Having worked in major media markets for a few decades, I remember when the better pr person one could be, or spin-doctor if you will, the “cooler” you were, and the more people wanted to do business with you. All that has changed, dramatically, and probably for the better.
I love reading autobiographies because, more often than not, one really gets to “meet the author” through the book, and it is easy (for me) within the first few pages to see if the article is being written from the writer’s heart, or if it is a bunch of hype.
I try to read them all because they can have a “grounding experience”. If the author is able to express him/or herself well, he/she can reveal things that are never told in the press.
On the few occasions I read a good one, I can get so fired up, I want to try what that person has tried. Of course at age fifty two, I am keenly aware of my on faults and liabilities and limitations, and I can’t “do it all” as I felt in my youth, so I do what I think I can do where my strengths are.
Two of the best autobiographies I read were Sam Walton’s and Charles Schulz’s, for different reasons.
I loved Schulz because I always heard he was always a nice guy, never let his success get to his head, and hung out with kids at the local skating rink until the time of his death. He put himself “out there” in spite of battling TRD (treatment resistant depression) and made a difference. He created a character, Charlie Brown, the proverbial loser, whom he knew, no matter how successful we all become, we can always identify a bit with Charlie Brown and his discovery and frustrations of his own failures.
Schulz reveals in his book some of his ironies. Remember the little girl with the red hair that Charlie always thought he could have loved? In real life, Schulz was dating a redheaded woman who dumped him for a fireman because he would not give up his dream of becoming a cartoonist and was getting nowhere. A few months after she married the fireman, Peanuts became syndicated. What man in the world cannot identify with that scene? And one cannot help but admire the savvy of Schulz and his ability to turn paper and pencil into an empire. He didn’t do it with hype. He did it because we could identify with “the lost child” in Charlie Brown, where everyone else, even the dog, had the answers when he didn’t.
Why Sam Walton? Who can’t be amazed by this small-town country gentleman who understood the importance of quality and service, and demanded it no matter how big they grew he demanded that he and his employees keep that same personal service. Though, of course, given today’s marketplace that has not happened, he has managed to do so online, and to a certain degree in his stores, without a lot of hype.
One of Wal-Mart’s top executives last month revealed that sales in the stores had been down .05% but up online 43%. This is important information in that it means either they are doing something right on the Internet, or more people are shopping on the Internet. Certainly their website only offers a portion of products that is available in their store. And often the prices are a bit higher. So something has happened.
What is it? I strongly believe the dot.com boom is just starting, not based on the Wal-Mart story, but considering all the tools now available to online e-tailers and marketers of services, ebooks, etc.
EzineArticles alone can help one develop a huge following. Does Wal-Mart use ezine marketing? I don’t know for sure, but they don’t need to. I just did so for them, and so do many others when quoting something about Wal-Mart. It is in our everyday vocabulary. It’s a brand, a household word ingrained in our psyche, that a hundred years ago did not exist.
Forty years ago, Woolworth’s and Sears was the same. But something again happened. What was it?
The Walton family made a very shrewd move. They decided that they would buy more volume at lesser prices and pass the savings along to the consumer and rely on turnover of products. At times, they would take losses on products, but make up for it on others. They created a strict policy from whom they would purchase, and researched each provider to be certain they were capable of delivery.
Now, any one of us can do the same thing on the Internet. With a little research, one can find wholesalers that are real wholesalers/dropshippers and can match and often even beat prices that the big dogs sell for. Indeed they have a recommended retail price which is generally a bit high. I try with my stores to take the prices down (and even offer a further discount with coupon codes) across the entire store.
If you have not tried coupons or coupon code sites, some of them can be very profitable. I simply have one word across the board on all products at my store. At checkout, the customer types in “storewide” on any purchase and receives another 5% off the discounted price. This does not seem like a great deal, but when buying consumer electronics, computers, digicams and other items I sell, it can add up, and the fact that the prices are already discounted from the recommended price offers added value. Internet shoppers love “extra value” and one can keep a majority coming back month after month, year after year. I occasionally look at the newsletter sign up (always have that opt-in offer on your site), and see that a lot of our shoppers are return customers.
Another sales strategy (especially on the Internet is offering “freebies”). There are a number of ways to do this.
Though a good many of my products such as pet chewies might sell for as low as $3.00, a lot of products are more expensive like laptops or home entertainment system. It is easy to spend $500 or more on a good system.
So I decided to cross-promote from another e-store I have and offer free gourmet coffee gift baskets (our private label, a $50 value) with any $500 purchase.
You can even take this a step further and offer free engraving. For instance, the coffee gift basket also has cartoon coasters and a cartoon mug from our cartoon inventory site. We offer free engraving of the customers name and web address making it a unique corporate gift, and a good many orders come from that very promotion.
All this is not a lot of hype. It is common sense. Customers on the Internet are looking for good and interesting deals (as well as quality products and service). I decided early on, for instance to carry only name brands. I am not sure name brands are always better than non-name brands, but I do know that I often type in a name brand when I am looking for something. For instance when I was doing a Google keyword search for an IBM Thinkpad “R” Series, I found one (at my store) and it was the best deal AND I got the free gift basket and extra 5% off.
I felt like the guy who owns “Hair Club For Men”….I loved it so much I bought the business. I will be honest, there are some products we just don’t carry and I want them (for my own private use). I am not ashamed to say that; not every store can please everyone, including mine. So when I shop, I put on my “customer cap” (no longer the e-Willie Lohman) salesperson, and begin looking for good deals, or interesting deals and promotions that are not all hype, just like the folks who shop with me.
Don’t be afraid to look around and see what others are doing if you own a store or some stores.
Don’t plagiarize their site or concept, but if something is working, think of your own promotion that may work even better.
You will be surprised at the amount of orders that happen. Next week I will be talking about double opt-in email campaigns and if they are more (or less) targeted than pay-per-click and if they are more or less effective.
Stay tuned! And thanks for your time.
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