Make sure you get the word out quickly!

My wife and I enjoy a regular coffee shop experience, in fact most weeks we’d have either a morning or afternoon tea or lunch somewhere. And over time we’d settled on a few favourite venues that we tend to rotate around a bit.

Recently however, and quite by chance, we decided to go and try a place we’d heard mentioned but really had no idea what exactly it was. It was called a cafe but it was located just out of town in a well known motel facility. To be honest I thought it was only there to cater for motel guests.

Anyway, we went along and quite frankly, after the experience, we were gob-smacked at how nice it was. The venue, the atmosphere, the food, the views and the value were all right up there with the best of them where we live. How had we not heard of this place earlier?

I took the opportunity to introduce myself and quiz the owner. I discovered they’d been there for about 15 months and the cafe part of the facility was only just paying its way. They also had a function centre adjacent to the cafe and it was going well. The owner told me they had received a lot of bad advertising advice at the beginning and had spent a lot of money for little result. Since then they had tried to find someone in marketing to help them with advice etc. and said that those they spoke to wanted a ‘lot’ of money.

I told the owner I’d help them. I told them that in my professional opinion, it was only a matter of getting the word out to more people like my wife and I. Really, if ever I’d seen a cafe that people would knock themself out to frequent, this was it. I just couldn’t believe that these folk had been there so long and that people like us hadn’t heard enough about it to want to go there.

The moral of this story is simple. If you feel you’ve got something that people would like and want to come back for again and again, make sure you get the word out quickly!

There are many ways to do this but in this cafe’s case the very first starting point would be a small ad in their local newspaper for a few weeks simply stating what you want people to know.

Here a simple example –

 

Make sure you get the word out quickly ADA simple and inexpensive ad like this will work well because it has at least one important ingredient, the word “new”. People will always want to try something new, especially if it has anything to do with food. In this cafe’s case, my view is that once people try it, they’ll keep coming back. My wife and I certainly will!

Make hay while the sun shines!

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The days when most businesses opened for five and a half days a week are long gone, today many businesses open 7 days a week.

My purpose here is not to discuss the merits of opening 7 days a week but rather to ask those who feel it necessary to do so -“How convinced are you that you must open every day?”

Over the years I’ve seen many businesses extend their hours to include weekends, I’ve also seen others forced into it, mainly those in shopping centres where they are told what they have to do.

I can’t say with any certainty whether a business should or shouldn’t be open 7 days a week, but I do have a theory. I believe that if a business has to open 7 days a week to survive, it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place. My feeling is that a good business should be able to survive simply by being open 5 days a week. I do however, also acknowledge that with changing shopping patterns, late night trading on Thursdays and possibly Fridays, as well as Saturday and Sunday trading can, for some businesses, be the best trading times of the week.

For an owner-operated small business I also think that having sufficient rest and refresh time or just time off is crucial to the well-being of the owners. Rest time or time off not only is good for your health but it also refreshes, helps you clear your mind and gives you time to think clearly about your business without being over-tired. Rest time, in my view, also enables you to feel much better and fresher which, I believe means you’ll achieve more when you are at work. I contend that if you feel good, you’ll get more done in a shorter space of time than if you would if you always feel tired or over-worked having been at work day after day after day constantly.

Having made these points, I think you probably get the idea.

If any of this resonates with you, let me suggest that you give some serious thought to those days when your business does most of its trade. If Saturdays and Sunday are your big trading days, and obviously you don’t want to jeopardise them, give some thought to closing your doors each Monday or Tuesday or both, especially if either or both of these days are generally what you’d describe as ordinary trading days. You will probably be challenged in your thinking at the prospect of losing any business at all, but I believe that with the right marketing and given a little time, your customers and potential customers can be trained to know when you’re open and when you’re not. If you’re really smart and decide to close on a Monday and/or Tuesday, you’ll find ways to build your Saturday and Sunday trading to compensate.

I am absolutely convinced that done right, you’ll make all the hay you need to during fewer days and you’ll feel so much better in so many ways (health wise and family wise to name two) as a result.

Of course, this shouldn’t not be read as a one size fits all solution but I’m sure, for some of you at least, it’s worth thinking about.

If you’d like more thoughts on this topic or for me to elaborate a bit more on your particular situation, email me using the feedback facility.

Better than discounting

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Walk through any shopping Mall on any given day and chances are you’ll find that every second business is having a sale happening in one form or another. In many respects, one could be forgiven for thinking that a lot of businesses simply wouldn’t do any business at all if they weren’t having a sale or discounting something.

On the other hand, I think it’s also fair to say that many shoppers are reluctant to buy anything unless they are, or at least feel they are, getting a discount, a saving or a bargain. In fact, saving money is so important to some shoppers that quite often when they buy something, they’re more inclined to tell you how much they saved before they tell you how much they paid for something.

These trends now see a lot of businesses offering more discounts or running more sales, just to keep up with shopper’s demands. One can’t really blame them for discounting when so many people seem reluctant to pay full or normal price for items in these modern and very competitive times.

The problem with discounting however, is that it could be impacting on your business in ways that are not really helpful. Even giving what by today’s standards may today be considered a small 10% discount, can add huge pressure to your business bottom line. Let me explain –

Eg. Let’s say you sell lawnmowers and each mower costs you to buy say $300 and you sell them for $400. Your profit is therefore $100 or 25% of the sale price.

