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Recommended Article: Talking with…”Word of Mouth Marketing” author, blogger and CEO Andy Sernovitz


describe the image“Good marketing is more about brains than bucks.” This is just one glimpse into the many words of wisdom from friend, author, and entrepreneur, Andy Sernovitz. In his must-read blog and New York Times bestselling book, he shares his insights and best-in-class examples of how to simplify your business, earn word of mouth, and thrill your customers. And as a treat for our community, we’ve asked Sernovitz to bring is marketing expertise, energy, and tactical delivery to keynote our Digital Retail Boot Camp at the Annual Summit in Denver this September.

In anticipation of his presentation, I had the pleasure of talking with Sernovitz about his favorite word of mouth marketing examples, how retailers should deal with negative product reviews, and the most common social media blunder committed by retail companies. Needless to say, he practices what he teaches and it’s undoubtedly worth talking about.

At the Annual Summit, you’ll be presenting concepts from your book, Word of Mouth Marketing. Describe what that term means and why it’s so important.

Word of mouth marketing is: 1) giving people a reason to talk about your stuff, and 2) making it easier for that conversation to take place. But word of mouth is more than a marketing tactic. It’s a fundamental philosophy that will change your business forever. When you commit to earning the respect and recommendation of your customers, you’ll soon find yourself making better products, creating amazing experiences, and improving your customer service. You’ll also have more fun and make more money. Because in the end, it comes down to love or money. Sure, you can pay people to talk about you and share your message. That’s advertising, and you’ll always pay, every time. But it’s much more powerful and sustainable to inspire people to talk because they love you and want to see you succeed. The result is a recession-proof competitive advantage that will carry you through good times and bad. Now is the time to earn this army of fans who will do your marketing for you, for free, forever.

In your “Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto,” you say marketing is what you do, not what you say. What do you mean by that?

Here’s the reality we all face: Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is. You can do all this amazing advertising — but it doesn’t send people to your amazing website or your incredible shopping cart. All of your advertising just sends people to Google, to social media, and to review sites. And what do they find there? All sorts of stuff written by regular people. This means you can be the grand champion of e-commerce, but the consumer opinion is the last thing people read before they click, “Add to Cart.” Remember: Marketing – the stuff you say- may come first, but it’s what people think and feel and say about you that really makes your brand, and all that is the result of the stuff you do.

What are your favorite examples of great word of mouth marketing from retailers?

For retailers, the best word of mouth is always around the question of, “What will this person say when they leave the store?” We’re so focused on completing a sale that we forget to think about the next thing that’s going to happen. Is that customer going to tell everyone about the experience they just had? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Zappos: They’re such an incredible story because everything they sell is available cheaper somewhere else. But Zappos has invested so much in extraordinary customer service that everyone has a great Zappos story. These stories are the word of mouth that drives new business with almost zero acquisition cost. The other big lesson of Zappos: They’ve cut through much of the BS of social media. While everyone else is hiring “experts” to come up with social media vision, Zappos just put “Please follow us on Twitter” on their order confirmation screen. It was so simple that all the rest of us missed it.
  • RedEnvelope: RedEnvelope is an online gift catalog. They have nice stuff but not necessarily nicer than any other good catalog. Their motto: “RedEnvelope’s mission is to make gift giving, no matter what the occasion or circumstance, simple and fun.” That’s fine, but nobody is going to repeat it. But they have a killer topic: Every item comes gift wrapped in the most gorgeous, elegant, impressive red box with a giant bow. People who receive gifts from them can’t help but talk about the wrapping. (They talk about the wrapping more than the gifts.) The wrapping is a perfect word of mouth topic. It makes people want to talk, and it’s easy to talk about. When most people get a gift from a catalog, they rarely remember the catalog, just the item and who sent it. RedEnvelope’s box creates instant word of mouth. When one of these boxes is opened at a party or a baby shower, a whole room of people are talking about it.
  • Sephora: The work Sephora does with Bazaarvoice (disclosure: I’m a Bazaarvoice advisor) is really interesting. They integrate their customer reviews — the word of mouth — into their advertising and into their stores. They’ve got signs in their store with headlines like “our bestsellers” and have quotes from real customers. They do similar stuff on their website. Why? They realized that the authentic word of real customers was more powerful than anything written by a professional copywriter.

How should retailers deal with negative comments in social media or negative product reviews?

For this one, let’s take a page straight from the comic edition of my book:

describe the image

 How do you track word of mouth and measure its impact?

