As I biked to work this AM, I passed a wing joint that I loved, and saw the CLOSED sign in the door. What!!!??? How can they close their doors? I was just there two weeks ago for moist chicken tenders in hot wing sauce and icy cold pitchers of beer. There was a crowd, things were popping? What happened to Chicken Licken?
It turns out, a lot happened to Chicken Licken! The owners forgot what business they were in. Somehow, they got the impression that they were in the food business, and forgot the golden rule of business. No matter what service you provide, no matter what product you offer, you are in the marketing business if you are a business owner.
The owners of my favorite corner wing joint forgot that rule. They assumed, as so many businesses do, that location was the most important attribute of their business. Sure, the customer service was great, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was fun, but the business was too keen on being near the University of Central Florida and relying on the students to keep the business going. When summer rolled around and the
Students abandoned the college town, and the tourists stayed over on I-Drive, this little joint suffered. Despite their FREE BEER promotion, despite a cool sign, and despite a really good product they failed.
Their marketing strategy was simple. They used fliers to reach out to surrounding businesses and the fliers were perfect. You could get $1 off a $5 meal, and it included a drink: come on Tuesdays and you could get a bottomless cup of beer. So why didn’t it work? Turns out, bottomless beer isn’t so attractive to the office worker on a lunch break. And with job losses mounting in the area, the target audience for a quick and cheap lunch was a shrinking pool: a shrinking pool with less money to spend and all of the fear of the American media not to spend it.
So how can you fight that battle? What could Chicken Licken have done to survive when the sky was falling?
Negotiate a better lease: if you are opening a retail store then you need to realize that there is so much retail space out there and you are in a position to negotiate for the best terms. If you are a brand new business, ask for as many concessions as you can get: I opened a small gym space in a strip mall and got the first year at $100 per month while I grew membership, in a space that jumped to $1500 per month after the first year. I had to pay a deposit, and another balance due after the year was up, but you get the idea.
If you’re in a space, ask the landlord what they can do. Then be quiet. Do this for everything in your marketing, everything that is considered a fixed cost. Then create a list. I went to Chicken Little at least once a week and they never once asked for my e-mail address. And yet I filled out a survey at Arby’s to rate my experience and got a free BEEF N’CHEDDAR for my 30 seconds of time AND get an e-mail once per week with something Free or for a penny. I’ve received nine emails from them over nine weeks, and chosen Arby’s twice due to those e-mails.
They’re simple, with one offer, and cost nothing but time for the company to send out. Their investment: A Free Coupon & cost of free item. Their ROI? A combo meal price (and whatever profit they make on that.)
So what can you do (create a list) where you can send out an offer (for something Free) and then track, measure and adjust. Will this always work? Maybe not. But I can promise you that your competitors are not doing it, and if they are not doing it, you should be. Why? Because that means you’re the only pole in the pond, and you can catch more clients that way.