Client Corner: Shift Marketing Strategy for 2014

logoLa Estrella, a pawnshop located on the beautiful most southern Caribbean island of Aruba, has noticed the impact in the shift from the traditional (info based) marketing outlets of newspapers, yellow pages and radio to a more interactive, social media and digital marketing strategies.

Having a strong presence in Internet advertising in the community has helped La Estrella become a house hold name allowing closer contact with our customer base as well as given us the opportunity to share what we do and receive reviews from a number of people that would not have normally entered our stores. Here Alex Cybul discusses some of the social media strategies they have incorporated into their marketing efforts.

La Estrella is known for its “Product of the Day” that is being posted daily on our Facebook Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/ArubaEstrella). This product is seen by over two thousand different people. Aruba’s population is around 110,000, some which are fans of our Facebook page and others who are part of our target audience. We have recently started to share this same “Product of the Day” on our Instagram account @laestrella_aruba. At least two of these products are sold per week and most are new customers to La Estrella. We also do fun engaging campaigns to have great interaction between our fans and the La Estrella community. Some of our more notorious campaigns include paying a person’s utility bill, giveaways of “HOT” products (iPhones, Galaxy’s, Tablets, Laptops), or customer testimonies stories explaining how the services at La Estrella have helped them. In Aruba we are one of the largest company Facebook fan page with a total of 10,890 fans and with daily interaction.

I recommend people to use the social media as marketing tool because it is easy, less expensive and a more efficient way to reach and attract new customers. Each day there are more and more people on the web, and it is easy to filter what is the best way to reach your target audience. It is a cost effective, efficient and user friendly medium in promoting your store and products to your customer, it gives access to those potential customers that would not normally walk in to your store. It allows customers to access your store from their house, place of work or just casually surfing the web. Social media gives you access to the turned on world, to a population that only needs a phone to be aware of who and what you are, and lets face it how many people nowadays do not have a phone.

Alex Cybul
Operations Manager
La Estrella, Aruba
www.arubaestrella.com
www.facebook.com/ArubaEstrella
www.facebook.com/CrownAruba

Stamp Prices Go Up

Stamp prices are increasing 3 cents to 49 cents today. This is a 6.5 percent jump. Even with this increase The US Postal Service is expected to continue to face a financial short fall. The USPS provides an important service, especially to rural areas. Because of their locations, using a for profit delivery service often isn’t cost effective. The USPS is mandated by law to delivery anywhere in the US for the same price. This means the cost of maintaining post offices in these rural areas is passed onto the main public in the form of higher stamp costs. Because of new technologies like email and text messaging, fewer and fewer people are using the postal service. With fewer people using the USPS and their costs continuing to grow, it’s unlikely we will see a decrease in stamp prices anytime soon.

For industries like ours, ongoing communication with our customers is key for success. Pawnshop customers all need a little reminder sometimes. Sending them a letter in the mail can be helpful but often has a limited success rate. Not everyone opens their mail right away. Even if they do, it can be easily forgotten. You can’t even be sure the right person opens the letter to begin with.

Many PawnMaster customers initially start using text messaging as a way to lower their postage costs. A text costs a few cents to send as compared to now 49 cents for a stamp. While they do see this savings almost immediately, they soon discover something else. The response rate to texts versus a letter of even email is considerably higher. Why? First, you know the right person is receiving your message. People rarely share a cell phone number. Second, immediacy. Studies show that 99% of all text messages are opened and the average time for a text message to be viewed is 14 minutes. Third, demographics. Text messaging is how people in their 20s and younger (and even some on their 30s) communicate. Even email is considered by this group to be “traditional” and is rarely used.

As the cost of stamps continues to increase and the use of newer technologies like email starts to slip, text messaging is emerging as an easy, cost effect and successful way to communicate with customers.

Did You Know? – Text Alerts for Managers

Many of our customers use the text message module to notify their customers of payments due and forfeits as well as for marketing blasts. This helps build customer loyalty and can give you a competitive edge over your competition.

But, did you know PawnMaster will also text you when an employee has given a customer too high of a discount? Or loaned too much? Or when an employee deletes inventory items? There are over 27 alerts in the latest version of PawnMaster.

Watch our Did You Know video below to learn more.

