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In a time of post-Christmas recession I was most intrigued by the swarms of people hitting the high streets in the period between Christmas and New Year. The number of high street shoppers in the “sales period” was up, sales however were dramatically down.
Obviously cash is an issue for many, even those who like to max-out their credit cards and what with Christmas always being an expense could it be a case of there is little left for the impulse buying, bargain hunter? This is of course the case for many but I don’t believe it to be the only reason.
In the week prior to Christmas many of the big online retailers started their sales and I for one picked up all of the stuff I was hoping to buy in the post-Christmas sales which left me firstly with no money allocated for spending and secondly no reason to spend. I ended up going to the sales only to find myself completely bored with rifling through endless DVDs and music with no real goal in mind.
Online sales are up, particularly in that week prior to the holiday. My theory is that many, like myself grabbed a bargain or two before Christmas and then after Christmas had little to do, fell into the bored at home with the family and ended up doing the Christmas routine of heading out to the sales. Hence busy shops but not much buying action.
Retail in the high street has sadly dug a hole for itself and it is really expensive just to have a premises there.
So what can the high street do to reclaim the impulse? Well the evidence shows that people are still going to the shops, and getting footfall through your door is half the battle. When they’re there you’ve got to keep ‘em there. Daily deals are one idea which would not only attract people but also keep them coming back regularly. There is also a lot of free publicity for daily deals, check out Hot UK Deals for one.
Another hurdle is having something unique compared to competitors. Zavvi and HMV are very similar for example but HMV support the niche markets quite well such as a very good classical selection, usually in a quieter area of the store.
Finally try rewarding your customers for making the effort to come to your store. This could be something as simple as giving away your old product promotional material, or holding how-to sessions like they do in craft stores. When did you last see an ironing tutorial in a clothes store or a lesson on how to fill in a cheque at a bank?
They are just a few ideas, feel free to throw in your own. We all know change is coming.
There’s an interesting advertising campaign that is running at the moment on both TV and radio which I feel is worth more than a 30 second slot. It’s for Honda and it focuses on how they perceive problems.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard company statements before which boast something along the lines of “Your problem is our solution”. Well blah, blah, blah whatever to that. Where’s the proof and more importantly where is the depth and emotion behind that statement?
Honda state in their radio advert that they welcome a problem with open arms and treat it like an old friend. They also say that a problem is an opportunity to develop and grow, learning something new along the way. The point is at the end of the ad the viewer is left thinking that whatever problems arise, Honda can fix it.
This is a great way to think. Why let a problem get you down as soon as one rears its ugly head. Instead think of it as a small hump in the road that you can flatten on your journey, safe in the knowledge that next time you see that hump approaching you’ll know how to overcome it.
How do you perceive problems?
The video below is from the same campaign but instead features the “Problem Playground”.
It’s that time of year again. Comes round fast doesn’t it? The big question is are you prepared? I’m not talking about the last minute panic that sets in when you realise on Christmas eve you’ve forgotten to buy little Johnny that Transformer he wanted and all you can get him is something that converts AC to DC. No I’m talking about getting your business prepared for what is potentially the biggest excuse for a marketing campaign all year.Today we’re taking about the benefits of sending a Christmas card.
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of a Christmas card for your business.
- Send a sensible, high quality Christmas card. A Christmas card is the perfect excuse for getting back in touch with not only your regular clients but also some people you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Why sensible? Well a card should really reflect your business, if your company isn’t in the joke marketplace probably a card with a line of naked Santas isn’t the perfect representation. Why high quality? Again a card that feels cheap and flimsy isn’t exactly how you want your clients to be reminded of you.
- Send cards not just to clients but also to suppliers, not only to thank them for their support but also to remind them of your custom.
- Make cards personal. A greeting card should be addressed to your contact in the business and also should be signed by yourself and any team members that have direct contact.
- Follow up sent cards with a phone call – before Christmas! It’s another good excuse to get in touch and wish your clients well. Find out what opportunities could be around in the new year, and also set up a meeting/follow up call for early January.
- Not everybody celebrates Christmas. It’s unlikely that anyone will be offended by the nice gesture of a card but it is worth giving it some thought before sending out cards en-mass. It doesn’t even have to be a Christmas card you send, a more generic “holidays” card could be more appropriate.
- Finally send cards early to avoid the postal rush and to give you a chance to make those calls.
Does your business send Christmas cards? Do you find they work for you? Can you even make the time for such things at this busy time of year?
You know when you get the feeling when you come out of a situation that it could have gone a bit better than it actually did? That happened yesterday after a meeting with an established client about a new piece of work.
I presented to them an example using an e-learning solution; a solution which I knew very well having project managed the piece. I thought this familiarity would be all the preparation I needed and to be fair, it has done before.
What I found though was that I delivered my normal patter about it and although I got through it ok it didn’t quite hit the mark. In hindsight I should have put myself in their shoes and made a few notes about what I would want to see if I were them. I actually knew it so well I showed off far to much and probably got a bit technical.
I am sure I am not alone in this…. in every other aspect I prepared for and had a successful meeting but I have left them probably a little confused. It really does show that even if you know something really well you should never assume that strong knowledge is all you need to communicate to your audience in exactly the right way.
Over the last couple of weeks I have slept in various hotel rooms; someimes in an environment that was sleep inducing (practically on top of a runway suprisingly) sometimes not. If though, I had been staying in a Travelodge – I would have had my “sleeping experience” overseen by a Director of Sleep. Yes really.
