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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Collecting Email Addresses

Collecting email addresses is an important step in developing your online marketing. It is important to try to give your customers an incentive to join your mailing list. We want to add value to your email marketing by offering your customers "Exclusive Online Offers Only". When the customer knows that they will only get these offers electronically, that will give them incentive to want to join your email list. It is important that you only offer these incentives online, otherwise your online marketing loses value.

As Darwin taught us, it is not the strongest that survives, it is the one that adapts. These email addresses will help in many different ways in your marketing plan in the future. United Hardware will have many new options for you starting in 2012.

The first step when collecting email addresses is to ask your customers at the register or when they are walking in to your store. You can have cards at your register for the customer to fill out. United Hardware also has a signage package to get you started. Just ask!

Here are a couple other ways for you to collect email addresses in your store:

Have a contest - You can collect email addresses when your customer signs up for a promotion, contest or give away.

Join RepeatRewards - Having a loyalty program is a great way to make your customers feel like they are getting something in return.

Have a newsletter - Send out a monthly newsletter with current events in your community along with other exciting news you would like to share.

Facebook Fan Page - United Hardware can get you started on adding a tab on your Facebook fan page to collect email addresses straight from one location. This is a great tool for those of you who have already started a fan page on Facebook.

There are many other creative ways you can collect email addresses. The most important fact to remember is to make sure your customers know that they are "opting-in" to Exclusive Online Offers.

If you have any questions, please let me know and I will be happy to assist you.

Have a great day Dealers!
- Allison

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Practice the art of listening

So much of advertising and promotion, even on social technologies, involves shouting, one-way communication. What about the lost art of listening? While traditional media don't offer many opportunities for listening, you can do so on social platforms (and even in your store). Ask questions and let your customers talk. By giving them a voice, they will provide ideas for your store.

Now, not every idea will be a good one or even something you can implement, but listen intently and sincerely. You'll gain insights into your customers, and they'll feel appreciated as a shopper. Social technologies simply provide the venue for listening and discussion, but that's it. Facebook is just a portal; it doesn't ask questions or listen. You do that. When you're implementing a social media strategy, consider how you'll listen.

One thing's for sure: you'll never know what your customers want, need or think if you never listen to them.

- Brian Sonnenberg

Monday, August 29, 2011

Preventing Employee Theft

Employee theft has been a problem for retailers since the beginning of retail… which roughly dates back to the beginning of commerce. Unfortunately, we still haven’t solved the problem. Employee theft can range from the pilfering of store supplies to elaborate schemes in which thousands of dollars disappear before the very eyes of the business owner. In fact, in the retail industry, one study by a forensic accounting firm cites employees “out-stealing” shoplifters.

Despite the disturbing facts surrounding employee theft, it’s not helpful if you simply assume the worst from your employees and create an atmosphere of distrust. That said, there are certain measures you should consider to limit your exposure to dishonesty. Your POS system can provide you with tools to both detect and prevent instances of employee theft. By using them, and by showing your employees that you are paying attention to their work, you can go a long way toward “keeping them honest.”

Tips for Using Your POS System to Combat Employee Theft:
• Make sure every POS user has a unique user ID and/or password to log into the system.

• Run a report each day or each week to review voided items, and do the same with returns. Make a point to ask questions regularly about any transactions that don’t make sense. Contact your POS vendor if you need assistance finding or using these reports.

• Require that your employees enter a specific reason for any voided sales.

• Do a physical inventory check on any high dollar returns. Did the items really get returned?

• Require a customer name, Driver’s License number, and phone number for returns exceeding a certain dollar amount.

• Watch returns on non-diminishing or non-stock items carefully.

• Look for payment types on returns. Flag any returns where the refund payment differs in type from the original payment (i.e. purchased with a check and refund given in cash)

• Promote accuracy with your registers, and reward your employees when the registers remain in perfect balance for a certain period of time.

• Review stock adjustments. Limit the entry of stock adjustments to employees who have an inventory management role.

• If you have a camera system, make sure each cash drawer is visible. Reports from your POS system coupled with video footage can tell the story of what is happening in the register.

