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Lisbiz Strategies: Add email marketing to your digital strategy

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoDigital marketing uses online channels and methods that allow you to analyze what is and isn’t working. Because we’re talking about electronic media, this analysis can be done immediately. You can make changes on the spot if something isn’t working, which is not always possible with every marketing channel.

When I was in the retail business, I used weekly newspaper campaigns and never knew whether the customer had actually seen my advertisement. We would ask if they had seen our ads and most could not remember. Oftentimes they would tell us about a competitor’s advertisement thinking it was ours. This was just more money sent down the drain. However, this doesn’t have to happen if you plan your campaigns and stay on top of the statistics.

You’re probably incorporating Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into your digital strategy, but when and how often do you post? Do you check your statistics? Do you only post when you have a sale?

You must be consistent to get results, regardless of the methods you use. You have to determine how often you want to post and then schedule it. You need a long-term campaign to determine what to send and when. All of these digital channels have a way for you to check how you’re doing.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.02.05 AMMany think email marketing is old. However, it is very sophisticated if done right. What’s more, email marketing ensures your content is going directly to a known customer who wants to hear from you. You just need to have good subject lines and interesting emails.

According to Wordstream, 80% of retail professionals indicate email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. Another statistic, according to MarketingSherpa, states 91% of people actually enjoy receiving promotional emails, with 61% stating they would like to receive them weekly and 15% wanting them daily.

Following is what you need to do to make your email marketing work:

Have good subject lines. The subject line is the first thing your customer will see when she checks her emails. Make sure your subject lines catch her attention and spark curiosity.

Segment your customers. Don’t send the same emails to all your customers. Different customers have different needs so when you put customers in your database, choose the appropriate category. I know you’re saying, “Do I have to do all this work?” Using a technique called data mining will help you determine buying and pricing for a specific group of customers. This is what the supermarket does with the information from your special discount card. They find out who you are and what you buy. Then they target you with special offers.

Check your open and click- through rates. If your emails aren’t getting opened, you need different subjects. There’s no reason for a click through unless there’s something to read. Always have some type of offer for the reader.

Keep the focus of the email on the customer, not yourself. All customers want information to help them solve a problem, even if it’s five ways to cook tomatoes. You need to know your customers and their angst. You know, what keeps them up at night? Be personal, be yourself, be trustworthy.

Keep trying. Not everything you write will be a hit. But every time someone says, “I love those articles I get,” you’ll know you’re on the right track.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Al's Column: Avoiding the pitfalls of poor estate planning

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Roman Basi

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMIn my previous column, “Estate Planning: Leave it to the pros,” (FCNews, Sept. 11/18), I explained—citing several recent real estate tax cases—how unqualified advisors can potentially cause a host of problems for their clients. Despite having expertise in other areas, some attorneys, accountants and other professionals that do not specialize in estate planning can do more harm than good. In this installment, I will cover some of the financial repercussions of poor estate planning.

Choosing an unqualified person or firm to handle your estate planning can result in unforeseen financial consequences. The IRS has recently stated that for all 2017 cases attorney’s fees awards will remain at $200 per hour. This may or may not seem like a significant amount to some; however, the ramification is that if someone brings an action against a professional, that person may be subject to paying the attorney’s fees of the claimant at a higher rate than what they were paid to have the work completed in the first place.

And yet, while we caution everyone on proper planning, it does appear that our current system works well for encouraging charitable contributions. A report recently stated that over 2,600 estates with a net worth of approximately $61 billion made charitable contributions in their estates. This amount was a tax deduction for the estates and the government did not receive taxes in the range of $27.4 billion. It appears the estate tax law does in fact provide a substantial means by which charitable organizations can be funded. This is one key reason why charitable organizations do not want the estate tax to go away. If the estate tax did not exist, it appears that the donations to these organizations would decrease substantially as there would be no incentive to give as estate taxes would not be lowered.

Estate planning is very important to all of us as long as the estate tax law is in existence in the U.S. As a matter of fact, the IRS has recently released information about how important the estate tax is to the U.S. Over 11,917 estate tax returns were filed in a recent year. Of the taxable estates, 13.5% did not owe taxes, but the remainder owed estate taxes such that the total amount produced income to the U.S. Treasury of $17.09 billion. (And this is only for one year.) An interesting breakdown of the assets on the tax returns showed that traded stock, state and local bonds, cash and closely held stock and real estate—other than a personal residence—amounted to a total value of $60.12 billion.

Bottom line: Don’t put off creating an estate plan. And once you have created one, be sure to keep it current as your situation changes and as laws pertaining to estate taxes change. More importantly, use qualified professionals who specialize in estate planning. Remember, the Center has specialists that stay current with the tax laws and specialize in estate planning.

Be sure to attend my presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at TISE, where I will discuss different ways to reduce your taxes and protect your assets. Following my session, I will be available for free, 30-minute consultations.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners. For more information, please visit taxplanning.com.

