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Dear Uncle Marty,
I was in your marketing class at the Retail Shipping Expo a few weeks ago in Las Vegas and was interested when you were talking about music in the store. I never really thought about that as important. I usually just play the radio or talk radio. What else am I overlooking?
Basically, we want our customers to have a pleasant shopping experience. So think about all five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.
Let’s start with hearing. What are your customers hearing in your store? Does it encourage them to be relaxed, spend some time shopping, and leave in a good mood? Or does it agitate them?
We want to prevent customers from hearing too many commercials. After all, they’re in our stores and we want them thinking about us, not other businesses! So what stations or streaming sources can you tune in to that would be mostly commercial free? And would it be possible to record your own mini-commercials (like “Did you know that we duplicate keys!?”) to interject between tracks? With any music that you play in your store, be cautious of copyright infringement. Most of our stores are small enough for an exception, but please read this article for some guidelines: www.entrepreneur.com/article/226049
Sight is extremely important. What do your customers see when they’re in your store? Is it clean? Is it fun? Is it professional? Is it going to leave an impression, hopefully a good one?
I often mention in my classes to think about photos as a litmus test for what the customer sees. If a customer were to come to your store and start taking pictures from anywhere they can access—the front retail area, or the visible areas behind the counter—and post them online, which they can and will do, is there anything you’d rather they not show? Is there an area that you’d rather the customer not photograph? If so, fix it. Because, even if the customer’s not taking a picture, they’re still seeing troubled areas and impressions are being made.
Next is touch. I like to think of this as just making sure our surfaces are presentable. Have you wiped fingerprints from your glass door recently? Is there dust on the bottoms and very tip tops of your displays and equipment? Is there grime somewhere that’s just gross?
Smell is very important. I have a plug-in air freshener that I change with the seasons. At Christmas time, it’s a nice cinnamon scent. In the spring, it’s fresh flowers. In the summer, it might be linen or berry. In the fall, it’s pumpkins and spice. It may seem like a little thing—and it is—but it makes a big difference.
And last but not least, taste. I never thought about this one before, but I learned something from Sarah Rohde at Expo. No, I learned many, many things from Sarah at Expo. But one little thing in particular comes to mind right now. Sarah said that she used to keep candy (or mints) in that silly fifth change cubby in the cash drawer. Every customer then got a little sweet treat with their change and receipt. It literally lets each customer leave with a good taste in their mouth.
I sense you’ll do well,
For more on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
The original version of this Ask Uncle Marty letter was published in MBC Today Volume 18, Issue 5 (September/October 2016).
A game changer is "a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way."
It was a privilege and pleasure to see so many of you at the 2016 Retail Shippers Expo in Las Vegas in August! This year, Expo was extra special. It was exciting, educational, and encouraging. It was warm, welcoming, and entirely well worth it. It was innovative, intense, and jam-packed. It was a blast, and it was a game changer!
We're at a crossroads in our industry. Status quo is no longer status quo. Our industry has changed rapidly, evolving into a complex, unique, important component in our communities and society. We don't just ship packages anymore, but rather are full service business centers, catering to the fast-paced convenience-focused millennial mindset that is driving our nation forward faster than we can fathom.
It's hard to keep up with what's going on, and hard to recognize what we have to do next to meet the need. That's why events like Expo are essential for us to not only keep our head above the surface of this raging river, but to see clearly what direction we need to head.
Again this year, Expo brought together AMBC and RSA in a positive, productive, cohesive partnership to present our mutual members the best of the best in a single, industry-wide event. We are so grateful for RSA's dedicated work with Expo, for their friendship, and for what amazing things we can do together when we work hand-in-hand.
Expo got started with a bang on Wednesday, August 10th, with the new owners seminar, co-taught by AMBC Executive Director Sarah Rohde and RSA President Brandon Gale. I had the privilege of sitting in on most of the seven-hour class, and what a class it was! The room was packed, and bright-eyed attitudes were so very encouraging. The future of our industry, together in one room with seasoned veterans, learning history, processes, tips, and tricks, is nothing short of awesome!
