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Tip Sheet

Plan Ahead for Pinterest, Use Those Manufacturer Locators, and More Tips for Your Business

And try to keep your expectations low…

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goals

Use “will-do,” not “to-do” Lists

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do. You’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick three or four important things, and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com. Keeping promises to yourself is exhilarating. And with the extra time, you can pick more items from the master list.

feedback

Keep It Positive by 5 to 1

We all know that employees are more motivated by positive feedback than by negative comments. But we never knew the proper ratio for parceling out praise and punishment — until Tom Rath and Donald Clifton spelled it out in their book, How Full Is Your Bucket? They say the optimum ratio is five positive comments to every negative one. But don’t overdo it: Increasing the ratio to 13 positive comments to every negative one does more harm than good.

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customer service

Teaching Treat

At Just Fur Pets in Springfield, VA, patrons of a DIY dog bath are treated to treats for their pups, along with a teaching moment. “We offer them a complimentary treat and explain that treating in-store —and not waiting until they get home — helps their dog learn that coming here for a bath is a good experience; they often buy a bag of treats or a bone to take home,” says owner Marcia E. Cram.

creative response dept.

Humor Me

One of the constant challenges of being a small-business owner is how to respond to bad customer behavior. In the face of senseless vandalism, humor is often best, a la the manager at Bonez restaurant in Crested Butte, CO, who, upon finding a hole punched in the bathroom wall, placed an explanatory card next to the hole, as if it were a piece of art in a museum.

expectations 2019?

Don’t Expect So Much

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum in the present given there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says author Jason Fried. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring, [and] often wrings the joy out of experiencing something for what it is.” Expectations also keep you living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what does happen is actually pretty good. In 2019, don’t expect … so much.

social media

Plan Ahead for Pinterest

Something most people forget about Pinterest is that it is essentially a search engine, so if you are pinning things you want people to see right now, you’ve left it too late. A better approach, is to plan and pin two months ahead of time for holiday gifts, for example. It takes time to build rank and credibility as users search for fashion and style information.

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marketing

Locators, Locators, Locators

Reaching new customers is a constant struggle, and marketing is expensive. In response to this, EyeStyles Optical and Boutique, an independent eyewear retailer in Oakdale, MN, targets vendors that drive traffic through store locators. “The more store locators you can be found on, the better your ability to reach your customer,” owner Nikki Griffin says.

addiction

Go Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How to Break up with Your Phone. (It’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.) Instantly, your phone is vastly duller. Try it for a day.

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Tip Sheet

2 Words Every Salesperson Should Be Using … And 8 Other Business-Building Tips

Plus see one of your business’s greatest resources.

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STAFFUnleash the Giant Within

One of the great untapped resources of small businesses is the staff itself. It’s something the owners of Urban Tails Pet Supply in Minneapolis, MN, have sought to leverage by giving their workers the “creative freedom to use any ideas/means (within reason) to make Urban Tails a great place,” says manager Megan Trombley. “We are running a window display contest. Employees submit their ideas, and whoever wins gets their display made and a $100 Visa gift card.”

HELP DESKGet on the Floor

Ever feel like your desk is caving in on you? That you have dozens of papers, reports, books and folders coming from all directions, reducing your actual workspace to the size of a Post-It Note? If so, marketing consultant Scott Ginsburg suggests going back to your student days and working on the floor. Says Ginsburg: “It works wonders for enhancing your creativity, especially from a visual standpoint. First of all, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out your materials. This will help you more effectively solve problems, come up with new ideas and brainstorm because you’ll see all of the elements involved.”

LOYALTYBuild Trust

Want to totally win the trust of your community? Promise to personally test all the products you sell on your own beloved pets. It’s a commitment that several pet businesses are already making, including Cool Dog Gear, a two-store chain in Pennsylvania. “This allows our staff to truly understand the products and honestly answer questions about it” as well as share their personal experiences about how the product worked, says co-owner Sue Hepner. Danielle Cunningham, owner of Lewis and Bark’s Outpost in Red Lodge, MT, says the approach has helped her store cut returns to fewer than five a year.

