Marketing, Personal Growth

Double Sales in 12 Months

Pancake - Crepes with berries, mint and honey

That’s a hoax, right? It depends.

Consider this.

The art of making crêpes in our family has evolved over years. Our kids love them, and Sunday morning breakfast at the Ahlmann house is often an event.

Until recently, my crêpe-making technique was pretty good. I used a recipe from allrecipes.com, tips from friends, and crêpe-specific pans. The result was a good product, baked two minutes on one side and one minute on the other, on medium-low heat, with occasional additions of butter to the pan.

Then Rachel discovered the crêpe section in the masterpiece cookbook by Julia Childs. Julia, a legend for her translation of French cuisine to the American kitchen, spent decades learning her craft in France. Based on her wisdom, we made the following improvements:

By using sunflower oil with a higher burning point than butter, we can increase the temperature of the pan to medium-high. Oil is applied to the pan before each crêpe using a paintbrush. The result is better surface texture, and crêpes that finish in a minute and a half instead of three. That’s no big deal on one crêpe, but adds up on 40. In fact, it means one hour cooking time instead of two, with a better product.

Had you suggested I could double production while increasing quality, I would have doubted it. I had worked on the craft for years, and what else was there to learn?

So, can you double sales in 12 months? It depends. But I know that a few hard-earned, easily-transferred tips from a pro can double the rate of crêpe production in ten minutes.

Christian

Ps. Chet Holmes did not, as far as I know, have any interest in crepes. But he did write a book on the 12 steps he used to double sales at hundreds of companies. It’s called The Ultimate Sales Machine, and it’s available at Amazon.com.
Pps. If you don’t already follow this blog by email, you can subscribe on the website when the box pops up. Then you won’t miss a thing! (Or, if the box is too confusing, just email us so we can add you to the list: Christian@SixSigmaRanch.com)

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Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Strategy

How to Get Destroyed by Wal-Mart and Amazon.com (or not.)

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Our recent Airstream acquisition has allowed me to patronize stores that I hadn’t considered before. “Black water” tank sanitizer tablets, for example, were not part of Ahlmann family vocabulary before last week, nor had I ever installed a brake controller or shopped for a locking hitch ball, a clever device intended to keep unapproved folks from hitching up your rig without your permission. (This is particularly relevant if you’re sleeping in it.)

It was the locking hitch ball adventure that made me wonder if local shops in small-town America stand a chance. I first purchased said device at Wal-Mart, because I was in a hurry and already picking up diapers, but the hitch lock didn’t fit. Sensing a need for expert advice, and frankly for emotional support, I pulled into a local RV Service and Parts purveyor. “Yeah, we don’t sell a lot of those,” said the man behind the counter, clearly more interested in replacing a black water tank than helping me solve the problem. “Of course you don’t,” I thought to myself on the way to the door. “You don’t sell them when you don’t carry them!” But I saved this insight for a more receptive audience, and went to the second RV shop where…

…they didn’t carry them either. I was apparently the only one in town concerned that someone would hitch up and steal my house, except for the folks at Wal-Mart who carried the item for “houses” of a different size. But at the second shop they offered to order one. Fine, I thought. Never mind that I can order one from Amazon myself. Here I can at least get help to find the right size, and still have a chance at that emotional support I came for in the first place.

But alas.

To the owner of this store, it wasn’t clear from the catalog which size would be most appropriate either. And the frustration this caused him eliminated all chances of emotional support. So I politely excused myself after 20 minutes of strolling dusty aisles of tank valves and pre-LED RV lighting fixtures.

Amazon.com, you win.

Or do they?

In a nearby town, the 3rd owner of the local bike shop greets his customers at the door. He creates community by offering guests a soda while he works on their bike. He leads rides from the shop, and coaches the high school bike team. He offers professional-style fitting sessions for a fee, and builds customer relationships like a refined politician.

Are local shops in small-town America toast? Not until Amazon.com learns how to build community, fix bicycles and coach the local bike team. In the mean time, opportunities are alive and well for small shops that do business right.

Christian

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Marketing, Uncategorized

Strangers, Friends, and Donald Trump

 

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I walked into a coffee shop last week to write for this blog. A lady sat at a table next to me, and began working on her computer. After a decade in Lake County, I know a lot of faces, but this was a stranger. We typed in harmony for the duration of a cup of coffee. Then she got up for more coffee, and asked me to watch her computer and bag while she was gone. I nodded, and went back to work.

It’s interesting that I had, in less than an hour, become a trusted resource to protect her belongings. It’s not that I wouldn’t ask the same of her, but neither do I pretend that asking a stranger to watch my stuff makes any sense. In fact, if I were the sort of person who runs off with other people’s laptop-filled messenger bags, this is exactly the scenario I would seek out: Sit at a coffee shop next to someone, and wait for them to ask that I watch their stuff. Then calmly wander off with it. That would be much less suspicious than walking in off the street in search of loot, like the type of person from whom my typing companion was clearly enlisting me to save her.

And yet, somehow, the hour we spent together (in silence) had created rapport.

The idea that strangers become trusted friends based on exposure is well understood by marketers and campaign managers. Why else would a company like Coca Cola spend millions posting pictures of their logo? Why should you pitch that booth at the farmer’s market each week? And why would Hilary Clinton post signs that simply say “Vote for Hilary?” Because it works.

We get more customers by being visible. We get more votes by putting up more signs, or showing up more on the news. Donald Trump gains trust from years on reality TV, whether he makes any sense or not. And Hilary gets a boost because we’ve known her since Bill got elected in 1992. But I still wouldn’t trust her to watch my bag at a coffee shop.

Christian

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Marketing

The $0 Small-Business Hack for Increased Sales

coffee-house-large  I know everything you ever wanted to know about scheduling unreliable staff. I also know more than most about the drama of relationships between 20-somethings in small-town California.

Why?

Because those topics are discussed at length behind the counter of my local coffee shop. The stream of chatter among the baristas is interrupted just long enough to take my order and my money, and then it’s back to in-the-know gossip while my espresso brews.

The scene is harmless, really, and it happens so often in most coffee shops, tasting rooms and farmer’s markets, that I hardly notice it.

But it’s a real shame. Because while I stand there unengaged, I could instead be connecting with the staff, if they invited it, and add a cookie to my order. I could be supplying my email address for their list in response to a smiling request, and I could be increasing my emotional connection to the establishment.

The Walt Disney Institute, the brains behind Disney’s industry-leading guest experience, trains staff to consider the difference between “On Stage” and “Off Stage.” The concept is obvious: When guests can see you, you’re on stage. You control their experience, and it better be good.

Disney then designates an off-stage area. That’s were the customers can’t see or hear the staff, and that’s where the discussions of staffing, weekends and baseball games should take place.

When defined and executed properly, the result of on/off stage is increased customer engagement, increased sales, and increased word-of-mouth referrals, all at a cost of $0. Does that sound too good to be true? I bet the response from highly engaged customers will prove otherwise.

Christian

ps.  Thank you guys for following along, sending your comments and signing up by email.  We love the topic of small business in agriculture, and we love having this conversation with you about it.

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