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Trashing Opportunity

Trashing Opportunity

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Is this how you treat opportunity?

A week ago we moved to a new home in a new town. In the process of setting up our electric, gas, water, sewer and other services, we didn’t get trash service set up before we moved in. The day that the moving truck showed up I was outside directing movers all day. During that day I saw trash trucks from all three companies go by our house. Two of these companies are locally owned and the third is national.

As each one passed I thought about the opportunity they were all missing by stopping to say hello and offer some move-in special to me, a potential new customer. I ended up calling all of the companies and comparing rates and services and settled on one of the local guys. When I was on the phone with each of their customer service reps I asked if they had a move in special for new customers, especially because of the large amount of packing material and other trash that tends to result from a move. Not one of them did but they all made it very clear that I would be charged per bag of trash that was over the edge of my cart. Talk about making you feel warm and fuzzy about a business.

Now just imagine if one of these companies followed the principles found in books like Raving Fans or The Thank you Economy and created a slightly different new customer experience:

What if one of those trash truck drivers had stopped at our house and asked if we already had a trash service?

What if he had offered a business card with a referral code and coupon?

What if that referral code was tracked to his name so that he would get a bonus for new accounts?

What if he had also told me about a move in special?

What if when I had called customer service they had welcomed me to our new town?

What if they had said that they know how much trash and recycling you can end up with when you are first moving in and that they would let us have ten non-charged bags for free?

What if they had said that the first pickup could be as large as we needed?

If any of this had happened I would not only have signed up but I would have promoted that company all over the place to tell how much they cared about making new customers feel wanted.

As it is, I just signed up for a typical trash service that happens to be cheaper than the others. Yay.

 

Three Low-Cost Advertising Ideas from McVan

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Pinterest Button

McVan, Inc., a manufacturer of Catholic jewelry and rosaries has a new post out with three suggestions for low-cost advertising for your store. I think two of the three are great ideas but one I really wouldn’t spend much time on. Read the whole post.

Social Media

Suggestion one is to get involved in social media. We’ve been on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for years and definitely get sales and customer engagement from these sources. We also have a Google + page but haven’t seen anything result from that. The one thing you have to keep in mind is that these venues, while “free”, require something else that is very valuable: your time. Remember that these platforms are called SOCIAL media for a reason. You can’t be social by showing up every couple of months, asking people to buy something and vanishing again. No one will take you seriously and you will probably do more damage than good.

Facebook ButtonFacebook

If you are going to hop into social media, I recommend starting with one platform and building it. Facebook is a great place to have conversations with your customers and also to promote your products. You should set aside at least a half hour in the morning to post something of interest to your customers that isn’t sales related and only post sales  items every 4 or five posts. Make sure that what you post is of interest to your customers. Get them involved. Ask them questions.

McVan suggests doing advertising on Facebook but I think the verdict is still out on how effective advertisements for Catholic products are on Facebook. Maybe we just haven’t figured out how to create the “right” ones but our success with ads has been minimal. Our posts produce far more engagement and website traffic.

Pinterest ButtonPinterest

If you have beautiful pictures of your products, then growing a following on Pinterest will be worth while. Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where people post, organize, share and comment on images of things they like. You don’t have to spend as much time on the site but you will have to find pictures that are eye-catching and share-worthy. Think of Pinterest as a photo portfolio where you show off your best.

QR Codes

QR Code exampleQR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that you have probably seen on advertisements and fliers. They have been around for over ten years but there is a debate right now about how useful and effective they are for marketing. Some people think that QR codes are a dying marketing idea. Others don’t. In this case, it’s the same person.

Personally, I think you need to consider your market.  Catholic shoppers tend to be older and probably not as tech-savvy as younger shoppers. QR codes require not only a smart phone but also that you find and install a QR code reader on the phone. They also require that you create a website that plays nicely with a smartphone so that if someone actually scans your QR code, he can use your website. Those are a lot of technological hurdles to overcome.

Blogging

Blogging requires more of an investment than other types of social media and has a better return than I think you would get from QR codes. Remember, that like other “free” social media, you have to take your time into account. You also will have to spend a little bit of time setting up the site and writing regular posts so that people keep coming back. If you are interested in blogging but don’t have any idea how to start, Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, did a video tutorial that will get you up and running with a self-hosted site and your own domain name. This costs a little bit of money each month but gives you flexibility in what you can do with your site. You can also get a completely free site at Blogger.com or WordPress.com.

What do you think? Have you tried social media or QR codes? What was your experience? Feel free to leave questions or tips for others.

The Difference Between Being a Salesman and Creating a Selling Relationship

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Sell me the car I want!

