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  • The Secret To Running ‘Automatic’ Store Events

    Sleepy cartoon woman pouring coffee

    Some people are morning people
    I’m not one of them. When I get up, I stagger around with a foggy brain at first.
    Until my head clears, I can’t do anything that requires me to think.

    So, I put my morning routine on automatic.
    I can make coffee and get my day started, when I’m barely awake.
    I can do this without thinking because I have a system.

    A system can put your events on automatic too
    Events have the potential to be your best marketing tool.
    Events can bring in new customers, and keep shoppers coming back.
    But, events can be a lot of work.
    To reduce the workload, events need to be on ‘automatic’ setting.

    What stops you from holding store events?
    What stops most people is the planning.
    It seems like too much work to hold an event.
    It’s overwhelming.
    There’s too much to think about.

    It’s hard to even come up with a good idea for an event.
    Once you’ve done one event, you have to come up with another idea.
    And another plan. Just thinking about all the planning discourages people from getting started.

    How can you get past that barrier?

    The secret is to have a system
    That system is an annual calendar of store events.
    You sit down with a calendar, and plan all your events for the year.
    The best way to do this is to get out of the store.

    Go to a cafe, order your favourite beverage, and start thinking.
    By doing your thinking now, you don’t have to think as much about each event later.
    You can get all your thinking out of the way in a couple of hours.
    For the rest of the year, you can just follow the plan.

    The system puts your events on automatic, so you can focus on other things.

    What does your automatic calendar system need?
    To create an annual calendar of events, your plan needs three factors:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    1) Simplicity
    The events that go in your calendar need to be simple, or they won’t get done. To be automatic, the events need to be easy to produce.

    Don’t get carried away with elaborate catering, a DJ, a huge guest list, door prizes, gift bags and expensive marketing. One big event per year might be okay, but only if it builds relationships with new customers, or results in big sales.
    Otherwise, it’s just a big effort and big expense.

    Instead of going big, think small.
    Small and simple.
    Fill the calendar with education events that solve problems for customers.
    Then you don’t need lots of entertainment and free giveaways.
    The value is the information.

    A simple event recipe:
    Valuable information
    A small and personal guest list.
    Add a few light snacks, and sparkling water. Or tea and coffee.

    Voila! A simple event that will build your customer base.
    Especially when it’s paired with the next factor.

    2) Repetition
    Once you’ve had a successful event, repeat it. Most people try to come up with something new. If something works, keep doing it until it stops working.

    To encourage customers to return regularly to your store, events need to be held frequently. Holding only a couple of events per year will not build your customer base as effectively as holding events more often.

    There are three methods you can use to repeat your events:

    Method 1)
    Schedule the same event, on the same topic, multiple times. Perhaps on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If the event is only scheduled annually, you need to fill the calendar schedule other events as well.

    Method 2)
    If you had an education event on one topic that was successful, use that format for other related topics. Present a series of topics on a weekly or monthly basis.

    Method 3)
    Make the events into classes or workshops. Get participants to sign up for a class that runs for several weeks. Or a workshop that is completed in a day, or over a weekend.

    3) Variety
    An effective events calendar will have a variety of different types of events. There are three main types of events to choose from:

    Sales and promotional events
    Sales and promotional events are easy to overdo. Keep these events to once or twice a year. Put some effort into making this a special event. Put it on your annual calendar, and promote it well in advance. Build it up, so your customers look forward to it each year.

    Community events
    Neighbourhood events that usually happen on an annual basis. Choose one or two that are the best fit for your store. Use these events to meet new people and promote your education events.

    Education events
    The education events are your bread and butter. Fill the calendar with these events.

    Consider choosing topics that relate to the seasons or annual activities. For example, if you sell computers or office supplies, host tax seminars during tax season. Or for a dress shop, offer a talk in the spring on How To Save Money In Wedding Season: 5 Great Ways To Wear One Dress.

    An annual calendar is the secret to creating an automatic system of events.

    It’s like having a system in place for making coffee in the morning. Setting out the coffee and pot the night before makes it easy to brew that java with your eyes closed.

