Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten "Evolutions" for 2016

This is my last post for the year 2015 and my first post of 2016. As many of you know, I started this blog in 2009 and have written well over 500 blogs. Some 1200 subscribers now read it. And I am so grateful for it.

However; the past several months have found me fighting a battle with a chronic back injury which has taken my game down a notch or two and found me spending less time writing and more time "writhing."  I think I am back now. Some new treatments have been working wonders and I am getting ready to resume my running. (I have permission providing it is on dirt and I don't try to break the 4-minute mile)!  

For me, 2016 will be about blogging more on topics that I hope you will find relevant, but will also resonate with you to take action that will help your business to improve lineage, revenue and profits. I'll be blogging about marketing, management, customer service, and of course, a lot more emphasis on E-Marketing processes and tactics. So stay tuned.

Today, I want to write to you about  the New Year and the resolutions we make. Only I am calling this "Ten 2016 New Year's Evolutions" for you to consider.
In no particular order, here they are:
  1. Fight mediocrity every day. Regularly refuse to compromise on your values, even when compromise might be the easier way out. Infuse this "beat mediocrity" value into every employee.
  2. You don't need another big idea or magic bullet to make your business grow. You have all the big ideas you need. You just need to execute better, be more specific about your tactics, test different approaches and, of course, have patience. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
  3. Don't take a program failure as a personal affront.  Go back and examine what you did. What did you do right? What do you think went wrong? What did you learn from it? The last point here is the most important one you can discover.
  4. Don't race to the bottom with low pricing strategies. Differentiate yourself via e-marketing, using testimonials, and more importantly, invite reviews from your customers, companies, and fund-raising organizations with whom you have done business. Reviews are even more important than testimonials.
  5. Remember, most people are visually attentive, more than aurally attentive. Use YouTube videos in your emails as frequently as you can.  Real people giving real world reviews are more effective than "words."
  6. Don't keep using emails and Facebook posts to "sell, sell and sell."  Use social media to be social. Tell stories about funny, memorable and interesting things that happened at the center...and then offer a coupon that relates to the story
  7. Stop complaining that you have "no help" or no one to do what you can do. If that is the real case, then go hire someone to be a good number two.   It will always turn out that doing a good job with good employees that share your passion is the single best way to get a chance to do an even better job with more, next time.
  8. The one thing you may be afraid of probably won't happen if you always take the long view. You know as well as I do that the industry is changing. It isn't modernization you need, it's "reimagining" your center to appeal to more types of open play and entertainment type of customers. Start examining your options from boutique lanes to arcades/redemption games to laser tags to better birthday parties for under served segments like teens and adults...not just kids.
  9. Get more involved in your community; more involved in fund-raising that affects the community's goals. Stay involved with the Chamber of Commerce, attend the meetings, take a leadership role and make sure that your center gets the credit it deserves. Do it because you want to, because you have a passion for the cause, not just for the money.
  10. What is a brand? Its something that someone looks for because it means something. It has value and makes the purchaser feel better about buying the branded product rather than a "generic product."  Most proprietors think their center is the same as the guy's center down the street. Perhaps it is and that's why the only differentiation you have been doing is to fight the "genericazation" is with price cuts.  That's the way it has always been done and I suppose will continue.  But this year what can you think of that sets your center apart? This past year, we eliminated shoe rental at one proprietor, recreated his pricing structure, built in the price of shoe rentals into his new pricing and for the last three months, his sales have increased by double digit percentages over the past year. His position is, " Never pay for shoe rentals again." Now you may not like that idea, and that's OK, but what else can you think of? Remember, branding is the new marketing. Discover what your center stands for and communicate it.
And finally, here's wishing you and your family a most happy, healthy and prosperous new year.


Monday, November 9, 2015

You're So Good, You're Boring

Before getting started on this blog, I wanted to post a few responses from several of my readers to my “Offense vs. Defense” blog of last week.  Thought you would be interested in their comments, amongst a dozen others or so.

