Competition customer retention Hospitality marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Positioning Restaurants Sales Small Business Strategy Word of mouth marketing

Try Norma’s Chowder

Clam Chowder
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ron Diggity

The night before junior’s college registration, we decided to hit the beach in the evening and while there, get some dinner.

We’d been on the road all day and probably had a little white line fever, so a nice, relaxing sit-down dinner was just what the doctor ordered.

We wandered all over downtown Seaside OR trying to find just the right spot. A couple of places we decided to try on future visits.

Norma’s caught our eye with outstanding reviews and a series of wins in the local clam chowder contest.

In fact, they left the impression that you’d be nuts not to order the chowder.

I grew up in a rural-ish valley on the east coast, and my parents were into seafood so they took us crabbing and to the beach and we had seafood fairly often. I’ve had my fair share of good and not-so-good clam chowder. It’s not a dish you find as a featured menu item in Montana, so it stood out when Norma’s featured it.

When it arrived, it looked pretty good. While it wasn’t as hot as I’d like, the chowder was pretty good. Yet I was left a little disappointed because of the build up they’d given it as the to-die-for chowder.

I expected amazing.

Taste aside, what they had wisely done (knowing their market) was sell 3 cups of chowder, adding almost $10 to the ticket. I suspect that this was not unusual and raised their ticket average nicely. The chowder wasn’t a disappointment and I didn’t feel ripped off. I just expected amazing after their build up.

What are you doing to make that extra $ happen on each ticket at your business?


The rest of the meal was good but not wow. With all the review kudos on the outside wall (and not just for the chowder), I expected more than good enough to come back (it was). I expected that this would be the sort of place that would provoke me to drive 100 miles round trip during visits to see my son at college. It didn’t quite get there.

Don’t get me wrong, Norma’s was good. But it wasn’t wow, and that’s the expectation they set as you entered.

What expectation is your business setting? What is it delivering?

Automation Business Resources Competition Customer relationships customer retention event marketing Improvement market research Marketing Point of sale Restaurants Retail Sales service Small Business Software strategic planning Strategy systems Technology

Mining shoeboxes for customers

Creative Commons License photo credit: ToOliver2

In these days of oil spills and mine disasters, it might seem a little off-base to ask about mining, but I think you need to become an expert at it – and do it regularly.

It’s a critical skill if you’re concerned about keeping your business pump primed with new and returning customers – especially returning ones.

When I say mining, I mean mining your customer/order database.

Yellow pads and shoeboxes

No matter what you use to keep track of this stuff; a yellow pad, QuickBooks, a ledger book, your CRM (customer relationship management system) if you’re using that tool like a shoebox, you’re likely making a five or six figure mistake.

What I mean is by shoebox is stuffing receipts and sales data and similar info into it all year long and never referencing it again until it’s time to do your taxes.

That shoebox is your gold mine. It’s the asset that many businesses ignore – often at their own risk.

Missing out

Let’s talk about Mary. She owns her own business and has 14 employees.

You would typically know this because you saw a profile of her business in the paper. How do you remember that fact?

You put it into your CRM (again, customer relationship management system), tickler file or *something* that organizes your data so that you can search for it later (I’ll get back to that).

Out of nothing more than gut feel, you know that she visits your restaurant 3 times a month and you also see her occasionally at events you cater.

What you may not know is that Mary’s business entertains clients twice a month and has an in-office staff appreciation lunch every other Friday.

Have you ever catered those events?

If not, does she know that you cater? She should, because she attends events you’ve catered – so why doesn’t she use you once in awhile?

Have you asked her?

It’s possible that her current caterer rocks the house *so well* that you might not ever get a chance to show your stuff.

One thing is certain – if you don’t ask, you won’t likely get a shot. Tantamount to that is *knowing that you should ask*.

The who

A message that is in context to the proper person is miles ahead of a generic message to everyone.

Have you made any effort to let your regular customers know that you offer catering for their special events? More importantly, do you know exactly which regulars would have a use for those services?

Do you know how to get in contact with them? Do you know when they last visited your restaurant? Do you know what kind of experience they had during their last visit?

Your customer / order tracking system should allow you to store info that lets you find out such things. If yours doesn’t, get a new one or at the very least, find a way to export the data into something that allows you to search this info.

Things you’d like to know:

  • Who has reservations this weekend who also owns a business?
  • Who has reservations this weekend who hasn’t visited in two or three times their normal visit frequency?
  • What regulars have we not seen in a month or more?

The answers to these questions will yield info about your customers and more importantly, about what you’re doing, how well you’re doing it and best of all – what customers you should have a catering conversation with.

If they do, who else does?

Here’s where the mining comes in handy…

If your catering gig database is sorted by “What do the businesses do?” and then you ask to see only those businesses that use you monthly, what do you ask for next?

Let’s sort them by what they do. Maybe the top 3 types of businesses are architects, real estate brokers and luxury home builders.  You can guess, but you won’t know until actually you collect this data.

Now take a look at your entire restaurant database of regulars. How many of them are in those 3 lines of work?

Hmmm. Wonder if any of them need catering?

PS: If you don’t have a restaurant, look at this through the lens / terminology of what you do. The same concepts apply no matter what.

Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Hospitality Point of sale Restaurants Retail Small Business

I’ll have a soft taco phone, please

Peach in  the box
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sunfox

Over the last year or so, signs have popped up all over the place in businesses (even in drive-up windows) asking that customers finish cell phone conversations before doing business or stepping up to the counter.

Some are worded better than others, but this one spied last week in Taco Del Sol in Missoula was well-written, even if it might have been dripping in sarcasm.

We know your call is really important to you so we’re happy to wait and take your order once you’re done with your conversation.

Beats the heck out of “NO PHONE CALLS IN LINE” or similar signs that I’ve seen around town. Maybe adding a thought about “…so we’re sure to get your order just the way you want it” could be added?

The unfortunate thing is that the sign was handwritten on a torn off flap from a cardboard box.

affluence Apple Marketing marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Retail Small Business Technology

Does that romantic iPod Touch make you swoon?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Claudia Snell

In a recent email, Apple Corp positions the iPod Touch as just the right personal, possibly romantic touch on Valentine’s Day. 

While they apparently never heard of “never buy a lady something that plugs in” as a holiday gift, they’re trying to span the chasm between romance and something that plugs into a computer. 

On the other hand, an iPod Touch that just happens to have your special someone’s favorite romantic music, videos and a movie or 2 on it…very easily fills the bill.

What are you doing to inject a little romance into your product line?

Is a clean car romantic?

Maybe not, but taking care of your spouse’s car by buying them something as seemingly boring as a car wash gift card is one way to take better care of them (work with me here, will ya?<g>).

If you run a retail store, restaurant, cafe or what not – how can what you do be positioned as a way to care for a spouse or special someone? 

You have 9 days.

Competition Management Marketing Positioning Restaurants Retail Small Business The Slight Edge

Does your store or restaurant give people the urge to splurge?

Today’s guest post comes from what you might think is an unlikely source – Psychology Today.

On the other hand, as many times as we’ve talked about Cialdini and your own mindset, maybe it isn’t a surprise.

The Urge to Splurge – things to think about for retailers, restaurants, service businesses and others with public-facing business locations.