Disaster Recovery Should be Planned BEFORE, Not After, You Have Become a Victim

August 30, 2011

Hurricanes and storms are not matters that should be taken lightly. While some were hardly affected by the recent storm, Irene, there were many devastated. While what is most important is the safety and well being of your family, the day after is when the work begins. You can be prepared when you remember the following:

Power. Many of us today cannot run without it very long, but we can make do by planning.

The fact is, a generator is almost a must have today. Unfortunately most stores are sold out of generators almost a week before any major storm is within reaching you. In the case of a hurricane, you have a warning and perhaps some time to prepare however, in most cases, it is still too late.

Now is the time to get an electrician and identify what power sources you need and how you could accommodate a power outage.

Some say, who would order flowers where there is  a hurricane?

The fact is usually as soon as the hurricane passes the skies open up and, weather wise, it is like nothing ever happened.

True story: We once had a hurricane come through and although it passed us by, we lost power for almost a week! It was only our block. On Monday morning, the rest of the town (and the country) was back to work. If we did not plan for disaster recovery, we would not have been able to be available for our customers. Especially out of town people calling in orders. Do you really want them calling someone else?

By securing your refrigeration, and your phone and computer lines, you can continue to do business in case your time without power is excessive.

When setting up your generator you need to consider a pig tail connection to your circuit box.

This large connection I am holding plugs into the generator and an electrician would make a temporary connection to your circuit box to power your inside coolers and/or lights or air conditioning. Again, this must all be thought out and calculated in advance. Do it once and you won’t have to think about it again. The other generator we use is for our telephones. We keep the POS off and work manually using carbon paper and John Henry order forms. It works. We use minimal power. If you can’t power everything up, the most important would be your coolers and phones. This way you can speak directly to your customers. If you choose to power your POS, you can have your calls forwarded and sent to your printer from your afterhours service. The best way to do this is to call your phone company and ask that they forward your BTN (Business Telephone Number) to whatever number you wish to use. This way the calls are forwarded from the phone company not your shop. Many people have auto forwarding if they can’t answer the phone. But remember, if you don’t have enough power, you can’t forward the calls.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share with you as many of us are in hurricane season, and with the changing of seasons, we get changes in weather. You can never be too cautious. I spent a good part of the day after this past hurricane trying to hunt down generators for florists up north. It is amazing how helpless you feel when there is no power. It is almost guaranteed hat in most areas where storms do it, power outage is the longest recovery issue.

Be careful and feel free to email me if you have more ideas or experiences you would like to share with fellow florists.

Thanks,

Art.

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2011 Holiday Brochure Just Released And Is Now Available!

August 26, 2011

What a summer we have had!  After last Mother’s Day, the frustration of retail florists lead to a very positive meeting in Las Vegas, as the group Florists for Change was formed.  I’ve never had so many shops call, ready to do something different and move forward.  This brings to mind Albert Einstein’s quote, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” because it holds so much truth.

The typical retail florist has lost the local brand.  The local flower shop was becoming nonexistent, being replaced with fulfillment centers.  This seemed to be where the future was pointing.  Florists have woken up and have agreed that we have control of this, and that it is time to bring awareness to the local flower shop.

What are we doing to help?

* Let’s begin with a FREE verified listing on http://www.localflowershop.com/florists/getListed.cfm for starters. Track the results and see how many orders you will get!  This is something you can do right now.

* How about a holiday selection guide to insert in local newspapers and mail to your customers?  You can now purchase as few as 1000 brochures, or thousands more to insert in your local newspapers. Remember, direct mail is just that, and works well, but inserts cover you entire community, and that is where you can get new business.

What do you market for? Orders or Engagement?  

* Engaging customers… Today more than ever, we need customers engaged in our businesses.  Earning the trust of your consumer will lead to future orders.  We have found that a conservative value of a customer is $240.00 a year (4 orders per year at $60.00 each).  It’s just that florists have trouble tracking the orders after the first one is placed. Call me if you would like assistance with this!

* Containers…. how about a collectable?  After all, how many containers do we need for a holiday? We have partnered with Spode this year and developed an oversized, hand-painted train that is individually numbered and delivered in a keepsake box.  Like most gifts in your store, it is a keystone markup and, most important, it is unique to you.  We have committed to offer another one next year, and the following year as well!  We are developing a series to encourage customers to come back again next year.  With over 2,000 already sold, and the minimum being only 12, how can you afford not to have it for your store?  You will also be codified at localflowershop.com, and listed on conforticollection.com where we will NEVER sell to the public.  Your listing and contact information will appear there. Take a look for yourself!

Best of all, if you release a brochure of only flowers, anyone can fill the items. Using the train as your focal point, your local customers must come to your shop to purchase it.  It makes your print exclusive from everyone else’s.  Think about it… the minimum is just 12!

