Print This Post Print This Post

Ditch Coupons Before Customers Ditch You

By Paul Johnson

714 Words. Abstract:  Sales promotions are with us to stay, but you might do better if you make coupons go away. Learn about the right and wrong ways to promote your business through coupons and special pricing offers.

Every shopper wants to feel like they’re getting a good deal. Merchants often attempt to capitalize on this desire through coupon offers, rebates, and “special discounts.” Coupons have become the promotional drug of choice to woo more business from new and old customers alike. Unfortunately, coupons can destroy customer relationships almost as fast as they are made.

The worst coupon abusers are merchants who set a relatively high list price compared to the competition, and then use coupons or other incentive plans to discount it so buyers feel like they’re getting a good deal. I had a fabulous customer service experience derailed by such a pricing blunder.

A Hitch in the Pitch
I was looking for a new dry cleaner and discovered FC Cleaners (not their real name). When I walked in, they discovered I was a new customer, handed me a “Passport” book, and explained to me that I would routinely receive a significant discount whenever I presented the book with incoming dry cleaning orders.

I wasn’t impressed until I picked up my order. All of my shirts now had bar code labels. The computer-printed labels attached to the neatly hangered and bagged clothes described each article in detail, right down to my neck size. They truly knew how to use technology to manage a relationship! I also knew I could go to any FC Cleaners in Atlanta and be instantly identified by my bar code labels.

Soon I returned to have more cleaning done. I dropped off the clothes, and then remembered I had forgotten my Passport. Oh well, I’ll just bring it with me when I pick them up. As planned, I returned in a few days with my Passport. My enthusiasm for our relationship disappeared when they explained, “Sorry, you’ll have to pay stupid people prices since you failed to present your passport when you dropped off your order.”

Of course, they didn’t explain it that way. They cordially explained that their “policy” prevented them from giving me a discount. As Dr. Martha Rogers of Peppers and Rogers Group says, “Policies treat everybody like nobody”, and that’s exactly how I felt. When I dropped off the clothes, their computer could tell them who I was, where I lived, the details of all my garments, and my complete transaction history. But it couldn’t — or is it wouldn’t? — tell them that I was a Passport discount buyer. As a result, I was forced to pay retail and fork over an extra ten spot. From a goodwill perspective, they would have been much better off without a list price discounting program.

Bait and Snitch
Sometimes I’ll be in line at a store when the person ahead of me presents a coupon to the cashier and immediately gets a discount. I have no such coupon. It looks like I’ll be paying stupid-people prices again.

On occasion a friendly cashier has offered to give me a coupon on-the-spot. Very thoughtful — but maybe not.

  • Does this mean their merchandise is really overpriced?
  • Do they really have a consistent pricing policy?
  • Does this store have any integrity?

My assumption is that, for some reason, I don’t look like a sucker today.

Switch to Enrich
If you want to use coupons for promotion, consider making them an integral part of your pricing strategy. I recommend to my clients that they only offer discounts, including coupons, for one-time irregular (preferably non-repeating) events. Examples might be first-time orders, year-end closeout of a particular model, or cleaning off shelves in preparation for inventory. A new product launch would qualify. However, end of the month discounts don’t hold water, nor does the lame excuse, “I need another deal to make quota.”

Coupons are useful to get people in the door and give you a try, but you need to have a way to track repeat buyers. Don’t train customers to never show up without a coupon. I won’t buy a pizza without one. Instead, honor them with a “frequent buyer” program that rewards them with lower prices or — better yet — additional services when they come back time and again. Show them you know they’re not stupid, and they’ll know how smart you are. The goodwill you generate will result in good business for you.

© 2005, 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:

Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When has a coupon been a costly experience for you?

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (0) Aug 01 2009

Print This Post Print This Post

Sell Like the Celebrity Salesman

By Paul Johnson

1,085 words. Abstract: Billy Mays is dead, but his simple selling system lives on. Employ the single difference that made this pitchman a millionaire.

The late Billy Mays could teach us all a few things about selling. We saw him on TV infomercials selling OxiClean, Mighty Putty, the Awesome Auger, and more. Billy Mays made millions of dollars because he understood how to Bally the Tip, Nod Them In, the importance of The Turn, and the Chill-Down. Do you?

