Thursday, January 25, 2007

So, When Are You Going to Fix That?

Fresh Eyes Can Improve Your Bottom Line

When we’re in the same environment day in and day out, it’s easy to overlook things in our retail store that need our attention. Ditto with our website, store signage and monthly store calendar.

A personal experience: We’ve had an ongoing issue with a portion of our roof, which has lead to our dining room having so many contractors and repair people coming through that I might as well have installed a subway carousel. We aren’t expecting the Queen over for dinner anytime soon, so we haven’t worried too much about it, but we’ve gotten a bit lazy about this area. Whenever we have company, we almost have to remind ourselves to straighten up the clutter. We see it all the time so we’ve gotten used to it.

Is there an aspect of your store like this? Maybe you’ve been meaning to change out a display or update an area but just haven’t gotten around to it? While you may be used to seeing it and can dismiss it, your customers may see it differently. We don’t want our customers believing that our businesses aren’t keeping current and aren’t “the place” to be when it comes to their digital photography needs. What we view as non-critical can be viewed by a customer as apathy or laziness.

If you want to find out what kind of update your store might need, consider the following:

Bring in the Newbies: Find a few people who don’t spend much time in your store and ask them to take a look around. What do they notice that needs work? Let them know that you need their honest advice and won’t take offense to their responses. And if you say it, honor it. It doesn’t mean you have to take all the advice, but they may be in a better position to tell you what might stand out as a negative to your customers.

Think about Theater: What story are you trying to tell? What makes you unique? Do your store signage and display areas convey those special attributes? If not, it’s time to take action. Solicit ideas from employees and favorite customers; you may find an idea that will literally transform your shopping experience.

Focus and Delegate: Create a simple action plan—one page or so—that outlines your vision for your store and what needs to be done. Make sure to create sections for the person responsible for the area and the completion date. And when you meet those goals, celebrate by ordering in pizza for the team or bringing breakfast to your next manager meeting.

Now that the holiday rush is over, this is the perfect time to look at your business with fresh eyes and, more important, execute those ideas. Once you do, you’ll find that you inspire your customers to do more with their digital pictures, and isn’t that why we’re here in the first place?


Are you attending PMA this year? If so, now is the perfect time to begin thinking about what you’d like to accomplish at the show. This year’s PMA promises to deliver a variety of great programs, innovative displays and opportunities to connect with colleagues.

What will your days look like? What do you expect to accomplish while you’re there?

Is there a single problem or issue you’d like to resolve regarding your business? Try to articulate it in a sentence or two and jot down a few ideas, which companies you’ll need to visit and what questions you’ll need to ask.

Make sure to connect with old friends. Send out an email to make plans to get together.

Check the PMA program and write down the sessions you’d like to attend. Taking a few minutes to add these sessions to your Outlook Calendar or on your planner will help ensure that your biggest priorities are protected and you don’t miss that really great keynote.

This year’s PMA is full of promise. Just like your business.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Study shows tech confidence, not ability, a primary difference between men and women.

A recent study completed by Northwestern and Princeton Universities uncovered that men and women are comparably skilled when it comes to the Internet. The main difference is how women describe their abilities versus how men rate their own skills.

The study asked participants to perform a number of online tasks ranging from locating tax forms to location a particular candidate’s views on abortion, and the results showed that men and women handled the tasks with equal aplomb. When women described their abilities, however, they were far more likely to minimize their abilities.

Men had no such problem.

“Not a single woman among all our female study subjects called herself and “expert” user, while not a single male ranked himself as a complete novice or ‘not at all skilled’” noted Eszter Hargaitti, a co-author of the study.

I suspect this issue has similar results in digital photography. Confidence is key when it comes to hunting down the best camera, playing with it to better understand a camera’s features and experimenting with a new software program. You may find that some of your female customers are more reticent about explaining what they need or their ability to use certain features.

That doesn’t mean that she’s less skilled than her male counterparts, just less boastful about her abilities.

You can address this issue and ring up sales. Take some of the mystery out of the products. Show, don’t just tell, and when you tell, speak to specific solutions regarding questions she’s asking. Don’t throw acronyms at her as though they were rice at a wedding. Don’t give her information she hasn’t asked for. Let her lead the conversation, and she’ll guide you where she needs to go.

Giving her an opportunity to gain a little confidence can translate into sales and return visits. Once she gives herself proper credit for her abilities, you can bet she’ll back to do more with her digital pictures.

To learn more about the study, click

Friday, January 5, 2007

The One Meeting You Should Have Each Week

It’s no secret to those of you running retail businesses that keeping on top of daily tasks is about as simple as finding a cure for the common cold. It’s easy to see how key actions that can grow your business never seem to get done; they’re often lost in the daily bustle of store visits, customer issues, inventory management, employee concerns and the countless other rigors of your daily work life.

It’s time to turn your attention to something that will help your business keep customers loyal and increase referrals of new customers.

Start talking about them.

No, not behind their backs and not in a negative way. Consider having a regular weekly meeting with all your employees to learn what key customer concerns have come up over the week as well as share success stories. A few tips to make the meeting a hit:

1. Bill the meeting as a way for you to learn from your employees as well as a way for them to help one another better serve your customers.

2. Keep the meeting short and start before the store opens; people tend to have more energy and enthusiasm at this time, and the meeting can encourage a positive frame of mind throughout the day.

3. Show them the love: Supply some doughnuts, coffee, yogurt and fresh fruit. Demonstrate that their input is appreciated.

4. Ask each employee to share on success story and one challenge. Ask them how they handled the challenge and ask the team to help brainstorm other ideas as well.

5. End the meeting on a positive note and provide one key initiative for the week ahead.

Each employee holds valuable information about the customer experience in your store. Thirty minutes once a week can provide a wealth of knowledge to uncover issues you weren’t aware of as well as allow you to build on successes. It will also help you build something your customers are looking for—a community they can trust.