several examples, including: Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR, whose voodoo-doll-shaped doughnuts bleed jelly when stuck with a pretzel pin; and Innocent Drinks, a British smoothie maker that hires grannies to knit little woolly hats for its winter drinks (so the bottles don’t catch a cold). Now that’s giving ’em something to talk about.

[componentheading]PERSUASIVE BREW[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Gain Influence[/contentheading]

Your brilliant new marketing strategy for the holidays is a sure winner but your staff just can’t see the big picture. What to do? Drug them … with caffeine. A moderate dose of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) might make them see your side, according to research published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. The study found that in addition to boosting alertness, caffeine increases the ability to be influenced. “It’s most effective in the morning, so for the sake of argument, deliver that java early,” advised Working Mother, citing the survey.

[componentheading]SPEEDY DELIVERY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Best Time To Go Postal[/contentheading]

The best way to avoid those long lines at the post office is to find out when your local branch opens (generally between 7-9 a.m.) and get there about 30 minutes later. USPS spokes-person Monica Suraci told Real Simple there’s often a crowd at the door when post offices open, which usually fades by mid-morning. Avoid lunch time and the end of the workday.

[componentheading]THE VISION THING[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Offer A Fix[/contentheading]

Got a fancy laser welder that’s not getting as much use as it could? How about offering to fix customers’ broken eyeglasses? “It’s a great customer service for someone who is in an emergency situation,” says the Tidwell family, which owns Bell Jewelers, in Murfreesboro, TN.

[componentheading]VIRTUAL REPUTATION[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Build Your Image[/contentheading]

Believe it or not, Google Maps does have a more important function than allowing you to gaze at rooftops — it serves as the search giant’s local directory. Recently it started showing user reviews in its business listings, so recruit some of your best customers to sing your praises. It’s a simple process: Just surf to your store’s listing, click on the “write a review” link that appears in the bubble and you’re in business. If you haven’t already listed your store in Google Maps, do it now at www.google.com/local/add.

[componentheading]TOUCHDOWN[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Make It A Game[/contentheading]

While doing research for Tip Sheet, we inadvertantly strayed into the Philadelphia Inquirer’s sports archives, where a story about Terrell Owens’s acrimonious move from the Eagles to the Dallas Cowboys caught our attention. Asked before the start of last season how he’d handle Owens — widely viewed as a non-team player — Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said the key to dealing with high-performing but high-maintenance individuals is to appeal to their competitive side. “Show them the carrot. Make everything a game. And don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. Parcells has since left the team, and the Cowboys had a mediocre season, but Owens did top the league in touchdown receptions and delayed potentially season-ending surgery on a finger to help his team-mates. Got a superstar on your sales team who needs some direction? Show them the carrot.

[componentheading]EXPERT TESTIMONY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Solicit Stories[/contentheading]

For a creative format for a testimonial web page, check out www.zippostories.com from famed lighter company Zippo. Click on any lighter on the page and you read a different customer’s Zippo tale. You could, as Zippo does, let website visitors fill in their own stories about their experience with your products. Or take it a step further and use the actual piece one of your customers bought. Then take it another step further, and include story, pictures, and even video with each testimonial. Get your webmaster to work! (You may want to reserve the right to edit the stories though.)

[span class=note]This story is from the September 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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Tip Sheet

How to Sell More “Spa Treatments” for Jewelry, and More Tips for September

Millennial shoppers respond to education, privacy and transparency.

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TIME MANAGEMENTAim for Busy, Not Rushed

How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research undertaken by the University of Maryland found this is when people are happiest. And when you’re happiest — meaning engaged and in the flow as opposed to giddy with joy — you invariably do your best work. So, start creating realistic schedules, stop checking email every 15 minutes, take breaks to exercise, and stop letting other people set your deadlines (yes, you could finish the job by tomorrow, but Friday is best for everyone.)

MARKETINGA Time for Pampering

One of the key challenges at this time of the year is how to get customers in the door. The Gem Collection in Tallahassee, FL, does it with a “Spa Treatment” for rings. The treatment, which is recommended annually, includes inspection of stones by hand, ultrasonic cleaning, steaming of the stones to remove excess dirt, refinishing to remove scratches, polishing the ring, and for white gold jewelry, a rhodium finishing, all for one price. “The spa treatment name was used so that the customer feels as if their jewelry is being pampered instead of worked on,” explains co-owner Don Vodicka. “This has raised our repair sales and keeps our customers very happy.”

MARKETINgShout It in Brass

If you buy your diamonds from Antwerp, it’s always a good idea to let the world know about it. Molinelli’s Jewelers in Pocatello, ID, actually has it in brass letters on their wall.

SALESLaying on a Bridal FeasT

Showcases — who needs them? That’s the diamond-selling approach at Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA, where customers are encouraged to sit with staff at a custom-made, long community table to discuss jewelry. “I designed my store with a lot of seating space in order to show diamonds effectively, and to make my employees and customers more comfortable,” explains owner Ken Siegel.

