I was dealing with new clients this week and they kept saying that the reason their business revenue was so low was due to the fact that “no one knew they existed”.  They were convinced they had a marketing problem.  I wasn’t so sure.

In my meeting with them, I tried to get to the bottom of the issue as they saw it.  What was the real reason they had no presence in the marketplace?  Yes, they had a poorly designed website and their efforts at advertising had been sporadic and for the most part futile.  They talked about purchasing signs on the highway and ads in trade magazines and holding special events on site, but in the end I came to the conclusion that it was a lack of a clear vision for their business that was holding them back.  Who were they?  What were they trying to be?  I started to ‘flush out’ ideas and by doing so the vision and ultimately the concept came into focus.  The rest was now easy, or at least easier.

Going through that exercise in every business is invaluable.  Once a vision is clear and the concept is written out – and I mean actually written out – it is important that everyone who is involved in the business reads it and understands it.  With the concept well defined, it will be easy to decide the ‘tone’ and ‘look’ of a website and whether there is a need to advertise and if so, using what medium and with what message.

Lesson Learned

I learned the importance of this concept ‘thing’ first hand.  I owned and operated a restaurant for 10 years.  I sold it to someone who had the money, but not the understanding of the business.  He didn’t comprehend the concept as I had developed it, and within weeks of taking over, started to make changes.  I had spent a decade establishing a business identity and ensuring that the people in my market understood what it was and what I was doing and here he was thinking that it didn’t matter.

I was never shy about sharing my concept and it was quite simple really.  I had a few rules and stuck with them….every day.  What were they?

  1.  We always said hello to customers when they arrived at the door.
  2.  We always had more than sufficient staff on the floor and in the kitchen to serve the guests.
  3.  We ONLY hired nice people…..then we trained them.
  4.  We bought the best products.
  5.  We gave every table a bowl of peanuts and allowed them to throw the shells on the floor. (That peanut   thing cost us $18,000 per year but we were forever known as the ‘peanut place’.)
  6.  We had good music playing at the right volume.
  7.  We had consistent hours – open at 11 am, closed at 2 am – 364 days a year. (We loved when it snowed and   everyone else shut down and went home.  We’d stay open and make a killing!)
  8.  We never gave anything away.
  9.  We never had theme nights or karaoke, just the same good quality thing every day.
  10.  We always checked the washrooms and made sure that they were spotless.
  11.  There was always a manager on duty.

By sticking to our vision and concept, we became known for our reliability.  The food was good, the service better and the place was always clean – except for the shells on the floor.

When the new owner came on board, the first thing he did was ditch the peanuts.  He then stopped staying open every day until 2 am and instead closed when he felt like it.  He cut back on staffing levels to save money.  (Funny thing, I always thought that employees could make me money.)  He messed with the concept, confused the guests and was out of business within a year.

To this day, the first thing I deal with when working with a client is the concept.  I learned that you have to know who you are.  You then have to be true to your concept and deliver it each and every day. 

When people talk about ‘moments of truth’ they are talking about the concept.