Word of mouth needs to be clearly identified in your order forms. When you ask, “How did you hear about us?” be sure you’re asking the right way. There should be a consistent, clear choice that indicates word of mouth. You won’t be able to track the true impact of word of mouth if some say “from a friend” while others say “from a family member,” “from a coworker,” “from my doctor/lawyer/plumber/hairstylist,” or “online.” Tighten it up so that the answers are clear. “Online” might mean the banner ad you bought or a happy reviewer on a shopping site.

What do you think is the most common mistake retailers make when it comes to social media?

They write sales-y marketing copy instead of having genuine conversations with their customers.

What do you do to stay on top of what’s happening in the marketing world?

I’m really lucky, because I run a group called It’s a private community for heads of social media at big brands, and our members talk all day, every day, about what’s happening right now in social media. Being a part of this conversation is the most authentic, from-the-source learning I could ever hope for.

What’s the most common question people ask you?

“Excuse me, are you Brad Pitt?”

How Many Ways Can We Market Our Businesses?


describe the imageFaster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it's a bird, it's a plane, NO IT’S SUPERMAN. 

That is the new found respect that we have for Marketing Professionals and the Marketing Manager. The reason for that is the amount of choices we all have in marketing our businesses today. Many years ago, when I went to college, I was crazy enough to major in marketing. Why crazy? Because for the next 40 years I have spent time explaining the difference between Marketing and Advertising. Actually, many people referred to our major as Marketing and Advertising, which of course it was NOT. Advertising is a tool for marketing--just one of many important tools. 

So, have my years of explaining paid off and are those explanations part of the reason for our new found success? I wish, but NO. The reason for this new image that marketing people have is because of the confusion and fear businesses and the people that own them have in selecting or making the right marketing choices. After all, it has been proven time and again that the best product isn’t always the best seller. Give me a good product or service with a compelling marketing message and I’ll show you a winner. 

Years ago, it was much simpler and back then you could justify why the word adverting was used. The marketing manager’s job almost always revolved around adverting. That is no longer the case. The purpose of this article is to create a list of marketing options, or tools you can employ, to build your business. One word of caution: the goal is to get the best value for our marketing dollars. There are thousands of ways to market a business and thousands of ways to spend money. The goal is to get the highest and most profitable sales volume while spending the least amount of money. I’m not talking about cutting corners--I’m talking about the basic philosophy. 

Let’s first define what marketing is. It is the way your product, service, or store is positioned and promoted to the eyes of your customer.

When considering marketing tactics or tools there are 3 criteria to consider: 

  1. Cost

  2. Time

  3. Contacts 

Here are some more popular marketing concepts: 

  1. SLOW DRIP Marketing
    This is the long term & consistent marketing and advertising approach which keeps your name in front of potential customers. This method has been adopted by Coca Cola and is used in any business that opts for small, long-term, consistent advertising.

  1. The Blitz
    The Blitz means you are going to spend all of your money and efforts during a short 1-2 month push. We are exposed to this type of marketing on an ongoing basis. 

  1. The Marketing Plan
    Know where you are going, how you are going to get there, and how to evaluate your results. 

  1. PR Marketing

    1. Creating the Buzz

    2. You Tube

    3. The event

    4. Electronic Pay per Click 

  1. Inbound Marketing
    Positioning your business, as where people seek you out as opposed to you seeking them. 

  1. Educational Marketing
    Teaching your customers as you subtly sell them. 

  1. Positioning not Promotion
    These are the new buzz words of this millennium 

  1. Social Media Marketing
    There is no silver bullet here. You have to establish yourself and become a credible source. 

  1. Infomercials
    Late night TV 

  1. Partner Marketing
    Ask what you can do for your partners and ask what they can do for you. 

  1. Keeping in Touch--Marketing to existing customers
    This is the follow through that takes place after the sale. 

  1. Testimonial Marketing
    As used in most infomercials, it’s merely a section of contacts. 

  1. Coupon Marketing 

  1. Website Marketing
    Finding ways to bring more people to your website. 

  1. The Blog 

  1. The Expert Marketing

    1. Board of Directors

    2. Board of Advisors 

  1. Word of Mouth Advertising

    1. Creating a Buzz

    2. Getting people to talk about you 

  1. Creating Multiple Sales

    1. The sales path

    2. How to up-sell

    3. Know which sales method you adopt

    4. Multiple sales through brand building

    5. Types of selling

    6. Direct mail 

Next week, I will start discussing all of these different techniques and initiatives and add some meat to the bone. This will make it easier for you to better understand the best tools to use in marketing your business.