Thursday brought certified classes on operations, shipping, packing, and more, along with point-of-sale training from PostalMate and ShipRite, and FotoZoomer’s Zoom U. On Thursday evening, we had franchise and industry group meetings, and AMBC hosted our annual AMBC Advocacy Meeting.
You may recall that, at last year's AMBC Advocacy Meeting, our Certified Store Program was launched. And what a year it’s been with that program since! We are so pleased with the direction AMBC is headed as the industry's not-for-profit member-owned association focused on advocacy, certification, and training. We bring over thirty years of resources as an association, along with countless years of experience from our volunteer board and dedicated members, to give all of our members every advantage possible to succeed in a rapidly changing industry full of rich, complex history.
At this year's AMBC Advocacy Meeting, we spent a couple of hours together with members discussing what's going on behind the scenes. Advocacy isn't glamorous, and most people don't see the grit that goes on in the background. But AMBC is dedicated to work closely with carriers, vendors, trade groups, government groups, and anyone else we need to in order to be a voice of reason, fairness, and equal opportunity for our members. Sarah shared some details at the meeting how she's been working diligently on many fronts, including trips to Washington, D.C. to meet face to face with the USPS.
After the Advocacy Meeting, we had the RSA Kick-Off Event and a delicious spread of delectable delights! After everyone was sufficiently suffonsified, AMBC put on a goofy game show: Employees vs. Bosses: The Ultimate Showdown. Fahim and I were the game show hosts, and the AMBC team, in matching show shirts and obnoxious hashtag bling, brought five teams of two—employee and boss—to the stage. The game was like The Newlywed Game, where a question was posed and each member of the pair wrote their answer on a board. When time was called, answers were revealed, and matches received points.
Teams and questions were chosen to highlight the stark contrast between millennials and boomers—the difference a generation or two brings—and drive the point home that all generations have extreme value in the databanks of their minds, the intents of their hearts, and the values that they hold dear. Sometimes it's hard to understand someone from a different time, with different ways of doing things, but it's absolutely essential for us all to embrace each other, mentor each other, and grow together so we can run businesses that will cater to the needs of all.
Friday morning was chock full o' breakout sessions—50 minute seminars put on by vendors, store owners, association staff, and guest presenters—ranging in topics from accounting, I-9 signing, HAZMAT, navigating the credit card minefield, and exit strategies to social media, marketing, store design, hiring and training millennials, and print for pay. The list goes on and on, and I personally had the privilege of teaching my latest Marketing with Marty™ segment: Inside Out Marketing 3.0, and also a breakout on packing tips for liquid, fragile, valuable, and awkward items. Perhaps the most buzzed about and overly-packed classes were Fahim's Social Media 101 and Social Media 201 classes. This year, each breakout was taught at least twice, to give more opportunity to attendees that wanted to glean as much as possible from as many as possible.
The general session on Friday afternoon saw all 400+ Expo participants in one room for a state-of-the-industry discussion, led by Brandon and Sarah. Immediately following, the grand ballroom was transformed into a speed round center, where dozens of round tables were set up and attendees spent time with experts in 10-minute increments, getting an intense run-down on topics including capitalizing on Pokémon Go with AMBC Millennial Advisor Maddie and social media with Fahim. I was honored myself to host an Ask Uncle Marty™ Live table at speed rounds. I learned so much from all of you!
After more breakout sessions, point-of-sale training, and group meetings on Friday, we all got together for the DHL Welcome Reception, DHL top shipper awards, and another delightful dining experience. Then attendees got a sneak peek at Saturday's trade show with an exclusive Friday night trade show kick-off preview.