Billy Mays was proud to call himself a pitchman. He understood who bought his products, and why. Vince Offer is another well-known pitchman, and he’s cleaning up selling his ShamWow chamois cloths. These pitchmen are truly celebrity salesmen, known on sight and, often, by just the sounds of their voices. While we may consider them corny, pushy hucksters whose style we would never want to duplicate, most of us would be happy to duplicate their results, at least where dollar signs are involved.

Uncommonly Simple
Their simple selling system can help us all sell more products, more services, and even more of our ideas. Most salespeople are much less effective than these celebrity salesmen. These pitchmen sell more, and they sell faster. You’ll never reach celebrity salesman (or saleswoman) status unless you’re prepared to do one thing.

Sales people think preparation means learning all about the product. They think preparation means learning the sales process inside and out. They think it means doing research on their prospect, and choosing in advance what questions they want to ask. While celebrity salesmen do all these things, too, they do one more thing; they prepare to lead.

Billy Mays learned on the Atlantic City Boardwalk that buyers want to be lead. From the moment pitchmen like Billy Mays open their mouths, they make sure you understand he’s talking to YOU, that he understands the problems you have and, most importantly, he has the perfect solution. When you feel like you are understood, you place more confidence in the salesperson, and you are more willing to trust them to lead you to a successful conclusion, which we call the sale.

Whether it’s firing a flaming fastball or performing the perfect pirouette, professionals execute the seemingly simple with ease. Celebrity salesmen like Vince Offer use a simple system to sell, and they make it look easy. I encourage you to try their simple system, but don’t be surprised if you find it hard to do it well.

1. Bally the Tip
Bally means gather, and Tip refers to a crowd or audience, so Bally the Tip means gather the crowd. Why did Billy Mays seem like he was shouting at you? To get your attention and create a sense of urgency so that you would turn away from whatever it was you were doing. But volume is not enough. That first sentence has got to draw you in, much like the headline on the front page of a newspaper. It’s got to relate to you on a personal level so you want to hear what comes next.

To maintain the Tip, a pitchman has to create interest. He does this with ease because he understands who the customers for his product are so very well that he makes you feel like he’s speaking directly to you. “Have you ever tried to remove ugly mildew stains from your shower walls, only to give up in frustration many wasted hours later?” He understands your pain, and you pray that he brings relief.

2. Nod Them In
When the pitchman asks a question like the one above, he expects to see people nodding their heads. He asks still more questions that hit the crowd right where they live. The frequency and intensity of the nodding rises, and the crowd draws closer to him. Each question not only improves the pitchman’s credibility, but also intensifies desire for the solution.

Often two other techniques are used to heighten desire. Creating a sense of scarcity creates a sense of urgency. Wouldn’t it be terrible if your hesitancy to buy forced you to leave with your problem unsolved and your needs unfulfilled? You better buy NOW before they run out! There’s no time to “think it over.”

The second technique is to use testimonials. If other people are obviously having success with the product, it stands to reason you will, too. Then the herd mentality will take over and a feeding frenzy can begin.

3. The Turn
Now it’s time to ask the Tip for their money. Celebrity salesmen make it clear what they’re selling, but the Tip does not want the product. What they want is to be lead by the pitchman to the answer, and the pitchman reveals the minor investment for the perfect solution. But wait. . .  there’s more! Bonuses push the perceived value even higher, and people are now waiving $20 bills in the air and yelling, “Do ME, do ME!”

4. The Chill-Down
It’s time for action. The celebrity salesman has asked for the order, and it’s time to clean up. The Chill-Down is about completing transactions and fulfilling orders as fast and cleanly as possible so nobody leaves empty handed. Everybody goes away excited and happy, and the celebrity salesman is ready to do it again.

But wait… there’s more! If you’d like to take a deeper dive and learn more about the world of pitchmen like Billy Mays, you’ll enjoy listening to this podcast and related transcript titled, “Pitch Perfect”.

Get the Lead Out
Professional pitchmen make it look easy, but they’ve already worked hard to do the research on the market and craft their presentation into a light, tight, efficient package. Then they test it, tweak it, and deliver it over and over, reworking it to get the dead weight out until the results more than justify their investment in preparation. Celebrity salesmen can make more sales in 10 minutes than most salespeople make all week.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your customer wants to lead during the buy/sell interchange. In reality, most buyers want to be led to a solution with speed, ease and confidence. To join the ranks of celebrity salesmen, you’ll need to assume the customer wants to be led unless they clearly indicate otherwise.