    Once you have the calendar in place for events, you can run them without getting bogged down in the planning. To put your events on automatic, your calendar needs:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    With those three factors, events will become so effortless, you could do it in your sleep!

    Next Step
    Want to find out more about education events? Click here to read Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

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    Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

    It was a six year old boy’s dream come true
    A birthday treasure hunt. The young treasure hunters discovered a battered map in a bottle on the rocky ocean beach. Following the clues to the ‘X’ on the map, the boys found the right spot and started to dig. It didn’t take them long to unearth the buried chest. Imagine the boys’ delight on finding a pirate flag and handfuls of jewels.

    Real treasure!

    Customer relationships are the treasure in your business
    Relationships with loyal customers that come back again and again. These repeat customers are the ones that make your business thrive. One of the best ways to get customers to return is with regular events.
    But not all events attract the right customers.
    And keep them coming back for more.

    What type of event attracts repeat customers?
    Not just any customers.
    Customers that want more than just a product.
    Customers that want to know how to solve a problem.
    Customers that are hungry for information.

    The most effective are education events.
    These events offer that information.
    They solve problems for the customer.

    That brings us to the next question.

    How do you create an education event?
    You need to find a map that will lead you to the repeat customer treasure.
    Sometimes we search all over to find the map.
    We don’t realize the map is right in front of us.
    The landmarks on the map are the customers’ problems.
    The customer problems will lead you to the treasure.

    ‘X’ marks the spot
    Your customers’ biggest problem is the ‘X’.
    That’s the first problem to tackle with an educational event.
    Once you’ve identified the problem, you dig deeper to get more information.
    That’s where you’ll find the treasure.

    But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    How do you find the X?
    Your job is to find a problem your customers want to solve. And create an educational event that provides a solution to their problem.

    It isn’t as hard as it sounds.
    As I said before, you start with problems.

    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    1) Discover the customer problems
    Talk to your customers in the store. Listen to their questions. What do you find yourself explaining to your customers most often?

    Ask questions. Ask for honest feedback. Find out what bugs your customers about any of your products. What bugs them about shopping? What would make it easier for them to buy?

    For example, let’s imagine you sell women’s dresses. What makes it hard to buy a dress? Let’s make a list of some problems customers might have.

    Problems with fit:

    • Dresses are too long, or too short, in the waist
    • Hem is too low, or too high
    • A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Problems with selection:

    • Can’t find a suitable colour for skin tone
    • Can’t find a dress for figure type

    Other problems

    • Need a dress for a formal occasion, that can also be worn for casual events
    • Need a dress that can be part of a work wardrobe

    These are just some of the problems that customers could have when shopping for dresses. If you have a wide variety of products, you may come up with many more potential problems that customers encounter. At this point, start with a list of 10 of the most common problems you hear from your customers. In the next step, you’ll reduce the list even further.

    2) Pick one problem to solve
    Yes. Just one.

    You can come back to the rest of the list later. For now, you need to focus on just one problem. If you try to solve too many problems at once, you get overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start. The project seems too big to handle. When you choose just one problem, you start to see how to tackle that one issue.

    Multiple problems lead to unfocused messages. Unfocused messages alienate customers. When you focus on just one problem, you attract all the customers that struggle with that one issue. The message is clear, and the customer feels like you are talking directly to her.

    So, just one problem. Let’s go back to our example.

    How do you choose just one problem?
    Well, in this case, problems with selection are more difficult to solve with an educational event, although it can be done. Let’s put aside those problems for now.

    Problems with fit are very common. The other problems listed are also common. However, fitting problems likely cause the most stress for customers. This is a clue that customers may be interested in a solution that you have to offer. Remember, start with the ‘X’. The biggest, or most common problem.

    I’ll pick one fitting problem: A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Now I’ve isolated a problem from my list, but what do I do with it?

    3) Provide the solution
    Now that you’ve chosen a problem, you need to identify a solution to the problem. A solution that you can deliver with an event or a class. This is where you go back to brainstorming.

    What is the solution to the problem?

