Grass Roots Growth: Quickly Reach 1,000 Raving Fans For Your Restaurant

This is one of the most effective and creative ways I’ve seen to grow a business. It’s very “grass-roots” and involves some grinding, but if you’re consistent with it you will quickly have 1,000 Raving Fans.

I went to a local high school to talk to a group of students about business and the journey I was on – starting my own hospitality consulting business. At the end, we opened up the discussion for questions. One student said he was starting a car detailing business, and he asked if I had any ideas on how he could get the word out about his new endeavor, so I taught him this tactic. Some people might call it a trick or a hack, but those words seem to either sound negative or are so overused they’ve begun to mean little or nothing. I showed him how to access other people’s networks by giving.

Quick side note: my philosophy of networking is not “let me meet people to see what I can get from them” (like a sale), but rather I’ve flipped that on its head and decided that I am going to find as many people as possible and help them. This has really helped me grow a strong network quickly. At some point in the near future I hope to give some more specifics on how you can make this your networking strategy, but for now, let’s look at this one example, then we’ll see how to apply it to your restaurant.

Back to the student… I told him he needs to think about those he knows or has some connection to, that have significant networks.

So, I asked him, “What about the Superintendent? What do you think would happen if you approached Dr. Wilson and told him that you want to detail his car for free? Do you think he’d let you? What do you think would happen when you were done?”

We decided that Dr. Wilson would probably take a picture of him and the great job that he did, post on social media, and tag his business page. Then he’d probably even post it on the school district’s social media pages too. I told him to quickly set up social media pages so that his business can be tagged by name. A young man is taking initiative, putting the things in to practice what he’s being taught, and showing kindness and generosity to others. That story will go! What did it cost him? A few squirts of product and a couple of hours of time.

Now, think of people in your community that have significant networks or reach. Make a bulleted list, and get creative. Here, I’ll give you a head start: hairdressers/barbers, the mayor, school teachers and administrators, pastors, business owners, lawyers, hospital administrators, first responders, heads of non-profits.

This networking-accessing strategy works for nearly every industry, but what might it look like for your restaurant? First, think of your demographic. If getting in front of teachers helps you reach your demographic, then offering them a half-priced lunch on Mondays might not work. They probably don’t have enough time to get to your place, eat, then get back to school on a short lunch break. Still, let’s focus on teachers for this example. Everyone loves teachers, and many feel they are underappreciated and underpaid. You now have the opportunity to show kindness to this group, and all it will cost you is two meals. With a food cost of 25%, two $9.99 meals will cost you a whopping $5 (plus time and possibly mileage).

Call the principal of the local high school. Take note of his assistant’s name. Schedule a day to bring both him and his assistant a free lunch. Make sure to ask for any dietary restrictions like food allergies or vegan dishes. Tell them about your signature dish and ask them if that’s okay with them. Maybe have a couple of choices ready. Also, have your social media pages set up ahead of time. When the day comes to drop off the meal in person. Take this opportunity to tell the principal that with his blessing you’d like to show kindness to his teachers by bringing lunch to one teacher and a friend each month. He can choose whatever teacher he wants for whatever reason. He can even use this as an opportunity to set up a Teacher of the Month program if he likes. You can deliver this meal to school or offer a gift certificate. I expect both will get a social media shoutout from those you’re blessing.

Now, that’s one school. Reach out to the junior high, elementary schools, etc.

I do want to offer a word of caution here, though. I challenge you to have pure motives in this. What do I mean? Although our strategy here is to grow your network and spread the word about your restaurant, it’s possible, and even likely, that there will be times when there is no social media tagging, liking, or sharing, and all you did was give away free food. You need to be okay with that. Why? Because unmet expectations are the expressway to bitterness. Just give, and enjoy the process. It feels good to give, right?! You’ve seen Ellen give elaborate gifts to deserving people, haven’t you? Now you get to do that. You get to be Ellen, just on a smaller scale. If all you end up doing is showing kindness and generosity to one person at a time, then that’s not such a bad deal, is it? And it will actually still get the word out about your restaurant, just one person at a time.

Who will want to frequent the restaurant that nice lady owns who gave their neighbor a free meal? Lots of people! Who will want to frequent the restaurant owned by that nice guy who dropped off a free lunch to her hard-working husband? Lots of wives! I’m a dreamer, but it’s in the realm of possibility that this could be your entire marketing plan. Wouldn’t that be cool? What a story that would make!

Here are a couple of other examples if you’re trying to reach different demographics or audiences.