Client Corner: The Multi-Store Pawnshop Solution

We began the transition from our old software to PawnMaster ten years ago. Currently we have 15 stores on our central server. We were quick to move our corporate stores onto PawnMaster. Our franchises were given notice of the transition. They were hesitant to give up the old software as they knew how to use it and liked the simplicity. It is human nature to resist change. They were not given an option. We stressed the importance of consistency with chain stores and the professional service of this new software.

Due to the GL export to QuickBooks we were able to downsize our accounting department considerably. Even with some associates clocked into different locations during a pay period, payroll is a breeze. Processing transactions and payments from head office or just a different store is a great service to our customers. Being able to check a customer’s account while you are on the phone with the manager of that remote store is a real time saver.

The Search all stores inventory feature is used daily in each store. I highly recommend using that for great customer service and increasing sales. We are happy to transfer that item to the inquiring store for the customer to see. Sometimes that “customer” is our own associate that has been waiting for that item to come in, which is a perk for them.

The ability to see which stores the pawning customer is dealing with has been very helpful. A manager recently notified head office of a customer that had been to 3 different locations that day bringing in similar items in all locations. That certainly sent up the red flag and saved us additional losses.

Customers enjoy the ability to quickly pawn an item they have had in another store. The associate helping the customer can see they have had the same item in before and were successful in redeeming it.

There are many features of PawnMaster we have not utilized. It is my role to implement the changes by enabling the handy features within the software. More than once I have felt sheepish as there has been a valuable utility there that I didn’t recognize years earlier.

Jeffrey Hockley
Chief Executive Officer
Hock Shop Canada
www.hockshop.com

Did You Know? – Searching by First Name

Pawnshops are personal businesses.  Recognizing a customer and knowing their name when they walk in can mean a lot to them and goes a long way to building customer loyalty.  It can be easy to remember someone’s first name after one or two conversations, but remembering their last name can be more difficult.

PawnMaster and all Data Age products offer you a way to search for a customer by their first name only.  When you enter the search screen, enter a percent sign (%) in the last name field.  This opens up the first name field giving you the ability to search by their first name.

Watch the Did You Know video below for more details.

Website Wednesday: Adding a Google Map to your website

Welcome to a new PawnMaster blog feature, Website Wednesday. We will be discussing some simple ways to improve the functionality of your website, increasing the visitors to both your website and your shop.

This week we are going to outline how to add a Google Map to your site. When it comes to websites and marketing in general, I follow the basic principle laid out by Steve Krug, “Don’t Make Me Think”. This is no more important than when letting your customers know how to find you. One of the easiest ways to let your website visitors know where your shop is located is to embed a map on your site and Google maps makes it simple. Google has recently updated their map tool so even if you have already embedded a Google Map, it’s worth updating to the new system.

First, visit http://maps.google.com. If you have a Google Places for Business account already setup (which we will cover in a future post), you should be able to simply enter your business name and it will appear on the map. If not, enter your address in the Maps search bar. The map will drop a red pin on your shops location.

(click on any of the images below to enlarge them)

Google Map Search Bar

From here click the gear icon on the bottom right.

Goole Map Gear

This will bring up a small menu. Select the “Share and embed map” option.

Google Map Select Share

On the pop up window, click on “Embed map”.

Google Map Select Embed

There is a select box on the left side that will allow you to set the size of your map. You will need to experiment with the different sizes to see which one best fits your website layout.

Google Map Select Size

Select the code in the box to the right of the select box. Copy this code and past it into your web page.

Google Map Select Code

That’s it!  If you are using a content manager such as WordPress to run your website make sure you have the “Text” option selected, this will allow the map to be displayed and prevent the code from displaying as raw code.

You now have a Google Map on your site showing exactly where your shop is. Next week we will cover how to use Google Maps for multiple locations. Questions or comments? Let us know.

Did You Know? Using the Scanshell ID Scanner

May of our customers use the Scanshell ID scanner because it’s fast, easy and integrates directly with PawnMaster.  One problem some clients have experienced is the scanner will sometimes slide on their counters.  Over time this can damage the USB cable attached to the scanner, causing it to fray and eventually stop working.