“Fred, I think this was one of your most educational and articulate posts yet.  However, I think you left out one management failing that is a combination of the two.  There are many managers who talk about offense and solicit new ideas but never make a decision until they have "more information". 
Or, they try a new idea but give it up after a short period of time before it has a chance to be measurable because "it didn't work".  In this way, they never have to face the changes in the industry or in the market.

One of the challenges facing the bowling industry is the lack of management training.  I would encourage additional future posts that make people think through some of their basic assumptions in their management style.  Good work.”                                                           
Sincerely, Ken Paton

“Fred, OUTSTANDING BLOG!!
This one should be framed!
The bowling business is a great one!  When we have some group events and corporate parties, we hear the same thing "I forgot how much fun bowling is". You are correct--we need offensive players to create and execute ideas on how to drive traffic!  As we used to say at Brunswick..." most everyone loves to bowl---our job is to keep it Top of Mind." Nice work, Fred.”
                                                                     Regards, Tom Funk

“Fred, GREAT POST AS ALWAYS!
I am so tired of the negative Nancy. While everyone has challenges complaining about them won't change things. We need to take action.

They say league bowling is dead. Our 32-week leagues are up 11% this year. They say even is the new up when it comes to open play. We are up 42% for September and October. They say the chains are killing the snack bar and restaurants inside bowling alleys. We are up 26% for September and October.

 Yes, all my employees know about it, celebrated it at our last employee meeting and take pride in it because I let them know they are the main reason for things going so well. Your best investment will always be training. Attend webinars and seminars, take BPAA on-line courses, join Focus on Results, and read blogs like this one...then pass what you learned down to them.   Only mushrooms grow in the dark. Keep your staff informed”.
                                                                        Thanks, Fred, Lew Simms

Here’s The Real Blog for Today
You’re So Good, You’re Boring

I’ve been in your center. It's sparkling clean, systemized, procedurized, customer servicized and predictable as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.
In fact, you’re so good, so predictable that after going to your center 3 or 4 times, I think I’ll try something different. 


Want to know why?

Because your center is utterly boring. Nothing surprises me. Nothing excites me anymore.  Your people all have the same smiles, the same predictably canned answers and the oh so familiar, “Thanks for coming –hope to see you soon answers.”

When are you going to get back to being unpredictable? Because the people who set the trends, the people who care are those that live on the edges are drawn to the idiosyncratic nature of a place or product; to its unpredictability, to what can be customized or tweaked…sometimes even the things that might not even work 100%

Anybody remember why you bowled in the Petersen?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Offense vs Defense

It has often been said, especially in professional football, that “the best defense is a great offense”. Or was it “the best offense is a great defense?”

After 20 years of providing marketing and management consulting services to businesses within the entertainment category as well as other industries, their strategic business approach is  either “offense oriented” or “defense-oriented”, based upon the team the leaders, managers or owners have assembled.

Every client says they want more revenue, but in reality, some are actually AFRAID of more revenue. They are the defensive businesses who tend to hire defensive employees. People who are content with the status quo; people who say, “Oh we tried that and it didn’t work.” 

People who believe that they are in a “sunset industry” or a "no growth" or "very low growth industry" and, thus, have no motivation to do anything differently...other than to say, "Nothing works anymore." (Including them!!)
Or people who just want to ride it out until they can sell.

Or they hire people who are mere auditors always thinking about theft; that someone is stealing, that they have to micromanage everything and their strategic visions is, “Don’t lose what you have and protect the principle at all costs”. People who say, “I will invest as little as possible to market my business” and are slow, very slow, to embrace dynamic and new internet marketing processes.  

Some have even hired internet companies to do this for them and may have even been successful with it, but the center no longer manages or plays in the game…they have hired replacements to play what they believe is “offense.”  Yet, when they don’t see immediate returns in 90 days, they fire the company and move even further away from "the offense" culture and dig their heels in even deeper to play “better” defense.

