Established in 1982
Contact us P:(815) 316-8255 F: (866) 314.2672 or email@example.com.
Ten years ago, I ran an eCommerce site selling personalized leather gifts to businesses and individuals. I learned SEO from experts and got on the social media bandwagon very shortly after March 2007.
I've studied many aspects of online checkout over the years, including Amazon, PayPal and guest checkouts. I've learned that having a guest checkout on one's website increases conversions and encourages people to buy more from your site without feeling "locked in" as a member. Translating this option into our business centers can provide a lot of insight and help us as store owners to give choice to our clients and guests.
For example, when my wife & I designed and launched our 24 hour business center last year, we assumed that everyone would love to be a member and would opt-in to paying for the 24 hour security entrance, using the key-less entry system. However, 4 months into our new model and we had many people inquiring about mail and business services without wanting to pay for 24 hour access. In other words, they wanted to pickup their mail and parcels during our business hours.
We, of course, agreed to this system and as a result of this flexibility, have noticed an increase in our mailbox clients and others who use just our package receiving services (without the option of 24 hour key-less entry). In other words, they want to "checkout as a guest" and not be a "member" and we are fine with that!
Providing this flexibility to our incoming visitors allows us to extend our reach into the marketplace. So, we encourage the 24 hour access now and most guests opt for it; however, we are perfectly happy to provide the flexibility for someone who just wants to come by see us every time he or she has mail or parcels picked up.
With gratitude and effervescence,
Fahim Mojawalla, AMBC Director of Social Media
Island Ship Center
AMBC Certified Store
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
#SpaOfShipping #FahimFix #ExudeExcellence
1879 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Do you follow them, should you follow them? Why should you follow them?
Best practices can set you, your staff and your business apart from the crowd. They can be simple, or extremely complex. They can cost you no money, a little money or the lack can cost you a lot of money.
One of the processes I have encouraged with freight shippers it to be completely transparent with the customer and (possibly more important) be transparent with the consignee. We handle freight shipments almost daily, some days we have 2 or 3 or even more freight shipments being picked up and processed.
One rule is that the customer MUST be aware and participate in the arrangement of the delivery. Long gone are the days that we shipped and forgot about it. More and more we see deliveries that run into an issue that causes a delay, causes additional services (expensive services) being added to the shipment. As shipper we are protected very little to these additional fees. In most cases you are responsible for any fees incurred with the shipment and delivery.
When we quote a freight job we always inquire about the delivery, what restrictions are there, what limitations, you can't just wait for the shipment to delivery or you can pay a hefty fee being added to the bill. When someone says it is commercial, I ALWAYS check on Google earth to verify that the address is commercial location. If a business, I ask for a contact name, a phone number and an email address.
We look to see if the building has a loading dock or if it appears that it does not. Failure to properly set up a delivery can be expensive both in time, and money. It can also be expensive is customer costs, if ONLY you had asked for the answer. Shipping freight to a business and assuming it has a dock or forklift can cause the shipment to be delayed. If the carrier attempts the delivery and discovers that the business has no loading dock and requires a lift gate they have no choice but return to the terminal. At this point the carrier has to make arrangements to add the lift gate plus add a re-delivery fee to the invoice. This is going to add at least $120.00 to $150.00 to your invoice. And now the freight is being delayed at least one business day.
We try to avoid all these (and other problems) by emailing our customer and the consignee in advance. We explain the services that have been arranged for, we ask for them to confirm any restrictions or limitations at delivery. We try to make sure that everyone is aware of the options, the costs and the repercussions. We try to force people to respond and confirm, that isn't always successful. In our email we describe the service that has been paid for or arranged. Your shipment will be delivered by ABC Freight, the scheduled day of delivery is next Wed/Thursday. The will deliver with a standard tractor trailer, so if you know your area doesn't allow them please let us know and tell the appointment clerk when they call. The carrier should contact you prior to deliver to set up a window for delivery. The carrier will deliver the pallet curbside. They will take it off the truck using a liftgate and place it curbside with their pallet jack, the do not have to take it further. They will not take it inside nor unpack it, you can make arrangement for this but we need to do so now to avoid delays and higher fees.
Once the freight is delivered please take a minute to inspect the shipment (attached is a photo of the pallet as it left here) please make note of any dings, dents, tears or missing wrap. We package to protect the items but accidents do happen, we want you to be aware of the guidelines in advance so we can avoid possible problems in the future. Inspecting the package helps protect your coverage (if purchased) and helps keep the carriers liability in effect.
