Marketing Your Business Should Not Be Considered Optional

Every day I see local businesses come and go within a matter of months. In the shopping center near our house there have been at least a dozen or more restaurants. They buy equipment, expensive ovens, furniture and complete interior design work totaling thousands of dollars in capital and operational costs in preparation for opening.

The big day comes, they open, put up a banner and some signage and within a matter of months they are out of business. Could it be a bad location? Are the rents too high? Were there just not enough traffic generators? Was it the wrong concept? In one case, I can confirm that the concept was flawed. It was a seafood restaurant that specialized in cold water fish from the Great Lakes.  I have to admit I scratched my head about that one. Some looked like they had a good shot at success; there was an Italian place, a pizza joint, an Asian restaurant and a steak house.

What is the common denominator that prevented these businesses from surviving and thriving? No-one can be certain but if I had to take a guess, I would say they were undercapitalized and did not have a marketing budget or plan in place for long-term success. I actually approached a couple of these businesses to see if I might lend my marketing expertise. Unfortunately, I was too late as they indicated they didn’t need help or had no money for such frivolous efforts.

Here is a new flash, having a marketing strategy and budget is equally as important as investing in the right equipment to make or serve your product. For a business to succeed, marketing is not an optional or frivolous expense. Contrary to belief, if you build it, they don’t always come!

Here are a few start-up tips for new businesses. There are three important phases that lay a foundation for success:

  • Pre opening lasting 3-4 weeks prior to opening
  • Grand-opening lasting 1-2 week period
  • Post-opening lasting 4 weeks

During the pre-opening phase, start to line up all your property level marketing tools, have your web site and social media pages set up. Write your press releases and outline a PR strategy. Prepare your media list by identifying; business editors, local editors, food editors and human interest columnists.

Identify 25 key prospects within a 10 mile radius, map out the locations and contact specifics.

During the grand opening phase, have your display signage and advertising in place, host a neighborhood open-house, use social media to invite key followers, organize a civic breakfast or lunch event for your Chamber or Rotary, align yourself with guest ambassadors to expand your reach and take some goodies to local radio stations and businesses.

The post opening period is the time to have a cohesive marketing plan in writing and ready to execute. Normally businesses experience a honeymoon period during the first few weeks of opening. After the initial jump in sales most business experience a “drop off” which can be disastrous especially if it coincides with off season in Florida.  

A six month marketing plan can virtually eliminate a “drop off” and set your business up with a solid foundation for success. The broad objectives should be centered on

  • In-house zone marketing
  • Driving new trial and frequency
  • Building a solid database and following
  • Establishing customer loyalty

Operating a small business in today’s economy is challenging. With start-up costs associated with opening a business some owners are tapped out. As a business owner, you should consider marketing a cost of doing business and a path to guarantee your long-term success.  If you factor 2-3% of gross revenue toward a marketing budget you will be on your way to success. The question is, can you really afford not to market your business?

Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com