Guest Post by Monique Hayward (Learn more about Monique at the end of this post)
With your customers feeling the impact of the slow economy as job losses mount and their investment portfolios dwindle in value, chances are you are realizing that you need to adjust your adjust marketing strategy for your business. Revenue is hard to come by these days, but it’s critical that you stay visible in the marketplace and engaged with your customers so no one “forgets” you’re still in business.
I own Dessert Noir Café & Bar in Beaverton, Oregon, and in the absence of budget to launch big promotional campaigns and advertising programs, I have been implementing a low-cost marketing and PR strategy. Despite the downturn, consumers eventually get weary of all the bad news and want to treat themselves to a night out. When they do, they will certainly be looking for a range of dining and entertainment options. What we’re doing differently is taking advantage of our unique selling point in the market to capitalize on consumers’ moves “down menu,” i.e., buying appetizers, small plates, and desserts at lower prices rather than high-priced entrees and large meals. We’re offering more value-oriented choices, including extending our happy hour to seven days a week, to give our customers more choices at lower price points. We’re also constantly evaluating our menu to eliminate slow-selling items so my staff has fewer food and beverage items to manage and can concentrate on delivering the core items extremely well.
Generating publicity in the media for your business is always a good tactic when you don’t have as many resources for other marketing campaigns. Publicity gives your business awareness and credibility. During these challenging economic times, I have been even more vigilant about finding PR opportunities on both a local and national scale to generate buzz and position myself as a small business expert on the front lines because it costs nothing but time and generates tremendous ROI on the back end.
One great resource is Help A Reporter Out (HARO). PR expert Peter Shankman created HARO, a free service which connects journalists in online, broadcast, and print media with sources on a wide variety topics, including business, finance, health, fitness, and technology. Each day registered HARO users receive up to three emails, each with anywhere from 15-30 queries per email. If there’s a query that you’d be the perfect source for the journalist, you answer it directly.
There are several queries a week from journalists who are doing stories about entrepreneurs and small businesses. I can tell you from experience that it works! Through HARO, I have landed features in the Denver Post and Phoenix Business Journal newspapers and Entrepreneur and Restaurant Startup & Growth magazines as well as contributions to the Huffington Post, BizChicksRule, and Credit and Collections blogs and the Gaebler Ventures web site. If you are not a member of HARO, you need to get yourself signed up today.
In addition to HARO, I’ve been “hustling” for stories on my own. Recent highlights include appearances on CNN’s “Your World Today with Tony Harris,” “Restaurant of the Week” on KATU Channel 2’s “AM Northwest” news magazine show, and remote broadcasts of local TV stations’ morning and evening news programs from the restaurant.
Another option that allows you to get more bang for your limited marketing bucks is joint marketing and selling with suppliers, customers, or complementary businesses. You don’t have to look far to create joint marketing opportunities, nor do you have to spend a lot of money to achieve good results. Here’s a case in point: My restaurant is located next to our town’s main movie theater, and for the Sex and the City opening in May 2008, we collaborated with a local salon and spa on free chair massages, prize giveaways, and $5 cosmos and logged our best sales day ever.
I’ve been seeing the signs of this recession for two years already because restaurants are on the front lines of consumer sentiment and my business suffered from the early fallout of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. With the economy presenting challenges that are beyond my control, I have been forced to concentrate on the things I know I can control and marketing is one of those areas. Some lessons learned:
Five things not to do in tough times:
- Go off the radar.
- Compromise on service and quality and the perception of the brand when cutting spending.
- Lose faith.
- Lose focus.
Five things to do in tough times:
- Evaluate the strategy and course-correct to fit the times.
- Keep the brand visible through low-cost advertising, promotions, and PR.
- Take care of your best customers and engage them in a dialogue about what marketing/promotions work for them to continue to support the business.
- Use your employees as ambassadors to spread goodwill about the business and generate word-of-mouth.
- Use the slow periods to reflect and brainstorm new ideas when the crazy, busy times prevented you from devoting the time and energy.
Be a fearless promoter. Use this time to get even more creative about what you need to do to spread the word and keep your customers engaged and invested in you and your business.’
About the Author
Monique Hayward is President & CEO of Nouveau Connoisseurs Corporation, which she founded in April 2004 and owns and operates the award-winning Dessert Noir Café & Bar in Beaverton, Oregon. She’s also the author of Divas Doing Business: What the Guidebooks Don’t Tell You About Being a Woman Entrepreneur. Monique has 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, public relations, business development, and entrepreneurship. She writes and speaks about small business issues and appears frequently in the media, including CNN, Wall Street Journal, Oregonian, Denver Post, Entrepreneur, Black Enterprise, and Restaurant Startup & Growth. She was a winner in the 2008 Make Mine a Million $ Business program and the Portland Business Journal’s 2009 “40 Under 40” awards. Monique has a master of business administration in marketing from Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor of arts (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park. She is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and Entrepreneurs and the National Association of Women Business Owners. She is married to Tom Freeman and the couple resides in Beaverton. For more information about Monique and her business, visit http://moniquehayward.com.