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Tip Sheet

Support Local Scouts to Attract New Customers … and More Tips for September-October

Cultivate your next generation of customers.

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OUTREACH

Scout Out New Customers

Contact local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. Both organizations have pet care badges/medals to complete. “Recently, we hosted a group of Girl Scouts at our doggie day care where worked with our dog trainer on dog behavior and light dog training,” says Stacy Busch-Heisserer of Busch Pet Products and Deer Creek Doggie Day Camp in Cape Girardeau, MO. Doing so cultivates the next generation of customers, and in the meantime, they bring their parents back.

SELF-IMPROVEMENT

Speak, Wait, Listen

Just about everybody believes they need to improve their speaking skills. Yet just about nobody wants to do the one thing that can help them improve fastest: to listen to recordings of their voices. Christy Fletcher, a spokesperson for QVC, advises you use this trick: Don’t play back the recording immediately. “Allow time to separate yourself from whatever you have recorded, so you can be more objective,” she says in a column for eHow. “Record something. Wait a day. Then listen to your voice.”

MANAGEMENT

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Egg on Your Face

Have you ever screwed up, big-time? As a business owner, it’s time to step up and take responsibility. In his book 1,001 Ways to Energize Employees, Bob Nelson describes the actions of one tech company founder after a disastrous earning cycle. During one of his company’s conferences, he walked on stage and discussed in detail a mistake he had made. He then proceeded to smash three fresh eggs on his forehead.

THE RESULTS

An Unfortunate Turn of Phrase

An anecdote from Doug Stephens’ book Retail Revival reveals how Apple store employees were instructed never to use the word “unfortunately.” The reason: “unfortunately” is a negative word that makes people feel a sense of loss. Instead, staff were told to use “as it turns out,”  as in “As it turns out, we don’t have that item in stock.” Try it next time you’re in an “unfortunately” situation.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

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Make Your Toilet Stand Out

Looking for a little extra touch to differentiate your business? Try colored toilet paper. Author Jonah Berger (Contagious) featured black rolls of toilet paper in all the bathrooms at a party he hosted, and they somehow became the talk of the party. Get your own colored toilet papers at myrenova.com.

ADVERTISING

Too Good to Be True?

Test new advertising mediums with an offer that’s “too good to be true.” Let’s say you plan to spend $5,000 with a radio station. Try spending the first $1,000 this way: Create an ad offering a $60 case of high-end dog food for only $10 for the first 10 people who come in with the secret code word. Your cost is $500 for the advertisement, and another $500 to subsidize your product cost. If you don’t get 10 people responding to your ad, you’ve likely saved yourself $4,000 on a medium that probably wouldn’t have worked for you. Of course, if they’re lined up 20-deep outside your store, you will certainly be advertising again soon (though probably not with such a jaw-dropping offer).

WEBSITE

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Small, But Powerful

Does your website have a favicon? That’s the little icon that appears next to the URL in a Web browser — like Facebook’s blue box with the “F.” If you haven’t set one, you might have a generic one (e.g. Internet Explorer’s halo-ed “E”) or one that indicates your Web host or content-management platform. Anyway, it’s a small, but noticeable, professional touch to make one specifically for your business. (See what The Hungry Puppy in Farmingdale, NJ, has for its site.) Create your 16-by-16-pixel square masterpiece, name it favicon.ico, and place it in your Web server directory. Bam, you’re looking better already!

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 11 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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Tip Sheet

 Give the Bad News First, Distribute Swag, Spill Your Coffee During an Interview and 5 More Ingenious Tips

And throw a party!

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TESTIMONIALS

Throw a Party

What month was your business born? Throw a birthday party, and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site for Business.

AMIABILITYSmile Right

A smile originates in two places — the mouth and the eyes, says Paul Timm in “50 Powerful Ideas You Can Use to Keep Your Customers.” Give your customers a mouth-only version, and it looks like your smile was pasted on. It’s like saying “Cheese!” for a photographer. But your eyes are the true window to your soul. If you can’t muster a convincing smile, practice in front of a mirror until you get it right.