There isn't a one size fits all letter you can create, you can create a rough draft and edit based on each customer. I used to send customers overnight letters with these details, now we email them. Sending a photo of the pallet (several if you can, send a progression of the palletizing so they see the process) does several things, it shows them what to expect. It gives you a photo to use during promotions. It also helps in the event of claims, it can even help with reweigh or class disputes. It can't hurt to have them.
1465 Woodbury Ave
Portsmouth NH 03801
Think like a customer work like a professional.
What a weekend!
Fahim and I had the honor and privilege of attending another PostalMate regional training weekend, this time in a little place near and dear to both of us: New York City. PC Synergy, the makers of PostalMate, asked AMBC to participate in their events again this year … and when we say it was an "honor and a privilege" to attend, we really do mean it!
The PostalMate team is a delightful lot. Rhonda, Karen, and Henry are a joy to be around, engage their audience like few others are able to, and their combined knowledge and experience are hard to top; they make software training fun! We were glad to join other vendor representatives who also presented, including iPostal1, Pacific Office, Anytime Mailbox, FotoZoomer, Supply Side, and RSA, who lead their RS BootCamp new owners training session on Saturday. It's a tremendous group--each one bringing something unique and game-changing--and indeed we love being a part of it.
As a non-profit, member-owned industry advocacy, certification, and training organization, my fellow AMBC Board of Directors members and I love attending training events, industry summits, conventions, expos, and forums across the country. We go as volunteers and fellow store owners to share what AMBC has done for us personally and for the industry as a whole, to teach, to inspire, to raise the bar, and most of all to talk face-to-face with other store owners … sharing, learning, and growing together.
This weekend, in addition to wearing our AMBC hats and talking with our friends and peers about AMBC's programs, news, and focus, Fahim and I were also asked to wear our business coach hats and teach a marketing and social media session. The PC Synergy team has been involved in plenty of #FahimFix social media seminars and Marketing with Marty™ marketing and image seminars in the past, and this weekend gave us the opportunity to collaborate, blend our cohesive messages, and co-teach brand new #FahimFix and Marketing with Marty™ creation: Get Social!
Get Social! takes a new approach to how we think about social media. As Fahim often says and I often quote, "It's social media, people, not solicitation media!" Our aim through this class is to encourage businesses to take a community-minded approach through modern platforms with the goal to create a network of loyal advocates and friends of your business. And this can and will happen simply because you are involved in and a voice for your neighborhood, not because you're trying to sell something.
We were thrilled to debut Get Social! this weekend, and look forward to sharing it and a number of our other classes with similar groups and upcoming industry events. In fact, Sarah, Fahim, and/or myself--along with our selfie sticks--are slated to be at five more PostalMate regional training weekends and four ShipRite regional training weekends this year, in addition to AMBC's own event near Niagara Falls in October. Look for one or more of us popping up in cities like Charlotte, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Orlando, Utica, Biloxi, Grand Island, and San Diego soon!
#PostalMate17 #NYC #AMBC4ME #MembersHelpingMembers #FahimFix #AskUncleMarty #EmbracetheSelfieEmbracetheCommunity
Marty Johnson, AMBC Director of Marketing | askunclemarty.com
For more photos from the event, please visit facebook.com/ambctoday.
AMBC's dynamic duo, Fahim and Uncle Marty, are teaming up and teeming with excitement to present our brand new class, Get Social!, at the PostalMate Regional Training Weekend this Sunday in New York. Our new seminar takes the concept of how we behave in social settings, among peers, and in our communities and applies it to social media strategies.
There's nothing quite like getting together in a room with other small business owners to share ideas, information, and inspiration. But what is it we're actually doing when we're together? Sure, we're training. Sure, we're learning new techniques. And absolutely, we're discovering a myriad of new features in our software. But we're also building a community. We're discovering people in very similar situations to our own and creating bonds with them that will last a lifetime. We're making friends, sharing laughs, and bringing why we do what we do back into focus; we're sharpening our intentions.
This societal concept is exactly what we'll communicate through Get Social! We want to guide our peers away from using social media platforms—those amazing, revolutionary, and free tools at our fingertips—to blatantly advertise and instead encourage their use for building a community and creating a genuine following of loyal advocates—not just customers, but dedicated clients and friends of your business.
Though Fahim and I have collaborated on projects more times than we can count and work closely together as members of the AMBC Board of Directors, this will mark the first time a #FahimFix social media seminar and a Marketing with Marty™ marketing and image seminar officially team up to co-present a class. And we're pumped!
