Peter Sandeen

Peter Sandeen

Contact: phone +358 41 433 0144 / Email (contact {ät} petersandeen {dot) com) / Twitter / Google+

The Manager’s Role: What are Managers For – And The Top 3 Mistakes

What’s the manager’s role? Unfortunately managers tend to have a very different answer to that than employees.

Everything most managers do falls into one of two categories: things they’re forced to do, and things they want to do.

But they’re not forced to do many of the things they should do, and they shouldn’t do many of the things they want to do.

So, what should managers do? And please note, this guide is about management, not about leadership. These two are often mixed together, but a manager isn’t necessarily a leader.

What are managers for?

Manager’s role is something most people never seriously think about. And the first answers that come to mind are usually wrong.

Here are the five most important aspects of a manager’s role. The first three are commonly agreed on, though many avoid following the advice. But most managers don’t even want to hear about the last two.

You could compress the manager’s role into, “Enable your employees to work, and then stay out of their way.”

1. Take care of management issues.

Paperwork is precisely what managers are made for (sorry to be so blunt, but let me explain). Imagine a work environment without a person who takes care of the team’s paperwork.

There has to be someone who makes sure everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and where they should be.

But it’s not your job to tell anyone how to do their job. Don’t confuse this with denying help. Don’t micromanage, but be available to help if they need it.

2. Enable others to work.

Taking care of the paperwork is just a tiny portion of this. You need to make sure people have what they need to do their job.

Communicate with other departments to know you’re on the same page. Delegate projects and tasks evenly to make sure everything gets done. The list of simple, but really important, tasks that managers should do is long.

Most importantly, make sure people have ,what they need for their work. And make sure nothing is holding them back.

3. Motivate your employees.

Most managers will intuitively say something about motivating people if asked about the manager’s role. But most managers don’t actually motivate anyone.

Most managers don’t know how to motivate people. And it’s not high on their list of things to learn. What managers often do when they attempt to motivate, actually takes away motivation.

Goals can be good motivators, but only if they’re mutual. Too often managers set goals that aren’t interesting for the employees.

A goal is motivating if reaching it is rewarding. The reward doesn’t have to be money. Recognition is usually the best reward.

4. Give all credit to others.

After a successful project a good manager is forgotten. The team should feel they did it all by themselves without your help. And if your bosses call to congratulate, you tell them they should thank your team.

Your job is only to enable others to do a great job. You can congratulate yourself for hiring the right people, giving them the necessary tools, keeping distractions away, and so on.

Why should you give away credit? Because you only enabled the success. It would be like congratulating the Sun for a good wine.

5. Take all the blame.

This is the part where becoming a manager starts to look like a choice only an idiot would make. If something goes wrong, anything at all, it’s always your fault.

The extreme example: if you need to fire someone, then you either made a mistake hiring them, or you should’ve done something before things escalated into firing.

Never let your boss complain to your subordinates, it’s your job to be the buffer. It’s intimidating to be criticized by your boss. And it’s even more intimidating to be criticized by your boss’s boss.

Common mistakes

Besides forgetting (or avoiding) what the manager’s role is, many managers do these common mistakes. If you even avoid these mistakes, your employees will like you.

Top 3 Management Mistakes

  1. Don’t micromanage. If you tell people how to do their job, it looks like you don’t trust them. If you don’t trust your employees, then hire better employees.
  2. Don’t ask people to do anything you wouldn’t do. This is the easiest way to destroy motivation and company culture.
  3. Don’t highlight mistakes, ever. Always find a positive way to explain issues. Show how things should be done, instead of explaining how someone messed up.

As a manager you have a key role in building the company culture. The way you act will quickly reflect to the entire company. I have more experience of managers who don’t understand their role. So, please take the time to understand what you’re supposed to do.

In case you’re wondering what’s the difference to leadership, I’ll write about that later this week.

How would you describe a manager’s role? Do you have experiences you could share? The comments section below is just for that.

And feel free to send this to your boss, if you dare ;) (Co-workers and/or your equals in the company food chain, may be a safer choice. There’s a chance your boss is as unwilling to understand their role, as many other managers are.)

3 Mistakes You Probably Make When You Read Business Books

Business books and blogs are the best way to get ideas and insights for developing your business. But many don’t read them.

