You can thank the awesome Chris Martin for our Monday Cup of Jo sunrise photo. The sun is rising over Mount Rundle.
Recently, I read an article from the Content Marketing Institute. Joe Pulizzi, one of my many virtual mentors, shared about the evolution of online marketing and how it began as custom publishing, then evolved to inbound marketing, then to content marketing and now we are shifting to native advertising. Native advertising is such a new concept that wikipedia’s definition is only three sentences long, and Joe sees even bigger industry changes ahead.
My first thought reading this was, ‘If I am having trouble keeping up with these changes, how much trouble are small business owners having, especially those whose specialty isn’t marketing.’ The resolution I came up with is to encourage you to continue learning about the changes but not to lose focus on the conventional strategies that are working for your business.
Even with all this change, I think it’s still important to continue to integrate successful conventional marketing strategies with your small business marketing. Here’s one you can steal and tailor to your local audience! This strategy was shared with us by Kim Cutler, the former owner of Edible Expressions in Atlanta, Georgia. Kim sold her business and relocated to Tampa, Florida, where she now runs Aunt Kimmy’s Creations.
My husband and I started a 28 indoor/40 outdoor seating restaurant. The neighborhood was a mixture of residential and small businesses. I knew if I could just get people to taste the food they would come back on their own.
I found that growing a restaurant from an “inner circle” works well. So, I focused on a 1-mile radius of the establishment. A while back, I had received a million dollar bill in the mail from a marketer-it caught my eye, as it looked so real! I ordered about 500. It looked like real money on the front; the back revealed all the restaurant info and $5.00 OFF their first visit. I recruited a bunch of friends to canvas the neighborhood and pass them out. What could the customer lose? They could come in and get most of their lunch paid for and also taste the food! I knew once they tasted it, they would come back on their own and, more than likely, bring a friend with them. And come back they did!!! Within 6 months, we had to expand the indoor seating from 28 to 90. Soon my 1-mile radius expanded out to the next town and then the next town-just by word of mouth of that initial “inner circle”…my circle essentially did the marketing for me!
Generally speaking, people stay within a certain radius of travel for dining. In our case, we were a lunch business, so the fact there were many offices within a mile of the restaurant helped us. They only had an hour for lunch, so it was essential that they dine somewhere close to be able to get back to work within an hour.
When I wanted to reward good customers, I would recycle those million dollar bills and hand them back out again! Expanding this concept, I ordered 2500 wooden nickles. They had my company info on one side and then $1.00 off NEXT purchase on the other side. I would randomly put them with every order certain days of the month. People would hang onto those nickels and bring them back, spending $8.00-10.00 for lunch. The great thing about this concept is they also are recyclable, so yes there is a start up cost to purchase them, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
I found that this was a great way to get the word out fast and also build up a business in a short period of time. We had a line out the door on most days, but then other places started to open up within 2-miles of us when they saw how good we were doing. So, at that point we had to branch out. We started to offer catering to offices. Our fans had become familiar with us through our other efforts and the catering actually proved more profitable than the walk-in business. As a small business, you have to be willing to constantly adapt to the ever-changing world around you, as well as be open to diversifying your services.
Isn’t Kim awesome? I love her enthusiasm and determination. She enlisted the help of her network and great things happened. I’ll leave you with this closing thought. Last week, I advised a new cafe member, Kelly, to set aside time each week specifically for learning and staying abreast in her industry. Change is inevitable, and it’s coming at a rapid pace. So you have a choice, either lead the change or continue learning. The challenge is to do both.