Small Business Marketing Solution – Create Your Own Story

OK, in an earlier article we asked you to find out from customers how they felt about your small business. The goal was to discover why customers liked your store, and then invent creative ways to subtly repeat that information back to the customers. Essentially, you are seeking emotional ore–raw material from your customers that you can try and build on to create a stronger bond with them. You are trying to create a sticky position in their minds.

The master jeweler needs the stones and the gold before he crafts that dazzling wedding ring. The same is true for the master marketer; you need to gain at least some hint of how your customers feel about your small business. And the best way to extract that info is to ask them.

Let’s look at another hypothetical business, Big Mike’s Steaks and Ales.

Big Mike is Michaela Geiger, and it’s her personality that’s big. Big Mike’s is your traditional Midwest steakhouse, serving the best steaks grilled with pride. Her customers love her and know they get a good deal on a great meal.

But Michaela operates in a hostile environment. There are several competing steakhouses that provide a great dinner at the same price. Big Mike’s kept improving the lighting, the mood and the service. She trained her staff, tips were good and they were motivated. She cut her number 1 chef in on a portion of the store’s profits to help motivate him. She let Rotary and Lions club meet there to show she was interested in the community and to introduce young business leaders to the location.

But it became tougher to differentiate on product and service. She needed to invent another reason for people to come to her restaurant.

Michaela decided to ask their customers why they went out, especially on Friday and Saturday. This was the customer segment she wanted the most. If she could keep the seats full on the two prime nights she felt she would build enough word of mouth so that people would pick her place first on weeknights. She asked her customers:

a) Why they came to Big Mike’s.

b) Where else they went on Friday and Saturdays.

It turns out many of the couples went out just to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and watch the other people in the restaurant. Plus, of course, they wanted a really good meal, but surprisingly that wasn’t always the number #1 answer to the “Why they came to Big Mike’s” question.

And Michaela also discovered that often customers would opt for dinner and a DVD at home instead of going out at all.

Michaela sat down with her Bloom Team and brainstormed. They needed a gimmick. It was April, close to Academy Award time. So they came up with “Friday and Saturday night at the Oscars” theme that particular month. They drove in a bit of extra business, but nothing spectacular. They ran a few ads and encouraged everybody to dress to the nines and live like they were on the red carpet.

One of their regulars supplied them with the miracle inspiration as she and her husband were leaving after an enjoyable steak. “If only you could put my prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, I’d just be in Heaven.” And right then, as they say, a start was born…

It’s amazing how tinted plaster of Paris can look like wet cement. Now on Fridays and Saturdays couples who order the Hollywood Supersteak Combo get their own complimentary “Hollywood Tile”. Guests impress their handprints and write their names inside a small tray filled with plaster of Paris. At the bottom of each little Hollywood Tile is a small brass plate that says: “Best Couple in a Leading Role compliments of Big Mike’s” or “Happy Anniversary from Big Mike’s” or “To a Couple of Shining Stars from Big Mike’s”. There are a half-dozen sayings. The couple gets to choose which little maxim is mounted underneath their handprints. The Hollywood Tile adds less than two dollars to the cost of the meal.

Sure, it’s kitschy. But tell us, how many mini-billboards from restaurants in your town do you have hanging up in your living room?

See, Big Mike’s tripped over a critical key component of the use of story. The story that is most important is the customer’s story.

So then, the key questions as you research are:

a) Beyond my product or service, why do people visit my small business? Do they really come to my restaurant and pay five times as much as they would at a fast-foot joint because they are hungry? Or do they want to somehow enhance their lives? Do they want to treat themselves or reward themselves for a job well done?

b) If they don’t come to my shop, where else do they go? Is there an invisible competitor out there that I can defend against?

Later, we’ll discuss next steps once you have the answers to these two questions. First, let’s discuss Laurence Vincent’s book. Because the idea we are really discussing here–the customer’s “narrative identity”–is inspired by his book, Legendary Brands.

Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.

© 2006 Marketing Hawks

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