While you may never be hawking products on TV or the Atlantic City Boardwalk, there’s no reason you can’t learn from professional pitchmen and become a celebrity salesman (or saleswoman) within your industry. When that happens, I’m sure you’ll be happy to clean up.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When have you witnessed an amazing performance by a professional pitchman or pitchwoman, and what made it amazing?

Posted: under Gaining Commitment (Sales).
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (0) Jul 01 2009

Print This Post Print This Post

When to Encourage Deviant Behavior at Work

By Paul Johnson

621 words. Abstract: When employees don’t follow the rules, what can you do? Considering their color can give you the answer.

Policies and procedures, processes and standards. Every company has rules to be followed to ensure that expectations are met and disappointment is avoided. But when is it OK for employees to deviate from these rules, if ever?

After we were married, I learned that my wife has rules.

  • Toothpaste tubes are squeezed from the end only.
  • Clothes go on hangers facing the left.
  • When the toilet is not in use, the seat must be DOWN.

While these rules seemed somewhat arbitrary, I was eager to adopt these new standards of behavior because I didn’t want to disappoint her. She had expectations for me, and I am willing to follow these rules to keep her happy — still.

She soon discovered I had a few rules of my own. These, of course, were much more logical and well thought-out, or so they seemed to me.

  • Turn your wheels when you park on a hill.
  • Get a copy of anything you sign.
  • Never discard my beer bottles that aren’t COMPLETELY empty.

Decades later, we still get along fine.

Confusion Rules
In business, rules help us avoid costly mistakes. They enable us to fulfill the expectations of our customers and co-workers. Rules allow us to replace confusion and disappointment with consistency, stability and satisfaction. If rules are so wonderful, why would we ever want to deviate from the norm and break a rule?

We can observe that rules are logical, plainly needed and completely obvious to the person who makes them, but not necessarily to everybody else. All rules have an underlying reason — and sometimes many reasons — for their existence. Sometimes these reasons are simple and other times they are complex and even arcane. Problems occur when all rules are treated as black-and-white. Performance at your company will improve when leadership makes it clear which rules are made to be broken.

Red Looks Black-and-White
Steve Cohn, a customer experience expert at People to People Learning, points out the difference between Red Rules and Blue Rules. “Red Rules are those that cannot be broken under any circumstances ever. They usually have to do with safety, health and legal. Blue Rules are everything else. You can bend them if it means making the customer happy and it doesn’t cost the company an enormous amount of money.”

The Red Rules are those black-and-white rules where deviation can’t be tolerated. Blue Rules reflect preferred standards that should be strived for. But if Blue Rules are meant to be broken on occasion, it’s critical that these rules come with additional information; specifically, the intent behind the rule.

  • What greater good is the rule intended to achieve?
  • What expectations does the rule attempt to ensure?
  • What will disappointment cost us as a company?

Once employees are clear on the proper ways to interpret and apply Blue Rules, they are then qualified to deviate from the letter of the rule when conditions warrant.

Rule Intent
Rules are important to the success of both business and personal relationships, but don’t get sucked into believing that, “A rule is a rule.” Some rules should be held firm, and others need to bend. Make it clear which are the Red Rules, the rules that must be adhered to with no exceptions. After all, when you hear your wife splashing around in the dark, it’s too late to put the seat down. The rest of the rules then become bendable rules, the Blue Rules that carry implied flexibility.  Make sure everyone who must apply a Blue Rule understands the intent behind the rule. When that happens, employees feel empowered to always do the right thing, and deviant behavior won’t be so unwelcome after all.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

Paul Johnson is the keynote speaker who describes his approach to transformational leadership at http://TroubleBreaker.com. His company, Shortcuts to Results LLC, collects business shortcuts and shows clients how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: What rule do you routinely bend, and why?

Posted: under Managing Change (Leadership).
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (0) Jun 01 2009

Print This Post Print This Post

Leadership on a Bikini Budget

By Paul Johnson

1,074 words. Abstract: Leadership can find ways to “do more with less” in a recession if they learn to work within certain limits the way a good bikini does. Discover how to fashion a beautiful business when resources are scarce.

The “do more with less” maxim is nothing new, but it takes on new importance during a recession when resources are woefully scarce. When revenue shortfalls at your company are causing leadership to consider painful cuts of personnel, products and projects, perhaps it’s time to consider these new constraints as a blessing instead of a burden. Perhaps it’s time to consider the advantages of a Bikini Budget.

