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I was at Jo-Ann this past weekend. As I was checking out with my three and a half yards of purple and grey upholstery fabric, Lexi the clerk asked if I had any coupons with me.
How could I forget? Like any good red-blooded American that comes from a family of sewers (as in people who sew), I'm on the Jo-Ann mailing list at both my office and home and usually have coupons coming out my ears! In case you're not familiar, Jo-Ann is the undisputed coupon potentate of modern American retail. They send out weekly flyers covered in coupons, many for 50% off or more, and they send a daily coupon-heavy email to their massive email list.
But alas, I didn't have any coupons with me. I had left them at home, along with my wits that would have told me to call up that morning's Jo-Ann e-blast and corresponding coupon. So without hesitation Lexi said, "Just open up a browser on your phone and google Jo-Ann coupons." So I did and it brought me to the Jo-Ann home page, featured on which a big, bold 50% off coupon beamed like a beacon of savings. She scanned the barcode on my screen and I saved $12.50 … just like that.
Though truly grateful for the discount, I thought to myself as I walked back to my car why Jo-Ann would encourage their staff to be so liberal with their coupons, especially as a sale is being finalized with a customer who clearly was happy and ready to pay full price. (Well, to be fair, mine was a red tag fabric so it was already on sale. But still…) And then I thought about what Lexi did--so brilliantly sly, masking her true bottom-line boosting intentions in a façade of savings and sweetness: She boosted joann.com's SEO (search engine optimization) by having me specifically google them from my unique device and then click through to their website (which, if you visit you'll notice the pop-up that must be addressed before entering that solicits the visitor for their email address to join Jo-Ann's amazing email list); she got me to realize--or remember--the wealth of information about her business available literally at my fingertips; she ensured a happy transaction by giving me an unexpected discount, therefore creating a loyal customer for life because I left with a very, very good feeling about the transaction. I left as their advocate.
I don't know any business that rocks the coupon game like Jo-Ann. The way they turn the simple, traditional marketing technique of couponing into a customer experience-focused SEO stimulus scheme is fascinating. It's so brilliant, it must be diabolical!
Think about it…
#SEO #Coupons #Marketing #JoAnn #AskUncleMarty #SoBrilliantItMustBeDiabolical
For more information on Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
I'm sure your inbox does not look like mine, at least I hope not! Last year, on my wife's birthday, I started swimming [don't worry, I'm getting to my point...]. It was the latter half of September and my doctor told me that I needed to lose a few pounds and that once I started, it would get tougher to remain consistent after the 3rd month.
Well, I'm on the 4th month now and I love it! So, I have decided to take on my next challenge: Email organization.
It's so important; I find myself missing some important emails because they get cluttered in my inbox and then I find them weeks later while searching for something completely different.
So, this year, I have started with two main tasks: Perfecting my email signature and organizing my inbox.
Thanks to Neil Patel, I found WiseStamp.com and began working on my signature this week. It's not perfect yet, but it's coming along much better than it was. [Neil's article is called "10 Gmail Plugins All Marketing Professionals Should Consider" and you can find it here: http://neilpatel.com/blog/10-gmail-plugins-all-marketing-professionals-should-consider/]
My second (seemingly Herculean) task is to organize my inbox. I came across an awesome article from Fast Company magazine, written 2 weeks ago (yes, it's 2017 and email STILL MATTERS), which offers a unique perspective on dealing with inbox organization by treating all emails as deadlines instead of subject matter. It's beginning to work for me and I encourage you to check it out as well. [https://www.fastcompany.com/3067012/work-smart/the-only-five-email-folders-your-inbox-will-ever-need]
Remember, the more time we can save with our own personal tasks, the more time we can spend working in our industry to make a difference in the lives of others' precious pieces, all of which need to be picked, packed, stored, transported and / or shipped.
Remember to exude excellence my friends.
I was flipping through an issue of Architectural Digest last night and came across this stunning ad for JW Marriott--a simply perfect piece of marketing magic.