In fact, the worst situation that the defensive company can be in is to hire a bright, intelligent motivated person to develop a new set of programs. And when that employee stays up and burns the midnight creative oil to present proposals with facts and conclusions to owners, managers and other employees, they eventually get, “that won’t work”; “you can’t do that because of blah, blah, blah.”

Eventually and usually before six months that new employee quits, having been frustrated by the defensive players’ fear of risk, finger pointing and blame.  While employees are very concerned about any changes, it is usually, the leader, the manager and/or the owner the owner is even more scared than the employees and this attitude just permeates the organization... So they continue to play defense and still don’t understand why their business begins to atrophy.

On the other hand, those companies who are led by the “offensively oriented proprietor, manager or company executive wants all employee input; wants to reward them for new ideas; has established a culture of "teamwork", goal setting, easy to implement processes, and constant training. 

In this offensive minded environment, every idea is valuable, is considered and evaluated thoroughly from the perspective of “how can we run this play”?   What new resources will we need to make it happen?  How quickly can we roll it out in an alpha and then beta test?  It is this organization that truly values every employee and accepts new ideas from all.  

Unlike the defensive company that says, ah we’ve heard that before, it just won’t work here, the offensive company looks for reasons to make it work, to reward the employee for his /her idea suggestion, recommendation and creativity.

What kind of people do you think they tend to hire? That’s right. The aggressive self-starter who wants to achieve, who wants to be part of a team and who respects everyone on that team
If you find yourself in the former category (defensive), look in the mirror and evaluate yourself first.  

Offense or Defense?  The choice is yours


The choice is yours. But I know what I would do.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Because Every Voice Matters

I  never ask my blog readers to buy anything, except a couple of times a year I ask for a contribution to a charity that is near and dear to my heart; SAY (Stuttering Association for the Young). As a youngster, and even as an adult, I experienced stuttering first hand. And it made me what I am today. 

I am fortunate and blessed to have achieved many of my dreams and that’s why I am so passionate about helping kids who stutter. I know the humiliation, the teasing, the embarrassment, the tears of anger and frustration and the low self-esteem they feel because I felt that too. Like Moses, who had a stutter, he was driven to succeed because of his trials as a child.

In this world, everyone is given obstacles, some more serious and painful than others. Part of our intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth is to use them as motivations and not merely restrictions. 

Sometimes the challenges we are given becomes the accomplishments.

So today I am asking that you go to www.say.org/ruddbowling. 

See for yourself what SAY does and how you can be a part of our fourth annual bowling benefit just by clicking the donate button. Then use your credit card and donate any amount, $10, $50 or $100 or whatever you feel good about. 

And if you’re in the NYC area October 26th, please join us. Please know that SAY and the entire organization of specialists and volunteers are doing the needed work to help each child who stutters feel like his voice matters and that stuttering cannot and will not cast a pall on his dreams.

“That which limits us can also empower us.”  Moses

My heartfelt thanks to you in advance.

Best regards
Fred

www.SAY.ORG is The Stuttering Association for the Young and is a non-profit organization that empowers young people who stutter and inspires the world to treat them with compassion and respect, so they can achieve their dreams.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What's Your Marketing Vision?

In the days before computer imaging and technology, manufacturing was conducted by subtraction.

That is, a large block or sheet of metal was rolled out and a press or a cutter was used to make it into the precise size the part was specified.

Manufacturers literally “subtracted” pieces of the block or sheet to make the part.

In today’s world, 3D printing technology, it can make a car fender, a computer screen or almost anything else by “adding” the technology to it.

Parts for spacecraft have been done this way for years. I haven’t seen it in person, but some of my friends who are 3D geeks say this is the future that all manufacturing will be done.

If that be the case, then what is to follow?  Will we add more to our existing stuff?  As proprietors, we have added sweepers, tournaments, 9pn and 8 pin no tap games, and a myriad of other games to the basic 10 pin gam,e?

But how do you know what consumers want?  

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”  Obviously the Model T was not even a dream in their mind, but it was in Henry’s mind.

So it took old Henry to have a vision, to have a dream and come up with something completely different from the horse to satisfy desires customers didn’t even know they had.

