300 Seconds

Book Club Democracy

Book club selections can be a tricky business. We want to make sure our groups are reading great books, but we also want them to feel like they have a say in the selection process.

The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana, has been blending the two selection methods for a couple of years now. “We pick a selection of books and customers can vote on what they want to read for book club,” explains Carson Evans, events coordinator for the store. “We have an in-store display with paper ballots, but we found that we could get twice as many votes cast if we made a web version.” They created a web form with checkboxes on their website with the same selection of books, so participants can vote either in the store or online.

The store uses this process for their main County Bookshelf book club, and they only have the selection process once a year, usually around March or April. “We tally the votes and then make the book club schedule for the whole next year,” says Evans.

Creating an online ballot is very simple (and free) with Google Drive. I created this quick example using titles from the Man Booker long list as my selection pool. Creating the form was as easy as logging into Google Drive and selecting “new” and then “form.” I could insert as many questions as I wanted. I chose to do four different questions: 1) a checklist of book selections, 2) participant’s name, 3) a question asking how often the participant attends book club, and 4) email address. I then added the form title and subtitle, then selected “embed,” which gave me the code to paste here.

300 Seconds: We can hear you.

I mentioned yesterday that I did a bit a shopping during the last week to get the girls ready for school. One store in particular is on my mind because of this series of events that occurred during the 10 minutes we were there.

As we walked in and began browsing, the two sales people behind the desk were discussing the work ethic of a third co-worker. A young woman walked in and asked for an application. One of the employees handed her a blank application and asked, “Would you like to see the manager?” The woman agreed, so the employee walked to the back room to tell her manager that someone was applying for a job and would like to see her. The manager, clearly agitated, asked, “Did she ask to see me?” She walked out front and met the applicant, and both were participants in an awkward conversation. Afterward, the applicant left, the manager returned to the back room, and the two employees began to discuss the physical attributes of the young woman who had just applied. And then they proceeded to discuss their plans for the evening.

10 minutes. We were there for 10 minutes.

Today, take half of that time to remind your staff: We can hear you.

If you are working the floor, we can hear you. If you are in the back room, we can hear you. If you are on the phone, we can hear you.

300 Seconds: The Shopping Experience

I did a little bit of shopping this week to help the girls prepare for another school year. I tend to be a get-home-as-fast-as-I-can girl, so shopping is among my least favorite things to do. But as I traveled from store to store, I saw little things each business could have done better in terms of marketing and customer service. I’ve decided to write about some of them this week. Some might be reminders of what we’ve talked about before. Some might be different. All can be accomplished in 5 minute increments.

Today’s is a reminder: light bulbs. Take 300 Seconds to look up today. Are any of your light bulbs burned out? Are they flickering or buzzing? These are things that customers tend to overlook when they’re working perfectly, but they’ll certainly take note when they’re not.

The first three stores I visited had light bulb issues. The fourth was dark, so I assumed it did too. But no, it was just dark. Which brings me to another item to consider. I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that for most people, their eyes begin to change around the age of 40. I started wearing reading glasses after I turned 42. Now that I’m 47 I not only need reading glasses to see, I also need light.

If you have any corners or nooks that are especially dark, you might think about adding floor or table lamps to help older eyes. Bookstores offer the perfect atmosphere for task lighting, and lamps can really add some artistic ambience to the store.

If you are proud of your current use of lamps and light fixtures, I’d love it if you’d send an image so we can share ideas with other bookstores. Send images of any lighting treatments to beth.golay@booksandwhatnot.com, or text to 316-208-3438.

300 Seconds: Update Your Staff Picks

If you promote staff recommendations, favorites, or reading lists on your website, take 300 Seconds to update your site with your latest recommendation today. If you feel daunted because you haven’t made an update since 2012 (you know who you are), just list your 2 or 3 most recent titles. Anyone visiting your site will see the new content and will probably not notice the gap. You can fill in past titles as you think of them.

The reason it’s important to keep your recommendation page somewhat updated is to establish trust between a bookseller and a reader. And if content appears fresh, a user will likely return more often to see what you’ve read lately.

I treat my “What I’m Reading” page like a journal, and I like to look back through the years and remember when and where I read each title. Although I have some updating to do, this really is the most comprehensive reading list I have. If my server were to fail, I’d probably lose it all. (I have not confirmed this fear with Kenton.) So whenever I make an update to my page, I copy and paste the content to a Google Doc housed in the cloud. It’s probably overkill, but if I ever lost this list I’d be a little sad.

300 Seconds: Online Newsletter Promotion

When considering digital tools and content for customer outreach, an email newsletter has greater reach than any other digital or social media tool. Today, take 300 Seconds and make sure there’s a way to sign up to your email newsletter from your website.

The best practice is to embed a sign-up form directly on your home page. Most of you use Constant Contact, and the “Sign-Up Tools” link is just under the “Add Contacts” link on your dashboard’s home tab. Click on the “actions” drop down menu, grab the embed code and paste it into a new block on your home page. All new sign-ups are automatically linked to your mailing list in your Constant Contact account.

If your email marketing program does not provide sign-up tools, you can always create and embed a free form using Google Forms. The downside is that you’ll have to manually enter all of the email addresses from the new sign-ups. But the positive side is that you’ll have fewer missed opportunities to cultivate new customers.