How Retail Is Killing Itself, and How You Can Prevent This From Happening To Your Small Business

Closing Sale, sale, retail

Sale Sale Sale!

I was flipping through Fortune magazine, and came across an article detailing the fall of retail. This is something that my industry has been talking about for years. The article outlined the following as reasons for the fall:

  • Discounting
  • Space (build a HUGE space, and the masses will come!)
  • The non-recovery (consumers continue to be price sensitive thanks to the 2009 recession)
  • Stunted Evolution (rise of e-commerce leading to modest brick-and-mortar sales)

As a small business, you may be inclined to follow what the big guys are doing. It’s okay, plenty of people fall into this trap. Think about it – when you were younger, you wanted to be like your older sibling and / or you couldn’t wait until you were older. You wanted to emulate the ones older than you because you thought it was cool.

In business, this thought process can kill you. While it’s good to KNOW what the other guys are doing, it’s not so good to DO what the other guys are doing. In fact, it’s probably better to do the opposite.

Here’s how to prevent yourself from killing yourself:

  • DO NOT discount your product or service
  • Stick a stake in the sand and STAND FOR SOMETHING
  • MARKET how you’re different to as many people as possible for as little as possible

Let me elaborate.

1) Every week it seems like the majority of retail stores have some sort of sale on. If you don’t believe me, just go to your nearest mall. The industry is cannibalizing itself by playing to the lowest common denominator. Consumers don’t want the lowest price, they want the BEST VALUE for the BEST PRICE. Don’t get into the game of marking up prices, just so you can slash them and say you have a 50% off sale. Showcase why your prices are where they’re at, and even be as bold to say you don’t have sales. Maybe even pull back the curtain, and outline how a sale isn’t really a sale. Think Apple. They NEVER discount their products. Sometimes on Boxing Day or Black Friday you may find their prices reduced (slightly) by the RETAILER (cutting into the retailers margins, Apple still makes a killing).

2) If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. I’m working with a very savvy small business owner who understands, you may need to piss someone off in order to get your point across about who you are, and what you stand for. When you stand for something, you’re bound to piss someone off because they stand for the opposite. This savvy owner is in the orthotics industry (sexy, I know). Here’s his stake in the sand, “Did you know hardwood floors are ruining your feet, and overall health? Since the latest spike in this trend, I’ve seen drastic spikes in foot, leg, and back discomfort that can be directly related to walking on hardwood floors. While it may be in fashion, it’s anything but fashionable for your body.” Taking on the hardwood floor industry as an orthotics maker – who would’ve thought? I LOVE IT!

3) You need to tell people about your product / service, how it’s different (maybe you refuse to have sales), and you need to do it NOW! Don’t try and be perfect with your message or your offer. Just start doing something (more on that here).

4) Repetition Repetition Repetition. Once you hit someone with your message / product / service you need to do it over, and over, and over again. This is how the brain remembers. Teachers or professors follow this rule while in the classroom. They tell you what they’re going to teach you, teach you it, then review what they’ve taught you. You need to do the same with your business. Repeat Repeat Repeat.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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I’m a small business, how do I compete with the ‘Big Guys’?

big business vs. small business, business, big, small, marketing, branding

Big business vs. Small business

Your small business is so important, although I’m sure you already knew this. It sustains you, and your family, but MORE importantly it supports the community. This past week, I travelled to a few major markets in the US (aka big cities), and noticed something that didn’t bother me at first, but now that it has had time to sink in, really bothered me.

More and more suburbs, communities, etc… are lacking small businesses. Local coffee shops are being replaced or already have been replaced by Starbucks. Community markets are being replaced by Box Store Groceries, and small towns are being replaced by Wal-Mart’s. Big business is quick to scoop up the little guy or over power them, and what’s being lost is authenticity. Even though I travelled to three large cities within a few hours of each other, they all felt the same. Even the small towns along the freeway resembled each other.

Small business is REALLY GOOD for the community

It’s been shown time, and time again the money consumers spend at LOCAL small businesses stays in the community whereas the money spent at a national or international business lines the pockets of someone at a HQ hundreds of miles away (this is usually called the Local Multiplier Effect). Local small business is the backbone of any / all communities. A Wal-Mart in a small town used to be cheered with joy as if to say, “We’re finally on the map!” Now, people are realizing, a Wal-Mart in a small town is a death sentence. It cripples small business, therefore crippling the community. And worse off, after Wal-Mart sucks up all the money, and shutters the local business community, they have no use for the town, and they close up shop. Leaving people unemployed, and towns far worse off than they were before Wally showed up.

