Monthly Archives: April 2006

Google, Yahoo Expand Local Search: Ignore This And Your Business Profits Will Suffer

Business Development Consultant, Steve Pohlit, advises all companies to have a website with local search information now. The trends are clear. Conduct this experiment on your own. Simply ask 10 people how they would locate an apparel store, car wash, CPA, shoe repair shop, dry cleaner, attorney, etc. Even if they know the name of the business but do not know the address, ask them how they would find the address. There is a good chance 70% or more of the people you ask will say they search on-line.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google and Yahoo are making major investments in local search “rushing to add more consumer information about local businesses”. Yahoo has www.local.yahoo.com and Google recently changed from Local to Maps which can be found at www.maps.google.com

Yahoo is building local town squares where users share information about local businesses. Google is accumulating local business information that is already posted elsewhere on line.

If you have a business, you must have domain name and at least one page that provides information on the type of business, products and services offered, location and contact information. Information about your business is going to be available on-line soon, if it is not already there. It is better for you to be in the driver seat as to what is published.

The cost of having an on line presence is no longer an excuse. The entire process can be accomplished for much less than the cost of a yellow page listing. In fact, I am registering domain names for $8.00 a year and hosting a web site can be done for $100 a year or less plus most hosting packages include an email and the ability to set up a blog. Essential design can be done less than $100 assuming the business owner gives the designer basic information. If you need additional information on setting up websites or hosting websites, email me and I will help you.

I have discussed the major opportunity for most companies is previous articles, but here it is again: use your website to provide detailed information about your business, offer visitors a reason to register with your business and then develop a communication strategy with your subscribers. This process will increase revenue and profits. It will dramatically increase revenue and profits when you also capture the contact information of people physically visiting your business and people buying from you. That is the entire basis for the business model presented at www.localretailmarketing.com The principle applies to national companies as most market to their customers in local communities.

Here is one example of a national restaurant business headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Most people are familiar with the name Outback Steakhouse. You may not know the names of their other divisions which include: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s and more. The St. Petersburg Times reported that Outback was concerned about the performance trends of their flagship business, Outback Steakhouse. To further understand the basis for these trends, the company hired a consulting firm to study trends and evaluate customer perception of the business. It was not reported how long this study took or cost. It simply said it was conducted in 2005 and the results are being reported in 2006.

You can monitor customer reaction to your business daily without any special studies when you have a communication program in place. For example, in the restaurant business you could offer an incentive to come in and eat. That incentive can be tracked. When the customer who received the incentive in their email, redeems it you can link it to a survey. The survey can be conducted while they are in the restaurant or afterwards with a follow-up message that includes a big, warm thank you for your visit. This is not hard to do. What must be in place is a culture that reacts to what the your customers are telling you. They will spend money with you when they know you care.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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The A, B, C’s of Inventory Management

The A,B,C’s of Inventory Management

One might think the books have not been written, the software not developed and the knowledge base empty when reading some of the recent headlines. When the largest retailer in the world announces they are reducing the amount of inventory in their stores because they have too much, it crowds the isles, confuses the customer and delivers the wrong message, one might wonder why they have this problem. After all the best and brightest work there and they has not held back on investments in technology. So how does the largest retailer in the world get themselves in a position where inventory levels are excessive?

Inventory management is an art not a science. The levels of inventory are a judgment call based on the available information. Let’s review how it is supposed to work. Before we start, this brief lesson applies to every company that has inventory no matter what industry and no matter what size the company. If you think this does not apply to you then I submit you are exactly the person I was thinking of when I wrote this article.

The primary reason for any inventory is to use it or sell it to make money. If you have an inventory of spare parts for a machine that is 20 years old, you are carrying that inventory to make sure you can repair the machine if it fails. If you dispose of the machine you no longer need the spare parts inventory. If you are a restaurant that specializes in prime cut steaks, you need the inventory to match the projected customers for today and maybe tomorrow. If your projections are wrong, then you either run out of steaks or have an excess. In the restaurant business, there rarely is any need to carry more than a couple days supply of inventory. Restaurant suppliers generally deliver more than once a week. In the fashion apparel industry, inventory is seasonal. In the early Spring merchandise is already in the pipeline for Fall and Winter. If apparel merchants misjudge the style, color, or fashion trend of their customer, they will be left with merchandise taking up valuable retail space. Blowout sales are then used to get rid of it.

