How can I stop sales in my flower shop from wilting?
Query: Sales in my flower shop have been dropping over the last number of years. I have read all sorts of research online and I can't understand what is happening, and why customers are leaving me.
Answer: The answer to your dilemma is clear in an omission you make in your email. The people that will tell you why they are dissatisfied, or the reason they have stopped doing business with you are your customers (and non-customers). It would appear that you haven't sought feedback from these groups.
For decades in Superquinn, I would constantly remind my managers of the Irish proverb, 'Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhaidh tú iasc' - 'Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch the fish'. That stood us well in Superquinn and we had many different listening mechanisms, including weekly customer panels I used to host at the different branches. These were simple affairs with a dozen customers in the room having coffee and we would walk through the various aspects of the shop. The learnings were invaluable and we got some of our best ideas from this process.
You may need to enlist the services of a third-party company, or at the very least go to a local marketing college and see would they give you a lecturer and some students to construct a research project. The important part will be that when someone sits down with your customers, that the process is impartial and not connected with you. If you were to ask your customers what they thought it is probable that they would all say it is wonderful in order not to cause offence.
I am sorry to hear that sales are dropping, but I would be equally confident that you will find the answer by getting feedback from focus groups.
Sometimes it can be the simple things that cause customers not to return and it might not be what you are doing, but rather a competitor who has become more active in the market. Let me know what your results are.
Query: I am a chef who has been fortunate enough to work with some great foodies around the world, and have now returned to my home town in regional Ireland. The problem is I am really struggling to generate enough business, even though anyone who comes says our food is superb.
Answer: For decades the Superquinn mission statement was: 'To be the best at food in Dublin'. It was simple, and it worked. Our market share was enormous. After much debate we pushed Superquinn shops outside of Dublin, and while there were some levels of success, it was nothing like what we had been accustomed to and we had to work hard to get enough customers who appreciated what we stood for in food and service. Our challenge, and yours, is that when you produce great food it isn't as cheap as others.
Through your digital media, restaurant critics, bloggers, etc, extend your reach as much as possible. You need customers driving for an hour to dine with you, because they've heard so much about you. Without that, it's unlikely there will be enough customers within 15 minutes of you.
During your travels you have probably never had to think about this. Many of the places you have worked could have been in urban centres where there was no shortage of population density and people who were willing to spend money on great food.
I've no doubt that you have a superb restaurant offer, but getting this to work in a regional location means you have to be an expert at marketing and creating awareness of what you stand for. It might be worth taking on some additional expertise if this isn't a skillset you have.
You will need to persist with your vision as this journey of awareness is going to take you around three years.
Don't give up and believe in what you are doing. Be a master of communicating this message to others.