EMPLOYEESDistribute Swag

Next time you return from a trade show, give all your freebies and product samples away to staff members … with one caveat: They have to review the new products. “This shows that you value their opinion,” says Shawna Schuh, president of Women in the Pet Industry Newtork. It’s a win all around: “They get free products, and they also become experts featured at the store.”

INTERVIEWSTime for Oops!

A good job interview idea from Selling Power magazine is to have a little accident. Tip over a trashcan or spill a cup of coffee on your desk. If the job candidate immediately leaps up to help … well, then they have cleared another hurdle in the interview process.

CREATIVITYOn a Roll? Take a Break Anyway

According to a Columbia University study, the key to taking breaks — meaning to maximize their impact on your creative thinking and to ensure you stay refreshed — is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.” The “break” in each case merely involved switching tasks. A change, it seems, really is as good as a rest — so long as you do it on schedule.

MARKETINGUse Sign Language

When you go to a trade show, you ask your vendors what’s new, right? Of course you do. Merchandising consultant Larry B. Johnson says the best way to draw customer interest from regular clients is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

MANAGEMENTYes, They Want The Bad News First

When you’re delivering good news and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Pink acknowledges that many bosses hope to cushion the bad stuff to come. “But that is wrong,” he explained to The Washington Post. “If you ask people what they prefer, four out of five prefer getting the bad news first. The reason has to do with endings. We prefer endings that go up, that have a rising sequence rather than a declining sequence.”

RECRUITINGAdjust Your Expectations

The strong economy, heightened competition for good employees, and societal changes mean the guidelines you used to hire may not be as useful as they once were, says Kate Peterson of consultancy Performance Concepts. “Employment history can’t be interpreted the way it used to be,” she says, noting that workers are much less likely to hold jobs for long periods of time. “Stop tossing applications because the candidate has had five jobs in the past 10 years. It’s the way of the world today.”

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Tip Sheet

Yet Another Excuse to Bring Donuts, Brighter Trade-Show Mornings and a Sly Way to Fire a Customer

Plus: A new perspective on vacations.

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RECUPERATION

Short and Intense Wins

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week off. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe recently, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak. Yes, time feels scarce. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable vacation this year. Start planning!

MANAGEMENT

Does and Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney says.

HIRING

Add Value to Interviews

Anand Sanwal, the co-founder of tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate: “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only will the reply reveal the person’s commitment to the position — does she care? — but it hints at her work ethic and analytical capabilities, he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

TRADE SHOWS

Good Expo Days

Headed to Global Pet Expo or one of the other expos or fairs this month? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day,” and those Starbucks lines can be brutal.

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MANAGEMENT

Ask This Question

According to the management guru Peter Drucker, the one question that will trigger more improvement than any other in your staff: “What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?” Ask it without coyness.

MARKETING

Insider View

Want to give customers the feeling of being inside your store? Do as Blue Collar Working Dogs in Los Angeles, CA, does (bluecollarworkingdog.com/location) and use Google Maps extension of Street View, called Business View. Look for a local photographer who specializes in the 360-degree imagery needed here: google.com/streetview/hire.

CUSTOMERS

Passing the Buck

A neat — and cheeky — way of dealing with overly demanding customers from a fellow independent retailer in the vision business: BJ Chambers of Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX, keeps business cards of other optical shops on hand and gives them to problem patients and suggests they “go visit.”

MANAGEMENT

Remove Emotion from Meetings

Stride into a meeting, dominate the dialogue and just repeat your point insistently, and you’ve a good chance of winning the day, thanks to a human weakness for interpreting confidence as expertise or competence. But it doesn’t mean you’ll arrive at the best solution for whatever challenges are facing your business. To prevent this happening at your meetings, reframe them as fact-finding exercises, says Bryan Bonner of the University of Utah. Keep a running list of conclusions on a whiteboard, or do anything else to switch the focus from who is being convincing to what they’re saying.

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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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