Good systems will tell you the quantities on hand, on order, days of supply, gross profit in inventory, inventory turnover in total, by category, by vendor, by item and a lot more. Good systems will automatically process replenishment orders for item that are considered basic or staples. However, people makes policy decisions. Policy decisions are ones like inventory turnover will be at least 4 or we will now carry a higher mix of higher priced items to attract a more upscale customer. Inventory policy decisions drive the organization to action to achieve the goals of those policies.

In my experience, effective inventory policies are a result of business strategy linked to business financial performance and liquidity goals. When there is no clear definition of the goals then how do you evaluate actual results? Actual performance is always relative to the targeted goal.

The following is a brief summary of the impact of less than optimal inventory management:

Sales goals can not be met if you have nothing to sell. Forecasted demand along with replenishment modeling are key.

Gross margin goals cannot be achieved if your actual inventory mix does not match your gross margin goal or your customer demand patterns do not match what you have to offer.

Liquidity goals cannot be achieved if inventory turnover is less than target.

A,B,C Inventory Management Plan

1.Establish clear sales and gross margin goals.
2.Develop the same goals by line of business, product category
3.Identify the A items in each category. A items are the ones that make up 80% of the sales volume for that category.
4.Calculate the gross margin for the A items by category. Calculate the variance of actual gross margin for the A items vs. goal. If the result is the same, your goals are likely too low.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for inventory turnover. Be sure the turnover goals tie into you liquidity forecast.
6. Develop detailed action plans to improve the performance of the A items. Assign a time line to those action plans along with specific accountability for implementation.
7. Extend steps 1-7 to the B items. Include in your action plan a goal of identifying which B items should move into the A category. This is normally done based on buying trends and gross margin opportunity.
8. Calculate the total investment for each level of inventory (A, B, and C’s) Evaluate the actual return on investment vs. target. You do have a targeted ROI, correct?

Project Manager: Make inventory a priority. Many people can be involved but one person should be accountable. If you have concerns about status or progress, hire an outside professional.

Complexities usually flow into the picture when people begin to spend a lot of their time on what they view are needed support tools. Those can include staff, systems and procedures. While tools are necessary to achieve your goals, a consistent focus on actual vs. targeted performance of A items should yield enormous benefits.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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The A, B, C's of Inventory Management

The A,B,C’s of Inventory Management

One might think the books have not been written, the software not developed and the knowledge base empty when reading some of the recent headlines. When the largest retailer in the world announces they are reducing the amount of inventory in their stores because they have too much, it crowds the isles, confuses the customer and delivers the wrong message, one might wonder why they have this problem. After all the best and brightest work there and they has not held back on investments in technology. So how does the largest retailer in the world get themselves in a position where inventory levels are excessive?

Inventory management is an art not a science. The levels of inventory are a judgment call based on the available information. Let’s review how it is supposed to work. Before we start, this brief lesson applies to every company that has inventory no matter what industry and no matter what size the company. If you think this does not apply to you then I submit you are exactly the person I was thinking of when I wrote this article.

The primary reason for any inventory is to use it or sell it to make money. If you have an inventory of spare parts for a machine that is 20 years old, you are carrying that inventory to make sure you can repair the machine if it fails. If you dispose of the machine you no longer need the spare parts inventory. If you are a restaurant that specializes in prime cut steaks, you need the inventory to match the projected customers for today and maybe tomorrow. If your projections are wrong, then you either run out of steaks or have an excess. In the restaurant business, there rarely is any need to carry more than a couple days supply of inventory. Restaurant suppliers generally deliver more than once a week. In the fashion apparel industry, inventory is seasonal. In the early Spring merchandise is already in the pipeline for Fall and Winter. If apparel merchants misjudge the style, color, or fashion trend of their customer, they will be left with merchandise taking up valuable retail space. Blowout sales are then used to get rid of it.

Good systems will tell you the quantities on hand, on order, days of supply, gross profit in inventory, inventory turnover in total, by category, by vendor, by item and a lot more. Good systems will automatically process replenishment orders for item that are considered basic or staples. However, people makes policy decisions. Policy decisions are ones like inventory turnover will be at least 4 or we will now carry a higher mix of higher priced items to attract a more upscale customer. Inventory policy decisions drive the organization to action to achieve the goals of those policies.

In my experience, effective inventory policies are a result of business strategy linked to business financial performance and liquidity goals. When there is no clear definition of the goals then how do you evaluate actual results? Actual performance is always relative to the targeted goal.

The following is a brief summary of the impact of less than optimal inventory management:

Sales goals can not be met if you have nothing to sell. Forecasted demand along with replenishment modeling are key.

Gross margin goals cannot be achieved if your actual inventory mix does not match your gross margin goal or your customer demand patterns do not match what you have to offer.

