Here I am to revive Pitchmen Enthusiast and chat about Toys-R-Us.

Three or four years ago I ended my venture of writing here at Pitchmen Enthusiast. After doing that, it pretty much ended my many years of interest in the direct response industry. It’s funny the direction that life took me–to working in the marine industry instead–but getting my own brand out there as BoatShowGirl. While I love doing that, my Pitchmen Enthusiast blog gave me a passion for business and a reason to keep up with the industry news and it helped me in the long run. It was my weekly homework to help with life and my ideas for the future. I could find something to be excited about or a piece of news that would make me want to write.

That’s kind of what happened to me recently.

I saw articles on LinkedIn about Toys-R-Us going bankrupt, and the comments that followed… and guess what? It made me say, “Wow. I wish PE were alive so that I can talk about this piece of news.” And so, here I am, I am reviving it so that I can talk about business once again.

First of all–I solely believe that Toys-R-Us is the equivalent of Sears or JCPenney in that aspect–so are we really surprised this has happened?

The last time I was in a Toys-R-Us was a while ago and their prices were either double or triple the prices of say from Wal-Mart, Target or some other named store. In this day and age, parents are looking for the cheapest price of toys so they will shop online or ads before they buy to see where they can save some money. Secondly, mostly kids want electronics now and the normal every day toys of yesterday are being forgotten, or they play with the physical toys for only so long to outgrow them and want something new. Our world is moving so fast with new, new, new that hardly anything stands the chance of being constant.

I’ve seen some mention of this in comments or other websites: locally owned toy stores are getting the Toys-R-Us customers because they lure them in by way of being personable, or set up a play station. I’m sure that’s probably true. Local businesses are back in the game.

So honestly, this is really all I have to say about that, because again, this is one of those things that should’ve been predicted a few years back.

I am looking so forward to coming back and writing about business topics! Cheers to reviving Pitchmen Enthusiast!

Side note: I have brought back some old entries that you may have read and remember, or never have read, in the event that you want to catch up to see what Pitchmen Enthusiast is all about.

The History of Pitchmen Enthusiast

I feel that I need to give a little history on this blog in the event that you go back and reread some of my older blog entries that I have posted.

In 2009, the show Pitchmen came on and after a few episodes, it literally changed my life. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the real crew of the show, got to meet so many different business owners and entrepreneurs through this experience… and I even got to have my little moments of being the go-to gal for Pitchmen updates.

Because of the show, I fell so deeply in love with the direct response industry. I had always been interested in business, but this just helped out the course of that. Ever since 2009, I have studied as much as I can on the industry and have tried to get my foot further in the door.

In 2011, I started a business blog called Pitchmen Enthusiast. I had so many inventors and entrepreneurs coming to me to share that they were at ERA or had pitched their product to Sullivan Productions / As Seen On TV or just to chat with me about Pitchmen. I had some marvelous experiences having hosted that blog. However, now it no longer exists, as this website (my business) took over any and all business that I had going on.

In 2012-2013 I had my first experience of helping build a company from ground up. Being a part of something that has turned out to be overall successful has been amazing.

All I really want out of this entire experience of owning my own business is to be a part of helping other businesses become successful. As long as I am doing something I love to do, which is the design and marketing, I will be fine.

I’m so looking forward to getting back into the habit of writing about business, reading up on every day business moves in the industry and meeting new clients.

Another downer on Best Buy, the Father’s Day dilemma.

I read this article about how this lady was out with her son on Father’s Day and noticed that all of the women were shopping every where but Best Buy, and why?

Read her article for more details. In the short of it all, once again, Best Buy makes worst for their customers and are not helpful to them at all.

According to the article, lack of context / connection / simplicity are basically the main factors that women don’t want to shop there, even for their husbands or fathers or that guy in their life.

Best Buy and their employees are good about announcing and stating the facts that people can read (specs) but they are not good about connecting with the customers to break down how pretty something looks or how smoothly something runs.

For a camera, instead of reading the specs that the customer already read to themselves, how about telling how nice the camera shoots photos up close or what special filter the lenses have. For computers, share what programs look wonderful on the screen – if it’s photo specific or a computer for writers or gamers. Those things…those things that help SELL the item.

As Dan and I were having a discussion at lunch over this, specs don’t matter any more, they want details…and that’s a huge reason why Apple wins over their customers because they have it.

Most Best Buy employees are like retail employees, most aren’t in it for the career and most are only in it for the money. So, they point to or make a point to mention what the customer already knows (ie: what they can read), instead of taking the extra step to find out specific things about the item to make a sale.