UPS hosted breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning, and presented their top shipper awards. Then it was on to more breakouts, training, and group meetings. But the majority of Saturday afternoon was reserved exclusively for the industry's largest trade show, this year so popular that we had to add a whole extra annex to hold all of the vendors and exhibits! It was epic!
Trade show attendees had hours to spend visiting each booth, talking face-to-face with carriers and vendors, checking out new products, services, and equipment, asking questions, getting answers, and becoming inspired. After the show, we had a few more breakouts, training, and group meetings before Saturday night's banquet.
As they always do, FedEx pulled out all the stops for the FedEx dinner and awards on Saturday evening. Magician, comedian, and juggler Paul Miller wildly entertained the crowd as we feasted, unwound, and let loose. Purple pride was high on Saturday night!
Sunday morning's town hall was packed. Even as people were headed out to catch flights, many stopped in for as long as they could to participate in the discussion with an open mic. Afterward, a final round of breakouts, point-of-sale training, and group meetings wrapped up the exceptional Expo.
We are very grateful for all that put forth the effort to attend Expo, and trust that the investment has already paid off with exponential returns coming soon. We are very grateful to our vendors, guest presenters, sponsors, and friends at RSA for all of their work to put on an amazing event. And I must personally express my deep appreciation to my AMBC compadres, including Sarah, Kim, Jeff, Jan, Fahim, Seema, Maddie, Mike, and Dakota. You're all exceptional!
We hit the jackpot in Vegas. Wherever Expo lands next year, I hope you'll join us. You can't afford not to.
Marty Johnson owns Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office in Ithaca, NY, where he’s also Co-Founder of the Collegetown Small Business Alliance. He serves as Director of Marketing and Secretary on the Board of Directors for AMBC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit unclemartysoffice.com and follow his store on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.
This article was originally published in MBC Today Volume 18 Issue 5 (September / October 2016). Please view the full article, and visit AMBC's Facebook and Instagram for many more photos and videos.
On Labor Day, I had a flight back from Fort Lauderdale to Buffalo, enjoying the ride with my teen aged son. He was frantically finishing his summer reading assignment and I was relishing in the fact that I could annoy him on the plane and let him know that he shouldn't have waited until the last minute (#11thHour).
Nonetheless, he picked out a stellar book to read for his AP English class. As he finished reading it on the plane, he shared the last few paragraphs with me and I must share them with all of you.
The book is called Pour Your Heart Into It and it's written by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. It's definitely a worthwhile read for all our members and storeowners. Mr. Schultz talks about the importance of teamwork and sharing in our success, thereby making it last longer and as a result, making us even more jubilant. It may not make sense to many people, but true joy comes from giving and sharing, even in the business world.
As I've mentioned many times before, information is the currency of social media; sharing that information freely allows one to be regarded as an expert in a particular field, resulting in large numbers of people gravitating towards you for more of that relevant and useful information. When a solicitation is made, after a relationship is solidified, that transaction becomes more natural and produces greater profit in the end. In order to obtain that profit, however, you need to constantly give value and information to develop the trust (before the transaction).
Here is the quote from the end of the book (don't worry, it won't ruin the ending for you):
The topic of store blogs came up time and time again at the recent Retail Shippers Expo in Las Vegas. It's very encouraging to hear of so many stores starting and maintaining really great blogs, and reaping the benefits!
Blogs are a core teaching of Fahim's in his social media seminars and posts, and he is by all means the expert on this topic. But I want to share a little of my own experience, as my store blog has proven very successful for my own business.
Blogs improve your search engine optimization (SEO) exponentially, and every business should consider having one associated with their website. For me, my entire site is blog-format, and that style--keeping it always fresh and new--has done wonders for my Google hits. And I just learned recently, thanks to #FahimFix, that blog posts need at least 250 characters to count in Google.
What you post on your blog should be punctual, professional, and include just the right touch of personal. We use our blogs to share industry news, advise of store holidays, express gratitude, commend other businesses and groups for doing a great job, and share community events and happenings. A good way to figure out what to post is to think of your business as a living, breathing organism. What would it say? Who would it thank? What would it want to tell everyone?