The intention of this delightful spread is to communicate something exceptional to look for on your next stay at a JW, confident that the sophisticated Architectural Digest-reading customer will indeed be staying at a JW again sometime soon. In doing this, JW Marriott is keeping their brand top-of-mind. And that's all they need to do.
JW Marriott's reputation has already been established, and everyone knows what the JW brand stands for. So they don't need to explain that in an ad. But they do need to show why they should be the hotel of choice; they need to show what makes them different, interesting, … better.
Sometimes our most effective advertisements don't blatantly advertise what we're trying to sell. Of course, JW Marriott put this ad out to book more reservations. But they don't outright solicit bookings. They're not advertising a deal, a special, or a gimmick. Rather, they're simply appealing to the target reader--in this case, design aficionados--with a sleek, clean layout. Featuring the ad in a publication full of color, they've chosen a black and white picture highlighting beautiful architectural columns to grab the reader's eye paired with spot-on soft pink and elegant, clean text to keep the reader engaged until the simple message is received. It's exquisite.
Ads are not the place to tell your customers every little detail about every little service that you provide. And unless you're selling medication and legally required to do so, ads generally are not the place for long disclaimers. Ads are simply a method to grab someone's attention and give them a little tease as to why they should do business with you instead of someone else. Ads keep your business top-of-mind.
Kudos, JW Marriott. This ad is a winner!
#JWMarriott #ArchitecturalDigest #AMBC4ME #AskUncleMarty
By Marty Johnson, AMBC Director of Marketing
For more information about Marty, please visit unclemartysoffice.com.
As we head into the new year, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the many changes in our industry in 2016. What a year it has been!
On one hand, we've been dealing with dimensional weight issues with carriers for several years, but this year's news has been especially unsettling; on the other hand, we've had to deal with Amazon's constant "threats" to our industry, namely parcel lockers being launched in every major city (claiming to make shipping, deliveries and returns seamless), two dimensional codes that cannot be scanned in our stores when people come to return packages (causing even more angst and frustration galore), and package deliveries through the use of drones that promise you your products within 30 minutes of hitting the "Send Order" button magically on your doorstep.
We've all felt the frustration and helplessness this year, sort of like Dorothy in the Emerald City, wanting to go home and to a better place (which in our case, might be 10 years back in time when profits seemed to be at peak in our industry).
Not to worry, my friends, because here's my outlook for 2017, one which promises light at the end of the tunnel and bigger profits, if we are willing to modify certain things and let go of others.
In 2005, Michael Hyatt blogged about the "death of traditional book publishing." He had reason to be scared; he was the CEO of a major publishing house. In 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle and everyone thought that books would end. By 2011, however, people became skeptical that digital books would surpass physical ones. Fast forward to today, and the electronic readers capture only less than 25% of market share. Books are still winning, libraries are thriving and "analog" as it were, is making a strong comeback, along with paper and independent bookstores. But why?
According to David Sax, in his book Revenge of the Analog, it's because people crave authentic transactions with other real human beings, plain & simple. We are not ready to move into a completely digital world, devoid of feelings & emotions, all things that make us human. Sax also talks about retail shops (like those in our industry) rebounding with fervor based on experiences provided in store that cannot be found online.
This book is so powerful, Michael Hyatt has put it on his top 5 list for the Best Business Books of 2016! About it, he writes:
Sax makes explicit something many of us feel implicitly. Real, tangible things matter. And that insight has tremendous implications for business today—not only in how we purchase and consume, but also in how we invest and grow.
I've put it on my list for my first few read of 2017 and encourage you all to do the same.
Then, rethink your store, your model and ask yourself this question:
What is the "why" of your store? What makes it unique? Why do people choose to come to you and not go anywhere else in the neighborhood? Once you find out the answer to this question, design your in store & online marketing efforts around THIS ONE CONCEPT and make that as a written resolution for 2017.
My wife Seema & I started with this idea in 2015, redesigned our store this year and plan to grow our model in 2017, all based on the answer to the "why" question (Thanks to Simon Sinek).