If Shopping Is a Sport Then E-Commerce Is a Video Game


describe the imageI woke up this morning, read a review, and saw a video about the new IPhone 4S which isn’t so new in computer terms. It's a few months old already. That doesn’t matter, because I WANT IT. I want to talk to Siri, the voice activated assistant. It’s like having an imaginary friend/assistant. The virtual world and the real world are coming together faster than even the wildest of predictions. Everyday there is something new/different and even more exciting than the day before. 

Just the way the Apple 4S was marketed, sold, advertised, and presented online made me want to buy it right away, and I did. Then I thought about the day before, when I bought a flag and parts to a flagpole. I went to a few different sites to see what was out there. As opposed to buying an Apple phone, flags, poles, and parts are not as common a purchase. So what do I look for in making a transaction? 

  1. How long has someone been in business?Do they seem reliable?

  2. Do they seem like they are knowledgeable about the product?

  3. Do they appear to be professional?

  4. Price? Hmm, that wasn’t as important to me than the reliability factor. 

In short, I was on a quest for the right flag from the right supplier. Here is what happened. I went to the sites of the businesses that bragged that they were in business a long time. The problem was their sites were boring. 

I lost interest very quickly. Then I went to the sites that claimed they were the cheapest. But I didn’t trust them. I finally found a site that wasn’t as good as Apple, but used many of the same techniques that should become the 10 Commandants of E-commerce Selling and Buying. (I love to look at things from the customer perspective, after all they are the ones who pay the bills.) 

10 Commandants of E-commerce Selling and Buying: 

  1. Can people navigate your site easily? Try it yourself. If you can’t get to where you want to go, chances are your customer can’t either.

  2. Are the graphics professional looking? If it looks cheap, it loses credibility.

  3. Is there a seamless integration between the store and website? If the store is advertising a sale in other media, then It better be advertised on the website.

  4. Do you offer a feedback form? If not, get one. Don’t be afraid of negative comments — these are Golden Customer service opportunities. Better to know them.

  5. Spotlight a customer. People want to see real people doing business with you. Of course if that person is a celebrity, it doesn’t hurt either.

  6. Are you smart phone compatible? You better be because more business is coming from that source than ever before.

  7. Know your business DNA - the words your customers use to find you. It may not be what you think.

  8. Facebook isn’t a “Wow” any more. It is now an established form of communication. Be a student and participate. Too old is not an excuse.

  9. Free shipping is almost a new industry standard. Make sure you know what your biggest competitors are doing.

  10. Is it a fun site? AKA, is it user-friendly. Is it designed with the customer in mind or just you? Always offer something for free, an added bonus, or a way to engage the customer. Give them a reason to return.

Go through this list and see how well you do. I will let you know if my purchases were good choices.


Understanding Gen-Y's Top 3 Priorities


Gen-Y's Top 3 Priorities (Hint: Work Isn't One of Them)There are many clear differences between colleagues of different generations. But these have less to do with age and more to do with the impactful events that occur during formative years. When you're managing employees, consider the values the different generations hold dear.

Every generation is shaped by a few important world events, trends or experiences that contribute to its overall identity.

  • Baby boomers experienced the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.
  • Generation X (.pdf) had the Cold War, the Challenger explosion and the rise of AIDS.
  • Generation Y's identifying experiences include 9/11, the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recession.

These key experiences help to explain political, social and occupational motivations for any given generation. Making sweeping generalizations doesn't help you to understand the make-up of the individuals in a group, but they can help you see how people evolve with the world around them.

The context also helps us evaluate how different generations develop the priorities that govern their life decisions, and how those affect them at work. Gen-Y's top three priorities, according to a Pew research study, may surprise you. Here are some of the reasons behind each of them.

The face of retail 4 years from now


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According to a new Whitepaper from Nielsen, What’s In Store, In-Store For U.S. Retail In 2016, presented byTodd Hale, Senior Vice President, Consumer & Shopper Insights, traditional mass merchants and supermarkets have yielded share to value channels (club, dollar, and supercenter) and drug stores, prompting a series of changes, including format blurring, new marketing outreach techniques and shopper entertainment.

