Every business has a great story to tell but you have to shout it from the treetops
Q What is the opportunity missed most often by businesses?
There are numerous answers I could give, but, one that is certainly occurs very often is not telling your story.
So often when chatting with business owners, they fill me full of excitement at the unique things they are doing, and then you look at it from the customer side and none of that story is being told. For me that is the missed opportunity.
I recall meeting a café owner who told me that his mother got up at 6am every morning and baked a range of delicious cakes and breads. I asked him if his customers knew this. The owner replied assertively that of course his customers well fully aware that all of his cakes were homemade and to his mother's recipe.
Two weeks later I bumped into the café owner again who informed me that the very next day he overheard two customers asking staff "and where do you buy your cakes? They are lovely!"
He had made the assumption that everybody understood what he was doing and recognised the things that made him different. I have customers would have said they were delicious but the important message was, that this range could not be got anywhere else because they were exclusively made for him by his Mum.
So many times I see similar stories. In my experience, every business has a great story to tell, and failure to communicate this, could leave you at a disadvantage. Be clear on what your story is and shout it from the tree tops.
Q When my business started out I had two separate premises and between myself and two staff we were able to manage both. Since then I have lost the lease on one of the premises, but have retained staff levels at the same numbers. The staff member in the outlet that I closed, gave up another job to start with me so I felt obliged to keep them on. What should I do?
A From the figures you provided me in your email, clearly the business cannot sustain both employees and yourself. I am sure you are working hard to grow sales, but this could take you 12 months to achieve and quite honestly, your business is losing money at the moment.
I can only advise you from the business perspective and I understand you have a sense of obligation to this employee who gave up another job to support you originally. The reality is you are taking money out of your own wages on a weekly basis, in order to pay this person. That cannot continue. Sometimes in business you have to make hard decisions and the business cannot sustain this current model.
You need to take advice from a HR expert as to how you will manage the situation so that you don't end up making a mistake, which might cost you more money.
To ease the burden on the staff member you will be laying off, you might know others in your industry, where you could put in a good word, and hopefully in some way help them to find a new job.
It may also be a nice gesture if you offer to pay for some coaching on improving interview skills etc, so that the employee can see you are being as genuine as possible, but business performance had dictated that you need to let them go. Not an easy decision to make I am sure but you also have to be realistic and safeguard the business going forward.
Q I recently opened a gaming shop. I am thinking about doing some sort of a launch event. Have you any thoughts?
A Congratulations on the new shop and you are certainly in a category which is enjoying growth. In terms of how to use a launch event to market the business, there are a number of approaches you could take.
You could go the traditional route and find a local celebrity, invite some customers and put on some nice food and prosecco, but my gut tells me this is not the type of stuff that your target customer would want. I am not even sure they would be attracted by the idea of a launch event at all.
What might be far more attractive is to put on something that would really stimulate your core customer group. That could be based on online gaming where your customers don't even need to come into the shop to celebrate the launch event but could participate in some sort of a massive online competition where you could put up some prize money.
If you decide to go the physical route of having something at your shop, then perhaps getting an influencer in this space to come in and talk would be a motivator for customers to attend.
You could even think about talking to one of the game manufacturers about doing an exclusive talk with one of their executives which would be streamed live into your shop, and if they were willing to show a glimpse of the next way of gaming, that could be really relevant to your customer base.
I am a real fan of having events at branch level and over the decades the Superquinn shops were famous for their fun events and activities, however in your case, I am conscious that your core customer will need something more related to the gaming centre.
Q I opened a café six months ago and while I am selling lots of coffee and some confectionery, I am really struggling between 12.00 and 14.00, in fact it is my quietest time of the day. I'm very worried!
A I have come across this before and the solution may be simpler than you think. Usually when a café has lower sales, than other times of the day, during lunchtime, it usually indicates that the lunch offering is weak. There is a distinct possibility that the customers view you as a coffee and cake shop and that you have nothing substantial for lunch. If that is the case, they will do exactly what you describe and go elsewhere for sandwiches, salads and anything more substantial than you are offering.
The second problem that this will create is that it is likely that the margin you will be able to achieve by only selling coffee and cakes will be much lower than it would be if you were able to sell a reasonable quantity of higher-margin lunch offers.
Start by looking at competitors and see what they offer. Try to identify a gap in the type of sandwiches or range of healthy products that you could offer as a more substantial lunch. I have seen cafes with only two or three lunch offers on a daily basis, who are doing substantial business.
They rotate the items they have daily so customers don't get bored and there is a sense of excitement to see what is on the menu. You certainly will need to make sure that there is a hot offer in the mix as many people will want this during winter.
It won't be as simple as improving the menu. You will have to use a host of marketing tools to promote the fact that you are now providing a more substantial lunch. Digital media will probably be your number one tool, but explore dropping in your menu and sample lunch packs to offices and businesses in your area.
I wouldn't delay. Habits form quickly and you don't want to get a reputation for somewhere not suitable for lunch!
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