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Fahim Mojawalla, AMBC Director of Social Media
Co-owner of Island Ship Center
AMBC Certified Store
#SpaOfShipping #FahimFix #ExudeExcellence
10 Minutes from Niagara Falls, USA
1879 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Phone: 716-773-6300 Website: www.IslandShipCenter.com
Twitter / Facebook
I've been doing yoga for the past few months. I started going late in the summer, figuring it would be a good outlet for tension and pent-up stress. And it has been!
Initially, I was just doing hot vinyasa yoga--sweating it out in a 105-degree room, trying to push myself to stay active for the whole 75 minutes without having a complete panic attack. But then I discovered yin yoga. Yin is a passive practice, holding positions for three minutes at a time to stretch connective tissue. It's amazing. And the class I try to go to is at night, done by candlelight, with an instructor who speaks softly and constantly reminds us how great we are for taking time for ourselves. It's the crunchiest, chillest, most wonderful experience. But I digress…
Last night, Linda the instructor kept repeating, "Don’t feed the wolves. Water the flowers instead." I've been thinking about that since, wondering what my wolves are and realizing just how much I encourage them.
We all have wolves in our lives. Some are external, threatening us and trying to tear us apart with aggressive attacks. These can be competitors, enemies, frenemies, injury, restriction, or even just negative people that bring us down and make us fret. And then some wolves are internal, eating us up from the inside out: worries, phobias, self-depreciating thoughts, disease, and addictions.
These wolves are bad news. In all logical thinking, we should avoid them and put up fences to keep them out because they're destructive and dangerous. Yet somehow we feed them! But how? And why?
Some ways we feed the wolves are easy to understand, like how we feed addiction … because we literally do feed addiction. "Just one more cookie; I'll eat a salad tomorrow." "Just one last puff; I'll quit when I'm not so stressed." "Just one last episode; I'll sleep better tomorrow night." Worries, phobias, and other obsessions are fed in much the same way. We focus on them--feeding them--which, instead of bringing resolution, just makes them stronger and allows them to take over more of our being.
Other ways we feed the wolves are harder to understand, like how we feed competition … because we don't think we actively feed competition. Isn't our intention to beat competition? Well, we do feed it--just like we feed other aggressors--by playing its game. We play price wars, insult, condescend, downplay, and degrade. We want to run negative ad campaigns, telling the world just how much they suck and we rule. But that behavior only makes us look petty, whiny, and on the defense. It makes us appear weaker, and consequently makes the competition stronger.
What if, instead of feeling all of these wolves, we put energy into building up those things inside of us and in our lives and businesses that are beautiful, strong, attractive, and distinguishing--watering our flowers. Let's stop throwing scraps to those wolves, and stop giving them the territory that they're creeping in on. Instead, let's plant new seeds, take back our property, and make it shine. Let's stop the damage, stop bringing ourselves and others down, and instead make healthy choices to build our world back up again.
Our Executive Director Sarah messaged a Simon Sinek quote to the AMBC staff today: "Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love."
We have nothing but opportunity. Here's to a beautiful year ahead!
Dear AMBC Family,
At this special time of year, on behalf of the AMBC board and staff, I want to extend our warm holiday wishes to you and yours.
You, our members and our friends, are the reason we are able to do what we do. Watching you grow is what fuels our association, and helping you succeed is what brings us joy. We are gratefully indebted to you for what you share, what you do, and for your genuine camaraderie. We are strong because we are in this together!
This has been a wonderful year in our industry. In February, we launched AMBC's new certified stores program. It’s been inspiring watching the way the new certified stores are capitalizing on their certifications and marketing in creative and positive ways. It’s also been encouraging to see the way vendors are embracing these highly-trained industry-leading locations, realizing they are a unique asset to their programs and seeking new ways to reward them for their high level of professionalism.
In 2016, we went on the road with PC Synergy and presented on topics such as customer service in a millennial age, social media, and marketing at multiple regional events throughout the country. We were glad to work with RSA again to present numerous sessions at the Retail Shippers Expo and enjoyed sharing the message of elevating industry professionalism for independent mail and business centers.