    What advice would you give to a customer with this problem? Make a list of these points, or steps, to solve the problem.

    Back to the dress shop example.

    The problem: A dress that fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top
    The solution: A dress that fits just right (in the hips and the top)
    To get a dress that fits just right:
    1) Wear the right foundation garments to try on the dress
    2) Buy the dress to fit at the fullest point -> either bust or hips
    3) Find a good seamstress or tailor
    4) Have the dress professionally altered to perfect the fit
    5) Accessorize to visually balance the figure

    Now you’ve got enough points to give a seminar or class. You’re ready to start planning your event.

    But, I’m not a professional speaker
    It’s best to deliver the seminar yourself, or use your own staff team. You may not be a professional speaker, but your customers perceive you as an expert. The more you can encourage your customers to use you and your team to solve problems, the more you’ll improve your relationship with them. You want your customers to see you as a solution provider, not just a product seller.

    When customers see you as the solution provider, or expert, they’ll keep coming back over and over.

    And that’s the hidden treasure in your business.

    To uncover the treasure of repeat customers, start digging.
    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    Next Step
    Does running events seem like too much work?
    Come back next week to learn the secret to ‘automatic’ store events. Or subscribe here, to get the next article sent to your email inbox.

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    How Sales Information Can Increase Profits

    You know you need to increase sales.
    You need money to buy new inventory.
    To pay your staff. Or invest in new equipment.

    How much more money do you want to make?
    Let’s pull a number out of a hat.
    Let’s say you want to increase your sales by $50,000.

    How are you going to do that?

    Imagine you’ve decided to run a marathon
    You know you need to train and practice running before you can run an entire marathon. You go get some new running shoes. And go for a run. You run until you’re tired, then head home. The next day you do it again.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    You aren’t measuring how you’re doing. You haven’t set any real goals. How far are you going to run each day? How long are you going to run? When will you run the marathon? There’s no plan, and no way to keep track of progress.

    Saying you want to increase sales is a lot like saying you’ll run a marathon someday. You won’t achieve that goal unless you use some specific methods of measuring your progress.

    A runner tracks progress by measuring the time spent running, or the distance covered. He sets small incremental goals to gradually increase how far and how fast he can run.

    How do you measure your progress?

    You can measure sales with three basic types of information. You might already use some of this information. But maybe you don’t use it in your planning and tracking as often as you could. The more you use this information to set goals and track progress carefully, the more successful you’ll be.

    What are the three basic types of sales information?
    1) Sales Dollars
    2) Average Sale
    3) Units Per Transaction

    Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

    1) Sales Dollars

    You probably already know how much you sell in a year. Or a month. Or a week. Probably even each day.

    But are you setting goals to increase this number steadily? What would happen to your sales if you set a goal to sell $50, $100 or $150 more each day? Just $140 each day would increase your sales by $50,000 this year.

    For a small store with slow traffic, that might be a big challenge. You can break that $140 goal down even further. Can you sell an extra $20 per hour? Instead of assuming it’s too hard, imagine it might be possible. Brainstorm how you might be able to sell an extra $20 more each hour.

    The next two types of sales tracking information can help you reach that goal.

    2) Average Sale

    The average sale is the total sales for the day divided by the number of sales transactions that day. If you are using a computerized point-of-sale system, it probably calculates this for you. If not, you can calculate it by hand fairly quickly, or enter the information into a simple spreadsheet.

    Why is the size of the average sale important?

    The average sale tells you how much customers tend to buy at one time. One of the easiest ways to increase sales is to increase how much each customer buys. It is easier and less costly to increase the amount you sell to one customer, than to sell to more customers.

    The size of the average sale goes hand in hand with the number of items sold.

    3) Units per Transaction

    One of the easiest ways to increase the size of each sale is to increase the number of items in each sale. As a rule of thumb, set a goal to sell three items to every customer. All you have to do is suggest coordinating items to the customer. A top and belt to go with a pair of pants. An ottoman and a throw with a chair or sofa. Often these are items the customer would want, but doesn’t think of, or notice in your store.

