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    5 Replies Latest reply on Oct 15, 2007 1:01 PM by Lighthouse24

    What do you do when you already started your business and have a store but not enough customers?

    outlaw Newbie

      I have an upscale tropical coffee house that blows Starbucks away, Their Regional, District, and Local managers has come in various times to see our store.(They even drop their jaws and say WOW) Now they are only a block away from our store. We have the customer service, the ambiance is great, Our coffee is from Hawaii, we serve breakfast sandwiches, and at lunch we have fresh soup and sandwiches at a better price. Basically we have alot more to offer than Starbucks, but our marketing budget is very small. Little by little the word is getting out about our store, but need to find a way to get an additonal 50-75 people in the door.
        • Re: What do you do when you already started your business and have a store but not enough customers?
          DomainDiva Ranger
          I am assuming that you are a 'neighboorhood business' why don't you plan some sort of 'event'? Put out flyers and invite the neighbors to your store for an evening coffee and treat luau maybe?

          Are you family/kid friendly? I ask this because when I am home visitng my 'herd' we all meet at Starbucks and take over the outside tables. Ages range from 4-55. while SB is the thing...they really don't have a lot for children. If children like the place...the parents have no choice but to take them there. (trust me on this)

          Starbucks has a reputation of putting in stores next to existing mom & pop stores.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • Re: What do you do when you already started your business and have a store but not enough customers?
            Lighthouse24 Ranger

            Excellent input from DomainDiva. An additional idea might be to ask your regular customers for the names of any local writers, poets, musicians, or other talent who deserve a break. You could contact them to schedule readings, "unplugged" concerts, or whatever -- perhaps at lunch on the same day every week (maybe even host a small release party for a self-published book or indie CD). You also have some Polynesian cultural groups in your area that might give dance demonstrations, historical talks, etc. (consistent with your Hawaiian theme).

            Basically, you'd provide the venue, and they'd get exposure. The talent would do almost all the work to promote their appearance (promoting your place in the process), and they would probably bring a "following" with them (new customers for you). Just the fact that something different is going on will cause people in the neighborhood to stop by who might not otherwise.

            A friend of mine did this with great success. She even had to hire an extra employee to handle the lunch crowd on "Street Performer Day" (where she literally brought someone in off the street to perform for a free meal and tips every Thursday).

            Another friend of mine with a breakfast/lunch place similar to yours worked out an arrangement with a Toastmasters group and a prayer group where she opened early for them once a week. Both groups brought new faces, many of whom came back with other friends at other times. If you have a lot of offices/professionals close by, you might start as she did -- with window and tabletop signs indicating that the store was available for breakfast meetings.

            It sounds like you have a neat place. I'll have to stop by next trip up that way. Best wishes!
              • Re: What do you do when you already started your business and have a store but not enough customers?
                outlaw Newbie
                Thanks for giving me another idea to bring in more customers, i will diffinately try your suggestion. and may i ask you this question as well? Why does so many people go to starbucks, even though they complain that the coffee has been lousy?
                  • Re: What do you do when you already started your business and have a store but not enough customers?
                    Lighthouse24 Ranger

                    This is not a reply to the original question, but rather the reply you requested from me to your follow-up question, "Why do so many people go to Starbucks?" Some of the reasons include:

                    Location: When friends or business associates say, "Let's meet for coffee," SB is an easy choice - everyone knows where it is. In suburban areas, the shops are close to main thoroughfares and have lots of parking. In cities they are usually near large offices and mass transit.

                    Timing: The neighborhood bar used to be the place where working folks gathered at breaks, lunch, and after work to connect. You could write a dissertation on how and why that changed, but for the average person today, social and professional networking opportunities generally come earlier in the day, and happen at a faster pace. Coffee is a natural for that, and SB was in the right places at the right time with the right type of operation to grab an emerging new market.

                    Image: When an SB first opens in a new community, there seems to be a weird sort of "status" associated with walking into work with one of their cups. (Personally, I'd be more impressed if you showed up at my office with a box of KrispyKreme, but that's just me.) The point is, when people think of Starbucks, they often see "upscale and hip" -- and therefore feel a little more upscale and hip themselves. The product may be overpriced for what it is, but it's a relatively cheap and guilt-free indulgence in that respect.

                    Consistency: SB has put a LOT of money into training people up front, monitoring their performance, and correcting problems quickly. Customers know what to expect from SB, and whether you think the product is good or not, SB delivers it consistently. If your niche is to "eclectic," then consistency may not matter. If you want customer volume, however, it does. Most independent shop owners (in any business) have expert knowledge and boundless passion for the business itself, but many of these owners (not you, necessarily) know almost nothing about how to properly train employees and monitor their performance. There is a right way to do it, and it can be learned -- yet most owners don't recognize how vitally important it is to their success. Here's an example. Only yesterday, a friend of mine convinced a group of us to meet for lunch after church at an independently-owned sandwich shop that opened only two weeks ago. She raved about it and we had high expectations. The server was rude, he delivered the wrong items to our table, and he failed to correct any of the problems. None of us will ever return. So instead of having seven enthusiastic new customers who'd each bring in more new customers, there are seven of us telling people not to bother (and we'll probably go to Quiznos the next time we want sandwiches). By my estimate, the owner lost up to $15,600 of future revenue from just one transaction yesterday because of a poorly trained/managed employee. Struggling businesses allow that to happen, often without even knowing it. Successful businesses don't.