There are two common reasons why many professionals don’t read more business books:

  • You think you don’t have the time for it.
  • Business books haven’t created real changes for you in the past.

Fortunately there’s a solution to both issues. You can listen to audiobooks while driving, walking, etc. This way reading won’t take up your time.

I recommend Audible.com as a source for audiobooks. It has the largest library of books and it’s owned by Amazon. You can download one audiobook free here.

The other reason many don’t read business books is their perceived ineffectiveness. There are three reasons for that.

These three reasons are actually mistakes made by the reader, not the writer. So, how can you get more out of business books?

1. Research which business books you’ll read

Rather than just reading any business book, pick the ones you invest your time in. There are two good ways to choose the ones you read:

  1. Trusted recommendations. If someone you trust (friend, critic, etc.) recommends a book, the chances are it’ll be worth your time.
  2. Interests and needs. If you’re interested in a topic or you need answers to specific questions, a proper book can be the perfect choice.

When you know (meaning you have faith) that a book will help you, you’re more likely to find ways to use the ideas in it. This is why a book by your favorite author will usually seem better, than a book by someone you know nothing about.

If you’re looking for answers to questions, you’ll use the answers you find. The ideas turn into actions.

2. Study the book

You should think of reading a business book as if you’re studying for an exam. But not a traditional exam that tests your ability to memorize things. Rather one where you’re understanding of a topic is measured.

When you read a business book, take notes, underline important parts, and write down your own ideas. It’s easy to just read without memorizing anything. Process the ideas, don’t just rush to the end of a book.

Repeat is the greatest teacher. If you got good ideas from a book, then odds are you missed some of them. I’m not saying you should read twice all books you read, but the ones that are good are worth re-reading.

3. Apply the ideas to your business

It may be fun to read a good business book. But not even the best book can make any difference for you. It can only give you ideas and tools for how to change something.

The best books give practical ideas and encourage action. But still it’s up to you, to change the way you do business.

If the book you’re reading doesn’t tell you what to do, then you need to figure it out yourself. You should do that while reading the book. Take notes of the actions you need to take after finishing the book (or before that).

Unless you act on the ideas, you’ve wasted the time you spent reading.

What the book should do?

The best business books give specific instructions about actions you need to take. They explain a topic, and then explain how to use the ideas presented. The same goes for E-books, email courses, and all other forms of informational products.

Take a look at the books I recommend (in the sidebar). They’re all excellent, but none of them will create change without you.

Check out my guide to Premeditated Marketing for an example of how I believe a business book (or a free course) should be written. The question you should answer is asked first. Then the topic is explained. And finally all the questions are compiled to a short list at the end.

 

What do you think about business books? Do you read a lot of them? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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Surprise To Get Referrals

I went to an organic food store a few days ago. At the counter I noticed a paper plate with a dice on it. A hand written message said, “Dice hours Mondays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Roll the dice and get a price if you get ’6′.”

I asked the cashier what can I win. He responded, “Try and you may get a surprise.” So I rolled the dice and got the number six; I won a small organic chocolate bar. I started thinking about the cleverness of that idea.

They’re going to get some referrals and they’ll sell more of that chocolate. And maybe they’ll even get more customers to come there at an otherwise quiet time.

Their investment is almost non-existent: one out of six customers win a small chocolate bar. I’m sure this creates more referrals than giving them away.

Traditional product giveaways also have much higher costs. You need to pay for someone to offer the products to the bypassers. You’ll end up giving away lots of products. And it’s not memorable.

I can see why new products are promoted like that: you’re more likely to buy coffee you’ve tasted before. But still the ”Dice hours’” return on investment is surely higher.

Create buzz

I believe the game with a dice is more effective than just giving away the chocolate bar. Why is that more effective when five out of six customers don’t win? Precisely because of that.

You only have a 17% chance of winning. If you win it’s surprising and you’ll tell friends about it. If you don’t win you’re still likely to tell about the game because you don’t know what you could’ve won.

Many companies concentrate their social media advertising to competitions. “Like us on Facebook to enter the competition” and “Tweet this for a chance to win” can create a lot of buzz.

It’s common to see Facebook or Twitter filled with competition entries if the prizes are compelling enough. Even more hype is created when “Send this to your friends to get another entry into the competition” is added to the mix.