Since the marvelous invention of the two-piece “swim suit” known as the bikini, women have had to actively manage the perils of “doing more with less.” Have men ever complained? No! Now it’s time for men to stop complaining about scarcity and shortfalls and learn from the women who have had to shop for clothing not measured in square feet of fabric, but in square inches. With a similar perspective and attitude, your company’s leadership can refashion your business into something fresh, beautiful and becoming.

Wasting Away
Our consumption economy creates huge amounts of waste; The Environmental Protection Agency reports that each American generated over 1,650 pounds of solid waste in 2007. Because we’re so used to having more than we need, we see constraints imposed by external conditions — such as recession, regulations and tariffs — to be stifling to our business. In some cases, these onerous conditions initiate a downward spiral that creates mounting pain and, if left unchecked, puts some companies out of business.

Perhaps the recession “problem” is really masking an opportunity for your company. Now that there is no excess to waste, now that the very “fabric” of your company is stretched thin, perhaps it’s time for a makeover that will transform your company into something fresh and exciting again. You’ll gain clarity of purpose, renewed vigor, an improved outlook and more profits when leadership looks at business like a bikini.

A Cup Half Full
I’ve never actually bought a bikini, but I’ve been brought along as a technical adviser on many occasions by my wife Patti. I never would have imagined how many decisions are involved in selecting such a small article of clothing. For example:

  • Halter?
  • Thin or thick straps?
  • Underwire?
  • Ties, clips or clasps?
  • High- or low-cut waist?
  • Leg cut?
  • To thong or not to thong?
  • Probability of “wardrobe malfunction” during water sports activities?

Next, throw in an infinite variety of colors and patterns from which to choose.

And then the BIG question: “Is it flattering?” (Translation for men: “Does it make my butt look good?”)

Despite the mind-boggling minutiae, I’m happy to participate. After all, this isn’t about shoes or a coat, this is about a bikini. Patti is already hot despite being a grandmother, and the proper selection of this particular garment will only make her more beautiful.

We could complain that the constraints that define a bikini are “not fair”, but that would be a “cup half empty” viewpoint. Instead, we have to view the constraints that we operate under as a “cup half full” opportunity.

Constraints enable us to be more creative, not less. Constraints actually allow us to do better work. Given a choice in our youth, we would always grab the biggest box of crayons because it would give us the most choices to succeed. As our leadership matures, we realize we can still create a masterpiece when our choices are restricted. The Mona Lisa was created using only one color.

Bottom-Up Success
Leadership on a bikini budget means viewing constraints as a way to get clear about success.

First, use the downturn in the economy as an opportunity to make more thoughtful decisions. We could all use more practice with critical thinking skills. Today the results really matter, because careless decisions can kill our business. Make time to ask yourself lots of questions, and then get clear on the answers. For example:

  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Who really cares?
  • What is NOT absolutely critical to what we do?
  • What do we assume still works like it did last year?
  • What business are we really in?

Your list of questions should be much longer.

Next, remember the advice of Curly from the movie City Slickers; it’s about finding The One Thing. A bikini is required to do only One Thing; keep its wearer from getting arrested for indecent exposure. But The One Thing could be about anything of importance. Here’s a warm-up exercise: if you could only keep one coat, which one would it be? If you could only keep one pair of shoes, which would you choose? Likewise, what is the best thing about your business, the most important thing, the thing that is most likely to keep you in business? Get clear on that and focus your limited resources there. If your cup seems half full today, get a smaller cup.

Third, let go. Let go of activities that used to work. Let go of products that don’t represent your best work anymore. Let go of customers that don’t believe in you today. Get rid of clutter. Clear space in the “closets” of your business, your head and your heart so there is room to hang new successes. Make a place for your future to dwell with you. You’ll likely discover a cleaner, simpler business that is the joy you’ve been looking for.

Enough is Enough
The beauty in a bikini is that it is just enough. It doesn’t need buttons or flaps. Pockets won’t work. Paisley or herringbone won’t improve the yellow polkadot bikini. A careful decision process lets go of everything that isn’t essential to the one thing that the perfect bikini does: enhance the natural beauty of the woman who wears it.

When times are plentiful it’s easy to take on too much (I admit, I’ve eaten a few too many Twinkies). It’s easy to be tricked into believing that we are inadequate and that, to succeed, we need still more than we already have. The reality is that you are enough right now. You have everything you need to succeed today.