If you suspect that an employee is stealing, trust your instincts and investigate. If you have good processes in place, your POS system can facilitate both the prevention and investigation of employee theft. To read more in this topic, take a look at the following resources online:

Kessler International Report

NRHA Loss Prevention Training

Monday, August 15, 2011

AR = Attention Required

The Accounts Receivable (AR) functions in your POS system are designed to help you serve commercial customers efficiently. If you haven’t paid much attention to them, it’s worth taking a few minutes to check them out. What payment terms does the system provide for? What kinds of discounts can be calculated? Can you offer discounts for prompt payment? What are the statement printing options? Can you customize the messages that print on your statements? Can you email statements? You might find features you didn’t know about, and therefore more options for managing credit with your customers. If you find there are features you don’t understand, ask your POS vendor to explain how they work.

On its own, your POS system will keep track of customer charges and payments. But without the required attention and proper maintenance, these functions can cause major headaches. To use AR effectively you need to open new accounts carefully, utilize credit limits, get proper documentation for each transaction, and reign in past due accounts.

By opening an account for a new customer, you are literally loaning part of your cash flow to them. Start this process by providing a credit application (consult with your attorney regarding the language in the application) and consider requiring a personal guaranty for commercial customers. Obtain documentation for tax exempt accounts, and maintain a paper file for documents related to each account. Finally, establish a checklist each time you set up a new account in your POS system. Forgetting to enter a credit limit or clicking a sales tax flag could lead to problems down the road.

Your POS system should be set up to trigger a credit hold for accounts that are past due or over their credit limit. You may also have the option for certain employees to override this hold at the cash register. It can be helpful to allow a manager or other trusted employees to override credit holds, but you should be sure to establish and communicate a policy that limits how much further any customer’s credit can be extended in your absence.

All customers charging on an account should be expected to sign for their purchases, either on paper or using an electronic signature pad connected to your POS system. In addition, the name of the person charging should be typed in or selected from a list by the cashier. Even if your customer does not require this information on invoices or statements, having a typed name will be easier than deciphering a signature if there is a question or problem with a transaction later on.

Monitoring your receivables carefully will ultimately help your cash flow. Choose a day early in the month to make phone calls to past due accounts. Make sure you’ve applied any checks you’ve received up to the current day. Then, generate a Trial Balance to identify the past due accounts you need to call. Make a friendly phone call to each account with a past due balance. You might feel uncomfortable making these calls at first. However, you will quickly find that one “reminder” call to a customer can lead to many timely payments in the future. Document each phone call either in your POS system or in the paper file for the account.

Finally, keep in mind that AR represents your money, which you are allowing your customers to use. Extending credit is a risk, but it is also a helpful sales tool. For more tips on managing credit, check out this article from the University of Missouri’s Extension service.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Handling Multiple Facings with a POS System

Do you have new plan-o-grams coming from the June market? Did you order in a clip-strip assortment to do some cross-merchandising? These always look good at the market, until you’re back in the store trying to figure out how to manage one SKU on multiple pegs or in two different locations. From a logical standpoint, it’s tempting to eliminate the duplicate locations to avoid the inevitable challenge of managing the inventory in your POS system. Don’t give in! We are in the retail business, and multiple locations sell more product.

Here are a few ideas for handling items that have multiple facings and/or multiple locations:

1. For shelved items (i.e. motor oil), invest in some colored plastic strips that fit the shelf rail. For each SKU, cut a length of the material and install it where you are merchandising the product. Slip your bin label in on top of the material, and center it under the merchandise displayed along the plastic strip. Be sure to use colors that enhance your display and don’t clash with the actual product on the shelf.

2. A second way to handle shelved items is to use the same concept as in #1, but instead of using plastic inserts in the rails you can use white (or another complimentary color) electrical tape on the horizontal surface of the shelf, up close to the front rail. Center the bin label on the rail below the area that the tape spans, and spread out your merchandise along the tape.

3. For items that hang on multiple hooks or are merchandised in multiple locations, try using a small colored dot on the bin label to indicate the product has multiple locations. They should be inconspicuous to the customer, but serve as a flag to your employees that the item has multiple locations. This technique also works for overstock items.

Once you’ve developed a system that you like, train your employees to understand it and use it. Everyone who merchandises new items, stocks shelves, maintains the presentation on the sales floor, and counts inventory needs to be on the same page.

