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Tip Sheet

Your Secret Weapon Against Sidewalk Ice … and More Tips for February

This dishwashing soap is pure magic.

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SIDEWALKS

De-Ice Ingeniously

(Ignore this if you can see a palm tree from your window.) Long known for its ability to clean spilled oil off wild birds, Dawn dish soap has yet another animal-friendly quality, notes the blog One Good Thing: sidewalk de-icer. Mix 1 teaspoon of Dawn, 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and a half-gallon of hot water. Pour it on the sidewalk. It won’t refreeze. (We tried it in 7-degree weather, but, sorry, when it dipped to -4, we couldn’t convince the dogs to venture out to see whether it was still working.)

MARKETING

Buy a Real Camera

Your business relies on photos for marketing, promotions and social media among myriad untold other uses, so please don’t rely on your cellphone to do it all. Yes, smartphone cameras have gotten better. Yes, some professional photographers have done some amazing projects using
iPhones. And yes, you’ve had some shots that everyone said “What a great photo!” But technology is still such that a real camera, preferably a digital SLR, is so far superior for getting images you can crop and manipulate for ads and marketing materials that no business should be without one — along with a couple of staff members whose job it is to know when to point and shoot it.

STRATEGY

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Think While Walking

Some of Steve Jobs’ inner circle thought his penchant for taking long “brainstorming” walks eccentric. But neuroscience research proves Jobs was on to something, with recent studies showing that breakthrough ideas occur when the brain switches modes — from its task-oriented “executive network” to a creative “default network,” or what some researchers refer to as the “genius lounge.” The two work together. The executive network sets goals and identifies a problem while the default network comes up with solutions, although it does so in a meandering, free-ranging way. And taking a walk is the best way to trigger cooperation between the two modes, say Olivia Fox Cabana and Judah Pollack in their book The Net and the Butterfly: The Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking.

PRODUCTIVITY

Don’t Answer Email on Your Smartphone

Beware the urge to reply instantly to every email that drops into your smartphone’s inbox. There are two reasons: 1. It’s more efficient to use your desktop than your mobile’s tiny keyboard; and 2. You should be fully engaged when you are dealing with staff or customers and not distracted by your phone, says the Harvard Business Review’s “Guide to Getting the Right Work Done.”

DATA

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Ask Just Two Things

Many businesspeople like to commission customer-satisfaction surveys. Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing, saves you time and money by suggesting all but two questions are meaningless. The magic questions: 1. “How did you hear about us?” (to track word-of-mouth and marketing effectiveness); and 2. “Would you go out of your way to recommend our product/service to a friend?” (to measures customer evangelism, or buzz). Answers to both will show you whether you’re doing things right.

STORE DESIGN

Theme Your Door Handle

By The Way Bakery in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, uses a rolling pin as a door handle. Even customers outside the store can see how passionate the owners are about their product. What could your door handle be? How about a giant dog bone?

PRODUCTIVITY

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Do Tomorrow’s To-Do’s Today

What do you do with the last 15 minutes of the day? Answer emails, schedule meetings, linger in the office before closing? Here’s a better way to spend the time: Draw up a to-do list for tomorrow. Be specific. It’s a great way to end the day and start the next productively.

MARKETING

Avoid Bad Words

According to Seth Godin, here are words that cause people to ignore your marketing message: “actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully and finally.” (We’d add “truly” to that list as well.)

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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JIM ACKERMAN

How to Make Your Advertising More Effective Over Time

Pet-business owners use lots of different methods for marketing and advertising, from direct mail to social media. But they often miss a crucial step, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. Very few businesses properly test and track their efforts. Jim explains that carefully monitoring your ads, and adjusting them accordingly, can dramatically improve your results.

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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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Tip Sheet

A New Store Every 3 Months? Here’s How — And 8 Other Tips

Don’t miss: a really easy way to power up sales.

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INSPIRATIONBe an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

BRAINSTORMINGThe Power of OneNot making any headway with your brainstorming sessions? Go it alone, writes Seth Godin in Free Prize Inside, citing a study that found a team of four people, each brainstorming alone, came up with twice as many ideas as when they tried it together. Best approach? Assign team members to brainstorm alone, then bring everybody together to share — and critique — the ideas generated.

MERCHANDISINGA New Store, Every 3 MonthsIf a customer enters Urban Pooch Canine Life Center in Chicago, IL, after a three-month absence, he finds a completely new store. How? Owner Ed Kaczmarek told a panel at Global Pet Expo that he rearranges the floor every three months, “so customers have to re-experience it.” They also have to ask where items are, which encourages interaction with staff that can lead to more sales.

MESSAGINGYour Bud: RepetitionThere’s a reason infomercials drag on forever: our human weakness for pattern recognition. We’re programmed to think that something we’ve heard repeatedly is more important than something we’ve heard only once. Yet, as a blog at Entrepreneur.com points out, many business owners believe that if someone doesn’t immediately latch onto an idea when it’s said the first time, a different way needs to be found to say it. “If you have a well-honed idea, and you’re simply trying to market it better, get comfortable saying the same thing multiple times,” writes Martin Zwilling. Trust, care, professionalism. There aren’t too many messages you should stray from when it comes to marketing pet services.

SALESNo More Stone FaceNegotiating tip from Selling Power magazine: Forget the stone face. When a customer balks at your price or asks for a discount, go ahead and cringe. The flinch will put your opposition on the defensive and force him or her to try to justify the request or offer a concession. Don’t appear terrified, merely surprised.

EVENTSSell The SizzleA bank in Seattle, WA, lets prospects know about its “hot” loan rates and friendly service by holding a Friday barbecue in the parking lot. The manager cooks the hot dogs and hamburgers, folks come by to talk and eat, and all receive info on the bank’s services. Perhaps you might let your customers know about your “hot” summer deals in a similar manner?

ARITHMETICWhy Didn’t We Learn This in Fifth Grade?If quickly working out percentages, such as a 4 percent discount on a $75 item, trips you up, keep this hack in mind: It’s often easier to flip the sum. So, 75% of $4 — even we got this — is $3! 18% of $50 (50% of $18 = $9), 14% of $300 (300% of $14 = $42) Genius, right?

MARKETINGIn Ads, Paint with Narrow StrokesKeep your advertising focused. Take Coca-Cola, for instance, writes Luke Sullivan in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. The company owns nearly 80 brands of drinks, but they’ve never run an ad for all of them at once. If you feel you have three important things that you absolutely have to say … well, then just buy three ads.

LEADERSHIPManage the MiddleDon’t concentrate too much on the top 10 percent of your performers. They can take care of themselves, says Susan Lucia Annuncio in Contagious Success. And the bottom 10 percent … they will be gone soon, or at least they should be. Instead, spend most of your time and attention on those in the middle, who are already doing some things right but need more instruction and support.

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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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