If you sell 10 mowers your overall profit is $1000.

If however, you offer the mowers at 10% discount, your retail price therefore drops to $360, in turn your profit drops to $60 or around 16% of the sale price. If you sell 10 mowers, your overall profit drops to $600.

In other words to make your original $1000 profit, you are going to have to sell more than 16 mowers at 10% off to make the same profit. Of course offering 10% off may get those 6 extra sales, or even more, but that’s always a gamble.

Another consideration is how GST may impact on these numbers as well. For this simple example, I haven’t considered any GST impact.

Discounting is very much a part of doing business these days but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I would encourage you to exhaust other ways of tantalising customers before resorting to discounting.

One option is to ‘value add’ rather than discount. In other words, rather than discount, see if you can add a bonus opportunity of some sort.

By adding value or a bonus, you won’t be reducing your sale price at all and depending on how you do it, the impact on your profit margin will be less dramatic as well, and your customer will still feel 10% better off.

Let’s use the lawnmower example again.

Instead of offering a 10% discount, offer a $40 bonus pack instead.

You could say with each mower sold, you’ll receive a fuel tin, a pair of safety glasses and a pair of safety ear muffs and possibly a leaf rake.

Of course this is just an example of what could be done but what’s more important to note is that items like those I’ve suggested, that is accessories, generally have far greater profit margins than say bigger items like a lawnmower. It’s very possible that the four items I mentioned could retail for $40 in total, yet your purchase cost could be as little as half or less than that, let’s say it’s $20. On that and while talking about spare parts or accessories, we all know that if you bought all the parts that went into a $30,000 car separately, the cost could be $100,000 or more.

So…

Sell 10 x $400 mowers at 10% discount and you’ll turnover $3600 and make a profit of $600.

Sell 10 x $400 mowers and throw in a $40 bonus pack for each and you’ll turnover $4000 and your profit margin will be the full $1000 less the cost of the Bonus packs (say $200), in other words $800 net.

Your customers are still getting a 10% bonus but to provide it, your cost is now nearer $20 than $40.

$800 is better than $600 any day and all it takes is a little imagination.

So you’re not a lawnmower retailer?

This same principle can be applied to almost any business. Here are a few thought-provokers –

A takeaway food outlet could offer a large serve of chips with orders over $20.

A hair or beauty salon could offer a take home product as a bonus. Your product suppliers may provide you with product at the right price for such a promotion.

A clothing, shoe or gift shop could offer a bonus $20 gift card with purchases over $200. The gift card is of course is to be spent at the shop giving it and there’s every chance the customer will spend considerably more when they come back to use it. If they don’t use it, nothing is lost.

A butcher shop could offer 2 loaves of bread with any purchase over $30. To do this it’s simply a case of arranging with a nearby bakery to purchase a series of gift vouchers for 2 loaves of bread. Chances are the bakery sells the bread for around $2 a loaf and you’d be able to purchase the gift vouchers from them for half that. It’ll also drive people to the bakery and that could lead to greater sales. An enterprising butcher would also arrange a reciprocal deal with the baker where the baker gives out a $2 gift voucher for a purchase over say $12. The $2 gift voucher can be redeemed at the butcher and so the cycle goes on.

 

Where do you want to land?

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During the course of running a business, we are frequently confronted with decisions or having ,to deal with situations that often see us in an uncomfortable position. It could be a decision about a new purchase for your business, maybe a new addition for the business or a new direction you’d like to take, or it could be having to deal with a customer complaint, or reprimanding an employee or even having to dismiss them. Such decisions often cause us to ponder how best to handle the situation or go about it.

One method that I’ve found very helpful in recent years has been to start my thinking process by coming at things from the other end. In other words, one of the first questions I ask myself is what outcome do I want to achieve from this? It may not sound that clever but I’ve found it works for me for a number of reasons. For a start it removes my inclination to do the first thing that comes into my head, which is often simply what I WANT to do.

For example, if I’m sacking an employee who simply hasn’t pulled their weight or done their job properly, my first feeling maybe to tell them just that. In this day and age that may be truthful but it could see me facing an unfair dismissal claim, or something else if the employee decides to take the matter to Fair Work or some other industry body. My experience and that of others who have found themself in this situation suggests it’s simply not worth the hassle and more often than not, the truth has little part to play in the outcome. I have found it better to consider where I want to land after the event and to only say and do the things that will get me there. When it comes to dismissing a staff member who’s not doing their job, the usual outcome I’m after is to see the tail of them as soon and at the least cost as I can. Telling them what I really think of them may make me feel better for a bit, but it may not lead to the best outcome.

Similarly when dealing with a customer complaint. Even if you’re right and your first instinct is to defend your position, consider first whether this will deliver the best outcome for you and your business. Some customers aren’t worth having but some complaints are just speed bumps and needn’t be the end of the road. If a complaining customer, even if they are dead wrong, is worth more to you if you keep them as a customer, than if you burn your bridges with them, my advice is to think of what you need to do to try and keep them. I’m not suggesting for one minute that you let people walk over you but what I am saying is that if you think about the outcome you want and work towards that, you might be surprised at how creative you can be without swallowing your pride, or compromising your standards or principles.

This same process can be applied to many day-to-day situations or decisions you face and I’d strongly encourage you to give this method a try when the next appropriate one comes along. It’s worked extremely well for me and I know it will work well for you too. When you do, you’ll more often than not do what’s best for you and your business.