Liquidity goals cannot be achieved if inventory turnover is less than target.

A,B,C Inventory Management Plan

1.Establish clear sales and gross margin goals.
2.Develop the same goals by line of business, product category
3.Identify the A items in each category. A items are the ones that make up 80% of the sales volume for that category.
4.Calculate the gross margin for the A items by category. Calculate the variance of actual gross margin for the A items vs. goal. If the result is the same, your goals are likely too low.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for inventory turnover. Be sure the turnover goals tie into you liquidity forecast.
6. Develop detailed action plans to improve the performance of the A items. Assign a time line to those action plans along with specific accountability for implementation.
7. Extend steps 1-7 to the B items. Include in your action plan a goal of identifying which B items should move into the A category. This is normally done based on buying trends and gross margin opportunity.
8. Calculate the total investment for each level of inventory (A, B, and C’s) Evaluate the actual return on investment vs. target. You do have a targeted ROI, correct?

Project Manager: Make inventory a priority. Many people can be involved but one person should be accountable. If you have concerns about status or progress, hire an outside professional.

Complexities usually flow into the picture when people begin to spend a lot of their time on what they view are needed support tools. Those can include staff, systems and procedures. While tools are necessary to achieve your goals, a consistent focus on actual vs. targeted performance of A items should yield enormous benefits.

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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Practical Business Plans

Recommending a business plans is often a starting point for many advisors and consultants. The challenge is that there are nearly as many recommendations on how to do a plan as their are advisors and consultants.

The single biggest issue with planning is the horizon. Many suggest a 3-5 year plan. If and when that gets done, the plan sits on the shelf in most cases.

I developed The Profit System specifically for the purpose of guiding companies on how to achieve extraordinary revenue and profit growth in a short period of time. Clients are advised to think in 12 month chunks and then roll that back to what has to be done this week to achieve it.

In the process of doing this, a company must address what could derail the results. So the point of considering disasters is addressed, but you get there from a different direction.

Finally when you bring your targets, to what has to happen today, this week, this month that are required to achieve the 12 month goal and hold people accountable for achieving those interim results, amazing things happen.

This entire process is outlined in a mini course I developed that is offered at no charge. Register at www.stevepohlit.com

The follow was reported in another on-line business blog and is presented to offer the reader a balance in terms of business plan recommendations:

Business Plans

(begin article found on another blog)

Business plans are a must for any entrepreneurial venture. Every new and existing company should have one. They are the roadmap to future business success. They can also keep a business on course in the event of a change in the business fortunes.

There are many aspects to the creation of a good business plan, including finances, marketing, sales forecasts, expected expenses, and so on. By carefully assessing all of the details, a strong business plan can be formulated.

A business plan is a requirement for everyone from bankers to venture capitalists. They are also a useful exercise for you, as developing the business plan forces you to look long and hard at your ideas and projections.

Even with a good solid business plan in hand, many potentially successful business people still don’t live their dream of entrepreneurship. Held back by many factors ranging from being unable to secure financing to staffing and production problems, many companies simply don’t get off the ground.

While these difficulties are common to many businesses in general, some barriers are specific to the business person alone. One of these barricades to entrepreneurial success is fear of failure. Thoughts of marketing and sales problems, staffing issues, and changes in financial status and the economy pale in comparison to that trepidation. Fear can stop a new business before it ever gets started into the marketplace.

The business plan can go far to preventing self doubt by providing a guide to the business that is both direct, yet adaptable to changing conditions. Shortages of funds can be worked around through free media publicity, creative promotional ideas, and business blogging. Alternative financing can be used to bring need cash flow into the company. Hiring only the essential personnel and subcontracting the balance of the work to outside contractors, consultants, and virtual assistants can lower labor and wage costs.

The biggest stumbling block for most failed business owners is a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. That lack of confidence in oneself, and the potential of the organization, can be overcome. While many techniques can be employed to get past the feelings of self doubt, we will consider one method here.

We will ask one question.

What’s the worst that can happen to the business?

Think about that question for a time. Consider what could be the very worst thing that could befall your business, and subsequently, your future. While some of the worst case possibilities are enough to drive anyone away from even attempting entrepreneurship, many if not most, are not. In fact, many potential disasters can be prevented through careful planning. Contingency plans can be put into place for implementation should the nightmares become real.

Simply looking objectively at the worst case scenario can help with the overall business plan. The worst that can happen to a business may not even be that disastrous at all. In fact, many worst case scenarios can be reduced in impact, or even negotiated into workable situations. Every business problem is not the end of the world or the company.

