Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can you see your Customer's Point of View?

Your customers are the reason you are in business. That's a no-brainer. But have you ever experienced your business the same way your customers do?

It is critical for you to step back and see things from the buyer's perspective. As a seller, there are so many things that you worry about--sometimes to the point of obsession--that are of little or no interest to a buyer.

A great way to start is to first visit your competition, whether it's a shop in town or a website selling similar goods or services. What is your first impression? Is it polished and appropriate in appearance, or does it seem cluttered or hard to navigate? Does the store layout and display grab your attention? On a website, do the descriptions and photos give you a clear picture of what you'll be purchasing. The best advice I can give you is to describe as if you had no photos, and take photos as if you had no descriptions.

Example: Last week my husband and stopped by a local pizza joint. We had never been there before but they advertise all the time on and we wanted to try it out.

First impression: Confusion.
To the left of the entrance, two guys were spinning pies and sliding them into the ovens. To the right was a line of people waiting to get to the counter to order their pizzas. Beyond the line was the entrance to the dining room. Straight ahead was a drink cooler, and behind that was a big wall filled with band posters and microbeers on tap.

The problem: What are you selling?
We stood in line, staring at the big wall, looking for the pizza menu, hoping to have our decision made by the time we got to the head of the line. This is silly, but we were in a pizza place, wanting to order a pizza, but we couldn't find the pizza menu. As we got to the head of the line we finally found it. The menu was only visible when standing at the front of the line, around the corner from the big wall, and just far enough back to be hard to read. Not only was it farther away, the print was small and the lighting was dim. The cashier waited for us to read the menu and discuss the options with each other. No wonder there was a long line.

The solution:
Put the pizza menu on the big wall so it's the first thing customers see when they walk in. Local bands and beer are great, but customers go here for the pizza, not to find out where the next concerts will be. Put the beer list with the pizza menu, or up by the register, since they are ordered at the same time. We were getting take-out, and there was a counter and seats where we could wait. It was at that time that we paid attention to the band posters. If we were eating in, we would have been more interested in looking at band posters while we sipped our beers and waited for the pizza to cook. 

So where to post the posters?

1. Plaster them along the bottom edge of the front window or along the counter where we waited (put them under a glass or thick acrylic top so they can be changed out regularly?)

2. Put them in a booklet at each table in the dining room

3. Plaster them all over the columns in the dining room (like on a college campus), wallpaper the bathrooms or the hall outside the bathrooms with posters.

4. Run then as a border across the top of the big wall where the menu should be or across the bottom edge of the drink cooler case at the entrance.

5. Make lots of copies and use them as placemats on the tables, a different poster for each place setting.

and 6! While band posters are a cool art form, why not advertise the bands in a way that brings in hungry new customers? Invite the local bands to come and play a small set to entertain your customers at peak times in exchange for a free pizza. For example, a half hour set from 6:30-7pm. Let the band announce their upcoming show. Make this a regular event and you'll have customers coming in to check out the new bands (over dinner) and the local bands will invite their own fanbase to come over for pizza and hear them play. (Is your competition doing this? I bet they aren't.)

Now pretend you are a first-time customer and enter your own business. 

Look at your shop the same way. 
It can be a real eye-opener.

(By the way, the pizza was great.)

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Focusing my Focus

Hello Dear Readers,

It has been a very long time since my last post.
(Yes, I'm making up for it by this long post, but I want to explain my plan to you.)

The last 7 months or so have been spent learning all kinds of interesting marketing things and taking care of family stuff. For example, we moved, we gained more family members (two ornery cats adopted from the humane society), we are working on some miscellaneous but important health issues, and we consolidated a HUGE storage unit with our household and now we literally have our "stuff" together.

I'm now on intimate terms with Craig's List. Anyone want a Magic Tricks kit? $5.

Did I mention I've been learning? Oh, and how. I can't wait to share some interesting things with you.

In addition to all of this, I've decided to narrow the focus of this blog. You see, my husband is a Chef and not only am I very familiar with the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, but I have seen the back-office view of many many restaurants. Some were very successful, some should have been, some were sad excuses for a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We watched as those ultimately failed.

I met my hubby when I was a Concierge at a large hotel. If you're not familiar with what a Concierge is, this is the person (usually at the fancier hotels) who helps you choose a restaurant, among other things. My daily work interaction with restaurants, entertainment venues, car rental agencies, shoe stores, costume rental shops (for a hotel VIP who wanted 20 gorilla suits in 45 minutes) showed me a lot about the back end of marketing and a lot about what simple things were the most effective for thriving businesses.

Being a Concierge sparked my love for marketing.

I'm the kind of person who naturally can tell you what's good and what's bad about how a business interacts with its customers (and I'm not shy with my opinion.) Since I had a firsthand look at most all of the restaurants in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I saw what worked and what didn't in terms of their marketing plan.

Over the years I've continued to observe the various methods used by restaurants and other small businesses and owner-operated venues. Some methods are examples of brilliant and effective marketing, while others are cheesy, desperate attempts to attract customers. Some don't seem to do any marketing, with predictable results. Of course, most people who start their own business do it because they are experts in their line of business, not because they are experts at marketing.

In this blog, you'll start to see a little less info about how you can fine tune the marketing of your website/blog/online store, and more about how you can attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back for more. I'll offer tips and suggestions that are simple to do. I'll keep my camera in my purse so I can show you real examples of what works and what doesn't... and then I'll explain why. You'll find useful and practical information if you have a storefront in town or an online store.

Because of my unique background with restaurants and marketing, I am anxious to focus on this niche. You will likely find that a lot of my marketing information leans toward the Food & Beverage industry. You can still modify my restaurant advice and tips to fit your own business.

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas on how to market your own business, please ask. I can post a handful of ideas for your situation. If you would like more specific information, or don't want your question/answers posted for everyone to read, I'm happy to work with you one on one and help you figure out what to do. 

Meanwhile, thank you for sticking with me through the last seven months while I took care of other things. If you are just discovering this blog, welcome! Be sure to subscribe or follow me so you don't miss out on tips, comments, or suggestions that will make a big difference for your business. 

Pam Hawk

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