Does Your Business Have CIPA? (Read Time 82 Seconds)


I’m just finishing the book Socialized by Mark Fidelman. It is one of the better books I have read of late about harnessing social media. Many of these books date very quickly, but the information in this 2012 book is still very relevant and I recommend you read a copy.

Socialized-book-coverTowards the end Mark relates the story of a girl who suffers from Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, aka CIPA. It was an analogy to businesses who are heading down the gurgler at a rate of knots and don’t even realize it. Those of you who read my blogs will know about how frustrated I was to see Borders self implode, when they didn’t need to. As I mentioned earlier this week, many businesses are being hurt but not realizing it, or not knowing what to do about it. It’s that frog in the pot of simmering water. We all know the story, but many of us are sitting in that pot, enjoying the warmth and then getting severely cooked.

In my experience, it is people who aren’t institutionalized in your business who you need to talk to. If it’s not consultants like myself, at least talk to your customers, the ones you have left. Ask them why they come to your business. What is it that drew them in and how can you give them what they want and stay profitable?. I had loads of answers for the book industry, but they ‘knew what they were doing”. They focused on best sellers, general merchandise goodies and even fluffy toys. The questions you need to ask have to be qualitative, don’t give them choices you think they should answer, have conversations with them. Or get out quick and sell your business to someone while it still has some value. I still maintain if I had been on the management team or board of Borders in NZ, they wouldn’t have floundered, they would have risen like a phoenix out of the ashes of the past and their stores would be full of people, in many cases still buying paper. BORDER-CLOSED

Do does your business have CIPA? Are your margins declining, is your stock-turn going down? Are people buying similar products online instead of from you? Are your customers slowly churning to other sources or evolutions of the goods and services you offer? What have you done to future proof your business? As I said in my other blog earlier this week, people are reading more, listening to more music and taking more photos daily than ever before.

Got any questions? Feel free to leave them as comments and maybe we can have a discussion about this.

A Good Read About Retail Book Stores and Glenfield Paper Plus


I was pleasantly surprised with some great service from Paper Plus in Glenfield this week and want to share the experience with you. Many book retailers complain that they can’t compete with online stores. Some like Borders might even see the fatalities as a  fait accomplis. I don’t agree.

Inside the Medium

Inside the Medium

So here’s what happened. I got an email from my daughter saying that Kelvin Cruickshank, the psychic medium was going  to be doing a book signing on Tuesday evening at Paper Plus, Glenfield at 6PM. That was too early for us and given that my wife is a big fan and it was her birthday yesterday, I rang to see if I could buy a book and get it autographed without going to the signing.

As an aside, one of the things that I used to love about Borders in the USA was book signings and the ability to even briefly meet authors. It’s not something that Borders in New Zealand ever did much of, in fact sometimes it seemed like the only things Borders in New Zealand had in common with the American stores I loved was the layout, encouragement to grab a book and take it into the in-store cafe and huge width of stock. It’s a shame they didn’t step outside of their business and listen to some of my ideas, because I think they could still be here and profitable, but that’s another story.

So, when I rang the Glenfield store, the response was “I’m sure we can do that for you.” I told them what I would like Kelvin to write with his autograph, gave them my credit card details so they knew I was bona fide.

I arrived yesterday to pick up the book and the two women behind the counter told me that they made sure it was the first thing Kelvin did when he arrived at the store to make sure it happened, because the line of people waiting to meet him and get a book signed was very long. We had a brief discussion and I was able t take away a gift that my wife was thrilled to receive. Having it signed to her, with her name spelled correctly elicited a smile that was priceless.

People are always quick to complain when they are not happy with retail service, but don’t often make an effort to recognise good service, so my Award for Great Service for the Week goes to the ladies at Paper Plus, Glenfield. I don’t live in the area, but I’ll go back in the future because these people care about their customers. They show a genuine interest, I don’t know if they are staff or have equity in the business (which is a franchise). If they are staff, my recommendation to the owners is to recognise them and hang on to them because it is people like that, who can make the difference between buying something online or going into the store. It is of course just one aspect of good retailing, but such a critical one. A great looking well stocked store with staff that don’t like their industry, their managers, or think of it as a just a job, is on a slippery slope.

Michael Q Todd is a Social Media Expert


The world is full of self proclaimed social media experts, many of them legends in their own minds. Every once in a while you come across someone who not only really does understand how it all works, but one that practices what they preach. 

