Heads Up Marketing

Last week while running errands, I visited Steak ‘n Shake for the first time in months, inextricably drawn by the promise of an ice-cold chocolate milkshake on a hot summer’s day. While pulling up to pay, I noticed a sign on the drive-thru window that offered fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.
  • I managed to muster a modicum of restraint and resisted the cookies, but I couldn’t resist chatting up the drive-thru guy about the sign. (That’s me…always working!) I asked how long they’ve had cookies, and he told me that they’ve had them for months, but that they never sold many through the drive-thru until they put up the sign. Interesting.
  • It reminded me of earlier in the day when I noticed a car in the driveway of a friend with a window cling that said, “S&K Cleaning.” As it turns out, it was the woman that cleans for me too…a client had suggested the sign to her a couple of weeks before when her business was struggling, and since putting it up she had gotten four new clients. Interesting.

Sometimes big ideas have small price tags.

In both cases, the “medium” was there…the drive-thru window…the windshield of the car. All that it took was a creative eye–able to see the opportunity–and the “headspace” to think creatively enough to capitalize on it.

It’s easy to become embroiled in the day to day and not even have the time to think creatively about building your business. Sometimes you just need to make the time. Let’s face it…marketing has become a “heads up” game. Most good restaurant groups have capitalized on all the low-hanging fruit. The secret now is leverage. How do you leverage the things that you already do so that you get the most out of them or leverage the things around you and turn them to your advantage?

The New York Times recently had an article about a couple of San Francisco entrepreneurs who have discovered Twitter…a great “small price tag/big idea.”

  • A crème brûlée cart owner signed up for Twitter and now has more than 5,400 followers who wait for him to post the current location of his cart and list the flavors of the day.
  • A sushi restaurant gets as many as five new customers a night who learned about it on Twitter. The owner tweets about the fresh fish of the night.
  • Why couldn’t general managers tweet about the daily specials or the soup of the day to their regulars…building the guest connection and building their business.

That same “Heads Up” creativity can be seen in other quick-thinking restaurateurs:

  • El Pollo Loco’s dovetailing on the KFC introduction of grilled chicken.
  • Minneapolis restaurateur Phil Roberts heads up reaction to the closing of a competitor-offering a $100 Dining Club gift card couched in ads acknowledging that they had lost a worthy rival.
  • Both companies acknowledge that it’s important to not look predatory, but both seized the opportunity that presented itself.

Look around and allow yourself the “headspace” to get creative about the underleveraged opportunities around you.

It may be just the “Heads Up” marketing approach you need.

Until next time…let me know your thoughts.