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Retailer2retailer: Having the real thing for a few dollars more

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Scott Perron

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.48.41 PMOver the last several years a significant trend has occurred: Millions of square feet of carpet is being replaced by hard surfaces. The look of hardwood has always been desirable in the U.S. and now there are many categories that offer the many visuals found in real wood, including tile, laminate, luxury vinyl plank and WPC.

Although similar in appearance, no item can replace the real thing when it comes to overall beauty and visual impact. Clearly there are challenges with regard to moisture resistance or maintenance of hardwood and laminate, which have paved the way for products such as LVP. For hardwood-centric retailers, the key to maintaining wood’s share of the market is to present the category with greater confidence, explaining to the consumer that she can have the real thing “for a few dollars more.”

We have found—in both wholesale supply and residential replacement—the key always comes down to educating the consumer or contractor on the options they have at their disposal. Quite often, however, retailers and distributors do an inadequate job of training staff members so they can be well versed when recommending these products for consumer use. Make it a goal to educate your staff on the construction, maintenance, warranties, application, preparation and proper installation of hardwood floors.

For those retailers selling and installing hardwood flooring in parts of the country where moisture or climate can affect the product, be especially diligent to send your estimators, sales professionals and installation teams to the many classes offered by your local supply houses, distributors and industry associations. In these affordable classes attendees will learn valuable information that can save you tens of thousands of dollars—even hundreds of thousands of dollars, in some cases—over the long term. In addition, these skills will build confidence in your team and set you apart from others in our field who are simply being penny wise and dollar foolish.

Accessories as a profit center
In addition to learning the proper procedures under the manufacturer’s warranties for installing their products (i.e., mitigating moisture, crack suppression and proper adhesion) my recommendation is to add on additional services such as wall base/casing installations, painting and maintenance services.

Here at 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros, for example, we sell a large amount of wall base in proportion to our contemporaries simply because we stock the materials and provide custom painting of the product before it arrives at the consumer’s home. More important, we offer it to every customer at the time of sale. Internally, we estimate that for every 1,000 square feet of hard surfaces sold, there is an opportunity—on average—for 300 lineal feet of new trim, shoe molding or quarter round to be added on.

Are you looking to raise your average ticket with little effort? Then I suggest you sell trim on every job and incentivize your RSAs to do so while proving to your customer and their potential referrals that you are the experts in your market.

 

Scott Perron is the president of 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also an industry trainer and motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.

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Marketing mastery: Cut the rope to finally grow your business

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Third of three parts)

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMIn the first two parts I compared a flooring dealership to a hot air balloon. It wants to float up into the sky but a rope is anchoring it to the ground. The rope represents the amount of hours you can physically work in your business. By cutting the rope, your business can grow and you can work less. In part two, I explained two out of the five keys to cutting the rope. Here are the final three.

Key #3: Marketing. If you want to work fewer hours it is essential to delegate, which means hiring quality people. Being able to afford this requires having effective marketing strategies in place, strategies you can rely on daily to produce a consistent stream of revenue.

The best place to begin is by marketing to people who have already proven they will give you money in exchange for flooring—past customers. Here are three examples of dealers who made dramatic business transformations by marketing to past customers on a consistent basis.

  • In six months Mark Bouquet, an Illinois dealer, went from nearly closing his doors to being booked out for weeks. In recent years his business has exceeded $3 million in revenue.
  • Garry Combs, another dealer in Illinois, was on the verge of closing his doors. He not only turned his business around but within two years he opened his second store.
  • Craig Bendele, a Florida dealer, grew his business by 50% two years in a row. He is currently building his dream home.

These dealers did other things as well to build their businesses, but past-customer marketing was a major factor driving these revenue increases.

Key #4: Systems. A system is a procedure, process, method or course of action designed to achieve a specific result. Systems are the only way to produce a reliable, quality experience for your customers. They allow a person who owns 15 dealerships to deliver great service to his customers without things falling apart.

Your job as an entrepreneur is to work on rather than in your business, and that means developing and maintaining systems. Let’s say you implement a system for measuring a home and quoting the job. If something goes wrong resist the temptation to do the task yourself. Instead, work on your business by determining what went wrong and fixing the breakdown in your system.

Key #5: Management/ leadership. Part of good leadership means maximizing your team’s success. Here are three things you must have in place to ensure this happens.

First, you’ve got to give your team the tools to succeed. For example, if you want your sales team to increase their closed sales, it’s not enough to say, “You need to close more sales.” You’ve got to give them the tools, such as a step-by-step sales system that can be taught and learned. Second, you’ve got to train them on how to use the tools. Third, you’ve got to have accountability to use the tools correctly.

All three of these can be accomplished in weekly training. This same three-step process can be used for any position within your company.

By implementing these five keys you can cut the rope and allow your business to soar, while at the same time eliminating the stress and burnout of working 50-plus hours per week. If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear them. Email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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Al's Column: Protect your assets, reduce your taxes

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Roman Basi

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMThere has never been a better time than now to have a discussion on how to create the best asset protection for your business and reduce the tax liability from both the perspective of the business and personally.