Surprises and prizes are interesting and people like them. The return on investment can be extremely high with a clever competition (though I object thinking about the ROI of marketing).

How could you surprise your customers? You don’t have to give away anything. Just think of a way you can surprise customers and you’ll get referrals more than before.

Have you been surprised positively by a business? How and by which business? Share your story in the comments below.

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Know What You Promise and Deliver That – A Poor Example By GoDaddy

I had an unfortunate experience with some customer service people yesterday. I needed help with switching the way Affect Selling is hosted.

It was previously on a “shared” server and therefor it was really slow at times. Now it’s using a “Virtual Dedicated Server” from GoDaddy.com.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that GoDaddy advertises their customer service on their website. But they don’t deliver what you’d expect.

What do you advertise?

Though I believe great customer service is the best way for a business to succeed, not everybody has to offer that. You can offer lower prices if there aren’t so many customer service people waiting for someone to need their help.

Whatever it is you advertise about your product/service, is what people expect you to be good at.

If you advertise customer service, the promise is that you’ll do everything you can to help customers. That you’ll offer the best service possible.

With that expectation they’ll be disappointed if the service isn’t wonderful. This is true also if you advertise cheap prices, fast delivery, ease of use, or anything else. People expect to get the best of what you talk about.

Poor example

The GoDaddy email customer service doesn’t live up to any sort of hype. They reply quickly, but that’s it. I guess they should read my series of posts about email customer service.

The answers were too technological for me to understand (and I did tell them I’m not that tech-savvy). And they did their best to avoid doing more than the bare minimum.

For example when I asked them about the PHP version on the server (I had no idea what that meant), they told me I can read an article about it. Or they could do the necessary updating for $49.99.

I decided to read the article. I didn’t understand it so I read another and another and another article to explain what the first one meant. Finally after a few hours I managed to update the PHP version on my server.

Now that I know how it’s done, I could do it in a minute. So, they would’ve charged me $49.99 for that one minute. Instead of just doing it, they replied to my email, and another email, and a third email about the process. They spent more time answering my emails than it would’ve taken them to do the update.

When the installation of WordPress didn’t go smoothly, they told me to find answers elsewhere since it’s a third-party application. Again when I finally found the reason for the problems, I could see it would’ve taken them a minute or two to fix it. (I have to thank the people at WordPress forums for help.)

I do understand and appreciate the low prices GoDaddy offers. But I cannot understand why their email customer service isn’t better. The people there obviously have the technical know-how. They just don’t seem to understand what their job is.

What should you advertise?

What are you good at? Really good at? When you advertise your customer service, people expect it to be great. But you should still exceed that expectation.

Exceeding expectations is the best way to create loyal customers and referrals.

You need to surprise people regardless of their expectations. If you advertise cheap prices, then either be surprisingly cheap, or offer additional free services for your customers.

“Good enough” isn’t good enough. If you’re not confident you can exceed expectations with something, then you shouldn’t talk about that at all. Or if your customers are likely to expect more from you than you’re able to offer, than warn them in advance. Don’t let people build up anticipation, and then prove them wrong.

Avoid and/or explain

I was disappointed with the GoDaddy customer service because I expected more. I’d be fine with doing all the server configuration by myself, but since they “advertised” their customer service, I expected to get help.

They could just add a “warning” to their sales page for the server that said, “You’ll need to understand how to configure your server on your own. Optionally you can hire us to do it for you.”

If I would’ve read that before making the purchase, I wouldn’t be so frustrated with them now.

You cannot always cater to your customers’ every need and desire. But when you can’t, you need to try, and then explain why you can’t do it.

Don’t please everyone

Many businesses fall into the trap of trying to please everyone. It’s not going to happen. You can only ever hope to please a small portion of people.

You should deliver what those people want. And do it well. When you attempt to please everyone, you will probably become mediocre at everything. And you’ll end up pleasing no one.

All marketing should target someone, not “the general public” or “the masses”. It’s possible you’ll end up selling to “the masses”, but there’s a squirrel’s chance on an eight-lane highway you’ll get “the masses” to embrace your product immediately after launch.