Our Facebook page has been growing rapidly as we introduce weekly snippets of useful information and training tools that provide real-life personal and business elevating ideas, and the AMBC blog has become a huge hit with stories, tips, news, #FahimFix social media solutions, and Uncle Marty's marketing hints. We brought some exciting new suppliers to our members this year like When I Work, ESR Commercial, and Refund Retriever, and have helped many of you have embrace a way to legally and efficiently facilitate I-9 signing.
We have big plans and a surprise or two for 2017! Once again we'll be traveling with the PC Synergy road show regionals to some great locations: Biloxi, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Chicago, metro New York, San Diego, and Northern California. Look forward to guest blog post from some of your favorite suppliers that will be geared toward helping you better connect with your customers, staff, and bottom line; keep an eye out for more online training tools (Yes! I said "online!"); be sure to have your kids apply in April for one of three $1,000.00 Charmaine Fennie Memorial Scholarships.
In the fall, AMBC will also be hosting a first ever industry event in Niagara Falls! We are doing a high-level workshop on Grand Island at Fahim and Seema Mojawallas’ newly added-on and redesigned store, Island Ship Center. Whether you want hands-on first-timer assistance setting up social media, or you’re an industry pro, you'll learn invaluable new tools to help you build community presence. You'll also see first-hand how the shared office concept works inside a mail and business center--a concept many feel is the future of our industry. Of course, the Mojawallas will also give us all an insider tour of Niagara Falls. This will an event you don’t want to miss!
So from our hearts to yours, we wish you the merriest of seasons ... and an especially sweet cup of cocoa on Christmas morning as you put your feet up, take a deep breath, and reflect on 2016.
Sarah Rohde - Executive Director
'Twas the week before Christmas,
And down at her store,
Our friend was quite frenzied,
Of this we're quite sure.
She's been packin' and stackin',
Playing real life box Tetris,
Which she tries to explain,
But not many get this.
The line's getting long,
And each patron is eager,
For they came to see her;
She's their favorite shopkeeper.
She smiles at each face,
That graces her door,
And most names she knows,
For they've been there before.
She heated her lunch,
At a quarter to noon,
And now at 3:30,
Her soup's stiff as the spoon.
But that's not a problem,
For cookies galore,
Have shown up in droves,
And folks keep bringing more!
The box order's late;
She's out of 18 cubes.
So she improvises a plan,
Because she knows what to use.
She score and rescores,
Making new boxes from old,
Because gifts being shipped,
Must arrive when they're told.
Yes, her store is sure hoppin',
For now is the season,
And her smile's sure poppin',
With very good reason.
On shipments, on gift wrap,
On mailings and letters,
She leaves her bright mark,
And makes each one better.
She's a beacon of joy,
And this surely is why,
She's rockin' it this season,
Because smiles don't lie.
I got my first Christmas card yesterday. It was from my Aunt Bonnie, and it was spectacularly special.
I send cards out every year, both personally and from my business. It's quite a project! Though I must admit that I'm indeed exceptionally organized and have card crafting down to a science.
I keep a spreadsheet going all year long with different contacts, then just do a simple mail merge to create my labels and I'm golden. Well that and designing, proofing, printing, cutting, gluing, cutting some more, writing an itty bitty note, enveloping, labeling, sealing, and stamping … then repeating those steps a few hundred times in an assembly-line fashion.
What's the point of this, you may ask? It seems like a lot of work for something kind of silly. It seems like other projects--especially for a business--should take priority over something like this. I mean, who cares about a little card anyway? Right?
People care. And it makes a huge difference.
It truly is a lot of work. But much more than that, it's a lot of fun. It keeps my favorite people top-of-mind. It keeps me in touch with friendly clients past--those who have moved away but still advocate for my business from afar. It keeps me in touch with friendly clients present--those who have been in my store this year and have been a joy to work with. It keeps me in touch with friendly clients future--those who may not be doing much business with me yet, but with whom I'm connected and for whom I'm hopeful. It's a direct, personal, seasonally appropriate way to reach out, express gratitude, and share warm fuzzy feelings.
