What is Your Cash Register Trying to Tell You?


Originally published in INC. Magazine on February 4, 2014

Your cash register sees plenty of the interactions you make with your customers—good and bad. If it could talk, here’s what it would tell you.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”–John Lubbock

The way that we view the world — macro or micro, rosy or otherwise — has a profound impact on how we frame a situation, the paths we explore, and our outcomes as a result.

So this year, let’s together make a radical change in our perspective to see some old topics with new eyes, shall we? Let’s think not as entrepreneurs or leaders, as managers or employees. Instead, let’s think like a cash resister. Let’s “grok” it, if you will.

Science-fiction fans will recognize that term. For everyone else, however, here goes:

Grok (gräk): To understand something so thoroughly that you merge with it and it merges with you (coined by science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein in his fantastic book, Stranger in a Strange Land). (Yes, I’m a bit of a nerd.)

That’s right, let’s think like a cash register. What do you see? And what don’t you see? When you think about everything that you do for your business in pursuit of the magical sound of “ka-ching,” what jumps out? And to put a finer point on it for this discussion, what is the lowest hanging fruit for your business?

The cash register (both in its online and on-premise incarnations) sees all. The good and the bad. The missed opportunities and the relationship building alike. And in the world of marketing in particular, the cash register sees the bottom of the buying funnel — so let’s take a look at three key steps (conversion / loyalty / advocacy) and get our “grok” on.

(Note: For our purposes here, let’s focus on a brick-and-mortar establishment, but these insights are equally true in principle for online retailers, B2B marketers, and really anyone selling, well, anything.)

Conversion: What happens at the “door”? What first impression does the cash register see you make? Do you have salespeople or brand ambassadors? What is your training program like — are your staff members articulate about your products? About your brand? Are they educated in how to profile customers and manage the interaction based on the customers’ unique situation? Are they advocates of your policies (and/or do they even know your policies)? Are they thoughtful opportunists or passive order takers?

In a research study conducted by Motorola Solutions in 2011, 55 percent of retail employees agreed that shoppers are better connected to product information than store associates. Say what? That’s right — more than half of retail employees believe that their customers know more than they do. In an era of increasing pressure on all fronts, failing to properly arm anyone on the frontline of your business with the tools they need to fuel conversion is simply criminal.

Loyalty: So you closed the deal. Now what? What does the cash register see after the sale? What is communicated? What’s on the invoice? In the bag, box, or envelope? What happens with the salesperson? What other information is presented?

How do you bridge what you sold into a larger part of your customer’s life? How are you taking the opportunity to stay in touch — and motivate purchases in the future? What’s your contact strategy? What are you doing to convert an introduction into a connection or even into a friend? Are you “selling” to “customers” or building relationships with actual human beings?

Late last year, Forbes contributor Robert Passikoff noted that over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average 20 percent — and brands have kept up only 5 percent. Talk about an opportunity gap. So when you think about the “love” for your brand, what are you missing? When was the last time you looked at your customer’s path to purchase — not just before and during the sale, but afterward as well — as increasing a buyer’s repeat purchase loyalty is (for many categories) profoundly easier than generating another prospect from scratch?

Advocacy: What are you doing to not just create customers but true brand advocates? How are you leveraging their love to increase your own awareness, credibility, and advocacy? When someone leaves your store, does the cash register see yet another not-so-fond farewell or the start of something special? Bottom line, how are you growing your tribe? There have never been more tools at your disposal to connect the dots from brand buyers to brand champions, so how are you unleashing this potential for your business?

By way of example, according to a study by Lab42, 75 percent of social-media users say that following a brand on Facebook makes them feel more connected to that brand. Multiply this by the 69 percent of people reported to “like” a brand just because a friend did, and you can see the modern-day value of even low-threshold advocacy. Net/net? Every person who walks out of your door is the next press release for your business…and yet another opportunity to make the cash register ring (or not).

Far too often, our planning efforts remain theoretical and never move from possibilities to feasibilities. So as you’re looking for incremental gains this year, take a moment to “grok” your cash register — as little opportunities can add up quickly for your business.