300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Choose Just One

This week I had a top-of-the-refrigerator moment. And I’m not even talking about the dust.

It seems that since the refrigerator top is actually a surface, well… it must be filled. Old party trays. Empty muffin baskets. A dishwashing drip pan. A jar of peanut butter. [Sigh.] These items had been collecting for months, yet I didn’t notice them until I was in the middle of giving a tour. [Heavier sigh.]

Today, your 5 minute marketing task is to choose an area in your store you tend to ignore. Here are a few ideas:

  • Light bulbs. We haven’t done this one in a while! Take 300 seconds and look up. Have any of the bulbs expired? It’s time to change them. Try to get this task on your weekly teux-deux list. I know. I know. Your customers do not notice that you keep the store well-lit. But they’ll sure notice when you don’t.
  • Lower shelves. Customers also tend to see the dust build-up on unused and lower shelves. Why do they see it while we don’t? Well, they don’t know not to look in those spaces for books or merchandise.
  • Baseboards. These tend to collect dust and bugs, seemingly overnight. A quick vacuum with one of those fancy attachments should take care of both for a while.
  • Restrooms. If you have a public restroom, you should probably look around the base of the toilet. Is it gross? You’re probably not the only one who feels that way.

We all have areas that are overlooked because we see them daily. You could probably come up with your own list. But why are these labeled as marketing? Perspective and perception follow customers out of your store. We can’t stop it, but we can control it.

It’s just 300 seconds. So choose just one. (You can assign the rest.)

300 Seconds: Done with the blurb? Now handsell.

Once you finish writing the blurb for your new favorite book, take a few minutes (or five) to think about customers with similar reading tastes who would also love the book. Divide the readers on the list into segments defining how to best reach out to them (phone call, text, email, tag in social media). Now you have a plan of attack for hand selling.

Before you talk yourself into thinking this communication is like a cold call, remember this: Your customers appreciate being thought of. They like that you include them on your list of great readers. By telling them about the next great book a few months early, you are performing a service.

Use some of the verbiage and enthusiasm that you included in your blurb in these phone calls, texts, emails or social media tags. Will this outreach take longer than 300 seconds? Maybe. But I promise, the return on investment for any time you spend will be worth it… both monetarily and in terms of customer relationships.

300 Seconds: A Signage Intervention

300 Seconds: A Signage Intervention

The other day I passed a retail establishment that boasted about all of the ‘great gifts for Mom’ available in the store. Mother’s Day had occurred a few weeks earlier, but I understand how we can become blind to the displays and promotions we look at every day, so I mentally granted them a free pass.

Then I saw a restaurant promoting their Easter brunch.

Easter? Come on.

None of the establishments were bookstores. Nevertheless, it’s time for a five minute intervention.

Take 300 seconds today to look at the posters and flyers hanging around your store. Are any out of date? It’s also a good idea to look for any signage that might be rough around the edges. Go ahead and remove them. If you don’t have replacements ready to go, keep the stack you just removed near your design computer and tackle printing the replacements one at a time, as you have 300 seconds available.

Remember to check the front door, foyer, community bulletin board, near the register, etc. Just walk around and try to envision the customer’s perspective, since you might not focus on the details like someone with fresh eyes.

300 Seconds: A Stitch in Time

300 Seconds: A Stitch in Time

“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

There’s a reason old adages have staying power: They’re true, even in this digital age.

Or maybe I should say especially in this digital age. Hardware failure, viruses, ransomware… digital information is susceptible to loss more than ever.

One adage I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks is “a stitch in time saves nine.” I’ve been thinking about it since the morning I opened my laptop only to be met with a blank screen. My tech guy confirmed my fears that my hard drive was shot. The computer didn’t even recognize that a drive was there.

Notice I said “my fears” and not “my worst fears.” Last May when my hard drive putzed out on me, I lost everything. Once my programs we reinstalled, I made a conscious effort to save everything to Dropbox. Because even though my files resided in the ether, I could access them as easily as any other folder on my computer.

This time a few files and downloads were lost, but it took this little hiccup to realize I need to alter a couple more file-saving habits. Because even though I’d been saving files to Dropbox, I didn’t have a reinstallation plan for all of the programs that I use. Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Suite are easily accessible. But some of the other programs I use on a daily basis–GIF Animator, TextWrangler, and FileZilla–are not as easy to grab and install. Oh, I could find them. But it would be a process. And sometimes I doubt I could even begin to remember the NAMES of these programs.

This time, my story has a happy ending. When the new hard drive arrived and was installed, the computer didn’t recognize it either. It wasn’t a hard drive issue after all. So we popped my old drive into a different laptop, and I’m back in business. And even though I didn’t suffer a lot of data loss, I lost an incredible amount of time.

So here’s the “stitch in time” part: My 300 Seconds recommendation for today is to look at the different areas of the bookstore that require back-up.

  1. First, the data: financials, inventory and other POS information, customer database, photos, logos and other store collateral material, employee information.
  2. Now, the software: Can you readily restore any programs that might have been lost, like the Adobe Suite, Microsoft Office, and POS software?
  3. And finally, the miscellaneous: things like printer drivers, passwords, fonts, and the like.

Take these 5 minutes to figure out not only the best form of backup (cloud, external drive, etc.) but also the frequency and who should be responsible for each one. Thinking about these things now might save you from a huge headache in the future.

And an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This is the time to update that media list.

It’s been a little while since we’ve updated our media lists. These lists are not only a great tool for your own use, but also for publicists trying to garner publicity for your bookstore events. It helps save money on postage, duplicate book deliveries, and time if you are able to provide the most current contact information. It should take around 300 seconds to give your media list a once-over.

Give your list a quick glance to see if anyone retired or moved on to a different market. Then take just a few minutes to call those on your list to verify that the contacts you have are still appropriate. If your local newspaper is large enough to have a book page and a children/family writer, be sure to include names for these individual specialties. And news directors at radio and television stations tend to change often, so be sure to call them. For each individual listed, include the name, title, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and mailing address.

Once you’re finished, add an “Updated 04/18/17” footnote, then save it as a PDF. Now the list is ready to send to any publicist who might be sending an author your way. When you send it to the publicist, remind them that this is to replace the previous list. Otherwise multiple books might be sent to one media outlet.

If you have a bit more time to devote to marketing today, it’s also a good time to look at your own press release email list, which should include the names you just updated on your media list, but also weekly, daily, and specialty newspapers in your area. (Here’s an updated list of state, regional and national press associations. Most press association websites have a list of members available to help you build your media list.)

If you email media releases, errors can leave a long-lasting digital trail. Be sure to look at the reports from the latest releases you’ve sent, especially the bounce report. Some emails bounce because a mailbox might be full, or the recipient’s email service might have some other temporary glitch. But if an email address consistently shows up in the bounced field, the media person has probably moved on or you have a bad address. A quick web search or a phone call will yield the correct address for press releases.