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Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Volume 16 | # 361
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Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. » Emory Austin

My Kind of Town

There is a small grocery store in my neighborhood that I have referenced on occasion in columns and speeches. Even now, I still sometimes chuckle when I read the name on the front of the store: Food Town. (They didn’t spend a bunch of dough on marketing consultants and focus groups.)

Since it opened, however, I have become an actual fan of the place. For one, they have the cleanest aisles of any store we shop, and there are always employees in the aisles if you need them.

Another local store that is part of a national chain is infamous for having only two registers open to check out. I’ve often waited longer to check out of that store than I did to shop it. And as often as not, the teenaged cashiers seem to be training for a future DMV position.

It’s not unusual to see Food Town with six or seven registers open. And more often than not, the cashier and bagger will actually act like they like what they are doing.

I have found myself on more than one occasion pondering what their secret is. What do these guys do differently? And then, I’ll observe something that reminds me that what makes them special is no real secret.

One such moment happened this weekend. I pulled into the parking lot at around 9:00 AM. It was already a muggy Houston morning. As I got out of my car, a man in shirtsleeves and a tie wished me a good morning as he walked by, pushing a cart. I soon realized that he was the store manager, and he was out there rounding up shopping carts with a high school-age employee.

He was smiling and kidding around and greeting customers coming and going. And the kid was following his lead.

This manager and his assistant managers frequently jump behind a register or into a bagger position when lines back up. I’ve also seen them rearrange cans as they walk an aisle, and there is always at least one in view at the front of the store.

The things about that store that make it stand out are not the store design, products offered, or even their prices. It’s the things affected by the “moving parts” (employees) that stand out.

And it’s clear to see that their managers provide hands-on examples each day of what’s important and how things get properly done.

What examples will you set today?

High Value in Low Tech Marketing

A couple of things recently reminded me that as our lives become more and more connected to computer and cell phone screens, the value of “low tech” marketing is as high as ever.

A few weeks back, I decided to switch my subscription to the Wall Street Journal from the standard delivery to its online publication. Like many folks, I get most of my news off of a computer screen these days.

The online product is also much easier to search, is always with me, has more content, and never gets soaked by sprinklers on my front lawn.

But what has happened was a little unexpected to me. The WSJ has gone from one of only two papers I have delivered to one of dozens of news sites that I sometimes check out. Yes, even though I am paying for a subscription, I find myself using the site no more than 5 other free sites.

Days will go by when I forget to check out the site entirely. And then, I’m only reminded of it when I see a story somewhere else that mentions WSJ.

While the paper that sat on my lawn for a day or two may have sometimes been ignored, it actually served as a promotional flier, keeping the WSJ on my radar, so to speak. But if my new reading habits don’t change, I doubt that I’ll renew the subscription.

Another incident brought old-school marketing to mind this week. One evening around 8:00 PM, my desktop computer gave me the “blue screen of death.”

After the initial gut-punch and anxiety attack waned, I sat there trying to think of whom I’d call. As I reached for my backup laptop to do a Google search, I remembered a local computer repair company that makes house calls.

Besides word-of-mouth, their main forms of advertising are the kind of simple roadside signs that political campaigns use and posters placed on community bulletin boards around town. They stick those things everywhere.

Their name popped into my mind, and I Googled them instead of a generic search. I then emailed their site and got a phone call – after 9:00 PM, mind you - within 5 minutes. The very next morning, there was a technician sitting at my desk, troubleshooting my computer.

Fliers and simple signs aren’t exactly cutting edge communication tools. But in our increasingly high-tech world, they still help us stay on customers’ radars.

Will you show up on their radars this week?

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B. » James Yorke

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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