Gee, that looks nice!


I’ve been helping a local cafe owner work his way out of a business downturn. Until about 6 months ago, this particular cafe was very popular but following a couple of changes of chef, the standard has dropped and the customers have voted with their feet.

When I started to consider what had contributed to the downturn, I found that the chef was only part of the problem. For me, the bigger problem appeared to be that the cafe owner had become complacent and while he was still providing very similar to what had served him so well over many years, the world had moved on. Cafe customers were now going elsewhere because a number of other new cafes had emerged and many were offering more imaginative meal options with more modern methods of presentation.

It’s not my intention here to go into how a cafe should frame its menu or present its meals but rather to make the point that customers have expectations and no matter type of business you’re in, if you fail to meet a customer’s expectations, you run the risk of losing them to someone who does meet them.

In the case of my cafe friend, I told him that the very first thing he should aim for is when he or his staff put a meal down in front of someone, the first reaction from the customer needs to be “Gee that looks nice!” Of course they may not always verbalise it but their body language will often say what they’re thinking. I think it’s fair to say that if you don’t get this part right, you’re going to struggle to keep them from going somewhere else next time or at worst, more often. Generally speaking, customers will only go elsewhere when they’re not being satisfied where they’re at.

The principle here can be applied to any number of businesses and doesn’t necessarily just relate to first impressions. The bigger topic is overall customer experience. What you should ultimately aim for is to send your customer away with them feeling they’ve had an experience that they’d like to have again. You may not get everything absolutely spot on but the more you please your customer the more chance you’ll get them back again. Just try to make sure those thinks that really count are right. In the case of my cafe friend again, if the cafe environment is good, the staff are pleasant, the food tastes superb and the cost is acceptable the customer may simply accept the less than spectacular presentation. Now try to imagine how much happier again the customer would be if the presentation matched the rest?

Hockey Budget Mark 2

The Coalition presented another budget this week and much of the emphasis was on helping small business. The catch cry they used was “have a go”.

Problem is, the way I read it, several of the measures put forward, if taken up, will just see small business owners spending more money, money many haven’t got in the first place. For me, the main measures they put forward will simply help those small businesses who can afford to take on more staff, buy more equipment or who currently pay company tax. For those others who are screaming out for relief with their expenses or overheads such as staff wages, the budget will do little.

That’s the down side.

The upside is that the budget is already being hailed as a good one by the broader community and that’s a good thing. Over recent months, overall spending has been down and it’s had a lot to do with the way people feel. With all the shenanigans going on at the Federal Government level I think it’s pretty obvious that many people are fed up, there’s not a lot of confidence around and the outworking of all this is people tend to spend less.

I’m pretty disappointed that the budget didn’t do more to help those small business owners that need it most but at the same time, I’m happy that it at least has prospects for getting a bit more confidence back into the marketplace and that should result in people spending a bit more freely.

If I had it my way…..

Instead of offering employers small incentives to employ additional staff that they can’t afford in the first place, I’d like to have seen the government reward small business owners who employ say up to 20 people with say a one off $1000 grant for each full time staff member and $500 for a part time staff member who remained employed for 12 months.

Of course that’s out of dreamland but in my view that would do a lot more to help and encourage small business owners to put on or increase their staff and spend money on additional equipment than what they’ve suggested in the budget. As it stands, to get $10 out of the budget offerings, you’ve got to spend more like up to $100, or so it seems.

Sadly, the only small businesses that I can see gaining a benefit out of this latest budget are those who don’t need the help anyway but will gladly take anything that’s offer, simply because it’s there to be had. I can’t see too many businesses spending money that they don’t have to spend in the first place. If they do have to replace staff or equipment in the normal course of their business, of course they’ll take any handouts on offer.

Put up or shut up!

If you should happen to be one of those people who claims or even feels advertising doesn’t work, here’s a simple challenge for you.

Place a small ad in your local paper or on your local radio station with a ridiculous offer like one of the ones below, then tell me that advertising doesn’t work.

Men’s Haircuts – $2

Legs or Lamb – $5

Brand new Toyota Camry – $9990

Of course no one is going to do that because they know they’ll get killed in the rush.

My simple point is this, if you claim or feel advertising doesn’t work, yet you’re not prepared to put up or shut by running an ad like those mentioned above, what you’re really saying is that the advertising you’ve done hasn’t met your expectations or that it possibly failed completely.

I can happily accept that but I sincerely hope you then think the matter through a little further.

For instance, if you’re a hairdresser and think that by advertising Men’s Haircuts for $2 you’ll cause a riot, what you’re really saying is that if you advertise something people would be interested in, they’ll in all likelihood respond. Acknowledge that and you’re at least on your way to having a wiser attitude towards advertising.

Advertising is your friend and provides one of the easiest ways to grow your customer base and in turn, grow your business and your profits.

The crucial component in any advertising is the technique used. In super simple terms, before you place or design any ad for any medium, you need to determine the outcome you’re after and then think about what type of ad you need to get the job done.

It would take thousands of words to cover every scenario in detail so for this exercise let me just give one example and demonstrate a typical thought process. We’ll call this Case Study One because I’ll provide other scenarios for others types of businesses along the way. Some may find these helpful in formulating their own specific concept or technique.

Before we start however, let me just say that generally speaking there are two things that will often cause people to move – something cheap or something new. It’s therefore worth saying that if you want better results from your advertising, try to always include something cheap or something new in your ad. If you have nothing cheap or nothing new to advertise, at least give the illusion that you do.

