Word of mouth is most powerful tool to build a business

Q – I run a butcher shop and while I have ample parking at my shop, lots of people in the area still don’t know I am here, how can I increase awareness?

A – We can talk about the practical marketing tools you can use in a moment, but I want to reflect on the compelling reason that will get customers back again and again.
You need to be clear on what your shop stand for. Is it all about value? Is it about having premium added value ranges? Is it about focusing on health and some of the lower-fat cuts?

Is it about great customer service and advice that your team offer? It could be some or all of the above but it is really important that there is something about your business that stands out from others, otherwise you can be using all the marketing tools in the world, and they won’t be able to get you sufficient business. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool that you have and that is the starting point.
Digital media is obviously a cost-efficient way of getting to consumers and you need to be really active in this area. Whether you are maintaining this digital media yourself or have to get external help, you need to be an active player in this space.

There is still a role for door-to-door leaflets, perhaps once or twice a year, calling out the story of why you are different and offering some price value. Building a text database and using it approximately five or six times per year, has been proven to be a real winner with customers, especially with the meat industry. There is also scope for some softer promotional activity like linking with local clubs and groups to give some advice on meat and perhaps team up with some local chef to run some cookery classes.
I also notice that several of the meat chains are now focusing on the health aspects of their business and are linking up with gyms to give talks and advice on the cuts that suit better from a protein and fat perspective. The meat industry is changing and if you want to succeed, you have to have a finger on the pulse as to where your consumer is heading.

Q – I run a café which is really hard work six days a week. I also supply a number of other cafes and shops with bakery products. I am thinking of closing the cafe in favour of just supplying others. Any advice?
A – It sounds like you are putting in long hours and becoming frustrated with the overall operation.

The decision process you are going through is no different to many others. Sometimes those manufacturing product for third-party supply, see the opening of a cafe as more attractive, and in your case it is the opposite journey.

The core question I would have is why are you working so hard yourself? It is possible that the sales are so low that you are trying to hold everything together and the business is only viable if you put in extended hours. On the other hand, is it the case that you are simply just trying to do everything yourself and not delegating to others?

Be careful that the third-party supply doesn’t appear to be more attractive. It will have its own challenges, not least that as the manufacturer you are likely to make the least amount of profit in the supply chain. You may also have to put a distributor in between you and your cafe and retail customers. So there are lots of considerations.

Contact your Local Enterprise Office and explore the possibility of getting some time with a business mentor, who would help you structure the decision-making process and weigh up the pros and cons of each. It may also be possible to grow the third-party supply business while still running a profitable café.

Certainly don’t make any rash decisions. It is hard work to get a cafe up and running and you have succeeded with this part, so closing it now should involve a robust decision-making process.
Finally, don’t look at the business aspects of the decision-making process alone – also explore what your personal objective is. If you want to limit the hours you are working yourself, then this has to be a core part of the decision-making process, so you can choose a business option that matches your objective.

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