Do you have other ideas? Click the comment link below and share your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If You Dislike CHANGE… You Are Going to Have a Hard Time Coping with Irrelevance


Maybe Charles Darwin, the great British Naturalist and author of the Theory of Evolution in the mid 1800’s, holds the key to our success. He said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This week Rick Segel did a webinar on the power of Inbound Marketing and it made me think of the changes that have already occurred and those changes that are yet to be.

Read these facts and you might be in awe as well. Many of these are just subtle shifts in behavior that we have all become part of.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Social media principles existed long ago

For centuries, humans have participated in 'social media' in one form or another. We've always recommended businesses or products and shared photos just in a different manner.

Harvard Business Review looked into the archives and found a 1966 study discussing the principles of "social media."

Now, the vehicle has changed. Without question, Facebook and Twitter make it easier to share and recommend certain products or brands, but social media principles have been least four decades ago.

So, if it helps, realize that the vehicles have changed slightly (Facebook, Twitter), but social media has existed for centuries.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Get connected to gain POS expertise

Take a minute to think about how you and your employees gain product knowledge. Maybe you attend seminars once in a while, or even use a formal training program. Both provide an important foundation for learning, but there is no substitute for experience. Most of what you learn, both inside and outside of your store, comes in bits and pieces from your own experiences combined with the others’ experiences. Your hardware product knowledge grows each day as you solve problems with customers, and talk with vendors.

When it comes to your POS system, the situation is different. You might have a user manual, and hopefully you’ve attended some user group meetings at the Markets. At times you may contact your vendor’s support line if you have a specific problem. However, despite the fact that your POS system is the information backbone of your store, your knowledge doesn’t grow very quickly if you’re not connecting with other users.

The opportunity to connect is just one click away! There are numerous blogs and online forums that can connect you to others who may have the same questions you do, or who can offer their expertise in solving problems. On the other hand, you may hold the answer to someone else’s problem. Most importantly, it doesn’t take a lot of time. You can usually sign up to receive emails when there are new posts, so you don’t have to visit a web site regularly. You can read when you have time, and delete or ignore when you don’t.

Blogs and forums administered by vendors (like this one) are usually monitored by the vendor, and often times they will answer questions and participate in the conversation. Independent forums, such as the Hardlines Digest, deal with POS questions relating to many different systems along with other topics. You may have to be a customer to use some of the vendor-specific forums. Here’s a short list to get you started:

AgVantage Forum: Private vendor forum for AgVantage users

ARS Blog: Public Blog sponsored by ARS, mostly related to ARS system features

DBMS User Forum: Private vendor forum for DBMS users

Pacsoft User Forum: Private vendor forum for Pacsoft users

Hardlines Digest: Public forum, requires registration. Content covers all aspects of hardware retailing including POS systems. Recent posts relating to Activant and RockSolid POS systems.

Do you know of other online resources for retailers with POS systems? Click the comment link to share them!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Consumer behavior online

Pinpointing consumer behavior is like trying to catch a fly with chop sticks; however, occasionally, statistics provide insights.

Via, administered a study looking at consumer behavior and attitudes toward 'social commerce.' They broadly defined commerce to include not just purchasing, but also posting comments or conducting product research on a variety of social media sites.

It's interesting research and something to think about as you wade into social media.

- Brian Sonnenberg

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is your POS system protected from severe weather?

Spring is here! Hopefully your registers are getting a workout. As the days grow warmer, the likelihood of severe weather increases too. As you probably know, power surges from severe weather are a natural enemy to your Point-of-Sale system. This threat isn’t limited to items plugged in to electrical outlets – electrical spikes running through telephone and cable connections can also have damaging effects. Can you imagine the nightmare of losing your POS server to a lightning strike on a Saturday morning in June? Too often there is a tendency to add or replace equipment with the idea that “we’ll add some surge protection later when we get time.” Don’t wait for lightning to strike… NOW is the time to check your equipment and be sure it’s really protected.

