I recently hit up a local food festival. After seeing an ad for the event featuring 200 of the best eateries in my area, I bought my tickets, grabbed a few friends and headed out. Few things come between me and a good meal.
When I arrived, I was excited, expecting to be wowed by the food and drink I planned to consume for the next (several) hours. Unfortunately, the delicious dishes were overshadowed by an appalling discovery.
How to NOT gain customers
Once inside, I approached the first vendor I took an interest in and asked for a menu. They didn’t have one. Odd, I thought. I approached another eatery. Same story. Hm.
At this point I was pretty hungry, so I went up to yet another restaurant and quickly ordered something. I can’t remember if the dish was any good because immediately after eating, I asked someone working this booth if they were offering any promotions or coupons. The question was answered with a, “We don’t do that.” Say what?
I stood there, perplexed. I wanted to say, “You mean to tell me your restaurant, which is in one of the most competitive and volatile markets imaginable, is unwilling to distribute a coupon to get more patrons through the door so you have a chance at being one of the five percent of restaurants still open after their first year of business? Good luck!”
OK, I didn’t say that.
But the business strategist in me did spring into action. Everyone at this restaurant festival was in the same boat. Again, they’re competing in a business where 90 to 95 percent of their competition closes after the first year in business. After three years, the failure rate only drops to about 59 percent. Not great odds.
Despite the brutality of their market, these restaurants weren’t taking advantage of the festival as an opportunity to gain new customers. At all. I was floored. So I just had to check with the other vendors to see what they were offering. Shockingly, I didn’t find a single business at maximizing their marketing potential.
Why leave customers on the table?
I think this happens for two reasons: laziness and lack of education.
Laziness, in any area of operations, will hold you back and could very well be what sinks you. So if you don’t know how to promote your business, educate yourself. If you don’t have time to educate yourself, hire someone.
Many business owners are experts in their own field and nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with that! The concept of niching down is fundamental to my business strategy. (Read Why Can’t You Stay In Your Lane?)
So don’t worry if you aren’t a marketing whiz and don’t have the resources and/or need to hire a full-time marketing professional. You don’t have to be a marketing whiz to promote your business properly. You just need to have some imagination and motivation.
How to gain customers
Promoting starts with your people. Everywhere your employees go, they act as your business’ walking billboard. Keep this in mind as you’re building your team. Hire people who will represent your business well.
Give your people the tools they need to promote your business. This starts with printed materials like business cards, menus, brochures and more. Every business should have this stuff. I know what you’re thinking. And the answer is yes, despite the rise of the internet and the death of paper, you still need these things.
Promotions and loyalty programs are a great way to gain (and keep) customers. Distribute coupons or create a digital punch card to reward customers’ loyalty. People will do anything to save a buck and putting out a coupon or starting a loyalty program is a great way to exploit their thriftiness.
A word of caution, before creating a coupon or promotional deal, consider your business’ financials. Offering something you can’t really afford is the opposite of what we’re going for!
Promoting your business properly is the key to unlocking your potential.