    Another easy way to increase the number of items sold, is simply to display coordinating merchandise together. For example, if you sell laptops, put one on display with a laptop stand, a set of speakers and a mouse.

    Once you get in the habit of suggesting and displaying coordinating merchandise, it becomes easier to increase sales. When your sales increase, hopefully your profit will too.

    A runner whose sights are set on finishing a marathon, sets incremental goals and measures his progress. By measuring and tracking your sales dollars, average sales and the number units sold in each transaction, you move towards your goals in the same way. Before you know it, you’ll have achieved that sales increase, and are ready for a new goal.

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    How to Discover Customer Secrets That Help You Sell

    Nancy sells trendy printed graphic T-shirts. She offers the highest quality T-shirts available. She is certain her target market of 15-25 year olds would love these fashionable brands.

    But the T-shirts aren’t selling. They’re sitting on the shelves. Nancy is desperate to figure out how to sell all these T-shirts.

    What’s the secret to selling more?
    Customers have the secret. Customers have the information that Nancy, and you, need to uncover. Customers will help you figure out why products aren’t selling. They’ll help you figure out how to improve sales.

    Customers will help you discover problems, so that you can find solutions. It sounds crazy, but it’s not.

    The first problem is that you don’t know the problem.

    Say what?
    There could be one of many different problems. Or maybe there’s more than one problem.

    Maybe the people you believe are your target market aren’t shopping in your store. Perhaps you’re attracting other customers instead.
    Maybe customers think your products are too expensive.
    Maybe customers don’t like the new products.
    Or maybe the customers just walked right by the items and didn’t see them.

    Each of these problems has a different solution.
    Until you uncover the problem, any attempt to improve sales is a guessing game. There’s more chance of picking the wrong solution, than the right one.

    So, how do you get customers to reveal the problem?

    There are three things you can do to uncover your customers secrets.
    Well, at least the secrets that relate to your business.

    1. Watch
    2. Ask
    3. Listen

    1. Watch your customers.
    Pay attention to the customers who visit the store. Do you attract your target customers? Watch who shops with them. Watch where they walk, what they touch, what they walk past. You’ll discover what is working by noticing what customers pay attention to. And you’ll get clues to where the problems are, when you notice what customers ignore.

    2. Ask your customers questions.

    Find more about your customers, and about what they think. Find out if they live or work nearby. Ask about their personal style and tastes. Inquire about their opinions of some of your products.

    Questions help you get to know your customers better. You start to learn who they are and what they are looking for.

    3. Listen to what customers say.

    Of course you need to listen to the answers customers give to your questions. But listen for other things as well. Listen for objections. Pay attention to comments about price, fit, and style. Make note of questions customers ask. Write them down so you don’t forget.

    Customer objections and questions are a goldmine of information. These are clues to how you can improve your business. They are also opportunities to explain and demonstrate your product. They’re opportunities to sell.

    What should Nancy do to sell her T-shirts?

    Nancy needs to get out on the sales floor. She needs to start by watching her customers. In one day, how many customers visit that fit her target market? How many other customers visit?

    She needs to ask about the T-shirts. In a conversational way, she can say, “We got these T-shirts in recently. What do you think of them?”

    She needs to let customers know why these are the best quality T-shirts available. And listen carefully for questions and objections.

    At the end of the day, Nancy will have discovered some secrets about her customers. And maybe she’ll have sold some T’s in the process.

    You can do it too.

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    Are You Struggling to Merchandise Because You Don’t Know the Pinwheel Concept?

    You’ve worked hard on your business. You know your target market. You have a quality product. You’ve trained your staff.

    For some reason, you’re just not getting the response you hoped for. Customers aren’t buying.

    You’re not sure where to turn.

    What do you do next?

    Do you create new displays? Put everything on sale?
    Get someone to help you with merchandising?
    You know you need to do something.
    But what?

    Before you make any decisions, you need to understand the pinwheel concept.

    Have you ever played with a pinwheel?

    A pinwheel has four vanes that capture wind and spin the pinwheel. In your business, the four vanes are four areas of information. This information is what you need to know to merchandise your store effectively.

