Earlier this month, a local shop closed—and I want to talk about it.
You see, statistically most businesses are going to fail. Those are simply the facts, and keeping up with the theme of my blog post titled The Road to Success, acting surprised that it was going out of business is, well, silly.
Despite the fact that it was a good little business, with good opportunities and great products, it folded.
And typically, when I see a business close I go through a series of questions in my head…
- Why did they close?
- What could they have done differently?
- Where were the opportunities they were missing?
- What will they do with their assets now that they are closed?
- Is there enough remaining value to salvage the business?
Now, to be fair these questions are generally all in my head, or to my team—and I rarely discuss it openly. But this time, I can’t hold back…
Why is this one different?
Because of the reaction on Facebook. When they announced, via a Facebook post, that they would be closing after only a year in business, and directly stated “but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough of you to cover the high operating costs of doing business in Sudbury”, many jumped on the bandwagon and started going on and on about how the economy sucks, we don’t support local, business in Sudbury is too hard, the city doesn’t help, the costs are insane, and so on.
And this is what annoyed me.
That business, which I’m doing my best not to mention directly, under the same leadership and management, would have failed anywhere else as well.
There are countless examples of the exact same type of business thriving in this community, and very similar communities around the world. And there are more than enough of them going out of business as well.
In any economy, any community, any local support system, any _______, some businesses have found a way to not just survive, but THRIVE.
Just because stats say most will fail does NOT make the outside factors the cause. This business, and many others like it in all types of industry, was failing because of the owner.
As a business owner, you are responsible for your business. End of discussion. It’s not the economy, it’s not the staff, it’s not the clients, it’s not the weather, it’s not Santa Claus, it’s not the market, it’s you. Plain and simple.
Now, I don’t want to sit here bashing failing businesses. I’m not in the market of kicking someone while they are down, but I feel it’s VITAL for a business owner to understand that they are 100% responsible for their business BEFORE I go ahead and give advice on how to avoid failing.
Let’s face it, if you don’t accept responsibility, you can’t change it. So, I’ll assume you’re accepting responsibility for your life, so that now we can move forward 🙂
First Things First: Location
The very first thing I noticed and commented to my wife about when this store opened was that they made a mistake with their location. They bought into the misguided fallacy of “location, location, location,” and picked a spot right on the busiest road in Sudbury.
But wait, isn’t that a good thing?
The problem with “location, location, location,” is people don’t evaluate the saying on a case-by-case basis. Yes, location is key, and as a start up, picking an extremely high overhead spot is a HUGE mistake, and in fact breaking the rule of “location, location, location.”
You see, location is vital, and picking a location that makes financial sense AND physical sense is how to properly evaluate a spot. What good is high traffic if you can’t afford it?
This was the perfect type of business for a slightly more “off the beaten path” style of location. A cute location on a secondary road would have been perfect, and at one fifth the cost.
This is exactly the kind of “specialty” shop that people don’t just casually walk into because they saw it driving by, but instead people become loyal fans and will go out of their way to frequent.
Relying on “Local”
The next thing I want to mention is that many small, local businesses spend all day crying “support local,” forgetting that supporting local should never be at the expense of good marketing, solid products, amazing service, etc.
I’m all for local. There are MANY shops that I go out of my way to frequent and that are local—and it’s because I love them. And there are many local shops I intentionally avoid, because I hate them.
Too many people hope being local will drive traffic—but it won’t, and if it does it fades once the “new” of it all has passed. People should support local, yes, but more importantly people should support businesses that earn their support, not by demanding local support.
Now, I’m not saying they were demanding local support, just to be clear. I’m only bringing this point up because they specifically said there “wasn’t enough of you” to support the business.
People don’t just stroll into your business, you need to bring them in.
Marketing Is Everything, But Not Everything Is Marketing
Remember that blog? You can read it HERE. In it, I talk about how most, if not ALL, activities that a business does can be optimized as a highly lucrative marketing measure – but that does not default them as such.
A website can be a great marketing tool, or it can be a complete waste of time that actually turns off clients.
A Facebook page can be a great marketing tool, or a complete waste of time and total annoyance.
But here’s the thing… This shop never marketed. Ever. And if they did, I never once saw it—and that’s not a good sign either.
Regardless, I was at a social event over the holidays and I couldn’t help myself; I queried a group of 15 or so people about this shop, and all but 2 had never heard or seen ANY advertisements from this shop.
“But what if they couldn’t afford to advertise?”
That’s finger pointing, and no way to succeed. Remember, it’s 100% responsibility…
There are MANY MANY MANY MANY (to infinity and beyond) ways to market without any money.
- They could have gone crazy (properly) on social media
- They could have stood on the side of the road waving at cars driving by (since they did have that PRIME spot!)
- They could have called every single event in town and donated X to the event.
- They could have walked around social events handing out coupons.
- They could have picked up the phone and cold called 100 people every day asking if they’re hungry and want a free…
- They could have called 100 other local businesses and asked to put up a quick poster, display, or sign at their location in exchange for one at theirs.
- They could have donated to weddings in exchange for a small sign being displayed.
- They could have gone to all the churches in town and donated X for after the service.
- They could have donated their products as a fund raising effort for local hockey teams, dance schools, and other sports groups.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. I mean, just reading through this list should make you think that you could turn around and improve your own business by doing them.
The truth is, most people either 1 – are ignorant to marketing, and think it’s an expense instead of realizing that it’s vital. Or 2 – they are lazy. Yes, that’s right, lazy. Sure, they may put in 12 hour days, but that’s busy work. Getting out there and getting ACTIVE in your marketing efforts is hard work – and most would simply rather not. It’s easier to hide out in your shop.
Optimizing Social Media
The last thing I’ll talk about that’s a real “no-brainer” is social media. I had been following them, so I was more or less in the loop, and they did pretty good. They posted once every couple days, which is more than most, but there are many things they could have done differently to really improve their page.
For one, add people, not just products. People buy from people, so have fun with it. If a staff spills coffee all over their shirt, take a picture and post a funny comment with it, people like that shit! People want to engage, they want to socialize—hey, maybe that’s why it’s called social media 😉
Second, if posting every couple days is working, do MORE of it! Post every day. Post twice a day. Post 10 times a day! Too much? Ask Grant Cardone, net worth of over 350 million if it’s too much; he posts dozens of times a day. Or Gary Vaynerchuk, multi-millionaire, who posts countless times a day.
If your posts are relevant and not salesy/spamy, you can post as much as you want.
Third, expand that reach across multiple platforms. YouTube, Instagram, Music.ly, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.
Fourth, run small, tiny little boost campaigns. If one of your posts is doing substantially better than the rest organically, give it a small, twenty buck boost and watch what happens.
Fifth, work that invite button. Many people who “like” your images, especially on boosted posts, aren’t actually “fans” of your page. Click the likes, it’ll give you a list of everyone who “liked” it, then on the right it’ll say “invite” if they don’t like your page. CLICK THAT BUTTON! Then, they’ll get a little notification of the invite to like your page, and bam, growth!
I could go on and on… but you get the point.
Before I wrap this up though, I want to make one quick but VERY important point…
This post is NOT about criticizing, it’s about learning. The truth is, we could ALL learn something from this business and improve our own. If they don’t ever reopen, or even see this, that’s okay. I’m not writing to save them, I’m writing to help anyone who reads it.
When you own a business, you’re the captain of that ship. Lead it to where you want it to go.
You, my friend, are in charge of your life.
To your success,
CEO RYS Group
The Blais family enjoying the views at Lake Tahoe.
RYS Group Inc.
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