Using a strip of Velcro will allow you to mount the scanner anywhere you want and still have the flexibility to move it if necessary.  This will not only help prolong the life of your cable and scanner, but also make it easier to scan IDs.

The Pawn Shop

You have the idea. Maybe you have the experience. Maybe you watched “Pawn Stars” one too many times. You find a building, you start to envision the layout, the merchandise, the tons of money that you will make.

You have $100,000 and just know you can make a go of this, you are the pawnbroker of pawnbrokers, and you are the person who can sell ice to an Eskimo. You close the building deal. Maybe you buy it, perhaps a lease.

Reality sets in. Shelving is not cheap, cases are not cheap, security is not cheap, safes are not cheap, and software is not cheap.

You cut corners, go to auctions. Where you can save you do. Coming together now but as you look at your $100,000 it is going fast. The burn rate is higher than you anticipated.

You demo software, they all seem the same so you settle for what works and is cheap. You open your doors waiting for the millions to roll in. Reality hits you again.

Remember that you get what you pay for. The cheaper software works fine up front and that is what you need. NOT!

Once you start running your pawn shop you will run in to a plethora of issues that will not be evident up front to a new person in the business. The reporting on the back end or lack of it could kill your business before you realize you are dying.

  • Do you have a location ledger? When you locate the loan physically and in the computer, will you get a report so that tomorrow you can verify all the loans and purchases you did yesterday?
  • Can you generate a report to see which types of loans are being paid on or not?
  • Can you generate a report that shows your turns by categories on the sales floor?
  • Can you see the average loan on that item in your store?
  • Can you see the average sale of that item in your store? How long it took to sell.
  • Can you get a monthly P&L?
  • Can you send a reminder text to your customer to pay on their loan?
  • Did that increase the yield on your loan balance?
  • Can you text to advertise your current sale to a customer or send a discount coupon?
  • Do you need a client server environment with the server in another state?
  • The entity hosting your data, what are they doing with the names of your customers?
  • If your ISP goes down, does it impact you? Are you manually writing tickets because of this?
  • In case of a problem, what kind of support are you getting? Ask someone who uses their software.
  • When you get something not in the pull down, how difficult is it to add it?
  • What type of security levels can be assigned? Can you customize one?

These are the types of questions you need to ask your vendors. Ask them to show you how to do that. Remember you are talking to sales people. Their job is to sell a product. Your job is to build a successful business.

You would not sail a cruise liners without the right tools, don’t start a business with the wrong ones.

Jimmie Ford
American Jewelry & Pawn

I Didn’t Know it Could Do That

Pawnshop owners are an independent group. Many have migrated to our industry from other businesses or jobs seeking the independence and freedom to be their own boss. They tend to be sharp, quick thinking and most of all, decision makers. It can be difficult for business owners with these personality traits to admit there are areas they in their business that can be improved upon. Often times training on their management software, probably the single most valuable business tools they own, is often seen as a luxury or worse, unnecessary. Especially if they have been using their system for years. There are so many other issues that require their attention, setting aside valuable time to learn a program they have used for years just isn’t a priority.

More than half of our customers that attend Data Age University have been using PawnMaster for more than 4 years. The phrase we hear most often is “I didn’t know it could do that!”. Getting a deeper understanding of the system that runs your business gives you a deeper understanding of your business. Knowing what tools to use to quickly and easily identify problems, shrinkage and even theft as well as potential growth areas, gives our customers a huge advantage over their competitors.

By using our customer’s data during their training session we are often able to identify areas for immediate improvement, easily covering the cost of their training session. The in-depth education program gives them the tools to make smarter decisions.

PawnMaster has been around for over 25 years and has grown exponentially every year. The vast array of new features added every year makes it difficult for anyone to have a complete understanding of every aspect without some guidance. We have several training programs available and can custom fit most of them to your specific needs.

How many times have you hired a new employee? Did you know we offer free online training videos? This is the best way to get new employees up to speed on the basics such as entering a pawn, entering a sale, doing a layaway, etc. We even offer free training on advance features such as quick quote and using the wireless inventory gun. If you haven’t seen these videos we encourage you to contact your account manager and find out how to access valuable, free training.

Take advantage of every opportunity to learn more about the tools that drive your business. The results will have you say “I didn’t know I could do that!”.