Two suggestions mentioned in the article, I don’t really agree with.

This may be sexist, but, I do not think that Best Buy needs to cater to just women or just men. It’s a man’s thing – that new ole technology – tvs, gaming, computers, etc. Yes, I am a woman and I like technology to a certain point that I want something cute that works, or something that works and is cute, y’know?

Sure, you want to add feminine to the menu at Best Buy? When the lady wants to buy a computer, add a pink USB drive and pink computer cover. Or, a pink phone case for her phone. Or, whatever color they want. But I think they already have a small selection – so it’s pretty moot talking about it.

But I do agree that they need to really clean it up with all of the return policies and prices and everything else wrong with Best Buy.

“Protecting themselves from customers” – it’s a dead giveaway that due to high loss prevention numbers, we allllll know that people steal and it’s a bad, bad, bad idea NOT to protect your company models/items. Why wouldn’t you want to try to save your stuff from being stolen?

This is anywhere, pretty much, that the employees DO focus too much on trying to catch people who are stealing (or who aren’t but everyone is apparent suspect) and not truly caring enough to help someone. I get annoyed so much every time walk around every single corner and get an employee asking ,’you finding everything okay??????’ It’s like, ‘yes, five of you have been here asking that same thing. Please let me shop. Help me when I actually need to be helped.’

But it all goes back to how Best Buy is failing and things won’t be fixed.

The Best and Worst of creating your own business and/or being an entrepreneur.

Earlier I was reading an article where this person listed out the best and worst parts of being an entrepreneur. It made me think, as I have been a part of a start up business, I have a few 10 key pointers of the best and worst.

The BEST parts:

  1. You have a say in what goes down (like, policies – rules – hours – etc).
  2. You DO NOT have to clean up someone else’s mess. (Like, if you were a manager going in and cleaning up previous manager’s wrong doings. That sort of thing.)
  3. It’s not a corporate office, so dress and how you act isn’t acted upon with walking on nails around either your customers or other employees.
  4. No one really knows if something doesn’t work (only you and who you hired to work with you). You make it, break it and fix it and then make it work even better.
  5. Working around people who have a passion and possibly what you like to do.
  6. Doing what you like to be doing.
  7. Working with people you like.
  8. Location, being comfortable in office.
  9. Seeing the accomplishments of the store AND personal goals exceeded.
  10. Seeing the result in the end…knowing that we made it and it is successful.

The WORST parts:

  1. When you plan and things don’t go as smoothly as possible.
  2. Throwing yourself fully into the job and having to choose between work more for work or sacrifice personal life.
  3. Not having the time to do everything.
  4. Seeing numbers go down instead of up.
  5. Limited funds (buying more then selling).
  6. When things just don’t work out and you have to take another route. Or, when others change what you’re doing.
  7. Staying focused majority of days and being alarmed when the focus goes off one day.
  8. Interruptions due to less help or something of that nature.
  9. When people return items or comp service. (This is just the whole thing of not satisfying someone in the first place.)
  10. When creativity is a big part of your job and the designs don’t come out as expected, so it takes twice as long to create. Or, when you’re not in the mood to do it but it needs to be done.

This list is straight off the top of my head and I could probably name a whole lot more in each subject, but what do you guys think? If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, what are your worst and best parts of the experience?

Do you think that RadioShack could make a come back?

I was checking my normal program for reading the every day updated business/marketing/economy news and came across this blog post.

It’s basically saying that if Radio Shack turns its head away from what they’ve become to go back to the roots of their beginning – like selling parts and nothing but parts – then they could turn this whole game around.

I can’t remember the last time I went into a Radio Shack. But, I can tell you the last time I saw one and went back to that same place weeks later only to see they’ve closed up shop.

Radio Shack lost its vibe when it started selling computers and phones and other electronics that Best Buy and Comp USA and several other big box electronic retailers sold. Price was another thing. If I remember correctly, Radio Shack’s prices weren’t right with what it should’ve been or less than what it should’ve been.

The article says that Radio Shack really needs to focus on their main customers which are the hobbyists who need parts.

I don’t really think of parts when I hear Radio Shack, I just see a retailer that’s waaaay past its prime. Unfortunately.

There’s already a ‘good enough’ parts retailer and it’s online; Tiger Direct, New Egg, Amazon… and so on. You can also find cheap things on eBay. The only thing I can think of are the people who don’t believe in ordering stuff online and there’s local places around to find parts.