Below, I'll share my latest store blog post about my five-year business anniversary. It's important to express our gratitude to our customers often and sincerely. To check out more of my posts, please visit unclemartysoffice.com. I'd also recommend checking out some other impressive blogs in our industry, including themailboxstore.net/blog and islandshipcenter.com/blog.
It's our five year anniversary!
Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office opened on September 1, 2011. For the past five years, it has been our privilege to serve you–the Ithaca, Cornell, and Collegetown communities. Truly, it’s been a privilege!
On this milestone, we need to take a moment to thank you–our loyal advocates, customers, and friends–for your outstanding support.
Thank you for stopping by our store that first time, whether that was last week or five years ago. Time after time, visit after visit, we love seeing you come back again and again, and are so grateful for the sincere recommendations and referrals to your friends, family, and co-workers.
Thank you for your trust and patronage, which has allowed us to grow year after year, expanding our services and offerings to cater to our unique market here in Collegetown, Ithaca, the Southern Tier, and the Finger Lakes. We simply opened a store, and soon found that we were able to fill a huge need in our region. We are so honored to have become the dedicated shipping, printing, and storage partner for many Cornell University and Ithaca College departments, clubs, and teams, as well as local businesses, artists, artisans, students, academics, and so many other various and sundry Ithacans. We love growing, and have become really good at it (with some serious big plans pending)!
Thank you for all of the overwhelming positive reviews. Because of you, we’ve become Yelp superstars! We love receiving your kind statements, reading them, sharing them, and above all earning them. We will continue to always give five-star service, understanding that your decision to do business at Uncle Marty’s must be earned with our dedicated best.
Thank you for your patience during the past 16 months of Collegetown development. We know that the construction in Collegetown has been difficult to navigate, yet these developments will bring new life, vibrancy, and potential to our fine neighborhood. We are indebted to our loyal, dedicated customers who have truly gone out of their way to support us through the construction dust. We hope to have our road paved by the end of this month, and have negotiated a new, bigger customer and truck loading zone near our store as well as a couple of handicapped parking meters. These new buildings are going to be fabulous; our new street and sidewalks will be beautiful; the future looks very, very bright!
Thank you for your loving, kind support while Marty was going through serious chemotherapy in 2012 and 2013. When Marty found out he had a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the fall of 2012, he honestly didn’t know what would happen to the business during his months away for treatment. But Cindy (his mom), Dub (his Dad), Ingrid (his sister), and Allen (his brother) all stepped up to carry our young business through the hiccup. Now, three and a half years cancer-free with nothing but hope for the future, Marty remains overwhelmed by the love poured out during that unprecedented time. As we move forward, continuing our fundraising in the store for the American Cancer Society through Marty’s team, Cancer Crushers, our gratefulness for your continued support remains strong.
The past five years have been full of surprises, and through it all we have come out smiling. Now, we are extremely excited to announce that we’ve renewed our lease at 206A Dryden Road for another five years! We’re in this for the long term, and look forward to many more years working together to make our community the best that it can be!
So what do the next five years hold? Plenty of good things! With the new buildings surrounding us in Collegetown, we’ll be expanding our services and doing some renovations of our own. We hope to have a new business center with 24-hour private mailboxes opened within a few months, have just signed on to offer textbook buyback, and are exploring lots of other new offerings. It’s an exciting time!
Our five year anniversary is truly a cause for celebration! And we have cupcakes to prove it! So swing by on Tuesday, September 6th, to get frosting-faced, and party on!
#UncleMartys #Collegetown #FiveYearAnniversary #Gratitude #XOXO
For more information on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
Did you know your packages are guaranteed to arrive on time or they are free?? YES… the whole #ifitslateitsfree motto applies to the shipping world as well! When UPS and FedEx deliver a package after the guaranteed time, you are entitled to a refund credit for the shipping charges. Ground packages are also included.