Sell me the car I want!

 

Right now I’m doing a lot of driving between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs while we try and sell our house and move as part of my new position as Operations Manager at Book Center of the Rockies. This commute really requires a small, gas-sipping vehicle while for several months I’ve been driving the miracle minivan with over 300,000 miles. I don’t know why it hasn’t pulled out a gun and shot itself yet but last week it gave me a warning and so I started looking for a new (used) vehicle.

I sent email to two car dealers in Colorado Springs with very specific requirements. One on the south end of town sent me a list of vehicles that were the right make but all over the maximum price I was willing to pay. If you haven’t shopped at a car dealer before, this is a common tactic to see if you really meant the top price you said. I wrote back and told them that they didn’t actually read my email since none of the cars matched. That dealer never wrote back.

The second dealer, after I specifically said in an on-line chat to just send me links to cars that met my criteria and not to call me, called me at work to ask when I could come down to take a look. I told the sales lady that I had specifically asked for links only and reiterated my criteria. That afternoon I received an email with about ten links and another request for a time when I was going to come by the showroom. Of the ten vehicles, only ONE was even the correct manufacturer. I wrote back explaining that they hadn’t read my email.

The next day I received another email from a different sales rep containing…. the. exact. SAME. LIST. OF. VEHICLES. I had rejected the day before and a request to call with a time to come in. I wrote back and told her that she obviously had no interest in selling me what I wanted and to quit contacting me.

Today I received a perky email from a manager at the same dealership asking how my shopping was going. Obviously, she hadn’t bothered to check with here sales team first. I actually doubt the email was sent by a real person. I would bet money that it is just an automatic email that goes out if you respond to one of their sales reps.

It’s been so long since I’ve purchased a vehicle from a dealer (a bad experience then, too) that I hoped that these stupid tactics would have been abandoned for something REAL. I’m talking about a sales rep that asks questions and wants to know exactly what you want and why instead of focusing on getting you on the lot to sell you something you don’t need. Have these people read any sales and marketing books written in the last ten years?!

I honestly believe that selling these days is more about finding what your customer really needs and satisfying that. Once you do, you’ve earned loyalty because you listened to your customer.

So here’s your homework for the week. For the next business week, every time you have a customer come into your store, instead of asking “Can I help you?” Which typically results in a “No”, ask “What can I help you find?” It will at least make the customer pause since he has to come up with a full sentence response. If he doesn’t give you a specific product, ask at least two questions to better figure out what he is looking for. Remember, the goal here is to find the customer what he really needs / wants, not to sell him something. In some cases you may have to honestly say that you don’t have what he is looking for. Even then, if you can point him in the right direction, you have earned trust and that is something worth far more than the $4 you would make on that book you didn’t sell him.

[Image created by suphakit73 at freedigitalphotos.net]

I’m Glad Business is so Good You can’t Talk to Me

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Bad mechanicI am in the market for a new(er) vehicle. My 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager is a magical vehicle typically whispered about in the same breath as Bonny Prince Charley’s imminent return to Scotland.

When we bought the van it had 76,000 miles. It has been serving as the Aquinas and More company vehicle since our family grew into our 12-passenger van many years ago. During that time it has hauled bricks, kids, product displays, trailers, computers, kids, dry wall, paint, did I mention kids? Now the van has 315,000 miles. It is still running on its first engine and first transmission. But on the way home from Mass last week I heard a “clunk” and suddenly the van wouldn’t get out of second gear. It was a long drive home at forty miles-an-hour. Since then the van has been working as well as any vehicle that has traveled as far as the moon and started on the return voyage. However, it was clear that the van was letting me know its time was coming.

So, for the first time in seven years, I’m looking for a car. Preferably something that gets good gas mileage and is inexpensive. I found two vehicles that looked promising and called two different mobile auto mechanics in Denver to see how much they would charge to inspect the cars. The first I contacted through an on-line quote form on Monday evening. The second I called on Tuesday and left a message.

It is now Thursday night and neither has bothered to call me back – not even to tell me they aren’t interested. Is this how your customers see you? Honestly, it is how our customers have seen us lately. We don’t currently have live phone support so it sometimes takes us a day and a half to get back to everyone. Definitely not an ideal situation and I know it has cost us business. We are finally in the position to correct that and will shortly be bringing back live phone support.

Don’t be like this. If you don’t want the business, don’t have a quote form on your website or voice mail that actually takes messages. Tomorrow I’ll be trying company number three and hoping for better success.