STRATEGYGood Citizens

If you refer to potential customers as “prospects” or “targets,” marketer Seth Godin urges you to stop because “marketing-centric terms” don’t reflect the way power has shifted in the marketplace, he says. Instead, call them “citizens.” “When you stop calling people ‘targets’ or ‘prospects,’ and start calling them ‘guests’ or ‘citizens,’ you can’t help but become a little more humble and a little more respectful,” he writes on his blog. “Try it, it works.”

SOCIAL MEDIAPlan Ahead for Pinterest

Most people forget that Pinterest is essentially a search engine, so if you are pinning things you want people to see right now, you’ve left it too late. A better approach is to plan and pin two months ahead of time for holiday gifts, for example. It takes time to build rank and credibility as users search.

EVALUATIONAssess Yourself

If you think you’re being productive and making progress, author Tom Peters suggests you ask yourself a question: “What have you done this year?” Answering that question succinctly puts the focus on your big achievements — or lack thereof — over the past year.

MARKETINGGet Noticed

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, won’t be sending you a Christmas card this year. He concentrates his energies on birthdays. Why? Hundreds of businesses send Christmas cards to their clients. Few send birthday cards. If you’ve got a limited marketing budget, consider skipping Christmas this year. Instead, try handwriting birthday cards to your favorite customers (or even better, their pets).

INCENTIVESYour Logo Here

If you sell clothing with your store’s logo on it, give customers an incentive to wear it. A 10 percent discount on a purchase made while wearing your shirt will do the trick, says Kelly Mooney, author of The Ten Demandments.

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Tip Sheet

From Listening to Word Choice, 9 Tips to Help You Do Business Better

From “should” to “want”…

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WORD CHOICEStop Saying “Should”

“I should really work out tonight,” “I should talk to more strangers at trade shows,” “I should fill out Brain Squad surveys.” “Should” implies reluctance and guilt. Start saying “want” instead, recommends Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness. The positive language will help you prioritize what you really want to be doing — and it can help you see healthy business behaviors in a motivating way.

COMMUNICATIONFeel Factor

Writes former Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson in The CEO’s Secret Handbook: “You remember a third of what you read, a half of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel.” When communicating with your staff, your goal is not to tell or teach people what to do, but to make them feel what they need to do.

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LISTENINGIs That So?

In The Patterson Principles of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests training yourself to be a better listener by asking a question at the end of your customers’ statements. If you make your own statement, it’s possible you were interrupting. But if you ask a question, you almost have to wait until they’re finished speaking.

ADVERTISINGBoast Location

Outside a major city and trying to compete with the big boys? Turn your location into a competitive advantage in your ads, like one suburban used-car dealer profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine did … using the phrase “We’re just 16 minutes south of higher prices” in all of its advertising.

SOCIAL MEDIALive From the Floor of Superzoo …

Thanks to social media, everyone can be a correspondent today. It’s a role the staff at Cool Dog Gear in Pennsylvania have gleefully accepted, beaming back Facebook Live posts from every trade show they attend. “We find a cool item and do a little infomercial right then and there with the manufacturing rep telling us all about the item — “And coming soon to Cool Dog Gear!” explains co-owner Sue Hepner. “By the time we get back from the show there are already customers waiting to buy it!”

MORALEHappy Staff, Happy Life

In the spirit of Peter Drucker’s dictum that the most powerful question you can ask staff is how you can help them do their jobs better, each employee at Just For Paws in St. Charles, IL, is offered a “wish list” that allows them to choose items to enhance the work environment. “We supply them with top-of-the-line equipment. Our employees get to work in a clean, aesthetically pleasing environment. Happy employees establish an efficient business,” says owner John Webb.

PERSONAL SPACECreate A Shrine

Need a pick-me-up? Jim Krause, author of Creative Sparks, suggests creating a small “personal shrine” in your office space. Include things that are important and relevant to you: a book that taught you something, a few trinkets, a picture or two, and anything else that inspires you. Spend a moment each day in quiet thought with your shrine. Use it to get yourself into the zone for another day of wow-ing customers.

REPETITIONBetter Off Blue

Ever have a subject that you’ve talked about until you’re “blue in the face?” And figured it was time to give up because it didn’t seem to be having an effect on anyone? Well, don’t stop. Bob Nelson, author of 365 Ways to Manage Better, says that it’s often just when you’re getting tired of saying a message over and over that it starts to take hold. Repeat the message until you start hearing it back from your employees. Then you’ll know it has sunk in.

