Monday, June 9, 2014

Marketing keys to success!

 A few random thoughts about the value of advertising in a competitive marketplace.

In order to survive in a highly competitive market, a small business needs to use most every trick in the trade in order to survive. No where is this more true, than in the restaurant industry, where eatery's can be stacked cheek-to-jowl even in small towns such Forsyth. Forsyth Missouri only has a population of something like 2300, it's small even by most small town standards and is basically laid out on one highway – Hwy160. From one end to the other, is not much above 4 miles and most of the ten or so eateries are all situated along about a one mile distance. Talk about crowding!

Of course, all these venues stay competitive price-wise within the framework of like or similar establishments. The two fast food joints (McDonald's and Wendy's) watch each others price points as does the other 'meat' houses, two American, two Asian and two specialty houses. Each sub group offers up a unique eating experience to be sure, but the shear numbers (10 establishments?) crammed so close together mean that garnering the money from any particular diners pocket will be challenging!

What sets each establishment apart and either makes them more or less attractive, in my mind, is as follows:
  1. Good signage – Are they easy to spot from the road!
  2. Cleanliness – Are there any rumors of disease? Has the Health Dept. been there often?
  3. Ambiance – How the venue makes you feel when you enter!
  4. Service & Staff – Does the working staff have effective people skills?
  5. Parking – Can you find a parking spot during typical rush times?
  6. Menu – Does the venue offer a good choice of food? Does the food reflect the establishment?
  7. Prices – Is the place affordable and in line with demographics of that area?
  8. Longevity – Has the venue been around for some time?
  9. Amenities – Does the venue offer something 'extra' like a bar, specials, WiFi or a drive thru?
  10. Advertising – What media channels does the venue employ to garner new business?
This last item in the list is, to my mind, one of the most important and yet most often abused of anything else on the list! Some establishment do everything right with the exception that the advertising of their presence really sucks! The five channels that are realistically available to them (TV is not for most) would typically include:
  1. Word of mouth – Getting people to talk about an establishment is very effective!
  2. Radio – Expensive, but also effective over the long haul! A plug for KRZK radio!
  3. Local newspapers – Helps to announce, maintain interest, promote specials, etc.
  4. Flyers – Time consuming and marginal in overall effectiveness, in my opinion.
  5. The Internet (web pages, Facebook, Blogs, etc.) - Can make or break a venue, in my view.

Which venue is prospering the most, I wonder?
Very few of the local establishments make use of all five outlets or exploit them to full advantage. To my mind, the one that comes closest is Fat Daddy's, followed closely behind by Charlie's and perhaps the Mug. All three are visible on the Internet and use Facebook extensively. What about Sonic and McDonald's? Note: I don't really like to count national chains as they are in a whole different ballpark when compared to the small business owner – even when they are individually owned and managed, they typically have access to a very well run advertising machine!

A reminder: Today's eating crowd is a whole lot more techno-savvy than they were even just a few years prior. Even grandpa and grandma jump on the net, without nary a thought, when they want to check out a new or exiting eatery. In today's very fast paced and hi tech world, a well maintained Facebook, web page or blog can sell what you got for literally pennies a day! In additional, establishments that actively promote the collection of Email addresses have a ready made method of communication without resort to expensive snail mail! After all, one email blast to a thousand customers costs exactly zilch! 

Disclaimer: I'm sure there are many other aspects to helping a business succeed. The ones presented here were off the top of my aging head!

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