What if I can’t get to sleep on my own? Well you can have a large pillow with arms, aka a “cudillow”.
But what if I need something to help me relax? Well, you could book a fish therapy room; 15 minutes of watching goldfish should do the trick.
What if, randomly, I want to go to a festival? Surely they can’t help me there. Well yes they can, with a Travelpod (now on a second generation).
What I really like is that they have taken a fundamental human need and made it the basis of all advertising – what can be found under peoples beds; cures for sleep deprivation; how much oversleeping costs the nation and giving parents sleep training. The list of possible studies, reserach and martketing opportunities is endless. They may offer low budget beds but the stories suggest they are, with tongue in cheek, genuinely wanting their customers to have access to a good nights sleep and are presenting themselves in every article as sleep experts.
And it’s working…. Travelodge is a national brand and opens a new hotel every 8 days. One couple arrvied in 1985 and liked it so much they never left.
You know what it’s like … the seventh phone call to the support line and the seventh person who’s had to listen to the increasingly long story of woe. Why the need for seven calls to solve one problem? Surely that’s not good for customer satisfaction or efficient in terms of the call centre workload?
Well, I won’t bore you with why I had to make the other six calls to Virgin Media. Call number 7 was different and here’s why.
Ownership, promises and empowerment.
In the seventh call I still was no closer to getting the matter resolved with the urgency I knew it deserved. A six day wait to get my phone line back when they had cut it off was just not acceptable. So I asked to speak to the supervisor for the section and had to recount the story again, but this time the person I spoke to was prepared to take ownership of the issue. She said she personally would phone the manager of the teams out in the field, not just use the computer to find the next free date. She promised to phone back by 4pm at the latest with a progress report – in fact she phoned earlier than that with an update. Best of all, she was prepared to give me her personal mobile number, so I didn’t have to go through all the “Select option 2 to report telephone faults …” and so on, only to talk to a totally new person about my problem. Suddenly I felt more in control of the situation – I could contact someone immediately I needed an update or I had news. That felt really good – I was empowered.
Things then moved very quickly that day … within a few hours everything was sorted. I was able phone my contact, Christina Wright at Virgin Media, and tell her my phone was working!
Well done Ms Wright for the right way of doing things … and it wasn’t a new process or technical advancement that provided the solution. It was three simple steps that we can all take when helping others:
- Taking ownership
- Fulfilling promises made
- Empowering the other person, by giving easy access
Not that difficult to do … but a certain recipe for customer retention and satisfaction.
I’ve always taken out breakdowncover … in fact I’ve been a member of the RAC for more than 20 years. I even returned to the RAC for cover for a second family car after I’d had a “rest period” of three years with the AA, courtesy of a new car that automatically came with cover. So that says a lot about Brand Loyalty … or maybe inertia on my part. To be fair to the RAC, it was more than just inertia, as I’ve always been pleased, sometimes very impressed, with their level of service. So I’ve been a long-standing, loyal and satisfied customer – loyal to the brand, until my renewal came through this year …
So what’s different this year? Well, the cost seemed quite high, particularly as I wanted to change the cover and add my wife (who was no longer covered by the AA arrangement). A family subscription was over £200 … and I just thought that it seemed too much.
So it became a potential breaking point for me in my relationship with the RAC.
Surely there had to be a cheaper alternative? I wanted to cover two cars with any one of three members of my family driving … and that was over £200 a year. The advantage we all have now is that we can research costs, services and competitors on the internet. Ten minutes later I’d done some extensive research and I’d found out that the AA was almost exactly the same cost … but that Tesco offered cover (outsourcing to Green Flag) for £90.30.
Loyalty to the brand?
Or pay less than half the price for basically the same service?
A “no-brainer”, as everyone seems to say nowadays!
So what would it take for you reach breaking point and switch away from a long standing supplier or service provider?
And for your customers? Are your services or products that different that you can expect long term brand loyalty? Or are they going to be reaching ‘breaking point’ this year?
Shareware, that is today’s buzzword.
Shareware is a term used to describe a certain type of computer software which can be downloaded for free and used for free. However if the user deems it to be useful they are encouraged to pay a suggested fee to the copyright owner. This works purely on trust and honesty – the software developer trusts that if the users like it they will honestly donate money. It’s a successful model and has been ever since it was invented by Bob Wallace in the mid-80′s in order to promote and distribute his software PC-Write in a completely new method.
Piracy is at it’s largest within the computer and entertainment industry, yet shareware is relatively unaffected by it and is still a growing and successful distribution method to this day.
Why? Because people are honest, plain and simple. Some of the most useful software I have is shareware and also open-source so it is constantly being updated and improved upon in a much more efficient way than the corporate behemoths of the software industry.
So how does the shareware method help/affect the rest of the business world?
Recently we found a bit of video on the Monday 9am site we wanted to use as part of our Platform project. All the video here is available for anyone to download and use for free, however they do ask that if you want to use it commercially you pay a one of fee of £100. Obviously you don’t have to pay the fee, and I’m sure there are many people who don’t (what are the chances of them finding out?), but the honest people out there who like to do everything by the book will pay the money. Also the clip we used would have cost us far more to film anyway so it’s a bargain really.
Now you could argue that £100 per license is too much. Is it better to charge £1 per download and have nothing for free or make one sale in 100 and charge £100? The chances are more people will download it and use it if it’s free, which means more honesty potential and more £100 licenses.
Does your business model work on trust? Does it even account for trust? Could you increase your market and your gravity for potential customers by moving one or more of your products over to the shareware method?