Presenting at his Auckland Seminar

Presenting at his Auckland Seminar

One such person is Michael Q Todd. I had the pleasure last week of meeting him in person in Auckland and attending one of his seminars which was a pre-launch of his upcoming book The 7 Pillars of Your Online Success. Michael is an ex-pat Kiwi who lives in Japan with his lovely wife Dr Yoriko Todd.

The mix of attendees ranged from total beginners to very experienced people including Sean Mitchell of Techday, Jason Kemp of Dialog Ventures, Mark Thomas of 2Review and Roger Bennett, one of New Zealand’s serial networkers and connectors, all people who are very passionate about what they do. You have to be, to go to a 3 hour seminar on a weekday evening. There was a quality of debate, illustrating that one size doesn’t fit all and Michael managed the proceedings like the pro that he is.

I’m not going to tell you about everything he covered, it was an introduction to the new book and one that I am very much looking to receive an advanced copy on. I’ve read a couple of pre-released chapters and they are winners. You may be very good with one application or aspects of an application, but be missing out on others. Another is that this is a changing environment. Social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are constantly adding and modifying features, you need to keep abreast of these. New services like Vine, Empire Ave (one of my current favorites, you’ll find my account here)  and Posse  are popping up all the time. Some of these will be valuable to you. Never assume you are up to date, because you will be wrong. If you don’t keep up to date, you could end up like this moth (not for the squeemish) I captured on my second Vine attempt, being devoured by a praying mantis.

This is one of the reasons I really like

Following are a 3 key takeouts for me:

1. It’s about selling. Anything you do is social media has to have a purpose, an end game. It is usually to sell something. It could be the products or services you provide to customers, it could be selling your consultancy, or perhaps promoting your sporting activity, music or hobbies. Start with the end game in mind.

2. Three things that brand you. People get confused when you tell them you do lots of different things. Define the 3 most important things, based  on (1) above. Give this some serious thought. If you have too much going on, narrow your focus or you will confuse people and won’t sell much of anything. For me, I am

3. Plug the gaps. One for me is Lists. I used to have a very successful newsletter many years ago which I sold as part of my consultancy and training school, the New Zealand Smartphone and PDA Academy. It had a large following and I really enjoyed the feedback from readers. Lately I thought that social media had replaced email newsletters, but now realize that they add another dimension. What are your gaps?

Once in a rare while you meet someone who will make a profound and positive difference in your life if you let them. I have had a few of those over my years and I believe that Michael Q Todd is going to be one of those. Whatever business you are in, or want to be in, whatever role you currently play in life, you are a brand and Michael can help teach you how to focus and market that brand and to reach the results you desire. You can find out more about him on his website.

I’ll leave the last word to Michael from one of his many YouTube Videos

If Only You Would Listen


Its soapbox time again, but it won’t take long. This is for myself and for the many business people who talk too much.

I’ve been in a lot of business meetings lately, some of them excellent, many of them way too long. This morning I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts Rock the World With LinkedIn on Webmaster Radio which was an interview with the founder of MBAWriters and Director at BT Consulting, Todd Rhoad. Among other things they were talking about the value and importance of eBooks. This is of course something of a hobby horse for me.

I wrote a treatise called Are eBooks Ready to Come of Age and published it 10 years ago. You can get a free PDF copy here.

Anyway, I’ve seen a few eyes glaze over recently in meetings and presentations. It wasn’t that they were unable to comprehend the topics. It was because they had understood long before. There were a few classic sayings towards the end of the podcast, the things smart parents tell their kids. and the things that sales people are taught, well were taught back in the day when sales was considered a profession. Like:

  • The most successful business people keep their mouths shut. I learned that in my second year of my 3 year Sales & Marketing Diploma. I was selling 2-way radios to a sharp businessman. Halfway through my presentation he asked me for the price. I thought I was dealing with the price objection, so I started in on the problems he had told me about and how the features and benefits of our product would help him with those. He asked again for the price. I stopped, a little confused. He asked me again. I told him and he signed a big fat purchase order on the spot. I learned big time from that and always try to remind other people that you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason and you should use them in that proportion.
  • As Lori said on the podcast (which I strongly recommend you subscribe to, is that you learn more by listening. All you need to to do to get business is listen to what the customer wants, confirm that what they are saying is in fact what they want, then leg them know if you can solve their problem at a rate that is less painful than the problem they want to solve. Then stop talking and get on with doing the business.
  • Smart people are listening and processing what they are being told. As Todd said “With people who are very quiet, you have to be very eager when they pop up and say something, because they’ve been sitting there thinking about it and its probably going to be pretty intelligent.” The flip side of that is think about what you are going to say, don’t speak as you are thinking. Maybe you can’t wait to hear what you are going to say, but your listener may not be as excited unless you are responding to what they are telling you.
  • Another thing I learned many years ago which is obvious, but sometimes you need to think about the obvious, is that we can think much faster than we listen or read. Let your customer listen and if you have a PowerPoint presentation, don’t read them the presentation, they have already read it and are processing it. Glazed eyes again, perhaps thinking about lunch or their next meeting.