In this case, Wal-Mart can represent any big box chain. I’m lucky enough to live in a community where big business, and small business are balanced. If I want to go to the community market, and pick up fresh produce from local farmers, I can do that. If I want a cup of free-trade coffee, from an independent coffee shop, I can do that too. I also have the ability to go to Home Depot or Starbucks, etc…However, I find myself trying to spend more, and more money with the little guy because I know that money stays within the community I live in.

How to compete as a small business

Using the above to your advantage, you can claim, and keep your fair share of business. Here’s what you have, and the big box chains don’t:

  • A face to the name (you own the business, and you’re in the community).
  • The money spent at your business WILL stay in the community.
  • More personalized service.
  • Ability to adjust to a customers needs (big box chains have lines of standardized procedures, you have more flexibility).
  • You can OWN the community when it comes to top-of-mind awareness.
  • You are a small business, so you don’t have to pretend to be a ‘big guy.’
  • And many more…

Based on the points above, here’s how you can capitalize on your small businesseyness (I’m aware this isn’t a word):

  • Put up your picture, with your personal phone number in your establishment (this literally puts a face to the name of your business).
  • SHOW the consumer how the money spent at your business stays in the community (showcase a local event you’re sponsoring or put up a picture of the local farming family where your grocery store gets its produce).
  • Every chance you get say, and showcase how you’re different than the big box store. Don’t be afraid to attack them. You are merely a blip on the big box radar, so you don’t have to worry about retaliation.
  • If I went around the community where your business is located, and asked 100 people if they could recall your businesses name, how many do you think would be able to do it? Now, if I did the same thing for Starbucks, how many do you think would be able to do it? You can improve your top-of-mind awareness within a 10KM radius of your business by splashing your community with marketing. Big business isn’t concerned about the 1,700 households within your community. They’re worried about the masses, so eat into their market share within your community. You can dominate! (More on domination HERE)
  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be open, and honest about who you are to your customers. If you can’t finance like Home Depot, don’t worry about it, just be sure to INFORM your customers why you don’t finance. They will appreciate your honesty, and this will strengthen the bond they have with your business.

You are who you are, and there’s no changing that. You’re more personal than the big box chains will ever be, and you support the community like the ‘big guys’ can’t. Be sure to play this up time, and time again. Besides, everyone likes an underdog.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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3 Ways For Your Message to Spread Like Ebola


Ebola virus magnified

Okay, the title and picture are total click-bait, but that’s the point. We’re talking about the message aka the MOST important part of any communication, whether it be on social media, in-person, in print, on the radio / TV, etc… It can also be seen as insensitive, but that’s up for you to decide. My goal is to create a reaction (good or bad) to my message.

Your message can, and should spread like a disease, and like a disease your message starts with one (patient 0) person / being. In this case, that person is you.

1) Generate early adopters
2) Get them to spread your message
3) Deliver on your promise(s)

Early adopters

These people are vital to the success of your message. These people will carry your message, and pass it along to as many people as possible. Think about the first person that gets sick in your office. Next thing you know, everyone is hacking.

How do you get these early adopters? Find something you can own (an area, demographic of people, city, whatever – more on that here) and OWN it. Start with 10 people. Say you’re a restaurant owner, and you just opened up shop. Go to an apartment building close to you, a few houses, or just grab people on the street. Just get 10 people.

Get them to spread your message

Encourage them to come to your restaurant by giving them a free meal every month as long as they dine with someone else who is paying or something like that. If these people like your offering, and your food, you better believe they will pass on their message to their friends & family. And we all know word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing.

Some quick math: 10 people with a sphere of influence of 150 (it’s been noted that every human has a solid, influential connection with 150 or so people). Say, they influence 5% of their sphere of influence, so 5 people. Bang! There’s 5 new customers, and now you’ve tapped into these new 5 customers sphere of influence. Bang! You get more customers. This is how your message spreads, and it’s also how disease spreads.