We must thank PC Synergy and the PostalMate team in advance for inviting us to their regional events. We are honored to be able to share, thrilled to participate, and very grateful to glean from other presenters and attendees.
If you're unable to attend this weekend's event, don't fret. We and the rest of the AMBC Board have a habit of popping up at events here, there, and everywhere, always ready to share fresh, timely content. So stay tuned!
#AMBC4ME #PostalMate #FahimFix #AskUncleMarty #DynamicDuo #NewYorkNewYork
A little over a year ago, in January 2016, during our AMBC board meeting, I had mentioned to our directors about trying to move towards having video conferencing meetings via a new app called Zoom (www.Zoom.us). At the time, it was relatively new and unheard of by most people not in the social media world; I had heard it from a podcast on SocialMediaExaminer.com, one of my favorite "go to" places for social media tips & tricks.
Fast forward to last Saturday, when Sarah Rohde, our fearless, charismatic and inspiring leader sent us invites to join our monthly board meeting through video using the Zoom app! I was elated; so was Marty; so was my wife, Seema; Jeff Ballantyne, not so much. Yet, he persevered. In the end, with the exception of Jeff, we all got on the video chat and carried on with our monthly meeting. Jeff, tenacious and unyielding, was able to manage getting on the meeting through his audio connection; so, we managed to hear him, even though we could not see him. Nevertheless, change had occurred in our monthly meeting method that day. It took a year of coaxing, trying different methods, going back to our old ways, and then, finally taking charge and making it happen.
So it is with our stores and our industry. We are talking about positive change. We are discussing it. We are wanting it. We are seeing it happen with our fellow members' stores. How many of us are taking that final step to make that change, whether it is in our store's front end or back end?
Let me end with this: Our next project is (drum roll please)... an industry app for our members. The conversation began some months ago but we seriously discussed it last Saturday. It may be another 14-18 months (if not later) before we launch the app, but at least we're talking about it, thinking about it, wanting it for the betterment of our stores and our industry as a whole.
I urge you to start these conversations; embrace positive change; don't let fear of the unknown hold you back; don't think you're too old or out of touch. Go out there and exude excellence my friends.
Fahim Mojawalla, AMBC Director of Social Media
Island Ship Center / AMBC Certified Store
1879 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Have you ever done a suspension pack?
Suspension packing, or "packing in air," is a fantastic, simple technique that we teach in AMBC's RSi® certified packing classes. It's not a method to use every day, but one that comes in quite handy for uber-delicate items and those for which you don't want packing material to come in direct content with a sensitive object.
The concept is simple: secure the delicate item inside the inner carton so it's immobilized and leave a buffer of empty space between it and the inner carton. (Hence, "packing in air.") Then no wrap or filler actually touches the item causing abrasion or pressure that could harm it.
The visual I use when I teach our certified classes is that of a giant model ship my mom packed years ago when she and my dad had their chain of mail and business centers. The ship was so delicate that it simply couldn't be wrapped in anything or filled with anything. And there was a giant glass display case that it was enclosed in. So what does one do to get that from point A to point B safely? They suspension pack it, of course!'
We secured the ship to its base with tough ribbon, and when the glass case was put over it, it tightened the ribbon and kept the ship secured to its base--immobilized. Then we simply packed around the case, double crated it, and it got there in stellar condition!
This past week, my mom, whom I consider the world's finest suspension packing guru (in addition to being the world's finest mother), joined me at my shop to do a suspension pack on a very delicate balsawood structure. The Cornell University EERI (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute) Seismic Design Team builds a structure every year that they ship to their competition. I've partnered with Cornell on this shipping job annually for the past few years, each time successfully getting the balsa behemoth from New York to points in California and even Alaska! This year's conference is in Oregon.
The EERI structures are designed to withstand vibration and stress, as is the point of the competition, but are made of thin balsa that is not designed to take impact or be touched directly on the outer shell. And this year's structure was much more delicate than in past years, with the outer layers composed of the thinnest balsa I've seen yet--basically like a house of match sticks.
Looking at the balsa structure and thinking about shipping it would make most people's stomachs churn. But Mom and I don't shy away from a good challenge. We knew we'd do a suspension pack, strapping the wooden base of the structure securely in the bottom of the inner carton, but the structure is just glued to that base and I'm never confident in that glue's ability to keep the structure attached to the base when the carton gets turned on its side, upside down, and tumbles and bumbles down the conveyor systems at the hubs it encounters on its coast-to-coast journey. So every year prior I also bagged the structure and filled around the bag with peanuts inside the inner carton to keep the structure from pulling apart from its base. And that worked well in the past.