The only thing holding you back is the confusion of the clutter you’ve let surround you and your business. Get rid of all but what is necessary, and all that is left is exactly what success requires from you. Stop straddling. Pick a lane. Embrace the bikini budget and let leadership begin with you. The results will be beautiful.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is the keynote speaker who describes his approach to transformational leadership at http://TroubleBreaker.com. His company, Shortcuts to Results LLC, collects business shortcuts and shows clients how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: What used to work for your company that doesn’t anymore?

Posted: under Managing Change (Leadership).
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (1) Apr 01 2009

Print This Post Print This Post

Conserve Marketing Budget; Develop Marketing That Sucks

By Paul Johnson

758 words. Abstract: When your goal is to achieve more sales with a meager marketing budget in a tough selling environment, it may be time to consider marketing that sucks.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating bad marketing as a way to conserve budget dollars. Good marketing — really good marketing — could be marketing that sucks. Try this and you may find yourself enjoying more sales for less marketing investment.

One Recession Create Two Problems
Attracting customers is the quest of marketing, always seeking more efficient methods that lower cost per lead and ultimately cost of customer acquisition. This becomes even more challenging in a down economy for two reasons: buyers may be fewer and more finicky, and marketing budgets often remain stagnant or are reduced.

Managing this double-headed challenge means you can’t afford to stick with the strategies that worked for you in the good times. Here’s a strategy that may not only keep you in business, but enable you to enjoy higher revenues and profits despite the recession.

A Free Lunch
This sophisticated marketing strategy is really pretty simple. In fact, the inspiration comes from a stupid fish. The remora has the ability to attach itself to larger fish using a suction organ on its back just behind its head. Not only does the remora get a free ride, but it also enjoys all the food it can eat.

Spearfish Remora

Spearfish Remora

Imagine yourself strapped to the underside of a shark when the shark decides it’s time to eat. The shark hunts down and kills its fish dinner, shredding and tearing it apart in the process. The water around the shark is now a cloud of tiny chunks of what was a healthy mackerel just a few moments ago. The pieces that are too small for the shark allow you to easily get your fill for dinner. All you need to do is open your mouth as the shark swims through the cloud of mackerel.

Shark with remora attached to its underside

Shark with remora attached to its underside

Drive-By Marketing
The remora eats well because it has a strategy that sucks. Perhaps something similar could work for you. A great example of this strategy in action is found at the Beef Jerky Outlet. When I interviewed niche marketer and owner Rick Jones for The Great Brand Rush blog, he was very clear about the most important factor affecting success of his stores.

As the store name implies, they sell different kinds of jerky, indeed a tightly focused niche within the retail food business. After all, we don’t commonly run to the store to pick up bread, milk and jerky. He understands that his target customers are primarily male outdoorsmen who are looking for portable protein snacks that won’t spoil. Rick knows that the road to success is literally the road leading to a Bass Pro Shop. Location is critical to simple and inexpensive marketing.

The Beef Jerky Outlet marketing plan is rather simple; let people who are headed to the Bass Pro Shop know there’s a Beef Jerky Outlet on the way. When I interviewed Rick, he didn’t even have a website. He relies primarily on roadside signage, including a billboard along the interstate. In fact, that’s how I first discovered the Beef Jerky Outlet.

Bass Pro Shops is really doing all the marketing work for him. They spend millions every year on advertising and brand building. They send out fliers in newspapers, maintain sophisticated websites, and engage customers with promotions and loyalty programs that keep them coming to their store. All the Beef Jerky Outlet needs are the proverbial crumbs from the Bass Pro Shop’s table to run a profitable operation.

Be the Fries
To make this strategy work for you, think about what big fish (or whale) do you “go with.” For example, people go into burger joints for the burgers, yet billions of potatoes are consumed as a byproduct. French fries are the remora, but without the fishy taste.

Maybe you won’t find it practical to change your physical location to get near the big whale that can keep you well fed, but you can change the location of your advertising. Structure your advertising approach to put you along the path to the big fish so that prospects will naturally choose to include you as part of their purchase decision. You may even want to approach these larger firms about an alliance. However, make sure you can offer plenty of benefits from your end to justify the alliance, or else your potential partner will think you’re taking them for a sucker.

Drastic changes in the economic climate demand that your rethink your marketing strategy. You can’t afford to stop marketing, and you can’t afford bad marketing, though perhaps you’ll find you can easily afford marketing that sucks.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Check out the interview with niche marketing expert Rick Jones at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: What companies have you observed playing the role of the remora?

Posted: under Creating Curiosity (Marketing).
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (0) Mar 02 2009