It took a risk. It took perseverance and it took looking into the future.
As bowling slowly morphs into FEC’s then FEC’s will start morphing into something else.

Because as always, THE MARKETING IS THE PRODUCT?

What will that something else be?  Is someone already working on that?  

Why not you?

Spend some time; sitting and staring time, soon and think about your vision, about how you can manufacture something that just might be the next Model T

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What You Can Learn from Volkswagen Today

No doubt, you have heard about the recent crisis at Volkswagen. 

Seems the good folks in Wolfsburg, Germany decided that the emissions standards for their diesel engines weren’t quite right so they fraudulently reported lower emissions and greenhouse gasses than they actually had.

They got caught and the CEO was forced to resign while the largest automobile manufacturer in Europe, VW, with over a 50% market share has just suffered the worst calamity a company can go through; loss of trust in their product. 

No doubt this will have far-reaching consequences for the global automotive industry, as well as impacting the European economy, and perhaps the future of the diesel and or gasoline internal combustion engine that has been around since Karl Benz invented it back in 1897.

And it happened because VW forgot the cardinal rule of 21st-century marketing.

“Marketing is no longer just advertising or PR or promotion or even sophisticated digital marketing.  If you still conflict and are uncertain about present day marketing, please realize marketing is not all communications, whether old school traditional or sophisticated digital media. But rather:

 Marketing IS THE PRODUCT!

Years ago, in the boardroom of the largest family owned bowling center chain worldwide, I said, “Marketing is Everything.." I was greeted by jeers from other department heads who thought I was saying that their “spheres of influence were less relevant than mine.” 

Of course, they misunderstood my words; they were, sadly, too myopic to understand that what I was saying was that “the customer sees our centers through his/her eyes...and the product is the marketing."

From the lanes, to the cleanliness of the bathroom, to the service we provide, to the quality of the food and beverage to the lighting of the parking lot, to the parking lot itself, to signage to the quality of house balls and rental shoes and to many other elements they visually and tactically perceive our quality and the value of their experience.

They do all of this processing, analyzing and concluding what our center, and their experience, is or isn't in less than a second. Yikes!

And no amount or kind of advertising or promotion will overcome a bad product. Ever.  Can't fake it till you make it anymore. (See VW above!)

So the message for today is to make sure that all of the elements of your “product” are your marketing?

Start with a checklist. What are ALL of the elements of your product? Then rate them from 1 to 10 with 1 being BAD AND 10 being EXCELLENT. Then have your employees rate the elements. Now ask your customers.

No doubt, you will get a very precise feel about your product and then you can start to improve, over time, each and every element…almost assuring that your marketing will be successful!





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whats Possible vs. What's Required

We are required to make up a fall league bowler flier, brochure, advertisement, etc.

We are required to call back league bowlers.

We are required to host a junior registration day.

We are required to do a traffic driver before Labor Day.

We are required to “come up with new league ideas."

But…

What if it were possible to concentrate on getting new league bowlers vis a vis a league bowler recommending a friend to bowl?

What if it were possible to create a promotional program to get people that used to bowl to come back to your center and join a short season program or to sub for an existing team in a specific league?

What if it were possible to develop a traffic driving program that went viral because all proceeds of the weekend were going to (person in need, charity or non-profit organization?)

Sometimes it’s more important to think about the “what if it were possibles” rather than the same old “requirements.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back To School For Us Too



For millions of American school children, September signals a return to the classrooms, a clean slate, a new beginning and the promise of a brighter year.

For many business people, September also signals the sounds of the holidays to come. They know, as do you, that before you turn around, the season will be here.

If you’re a bowling proprietor or the owner /operator of an FEC, you recognize the importance of capitalizing on Halloween Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa holiday weeks, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Maybe your market celebrates all of these holidays. 
Maybe yes. Maybe no.

Point is you have to get your marketing plans together NOW to be able to implement effective income generating programs.