Image courtesy of supakitmod / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

These Aren’t New Year’s Resolutions

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2014 Resolutions

I can’t remember ever making New Year’s resolutions. I see the rationale – the end of the year is a great mental time to start anew. This year with the major changes at Aquinas and More and an upcoming move to a new town for our family, I’ve been making changes throughout the year to get my life and business in better order. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

  1. Getting more done. With ten kids, a full time job and Aquinas and More, my to-do list was a collection of sticky notes, a paper notebook (or two, since I frequently would set it down somewhere and forget), Outlook reminders and my leaky mind. This really wasn’t sustainable and I constantly felt like I was buried in obligations that were so numerous I couldn’t prioritize. Through Michael Hyatt’s podcast I found Nozbe – a simple-to-use to-do list app, website and desktop application. The interface is simple and it syncs across all your devices. You can email and tweet tasks to it and it integrates with Evernote. I had tried several other to-do list apps but for some reason this one just seems to work more smoothly. Oh, you can also create projects and share lists with other users so you can both work on a list at the same time!Nozbe
  2. Read the Bible. I’ve read parts of the Bible but never really committed to regular reading or to any kind of plan. My oldest daughter is going to be doing the Understanding the Scriptures course for school starting next month and my younger kids are reading the Children’s Golden Bible. Last year I did a podcast with the folks at Logos Bible software about their new Catholic product, Verbum. They gave me a basic edition to review and it has an Android app which follows the daily Lectionary readings. I’m going to start with that and help my daughter with her scripture study class.Verbum Catholic Bible Study
  3. Organize my paper. I have a file cabinet with labeled folders and I do a reasonable job making sure that everything gets filed regularly. My problem is all the other things I need to keep track of – that great idea I heard on a podcast, the melody I need to learn for the Thanksgiving talent show (We sang Gaudete this year), all of the notes I take about procedures and processes at the warehouse, ideas for blog posts. There is a lot of information that I need to keep track of and I have found that paper notebooks are great for holding data but lousy for finding it later. A couple of years ago I got an Evernote account to keep track of photos and comments I had about potential locations to move our store. It was simple to use but I didn’t really “get it”. After having read a few books with different ideas on how to organize it as well as some podcasts, I think I see how I can really take advantage of this digital notebook. I’m not planning on going paperless anytime soon, but this is a good start towards better organization.Evernote
  4. Go on a pilgrimage. Before Thanksgiving my wife made an incredibly bold proposal. She suggested going on the pilgrimage to Chartres for our twentieth wedding anniversary. I was blown away. This isn’t something that we can just hop on a plane and do, it is going to require serious planning as well as a commitment to really getting into shape. The pilgrimage is a three day, seventy-five mile hike from Notre Dame in Paris to Notre Dame in Charte culminating in a high Mass at the cathedral. The pilgrimage covers roads, fields and trails and frequently involves rain. If you want to follow my wife’s chronicle of our preparations, she is at Kittle Eleison. We each bought running shoes for each other for Christmas and my parents bought us hiking poles. If anyone wants to watch ten kids for a couple of weeks while we’re gone, let us know!Chartres Pilgrimage
  5. Start learning more about things I like. I’ve attended several of the CNMC events and even had a podcast for a while (which will be coming back next year) but I never really got into listening to podcasts as a regular thing. I’ve had a two-and-a-half hour drive to work several times a week since April and between talk radio itself and the commercials, listening to the radio was getting very tedious. I finally found a decent podcast app for Android – Doubletwist. It has some quirks in the interface but it syncs non-podcast media such as music and audio books with my laptop and wasn’t very expensive. I first started listening to The Catholics Next Door with Greg and Jennifer Willits. They have an engaging show and even though they occasionally Georgia the pronunciation of words like “Guadete” and “Estes Park”, I was able to get past that and I’ve actually listened to every episode. I also enjoyed listening to Catholic Stuff You Should Know. Unfortunately, they are taking a break for several months to finish up seminary. Apart from the Catholic podcasts I’ve found, there are several other life and business podcasts that I enjoy listening to. Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life and Cliff Ravenscraft’s Podcast Answerman are both great. If you have a lot of driving time, I definitely encourage you to find something other than the radio to listen to. Whether it’s podcasts or something from the Great Courses collection, it’s a far better use of your time. I’m also planning on attending the Modex 2014 Supply Chain expo to increase my knowledge of warehouse management. A lot of you probably have your eyes glaze over at the thought of seeing exhibits showing the latest in storage and order processing but I love this stuff! I might also attend the Catholic New Media Conference and am really considering going to the SCORRE conference next year.The Catholics Next Door
  6. Set goals – and plan to make them. Setting goals is very easy, it’s the reaching them that is hard. Several months ago I downloaded the Life Plan workbook from Michael Hyatt’s site and then forgot about it. A few weeks ago he offered a 5-day program to get goals together for the coming year. I signed up for it as I was having a hard time figuring out how best to attack several of the things I wanted to do next year. It was worth the cost. Apart from having a step-by-step approach to not only planning ahead but taking a hard look at what was behind, the community of participants has a lot of great ideas.Best Year Ever

 

What did you do this year to improve your life? Not necessarily New Year’s related.