But this year, bagging the structure wasn't a possibility because the outer frame was too delicate even to have a plastic bag touch it. Though it had one distinct feature that was quite beautiful in our eyes: small holes through the stronger inner frame into which dowels will be inserted at the competition to test the structure's ability to hold various amounts of weight. So we took advantage of those dowel holes and secured the structure inside its inner carton with a couple of crossed dowels. It was brilliant!
This year's EERI structure was truly packed in air. And curious customers watched all day as Mom and I worked on it. With just four straps on its base, a small piece of polyurethane foam on its top platform, and two crossed dowels holding it solidly in the center of the inner carton, it was immobilized. Then the inner carton got over-boxed with peanuts between the cartons and we sent it on its way, more confident than ever that it will get there safely.
If you've never suspension packed anything before, why not consider it for your next seemingly impossible packing challenge. It takes a lot of thought, some engineering, and a leap of faith. But, if done right, can solve some shipping conundrums that you may have struggled with in the past. And the look on your customers' faces when you say you'll just "pack it in air" is priceless.
*To check out a detailed photo album of the balsa structure packing process, please visit facebook.com/unclemartys.*
**Always check with your insurance carrier before packing anything in a non-standard way to ensure that the technique you plan to use is approved for coverage in a worst case scenario.**
For more information on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
Have you told your customers lately that you love them? Have you told them lately that you care?
Now you can grab each one by the hand, look them in the eye, and say, "I love you, customer." But you're probably going to either get slapped or put on some community watch list. So rather than saying it, show it.
Show you care by going above and beyond. Hold the door, put their packages safely behind the counter so they can shop, and offer them a bottle of water if they're all hot and bothered.
Show you care by remembering as many people as you can … by name. Don't repeat their name over and over like you're trying to sell them a used car, but greet them by it and use it once more when you thank them for their business and invite them to "come back soon." (And you're all doing this as a farewell, right? We've talked about this before. Consciously work on replacing "Have a nice day" with "Come back soon" and the results will surely delight you!)
Show you care by writing a handwritten thank-you-for-trusting-us note every time someone ships something precious, rents a mailbox, or otherwise puts their faith in you.
Show you care by putting just as much importance on welcoming customers' children and pets as you do on welcoming the customers themselves.
Show you care by giving your guests a little piece of candy. This time of year, I love to give out little mini boxes of conversation hearts to my favorite clients, and to some random ones just because. And not just because I'm trying to charm my way into their wallets, but because it's genuinely a good feeling to see someone's face light up.
Show you care by making sure every customer that walks through your doors leaves no longer as just a customer, but as a client--thrilled with the service they just received and cordially invited to come back soon.
Show you care by spreading love, speaking kindly, and creating joy.
Happy Valentine's Day. <3
#HappyValentinesDay #ShowYouCare #RelationshipMarketing #AMBC4ME #AskUncleMarty #InspiredByRodStewartLyrics
Last night, after his soccer practice, my son and I stopped off at my favorite grocery store, Wegmans, to buy some urgently needed items from my wife's grocery list, a task that should've only taken 15 minutes and cost $20. Well, 50 minutes and $85 later, I came out, even more joyous than I walked in.
Wegmans is an experience, one that is enjoyed by people of all ages, sort of like the Disney of grocery stores. Their approach, like mine at Island Ship Center (which is an attempt, albeit on a tiny scale, to mimic Wegmans), is to make the mundane extraordinary and provide an unforgettable experience, resulting in higher sales, consistent buyers and huge word of mouth promotions from their existing clientele.
Furthermore, Wegmans ranks in the top 10 every year for Best Places to Work (since 1998), proving that a profitable business does not have to be selfish, unkind or unfair in order to achieve financial success.
As we walked down each aisle, my son Yusuf, who works with me at our store after school, noticed the merchandising aspects of each department, correctly pointing out how healthy products are showcased and promoted. There is ample lighting in the store, so much so that even the impulse items by the cash registers are specifically lighted to stand out!
Currently, some of our stores are cluttered with very awesome products, but it's TOO MUCH for the eyes, ears & feet, sort of like an overload for the senses:
We need to simplify and balance out our merchandising; take a ride to a nearby, neighborhood business and see how its shelves are laid out; get ideas from other small & large businesses in your neighborhood. That really helps.
