As a business speaker and coach I run into hundreds of businesses every year that are to trying to be successful by being mediocre, undifferentiated and boring. They don’t have a chance…and they don’t even know it!
Write this on your office wall, “Mediocrity is no longer an option!” If you aren’t doing something that will “grab” your target customers, clearly differentiate you from your competitors, make you “famous” and make you money, you’re in trouble!
Take the humble hamburger, for example. There are hundreds of thousands of places selling hamburgers around the world and the product is not rocket science. It’s typically a cooked beef patty on a bun, with or without an assortment of condiments and vegetation.
At one end of the market are the huge chains with deep pockets. At the other end are a relatively few passionate and successful independents who are committed to burger excellence and, in the middle, are a gazillion mediocre undifferentiated and boring burger places that are doomed to failure.
When restaurateur Jeff Weinstein launched The Counter, a hip “build your own burger” eatery in trendy Santa Monica, California in 2003 his business model was to spend no money on advertising but rather to create such an amazing “product” and experience that the business would grow by word of mouth.
So, what’s so amazing about The Counter? First, they sell gourmet burgers at un-gourmet prices in order to appeal to a broad market segment. Next, the “build your own” format puts the customer in charge. By starting with a beef, chicken, turkey, tuna or veggie patty, then adding your own choice of garnishes, including dried cranberries, Danish blue cheese, roasted corn, roasted garlic aioli and black bean salsa, there are actually 300,000 possible burger combinations. This is amazing! Is it a lot more work than the standard “mustard, catsup, onion, pickle”? Absolutely…but remember, “Mediocrity is no longer an option!”
While about 80% of new businesses fail in the first three years and the remaining 20% take that long to make a profit, The Counter became profitable in just three months. Then, just two years after opening they were included on GQ Magazine’s coveted list of the 20 Best Hamburgers in America. Now they were “famous”, and sales jumped to $44,000 a month. Since then, they have been featured in dozens more write-ups and restaurant reviews. But then came the biggest boost any business could get. In February of 2006 Oprah Winfrey told her TV audience that The Counter was her favourite burger place...and, overnight, sales jumped from $44,000 a month to $245,000 a month.
But it doesn’t end there. Jeff was then approached by one of the world’s top franchising experts who is now helping him roll out 500 to 600 locations across America.
Is it likely that you’ll ever get “that” famous? Perhaps not. But you could get written up in your local paper, or featured in a community business magazine, or interviewed on your local radio or TV station. My friends at 427 Auto Collision in Toronto got a full-page spread, complete with photos, in our local community paper when they were voted North America’s top body shop a few years ago. Was that luck? Of course not! First they had to be good enough to win the award …and then they had to have the marketing savvy to call the paper and tell them about it.
To get the media to help you tell your story, first, you have to be a story. That’s how it works. So, what will you do to become that good and that marketing savvy? It doesn’t take a genius. Just a passionate commitment to be extraordinary to every customer, every time…and then to be creative and persistent about “blowing your own horn”!
About 10-15 years ago while studying food marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology I had the pleasure of hearing Donald Cooper speak. He seems to be able to see right through almost any business and get to the heart of what is making it succeed or fail. For all my readers out there, consider how Donald's article below relates to your business.
Innovative Food Merchandising Ideas