There was a conversation on radio station Nova 100 (Melbourne) recently that discussed businesses that were struggling to get customers in the door. There was an example of a pizza restaurant that was experiencing slow business while a competitor down the road was going gangbusters.
One caller owned a café in a small town; a year after purchasing the business, she discovered a staff member had constantly spoken negatively about her to the local customers, and now the locals are not visiting her café.
These situations can be heartbreaking. You work so hard and put so much in and things aren’t working. If you’re in this situation here are some areas for you to not only think about, but put into action…
Go over your marketing activities. If you don’t have a marketing plan, even a basic one, you’re not doing yourself any favours. So develop one. For those with a plan, evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. What can you be doing that you aren’t? And think outside the box on that. What needs to change? Are you actually reaching your target market? Are the messages you’re using resonating with them? If not, change it!
Review your product and pricing points. Are you too expensive compared with your competitors? Have you priced yourself out of the market? Has the quality of your product/service been impacted recently?
If you run a restaurant, review your menu. What’s working and what isn’t? Does it target/meet the needs of the demographic in your area? Ask your customers what they like and don’t like on your menu. Have a free tasting session to try new menu options—give your customers the chance to provide input into your menu.
A suggestion for the pizza restaurant experiencing lack of custom: if you’re on a busy street with other restaurants and lots of people, on a busy night get out there! Put on a chef’s hat, branded apron and take some pizza to the people! Introduce your fabulous self, offer them a free slice (don’t forget the napkins!) and give them a flyer and offer of 50% off their first pizza.
Evaluate the customer interaction both you and your employees have with customers. Are customers having a negative experience? Is there a level of service you expect that isn’t being achieved? If it is a negative experience, don’t just watch it happen, do something to change it.
Get out there and visit the other businesses in town, start to rebuild relationships. Show them and the rest of the community that you’re approachable, friendly and honest. Show them your old staff member was wrong.
If there is a mother’s group in town, invite them to have a catch-up at your café. When they’re there, engage them in conversation (and perhaps share a few of your own insights about being a mum!). Offer them some free cake. Offer them a regular deal of 15% off when they have group catch-ups at your café.
Find other local community groups, such as Rotary or Lions, and make the same offer. If there is no business group in town, form one that meets at your café. Once you get them coming back to your café, plan marketing activities that work at retaining them as customers.
I know this is not the case for many businesses, but for those that it is—don’t let it crush your spirit. And don’t just watch your business slow, do something about it. Think beyond what you‘ve been doing to date and think outside the box. What do you have to lose?
I know there are other business owners who have been through this experience. What advice and insights can you share?