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Fresh Thinking

All posts by Lee Wochner

Making your business a special place

Making your business a special place

By | Email Marketing | No Comments

Lately, we’ve been talking about “the specialness of space.”

Here’s an excellent example of how one brand took the time to make its space special. I strongly encourage you to invest four minutes in watching this video about designer Rebecca Minkoff’s store of the future. And then ask yourself, how can I make my space special?

Are you making your place special at a physical location?

With a physical location you’ve got lots of potential opportunities. Here are eight ways to take advantage of it.

  1. Put out a sign! Preferably one with an arresting graphic or color, so that people who pass by notice it and stop in. I’ve never driven by Amazon, have you? But I’ve certainly passed restaurants and shops and stopped in, based on a sign.
  2. Direct people to buy other things, with in-store signage and displays. I may have come in for a book (I’m old-fashioned that way) – can you interest me in a calendar, too?
  3. Speed up the check-out process. Don’t make me wait in line. Take a cue from Apple, Nordstrom Rack and others – station people with portable checkout stations around the store
  4. Got something that’s not moving? Discount it, or bundle it with something else, so I feel that I got a bargain. (And you moved slow inventory.)
  5. Focus on local marketing! Local signage, and local involvement with charities and with your local Chamber of Commerce, will spread the word in places online can’t compete.
  6. Let people touch/taste/try. Until scratch-and-sniff goes electronic, this is something you can provide that digital can’t touch.
  7. Say hello! If you and your team greet me in a friendly, helpful way, you’ve established a relationship. As every successful bartender knows, that’s the key to repeat business.
  8. Finally, ask yourself, “If I were the customer walking in, what would make my visit here even better?” And then do whatever that is.

Whether online or at a physical location, find what makes your business special and take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Make your business the next store of the future!

Image by waferbord is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Just because an idea is different, that doesn’t make it good

By | Email Marketing, News, Strategy | No Comments

My experience of people first thing in the morning is this:  They do not want to be messed with.

They want their coffee, they want to get to where they’re going as quickly as possible, and frequently, they want their Egg McMuffin.

Unfortunately, McDonald’s lame “Pay With Lovin’ ” campaign (more like a social experiment), seems determined to hinder, embarrass and infuriate customers precisely at a time when McDonald’s needs all the help it can get, and at a time of day when people have no patience to be toyed with.

Today’s Wall Street Journal contains this personal story of someone asked to dance with other strangers at a McDonald’s in exchange for a free Egg McMuffin. Me? I’d rather pay the two bucks, especially if it’s at any time before 10 a.m.

Is asking people to perform personal missions in exchange for free fast food a different idea? It sure is. So is asking people to show up for funerals in clown costumes. But in neither case is it a good idea. Part of brainstorming creative marketing ideas involves free thinking–but the crucial next part involves winnowing out the bad ideas before it’s too late. Which is something that should have happened with this one.

What should they be marketing? That Egg McMuffin in the morning. How easily and affordably it’s gotten, and how wonderful it tastes. Sometimes it really is that simple.

 

 

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Something has changed today — but do you know what it is?

By | Change, News, Strategy, The Future | No Comments

Over the holidays, we tend to play board games at our house. Popular choices for my wife, our 23-year-year old son, 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son include Cosmic Encounter, Risk, Guillotine and Oxford Dilemma. This year we found ourselves playing a game called TriBond.

TriBond, which is theoretically for ages 12 and up (and therefore theoretically suitable for the entire family), is a game in which players hear three individual clues and must analyze and determine what all three words have in common.  Example:  Delaware, today, and George Washington. (Answer: They are all firsts.)

Here’s one none of my children, ranging in age from tween to adult, could get:   Fossil, Citizen and Timex. My wife and I were sputtering in confusion. How could anyone miss that? They’re all watches! Then I looked around and noticed that no one was wearing a watch:  not me or my older son or my daughter (smartphones all) or my wife or our youngest. They didn’t know what a Fossil or a Citizen or a Timex was because they’d never worn a watch.

Here’s another one that my kids couldn’t get:   Little, Sloppy, and GI. I know:  They’re all Joes! This time I broke it down and asked all three kids who Little Joe was. No idea. (Bonanza having gone off the air in 1973, I barely knew.) Then I asked them what were Sloppy Joes, the curse of many of my grade-school lunches. Again, no idea, so I had to explain again. GI Joe, a staple of my childhood, they’d heard of, but never played with and couldn’t fully explain.

Then I looked at the box and noticed that TriBond, while renewed recently and purchased in a new edition, was “copyright 1993.” Which explained why all the cultural references seemed to be aimed at people in their 40s or 50s. Note to the TriBond guys:  If you want teens and 20-somethings to play your game, it’s time to update the cards.

This made me wonder what else has changed at some companies that the people running those companies haven’t noticed.

Here’s something that we at Counterintuity find more often than you’d imagine:  a client telling us that a mobile version of their website isn’t necessary. Then my business partner or someone else at Counterintuity will look at the client’s stats and let them know just how much of their traffic is from mobile. For a small manufacturer recently it turned out to be 17% — almost one-fifth of their traffic was from mobile. For a construction firm, it was 52%. They had told us that these “construction guys” are never on a mobile device, but when we told them that 52% of their traffic was from a smartphone or a tablet, they looked at each other and said, “Oh, right, they’re all looking at our website while they’re on the job.” And who is “they”? Their prospects.