These GSR (guaranteed service refund) late package refunds are only provided upon request, you NEVER get them automatically. UPS & FedEx offer a great money-back guarantee policy on late deliveries, however, they don’t necessarily make it easy to get these refunds.
Refund Retriever automatically audits your FedEx and UPS invoices each week to find these packages and have the credits placed back on your invoices. We get paid paid after the carrier credits you and if you are 100% satisfied with our service. If there are no refund credits, you owe us nothing! There are no setup, monthly, or cancellation fees
Monitor DIM & Other Charges
FedEx and UPS have weight minimums and oversize penalties, which are referred to as DIM (dimensional weight) charges. Keep an eye on what packages have a dimensional weight applied, we have a report that will keep you alerted to any package in which the billed weight is higher than the actual weight. What about possible third parties shipping on your accounts? We can provide a list of any package that was not shipped from or to your store.
Always void unused UPS shipping labels! If you or a third party create a UPS label with your account number, you will be charged even if you do not ship the package. Be sure to void any unused UPS labels IMMEDIATELY. Refund Retriever’s automated disputing makes voids easy for customers to manage, thereby increasing the refund credits collected for unused shipping labels created by you or third-parties.
Who is Refund Retriever?
We are no strangers to the mail and parcel industry. Since 2006, hundreds of mail and business centers have turned the job of monitoring and collecting refunds due for late shipments and billing mistakes over to Refund Retriever. Refund Retriever was started by Brian Gibbs in the back of a mail and parcel store. While a member of AMPC, Brian used his own FedEx and UPS accounts to develop proprietary parcel invoice auditing software specializing in saving money on FedEx & UPS invoices. That first mail and parcel center was the catalyst that created Refund Retriever. Visit our website at www.refundretriever.com or call us at 1-800-441-8085.
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As you've likely gathered by now, most of us on the AMBC Board of Directors are outright podcast junkies.
I have my favorite podcasts, and among them is a fairly new gem from Gimlet Media, Surprisingly Awesome. This delightful show takes a seemingly mundane topic, digs into it, and discovers why it is … you guessed it … surprisingly awesome! In the past few months, I've learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about broccoli, mattresses, mold, and … naturally … pigeons!
One of the most recent episodes of Surprisingly Awesome is on cardboard. When it popped up in my feed, I moved it promptly to the top of my playlist and my brother and I--both serious shipping nerds--listened to it intently on our drive home on Saturday.
In our industry, we deal with cardboard all day, every day. Have we ever stopped to think about it? I mean, seriously think about it? Do we know how it's made, why its engineered the way it is, how to maximize its strength and potential, and how to choose the right cardboard for the task at hand? Have we taken the time to become the experts that our customers expect us to be?
Personally, I thought I knew a lot about cardboard. And I do. In all of my shipping nerdery, I clearly fall into the category of cardboard enthusiast. But this podcast, in its simple way of explaining things, enlightened me to some of the history behind the design, ratings, and box seals that we've all become so used to.
There's a lot more to cardboard than can be spoken about in 41 minutes, but I was seriously impressed with this episode, and I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself: https://soundcloud.com/surprisinglyawesome/19-cardboard.
Before you know it, you'll be hooked and an expert-in-training on concrete, adhesives, interest rates, a whole gamut of other humdrum topics.
It's surprisingly awesome!
Two weeks ago, I presented several breakout sessions on social media at the Retail Shippers Expo in Vegas. During most of my sessions, I talked about the attitude of gratitude (or, as I called it, #AttitudeOfGratitude).
It's important to note that attitude, not aptitude, is what really determines success. There are many intelligent, forward-thinking people in the world; because of their negative attitude, however, they lead miserable lives and are not very successful, mostly because a lot of people don't want to be around them for very long (#JustSayin)
So, it's important to cultivate a positive attitude by focusing on all the things in our lives for which we are truly grateful.
