If you live on either coast of the U.S. and buy food, chances are you’ve been to Trader Joe’s.
If you have, you’re probably a regular. And if you’re a regular, you probably enjoy shopping there; their stores are just plain cool.
But did you ever think Trader Joe’s could make you a better blogger?
Here are 5 things Trader Joe’s does that every blogger should copy.
1) Make what you offer fun.
At Trader Joe’s, the “Captain and Crew” – they’re the store manager and checkers – wear Hawaiian shirts and smile a lot.
(Caution: Don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt yourself when you go or other shoppers will ask you where things are.)
Instead of using a PA system they ring gongs, which their website calls “a kind of Morse code. One bell lets our Crew know when to open another register. Two bells mean there are questions that need to be answered at a checkout. Three bells call over a manager-type person.”
You get the feeling crew members are enjoying their gigs and are happy to help you. When you’re happy, you buy more.
When you do that, readers will come back for more – and are more likely to think of you when they need help.
2) Make everything you offer bear your own distinctive brand.
Joe’s sells some everyday basics, but mostly they buy unusual products – wherever possible directly from suppliers – and brand them with their own label.
As a blogger, you need to be just as serious about branding yourself. Pick your niche, let the world know what it is, and stay with it.
Mine is helping people be better writers – especially people who hate to write or don’t have time – or doing it for them. Hence, “The Writer’s Clinic,” subtitled “wit and wisdom for wordsmiths.”
(I’m thinking of taking off the “for wordsmiths,” even though I like the alliteration, since people who hate to write don’t think of themselves as wordsmiths.)
3) Offer stuff nobody else is offering .
Last time I shopped at Joe’s they had a white bean humus with basil that was terrific. I’m a good cook and usually make my own humus, but this just looked good – and it was.
Your writing is something nobody else offers because it’s yours alone. Capitalize on that. Develop your own voice, make it distinctive, and never deviate from it.
4) Give out freebies.
Lots of stores do this, but some do it only sporadically. You might get the equivalent of lunch one day and nothing for another week.
Joe’s has a spot that’s dedicated to freebies, often cooked right there, and it’s always open. Once they were giving away tiny tamales called tomalitos with salsa. I never buy frozen dinners, but I bought a package of those.
For bloggers, the equivalent is the free e-book you offer people for subscribing. (Yes, I know I don’t have one yet. Coming soon !)
Uberblogger Jon Morrow likes to call this being “insanely generous,” and it’s a great policy. Give people great stuff for nothing and when you offer things for sale they’re more likely to buy.
5) Do a great newsletter.
Joe’s is called “Fearless Flyer” and it’s actually fun to read. It’s the J. Peterman catalogue without the attitude.
Joe’s describes the newsletter, which is print and distributed by direct mail, as “a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine . . . kind of like a newsletter, a catalog and a bit of a comic book all at the same time.”
And by the way, it’s well written as well as fun.
For bloggers, the equivalent is having a regular e-newsletter that complements your blog and website.
Your e-newsletter has the advantage of landing right in prospects’ mailboxes as often as you send it. Once every week or two is about right.
It reminds them of you and what you do regularly and directs them to your website to find out more.
6) Don’t try to compete with the big guys.
If you’re a sole proprietor, you can’t complete with the big PR agencies, and that’s a good thing. You offer the expert, personal service they can’t offer.
So establish yourself as what Blue Penguin Chief Michael Katz calls “the friendly expert” in your field.
Do what it takes to make customers love you, keep them aware of you in a friendly, low-key way, and the rest will take care of itself.
What do you think? Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Share your thoughts in a comment.