Deliver on your promise(s)

You can’t sell a shitty product. If you’re a business owner, you probably think you’re running the best business around, with the best customer service, and the best product. Reality check – YOU’RE NOT. Everyone claims the aforementioned.

Okay, now that we’re past your ego, you need to deliver on the message you’re about to or already are spreading. Back to the restaurant, if you say you’re the only place in town with authentic deep dish pizza, YOU BETTER BE THE ONLY PLACE WITH AUTHENTIC DEEP DISH PIZZA (and it better be authentic).

If you claim, you have the best customer service (you don’t), PROVE IT. If it’s raining, do you walk your customers to their car with an umbrella over their head (now, that’s customer service)?

Is your picture on the wall of your restaurant, so as soon as your customers walk in they know your name, your face, and your number in case they have any issues? A restaurant owner in the US does this, and you’d be surprised at how many calls he gets giving him, and his establishment POSITIVE reviews. They love him! Whatever your message is…deliver on the promise in your message.

Ebola can / will kill you. It delivers on its promise. Your message needs to do the same if you want to have it spread like a virus. In turn, not delivering on your promise could kill you and your business.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

One More Thing – Include Customers In Your Marketing

customer, happy

He’s a fan!

The world is flat. If you want to know what’s going on in Hong Kong, you can find out without leaving your bed. You don’t have to pick up a newspaper, turn on a TV, or exert yourself in any way. It’s at your fingertips. At the same time, you can check the local weather forecast.

Seeing as the world is flat, you can get ideas on advertising from anywhere. If you want your ad to feel, sound, look like it was made in New York. You can do that. It’s sheep leading sheep.

But where do you get your hyper-local content? What’s going on in the community? How do you know? What are my neighbours up to, and why is taking it so damn long to finish their deck?

I was chatting with the in-laws last night, and the topic of local news, and information coverage came up. With international, and national news at our fingertips, where the hell do you get the local stuff? Local media departments are shrinking as it just as easy to get a fluff, national piece from someone in Toronto, New York, LA, etc… and stuff it in. Social media is supposed to help us find what’s happening at the deli down the street, but it’s not. On social media YOU HAVE TO FIND STUFF yourself. Not to mention, the deli shop owner doesn’t have the time nor does he see the value in updating his Facebook page to his 15 fans.

So your ads…

You want to feel local, like a part of the community. That should be one of your goals as a small-business owner (PROFIT is the #1 goal). You’ll probably get more customers from the community you’re in (say, within a 10 KM radius of your shop) then you will all of the surrounding areas combined.

When someone purchases something from you – do you get their name? Do you take their picture? Do you have an idea of where they live? No? Maybe it’s time to start doing it. Ask, “Do you mind if I include you on my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, brochure, flyer, radio ad, print ad, etc…” Make your customer feel apart of something bigger than the single purchase he / she just made.

In Chip & Dan Heath’s Made To Stick (get the damn book) they reference a local newspaper that has a subscription rate HIGHER than the population of the town. We’re talking a newspaper here! Isn’t the newspaper supposed to be dead? Yet this paper not only has every single household as a subscriber, they’re getting subscriptions from former locals who’ve moved out of town.


The publisher uses this motto with his writers, content people, etc… NAMES NAMES NAMES. He wants as many names of LOCAL people in his paper as possible. If he couldn’t get an article with a local person’s name in it…it wouldn’t run in the paper. Where else are you going to be able to get that? NO WHERE, but that community.

You can do the same with your small business. SHOW the masses who’s buying from you. Put it where ever you can (social media, flyers, brochures, a wall in store, get creative). “Here’s John and his dog Scooter who live in SmallVille. Scooter wanted a new toy, so John came by (name of shop). Have fun Scooter!” Or something like that.

People want to buy from businesses, who other people buy from (it’s a psychological thing – think Boxing Day shopping). If I knew John, and saw this…guess where I’d be going to get my next pet toy. If it’s good enough for John, well then it’s good enough for me. If I didn’t like John, I’d probably one up him and buy two pet toys, but that’s just me.

I know a Realtor in Winnipeg who does this with every single one of his customers who purchases a home: He snaps a happy photo of them, in front of the house, with the SOLD sign. And then he shares it with his audience. It’s instant word of mouth. HOW POWERFUL IS THAT?

Love you,