Local businesses get sales lesson

Become destination, expert tells merchants at Vancouver workshop

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

At a workshop Thursday aimed at helping businesses become destinations, Vancouver auto shop owner Shari Troyer of Just Right Auto Repair said she has written a company statement about why her business is better than its competitors.

But she has not posted the message for customers to read on her company's website or on the lobby wall of her Minnehaha repair shop.

"I've just never promoted it," said Troyer, one of about 140 people who attended the six-hour seminar led by Jon Schallert, a Colorado-based retailing expert. Schallert, who conducts one-day business workshops, said he is always advising merchants to not only come up with a "Unique Positioning Statement," but also to let people know how their business stands out from the rest of the pack.

"If you're going to be a destination, you have to get people to say, 'Oh, I'd like to see that business,'" said Schallert, owner and founder of The Schallert Group Inc.

Vancouver's Downtown Association and other local businesses spent about $8,000 to host the seminar by Schallert, who has spent 30 years counseling small businesses and developing his 14-step Destination Business program. He also spent 10 years with Hallmark Cards helping individual stores sell goods.

"We see this as an investment in downtown Vancouver," said Lee Rafferty, the association's executive director.

In addition to his lecture at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, Schallert's presentation included access to his live and on-demand business training webinars, called the Destination University. Rafferty said the association plans to open the library to members of the business community for a fee, in hopes of helping shopkeepers improve store sales, coexist and thrive against big-box competitors.

"If you do this correctly, you can draw from five time zones," Schallert told his audience of business owners and consultants. He advised business owners to think in terms of time zones, gauging the amount of time it will take consumers to reach their business destination.

"Customers don't travel on distance," he said, "they travel on time," measuring whether the trip is worth the commitment.

Among shops advised by Schallert in the past, owners of the Triple XXX Family Restaurant in West Lafayette, Ind., found a way to overcome the X-rated image projected by its name. They marketed the restaurant as the only diner serving Triple XXX Root Beer and the Duane Purvis cheeseburger, a quarter-pound of ground sirloin served with peanut butter slathered on the bottom bun. It now draws customers from a wide radius of states to its single destination.

Schallert flashed a PowerPoint slide of a print advertisement for Triple XXX showing a photo of kids eating the restaurant's burgers with the tagline, "But our food is rated G."

Schallert encouraged businesses to think about branding for their shops and restaurants, too, as he flashed a slide of the Big Hoss Mountain Sports shop in Laramie, Wyo. The shop proudly displays its positioning statement on a prominent wall inside the business just to the right of the main door. "When people walk into a store, they tend to look to the right," Schallert explained.

The statement displayed by Big Hoss Mountain Sports subjectively identified its customer base and outlined the store products at the same time.

"We're the hippest ski, climbing, board and paddle shop in the Wild Wild West," the statement reads.

Think differently

Schallert told business owners that stores and shops with unique markers and characteristics can also draw destination traffic. His examples included a restaurant called Yorks Covered Wagon on the historic Oregon Trail in Baker City, Ore., where tourists travel from miles around to see statues of life-sized oxen in front of the venue and on its roof.

That business owner also posted a map billed as the "world's largest map of the Oregon Trail," and remodeled his drive-through ordering area to resemble a covered wagon. Shortly after installing the oxen, the business experienced "the three best sales months ever," Schallert said.

Schallert also stressed it is more important than ever for many businesses to think differently because they have to compete with not only other brick-and-mortar businesses, but also must go head-to-head with Internet sites such as amazon.com, amazonprime and zappos.com.

By becoming a destination business, shops can replace sales that go out of the area, Schallert told his audience, as he launched into an overview of traditional, Internet and smartphone marketing aimed at creating a consumer hook.

His examples included using an app called Foursquare, a reservation game that appeals to 22- to 35-year-olds, and YouTube, which helped a trend-setting florist attract media attention for her shop.

Schallert recommended businesses market through every available medium from Facebook to Pinterest, which launched with 40,000 users and is now used by more than 200 million people.

The pinboard-style, photo-sharing website now allows users to arrive at a check-out page that's just two clicks away from an image in one of its collections. Schallert expects the site to soon speed up the time to the point-of-sale page.

"Imagine if you figured this out and went along with it," he said. "It's a big deal that is going to be an even bigger deal."

Social media pushed

Schallert advised non-tech savvy business owners to hire young assistants to help them market through social and other new media venues.

"They will look at you like they're thinking, you're really dumb," he said, recommending several books on social media marketing by authors such as David Nour and Joel Comm.

"You don't want to know everything about Facebook, you just want to know what to do," said Schallert.

Schallert had visited downtown Vancouver 10 years ago to consult with business owners in the city center. At that time, he said more people would be willing to come to Vancouver if its business owners would stop wasting time unfavorably comparing themselves to Portland.

On this trip, Schallert noticed big changes to Vancouver's city center, with its revamped Esther Short Park and new developments, such as the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

"It looks like a different city. There's been so much progress," said Schallert, who spent part of his presentation time marketing the other services offered by The Schallert Group. The company offers a 21/2-day Destination Bootcamp, among other seminars.

But Vancouver still needs to market itself better to differentiate itself from Vancouver, B.C., Schallert said.

"I think there are still some weaknesses in how Vancouver has positioned itself," he said.