I don’t know. It’s just like anything else. Looking for the best price for clothes? Go somewhere cheap like the thrift store or store when they’re having sales. Best price for jewelry? Same. Best price for electronics? Look online, look at big box retailers or smaller businesses. Best price for parts or hard to finds? Thrift stores, eBay. Y’know.

It’s just too hard to turn an older ex-well-known company back around to be something in a really, really bad economy that’s trying to recover.

There’s too many places to buy things from, there’s too many places that are the same and not unique at all. It’s devastating to those who built the company but it’s just a factor in retail life.

What do you think?

The reason why analytics are so great for marketing endeavors.

Hello everyone!

This past week at work I was looking at our eBay auctions, trying to break down what all I have left to discover for the store format and… I came across Omniture analytics.

They. Are. Wonderful.

Not only are they REALLY wonderful, but now, I can figure out how I would like to steer the direction of eBay and marketing our products.

It was interesting pulling results from 90 days, 30 days and the previous day – not to mention – what we’ve done since the beginning of our year.

I’m really glad I found this analytics program because analytics are important. Not only do you see what the most popular pages are, but you also get to see the most popular searches, the referring domain and how many people looked at your items or eBay per day/week/month/year.

So, this got me to thinking… how can I use this information to help me market our products?

I had all week to study the paper, so looking closely enough at the top 50 searches and top 50 pages. This was interesting. If the item was sold, I’d mark ‘sold’ – if the item didn’t have a name but a number, I would mark it with a name. I did this for both the since the beginning of the year to the last 30 days.

What I found was that a good portion (probably 1/3) items being searched in the top 50 and top 50 pages were items that we sold. Some items we only had a few of, others were on-going popular items that we’ve sold tons of.

The other items that were searched for in the top 50 either came back disappointing results (like, a broken printer or damaged jewelry box we’re selling) or some expensive addition to the jetski….something that someone would need some time to think about considering the price.

Perhaps we can lower the prices on the printers, jewelry box and other items like that but we aren’t allowed to lower the jetski parts, as we are in with another company on that.

It’s so interesting looking at the analytics. Other than try to fix why everything in the top 50 wasn’t selling, I have tossed around so many other ideas that I could think of to figure out how to fix this and make more sales. It’s just going to take some time to incorporate this into the business marketing plan.

I also looked at days and time of days for our most-visited. Honestly, that couldn’t really be measured because it was all over the place for the last 30 days.

I also figured out that a lot of our unique items show up in Google search higher than a lot of people. This is good. All of this is good news for us. I just need to figure out how I can use this information for good measure.

With this knowledge, it’s time that I figure out where to go from here on analytics and properly marketing our eBay.

What do you guys think?

JCPenney and their ‘no more sales’ tactic.

Think back to the ages of catalogs in the mail. Which ones did you get? Perhaps out of the few that you received, you got JCPenney, right? Not only that but you also received coupons or at least some sort of newspaper insert to introduce the next sale that was going on — and that, is still going on nowadays.

Now, I’m usually up on all of this kind of thing but had no idea what this retailer was trying to do (only because I live in a box now that I’m really busy).

JCPenney tried taking away all sales by doing ‘best price’ for a month.

Now, could you imagine? Could you imagine if you were the big box retailer who always sent coupons and ads in the paper/mail to advertise sales – and then – it suddenly stopped? Wouldn’t you think the store had packed up and left?

What were they thinking? For a company who relies on that kind of business through mail inserts advertising sales, that was such a stupid move.

Not to mention, the new CEO is from Apple, which holds a much different standard. There are straight up prices, no sales, and only sales when something is needing to be pushed out the door before the new Apple product arrives.

Instead of looking at the big picture, the new CEO decided to step in without really thinking. People rely on sales being advertised so that they can go to the store and get items on sale. With no advertisement, who would be dropping by? Perhaps the few people in the mall who swoops in and back out? As you read in the article linked above, traffic in the store dropped.

I would put JCPenney in the same category as Sears. They have been around probably about the same time, both put out catalogs, both carry some sense of the same brand and so on. Not only on the store front would I compare JCPenney to Sears but I would do some comparing about how they are so close to failing.

What’s so unique about JCPenney and Sears? Not too long ago, I did a write up about how Sears is going down the drain.

Price write up has been something that is being talked about a lot these days. For me, buying clothes is like a dodgeball game, I try to dodge every single high price and don’t buy anything unless it’s ridiculously on sale. For people who work in retail, you know what’s going on – do you want to fall into that hole?

