Some months I get the pleasure of speaking to literally dozens of small business owners about their marketing. Many new business owners plan to open "under the radar". That is, they open without marketing or fanfare with plans to do marketing later.
Sometimes this is OK, most of the time it's not.
Seth Godin wrote in a recent post that when he started his blog just a few people read it - now it's one of the top 100 English language blogs. This was a good investment in time for him.
In Boston, and many other cities, nightclubs stay "cool" for a few weeks or months and then most of them die off. I can't tell you how many club owners in Boston have decided that opening under the radar is a good idea. Most of them spend no time or money on marketing, or try to buy or trade for the cheapest marketing that they can get.
Here's what happens when two of their potential customers talk about them:
"Have you heard anything about the new X lounge."
"No, not really."
"OK let's just go to the Y lounge instead."
And that's if people are talking about them at all. I'm all for word of mouth marketing, but if nobody knows about you they aren't talking about you. A lot of word of mouth is generated by traditional marketing and PR efforts.
Many lounge, bar, and restaurant owners (and other small businesses) let their egos get in the way of marketing. I was in a bar recently that had been one of the hottest spots in Boston a while ago. It was a Thursday night at 9PM and there were four other people there. The manager told me that the owners didn't like to spend money on marketing and that they relied on the fact that many celebrities had been seen there.
Apparently they like spending their money on overhead while seeing no return on their investment. It's amazing that this place would spend a hundred thousand dollars or so on furniture, but not one dime to make sure that people sat on the furniture and spent their money.
You can quote me on this: Marketing is not overhead; marketing is an investment in making sure you can pay your overhead and turn a profit.
Sometimes it's OK to open a business up for a few weeks to work out the kinks before your big marketing efforts kick in. But eventually your marketing efforts need to kick in. If you're in any type of entertainment business the window is very short for building customers. You can become old news fast. Plan well.
Your marketing efforts need to continue - even if you have as much business as you can handle. Don't let your ego make you think that things will always be great. You need to work to keep your customers and make new ones.
-J D Moore - Marketing Comet