    The information takes the struggle out of merchandising decisions. And when you struggle less, your business starts to gain momentum. The pinwheel starts to spin.

    So, what do I need to know?

    First, you need to understand the four areas of the pinwheel. Then you’ll learn WHY you need this information to merchandise your store. Finally, you’ll discover how to use this information to make merchandising decisions.

    So, let’s get started.

    Analyze the information in the pinwheel.

    The four areas that you need to know about are:


    Let’s look at these in more detail. You will probably know some of this information already, but probably not all of it.

    1. Customer

    What do you need to know about your customer?
    As much as you can. Does she shop alone, or bring a friend or family member? How often does she visit?

    Find out what she likes best about your store. Her favourite products. How did she hear about your store?
    If she could change something about your store, what would it be? What service could you add that she would love? What would she love to tell their friends about your store?

    Customers will be happy to be asked about their opinion. Ask questions when helping them shop, use a survey or try a focus group. Take a customer or two out for coffee.

    2. Products

    How are your products performing?

    Make it a habit to always know your highest and lowest selling products. Do some detective work on these items. Do your highest sellers have a good margin?

    Study where these items are placed. Perhaps the lowest selling items are hard for customers to find. How often are products rotated and displays changed? How long has all your merchandise been in the store?
    Make sure you know the competitors that offer similar products. What are the price points? How are they displayed?

    3. Sales

    It is important to track your sales results on a daily basis. How do your sales compare to last year? To your plan?
    Know the details of your daily sales. What is the average number of items in each transaction? And the average dollar amount of each sale?

    4. Traffic

    Analyze your traffic. Count the number of visitors each day. Calculate your conversion rate: number of daily sales divided by number of daily visitors. Multiply this number by 100 to get the percentage of visitors that are converted to paying customers.

    Watch your customers walk through the store. What attracts their attention? What do they touch? How long do they spend in the store? Where do they spend the most time in the store?

    Why do you need to know these things?

    The four key ‘vanes’ of information help your business keep moving. Without information in these areas, merchandising decisions become guesses.

    If a vane of the pinwheel is missing, it doesn’t spin. It turns a little. And stops. Then starts again.

    To start spinning continuously, the pinwheel needs all four vanes. Once it starts moving smoothly, it gains momentum and keeps spinning.

    When you start catching the information in the four areas of your business, it starts to move. A little at a time. The information you take in begins to tell you what to do.

    You don’t need to guess.

    What the pinwheel will tell you.
    (As good as a crystal ball? Almost.)

    You might already be collecting this information and not using it. It’s no good sitting in a report. Or a computer file. Now is the time to put it to use.

    Here’s what you can learn by analyzing the pinwheel information.

    What merchandise to buy

    Analyzing your customers’ needs, feedback and top sellers to know what to buy. Focus on products that your competitors don’t carry.

    What merchandise to markdown and clear out

    Merchandise sitting on shelves and not moving is costing you money. You are paying rent on the space it takes up. If the product is more than three months old, consider marking it down. If you’ve had something sitting in the store for six months to a year, move it out. Deep discount it to free up the cash for new merchandise.

    Older than 1 year? Old merchandise makes the store look stale, crowded and boring. Some things may never sell. Once in a while it may be best to just pull items off the floor. If you have the space to store it, pull it out for a sidewalk or warehouse sale.

    Where to place merchandise

    Place high margin, strong sellers in high visibility, high traffic areas. Use these areas for new regular priced, high value merchandise.
    As a general rule, put sale items at the back of the store. Customers are willing to work harder for discounts.

    Use cross-merchandising and displays to encourage multiple purchases. Change displays weekly to keep merchandise fresh, and capture the interest of shoppers.

    When to have promotions or events

    Use your traffic analysis to plan limited time promotions or small events. Use them to boost traffic during slow times.

    Use the pinwheel to find out key information about your business.

    Then make a change to your merchandising. Measure the results.
    If it works, do more of it.

    Less struggle. More momentum.
    Get that pinwheel spinning.

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