Here’s just a quick game plan of the steps you need to take

1.     What did you do the last several years, during these holidays?  

2.     Were they successful?

3.     Can you quantify lineage, revenue, average price per game, revenue per game during these promotional periods. What’s that, you don’t have that kind of information? Then base it on open play revenue

4.     Ask your open play bowlers which (ideas you have) programs they might prefer. List your 3 or 4 ideas in a flier format (doesn’t have to be all that pretty) and show them to open play bowler families, kids, Moms, 15 to 34 year olds, HS kids and any college people in your market.

5.     Quantify the data and select the program.
6.     Here is the hard part.
a.     How do you communicate for maximum effectiveness?
b.     How do you reach potential customers and existing non-league customers (No, one or two emails will not bring your embryonic idea to life, Sorry. It takes a campaign).
c.     How much will you spend? (“As little as possible” is not a viable answer. Every other marketer is doing all they can to maximize the season so tell me again how your flier sitting on the desk, or your two Facebook posts will have them waiting at the doors is going to compete with them again?).

7.     How will you train your people for handling and servicing more people?  (What about the part time kid you hired from the local high school? Think he really cares? How will you get him or her motivated to satisfy YOUR customers)?

8.     What will you during the campaign to add some excitement, instant gratification, and just plain fun to the experience?

9.     How will you make sure to try and gather as much new data base names as possible? (Oh Fred, we try, but get so busy. We just don’t have the time!) 

a.     Maybe hire a part time hostess for the weekends, Larry and make sure she is a happy, bubbly type that can get people to complete a data base.
10.  Did you lay down a set of goals up front and are now measuring the results against goal, against expenditure to achieve goal and against last year.

More importantly, please recognize that the myriad ways to communicate has changes. In the past we pushed messages onto consumers. 

Today, consumers have a choice to voluntarily accept it or turn it off.  How will you make sure that your message gets turned on??

If you have any questions on these steps, we will be happy to assist. Just give us a call at           516 359 4874 or email us at fredkaplowitz@gmail.com

And have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Happy Kwanzaa

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Stepping over Dollars to Pick Up Dimes



Recent Facebook posts have depicted many many reflective and spiritual statements and graphics.  Some thanked God for being able to get out of bed this morning. Others were thankful that God let them live this far unto their lives. Still others were just happy to have survived a recent life threatening physical tragedy or emotionally painful event. 

These very same people, no doubt, have businesses, work for companies or teach, lawyer account for and doctor other people. Do  they carry their spirituality to their chosen work lives? 

I would like to think the answer is a resounding “Yes.”  However; I have seen far fewer Facebook posts about the same thankfulness they show for each other than they might show for their business…and thus their customers.

Because when you have a business, it’s about satisfying the customer, exceeding his or her expectations and, if we recognized this more frequently - almost in a spiritual way - we wouldn’t need the thousands of customer service training classes, remedial training and just common sense training that is so pervasive in the business community today. 

Here is a recent example of making it hard to do business.

I was preparing to celebrate my wife’s birthday, a fairly significant number, may I add, and used the “Open Table” on line service.  All went smooth until I decided to call the restaurant. I dialed up the noted establishment and spoke to the maĆ®tre d. I pleasantly asked her if I could bring a cake since my wife’s best friend had been baking birthday cakes for her, lo these many years, for umpteen years and could we continue the tradition.  

She answered, "absolutely…not!"  I was astounded and asked her to reconsider. She then responded that “we sell birthday cakes for $100 or $10 a slice. Since I was expecting a dozen or so people, I was getting annoyed with her attitude and suggested that I might take my business elsewhere if she didn’t deliver some satisfactory answers. 

She simply said, “Fine, should I cancel your reservation?”  “Let me speak to the manager”, I said.” “I am the manager", she said. In one swift movement, I hung up the phone and made a reservation somewhere else where, several days later, we were joyously received and I was able to bring my wife's birthday cake to the celebration.

Now how spiritual was this woman in her business? How much did she really care about her customers? How much did she empathize with me? How much did she put herself in my shoes? How much did she really appreciate the fact that I was willing to be her customer and if I had a good time, I would recommend the establishment to my friends. How much did she care about being spiritual and kind in her business? Not at all.  She blew off a fairly expensive dinner for 12; revenue her establishment would have received over “a silly policy” issue.

