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Lessons from Trader Joe’s

by Ryan Joy — August 26, 2010

This month’s Fortune Magazine features a wonderful article on Trader Joe’s, and it made me think about the kinds of competitive advantages that are often overlooked.1. Distinctive private brands are a competitive advantage. From “Two Buck Chuck” to “Trader Jose’s” to “Reduced Guilt Potato Chips,” Trader Joe’s does not carry generics; they skillfully craft private brands.2. Culture is a competitive advantage. Employee culture is a source of innovation and authentic customer connection. It’s also a powerful advantage in employee recruiting and retention. Trader Joe’s pays higher than average, encourages creativity and fun, and has built a reputation as being a great place to work.3. Stories are a competitive advantage. Who knew that procurement was such a resource for storytelling? The tales of the Trader Joe’s buyers trotting across the globe to find the most interesting products have become a powerful part of the store’s identity. What are your most potent stories?4. Customer experience details are a competitive advantage. Like any other relationship, your relationship with customers is won or lost in the little things. Trader Joe’s has developed specific, standardized customer service practices, like commenting on a product in your basket as you check out, carrying stickers for kids, and ringing a bell for front end service help. These are practices that flow from an empowered employee culture, and a management team that recognizes a good idea worth spreading.5. Pe...
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Creating Customer Moments

by Ryan Joy — August 5, 2010

So much has been said about experience in retail, that sometimes it seems like a tired, commonplace idea. And yet, when we look around the marketplace, virtually no one is actually implementing a true experiential approach. Experience is the art of creating moments. It is about empathy, thinking creatively from the customer’s point of view to design a better shopping trip, a special eating experience, and an intimate relationship with your customer. So what does an experience-focused store look like?Instead of just working on customer complaints, experience-focused stores work to remove sacrifices customers have come to accept, like standing in line at the check out or walking down long, lifeless aisles in the center store.Instead of regarding events merely as selling opportunities, an experience-focused store stages celebrations of food and community that are anticipated, enjoyed, and remembered.Instead of being satisfied with orderly planograms and stocked shelves, an experience-focused store merchandises to immerse the senses in memorable ways.Instead of narrowly defining product categories, like “general merchandise” and “canned goods”, an experience-focused store thinks of product categories from a customer’s experience, like their “morning grooming rituals” or “quick lunch in the breakroom at work”.Instead of viewing customers solely as rational decision makers, an experience-focused store understands the customer as social, emotional, irrational and rational ...
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Marketing To Your Most Important Customer

by Ryan Joy — July 17, 2010

Question: What is the most important market segment you should be targeting?Answer: Your employees. Good companies aim first to make raving fans within their own team. Employees should be excited to tell your stories, sell your products, and explain how you provide value to customers. If your employee culture is authentic and vibrant, your other customers will feel the magnetism of a special place. Here are five ways to market to your employees:

1. Orientation

Tap into the power of first impressions by creating an experience for new employees that tells them everything you want them to know and feel about your brand. At Whole Foods, the entire team votes to decide whether to accept the new team member—a process that tells employees a lot about the company’s values and culture. New employees at Apple stores are given an iPod to watch movies about the brand, including their famous “1984” commercial. How can your orientation process tell your unique story?

2. Employee-Only Tasting Events

As employees taste your unique products, explain how it was produced and what makes it special. Or give employees a punch card of signature products to try for free on their own time.

3. Names

Why does Trader Joe’s call their store directors “capt...
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Marketing To Your Most Important Customer

by Ryan Joy — July 1, 2010

Question: What is the most important market segment you should be targeting?Answer: Your employees. Good companies aim first to make raving fans within their own team. Employees should be excited to tell your stories, sell your products, and explain how you provide value to customers. If your employee culture is authentic and vibrant, your other customers will feel the magnetism of a special place. Here are five ways to market to your employees:

1. Orientation

Tap into the power of first impressions by creating an experience for new employees that tells them everything you want them to know and feel about your brand. At Whole Foods, the entire team votes to decide whether to accept the new team member—a process that tells employees a lot about the company’s values and culture. New employees at Apple stores are given an iPod to watch movies about the brand, including their famous “1984” commercial. How can your orientation process tell your unique story?

2. Employee-Only Tasting Events

As employees taste your unique products, explain how it was produced and what makes it special. Or give employees a punch card of signature products to try for free on their own time.

3. Names

Why does Trader Joe’s call their store directors “captains” and their employees ...
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On the Subject of Subjects

by Ryan Joy — June 17, 2010

If you’re like most of us, you read less than half of what shows up in your inbox, and only decided to open this email after considering (1) the sender and (2) the subject line. In their book Successful Email Marketing Strategies, Hughes and Sweetser deem subject lines “the single most important element in a promotional email.”1. Use Straightforward Language. Keep it simple and name the email something that lets recipients know what they’re getting. Look for words that clearly convey the benefit you’re offering (the word “coupon” performs well) without being pushy. If it comes across as a sales pitch, it will be deleted immediately. It often makes sense to put the title of the publication at the beginning, as we do with “Idea of the Week”. We’ve also found that descriptive language increases open rates—subjects with words like “sweet” and “local” perform better than those without.2. Avoid Words Typically Rejected By Spam Filters. Words and phrases like “special,” “offer expires,” and even “all natural” often trigger Spam filters and keep your message from ever reaching a customer’s inbox. Other factors include words in all caps, exclamation marks, and the placement of certain words at the beginning or end of the phrase. For instanc...
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Purposeful Marketing

by Ryan Joy — May 6, 2010

No matter how busy you are it’s critical to take the time to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Make it a part of your process to clarify the purpose of each marketing activity, using the five steps below.

