On a recent trip to New York I set out to discover some new cool locations. I hadn’t been there in a few years and was interested to see the changes. I also wanted the time to check out a few restaurants, bars and stores that I hadn’t seen the last time around. I didn’t want to make the same mistake as my other visits, and that was to arrive back home only to discover something that I would have loved to see while I was there, and was located only a few blocks from where I was staying, only to have it slip through my fingers.
I took some time to read some reviews of different places and check out their websites for more information. Having spent enough time in different aspects of Marketing, I am always interested to see how companies are presenting themselves. I find it fascinating how one company can do so well and another, which on the face of it has comparable service and products, struggles. How does one bar attract such a crowd, when the bar down the street that is just as inviting, sells the same drinks at the same prices, can’t scrape together a handful of customers? It is obviously not enough to just look in from the outside to come to a conclusion why this may be. You have to look deeper into the different aspects of the company, employees, services, advertising etc. Then there are times where it has nothing to do with the company. Times change. Customers are very fickle and as the great funk group “Tower of Power” put it so clearly, “what’s hip today might become passé”. If you are a company and you don’t change with the times you are left behind.
So, while staying in Manhattan, I planned my days and started off around the city taking in the sights. I had a list of cool rooftop bars, with reported spectacular views of the city. I had my list of specialty shops and restaurants where I planned to stop for coffee or have lunch. I always make a point of walking. It is the best way to see the city and quite often the best way to discover local hangouts.
One by one I would arrive, step into the bar or restaurant, turn around and make my way out. I would double-check these places on my smartphone to make sure that I indeed had the right addresses. There began to be a recurring problem. With every stop I became more disappointed and more and more frustrated. What was going on here, this view sucks? “This is not at all what I was expecting”, I said to my wife, after having given her a description of how this place had the best view, or the coolest atmosphere or the best New York Cheesecake. Were my expectations just too high? After having walked so long and not found what we were expecting, we would get tired and frustrated and just settle for a corner fast food sandwich shop, or dare I say a McDonalds (at least we knew from experience what to expect!). Of course this only added to our frustration.
As I was walking down Madison Avenue one afternoon, taking in all the activity around me and thinking about what I had experienced, it suddenly dawned on me what was happening. Their marketing was fantastic, or should I say one part of it. The alluring photos and beautiful descriptions of all these places I had read about in brochures and articles, and visited on websites, had seduced me. The big problem was the real life experience was far from what I was expecting. For the most part, all these establishments were “Overpromising and Under Delivering”. I am not the first to talk about this and won’t be the last, which indicates that businesses are not getting the message. This only added to my frustration. This is the basic premise of the marketing mix. If you are selling a Ferrari then you don’t hand out flyers. Inversely, if you are selling a coffee and muffins served in a bag, you shouldn’t be producing a 3 page glossy brochure to advertise it as a “Patisserie Sublime”.
These companies must be under the assumption that if they can get the customer in the door then 99% of the sale has been made. In reality, they wasted my time and lost all their credibility. There is no way I would recommend any of these establishments to a friend. In a city like New York, and the number of visitors and businesses in such a small area, you can’t afford to take those kinds of risks with customers. If you are going to “Over Promise”, then you better be prepared to “Over Deliver”.
You can fool some of the customers some of the time but you can’t fool all of the customers all of the time. If you rely on trickery to build your business then you won’t have much time left.
Here are 5 basic ways of enhancing your business:
1) Don’t Overpromise
Be honest. Every business wants to portray themselves as something special but presenting an image that you know you can’t deliver is just setting yourself up for failure. A company that sets the bar too high is just sabatoging their own chance for success. Lower the bar to an honest level that you can deliver on, then do your best to go beyond those expectations.
2) Be Sincere
Have you ever encountered the “Hi My Name is Barbara and I am your server,” “How Y’all Doing Today?” “Excellent?” “Great!” employee in a restaurant? It can get to the point of nausea. Either the company has told them to act happy and smile no matter how rude the customer is, or they are taking happy pills in order to get that 15% tip.
Just act naturally and be sincere. Everyone gets in a bad mood but you don’t have to carry that over to other people, especially if you are having a bad day, but don’t fake it either. People are not stupid. As an employee don’t forget that you are also a customer to someone else. Simply treat people the way you would want to be treated.
3) Surprise the customer
Over here in Europe I have been to a few restaurants that offer the customer a Limoncello (Italian Lemon Liqueur) after the meal. Not everybody accepts it but the customer walks a way with a sense of appreciation at the gesture. Offering the customer something they are not expecting can go along way. This could also be in the form of calling a repeat customer by their first name. It makes them feel special and will therefore increase the chances they will be back often.
4) Don’t try and please everybody
Not everybody who has money to spend is your target market. Concentrate on only that part of the market that can benefit most from what you are selling. There are 7 billion humans on earth and we do not all have the same needs and wants. If you are spending $3 to convert a customer who will only bring in $1 to the bottom line, there is a problem.
5) The Customer is not always right!
You are offering a service and your customer is paying for that service. This does not mean that you should be offering 10 times more than what they are paying, or be subjected to someone’s personal abuse because they happen to be in a bad mood. There are customers that are not worth having. You are better off leaving those customers to your competitors and keep the ones that honour the two way transaction and will become a repeat faithful customer for years.