The Myth of Written Messages

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Wandering down the street in New York City early one morning, I noticed a group of people standing in front of the doors to Macy’s department store. Since it was 9:00 a.m., I assumed they were waiting for the store to open.

But as I walked by I noticed a sign in every door that clearly said: Store Hours 10AM – 9PM. So why were they standing there an hour before the store opened? Was some sort of special event going on?

As I walked closer to the huddled group, one of the women motioned to the Macy’s security guard and asked, “What time does the store open?”

I am not kidding. She actually asked that, even though she was just six feet away from the Store Hours sign. She had been standing and staring at the door for at least three minutes. The store hours sign is in every door at eye-level. Yet she still preferred to ask another person to verify the truth of the sign.

What does this mean to the small business owner?

  • Just because you put something in a conspicuous place doesn’t mean they’ll see it, whether it’s on your office door or on your website.
  • Just because you write about the benefits of your product or service doesn’t mean people will never have a question about whether those benefits apply in their particular situation.
  • Just because you write something in your marketing brochure doesn’t mean people will read it or understand it.
  • Just because you have Frequently Asked Questions on your website doesn’t mean people will read it, or believe that it applies to them.

We work so hard to craft good written messages, but for many people, the written message is only half of the picture. So what are creative solutions?

  • Use graphics and images to also portray the message.
  • Use audio so they can hear you as well as see you.
  • Repeat the message often.
  • Be prepared to answer questions in a gracious and courteous manner…even if you’ve answered those same questions a thousand times before.

The security guard at Macy’s was a gentleman and a customer service expert. He said in a genuinely pleasant and smiling manner, “Oh, yes, ma’am, the store opens at 10:00 a.m. and I hope you’ll have a wonderful shopping experience here at Macy’s.”

Smart cookie.

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How to Keep Clients Returning Again and Again

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In this episode of Ask Karyn Anything, Delia asks, “How can I get clients to keep returning?”

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What Is "Cream of Tartar??"

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I was in the grocery store the other day, standing near the customer service counter. A woman in her late 30s came up to the counter and asked, “Where can I find Cream of Tartar? My son needs it for a science project.”

The customer service person (who was in her early 20s) looked lost. She didn’t know what Cream of Tartar was either. I piped up and told her it was in the baking aisle, and that it was a white powder in a bottle.

Cream of Tartar, for those who are curious, is used for baking. It’s been around for nearly 200 years (or possibly more). Baking powder is made up of baking soda plus cream of tartar. I can remember my grandmother and mother using it, and every Christmas I dutifully buy a bottle of it to bake Christmas cookies.

So why didn’t this woman know what it was? And why didn’t the grocery store employee know what it was? Because, according to an article I read recently, this current generation is the first generation of people who don’t know how to cook or bake. They use pre-packaged foods and microwave them (or order out). Their mothers and fathers didn’t cook, so they never learned how.

Lesson For The Business Owner: Just because you sell something doesn’t mean that people:

  • Know what it is
  • Know what it’s used for
  • Know where to find it
  • Know how to use it in their daily life

The key here isn’t to bash the generation of people who don’t know how to cook. It’s to understand that you, as the small business owner, have to pay attention to your customers’ needs, and educate them if necessary.

The moral of the story is:

  1. Know what your customers need (instead of guessing)
  2. Educate them on your products and services so they undertand why and how they can use them.
  3. If they aren’t going to use your products in the originally-intended fashion, figure out other creative uses for them (like a science project) or dump the services and products and find new ones that fulfill a need

And next time you go into the baking aisle, take a look around. It just might be a whole new world for you and a strong reminder of generational changes affecting a whole industry!

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The Tiny Shoes Story (And Why You Need To Know It)

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I heard a good metaphor from Fred Gleeck that I want to share with you. There is a clear distinction between using the “info guru” marketing technique and having little shoes shaken out of your head. Read on:


Many years ago I used to tell a story when I did consulting seminars. To illustrate an important point, I’d like to share it with you.

Let’s assume that for the last 20 years you’ve bought your shoes at Thom Mccann. Let’s say that tomorrow you go into one of their retail stores, pick out a couple of pairs of shoes and bring them up to the cashier. You place them on the counter and when the clerk looks up at you, you say:

“Since I’ve been buying shoes here at Thom Mccann for the last 20 years I think I deserve these two pairs of shoes for FREE today . . . what do you think?”

If this were a New York City store the cashier would look at you and say: “You can put your shoes rightoverhere!”

No dice!

When you are an expert in your field, people will try and “extract” information from you for free. When someone contacts you by email, over the phone, or when they meet you in person, people will make their best effort to get FREE STUFF from you.

Inside your head there are racks with lots of tiny little shoes – your inventory.

Just like Thom Mccann, you sell something. You sell your knowledge and expertise. That’s your inventory. Giving away your inventory on a regular basis will land you in bankruptcy court. It may be prudent to occasionally give away a pair of shoes in hopes of getting a large order. But you must be VERY careful when and how often you choose to do that.

So WHEN this happens to you I want to imagine that the person who tries to do it to you has grabbed you by the lapels and is shaking you. While they are shaking you, they have their hands open under your ears as they wait for the tiny shoes (your inventory) to fall out of your ears and into their hands.

They are looking to STEAL your inventory!

Don’t let them do it.

If your knowledge and expertise is what you sell, don’t let people steal your inventory. It’s how you make your living. Instead, answer people very directly when you get this kind of routine.

Tell people that you know what they’re doing. Bust them. Say something like: “I would love to give you the answers to some of those questions and will be happy to do so once you are a paying client . . . . how would you like to pay for my services? Would a check work or would Paypal be better for you?”

Stop giving your services away for free.


Fred Gleeck is an expert in the field of Information Marketing and Seminar Marketing. He’s the author of 10+ books and is an accomplished coach and consultant. Fred is known as the “King of Content.”


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