In a worst case scenario, use words like “Join our thousands of happy customers who currently enjoy our lower than expected prices” or “We’ve just given our store a ‘new feel’ makeover and you’re going to love it. If you liked what we did before, you’ll love what we’re doing now”.

Of course both of these say nothing really but I think you’ll agree they at least sound good and it’s not hard to imagine at least some people responding to such messages, more so than if your ad included the same old words that scriptwriters put in almost every ad like yours. Sometimes it can sound like they’ve just taken a generic ad off the script writers shelf and all they do is put your name and details in the blank spaces and send it around again. I ask you, do you really thinks that’s smart advertising? Of course not, but that’s how a lot of it is done, especially in smaller towns and cities where the marketing talent pool isn’t anywhere near as skilled or as big as in metropolitan areas.


Case Study One
Let’s say a hair salon is looking to build its customer base. The problem has occurred because the town where it operates has become over serviced with hair salons and several of them are advertising cheap hair deals to attract business.

Discounting is the most common way of attracting business and like so many things, there’s various ways to go about it. A straight our discount offer may bring you new customers but quite often they may turn out to be short term or one time customers only, the one’s that go here today, there next time and somewhere else the next time again. Such people tend to simply follow the specials. That’s OK, even if you get them only once, but what you really need to build are loyal or lifetime customers, those who may spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars with you over a period of time. The value of a long term customer is talked of in terms of their “lifetime value” to your business. It’s not hard to imagine that a lady who gets you to do her hair regularly over say a five year period could spend several thousand dollars with you. Now that’s the type of customer worth building.

Your options include –

1) To simply do a branding ad that tells people who you are, where you and what you do – all using words that will encourage people to consider you for their next hair treatment. This type of ad may yield a result but to what extent will depend on the words you use in the ad. Words like “For a better salon experience”, “New looks are our speciality”, “Come prepared to be impressed”, “Come as you are – leave as the new you” should be considered rather than “For all your hair care needs” or similar expressions that sound just as boring.

2) To do a Discount or Deal ad where you offer various treatments or services at discounted prices. How successful this type of ad may or may not be will be determined by how the public view the offer. If it’s seen by the public as a really great discount, several will take it up but as I said earlier, many may just be those who chase the specials and may be one off customers only. Of course, such an offer also has prospects of introducing new long-term customers as well and if that happens, that’s excellent.

This method is quite common but in my view, spending a few hundred dollars or more to advertise a discounted offer means you have to generate a fair measure of volume to make it worthwhile and your starting point requires you to spend money and then discount your treatment(s) or service(s). You may also find yourself among several hair salons all advertising discounted deals at the same time which can only reduce your prospects.

Over the years I’ve worked with quite a number of hair salons and I’ve discovered that value adding rather than discounting or making offers that require a 2nd or 3rd visit yield better outcomes. It can often take 2 – 3 visits before a hair salon gets a feel for a customer’s needs and to build a relationship.

3) To do something a bit different, something where you could stand out in the crowd, something that gives you a better chance of building long-term customers and something that doesn’t require you to discount more than what strategically makes sense.

Something like this –

“3 treatments for the price of 2
and a FREE haircut”

Do you think that might get people’s attention?

Sounds exciting or at the very least interesting, doesn’t it?

That’s what a headline in an ad should do, catch people’s attention and cause them to read more.

When they read more, words like this could follow –

We want you to discover what it’s like to be a customer of a really great hair salon
and that’s why we’re making this incredible offer.

Words like that will help keep them reading more like this –

We know that after having ANY TWO of our fabulous hair treatments, you’re going
to want to come back again and again….and we want you too.

That’s why after two treatments, we’ll give you your 3rd absolutely FREE
and we’ll include a FREE haircut as well.

I think you’ll agree that by now you will have a lot of potential customers interest. The next step is to get potential customers to talk to you personally, maybe with words like this –

To take up this offer and to discuss when and what treatments you’d like over the next few months, including your FREE ones, call “Melanie” on 6463 6111 during business hours.

The following is a mock up of a typical ad that could be used for this strategy.

20x3 mockup hair studio ad

OK, sounds too good to be true, so how does in work in practice?

The objectives are as follows –

1) To get people to notice and read the ad.
2) To get people to ring you to discuss the offer.
3) To get people to take up the offer.
4) To lock these people into your business for several months.
5) To give you several months to turn these people into regular customers.
6) To ensure that each respondent spends around $200 with you in paid treatments or services.
7) In the case of those who ring and after told about it, choose not to take up the offer, you still have them on the phone giving you the chance to sell or talk them into accepting some other offer.

The method is –

Try to make the two paid treatments at the higher end of your services. Eg. $150 and $100 each.
The 3rd and FREE treatment is to be of a lesser than the least of these. Eg. Less than $100.
The haircut is included free. Eg. Basic haircut at say $35.
This is all explained to the customer when they ring.
If they decide against it, you still have them on the phone and have the chance to offer them something else, even if it’s a simple haircut. I suggest you try to be more imaginative than that, after all, remember if you can lock them in for two or more treatments, the more chance you’ll have of keeping them. They wouldn’t have rung in the first place if they weren’t a genuine prospect.

The money looks like this –

Using the example above, you may have to provide 3 treatments and a basic haircut over a few months for a total of $250 instead of your normal price of say $385. Note: a 30% discount is not uncommon when putting on a hair care special but in such cases it’s unlikely that the total sale would be anywhere near $250 nor would you have 4 chances to build a relationship with a potential new customer.

I’m not a hairdresser and of course this is not a one size fits all scenario. I hope however, that what I’ve said, demonstrates that with a bit of thought, we can often come up with better ways to do things and give ourself better prospects of achieving far better outcomes in the end.