It’s easy to not know what you don’t know. I taught graduate writing at the University of Southern California for 10 years, and one night during the seventh year bemoaned the fact that I was always paying for parking. One of my students said, “Why don’t you park on…” and named a side street near campus. I explained that it was metered parking with a limit of two hours, and this was a three-hour workshop, so I’d get a ticket. “There aren’t any meters there,” I was told. So after class I went and looked — and indeed, there were no meters there. Why did I think that street was metered? Because when I was a grad student myself at USC in the late 1980s — 20 years earlier! — that street was metered. But it had changed, and I had never thought to look.

Why is it easy to fall into this trap of thinking that things are set, that once you know something you know it for life? Maybe it’s because, for most of history, that was true. But no longer.

We live in the greatest period of change in human history. I am part of the last generation on Earth to grow up in a pre-Internet world, so we’re the fulcrum class:  We fully appreciate the Internet, and know what it was like not having it. Everybody younger just expects it. Given how much change has occurred on our watch — just to start:  the rise and fall of nations, the transformation of economies, instant access to more than one billion people across the globe, easy and seamless transfer of funds electronically, instantaneous and constant delivery of news — it would be naive to think that other things haven’t changed right within our own households and businesses and careers and communities.

What does this radical change mean? Among other things, it means that all of us are better served by questioning our own facts every day before making decisions that accidentally reflect times long gone.

 

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How to go out of business

By | Change, Email Marketing, Strategy | No Comments

In no particular order:

  1. Don’t know your numbers:  what your expenses are, what your projected income is, your balance sheet, a cashflow, a profit and loss, and the number. (What is the number? It’s the easily-checked-in-on number that tells you at a glance how you’re doing. It might be a monthly sales target. It might be the number of bottles on a shelf at the end of the night. It might be the number of units moved.)
  2. When things change, don’t adapt.
  3. Provide bad customer service. Or just be inconsistent.
  4. Check out on your own business. Get distracted and stay that way.
  5. When you have a problem, don’t rally your team, communicate the problem, and search for solutions. Because they might have some.
  6. Just fret, and do nothing.

Any one of these is sure to help put you out of business. A combination of two or more? Surefire.

As we saw again yesterday, when we learned that a friend’s business had closed.

 

 

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Seeing that your branding works

By | Branding, Design, Email Marketing, Fun, Holidays | No Comments

One way to know that your branding — your logo, your colors, your style, etc. — is working is when you see that it works across different platforms, and that others have started to adopt it.

Sure, we designed and ordered this Counterintuity bento mug ourselves (and if you want one, let us know — we have a few left):

 

CounterintuityBentoMug

 

But last night, at our annual holiday party, people started bringing things of their own design. Like this Counterintuity floral arrangement, courtesy of our party planners:

CounterintuityFloral

 

And these Counterintuity cupcakes, from our caterer:

CounterintuityCupcakes

 

 

And this Counterintuity vase from our party planners (note how even though our logo isn’t on this vase, our branding comes through in the color pattern):

CounterintuityBouquet

 

But, get this, one guest cared enough to go ahead and order boxes of these Counterintuity cake pops all on his own to hand out. Thanks, guy! (They were pretty tasty, too.)

CounterintuityCakePop

 

So were we proud to see all of this? Sure. And sorry if we’re sounding braggy. That’s not the intent. It was just great to see how well our logo and our colors are working for us.

(Not sure about your own branding? Give us a call.)

 

 

 

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Creative vs. non-creative

By | Culture, Design, Email Marketing, Fun, Holidays, Strategy, The Future | No Comments

Recently, we’ve been having discussions internally about the Counterintuity culture. We started that conversation in October as part of our planning for next year, brought it into our annual retreat, and now it’s feeding into our work writing and designing a new Counterintuity website (launching early next year).

Questions we’ve been asking:

  1. What makes Counterintuity different?
  2. What makes Counterintuity fun?
  3. What does Counterintuity do?
  4. What makes Counterintuity successful for clients?
  5. If you could tell someone one thing about Counterintuity, what would it be?

The idea that being fun and different should be a given is what leads us to things like, say, the image on our holiday invite this year:

 

Holiday-Card_image_DEC-2014

 

We’ve heard from a lot of people about how much they love this image. We’ve also heard from some of them that “of course” that idea came from Amy or myself, i.e., the owners.

Well, no. The idea to do an “awkward family photo” invite came from Jaclyn, our operations supervisor, who ensures that everything here operates like a well-oiled machine. And who started here four-and-a-half years ago as an assistant.

Her position here isn’t as what some marketing companies would call “a creative.” (Sure, she’s always been clever; that’s part of why she got hired.) We don’t believe in separating people into “creative” or (heaven forfend) “non-creative.” We put everybody together and ask for us all to be creative, whether you’re a writer or a designer or a primary phone-answerer. We’ve found out that that’s part of what makes us different.

 

 

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Act while the sun is shining

By | Economy, Sales | No Comments

U.S. consumer spending is up. So is consumer confidence. And so is business investment. And no less a sensible sage than Warren Buffett says that “the mother lode of opportunities resides in the U.S.”

We’re seeing the same positive trend here, and with clients. One longtime client who really struggled during the recession told us last week that last month was up 30% over the same month last year. Another client’s revenues have grown 400% over last year. And now that the snow that choked much of the country is clearing, watch the economy soar.

So if your sales aren’t up, if you’re not yet taking advantage of the turnaround in the economy, we have to wonder why. Because others (your competitors?) are already getting primed. With new marketing and new sales initiatives aimed at growing their crops while the sun is shining.