There's a lot of gratifying things and experiences that, when focused on, will truly help us better our attitude and as a result, become better people.
When posting on social media, I always advise having this positive attitude; take 2 minutes, close your eyes, and think of all the things in your life that are truly worth being thankful for. Now, when you open your eyes, you should feel better and more positive. It is with this positive attitude that you should post anything on social media.
With gratitude and effervescence,
Co-owner of Island Ship Center
AMBC Certified Store
#FahimFix #SpaOfShipping #ExudeExcellence
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Phone: 716-773-6300 Website: FahimFix.com
For me, August always feels like the start of a new year.
It's weird, I know. But my shop is in a college town, and August is when all of the new students arrive for the year. The town comes back to life, things are fresh, and attitudes are positively hopeful.
Perhaps even more this year, this month feels like the beginning of a new year--of a new chapter. We've just come back from Expo and have closed the door to some efforts we were fruitlessly spinning our wheels on. We've opened many, many new doors to opportunities, ideas, and fresh perspectives to move forward. We've made resolutions. And this time, we're going to keep them!
The fall brings change--change in schedule as the kids go back to school, change in weather (for many of us), and change in focus as we prepare for the holiday rush.
What does this new year, new chapter, and new season have in store for you? What can you do better than last year? What can you improve, purge, and streamline? What have your customers asked about year after year that you "just haven't gotten around to doing yet?"
It may be just the rose colored glasses that I'm so fond of wearing, but this coming year looks pretty spectacular to me! I think good things are going to happen … for all of us!
So, with confetti thrown and a kiss at midnight, I wish all of you--my colleagues, friends, associates, and all other shipping nerds that I haven't yet met--a very happy new year!
Returning back from the Retail Shippers Expo 2016 this week, overflowing with emotions, I could not sleep on the plane.
So, I started and finished reading my book, #AskGaryVee - One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media & Self-Awareness. It was truly awesome, to say the least.
It's written in a question and answer format and very easy to understand. I recommend it highly, even for those that don't read much.
In the book, Gary talks about helpful hints in finding staff / employees for his firm by using Twitter and other social media channels.
Here's an excerpt of that page from his book, which outlines how to go about scouting potential hires that are truly talented, using social media.
A lot of people in our industry ask me how to find good employees; in fact, it's one of the most popular questions in our small business networking group.
I tell them that good people are out there but we need to use the new media channels to find them. We cannot go on online forums and scout them any more. Rather, these potential hires hang out in the social media world, promoting positivity. When you see the person posting positive things, pick that person out from the crowd.
Remember, hire personality and train on skills. It has worked for me and will work for you as well.
With gratitude, effervescence and mirth,
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Phone: 716-773-6300 Website: FahimFix.com
I'm traveling today, headed home after an amazing week in Vegas at the Retail Shippers Expo. I'll have a formal follow-up article on Expo in the next issue of MBC Today, but have to share my overwhelm with you now.
Perhaps "overwhelm" isn't the proper word. I believe "overflow" is more appropriate.
My brain is overflowing with information.
My briefcase is overflowing with flyers, notes, swag, offers, and opportunity.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude.
Thank you to my peers on the staff and board of AMBC for all that you did to make this week stupendous. You were tireless; you were dedicated; you were prepared.
Thank you to our friends at RSA for your over-the-top work and hand-in-hand cooperation to make Expo 2016 the best one yet! We work well together, and love collaborating at events like this to bring the best of the best to our members.
Thank you to the attendees--members, new owners, seasoned veterans, vendors, exhibitors, carriers, and tire kickers. With over 400 of us together--sharing, networking, learning, and laughing--great things happen, and game-changing ideas are hatched.
The future is bright! The future is so very, very bright!
#AMBC4ME #RetailShippersExpo2016 #GrowingForward
Please check out AMBC's Expo Instagram and Facebook photos, videos, and Facebook Live streams by searching #AMBC4ME.
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