Highlights from the findings include:

  • Store footprints either get supersized for one-stop-shop convenience or downsized into smaller stores for quick grab-and-go trips
  • For people who view shopping as entertainment that engages all the senses, lifestyle outlets blur the line of demarcation between traditional formats, merging restaurants with food markets, serving up food and wine tastings, providing live music and movies, and creating places for friends and co-workers to gather and socialize
  • Technology brings consumers into the shopping experience via options such as touch screen ordering, QR code advertising, mobile coupons and shopping lists.
  • Store brands mushroom to include super premium offerings joined by an increasing number of restaurant and celebrity-chef brands, while a few consumer packaged goods brands transitioned onto restaurant menus
  • The Big 4 technology companies [Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google] will establish beachheads outside the tech world, challenging conventional players to re-think their business models and forge new alliances or chance seeing themselves become less relevant
  • Deep discounters continue to keep the cap on operating costs in order to maintain their price edge, but low prices alone have not been enough to guarantee sales success

The report goes on to say that retailers will be challenged as never before to differentiate from an ever-expanding competitive set that brings novel ideas and fresh perspective to the marketplace. Using historical trends in retail channel sales and store counts, along with a select number of macroeconomic variables, Nielsen predicts above average compounded annual dollar sales growth (CAGR) for the e-commerce, club, dollar, pet store, supercenter and drug channels ranging from 8.5 to 2.7%.

Ecommerce tops the list of growth channels. During the 2011 holiday season, retailers across different channels touted free shipping and big discounts, attracting consumers eager to save time and gas money by shopping at their fixed and mobile keyboards.

Responding to sales gains made by online competitors, brick-and-mortar retailers are evolving their business models to add more choices for online and offline ordering as well as delivery and pick-up options.

Projected Retail Channel Compound Annual Growth Rate

Retail Channel

Compound Growth Rate 2010-2016

Gaining Share





   Dollar stores








Losing Share







   Discount department stores


   Sporting goods


Losing Share & Negative Growth

   Home improvement


   Department stores




   Home, bed, bath










   Toy stores


   Mass merchants


Source: Nielsen TDLinx & Nielsen Analytics, March 2012

Throughout the recession and economic recovery, the club chains appealed to shoppers seeking value, says the paper. Club store growth reflected a unique connection with affluent consumers, the 21% of households that exited the recession early, as evidenced by their increased all-outlet shopping trips and overall spending.

A major impetus behind dollar store growth was a recession-fighting strategy featuring an expanded offering of consumables to attract price-conscious shoppers across all income strata. Additionally, dollars stores kept their foot on the gas with respect to store expansion in existing and new geographic areas. As a result, the 21,500 site store count for the three leading dollar store chains [Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar] now exceeds that of the three largest national drug store chains [Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid].

Over the past decade, supercenter format expansion had the greatest overall impact on U.S. retail sales. While industry pundits discuss the future of these and other big box formats, future supercenter expansion from the big players in the channel will continue to foster sales growth over the next five years.

The American love for pets triggered a 40% increase in chain pet store numbers between 2005 and 2010. With pet ownership reaching all time highs, the pet channel will deliver a strong CAGR through 2016.

With an aging population with strong demand for prescription drugs, the drug channel will maintain fiscal health, outpacing the average channel growth rate. All other channels will lose ground, even if they continue to grow on a nominal dollar basis. Specialty retailers such as auto, sporting goods, electronics, books, toys and home/bed/bath stores will face the biggest challenge.

Some specialty retailers (e.g. toy, book and electronics stores) have experienced significant erosion in store count as big retailers in each sector closed their doors for good. Either declining store counts or lower shopper demand has led to decay in shopper penetration for many specialty retail channels. Pressure from offline and online big box competitors and pure play online retailers will likely lead to further declines.

Supercenter store count more than doubled to 3,468 stores and

these mega one-stop-shop behemoths captured nine share points within consumer packaged retail formats between 2001 and 2010.

With the exception of an aggregate 6.1 share point gain for e-commerce, supercenters and club stores, the Nielsen forecast suggests that share shifts between 2010 and 2016 will be relatively minor for the other formats. Supermarket share will decline at a diminishing rate relative to the past decade or more. The convenience/gas channel share will decline just slightly, while the mass merchandiser channel will experience a share loss of 1.7 points.

The projected share decline for mass merchandisers reflects the historic Walmart effort to convert existing discount locations into supercenters and to a lesser extent from Kmart store closings. Specialty retailers are expected to suffer share declines across the board, ranging from a one percentage point fall for home improvement outlets to a marginal 0.2 percentage point drop for sporting goods stores. Surveying the smaller specialty retail channels, only pet stores will realize a share increase.

Expect Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to focus on highly profitable enterprises outside their current purview, including retail. An industry expert has said, “Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google don’t recognize any borders; they feel no qualms about marching beyond the walls of tech into retailing…and even finance.” These four companies will enhance or disrupt the future of retail, either in how and where merchandise is sold or how organizations communicate with shoppers and consumers.