This is what GoDaddy has done. They’ve become so big, they can profitably “target” everyone. They offer the lowest prices and a variety of services. But they do nothing particularly well (except pricing).

Then there’s Synthesis, a high-end web host. They offer hosting options for WordPress users. And they do this one thing exceptionally well.

If you’re just starting a blog, you’ll run away from their site when you see the prices. But if you’re serious about creating a blog and you want the best solution for it, then they offer just the right thing. (They don’t even offer email because “it’s not their thing”.)

What’s your thing?

What is it that customers buy from you? Is it quality? Is it cheap prices? Is it the experience? Figuring this out might be the most important thing you can do for your business.

Don’t waste your resources advertising something you won’t deliver. Instead focus intently on your core idea; what you’re the best at.

To survive you need to be the best at what you are about. But that’s not enough. You also need to understand how to make people believe you’re the best.

Check out the Premeditated Marketing Guide for ideas on how to get your message heard and believed.

 

And finally tell what is your thing. What is your business about, really. Do you compete on price or quality or something else? Share your story in the comments below.

How to Sell During the Sale Season

Almost every store has a sale going on now. And every customer knows to expect sale prices.

This is the time of the year when all the old products are dumped on people looking for bargains. Quality seems to be irrelevant to many, as is the necessity of the product they buy.

You find what you’re looking for” is one of my favorite sayings. And it’s clearly demonstrated by millions of people during the few weeks after Christmas.

You look for “something”, so you find “something”. When you don’t have any particular need you’re trying to fill when shopping, you’re likely to buy just to have fun.

There’s nothing wrong with buying just for the fun of it. So, why should you as a sales person think so? This is the easiest time of the year to sell any consumer goods.

More than ever concentrate on the time constraint in your sales pitches. Talk about the sale price. And most importantly induce emotions.

All purchases are emotional, but some more than others. When you’re looking for a bargain, you’re looking for something that will make you feel good.

So, sell the good feeling more than anything else. How do you do that? Here are a couple of ideas.

  • Talk about all the fun/joy your product can create. The primary reason for shopping for bargains is that they’re fun (it’s fun to get something cheaply).
  • People value convenience a lot when they’re looking for a bargain. So, if your product can make their life easier, emphasize that. And make the purchase really easy; don’t try to sell complicated service subscriptions or anything like that.

Since everyone’s wallpapering their store’s with sale posters, you should do something else as well. You may get customers in with those posters, but many will walk by because they’re not special.

Use your imagination with store windows to make everyone stop at your store. Offer something people don’t normally get. A stand-up comedian could be a great way to attract customers in. If that’s not appropriate for your business, then do something else. Just make the sale season about something more than bargains.

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HubSpot’s Content Marketing is Almost Good

Content marketing is the preferred marketing method for many innovative companies. It’s cheaper than traditional marketing and creates better results for most businesses.

In short content marketing is providing valuable content to those who are looking for it. When your content proves useful, prospects are likely to convert into leads.

HubSpot is a company that uses free ebooks as a marketing method. You only need to submit your email and you get valuable ebooks from them.

I’ve downloaded a few of their ebooks and I can easily recommend them.

They also use blogs and social media channels for their marketing. And they do this all really well. But there’s one problem. And it’s a serious one.

After reading a couple of their ebooks and using some of their online services, I didn’t know what I could buy from them.

I really didn’t know what I could get from them. I know it was mentioned somewhere but I was able to avoid it.

So, what went wrong?

  • They had me in their emailing list. Check.
  • I was actually reading the content they provided. Check.
  • I’m a good prospect, I could use their product. Check.
  • When I think about the problem their product solves, I remember them. NO!

Whenever someone talks about content marketing, they’ll say, “It’s about the content. Don’t hard sell your services!”

Well, if the prospect doesn’t know what you actually sell, they’re unlikely to buy it. You could argue that when some content proves really valuable, you’ll check out the provider of that content.

That’s probably true sometimes, but not nearly always. In this case I only checked out what HubSpot sells after I realized I didn’t know it already. (They sell an inbound marketing software. You can get a free 30 day trial here.)

What can we learn from this? It seems there is such a thing as too “soft” sell when it comes to content marketing.

Include your tagline/slogan/description even to landing pages. And make sure people who read/use your content, will also figure out what you sell.