The House Ways and Means Committee continues to forge ahead in its effort on tax reform. In July the committee held a hearing with several small business owners who testified about the effects of the current, albeit complicated, tax code and how the new proposals put forth by a subcommittee as well as the White House would help encourage investment across the country.

Asset protection and tax liability go hand in hand; to achieve one, the other must be properly structured. One of the newest methods for asset protection gaining steam across the country is the advent of the Series Limited Liability Company—a Limited Liability Company that has elected to create multiple divisions (or series) that will operate within the company.

While not all states have created these legal structures yet, the number grows each year. And even if your business operates in a state that does not have such an entity, it is quite possible they will allow one that is registered in another state to be filed as a foreign entity in the state in which you are located. The state of Florida, for example, recently revised its Limited Liability Company Statute. While it does not currently have a Florida Series Limited Liability Company, the state expressly provided for the benefits and protections of them if they are filed as a foreign entity.

With a Series Limited Liability Company, each division can possess its own assets and have its own liabilities; the liabilities of one division do not cross over to another. So, for example, if you have a company that has machinery and equipment, you can create a series that owns the machinery and a separate series that owns the equipment—yet you still only have one company. The main benefit, experts say, is you have divided up any liabilities between the two categories of assets, protected them from each other but still have the simplicity of only dealing with one company.

Reducing tax liability
With the changes in the tax code on the horizon, it is increasingly important to understand the current taxation on your business and if your choice of entity selection will be the best going forward. For example, the House subcommittee is proposing to lower the S Corporation tax rate to a flat 25%, which might help someone who is in a high individual tax bracket but hurt a small business owner who is in a lower individual income tax bracket. To that end, a proper analysis of your current tax structure becomes very important when looking at the tax liability of your company to determine whether you need to consider changing the tax status of the business.

I will discuss both topics—asset protection and reducing your taxes—during my presentation at the International Surface Event (TISE) on Tuesday, Jan. 30, from noon to 1 p.m. I will also be available for free, 30-minute consultations after my education session that afternoon. Visit the TISE website today at intlsurfaceevent.com for the complete education program, event activities and registration details.

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.35.04 AMRoman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi, & Associates at The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marketing Mastery: Note to dealers—Beware of burnout

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of three parts)

“I was putting in 60 or more hours per week,” Earl Swalm told me. “I have two kids and I felt like I was missing out on a lot. It was really tough, very stressful.” Many dealers can relate.

In this series you’re going to learn Swalm’s story. Specifically, how he took control of his business, cut his work hours by more than half and grew his revenue by 50% in one year.

Swalm owns a flooring dealership in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan; he bought the business in January 2000. He worked many 70-plus-hour weeks for 10 years. “I started to implement paper systems early on, but couldn’t escape the ‘I wish I could find someone just like me’ syndrome,” Swalm said. “I felt like if I didn’t do it myself or babysit it, things wouldn’t get done right.”

He liked the flooring business, but he couldn’t escape the fact he was working for his business instead of it working for him. The long hours, stress and the burnout were taking their toll. “I finally decided to sell my business,” he told me. “I couldn’t see any other way to get my life back.”

This is something I hear from a lot of dealers. They get into the flooring business because they see it as a better opportunity than a 9-5 job to create a great life for themselves and their family. Unfortunately, for many the dream of owning their own store turns into a nightmare, with long hours, stress, not enough money, etc.

Swalm began to research selling his business. He wanted to get top dollar, so he reached out to me to help him with his marketing and business systems so the store would be more appealing to a buyer. He began implementing systems and strategies to make his business more profitable and efficient.

About a year into this process I got an email from Swalm saying he’d decided not to sell after all. Curious, I called him and asked why. “Because I’m only working about 35 hours per week,” he quipped. “Business is fun again. Why sell it?”

In my opinion, the purpose of your business is to fund and facilitate your ideal lifestyle. Providing employment and great products and taking excellent care of your customers are all important. But if you’re not funding and facilitating a great lifestyle, then what’s the point? If you’re stressed out and tired all the time, then what good does that do you? Life is too short to live it burned out and wishing for something better. The bottom line: Make it count.

In the end, that’s what Swalm decided to do. Today he works an average of 35 hours per week and oftentimes only 25. He regularly takes time off, including 10-day trips away from his business. And while he’s away it continues to run like a well-oiled machine. Last fall his revenue was up 50% year-over-year.

“I now work from home a couple of days a week,” he told me. “My day starts at 7 a.m. and I usually quit by noon or 1 p.m. Last Thanksgiving I took four days off and completely unplugged from work. In the past, when I’d take time off, I would check emails and take phone calls, so I was still mentally working. But now I’m totally present for my family, and I really enjoy myself. It’s great.”

In the next I’ll cover the sales and marketing strategies Swalm used to grow his revenue and review the steps he took to cut his work hours.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMJim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.