Points of marketing differentiation suggest in the report include:

  • Adjusting size, assortment, in-store activities, customer communication, design and branding, stores hope to find an optimal mix that maximizes profits and customer loyalty
  • Retailers opted for designated stores-within-a store, pulling together related items that fulfill a consumer need into a discrete space such as a cosmetics department complete with expert consultant, occasion-based home meal solution centers or dedicated pet care areas
  • An unconventional bent includes virtual stores in high-traffic subway stations, or a floating supermarket on the Amazon River designed to reach 800,000 consumers in just three weeks
  • In-store techniques for attracting shoppers include product sampling, live musical performances and how-to stations demonstrating everything from juicing to preparing sushi
  • Multi-station prepared food offerings now popular in a number of grocers compete directly with carry-out and home delivery restaurants. But other retailers chose the cooperative route, striking deals to staff in-store restaurants
  • Restaurateurs and television chefs crossed over into the world of consumer packaged goods, lending their names to a wide range of products
  • Mobile and online technologies enable one-to-one marketing, customizing shopping lists, menu plans, coupons and other content to reflect user interests and consumption patterns
  • In-store shelf talkers take on a new, interactive dimension with QR codes that connect directly to robust websites offering discounts and cross merchandising suggestions such as wine pairings
  • Online avatars and in-store service agents assist consumers with meal management, entertainment, health and wellness monitoring and fashion selections

The paper concludes by anticipating that:

  • Volatility in energy and commodity prices will become the norm
  • A redefined competitive set will prompt former adversaries to forge marketing alliances
  • The chasm between income and wealth strata will enable retailers at both the high and low ends of the price spectrum to prosper by merchandising to niche audiences
  • Mobile applications, will open the door to innovative marketing approaches
  • Stores will emerge as the social centers of communities
Read more:

In Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy


describe the imagePublishers Need a Plan to Engage the Audience and Make Money -- With Pictures

It's starting to feel as if this photo frenzy isn't just a passing phase. Maybe there's some inescapable human affection for pretty pictures. We just can't help ourselves.


As Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare North America, put it in his recent column for Ad Age: We're seeing a consumer movement toward a more visual culture brought on by technology and media. Smarter devices are prompting more occasions for people to create and consume visual content, while social media is encouraging that content to be shared on multiple platforms.

Marketing Plans


Why you need them and what should be in them

describe the imageI am constantly asked what separates successful retailers from some retailers who might be considered less than successful. That’s just a nice way of saying, “What do the winners do?” and “What don’t the also runs do?” Is it a store’s location? It is sometimes. Is it the store’s advertising? It can be. Is it management? Management usually affects every aspect of a business, so we have to say, “Yes.” 

One consistent tool that all successful businesses have is the businesses’ ability to sell what they’re selling. That covers a lot of territory. It’s not just selling skills that are important, which they are; but it’s also advertising, promotion, interior advertising (aka signage), and a web and social media presence. When we say a marketing plan covers a lot of territory, it’s more so now than ever before because of the amount of tools that are available today. Many of them didn’t even exist three years ago. 

If we don’t have a plan and address the tools that we are planning or not planning to use, we can have a tendency of being tempted by the first bright and shiny new application that comes down the pike. There is no longer a standard list of tools that every marketer needs to use plus what works in some markets doesn't work in others. That’s not necessarily news – denture cream wouldn’t sell well if it was advertised on MTV. 

Many people confuse a business plan with a marketing plan. They are not the same thing. A marketing plan consists of the ways you are going to capture feet and eyeballs into your marketing net. The web has been described as the battle for eyeballs. A good marketing plan describes the tools, techniques, and timing used to attract people to come to your website and walk through your front doors. 

The mistake that many marketers make is that they think their job is done when the customer arrives at the store or website. It used to be that way and marketing agencies were very quick to say “we can bring you traffic --- it’s up to you to sell them.” They are not wrong, but a marketing plan today must include the final element, which is making the sale. That does not include a hard-sell approach. Remember, customers love to buy but hate to be sold. 

There is one consistent marketing attribute that the successful modern retailers employ and one attribute that many stores tend to ignore: that is the use of an institutional/image type of marketing approach. Another way of putting that is sell the business and establish a clear brand identity in the mind of the consumer. I mention this because it must be included in your marketing plan. 