 

2014 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Catholic Publishers’ Blogs – Where are they?

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I’ve recently started using a blog feed service called Feedly (more about that in another post) to organize and keep tabs on all the blogs I like to read. One of the things I decided to do was visit all the publisher websites I could to get links to their blog feeds. After visiting nearly twenty publishers’ websites I was only able to find four blogs, two of which aren’t directly related to the published titles. I was really pretty surprised. Many have Facebook and Twitter accounts which I’m going to spend some time reviewing in a future post but when it comes to actual “meat” about what they do, publishers are very quiet.

Ignatius Press has really been at the forefront of digital technology among Catholic publishers for a long time. I think they were the first Catholic publisher to sell e-books, they have been blogging at Ignatius Insight for nine years and have done a great job of mixing posts about Catholic current events with product promotion through book quotes and author posts.

Very nice website and content

Very nice website and content

Image Books has been blogging since the relaunch of the imprint two years ago. They keep their posts more tightly focused on topics related to their titles but still have a lot of interesting material. An odd thing about their blog is that there isn’t any way to browse the archive or browse by categories or topics. Still, the site is one of the best Catholic publisher sites I’ve seen. Apart from a simply beautiful design, they have more material from their books than any other Catholic publisher – excerpts, videos and reading guides.

Liguori has a blog written by Fr. Don, a Redemptorist priest, at Kinda Catholic.  The blog has interesting content and a regular Q&A column but, strangely, has almost no references to the fact that this is a Liguori blog. I don’t understand why Liguori doesn’t do more to promote their titles on the blog, even with book covers in the sidebar.

Liturgical Press blogs at Pray Tell. Their blog primarily stays on the topic liturgy and they post reviews of their books, even ones that aren’t the most flattering.

Apart from that, I wasn’t able to find another Catholic publisher with a blog. Have you seen any? I’d love to highlight them if they exist.

Interview with Jon at Word on Fire

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Word on Fire is the new apostolate started by Father Baron. The first product from this new effort was the Catholicism series which has been broadcast on PBS and EWTN. Jon talks to us about how to program started and what is part of the program.

Interview with Influence Resources

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Influence Resources is an Imprint from the Assemblies of God. This imprint is just over a year old so I thought it would be interesting to interview a publisher that was getting started right as the digital revolution started to take hold.

Interview with Johanna at Image Books.

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At the International Christian Retail Show we were fortunate to get an interview with the director of marketing for Image Books. Image has been around since the fifties but for a long time was a very neglected brand at Random House. That changed a year ago when the imprint was designated as the imprint for all Random House Catholic titles. The first book released after the reorganization was Catholicism by Father Baron.

Talks, Interviews and Ducks at the ICRS

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So today was the second full day of the International Christian Retail Show. Our morning presentation was on why retail stores need to have an Internet presence. If you think your store doesn’t need a website you aren’t facing reality.

After my talk Zondervan hosted a delicious lunch and several of their reps sat with the attendees and talked about the industry and what Catholic stores are looking for. I think they were trying to learn more about the Catholic market than anything else.

We also met a couple that is on fire with a vision for a new Catholic store that they want to start in Dallas. They’re young and I think they could pull off something really wonderful down there.

Today I spent some time wandering the show floor so I put together a few clips of  some of the displays.

After lunch I did several interviews with vendors. My first one was with Influence Resources. They are an official publishing imprint of the Assemblies of God that only started two years ago.

Next I interviewed Johanna Inwood who is the director of marketing for the revitalized Image Books imprint from Random House.

I had already missed the march of the ducks at the hotel twice in the evenings so was determined to be there for it this time. I took a video of the tradition but the video clearly shows that I could never get a job as a paparazzi.

Since the 1930′s when a drunk general manager and friend returned from a hunting trip and thought putting live ducks into the Peabody fountain was a good idea, the hotels have had daily processions of ducks to the main fountain every morning and evening.

After the duck march I headed over to the Siam Thai restaurant to meet the Mike and Michelle from Catholic Word for dinner.

Dinner at the Siam Thai Restaurant