Bottom line: JCPenney is a bit outdated for these days. Now we have all kinds of speciality stores, cheaper places to shop, thrift stores, and better big box stores.

I’m just waiting for JCPenney to close, just like Sears.

What’s your opinion on the new way that JCPenney tried to do things?

Sears and Best Buy: The Beginning Downfall of their Corporations

As I was looking through the LinkedIn articles I had on my iPhone app, I saw THIS article and became interested enough in writing about it.

Basically what the article is saying that Sears is becoming more like Best Buy – a retailer whose been around for a while – and now is in trouble (or, should say, has been for a while) in this shaky economy.

Back a few years ago, in my retailing career, I used to work inside Sears’ Lands End. Let’s just say straight out – I hated Sears. Our Sears was always portrayed the same way – hot, very hot, and slightly uninviting. It was where the “older” crowd went. Sears was the place where the crowd walked through to get to the other side of the mall but never to really stop around and look. It wasn’t hip enough for 2/3rds of the mall goers.

Remember Montgomery Wards? This will be Sears in a couple of years. In my opinion, Sears isn’t making it as a large box store any more. They lack fashion and focus and they just can’t keep up with today’s market.

Now, I must say I haven’t been in a Sears in a while and haven’t even looked online to see what they have to offer — but I am saying this from experienced. As suggested in the article linked above, they should find focus in on their tool and housewares departments. Often when I think about Sears, I think about appliances, so?

Best Buy. Oh boy, Best Buy. Okay, so I admit we go to Best Buy to look around and possibly get something if it’s… NOT *any where else* if we need it like asap or if we come across a great, quick deal.

Best Buy is a repetitive box store that will soon be obsolete. Their prices are way too high and the online retailers are often the competitors (regardless of what people think about this). Do you have a list of electronics to get or dvds or accessories? Well, look online first at Amazon or NewEgg – boom! You’ve found a much better deal about half off or more. Need a computer fixed? Yep. Don’t go to Best Buy’s rip-off Geek Squad, go to someone local for a lower cost or for free. Seriously. If you’ve been going to get your computer fixed (or simply looked at) by Best Buy, you’re soooo getting ripped off.

Prices within retail need to reflect the economy. You’re in competition with a whole lot more companies when people have to scrape by and decide on where to spend. What will YOU do Best Buy or Sears to get customers to walk in and spend their money in YOUR store?

Fix your outdatedness. Change. Make more changes. Turn your companies around because soon.. you probably won’t be around to do much more.

I am now officially back writing on PitchmenEnthusiast.com!

I have been busy with working with being a part of a start-up company. I can see you nod your head there, yep! You totally understand why I had to abandon this blog. 

So here goes: I have been a part of the (start up) company I am working for since October. When I came to work with my boss, he wasn’t sure if it was going to be a small or big opportunity. It turned out (very quickly) that it was going to be something big. Lots of bits and pieces came together and fell apart but it started working out around Nov/Dec, and it’s been full blast since.

Patience is a HUGE key part in someone revving up their own business from ground up. And, if you know me, I am not the patient one.

It took forever to find a building. Then, once we did, it took forever to set everything up (offices, rooms, construction on the building, trying to figure out the plans, phone system/Internet, shop and so on.)

While writing this, I have to take a step back to look at where we had been at “point a” and what obstacles we have climbed through just to get to this “point “b”.

Not really in any particular order. My thoughts:

1. First thing is first, if you have all opportunities knocking at your door (and on your side) to start up a business from scratch – IT IS SO WORTH DOING!!!!!!!!!!!!! You do NOT have to go in and clean up after someone, you can do it right the first time (if you do things right, that is) and if something doesn’t get done… guess who there is to blame? That’s when you will figure out what kind of worker you truly are.

2. You get to do things YOUR way. Yes, if you go in and partner with someone or several someones then you have to negotiate whatever it is – but still – you get to do things your way and if you don’t have a way you get to make up things as you go. I remember all of the company policies or having to do something “someone else’s way” and most times, they didn’t allow or acknowledge new creative point of views. It was frustrating as I have too much creativity and business-sense to follow someone else’s bad direction.

3. While looking for a retail/office space, you really need to know what all you are looking for in an office. Such as, we knew about how many offices we wanted, that we needed a huge garage area, showers, place for a retail store in the front and so on. My boss looked at several places before we were able to put bets on this one as “the one”. If you aren’t a tiny ounce sure it’s what you want, it’s not. Playing the waiting game isn’t fun for those involved (especially ME, who wanted to move into an office about 3 months ago). When you find the perfect place, you will know it.