In conclusion, we as independent mail and business store owners need to follow the Wegmans model in terms of store design, slowly but surely, in order to grow and prosper in our industry, in order to effectively meet the challenges of the 21st Century business environment, and in order to stay ahead of our competitors.
I wish you much success in your store redesign efforts.
With gratitude, effervescence & civility,
Fahim Mojawalla, AMBC Director of Social Media
Co-Owner of Island Ship Center, An AMBC Certified Store
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Dear Uncle Marty,
What are some alternative services I can offer in my store to bring in business?
Looking for something new,
I like how you phrased your question: “…services I can offer in my store to bring in business.” You’re thinking not just about new profit centers, but also things that are going to attract traffic. And that’s key.
We all know that a customer through the door can then be educated about what you’re really good at. Just by being in your store, they’re exposed to your true profit centers: packing, shipping, printing, freight, etc. But what brings them in? Sometimes they’re not initially seeking one of your core goods or services.
Sometimes a customer will come in because they need a fringe service, like a notary. (Now, I know notaries in some states for some stores are truly a profit center, but in many states like New York where the fee is only $2.00 they’re simply an attracter to bring in traffic.) Often, a notary customer will then turn into a printing, scanning, and overnight shipping customer.
At my store, I get a lot of traffic because I duplicate keys. I’ve become known for it, and that little key machine turns out more per square foot than most other areas! But that’s because I push keys, and I’ve created a good reputation for them in my town. I’ll never pay the rent on key duplication alone, but the customers that they bring in then start using me for serious profit centers.
I also get a lot of traffic because I recycle clean and dry packing materials and boxes. I reuse some, but then commit to making sure what I can’t reuse actually gets recycled. That draw a lot of people in, and they leave educated—my brochure in hand—about what else I can do for them.
The term “printing” is often too general for people to realize its full scope. Sometimes you have to spell it out in your message: “We print business cards.” Or, “We print wedding invitations.” Or, “We print vinyl outdoor banners.” Or, “We print trade show materials.” The possibilities are endless!
So think about something new, yet business center appropriate, that’s needed in your area: keys, gift wrapping, passport photos, photo printing, graphic design, proofreading service, laminating, custom box building, local souvenirs and postcards, unique greeting cards, gift bags and tissue, school supplies, concierge service, label making, business card printing, banner printing, binding, book binding, shredding, package receiving, packing material recycling, etc.
And remember, even if a person is just dropping off mail or a prepaid package, never ever let them leave without at least offering them a brochure. Your best opportunity to market your profit centers is a warm body in front of you, already experiencing your wonderful store.
You'll hook 'em soon,
For more on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
The original version of this Ask Uncle Marty letter was published in MBC Today Volume 19, Issue 1 (January/February 2017).
This week, during a monthly networking group meeting, an interesting topic came up from a veteran attendee: How to acquire new clients to your business - paid vs. unpaid leads (AKA word of mouth marketing).
The gentleman, a trusted insurance agent in our community, realized that referrals from clients, whether online or offline, were the best source of long-term business sustainability. It was an awesome realization, one that I had been working on for years to make him realize. As soon as he verbally related his epiphany about powerful word of mouth marketing, another gentleman, Jason, corroborated with another personal anecdote, this time about paid vs unpaid networking groups.
Jason has been attending our networking group for almost 2 years; we meet once a month and do not charge a fee for any type of attendance. We share ideas and latest happenings in the business world, especially concentrating on social media marketing and how it relates to long-term ROI as well as offline marketing efforts.
Jason has also been attending another, paid networking group during these past few years. This week, he told us that he has come to realize that for his financial consulting business, our organic-based growth model works better than the paid model in the alternative networking group. He felt that the clients that he received from a relationship based approach (which is the one that we try and encourage in our networking group) stay with him much longer & purchase other services from him compared to those that he gained from a transaction based approach, one that is usually taught in paid networking groups.
I'm using the same relationship-based approach in my store, as many of you know, and it's working very well. My wife & I concentrate on beginning, developing & strengthening relationships with each client (who is referred to as a guest when he or she comes into our "Spa of Shipping"), who in turn loves the service, empowerment (because of the valid shipping / printing / industry information we provide) & approach, and then goes on to tell many other people to come enjoy the same precious treatment at our place. I'm honored and grateful to live my "why" (in the words of Simon Sinek): To inspire, motivate, uplift & rejuvenate and I encourage you to find your "why" and live it, thereby making the world a better place with each interaction.
Association of Mail & Business Centers TM, 1465 Woodbury Ave. #811, Portsmouth, NH 03801 ~ (815) 316-8255