Once you know what is the deepest depth to which your company could sink, the issues involved don’t even look so bad. It’s much easier to work with a known factor than a completely unknown possibility. After all, the worst that can happen to your business, might not be so terrible after all. The fear of disaster is worse than the potential problem itself. Keep in mind that just because a problem could arise in theory, does not mean it will ever appear in practice.

Don’t let fear of failure stand in your way to business success. Let a strong viable business plan, that makes allowances for major problems, guide you and your company, to achieving all of your business goals.
(end article not authored by Steve Pohlit)

Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies. Today Steve is an expert business consultant focused on helping companies improve their business performance including growing profits, revenues and customers. For a FREE 6 week mini course where you will receive 10 easy to implement action steps guaranteed to increase business revenue and profits by at least 30% in the next 90 days, please visit www.StevePohlit.com All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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Consumers Vote With Their Wallet

Your business will not learn you have lost the election until you realize the money is no longer being spent. Most of this attrition is preventable by following a few basics.

Consumer Marketing 101.2: Listen to your customer and ask them how you are doing meeting their needs and fix what is broken.

It is likely I am not a typical customer since I tell companies when I am happy or not with their products or services. It has been my experience that most companies DO NOT CARE or at least the people serving the customer do not care.

Not too long ago I had a problem with my laptop. Over the years I have purchased at least 10 laptops from one company. The last one is the last one. They accused me of a liquid spill and did not honor the platinum warranty for which I had been charged a premium. I will not bore you with all the details. Their customer service department didn’t care. End result – business lost. Lifetime value of this customer (me) is about $3,000 a year.

There is a service station close to my home with a car wash. I was working with a client near but not that close so I was driving a lot. I would spend about $100 per week at that particular station. 2 out of 4 times that I used the car wash – it didn’t wash. I have asked them repeatedly to fix the car wash. Each time they have given me free car washes or my car wash money back. I DON’T WANT A FREE CAR WASH …I NEED A CAR WASH THAT WORKS. Today was the end – I will not return. End result they lose $100.00 of revenue per week. I estimate their average customer spends $80.00 a month. If I owned that station I would consider me a valuable customer. They don’t care. When you see stores closing or changing ownership, just give the departing owner a sticker that says “I don’t care.”

Consumer Marketing…It is not about the headline, the copy, the web site, the direct mail piece or media ad. First and foremost,It is about how you treat the customers you have.

Author: Steve Pohlit, a business consultant who has helped companies in many industries including: retail, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, restaurant, real estate and trucking achieve increased profits. All information published by Steve, unless otherwise noted, may be republished without restriction with this resource box intact. For more information please visit www.stevepohlit.com

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Search Marketing: You Must Be On The Top Three Pages

(This article was published by eMarkets and is very important information. More on search engine optimiztion in upcoming articles.)

Search Marketing: Coming Out On Top

APRIL 17, 2006

First page or bust!

According to iProspect‘s “Search Engine User Behavior Study,” search marketers should strive to get their natural results as high as possible on search return pages; 62% of search engine users click on links returned within the first page of search hits. A full 90% of users click on hits within the first three pages of search results.

Searchers seldom wander deep into results.

“The message to marketers should be clear, and the implications obvious,” said Robert Murray, President, iProspect. “If your site is not found on the first page — or within the first three pages of search results — you might as well be putting up a billboard in the woods.”

Search placement not only affects click-through behavior, it seems to have an affect on attitudes as well. Among search engine users, 36% believe that the companies whose websites are listed at the top of the search results are also the leading brands.

“[Many] search engine users ascribe industry leadership to those brands within top results, and believe them to be leaders in their fields,” said Mr. Murray. “Cleary, this brand lift is a critical element for brand marketers. It not only reinforces the importance of being found in the top results, but also underscores the need for collaboration between online marketers and their colleagues in brand management, as search is clearly no longer just for direct marketers.”

The study also found out what happens when users don’t find what they are searching for:

  • 41% change search engines or search terms if they do not find what they seek on the first page of search results.
  • 88% change engines or search terms if they do not find what they seek on the first three pages of search results.
  • 82% re-launch an unsuccessful search using the same search engine but with more keywords.

“Marketers make six figure investments in websites without any consideration for how that site will attract an audience,” said Mr. Murray. “It’s time that companies that are refreshing, re-designing, or launching a new website start with the end in mind. If no one can find it, no one will use it. It will be a wasted investment without a clear search strategy.”

For more information read the two new eMarketer reports, Search Marketing: Spending and Metrics and Search Marketing: Players and Problems.