The following elements are part of a good marketing plan:

  1. Executive Summary: a brief description of who you are and what you do

  2. The challenge: your company analysis

  3. Defining your customer: who your customer is and who your customer is not

  4. Competitor analysis: who is the competitor and why, and what you need to do in order to become a leader in your market base

  • Understanding your strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Opportunities

  • Threats – this is the time to be brutally honest and list your shortcomings; it’s the first step in overcoming them

  1. Address specific marketing tools such as blogs, websites, and social media

  2. Collaborators/partners: Positioning

  3. Product

  4. Price

  5. Promotions

  6. Short and long-term projections

  7. Conclusion

  8. Plan B: if one plan doesn’t work, then what will work? 

In short, a good marketing plan should say who you are, who your customer is, who your competition is, what the market conditions are, how you are going to approach the market situation, what alternate plans you might have, and how you’re going to measure success. Just going through the steps and creating this process will give you, and your business, a new way of thinking. As the saying goes – try it, you’ll like it.

Returnability - What’s Your Returnability Quotient?


wwwReturnability is a new word that I created which describes the appeal a website has to have for the need, want or desire to return again and again. The Returnability Quotient will simply be a measure of all of the elements combined that create a measurable and comparable score to judge the effectiveness of a website. Let me list the 10 key elements that the Returnability Quotient is comprised of. The simplest test is for you to give yourself a score of 0 or 5 or 10 for every one of these ten categories.

An example would be:

  1. A constant flow of new and useful information that is pertinent to your desired reader -- the goal is to be the source of the hot topics or trends within your industry. This doesn’t mean you have to write even one article. All you have to do is be a collector of information that you can gather from other websites, newsletters or blogs. What you are doing is becoming the filter and distribution point for pertinent information that would force your reader to return again.
  2. Tools can encourage return visits to your site such as how to create the perfect diamond ring with a tool that has the different settings in it. In the home décor business, a floor planner widget or software will help to lay out furniture in a room electronically, better known as computer aided design.
    Another tool that is used in the wedding industry is a chart that matches a dress type to a body type, i.e. a pear-shaped body should match a pear-shaped dress. The company that is a master at this is the software company Hubspot that offers different types of graders for websites, Facebook, Twitter and even press releases. Think in terms of what kinds of tools you could offer on your website that would be beneficial to your customers and almost force the customer to return again and again.
  3. Specialized reports that are updated on a regular basis can be a wonderful tool to bring people back to your website on a regular basis. The reports can vary in topics but the common denominator must be the things that benefit your readers. You can call these white papers on….
  4. Humor, jokes and cartoons are the easiest ideas to capture and bring your website to another level. People love to collect and share jokes and someone can be your biggest promoter if they are a joke forwarding type of person because you are getting this free type of exposure and subtle referrals. I send out a joke or a cartoon in every newsletter entry I submit.
  5. Calls to action are simple, graphical boxes with a compelling offer whereby you will send them special reports or information pertaining to something of interest to them. If you’re thinking that this graphical box doesn’t really bring people back, you’re half right. What the box does is to collect customer contact information which allows you to send that customer additional offers that in turn will bring customers back to your site.
  6. Free webinars – create a series of webinars about things of interest to your customers which they can turn on to keep them on the site longer and make them return only if you let them know there are more webinars that are constantly changing.
  7. Polls and surveys – ask your customers survey questions that would have interest to your other readers. These surveys can be done on a short term basis or can be offered on an ongoing basis. An example might be the percentage of expenses for advertising and marketing or advertising trends and the survey results change when someone fills out a survey form. The result is continuous, cumulative and updated data.
  8. Specialized stock market reports – there are widgets that you can get which will collect specific stocks that will apply to your industry. You want to select stocks that affect your customers’ community or industry. In essence, you are supplying information that your reader cannot find compiled in this way anyplace else. Therefore, this makes your site a place they want and need to return to.
  9. Quotes – people love to read pithy informational or motivational quotes about their job, relationships or living. Be a collector of quotes and offer a quote of the day or of the week and it will bring people back to your site.
  10. Adaptable material that can be adopted from various websites, the news, blogs or newsletters that you gather to make your site the hub of information pertaining to a specific topic. It is estimated that there are over ten million free articles on the web at any given time. Check it out.

Now ask yourself how many of these 10 are you currently doing? If you’re not doing any, give yourself a zero. If you’re doing a little of it, give yourself a 5. And if you’re fully engaged in it, give yourself a 10. Let me know how you scored or if you have any other ideas to add to this list. I think it is a fascinating topic, and if I can get through some of my other projects, look for a book coming out on this.

