Why Isn’t My Business Making Money?

By Sam Horn

The hotel bar/restaurant had a problem. No one was coming to their happy hours. Why? They were one of dozens of restaurant/bars in the area hosting happy hours. No wonder they weren’t making any money; they were getting lost in the crowd. The question is, how could they stand out from the crowd?

The enterprising manager noticed that one of their loyal patrons tied his dog up outside when he came in for a cold one after work. Light-bulb moment. Why not offer a special happy hour for professionals who wanted to bring along their poor pooches that had been cooped up all day while their owner was away? They could put out water bowls, hand out dog biscuits and offer a discount on beer so it was a win for everyone.

What to call this? Well, use a POP! technique called Alphabetizing in which you talk your word through the alphabet, “Aaapy Hour, Bappy Hour, Cappy Hour, Dappy Hour”…and you eventually get to Yappy Hour!  You may be thinking, “Big deal, so it’s a clever name.” 

You bet it’s a big deal. The Washington Post wrote an article about the throngs of people showing up for the restaurant’s wildly popular (and profitable) Yappy Hour. That article was picked up by a hundred newspapers across the country. As a result, millions of people now know about the Alexandria, VA Holiday Inn’s successful Yappy Hour.

Is your business not making as much money as it could or should? Chances are you’re one-of-many. One of many restaurants, consultants, stores or companies that all look alike. If you’re offering the same services and products as everyone else, how are people supposed to notice you? Here’s five of the top ten ways to be one-of-a-kind (instead of one-of-many) so you break out instead of blend in and increase your volume of customers and income.

1.  Give your business a one-of-a-kind name that generates free media attention. Sure, you can call your business The Nail Place—or you can call it Texas Chainsaw Manicure. Guess which attracts clients from around the world because they’ve read about it in syndicated columns or seen it featured on TV?

2.  Zig where your competitors zag. Enterprise wanted to enter the crowded car rental industry but Hertz, Avis, Budget and Alamo owned the market. Hmmm . . . how to differentiate themselves? What did competitors have in common? They’re all situated next to airports. So, Enterprise located their branches in neighborhoods. What didn’t the other agencies offer? No pick up and drop off service. So, Enterprise offers to drive you to and from your home or hotel. The moral of this story? Don’t do what everyone else is doing; do the opposite. The best way to stand out from your crowd is to lead it, not follow it.

3.  If you have fun, your customers will too. Art Buchwald said, “I learned when I made people laugh, they liked me.”  Read your signage, web copy, and marketing material. Does it make you laugh? If not, it’s probably costing you sales. Inject some humor into your communication to increase likeability. A local ice cream store has a sign by the cash register that says, “Why do we have square containers? Because we don’t cut corners on the quality of our ice cream.” A shoe store replaced their standard “Sale” ad with “ Shopportunity. 50% off -- and that’s just the half of it.”  Which ad do you think generated more business?

4.  Turn generic into genius. Jay Sorenson saw what everyone else saw – those cardboard insulating sleeves you put around your cup of coffee so you don’t burn your fingers– and turned them into a 15 million dollar a year business. How? By giving a common product an uncommon name - Java Jacket.  Sorenson said, “That trademarked name is worth more than our patents – it has such a dominant market awareness that people who meant to call our competitors call us instead.”  That’s branding!  Say Dunkin Croissants. Best Purchase. Those words sound clunky, don’t they? Now say Dunkin Donuts. Best Buy. Give your business a short, alliterative name that’s easy to pronounce and remember . . . and you’ve just given yourself an attention-getting, money-making brand.

5.  Listen to your customers whine. “What?!” you may be asking in disbelief. “Why should I listen to people complain?”  Because they’re telling you what they have a problem with. If you fix that problem, they’ll flock to you. For example, a Hawaii dive shop got tired of turning away customers who didn’t have a current scuba certification. Solution? Why not have an air hose from the boat people keep in their mouth, kind of like an elongated snorkel? This way, anyone can swim with the fishes 10-20 feet down without risk (you can resurface in seconds) and without hauling around heavy oxygen tanks. Let’s use a POP! technique to coin a brand new name for this activity. It’s half snorkel – half scuba. It’s SNUBA!   Solve a common industry problem and give it a clever name and customers will seek you out because you’re the only one offering this first-of-its-kind option.

Read other articles and learn more about Sam Horn.

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