You’ll also receive all the information for a coloring contest for local schools to participate, and all the how-to’s you need, with step by step instruction.

So, you want change?  You want local?  We are not talking, we are acting!  You can choose to be a spectator and wait for change, or get on the field and create the change you desire.

The rest is up to you!  Thanks for taking the time to read this and consider these ideas.  I truly welcome your calls if you have questions, or just want to chat.


What is the worst thing an unhappy customer can do to you? Not letting you know they are unhappy.

August 19, 2011

Are you prepared for the unhappy customer? The customer that is disappointed (for whatever reason) in your product or service?

Be sure to include resolution options in your guidelines to handling customer service issues. Many shops take it personally and defend the issue as if it was a personal failure. The truth is, the customer is not happy with your shop. They may not even come in to see you about it. They are made at your company and the voice on the phone, nothing more. Keep the focus on the subject and a resolution.

In many cases, winning an argument is the equivalent of winning a battle when you are truly losing the war. Don’t allow a $40-$50.00 (or whatever the $$$ is) bad ad to be placed about your shop.

Be pro active. If you don’t have one yet, you may want to consider a customer comment card with every delivery. You can get these at Beneva Solutions (Click Here) for as little as .10 each. These cards lead your recipients to an online survey they fill out and a chance to get 5 or 10.00 after completing the comment as a thank you from your shop. IT ALSO COMES WITH and detachable THANK YOU card to be mailed back to the sender!

 

You can’t lose. For just .10 you

a) Provide the chance for a customer to voice any complaint or issues at hand

and

b) Give them a Thank You card to send back to the sender. You are making your customer look good.

 

No matter what you do, pro active training is the first step you should take. Make sure your employees realize a complaint is not a problem, it is an opportunity to improve your business. The fact that they tell you gives you a chance….if they didn’t you potentially could have lost a customer and never knew it.

A quick story…about 14 years ago, I was reading the reviews and the comment someone wrote was that they received a fruit basket and it smelled like an ash tray. What a HORRIBLE feeling that was. I found out it was a new driver and they smoked while loading the van. The smoke got in the van and this was the result. Now, not only do we not allow any smoking in our delivery vehicles (which we never did) we do not allow ANY smoking in the delivery areas at all. Who knows how much longer this would have happened before I found out. The comment card was the difference. It make our business better. WELL worth .10!

We are wrapping up our comment card order Friday, 8/19. If you would like to have some customized, please feel free to call us at 866-768-2420.


Constructive Changes?

August 12, 2011

What is the true agenda here? What are our objectives?  There are so many areas in our industry that require attention and improvement for us all to benefit together. It’s time that we agree that we need to make constructive changes, pick a course and follow it!

With so much talk about wire services, are they really the root of the problem? When used as a clearing house, I have trouble finding fault in what they do. I guess if you send 20 orders a month it doesn’t matter much, but isn’t your goal to send more and to do more? Then what would you do? I don’t think this is the real issue here.

The industry has become very complicated for many. Wire services and national marketers such as Pro Flowers, 1-800-FLOWERS, Teleflora, and FTD have taken over the majority of orders and it’s simply due to marketing.  It’s all in the game of how products and services are presented to the consumers.  How are we supposed to compete with that?  Take DesMoine, IA for example.  Boesen the Florist  owns Des Moines because they earned it! They branded their name, marketed it, and flat out stepped up to the plate to claim their territory by taking calculated risks and involving themselves in their local market. For anyone who still questions the power of marketing I ask you this…Do you really believe the #1 selling hamburger in the world is the best tasting? Do I even have to ask you who has sold more hamburgers worldwide? Is a McDonalds hamburger even healthy?  What about happy meals? Are they in the toy business? There is a lot to be learned here. They want to sell us and our families’ food. They will go to all extremes to connect with us whether it is through our kids, or any other interests they have studied that families enjoy. THAT is their marketing.

McDonalds is an example of product made successful by superior marketing.

In our case…

The most beautiful designs are offered by our shops in this day and age. I am so proud of what we have to offer as retail florists and to top it off, same day delivery!  These two things equal amazing quality and service. People will pay for these if they KNOW it is available to them, FROM YOU! But how will they know? We need to step up our marketing efforts to bring attention to what we do so well.

Retail florists are becoming mad and frustrated! Many are screaming for a way out of the hole, but it will take learning new behavioral patterns for them to see the light. Obviously, if they are in a hole, what they did in the past didn’t work, so it’s time for a positive change.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”-Albert Einstein

The focus from the florists seems to have deterred from the core of our being, our flower shops, to complaining about everything else. My motto is to focus on the positive of my competence, confidence, quality and ability to believe in myself and my company. Wasting time complaining about the wire services is only taking away from the time that I should be spending thinking of ways to build my core business. There are so many options for advertising and a great one is to find your own niche, a simple thing to make you stand out from everyone else.  We are all entrepreneurs and it’s time we all start looking within for the credits instead of constantly looking out for others’ faults.