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Build Business Revenue by Answering Email

Mark Albright reported in the St Petersburg Times on statistics from Jupiter Research showing the length of time companies are taking to respond to email sent to customer service has increased significantly and 55% of companies with on line customer service take longer than 24 hours to respond. Even more alarming, nearly 40% of all such emails take three days or more for a response or are never answered at all.

In several previous articles I have detailed the opportunities for companies to grow revenue and profits by capturing and using the contact information of their customers and visitors. Now, we learn just how poorly companies are doing responding to customers who need help.

There is a major revenue building opportunity by just responding to the customers with questions and by using the customer contact information to develop a positive communication campaign. These two actions are the foundation of my Local Retail Marketing program which is a component of the Revenue module of The Profit System. But forget all those titles, this is just common business sense. All you have to do is not repeat the mistakes obviously being made by many companies out there and the biggest problem you will have is where do you want to park your yacht.

P.S. When you combine emails not being answered with first the long wait times customers experience when calling customer service and second with how poorly many of the calls are handled when once the phone is answered, the roadmap that you should follow is very clear.

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Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks

Dunkin Donuts wanted to know. To find out they offered to send their customers to Starbucks and paid them to go there and drink and eat. But they also paid Starbuck customers to come to Dunkin Donuts to eat and drink. In exchange, the people involved agreed to answer Dunkin Donut’s questions.

This test was reported by the WSJ and what Dunkin Donuts discovered was that there are very loyal people to both businesses and they are not interested in the competitor. The Starbucks Tribe will continue to go to Starbucks and the Dunkin Donuts tribe will continue to go to Dunkin Donuts. That was the conclusion.

Why did Dunkin Donuts conduct this test? The business of Dunkin Donuts has a strategy of growing and attracting more customers. So they want to know more about what appeals to people. Of course they could have their customers in a data base and communicate with them regularly and offer them incentives for answering surveys but that is all the subject of my rant in other articles at www.stevereports.com

Duncan Donuts used a traditional focus group approach. Duncan Donuts is to be commended on testing. They are to be commended on wanting to know what changes, upgrades, new product offerings will appeal to their customer. When you review their history, you may conclude they should have done this more often. The facts are most companies fall into the trap of not reinventing themselves. Why is this important to do? Well, look at Kmart. Do you recall when they were in Chapter 11? How about Delta airlines and General Motors? Do you think Microsoft can be in trouble? Interesting to look at history and then ask the hard questions?

There are lessons to be learned from the work done by Duncan Donuts. I remember working with the leaders of The Limited when they were the premier retailer in America. The culture was amazing. New fashion ideas, new store formats, new promotions were always being tested. Merchandise managers were expected to bring their insights of what the competition was doing to the famous weekly Monday meetings where performance was scrutinized.

The point is every company has a development history and at a point in time if you become a champion, a challenger emerges. This is the like playing the game king of the hill kid as a kid. Whenever you are winning someone will be out to take your place.

How do you sustain revenue and profit growth long term? How do you do that when as soon as you are on top there is a challenger? In The Profit System I teach how to track information that tells you how you are doing. Initially, the information is developed for you to track actual vs. plan and the plan is your own performance improvement plan. This evolves to where you are confident in your ability to achieve internal targets, then you set your site on local, regional, national or international champions. At that point your goal is to be the champion. The Profit System is free.

Why is that? Why do I offer something that I promote as being so valuable for FREE when I should be selling it for a million dollars or 10 million dollars or more? Simple, I know this works, and as Joel Bauer says (www.joellive.com) my life does not change at all if you use what I teach. But yours is likely to change a lot. If I can be a catalyst of positive change for you and your company, I am delighted to offer these principles and The Profit System to you at no charge.

Wait there is one more thing. There is a major price to pay for using this system. This price is your time, attention and action to implement. My material is FREE. Even if I were to charge $50,000 for the this material and I am considering that, it is a small sum in comparison to the time you and your company will invest to apply the principles of The Profit System. Return on investment is off the charts. So if you want to make a lot more money go to The Profit System and register for the FREE course.

Will Ducan Donuts™ latest testing mean new store formats will be hugely successful? I don’t know. I do know this if they keep monitoring and keep testing they will figure it out. You can also solve the issues facing your business with a rational management system. I have given you one source for a management system roadmap.

Sending you energy of health, happiness, prosperity

Steve Pohlit

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About: Steve Pohlit is a CPA,MBA and has been the CFO of several major domestic and international companies.  Steve is a business owner and an expert business consultant focused on building profits and net asset value. He is very experienced with Internet marketing and social media marketing.  All articles published by Steve unless specifically restricted may be freely published with this resource information.

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