THE HUMAN BRAINSqueeze! Release!

This next tip may sound a bit odd, but work with us here as it’s doctor approved. The nodding doctor is Allen Bradon, author of Learn Faster and Remember More, who suggests bringing a tennis ball to the office. When reading documents, squeeze the ball in your right hand. This will stimulate the left side of your brain, which processes words. If it’s blueprints or instructions with diagrams, switch to your left hand. Stimulating the brain’s right side helps with visualizing and spatial relationships.

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Tip Sheet

9 Tips to Ramp Up Sales, Productivity

Follow this simple rule: Reschedule.

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PRODUCTIVITYLeave the Mess for Now

If you typically feel the urge to straighten your desk before you can start on meaningful work, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman suggests a simple rule: Reschedule. “If your job permits it, schedule a daily deck-clearing hour — but at 4.30 p.m., not 9 a.m.,” he says. “It’s time to abandon the secret pride we procrastinators feel in having completed 25 small tasks by 10 a.m. If they’re not the right tasks, that’s not really something to be proud of.” Instead, Burkeman recommends the timeworn advice to work on your most important project for the first hour of each workday.

NEW HIRESFreedom Must Be Earned

Something to keep in mind for those who are breaking in new employees: It’s easier to give employees autonomy and freedom than it is to take it away. So, clearly state directions and expectations when employees are new to their jobs. Then, let autonomy and flexibility “be an earned right of their performance,” says Bob Nelson in 365 Ways to Manage Better.

HIRINGBrown Bag It

According to a tale in Bob Nelson’s book Please Don’t Do What I Tell You, Do What Needs to Be Done, when an ice-cream store in Texas ran out of job application forms, a quick-thinking employee handed each remaining applicant an empty paper bag with instructions to do something creative with it. This brainstorm forced job-seekers to show their creativity and ability to entertain others, important attributes in the ice-cream business … and pet care.

MANAGEMENTChange Takes Monthly Meetings

How often are you doing performance evaluations with your salespeople? Once a year? Twice a year? Not enough, says George Whalin, author of Retail Success. To truly shape performance requires monthly evaluations. Talk with your salespeople about how they performed versus their goal for the month that passed. The goal of these meetings should always be improving performance, not simply listing the things an associate did right or wrong.

MARKETINGShout It Out from the Curbside

Your biggest sale of the year is here, and you want to be jam-packed with customers. You’ve spent big on ads and done heavy direct mailing. What else can you do? On the day of the sale, hire people to wear sandwich boards promoting the sale. (“50% Off! Today Only!”) Have them stand at major intersections within a mile radius of your store, recommends the Idea Site for Business.

THE YUCKY STUFFDot Plot

Everyone knows cleanliness is good. It indicates attention to detail, professionalism and hygienic conditions. Yet it’s an area most staff tend to take shortcuts. To enforce the deep cleaning habit, John Putzier, author of Get Weird!, suggests a game called Collect the Dots: Place little colored stickers around your store, concentrating on the most obscure corners, nooks and crannies, say, in the dusty reaches of the dry food racks. Any employee who collects a sticker and brings it to you gets points. More points, bigger rewards.

SALESThe Eyes Have It …

Eye contact is important in any kind of sales — and pet-related sales are no exception. Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers, suggests asking your sales people: “Do you know the color of your top customers’ eyes?” Quiz them on this whenever you feel your sales staff might not be making enough eye contact.

SALES… But Don’t Overdo It

Speaking of eye contact, have you ever wondered how much is too much and how much is too little? Here’s the answer from Keith Ferruzzi, author of Never Eat Alone: “If you maintain an unblinking stare 100 percent of the time, that qualifies as leering. If you keep eye contact less than 70 percent of the time, you’ll seem disinterested and rude. Somewhere in between is the balance you’re looking for.”

ATTITUDEA Mantra for Sales Success

Great sales mantra seen on the website of sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer at gitomer.com. A reader writes that while he is selling to a customer, he keeps telling himself, “I am transferring enthusiasm. I am transferring enthusiasm.”

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