If you think this is a rare occasion, fly 100,000 miles a year with me and find out about the "unfriendly skies." Or try to return a product you bought on line, even if it had a 100% money back guarantee.  Good luck finding a phone number or a process to send it back.

These silly policy issues, all too often, put a lot of pressure on front line people to defend the owner's decisions.  Intuitively they know that your policies just, "ain't right."  

Lots of turnover, recently?  Could be a sign that your employees were always playing defense over your unfriendly policies, never getting a chance to do the right thing and deciding to find a better place to earn their wages. Check yourself if you like finding people doing something wrong as opposed to doing something right.

So why do we do these things? Simply because it was marginally better for the owner and not necessarily for the customer. What will happen to their business when loyal customers wake up and realize that, if they can't get from your establishment what they can easily obtain from other establishments, they will eventually choose a competitor's products or services, switch allegiances and never return to your establishment or buy your service again.

Please, please  think about if you are doing anything to make it harder for your customer to buy your product or service.  Try to be your customer for a few days and see what is making them, perhaps, "not like you as much as they used to."  Just look at your sales and see if they have been steadily eroding? Is that a sign of something that you can fix and not "the economy."
 
Nevertheless, I suspect that the manager with whom I spoke to at the first restaurant, in her private life, might very well be a spiritual and generous soul. Let us hope.
And that’s why I am never going to go to Ninos Restaurant at 1354 1st Avenue ( 1st avenue and 72nd street in NYC. 

 Sometimes we step over dollars to pick up dimes.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Running To Daylight


With the July 4th weekend now over, many of us are still working our centers,  hoping for a little rain and  some open play bowling gains. Yet, some of us have closed based upon past results. Whichever category you fall, the hard truth is  "NOW" starts the “fall league flooring season.” 

From here to the start of the season is about 6 to 8 weeks (42 to 56 days); not a lot of time to do all that needs to be done

I’m not going to dwell on all you need to do starting with:  (just some examples) but want to talk about some new methods you can think about which have borne fruit in the past:

·      calling last season’s league bowlers
·      calling secretaries
·      contacting dropouts
·      holding league meetings
·      establishing league benefits
·      speaking to summer bowlers
·      selling open play summer bowlers
·      selling Kids Bowl Fee parents and kids
·      making sure you have short season leagues in place
·      emailing, Facebook, twitter – the whole social media campaign
·      referral programs
·      employee incentives
·      direct mail

Here are a couple of ideas to think about right now and implement tomorrow:

1.       Invite those corporate party people you last saw in December for a FREE awesome August bowling party. Send emails, text messages and then direct mail. And finally call them. You will get lots of food and beverage income plus the opportunity to talk with them about 8 or 10 week or an every other week bowling party league. Remind them that it doesn’t have to be the same people on each team every night.

2.      Do a sales blitz against local stores in your market and invite them in on one or two available nights of free bowling from 6pm to midnight.  Just bring in their coupon that you delivered or get their email and send it that way.  This sets up a selling situation to sell a short have a ball league for 8 or 10 weeks either at 630pm or 930pm depending on their hours. Hit at least 100 stores.

3.      Set up a few band nights the last two weekends in August and invite appropriate age demos (that match the band’s music) to come into the center for $5.  Bowling is extra.  Have a great short season league ready to sell these folks that include music, bowling equipment and maybe tickets to a concert in your home town or close to your town.

4.     Host a fund raiser with the animal shelter and use your venue to raise money for the shelter. Advertise this on local radio and or cable TV. Have the animal shelter email their “donors” and let people bring their dogs to the center and host a dog contest OUTSIDE OF THE CENTER. Have a fund raiser league for the animal shelter for 10 to 12 weeks or every other week or even once a month

Keep thinking about new ideas.  Because in today’s environment you have to exceed the  customer's expectation…every time.