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3 New Year’s Resolutions Every Business Should Make

People make new years resolutions and so should businesses.  Here are 3 new year’s resolutions every business should make.

1. Don’t think that the same things that worked last year would work this year.

Things change. There’s no real reason to believe that you could keep doing the exact same things you did last year.

More probably than not, you need to change too. If your competitors change for the better but you stay the same, you’ll lose.

You shouldn’t change your core idea, unless it no longer works. But you should take a long hard look at how you do what you do.

Is your marketing creating increasingly positive results? Do your employees’ motivation strengthen? Do you enjoy working more than before?

Change for the sake of change is pointless, don’t fix what isn’t broke. But never say, “It worked well last year, so it’ll work well this year.” There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen.

2. Make a list of your top three development priorities for the new year. And act on them!

A business should always know exactly what it needs to work on the most. Unfortunately these priorities are often forgotten.

Do your sales people need more training? Is your company culture holding you back? Are there any new challenges in sight?

Never think your business is “ready”. There’s always the next level, even if you’re already the best at something.

When you have the list, do something about the things on it. And do that something immediately. Don’t put it off or you’ll find yourself writing the same list next year.

3. Deliver more value to your customers.

Think of at least five ways you can deliver more value to your existing and future customers. Unless you can deliver more value to your customers, they’ll find someone who can top what you offer.

Could you promise faster delivery? Better customer service? More resources to customers? Closer relationship with customers?

People get used to the status quo. They get bored with it and they start to expect more. Your competitors will do their best to offer more than you. So, beat your last-year-you and wow your customers again.

Do you have another new years resolution? Share it in the comments.

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How to Spot a Lie: Top 3 Ways – Negotiation Techniques

The ability to spot a lie is valuable in any negotiation. The most usual lie is about your reservation value; how much you’re willing to pay, or how cheaply you’re willing to sell.

If you’re able to spot a lie your counterpart tells, you have an advantage. But lets first learn how to spot a lie.

Here’s the top 3 ways how to spot a lie:

#3 Spot a lie with observation. You can learn to read micro expressions and body language to spot a lie.

Some emotions cause universal and recognizable micro expressions you can learn to spot. Micro expressions are involuntary and quick (less than 0.25 seconds long) facial expressions.

There are seven emotions that make you flash the corresponding micro expression. Anger, disgust, fear, surprise, contempt, happiness, and sadness all have their own facial expression.

It’s extremely difficult not to show these emotions. Under pressure it becomes near impossible. Whenever you notice your negotiation counterpart showing these emotions, you know what they actually feel about something.

For example: Your counterpart makes an offer of $100,000 and says it’s their limit. You respond as if it’s a really good offer. If they show contempt at this point, they’re likely willing to pay a lot more; they think you’re selling for too little and that you believed their lie. You may be able to get a lot more. If you didn’t notice the emotion, it would be difficult to know if the offer really was their limit or not.

If you want to learn how to spot micro expressions, I can recommend a training program by Humintell. The training is effective but it can be a bit tedious as well. A much more entertaining way to learn about micro expressions is to watch the TV series “Lie to Me“ (one of my favorite TV series). As a bonus you’ll learn a lot about body language an its tells. It doesn’t replace training, but it’s a great introduction to spotting lies.

#2 Study your opponent. If you knew everything about your opponent’s situation, they couldn’t lie to you.

Your opponent is most likely to lie about their reservation value. If you’re able to figure out their reservation value (approximately) before they say anything about it, you have an advantage.

Before you start negotiating, exhaust every source of information you have that could help you estimate their reservation value. Dig up their previous deals and contact your industry contacts for information.

Most effective way to estimate your negotiation counterpart’s reservation value is to ask this question: “What can they get from the deal you’re negotiating?” Answer this question in every way you can imagine and you’ll form an idea about their reservation value.

#1 Contingency contracts. There’s no better way to test your negotiation counterpart’s honesty than contingency contracts.

A contingency contract states that if something happens then something else happens.

For example: You’re negotiating with the builder of your new house. You want the house to be ready before Christmas and the contractor says it’s going to happen. If the contractor really believes the house is finished by Christmas then they shouldn’t oppose a contingency contract. The contract could say that they’ll pay you back $1000 for every week the project is delayed.