A possible solution?

I believe that working together to set some general guidelines would be a great place for us all to profit. For instance:

1.  Setting standards across the board that not one of us will ever overpromise and underdeliver. In other words, don’t advertise a product that isn’t actually being sent. Customers get upset and it reflects on the entire industry.

2.  Build realistic parameters for standardization that we can all follow.

a.  One option is to make sure that all same day delivery orders consist of “staple” flowers.

b.  Make sure each shop always keeps the same “staple” flowers in stock.

3.  Market together as a whole and cut costs on advertising as individual shops.

In my opinion, I believe we all have the solutions to our “across the board” problems within ourselves and it is time that constructive ideas are brought to the table to make positive changes.  Quite frankly, I am way too busy to spend time complaining about things that are out of my control. On the other hand, I have plenty of time to champion constructive, positive ideas to make our industry today productive and prosperous for all of us! This is a roundtable I would love to join. How to standardize and develop realistic programs we can all participate in for the ability to send and receive orders in all price ranges that make sense and profit for all.

Consider implementing a simple program I have introduced to many florists, the YES WE CAN commitment. Let’s begin with how we are to accomplish the requests of our customers removing the answer NO as an option.

Do you really know your customer? This is where you can start your plan. If you have a survey at your shop for all three experiences below then you are, at best, part of the 25% who really do know. 1 out of 4 florists have surveys for all three experiences (at best).

#1 The experience at the counter (Your walk in)

#2 The phone in order. How are your phones really answered? Do you ever lose an order? Do you even know if you do?

#3 Online.  Do people really like your website? Does it keep them coming back for more? Does it have more value than your competition? With 60% of all transactions having at least looked at your website, I would imagine you want it as unique as the rest of your retail flower shop.

If you want a survey for your shop and orders, we have affordable choices at Beneva Solutions. If you have another option then by all means use it, but we never allow a design to go out our door without a comment card attached for the recipient. It indicates, WE CARE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE. After all this is not necessarily your customer, it is the recipient.

Remember to market for LTV (Lifetime Value). It’s not the immediate order you get from your ad, it’s the relationship and repeat orders that will make the effort profitable.

I have a formula for LTV (Lifetime Value) of a customer. If you would like me to send it to you, I would be more than happy to, and it’s FREE to use!  Click here to contact me.

If I wasn’t recovering from knee surgery, I would definitely be there to join all of you in addressing these and more issues. I really hope the intention is to work smarter and develop a better way to retail flowers with the understanding of what we did before it is no longer the best and most practical way to operate.

Keep your eye on the road…

Remember, a curve in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.

I wish you the best of luck and look forward to hearing from you.


Every story deals with Marketing.

August 5, 2011

Marketing…. No matter what story I share, it seems they always begin or end with marketing.  As many of you are already aware, I recently had knee replacement surgery, which is accompanied with a few nights’ stay at the hospital.  What caught my attention while I was there was the effort from local church representatives stopping by and letting me know I was thought about.  I am actually registered in 3 churches, and each one seemed to have their own designated visiting day.  They stopped in, (checked me off the list) and found idle subjects to talk to me about. What was interesting is the amount of time they stared before they realized I was “the flower guy.” The first visitor was from the first and main church I attend almost every other week.  The others I attend fall into place in my schedule depending on when they hold mass.  My visitors generally offered communion and basically added me to their prayers. This is what is so interesting…. they are marketing. Marketing and sales doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t mean you’re making people do something they don’t want to. Yet, in the flower industry, we don’t seem to like to touch anything we don’t see an instant return on.

 

We are in a wonderful business that means so much to so many people   We offer and create what most people live for: memories!  How could you not want to get customers back in your door?  How can we even think for a moment that the race is to get that $19.99 chop and drop in your shop from Miami?

 

My churches were indeed marketing. They could have added us to a list and simply prayed. They chose stop by and say hello. There are, I am sure, many recipients on those lists that may not have anyone to visit them. The church is all they have. It reminds you that your church is here for you.

 

When I shared my summer customer retention program with other florists, where we call and thanked people for doing business with us and asked if there is anything we can do better serve them, 25% of the florists wanted to make those customers buy now. They wanted to give them a “take it or leave it” offer. My friends, we are in new markets. Trust, engagement and retention is all there is left. If you trick them, but it results in an order, you’ve now lost trust. Now, your customers will always be on alert to ask,”what else?”

 

Be careful, and try to identify just how creatively you can get your customer engaged without feeling like they’ve been manipulated.