If You Dislike CHANGE… You Are Going to Have a Hard Time Coping with Irrelevance


time for changeIs business BAD or are we becoming IRRELEVANT in the eyes of our customer? That is a scary thought and something we all need to consider. Why? Because in a time period where retail business is tougher than ever emerges a giant that changes the rules in less than 10 years, does more business per square foot company wide than the wildest dreams of the greatest retail executives, and sells their merchandise at full price, and NEVER has a sale, in the most cut-throat and price sensitive of all of retail categories.  Of course I am talking about Apple.

This past week Apple released sales data to the press. Their stores average over $4200 per square foot. I actually thought it was more but their Downtown Manhattan store does over 400 million dollars and is open 24/7. There are expressions such as “gym rat’ or “mall rat”.  Now we have  “Apple Rat. ” I have become one. It is just a cool place to go, to learn new ways to do things, and hang out with a cross section of people coming together in a way that must be confusing the hell out of pinpoint marketers and demographic practitioners.

You see little old white haired ladies working with a 20 something guy with arms that have run out of space for any more tattoos, piercings all over their face, and a real spiked Mohawk. We are talking big time opposites, yet the Apple store brings theses divergent groups together and maybe teaches us something about ourselves along the way. People might be different but their goals and quest for knowledge are the same.


Maybe Charles Darwin, the great British Naturalist and author of the Theory of Evolution in the mid 1800’s, holds the key to our success. He said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This week I did a webinar on the power of Inbound Marketing and it made me think of the changes that have already occurred and those changes that are yet to be.

Read these facts and you might be in awe as well. Many of these are just subtle shifts in behavior that we have all become part of.


  1. 40% of smart phone users report that they have checked competitive prices on line with phones in the store.
  2. 79% of Americans use the internet
  3. The average US Internet user views 2,750 web pages per month
  4. 1/3 of US consumers spend three or more hours online EVERYDAY.
  5. One out of every 8 minutes online is spent on Facebook
  6. 24% of adults have posted comments or reviews online about the things they buy. This is becoming word of mouth advertising on steroids.
  7. 40% of Facebook’s user base is age 35+
  8. WEB-BASED EMAIL USAGE IS ON A STEEP DECLINE (drops of 40 to 59%) among people under the age of 45, a steady decline from 45 to 60 and is increasing in popularity among 60+ year olds. My prediction is that within 10 years email will be as popular as the Fax Machine is today.
  9.  US internet users spend 3 times more minutes on blogs and social networks than on email
  10. 1 in 5 mobile phone owners use their device to make a purchase every month.
  11. 91% of email users have UNSUBSCRIBED from a company/store’s email they previously opted-in to.
  12. Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors
  13. 67% of Business to Consumer companies who use Facebook credit it for attracting new customers to their business
  14. 66% of professional marketers describe a company blog as “CRITICAL” or “IMPORTANT” to their business
  15. 84% of professional marketers describe Facebook as “CRITICAL” or “IMPORTANT” to their business
Our marketing & advertising has shifted from “telling and selling” to building relationships first. The Chief Creative Officer from J. Walter Thompson (the world’s 4th largest ad agency) summed it all up like this. “We need to stop interrupting people in what they are interested in and BE WHAT PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN.”

Next week I will share what we do about all of these changes and share ways to adjust to all of these changes and start to create new protocols and procedures to compete on this new playing field.
Let me leave you with the first lesson we all need to learn.
  • We can buy attention: That’s called advertising
  • We can beg for attention: That’s called PR
  • We can bug people for attention: That’s called Selling

We can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then sharing it on a blog, YouTube, a report, Twitter, or on Facebook.

Let’s stop worrying about the mule going blind. Let’s start loading the wagon.

(The statistics represented in this piece were compiled from various sources by the team at Hubspot. -America’s leading innovator in In-Bound Marketing tools and information. Permission was received for their distribution.)

Is the Answer to your Website’s Success Hidden in Plain Sight?


website reviewThe term “hidden in plain sight” is becoming a very popular management philosophy. It means that so many times the answers to some of our most complex problems are right there in front of us, only we are too focused on posturing, politics, people or other problems that prevent us from discovering the answer to the solution which is right under our noses. If we would only stop to see the world around us, to read what people have written or listen to what they have said, the answers would just magically appears right in front of us.

When the person who sent it says “I didn’t mean it that way” – you took it the wrong way. Then they blame that person for misinterpreting what was said. The problem is communication is a two-way street. One person sends it, the other person receives it. If more than one person receives it the same way, then the sender has a problem. The real problem the sender has is when they are stubborn enough to think that they are right and the feedback that they received is wrong.

