300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Mysterious Friends

Have you performed a self-check on your store lately? If you have just 5 minutes to devote to marketing today–and if you have three friends–reach out to them and ask for some help with a little market research. (Maybe you can use a store gift card as an incentive.)

  1. Ask the first friend to call the bookstore for specifics about an upcoming event.
  2. Ask the second friend to call in search of an obscure title.
  3. Ask the third friend to call with a complaint about a product or service.

Then ask each caller to report back on the following:

  • How many times did the phone ring?
  • Did the employee have a pleasant demeanor?
  • Was the employee helpful?
  • Did they respond to your questions in a knowledgeable manner?
  • Did they empathize with you?
  • Did they have the authority to solve your problem, quickly and to your satisfaction?

Use the results from this research to determine any gaps you might have in employee training and if there are any skills lacking that will aid employees in serving your customers. And remember that even though we don’t want to find areas that need attention, it’s better than being oblivious to them.

It’s ‘Daylight Time’ Again

If you live in an area that observes Daylight Saving Time, you’ll want to remember to move an hour ahead this Sunday at 2:00 a.m. This changing of the clock provides a semi-annual reminder to do all of the little things we do when we ‘spring’ forward. Use your 300 marketing seconds to check the batteries in smoke detectors, check your fire extinguishers to be sure they’re serviced and ready, and check the batteries in your emergency flashlights as well.

In Kansas, we had a statewide tornado drill earlier this week. And we just had the largest wild fire in our state’s history. Aaaaand we’ve grown accustomed to earthquakes. (Bring on the locusts?) Whatever your potential emergency might be, it’s not a bad idea to go over ‘drills’ with your staff. Do they know where to find the fire extinguishers and emergency flashlights? Do they know what to do in weather emergencies? Are they supposed to lock the doors and take the cash to the basement? Do they know what to do if there are customers in the store?

Fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, hurricane… there are so many things that can happen beyond our control. Take a little time to ensure you and your staff are prepared.

The Shelf Life of Shelf Talkers

The Shelf Life of Shelf Talkers

What is the purpose of the shelf talker? I think it allows the bookseller to have a voice for those times when one can’t attend to everyone in the store or when a customer prefers to “just browse” on their own. A well-placed shelf talker can draw attention to a gem of a read and point out to the browser that not only did you take the time to read this book, you also took time to pen your thoughts about it so others might read it, too.

Those amazing shelf talkers are beneficial to all. Until they’re not.

I believe shelf talkers have a shelf life. Well, maybe “shelf life” isn’t the right analogy. Perhaps “shelf space” would be better. There are only so many shelf talkers that will arrest my eye. Too many, and I do not see any — nor do I see the books they are supposed to highlight.

On a recent visit to Minneapolis, I found myself at DreamHaven Books. I think there was only one shelf talker in the entire store. It was printed on 8.5 x 11″ paper and was laminated. And it certainly captured my attention *and* my imagination. So much so that I took this picture of it.

Now, one shelf talker in the entire store is a bit extreme, but I actually prefer it to too many.

Today I recommend that you use your 300 marketing seconds to cull your talkers. Spread them out between the sections and let a variety of booksellers have a voice, but really give some thought to the books you’re highlighting. If a talker has been displayed for years and the employee doesn’t even work there anymore, it’s probably time to retire it to the file.

300 Seconds: Schedule That Auto-Reply

If you plan to be away from the bookstore for Winter Institute or any other extended period of time, it’s a good idea to schedule an auto-reply message for any emails that arrive while you’re out.

Even if you plan to check your inbox while you’re away, go ahead and set up a message anyway. That way you’ll build in a little grace period before you have to reply.

Go ahead and tell your recipient that you’re at a conference just for booksellers and you’re so excited about the ideas and energy you’ll bring back to the store.

Go ahead and tell them about the authors you’re hoping to meet.

Go ahead and tell them about the book you started reading that nearly made you miss breakfast completely.

Bookselling is personal. There’s no reason your auto-reply shouldn’t be, too.


If you need inspiration, here you go: [The Brilliance of the Auto-Reply Message]

300 Seconds: Take This With You to Wi12

As you pack for Winter Institute, I have a little something for you to take along. This blank 2017 calendar.

You know how exciting it can be to visit with fellow booksellers over drinks, to listen to a panel of event coordinators, or to just have a few minutes to think on your own away from the store, right? Rather than jotting down ideas that come to you in a notebook that you’ll have to decipher when you get back home, go ahead and pencil them in on this calendar.

By placing ideas directly onto the calendar, you are one step ahead in the planning process. That way when you decide you want to try hosting a cookbook trunk show in September, a glance at your calendar might remind you that October would be better in order to miss Teacher Appreciation Week.

As you add your brilliant ideas to the calendar, go ahead and include the names of staff required to help execute each idea. Then when you get back to the store, you know who to include in the planning and the burden is distributed among several sets of shoulders.

These blank calendars can also be helpful to keep track of pub dates. If three books you want to review all are going to be released on April 24, knowing that fact can be helpful as you arrange your reading stack.

Finally, a blank calendar that’s not part of your leather bound planner can offer a lot of freedom to schedule, cross-out, erase, and dream freely.

It’s just paper. Make it messy. Dream big.