The 15 amp breaker in a standard power strip will protect the wiring in your store from being overloaded if you’re drawing too much power, but it won’t protect any of the equipment that is plugged into it from power surges. All components of your POS system should be powered through a surge protector, or better yet through an uninterruptable power supply (UPS). This includes the computers, monitors, network switches, routers, modems, charging cradles, cash drawers, and printers that make up your POS system. You should also check your fax machine, stand-alone credit card terminals, paint computer, color-match equipment, and mobile phone chargers to be sure they are protected as well.

UPS units provide surge protection, but they also provide your equipment with a few minutes of power in the case of a power outage. You won’t be able to run your POS system all day on a UPS, but if the power flickers or shuts off for just a few minutes your system will continue to run on the UPS’s battery power. In the case of a longer power outage, you will have at least enough time to finish some customer transactions and shut down your system properly. A basic UPS unit costs around $90.00, and will provide you with 5-15 minutes of battery life depending on the power that is being drawn from the unit. If you only buy one, use it for your POS Server. If your equipment is protected by a UPS already, make sure the battery is still good. Replacement batteries are available for most units. Most retailers that carry computer equipment will have UPS units available, and you can also find them online.

At bare minimum, you need surge protection. Prime Wire & Cable makes a surge protector that will accommodate phone, data and cable (RG6) lines along with eight three-prong electrical devices (Hank and TW SKU 070-151). Running your phone and/or cable line through this unit along with the electrical connections will provide the best protection. Here’s an added bonus: when you’re done checking and updating the surge protection for your own equipment, talk to your commercial customers about it. Chances are they have similar equipment that needs to be protected, and you can point them to the surge protectors you carry in the store.

Do you have additional tips or comments? Have you lost equipment or data due to power surges? Comment below.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Google changes, even small businesses face consequences

Selling products online has its challenges: catalog maintenance, fulfillment, customer payments, etc. There are many moving parts, and it requires much strategic thought.

You may not sell merchandise online now and perhaps never will, but NPR ran a story about a small New York company that was adversely affected by a Google search tweak.

Even though you it may not affect you directly, it's good to know some other challenges to online retailing, and that while gigantic, Google can affect your business.

- Brian Sonnenberg

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Have you heard of Facecrooks?

If you are worried about SPAM and your online safety, you should definitely become a Fan of Facecrooks on Facebook.

Facecrooks provides current news, educational resources and alerts on social media privacy, safety and scams.

Check out Facecrook's Fan Page for more!

Monday, April 18, 2011

GoGreen Promotion

Happy Monday Everyone!

The GoGreen promotion has started and I just wanted to remind everyone who participated to update your Facebook Fan Page and Website!

All of you should have received marketing materials via email or on our UH Private Group on Facebook. Please let me know if you did not receive the materials and I will re-send them to you! :)

It is important to have your Website and Facebook Fan Page consistent. If you have any questions, please let me know and I will be happy to assist you!

Have a great week Everyone!

- Allison

Friday, April 1, 2011

Website admin portal videos

Happy Friday Everyone!

I hope you are having a great week.

I just thought that I would let you all know we have How-To Videos for the Website Admin Portal. There are a couple different options and I would recommend looking at all of them :)

Click to view the Videos

I am also working on a little User Guide for all of you! Please let me know some of the problems you are having so I can answer all your questions.

I am here to help, so please contact me via email or phone and I will be happy to assist you.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Continuing the Facebook discussion

The Harvard Business Review posted an interesting blog regarding some tactics for capturing new customers. Interesting growing trends (crowdsourcing and check-ins) foster even more interaction between business and customers. Check-ins, in particular, will become more popular as smartphones proliferate the market.

Additionally, Facebook will probably reach their tentacles into two other areas: online video content and ecommerce. With online video content, Facebook plans to compete with Netflix and Hulu (among others) to offer streaming video of movies and television shows. We'll see if this is just a feeler of if they aggressively pursue content rights.

On the ecommerce side, some larger retailers have created online storefronts on Facebook. JCPenney, for example, put their entire catalog on Facebook.

- Brian Sonnenberg

Monday, March 14, 2011

8 Powerful & Inexpensive Desktop Design Apps

Click to check out great ways to update photos and other promotional materials.

What are your thoughts? Do you think you will use these Design apps?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Have a great week,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do you have an app for that?

Over the past several months, many of you have asked about apps for the iPhone and other devices. While United Hardware doesn't have a specific app, many vendors do!

