My first Human Resources role was with Target. I was a store side Executive Team Leader of HR. Store side, meant I also had retail responsibilities beyond managing schedules, payroll, benefits, etc. I had to know the business of the store: sales actuals vs. forecast, merchandising, front end, softlines, hardlines, and logistics. I very distinctly remember walking the floor with a visiting District Team Leader (DTL), he said, “show me the back room”. Our entourage of corporate visitors and store leaders pushed through the doors of the back room. I remember our DTL taking a handheld scanner from a stock room clerk and climbing a ladder. What we didn’t know is that he had noticed an item was empty from the shelves while walking the floor and had quickly looked up the back stock location on the hand held. As he climbed down the ladder with the items in hand, he said, “our guests can’t buy things from the backroom”.
He was right, from that day forward, when I was in charge I added “outs” to my personal check list and could be heard over the walkie-talkie coaching our mid-day replenishment team.
More importantly, our DTL’s words still ring in my ears from an entrepreneurial standpoint. When I read chapter twelve of Schussler’s book, the title reminded me of my DTL’s words. The chapter title is: “Marketing: Customers Won’t Buy What They Don’t Know Exists”.
In a large retail chain, it was as simple as keeping items pushed to the floor. We couldn’t make sales from an empty shelf. For an entrepreneur, the process is more complicated. For an entrepreneur, we must market twice without the power of the big red bulls eye behind us. Schussler had to market his ideas to investors long before he worried about direct marketing to customers. And there is a lesson here: entrepreneurs have to empty out the proverbial backroom and put everything they have out there for their investors and customers.
Holding back can mean missing a sale. The back room doesn’t clean itself out, just like ideas and products don’t market themselves. It’s worth writing a formal marketing plan around how you want to get your name out to the customer. Customers can’t buy what you are selling unless they know your product and/or company exists.