I’m going to finish with an old Chicago song I used to love and share with you one great tool that I hear women using all the time, which I call active listening. Do you ever have a conversation with someone, usually a woman and she repeats back to you some of the words you have just said?

“The floods and damage from Cyclone Evan were pretty scary….:

“pretty scary”

“I had some friends who were over there on vacation”

“on vacation, I bet they were wishing they had gone somewhere else”

This is an active conversation and the people doing this are totally engaged. Most people are not totally engaged and are in fact focusing on the next thing they are going to say rather than listening to what their customer or prospect is trying to tell them. Active listening is a really good tool to use because it can stop your mind from wandering off and perhaps missing that clue that your customer is offering you as to why they might want your product. It will also help you understand what your customer is really thinking about and wants. It will let you be ready for buying signals and it will also endear you to the customer because you are showing that you are really interested. If you aren’t interested, then you probably don’t want their business.

Next time you meet someone and they ask how you are, say “Thanks, I’m very, how are you?” If they stop and ask “Very what?” They were listening. Chances are they will say something like “That’s nice”.

Listening for most of us is a skill we need to work on. Very few men, including myself at times, are not great listeners. I have found that the times when people really enjoyed a conversation with me, I actually said very little and I have probably learned a lot.

New Year’s Resolutions and Plans for 2012


This morning on the way into the office I listened to a podcast from Harvard Business Review on How To Keep Your New Year Resolutions. If one of yours is to put more good in, why not listen to podcasts while your in the car. You can find HBR Ideacast here.

So yes, I had resolutions. I’m not going to share them with you here, but so far I am keeping them and I intend to have an awesome year, which I am going to put a massive effort into. Of course I have broken that down into many parts with goals and plans. I am very much into using technology, particularly in the area of lists and plans, time and people management. That’s what I wrote about in my book Unleashing The Road Warrior. The technology has changed a little since I wrote it, I now have an iPhone and iPad instead of a Palm or Windows Mobile, but the principles are the same and even the apps are still very similar if not more visual and a larger form factor.

Anyway, I was working through how I can improve my productivity and one of the things I realised was that in some cases I am a good multitasker, but in general by personality I am a sequential operator and that’s what I do best. I raise this partly as a note to self, but also as something for you to think about. Do you know how you function best? How you get the best results out of the day? Do you know what time wasting activities you get yourself bogged down in? In NLP we learn about different types of people and even school teachers are taught about whether people are tactile, auditory, kinetic etc. I’m a mixture of all of them, which is perhaps what makes me a good connector, but I digress.

I have always thought of myself as a good mutlitasker and in some cases I am. For example I am a songwriter. When I perform my songs, my left hand is up and down the fretboard, my right hand is picking or strumming, I recall the lyrics, sing them and engage with them, I monitor the audience and engage with them, I listen to make sure I am in tune, I make sure I’m breathing from my stomach and so on. That is multitasking. But it is something I have trained myself to do since the age of 9.

I can’t tell you that I can hold a phone conversation, read and comprehend an email, sort out files on my desk and monitor my websites concurrently. I can’t do justice to more than one thing at a time, especially as I get older. But the other thing I have done very well probably also since around the age of 9 is do many things sequentially and to a pattern. For example I have always read 3 or 4 books plus a few magazines sequentially, but effectively at the same time. I read a chapter out of one, then a chapter from another and so on. The same way that many of us today look at web sites, but what I do is give my full attention to those things at the time. I have intense interest but a low boredom threshold. I need stimulation.

What does that mean to my resolutions and plans for 2012? I am going to use my strengths more effectively. I am going to create a list (I like numbered lists) of things I want to achieve every day in business and in my personal life. There will be many but they will be achievable. Some will be repeated several times during the day such as

  1. Calling clients
  2. Contact people in my networks
  3. Meeting clients
  4. Calling potential clients
  5. Checking Emails
  6. Managing my social media accounts
  7. Managing my blogs

But others will be things like

  1. Take a walk
  2. Think of something or someone I am grateful for or to
  3. List 5 daily goals for the next day at the end of each day
  4. Look after my health
  5. Enjoy my family
  6. Remember that the quality of my life is determined by the quality of my thoughts (I borrowed that one from someone else who had a list of 35 tips.