For the sake of fairness the contract should also state that you’ll pay them a bonus if they finish the project early.

Now you know how to spot a lie. Next week I’ll write about what to do when you spot a lie.

Do you have other ways to spot a lie? Please, share them in the comments.

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Customer Evangelists: Your Most Valuable Marketing Asset

Customer evangelists believe in your story. They tell your story forward. They’ll happily challenge your competitor’s evangelist’s views. And they’ll always believe they won the debate.

Customer evangelists are your best customers. And they’re your best marketing asset as well; they’re the backbone of referral marketing.

How does someone become a customer evangelist? It takes five steps:

  1. They’re exposed to your story.
  2. They find your story compelling.
  3. They find proof your story is true.
  4. They see others are wrong when they don’t believe your story.
  5. They feel they get something out of fighting for your story.

But what’s your story? Your story is what your customer evangelists say about you.

For example Apple’s customer evangelists say Mac’s are easier to use, faster, cooler, and safer than other computers. That’s Apple’s story.

So, how to create customer evangelists?

1. Tell your story. Tell it to anyone who’s willing to listen. Turn your story into an elevator pitch (30-60 sec) and into a tagline (max 10 words). When you have them ready, you can easily tell your story whenever you have the chance to do so.

2. Make your story interesting. Mediocrity is useless. A “normal” story will be forgotten before you get to the end of it. No one will tell it forward. Additionally the story should make a promise. It can promise quality, functionality, feeling, or anything else as long as it’s compelling.

3. Provide proof for your story. Social proof is the most effective proof. Tell how others are making their lives better by using your services. You can also use statistics or specifications if necessary, but turn them into stories as well. “It’s like I found an additional hour into my day, when the new Mac cut the processing time to half.”

4. Tell a different story. It must be noticeably different from your competitors’ stories. The story, and its difference, should be clear to anyone who could ever become your customer evangelist. They need something to believe in, that makes them different from those who don’t already embrace your story.

5. Create something to be gained. Your customer evangelists need to gain something when they fight for your story. Feeling important and different will only carry them so far. Create a membership program, give discounts, or acknowledge your evangelists. Do something to show your appreciation.

Most importantly: always remember that you can never know who will become your customer evangelist. So, always treat everyone as if they already were your most valuable customer.

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Well Executed Store Windows: They Make You Interested

Funny Store WindowI was walking down a central street in Helsinki just before Christmas. As usual I didn’t pay any attention to most store windows. But two windows made me stop and recognize them.

The first was a window for a design clothing store called Samuji. It’s a small Finnish clothing brand (their website is worth checking out because of its design).

I immediately imagined the clothes inside the shop. Unfortunately it was late and the shop was closed, so I couldn’t check if it matched my expectation. (It was also really dark and I only had my mobile phone to take the pictures with. So, sorry about the picture quality.) At least their website lives up to the expectation I created in my mind.

There’s a fair amount of small clothing brands in Helsinki. Most of them have understood the importance of having a unique store window, but this was the first one I’ve seen, that accomplished its goal; I stopped to see the clothes.

Louis Vuitton WindowThe Louis Vuitton handbag store had an interesting window too. I don’t understand what they’re trying to convey, but I don’t care. It’s brilliant.

The street where both of these stores are is the busiest (or the second busiest) tourist street in the city. Creating an interesting store window is especially important if the target market is tourists.

Tourists want to see something unique and interesting. Why would you go to a foreign country and then do something you do at home every day.

Besides attracting tourists walking by, these store windows will get the locals to talk. People talk about all things that surprise them.

Sure, most people won’t talk about a store window. But the window will create an expectation of something weird. If the store then meets that expectation, it’s worth talking about.

The next time you design a store window, think again, will it stop people passing by? If the majority of people won’t remember the window after one block, you failed. Actually the same applies to effective landing pages; they capture your attention with one glimpse.

The point of the window is to get people inside the store. So, anything that’s weird but isn’t negative (disgusting, creepy, etc.), will work. But the style of the window needs to be aligned with the contents of the store. Otherwise you’ll attract customers who won’t buy anything.

These two store windows are good examples of weird advertising that works.

I’d love hear if you’ve seen a great store window. Share your favorite one in the comments below.

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