STRATEGY“How” is the Enemy

Something all true entrepreneurs know: “How” is the enemy. “We always want to know how things will happen,” says Claudia Azula, a popular podcaster and co-author of the Power Of No. “But how is the enemy because it blocks the possibilities that open up when we are willing to not know. When you don’t know about tomorrow, all you can do is focus on doing your best today.” Stop thinking, Just go do it.

SALESKeep Me Safe and Prosperous

Buy an engagement ring at Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, and you also get a “Keep Me” — an original document that travels with the piece of jewelry. The paper “encourages customers to spend dollars by emphasizing the legacy aspect of their purchase,” explains owner Eileen Eichhorn.

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Tip Sheet

Saving the Boring Jobs for the Office, Watching TV with Purpose and More Tips for July

Plus, how to use questions to make yourself a better listener.

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personalDo Down Time With Purpose

Approach this summer with more purpose, recommends Greg McKeown, writing in the Harvard Business Review. “That means if you decide to watch TV, really watch it. If you are having a meal, take the time to enjoy the meal.” Of course it also means making a choice: do you want to spend your summer downtime in front of the tube? We’re going to hazard a guess the answer is no. Go schedule some activities that ensure you fully recuperate this summer.

EVENTSMake It Light-Hearted

Orin Jewelers in Northville, MI, understands that at its heart, shopping for jewelry should be a joyful experience. To support that message, it tries to add a lighthearted touch to city events by doing something fun in the store, say owners Orin and Tina Mazzoni. “Example: when a citywide ban was put on serving wine/drinks to women at the annual Girls’ Night Out, we all dressed as if it were the Prohibition and served root beer and sparkling wine.” How does your fun game compare?

LEARNINGUp Your Reading Game

Want to read more? Try what serial entrepreneur and business author James Altucher does and read about 30 pages of five books each day. Given the average American reads about 250 words a minute, or about a page a minute, that’s two-and-a-half hours. Don’t have that much time? How about 25 pages of three books? That’s little more time than it takes to watch an episode of The Real Housewives Of New Jersey.

PRODUCTIVITYHome Is Where The Creativity Is

Here’s a neat rule to get the most out of your work day (for people in a position to pull it off, meaning business owners): Do creative work at home and boring work, where you may need some compulsion, at the office. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, researchers found that when it came to creative tasks, people were 11 percent to 20 percent more productive outside the lab. For rote and repetitive tasks, however, they were 6 to 10 percent less productive when not in a formal work environment.

SALESIs That So?

In The Patterson Principles Of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests training yourself to be a better listener by asking a question at the end of your customers’ statements. If you make your own statement, it’s possible you are interrupting. But if you ask a question, you almost have to wait until they’re finished speaking.

SERVICEDon’t Band-Aid A Gunshot Wound

When it comes to repairs, it often pays to look beyond the customer’s specific request, says Bruce Goodheart of Goodheart’s Jewelry in Overland, KS. “Don’t fix one prong when there are 20 other prongs you need to re-tip. You don’t need the headache, and it will show how professional you are. You have a reputation to uphold, and you can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”

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Learning to Love PITA Customers and More Tips for June

When starting out, go bold and quirky (just not weird), and the secret to a perfect break.

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CUSTOMER SERVICEEmbrace the Pain

In his most recent letter to Amazon’s shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos said one thing he loved about customers is that they are “divinely discontent”. Their expectations only ever “go up,” he said. Eileen Eichhorn, owner of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, said decades working in her family store has taught her something similar about demanding customers: they make excellent references. “Pain-in-the-ass customers send us the best customers.”

STRATEGYBegin With Bold

When trying a new business venture (or even prototyping a new jewelry line), always try the wackier, quirkier stuff first, says Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp and author of the business bestseller Getting Real. “The deeper you get into a project, the more conservative it tends to get. Stranger ideas are more at home earlier in the process,” he recently wrote on his Twitter feed.

EVENTSBirthday Gifts Welcome

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

HUMAN RESOURCESDivine Your Own Dress

Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA has solved its dress code issues by simply leaving it up to the staff. It’s part of a bigger strategy to emphasize the employees’ individual talents and unique tastes. “We think it is better for them to be different from one another and create a balanced set of skills and talents, than to all offer the same things,” says owner Ken Siegel. “Employees are happiest when they can be themselves and are encouraged to develop their own self in a safe and happy environment.”

STORE EXTERIORThe Big Picture

First thing to do before slapping a mural on the side of your building? See if the government will pick up part of the bill. Joe Declet of Fins and Skins in Pinellas Park, FL, got tired of telling new customers to look for the “ugly orange building,” so when his lease came up for renewal, he negotiated the right to add the mural. Working with a local artist, he now has a 30- by 50-foot mural depicting a coral reef — and the city offset his expense with a $1,500 grant as part of a beautification program.

MANAGEMENTBreaking Breaks

The most important thing to understand about breaks is that they are not a deviation from performance; they are part of performance, says Dan Pink in his latest business best seller, When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing. “And the most restorative breaks are social rather than solo, outside not inside, moving instead of stationary, and fully detached rather than semi-detached.”

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