Business and Operations
Marketing Insights: Downtime
By Michelle Brisebois
Unless you run a ski resort or sell RRSPs, January and
February are typically slower times for businesses. We all tell
ourselves throughout the Christmas rush “just hang on, rest will come
in the New Year.”
Unless you run a ski resort or sell RRSPs, January and February are typically slower times for businesses. We all tell ourselves throughout the Christmas rush “just hang on, rest will come in the New Year.” While a nice respite may be well deserved, these valleys in retail activity do afford us a completely new business opportunity – they allow us the luxury of planning time.
When it comes to downtime, do we use it wisely?
It’s so tempting to take it easy when the shop is slower but the fact is that our businesses need us for more than just our arms and legs – they need our leadership. The entrepreneur in your heart started your business but the technician in your brain may be showing up every day to run it. Now is the time to think as a leader and to look at those areas you need to take to the next level.
Talent – Finding And Keeping
The labour crunch is upon us. There are more jobs than there are people and the help wanted signs are everywhere. For those of us born during the baby boom (1947 – 1965) this is something we’ve never seen so it’s a bit hard to digest. You’ll need to look at how you advertise for employees. What benefits do you offer? How can you be a more attractive employer than your competition?
Consider signage in your store that announces you’re looking for good people. Make sure that your website has a visible link to employment opportunities. We’re used to working hard to capture customers – now we have to take the same approach to talent.
When was the last time you updated the website? You do have a website – don’t you? If not, get one. If you do have one, find a webmaster to update it with fresh content and to advise you as to where you might place banner ads on other sites to drive traffic to your site.
Make sure your web address is easy to remember and to include it on all marketing materials including boxes, vehicles, coupons and advertisements.
Run a contest in the store and request e-mail addresses with express permission to send respondents further information. Create an e-newsletter to speak about new menu items and to send coupons electronically. If you’re not comfortable with e-marketing, find someone who is and leverage his or her talent.
Origin of Ingredients
Your grandmother probably warned you “Don’t touch that. You don’t know where it’s been.” From lead paint to toxic spinach, people are increasingly wary of food not grown close to home. Farmer’s markets are seeing a huge up-take in traffic and the book the 100 Mile Diet has plenty of buzz. If you’re using local ingredients – put that on your menu. Do you know where other ingredients come from? Is there a story to tell? If you are licensed – do you have Canadian wine on the menu?
If you don’t innovate – you evaporate. Have you offered the same menu items for a while now? Old favourites can be a good thing because they’re signature items and you’re famous for them. If there are old war-horses that need to be put out to pasture – consider discontinuing some things in favour of new items. Make sure you have heart smart offerings and smaller portions for those households that are shrinking because the Echo boomers are starting to leave home. Do a little competitive surveillance. What are other operators (your competition) offering? Who’s new? Who’s closed down? You can’t have a point of difference if you don’t know what everyone else’s point is.
The environment is top of mind for many consumers and they’re starting to ask retailers questions about their own policies and practices. Do you recycle – plastic and glass? Are there community programs that may be a good fit for your business model? Small steps add up. Customers will notice and it’s a key issue for attracting good employees. We all want to do business with good people.
Engage Your Customers
What do iPod, Jones Soda, American Idol and YouTube all have in common? They let consumers add their own personal touch to the finished product. Technology has turned the traditional one-way conversation from company to consumer into a two-way dialogue. Consumers may read your newspaper ad but they actually interact with your website. Why not create a link on your website to allow visitors to submit their great pizza stories? A simple “pizza builder wizard” will let them play with different toppings before they order To engage your customers with your retail space, ask them to fill out ballots to name the new menu item.
Innovation is more likely to happen when you’re not stressed and hurried. Innovation is what’s needed to take the business to its next level. Welcome these slower months in the winter with open arms but be disciplined about spending time on the planning process. It’ll probably re-ignite your passion for the business too. •