This is the case in the majority of the websites that I review. The store owner or the manager will tell me what the site is saying or what it means. In other words, they are explaining it. Rule number one about your websites is just like when you tell a joke, if you have to explain it – then it sucks. I am about to share my NIFTY FIFTY (these fifty points will be covered in depth in our upcoming webinar on February 23rd, see below for more information), which will include 50 ways to make your website more competitive and a site that will make your register ring.

  1. Websites are intended to do more business. They are not a piece of art to collect.
  2. There are two major elements that affect the success of a site – style and performance.
  3. Style is the way a website looks. It’s graphically beautiful, the colors are wonderful, but it’s too slow and the navigation is too confusing, i.e. the site was designed by a graphic designer and not a soft-ware professional.
  4. Performance means that the site works, it’s fast, it makes sense and you can find what you are looking for. However, many times they are not the prettiest sites because they were designed by an internet professional and desperately is in need of a graphic designer.
  5. Rule number 5 is to make sure you have both professionals working on your site.
  6. Is it user friendly? Are you able to find things easily?
  7. Have the department or category of your website on every page so that they know where they are.
  8. Don’t use more than 2 different fonts on the same page. You won’t look professional and it will look like it is homemade.
  9. Clip art says CHEAP.
  10. Be in alignment. Make sure the store has the same look and feel as the website.
  11. Never use music on your website. People surf at work and they automatically turn off the ones with music.
  12. Make sure your site is logical, which means what would you expect to do to go back a page or what would you expect to find on a particular page?
  13. Have testimonials throughout your website and not just on a testimonial page.
  14. Know that testimonials come in three varieties.
  15. Show a quote with the person’s name and what they do – it adds credibility.
  16. Add a picture to the testimonial with the person who said it.
  17. Have the person filmed who is giving a testimonial and add the video to your website.
  18. Also use videos to interview your vendors for content on your website.
  19. Spotlight a customer on your website with either a story or video.
  20. Personalize your website by showing pictures of your employees and short bios of your key people.
  21. Have a welcoming statement from the owner or manager in either print or video.
  22. Use video to create 2 minute product reviews.
  23. Use as many headlines as possible.
  24. Make sure your copy is short but if it is longer use bullet points and additional sub-headlines.
  25. Observe other websites regularly.
  26. Look for creative tabs or categories on other websites.
  27. Understand the ethical bribe, which means offer something for free in return for the customer’s contact information so that you can market to them in the future.
  28. Add tools that your customers can use on your website, such as short surveys or evaluations.
  29. Create Calls to Action which are small graphical boxes that make an irresistible offer, such as something for nothing in return for information about the customer.
  30. Know your Returnability Quotient which is the amount of tools or freebies you offer to your web customers that will make them return again and again.
  31. Make sure you offer a newsletter.
  32. Offer a blog address.
  33. Always have your Facebook symbol on every page.
  34. Also have your Twitter or other social media logos in which you are involved.
  35. If you have won an award, make sure the award is mentioned on the top section of your homepage.
  36. Make sure there is what is called “Alternative Text” behind every picture, which means the search engines will be able to find that picture because there are words that they can search for.
  37. Make sure your website is listed on Google Local to help encourage local business.
  38. Explore and add affiliate programs to your website but do it because you are servicing the customer better and not how much money you will make.
  39. Know your desired result for every page on your website.
  40. Know what makes your website sticky which means what will keep people on your site.
  41. Add site maps whenever possible.
  42. Frequently asked questions are equally as popular.
  43. Understand the concept of first shop elimination which means the first time a customer shops your store is online.
  44. List as many of the names of your most popular vendors on as many pages as possible.
  45. Offer interactive contests that will help to increase your Returnability Quotient.
  46. Create a page of links to your local businesses. Call it a Community Page. They will appreciate it.
  47. Understand that customers do not visit your site through your front door. They search for terms or words.
  48. Create landing pages, which are simple pages that focus on just one word or phrase that customers might search.
  49. Always have your contact information visible on every page.
  50. Include a calendar of upcoming events because successful retailers are event focused.

Website Review WebinarAll of these fifty ideas you have seen before in sites you have visited. The answer is in plain sight. The best answers are always the simplest ones.

Don’t forget to sign up for our website review webinar which is always one of the most popular events we have.

If you are attending this webinar, please volunteer to have your website reviewed.

Don't forget, members of The Retailer's Advantage get access to all of Rick's webinars included in their membership!

Have a great week!

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