Jan 4, 2014

3 Ways Google Insights for Search Will Improve Your Business

Everyone wants to know what’s hot, what’s selling and what’s not. Fashion, entertainment, shopping, news and technology all have their daily “trending now” web updates.

Every day, someone, somewhere, publishes another “Top 10” list, but when it comes to providing actionable information for running your business, most are about as useful as David Letterman’s laugh-filled Top 10.

“What’s Hot” lists are not uncommon in the antiques trade, but since there is no standardized reporting format (like there is in larger industries), it’s difficult to interpret the list results in terms of an individual dealer’s local market. To be effective, a “What’s Hot” list would have to be assembled for each market. If you knew that consumers were looking for an item that you regularly inventoried, you could almost certainly get a return on some quick advertising or start carrying items people really want.

Fortunately, dealers can assemble an effective “hot list” using tools freely available on the Internet — the same tools used by web publishers to assemble their “trending now” lists. There is one tool that is particularly useful, and if you learn how to use it, you will be pleased and surprised by the insights it can give you into your market: Google Insights for Search. Read More

Jan 3, 2014

Reach More Customers with Mobile Marketing

What three things do you always take with you when you leave your house? Almost universally, the answer is your keys, your wallet and your phone. For decades, urban dwellers left home with just their keys and their wallets. At some point, cell phones became so important that they couldn’t leave home without them, either.

A few years ago, high-tech guru George Forrester said, “If you look at the history of technology, there is a threshold where one day, you had to have something. You had to have a fax machine. Remember that day? It was 1981 or something. You had to have a fax machine on that day. The day before, you didn’t need it.” (download Forrester’s PDF for more details).

When did you decide that you absolutely had to have a cell phone? I grudgingly got mine when a big client insisted that I be available by phone while I was on the road. That was about 1998. Within weeks, I was hooked. I never left home without it.

The rate at which new technologies are being adopted by our society as a whole is phenomenal. Read More

Jan 2, 2014

90 Years' Experience Helps Antiques Dealers

What’s the best advice you ever received that you failed to take? I recently considered that question, and my thoughts went down a rabbit hole that became so deep, so fast, I expected to bump into Alice and the White Rabbit.

Yes, I should have bought Apple stock in 1986. Yes, I should have taken a raincoat to Woodstock. No, I never should have opened that second store. Although I’m not particularly good at taking advice, my hindsight is 20/20.

Humans often claim that a characteristic that sets us apart from other species is our ability to learn from one another. I’ve never entirely believed that. I believe that taking advice is just not natural. Right or wrong, we tend to take our own counsel. Advice is sought for comparison purposes, listened to politely and usually dismissed. Unsolicited advice is simply ignored.

Which, as often as not, gets us into trouble. As George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Read More

Jan 1, 2014

Some Things Only Your Balance Sheet Can Tell You

Since retiring from my full-time pursuits a few years ago, my wife Jill and I have begun to go grocery shopping together. Well, perhaps “shopping together” is a misnomer. We enter the store together, to be sure; but I’m given a list and a hand basket, Jill takes a cart, and we go our separate ways. I spend the next 90 minutes alternately waiting for items to jump off the shelf into my basket and wondering where Jill is.

A few weeks ago, while wandering dazed through the snacks and chips aisle, my phone rang. The call was from a reader who wanted my recommendation for accounting software for her business. Relieved to be back in my own world, I sat on a bench in the front of the store and quizzed her about her business.

Her business model is a common one for a modern antiques business: a combination of estate sales, antique shows and Internet sales selling a mixture of consigned and purchased inventory. As we spoke, it became clear to me that although she was savvy about how to track her inventory and sales, she really didn’t fully grasp (although she suspected) how having a cohesive accounting system could transform her business. Read More

Dec 31, 2013

New Legislation Homing in on Internet Sales

In the opening scene of the 1980 Robert Altman-Robin Williams film “Popeye,” my favorite “sailor man” is seen docking his rowboat in the town of Sweethaven, where he will meet his sidekicks from the 1950s cartoon series: Olive Oyl, Wimpy and, of course, Bluto. At the wharf, Popeye is greeted by the Tax Man, who promptly charges Popeye a 17-cent “new in town” tax, a 45-cent “rowboat under the wharf” tax and a $1 “leaving your junk lying around on the wharf” tax. When Popeye questions the taxes, the Tax Man says, “Is that a question? There’s a nickel question tax.” A crowd of kids gathers to watch what’s going on, and the Tax Man promptly takes off after the kids to collect a nickel each “curiosity tax.”

Popeye’s reaction to all the taxes?

In his own words, “I’ze disgustipated.”

Disgustipated is what I am regarding the debate over taxing Internet sales. This debate has smoldered for years, and it comes before the Senate this week in the form of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). The bill will likely pass in the Senate but meet more resistance in the House. By the time this column goes to press, the Act may be a “done deal.” Read More

Dec 29, 2013

Relative Pricing: Market Dictates Worth

You’re a rational person. As a rational person, if I tell you that you’re about to be tricked then you will be on guard, and less likely to be fooled.

Or so you think. Prepare yourself to be tricked while taking the following pop quiz:

1. Is the average temperature in San Francisco higher or lower than 558 degrees Fahrenheit?

2. Without looking it up, what is the average temperature in San Francisco? (Your best guess will do.)

3. How many Top 10 records did The Beatles release: More than 100,025 or less than 100,025?

4. Give your estimate of the number of Top 10 Beatles records.

Of course, the temperature of San Francisco is nowhere near 558 degrees; you know that, and I know that. But the point of the exercise was to plant a high anchor number in your head regarding the temperature of San Fran in order to influence your “best guess” as to the actual average temperature. Psychologist George Quattrone used the above questions to demonstrate the concept of “anchoring.” In his studies, participants who were given a high anchor number consistently came up with a higher temperature than those who were given a low anchor number. It made no difference how ludicrous the anchor number was. Read More