I will end up with a list of perhaps 20-30 things that I will read every day. They won’t be long winded, they will be practical. At the end of this year I will have had an extremely productive year in many aspects of my life and next year you can ask me how it went. Maybe I will share some of it on my blog, but this blog is normally about technology and the future rather than more personal information.

My question for you is how are you going to make this a better year for yourself, your company, your network, your family and the people you care about?

Blame the Technology and Australia


Continuing my search into what happened at Whitcoulls and Borders and  generally what’s going on with New Zealand retailers I am finding no surprises, which is a real worry. Two words come up a lot. Technology and Australia. I know a little of both. I live for technology and have trained many retailers over the years (including some who were already millionaires) and while the technology has changed, the principles haven’t. More on this to come.

Australia and New Zealand

As to Australia. In the 90′s many Australasian retailers who had New Zealand operated subsidiary chains based in New Zealand, decided to do away with local country management, local buyers etc.  and to save lots of money by treating their NZ shops as Australian branches. I guess they considered New Zealand as a slightly bigger Tasmania. Not huge, but worth having, especially if they didn’t put much effort into senior staffing  resources.

When performance decreased they blamed the economy, they said that NZ was just an over inflated state and it was always going to be that way, which was how they justified reducing local resources in the first place. The fact is while we may have a lot in common, we are not the same. We are made up of different cultures and history and have subtle differences in our lifestyles. Subtle enough that you can’t treat NZ stores the same as Australian stores and expect the same result.

Similar scenarios happened in many cases with the decades of American Globalisation. It’s funny really that America wanted to change Japan and the rest of Asia Pacific while Japan wanted to change the west. I well remember having discussions with senior management of Casio in Tokyo and Hamura about improving the software on their cash registers. One of the issues was that they hadn’t allowed for people pressing buttons in the wrong sequence. Have you ever been in a retail store when the ECR (Cash Register) is bleeping loud noises no matter what buttons are pushed and the stress it caused the cashier? Their initial response was “They must use the ECR in the right way or you should find better customers”. We ended up beta testing their software in NZ and Australia first and then getting Japan to tweak their software. That was one of the initiatives that helped us get 70% market share in the ECR market in NZ and helped Casio increase theirs around the world. But then of course the company I worked for was sold and I along with my boss and several other great people were made redundant despite the fact that we were doing really well, but because they thought we were earning too much. I’d love to know what their market share is in NZ now. I know it isn’t 70%. Anyway I’m going off on a tangent.

The big thing I noticed in the NZ stores was inventory management. They were carrying a lot of books that I wouldn’t think anyone would buy other than as a joke. I went back to Borders a week ago to jot some of the names down, but it looks like they went in the $1, $2, $5 sale and were gone. They had many dated books especially computing which must have been in store for several years, technical books on how to use software that almost no one has used in the last 5 years.

From what I’ve been told, someone automated the purchasing software to replace books that had sold, so for example if a particular book sold really well, say 5,000 copies, the system would replace with another 5,000 copies. Well there goes the profit from the first lot.

One of the things that makes New Zealand different is our ethnic communities. All over New Zealand, but particularly in Auckland we have clusters of ethnic communities; Chinese, Korean, South African, Indian, Pacific Islanders and more. Brands who fail to take that into consideration waste massive levels of stock by having the wrong product in the wrong locations, which then becomes shop soiled and potentially unsaleable.

Inventory needs to be managed locally by category managers who understand and are at the leading edge of their category and who understand their local market. They need to know weekly what is going on and understand who their customers are and what they are buying. Some books date more quickly than others and need to be moved on quickly, others will hold their value longer, but will still have a rapid half life.

In my previous blog about Whitcoulls and Borders I wrote about how they could follow the example of Amazon and know what their individual repeat customers were buying and therefore their interests and could recommend books to them. Amazon continue to prove that people in NZ will buy based on recommendations along the lines of “You bought these 3 books, other people who bought the same books also enjoyed the following titles”. Not only do we often buy them, but we also pay massive freight costs to get them here, at the same time as local book retailers are discounting stock that people aren’t buying. How smart is that?

One good way of dealing with this is using Business Analytics or Business Intelligence tools such as BIonaMAP, soon to be launched by New Zealand geospatial solution provider, GeoSmart. Fortunately for retail chains, this product will support both Australia and New Zealand, so users can have visibility over both countries.