I don't send cards to every single customer that has waltzed through my door this year. Goodness! Can you imagine?! No, I just send cards to my regulars--the loyal friends of my shop. Some spend thousands of dollars each year, and some spend just a few. Some are in multiple times per week, and some only occasionally. But each one is someone who I consider part of my team--an important part of the essential network that allows my business to organically grow.
If you're having trouble thinking about who to send holiday cards to or where to draw the line, think about it like this: If your business was a person, who would it want to say hello to? Who would it want to wish a happy holiday season to? Who would it want to keep in touch with? Who brings it joy? Send cards to those people: the ones who will appreciate the gesture.
I'm in the middle of my card project now. I should have done this in November; I usually do this in November before the holiday rush starts. But one thing led to another, projects piled up, and getting my business's holiday cards done simply just got put off. So now, as the busy season gears up, I'm furiously finishing my festive messages and sending them off to my friendly clients--past, present, and future--all around the world.
Someone said recently, "To be respected, you must first show respect." While I echo my "Amen" to that, I'll also state a new version: "To be thought of by others, you must first think of others."
#HolidayCards #KeepInTouch #SpreadJoy
He’s making a list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Everyone knows that Santa is always watching. He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. As creepy as this might seem, it’s a good reminder to forego being naughty and try harder to be nice—nice to our customers, nice to our staff, nice to our neighbors, and nice to our competitors.
I found a list on a recent visit to Santa’s workshop. Yes, I’ve been to Santa’s workshop. The jolly Mr. Kringle had me up to the pole to talk about a possible partnership between AMBC and the Yonder Unit of Local Elves (YULE).
You see, the elves want to offer their services as global overnight shipping experts to our member stores, however they didn’t understand how to set up their rates. I was talking dollars and dimensional weights, but they were stuck on cookies and cocoa. Our best solution was convert everything to standardized candy cane units, but the fine points got too sticky. We continue to talk and will make an official vendor announcement soon, if necessary.
But I digress, back to this list. It’s fascinating! Santa keeps track of exactly what AMBC member stores are doing, and determines their naughty or nice quotient to reward them with December traffic and sales. Who knew!?
The big man in red is keeping an eye on all of us, watching our behavior and habits.
So what do you do when Mr. Salamida pulls up to the curb outside your store, blocks the loading zone, and comes in with three envelopes wrapped in a crusty old rubber band to drop in the mail? Do you just watch him hobble in, roll your eyes, and then ignore the fact that the glue on one of his letters is coming undone? Or do you greet him at the door, thank him for visiting, and then put a piece of tape on that goofy flap before placing it in the bin?
I certainly hope you’re doing the latter. Mr. Salamida might not be spending any money at your store that day, but he’s leaving with a very good impression, grateful for your patience and kindness to him. Someday soon, he’ll have to mail back that Time Life book that he “didn’t order” and make copies of his old family photos to share with his grandchildren. Did you know that his granddaughter is in fact working on her own local start-up right now and needs someone to help with her product distribution? Guess who’ll get a glowing recommendation by the grandfather that she adores? It’ll be you!
What do you do when Kirsten, your hardworking, honest, diligent employee, comes to you with a family emergency and won’t be able to work this Saturday? Do you tell her, “That’s your second strike. One more and you’re out!” Do you give her an ultimatum that, if she can find another employee to work, she can switch her schedule this one time only? Do you begrudgingly tell her you’ll work for her but she’s really put you in a bind? Or do you listen to her problem, offer your empathy, and tell her that you’ll be very happy to work for her because family comes first, not making any issue that you’ll have to mow your lawn another day?
Because you were compassionate to Kirsten, she’ll be much more likely to continue to go out of her way for you when you need her in the future. She’ll want to support your business and do what she can to make sure it’s successful. Loyal, dedicated employees are invaluable.