4. When you think that you have the perfect employees, you might — but you might not. Be careful how you get the employees and that you do not destroy bridges that you might need later. Also, the perfect ‘pull in’ employee might not work out instantly but you might find the perfect one thereafter.

5. Have a plan. Then another, then be prepared to scratch that and make another plan. No plan you make will go accordingly to… as planned. You will have to rethink your strategy several times due to bubbles in your timeline of when things are supposed to be completed.

There are several pointers I’ve thought to myself about helping build a business and there’s too many to just include in an ‘welcome back’ – don’t want to overwhelm anyone!

We’re still at the beginning and it’s been a very cool and interesting ride so far. When we finally get our business open, I’ll update more along the way.

Now, I can officially say I helped close down a business (Goodys in 2008) and helped open a business this year.

Very cool!

A line or two of how to get on track of properly branding yourself, your company, and name.

While working on items/logos/graphics for the company I’m working for, I decided it was time to write something about branding.

Branding is a way of marketing and if you can’t market your brand correctly, then you’re pretty much going down fast.

A couple of weeks ago while coming up with plans on developing ideas further, I wrote down that we needed a tag line. One that will catch someone’s eye or make them sing a jingle in their heads that make them remember us. By accident, I came up with the tag line the other day while mapping out the sticker that I’m going to make for our boxes. It might be cheesy, but it’s completely smart and will make people remember us.

As I read a LOT of magazines, articles and watch a LOT of shows that talk about marketing, direct response, writing, business and law…all of which helps what I’m doing, I am taking note of the most important ideas and basing my “to do this” upon that.

To me, the logo must be nice enough to always keep and never change. People build trust, when something as small as the logo changes, then boom…your company has an issue.

Customer service is the biggest branding, ever. Treat your customers well. Let them have several ways of contacting you, and work deals with them. The more you help them get what they want, the more they’ll be coming back to you in the future. They might also suggest people to you.

Give out free items with your logo on it. Even though people may toss it aside after they’ve used it a while, it may help in the future.

While thinking of this, I keep thinking of branding myself. It’s difficult because I’m trying to focus on the work (our) business is doing but trying NOT to lose focus on my brand… even though I am doing that, sadly.

PITCHMEN ENTHUSIAST was supposed to be a brand a part of “Karen Maeby” representation, KAREN MAEBY [dot] COM was supposed to represent me as a whole and MAEBYS TREASURES is also a part of “Karen Maeby” representation but ONLY for selling items and eBay-focused business. Yes, I have a lot going on.

What I wanted to do with my brands?

I wanted this blog (PE) to be so business-focused and I wanted to be known for it. That hasn’t happened yet because I haven’t had the chance to write an entry every day and find lots of people’s business blogs to comment on. I wanted it to actually be focused on the direct response industry but then have topics of everything.

“Karen Maeby” brand was focused solely around writing and photography and anything artsy. I wanted people to KNOW me by my writing instantly and photos with my name on it has to speak poetry without the words. I put “Maeby” on my work because… (here we go with the tag line) ‘It’s never yes or no, it’s always Maeby’ or ‘Maeby, yes or no.’ No other one person has the name of Karen Maeby. People WILL remember that name because it’s unique. My work is also unique (only because I fight to do things difficult and the hard way but it always turns out the best). Not to mention, the whole pirate theme with me (21st century meets vintage/gypsy pirate /old soul). People will remember me if I am unique enough to the eye, mind and soul.

Maeby’s Treasures (which actually used to be ‘likemybooty’) – I changed because I wanted “Maeby” in the title. While my main site is pirate-themed, ‘treasures’ is also under that category, so it only makes sense. I want the unique part of my name on something that I’m selling so I can develop those customers and my brand.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I’ve found two fonts to represent me (one business, one fun). I’m making logos (or headers) and trying to stick with it. I’m trying to make schedule to keep writing, I will have business cards some time to promote. I already have a book out, all of my photography is out on sites with my name on it (and more to come), I am trying to develop more design with my name (like, sketches, clothing, etc) and other things. I already have a good base on eBay.

While helping build our brand for work, I’m trying to make following examples for my own stuff. It’s coming out good. I’ve redesigned the banner on this website, on KarenMaeby.com and I do have a new template/banner on my eBay one.

One step at a time….