BIonaMAP

Whitcoulls and Borders


I was thrilled to learn that the remaining Whitcoulls and Borders have been sold to Anne and David Norman. Now they have some hope. They will now live in the Pascoes Group and of course this group are known as having revived the ailing Farmers chain and given them new life.

Once the essential housekeeping details are sorted, such as property leases and staff contracts, there is every reason to hope that they will breathe new life into Borders and Whitcoulls.

That can not mean BAU or Business As Usual, because even though they did OK and the biggest problems were in Australia with REDGroup. Nevertheless these stores were not run optimally and they were not run with the times.

I heard people, partly lead by local publishers, saying that if the NZ stores were run from Australia, they would probably signal the demise of the NZ author. Certainly I agree that we would have seen less Kiwi authors in store, but I think ultimately either the publishers would have to become less greedy and insular or the local authors would start to embrace the new eBook media and of course in doing so they can either self publish or join Amazon or other local eBook publishers. Neither are ideal for people who love books.

As I’ve said in many previous blogs about Whitcoulls and Borders, a few of them can be found here, the first thing is to go back to basics. For these stores to be successful they need to operate smarter and provide what the modern shopper wants. There are many good examples overseas.

With the chain expanding, here a some ideas that I would look at.

  • Macy's

    Gift Registry. Chains like Macy’s in the USA have had phenomenal success with their national gift registry programs for decades. They have kiosks in store which are linked nationally. I was so excited the first time I went through one I almost bought a gift for a young man’s Bar Mitsva in Chicago. I was in New York at the time looking for a hat in one of the coldest winters I have ever experienced. It was so well laid out, there were thousands of special events from weddings to anniversaries and being national, you could see from New York, what a person in Madison Wisconsin had their hopes on. Given that the chain owns Farmers and a number of jewellery stores, this would be a great opportunity to combine the lot.

  • I keep harping on about Jeff Jarvis’ book What Would Google Do? It’s funny in a way that in one of his first blogs about the book, he suggests that you could buy it from Borders. The thing was though that I couldn’t buy it from Borders at the time because they didn’t have it, so I bought it from Amazon.
  • So I think that Borders and Whitcoulls need to start saying, what would Amazon do. So many companies are naive and believe their own hype that web retailers (only part of what they are) are no threat, or they consider them such a threat that when things go bad, they become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Hanging a few Kobo’s on the wall is not the answer, that has been a major botch up in my humble opinion. Even on the web, sell the sizzle on the home page! But some things they could do with their ‘loyalty’ programs is monitor what each customer buys and make recommendations based on the buyer habits. I have bought at least a dozen books on Amazon’s recommendations. Amazon is also much cheaper than buying locally, but that’s a different story because it costs a lot to get books to New Zealand, so unless you buy a stack of books, you pay back what you save on freight.

Amazon has many great features that can be just asdestination events

Mobile Marketing easily applied to a bricks and mortar chain, which has the benefit of being able to hold a book, tell you what store it is in and provide you with much quicker gratification.

I don’t want to write a book, but here a some things you may find in this blog in the coming days for Whitcoulls and Borders:

  • Becoming a destination for events such as readings and signings
  • Back to basics and way beyond in inventory management
  • A major web presence with lots of ideas perhaps sparked by What Would Google Do (which should be a mandatory read for all Whitcoulls and Borders management at all levels)
  • A new way for both stores to have lots of stock available, but not necessarily on the spot. A central warehouse with the option of home delivery could cut down inventory sizes without sacrificing range and depth.
  • Embrace proximity based marketing on mobile devices. I would strongly recommend that management from Borders, Whitcoulls, Farmers and in fact all retail chains attend the Mobile Marketing Forum in Auckland this June. This Forum could be called The Retailer Strikes Back. They will learn many new ideas at this event.
  • Understand their regional customer base. There is no point in carrying the same stock range in each store. It simply won’t work and you will have aged stock going on sale. Some of the category managers need to take a long hard look at the books they have been stocking and ask themselves what on earth possessed them to make some of the decisions they made? Or was it the publishers reps that conned them?
  • They should look at products like GeoSmart’s impending Business Intelligence on a MAP. This could produce many aha moments when used to geographically view their business results in combination with consumer demographics.
I could go on but that’s plenty for now. I think with the right motivation and attitude, these two stores can be not only revived, but will rise to new heights. But only if they stop living in the past of this is the way we always did it. They need to embrace and perhaps even lead the future. It’s not hard, its just thinking outside the square and remembering that it is the customers and the books that make your business. Its about the words and the stories and people.