I just got an iPhone last night and started exploring. Perhaps you could share a few of the apps below with your customers. Here's the incomplete, short list:

Valspar 'Project Paint'
Customers can search for colors, plan a job and find a store (free app).

Scotts 'My Scotts Lawn'
This app details the Scotts lawn program and shares video tips. Customers can also keep a profile for their lawn (free app).

Weber 'On the Grill'
The app shares hundreds of recipes, and also allows customers to form a grocery list or start a grill timer (cost, $4.99). See Weber's online description.

Many, many more probably exist. In fact, you may find helpful, third-party home improvement apps not necessarily associated with vendors. Share them with your customers on your website and via social media. It'll empower your patrons and position you as the expert.

If you've found other useful apps, comment on this post and share them!

- Brian Sonnenberg

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twitter: Tips to increase your following

Twitter is a little newer although it has gained momentum quickly. The social media site has been 'branded' (so to speak) as a microphone for celebrities; however, it could provide a more functional benefit.

Twitter is a great public relations/educational tool. Educationally, it organizes information efficiently for users by allowing them to sift through posts and explore personally relevant ones.

To help you, here are 10 suggestions to help you increase your Twitter following. And, you may want to avoid the 'bonus tip.'

- Brian Sonnenberg

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WANTED Coupon Ideas!

We are Looking for Coupon Ideas!

I was thinking of designing template coupons for you to use. I will set up the design, size, and product. Then I will save for you to edit in your Paint program. In Paint you will be able to add your price and anything else you would like. Then you can upload your coupons to your Facebook, Website, or Rewards Program.

Below are a couple template coupons that I made for the GoGreen promotion, these might give you a better idea of what I am thinking.

Click to see 2pk Sponges
Click to see Free Hardware Hank Bag

What do you think? Any other ideas? I want to hear your thoughts! :)

I hope you are having a great week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A New Way of Marketing

I ran across a great article on marketing. This article describes the difference between old marketing methods known as Outbound Marketing and new marketing methods now known as Inbound Marketing. The craziest part is that Inbound Marketing is 61% less expensive than traditional marketing!

Click here to read A New Way of Marketing . Trust me, it is worth your time!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LeVahn Brothers Inc. - Maple Grove, MN

Ice dams, roof rakes and roof melt

New Twitter Accounts!

Good Morning Everyone!

I just wanted to give you an update on our Social Networks. We now have Twitter pages for Golden Rule and Trustworthy! Please make sure we are connected online for great promo ideas, graphics and help problem solving!

I hope you all have a great week! :)


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

26 Tips for Enhancing your Facebook Page

Need fresh ideas for your Facebook? Click to take a look at 26 steps for enhancing your Facebook. Use these great ideas to help you take your Facebook Fan Page to the next step!

Let me know what you think! :)

Have a great day everyone!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Market Re-cap Email

Good Morning!

I hope all of you received the January Market Re-cap email earlier this week. The email consisted of many resources for you to use. Including "Common Ground" for your social networks, links to websites done through United Hardware, a link to the Facebook Seminar presentation, website information and contract, email marketing, as well as links to our social networks through United Hardware. Using these resources and connecting online with United Hardware and other Dealers have many advantages.

When connecting online we will be able to supply photos for you, interact and help you problem solve. We want to be able to make updating your website and fan page as easy as it can be. If you have any ideas just let us know! We want to hear your feedback!

Have a great rest of the week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You don't have to be a social media guru

Based on the Market, many of you are considering jumping into social media. You don't have to be a guru to develop/manage a successful Facebook page for your business. It just takes ideas and a little elbow grease!

Check out the slideshow associated with the link in the first paragraph. It reinforces many things discussed at the advertising seminar, and jump into social media without hesitation! You don't need to be a guru!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thank You!

Good Morning!

I just want to thank every one of you for coming to the January 2011 Market! It was great to hear all of your thoughts and ideas for the upcoming year.

You will be receiving an email this week with links to our Social Networks, Common Ground and the Social Media Seminar Presentation. We will also be starting up Social Networks for Trustworthy and Golden Rule Lumber soon!

If you have any questions just let me know!

Allison Goebel