1. Identify the purpose of the activity.

What specific business goal do you plan to address or achieve with the project? Try to limit it to one primary purpose.

2. Agree on the purpose of the activity.

Don’t skip this step. Put the purpose of the piece at the top of every planning document. You will need a strong endorsement of the stated purpose from senior stakeholders in order to stay on course when everyone wants a piece of the action.

3. Understand the purpose of the medium.

A direct mailer has different benefits than an ROP ad, which make it a natural fit for accomplishing particular goals. Make the most of your marketing resources by choosing the vehicle that best fits your project’s purpose.

4. Measure success according to the purpose.

Get agreement on the key performance indicators before the project starts, and make sure they measure the success of the stated purpose. If you decided that the purpose of the mailer was to raise awareness of your new Angus beef program, but your meat category manager thought it was to increase ground beef sales for the week, confusion will spread throu...
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Getting to the Point

by Ryan Joy — April 29, 2010

Each year at DW Green Company, we host a positioning workshop on a topic that we believe will benefit our clients the most. This year, we’ll work together with attendees to bring the power of purpose to their marketing and to their brand.

Demanding the fundamental “why?” behind any business practice can alter the activity, eliminate the extraneous, and emphasize the essential. What is the purpose of your website? What is the purpose of your ad? What is the purpose of your brand?While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl contemplated meaning in life. He would go on to write a book on this topic, and concluded that each person has a task. He wrote, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”Extraordinary things can happen when profound questions of meaning and purpose are asked of a brand.

Two Questions to Ask About Your Brand

  1. Why does your brand exist?
At its core, working on your brand strategy is about defining your brand’s purpose, its reason for exist...
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Social Media: So What?

by Ryan Joy — February 4, 2010

A Recap from Part 1:A consultant group we respect recently recommended that companies wait to get involved in social media because there are “no clear and obvious benefits.” While they may not be “clear and obvious,” we believe that the benefits of social media are significant. Here are three of them:

1. Positive Customer Touch Points Build Strong Brands

How many connections do you have with customers once they’re out of your store? Pursuing cost-effective ways to increase the quality and quantity of your touch points with customers is critical in the management and growth of your brand. Social media is a direct vehicle, cutting through the clutter to bring your message to the front of a customer’s mind. It is a positive, memorable, and cost-effective way to reach out to existing customers.With 300 million Facebook users, your customers are already there. Conversations about your brand are happening right now. The question is whether or not you want to join these conversations. Many consumers now expect the level of transparency and interaction that social media provides. They expect to have a voice, and to receive information in the medium of their choosing.

2. The Buzz of Online-Only Offers

...
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Social Media: So What? Part 2

by Ryan Joy — February 4, 2010

A Recap from Part 1:A consultant group we respect recently recommended that companies wait to get involved in social media because there are “no clear and obvious benefits.” While they may not be “clear and obvious,” we believe that the benefits of social media are significant. Here are three of them:

1. Positive Customer Touch Points Build Strong Brands

How many connections do you have with customers once they’re out of your store? Pursuing cost-effective ways to increase the quality and quantity of your touch points with customers is critical in the management and growth of your brand. Social media is a direct vehicle, cutting through the clutter to bring your message to the front of a customer’s mind. It is a positive, memorable, and cost-effective way to reach out to existing customers.With 300 million Facebook users, your customers are already there. Conversations about your brand are happening right now. The question is whether or not you want to join these conversations. Many consumers now expect the level of transparency and interaction that social media provides. They expect to have a voice, and to receive information in the medium of their choosing.

2. The Buzz of Onl...
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Social Media: So What?

by Ryan Joy — January 28, 2010

We’ve previously addressed what social media is and how to get started, yet with anything that’s as hyped as this new platform, the questions that often need addressing are: “Why should I care?” “What does this have to do with my business?” and “What are the benefits?”A consultant group we respect recently recommended that companies wait to get involved in social media because it changes so often, most companies do it poorly, and there are “no clear and obvious benefits.”It is true that many get it wrong and that social media is always changing. This is not a reason to avoid the medium, but a warning to enter social media with a plan, and a commitment to doing it right. Social media is unlike any other platform, so there will always be a learning curve—no matter when you start. It will always be a platform in transition. If you’re waiting for it to stand still, you’ll never get started, and companies who avoid the medium are missing an invaluable opportunity. Consider how websites were perceived in the early 90s. Many companies wondered about the value of having a website, but it quickly became apparent that customers expected them to have an informational website, and that a content-rich web presence would prove to be a valuable business tool. It’s likely that s...
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