How do you handle drop-offs? Do you treat dropper-offers as potential customers, making their visit to your store as pleasant and pain-free as possible, hoping each one will tell all of their friends what a nice shop you run and then come back when they have a need for another service that you offer? Or do you treat them like they’re wasting your time and costing you money?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve converted a drop-off customer into a paying customer, particularly on services like printing and international shipping—things they want an expert to handle. Some are now my biggest accounts! It’s all because I made them feel welcome, taped their box as a courtesy, gave them a drop-off confirmation slip, and made sure they left carrying my brochure, impressed.
Do you work with any charities at your store? Everyone has a cause—or multiple causes—close to their hearts. We can’t support everything and everyone, but we can make a difference to something and someone.
You can set aside a month a year to fundraise for your choice cause, possibly with a window display and series of tweets to raise awareness, by selling something, or by taking donations. Perhaps a percentage of a certain SKU that month gets donated. Or maybe your staff participates in an annual charity event as a store team.
Maybe you work with your neighbor, Lisa, who owns a barber shop and campaigns every year to collect Christmas cards for the troops. You can offer to ship them all in one big box to a soldier who’s willing to distribute them to their peers.
Or maybe you collect letters to Santa from children, placing them in a dedicated “North Pole Express” mailbox that you have set up and ornately decorated for everyone to see.
The limits to what you can do are endless. Nice behavior is inevitably rewarded, whether you believe in karma or not.
Christopher Elliott wrote a great piece about the importance of good manners. While his focus is on travel, the principles outlined ring true across the board. I highly recommend checking out elliott.org/blog/why-good-behavior-is-your-most-valuable-travel-asset/.
Now, all things considered, nobody is perfect. Nobody chooses wisely and behaves angelically 100% of the time. Some frustrating customers—frustromers—push us over the edge. In fact, when I was at the pole, Santa showed me some footage of me being not very nice, and my face turned as red as his hat. There’s always room for improvement.
You get what you give. So give goodness, and have a very merry Christmas.
This article was originally published in MBC Today Volume 17, Issue 6 (November/December 2015).
How can we store owners benefit?Our customers would love to support us. If you carry impulse items, market those products. If you do not, give out reward cards or coupons that they can use later to ensure that they will come back.How can we get started?Go to https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/ to sign up. It's absolutely free (though you have to accept Amex cards). They will send all the marketing tools. Last year they sent out tote bags, door mat, pins, pens, and clipboards. This year Amex launched Shop Small Studio where you can create free custom downloadable marketing materials for your social networks, site, and storefront.
We have been participating for the last two years. In 2014 we didn't have many items for our customers to buy, so many came but left empty handed. Their effort to help support us touched us so much that I expanded my merchandise to cater to our customers. Last year we had customers coming throughout the day to support and purchase items from us. We had record sales of products for that Saturday despite low shipping. This year we have added more inventory for impulse items all of which retail under $20 each. We will not carry many of these items throughout the year but will have them for the months of October to December (when people actively shop for Christmas).
In my experience, it eases the customers’ waiting time in line if they have pleasantries all around them. Most of the time they will buy products or at least look at them. We have also found it makes the entire shipping experience much less painless because the impulse items act as a distraction.
We started with a vendor we found in Vegas (Bloomhouse Distributors). They offer 60 day guaranteed selling. If the product doesn't sell within 60 days they will exchange the product.
Amex is a big fish and they are helping small businesses like ours to stay competitive in the marketplace. Especially in the market where Amazon seems to be taking over. We might as well ride the wave with Amex. Happy shopping!
(This article has been reprinted from the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of MBC Today Magazine).
Seema Mojawalla is a co-owner of Island Ship Center, an experienced-based retail shipping spa located 10 minutes south of Niagara Falls, USA in Grand Island, NY, where she also sells her exclusive line of natural, handmade beauty care products known as Island Bliss. She serves on the board of directors for AMBC and can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, please visit IslandShipCenter.com and follow her store on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, and more.
Association of Mail & Business Centers TM, 1465 Woodbury Ave. #811, Portsmouth, NH 03801 ~ (815) 316-8255