Professional Audience – If I had a restaurant at the bottom of a skyscraper in downtown Chicago I would choose a different business near me every week. I would either call the office building and offer a free lunch to the person I’m speaking with and their boss on a day that week or ask them if there is someone in their office that deserves a free meal for whatever reason: they’re a great worker or life is hard right now and a free meal would be nice. I would drop it off in person, shake hands, kiss babies, take pics if they ask.

College-aged Demographic – If I had a restaurant in a college town and wanted to reach a younger demographic, I would start by looking for influencers on Instagram. Instagram is great for food pics and restaurant marketing. Same idea: offer them a free meal to them and a person of their choosing who deserves it. Maybe it would be a student who just paid tuition and is tapped out, or maybe a favorite professor (for extra points). Not everyone goes to college. Find a business that 20-somethings frequent: record store, head shop, tattoo shop, clothing store. Walk-in, introduce yourself to the first worker you see, tell them you’d like to bring them and the boss or another employee a meal the next time they work.

Who are your customers?

Where are your customers?

Who has a significant network?

How can you get your product or service in front of them?

If you try this out would you be kind enough to post about it in the Restaurant Owners startup & Growth Facebook Group? I’d love to hear your stories.

If you want some more creative ideas like this for your restaurant or business, just reach out to me and we’ll brainstorm. Now, go grow your business with kindness. Good luck!

How Leaders Can Find Work-Life Balance with a Powerful Brand

It’s an all-too-common problem for many solo entrepreneurs, business owners, and bootstrapped startups. It’s harming families and tearing apart marriages. It’s the cause of many sleepless nights and restless thoughts. People write books to help solve this problem and stores can’t keep them on the shelves. This problem isn’t age-specific, gender-specific, or restricted to a certain location or industry.

The problem? Work–life balance.

Finding a balance between your work and your life seems like chasing a carrot on a stick. It feels like an impossible goal, one that will never be reached. We live in a world where the first thing people ask when they meet is, “what do you do?” Our society has put so much emphasis on how “successful” you are or what your job title is. So, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs are focusing more and more time on their business and less time being with their loved ones or enjoying other activities.

Sadly, a majority of the American workforce are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work-life balance.

What exactly is a Work-Life Balance?

Work-life balance is a concept related to how you allocate your time, energy, and mental focus into various parts of your life: work, family, health, personal growth, friendships, etc. Finding a healthy “balance” of all of these aspects to your life is thought to lead to a wholeness of life – meaning you have a better sense of belonging, purpose, and happiness.

For business owners specifically, this balance is extremely hard to find.

You likely wear many hats. As a business owner, you’re not only working one job, but you’re probably working the equivalent of two, three, or even more jobs. So finding this balance can seem nearly impossible.

Are you out of balance?

As business owners, how many times do we catch ourselves sitting at the dinner table with our family thinking of client deadlines, upcoming bills, troubles with employees, or where your next lead will come from?

If you can’t allow yourself to be present with your family or friends, you’re probably out of balance. If you feel too tired or mentally taxed to read a book simply for your enjoyment, you’re probably out of balance. If you’re constantly checking your email because you’re worried that you may have missed something or that an emergency may have occurred while you were away, you’re probably out of balance.

How Can I Find Balance?

There are some ways that we can make the work-life balance feel more manageable. However, don’t expect to be perfect in your efforts. Here are some ideas you can start trying:

  1. Prioritize Social Time with No Agenda. Spend time with your family and friends for no reason other than just enjoying time with them. Do your best not to talk about your business. Talk about life, hobbies, dreams, interests, sports, politics – anything but your work.
  2. Be Flexible with Your Schedule. Create your own definition of balance. Maybe balance for you is enjoying time in the morning alone while you read a book. Maybe it’s leaving your office early every Thursday afternoon to spend time with your kids. You own your business, you make the rules. Create your own schedule.
  3. Unplug and Relax. Be present with yourself and others. Turn off your phone. Leave your laptop at work. When you’re with others, or alone with yourself – be present. There’s a never-ending stream of emails, calendar invites, meetings, missed calls. Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you and you’ll have time to take care of everything later. As much as possible, keep those moments away from your business sacred.
  4. Work smart. In this day in age, there’s a buzzword floating around the world of business and entrepreneurship – hustle. Typically this word means to work hard all hours of the day and night with a relentless and never-ceasing drive to grind away in an effort to grow your business. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time for “hustle.” However, what’s better than working hard and working a lot? Working smart and being extremely effective.

This idea of working smart vs. working hard isn’t a new one and is extremely important as you are seeking a work-life balance that is sustainable. However, most business owners don’t feel like they have the tools or know-how to work smart. This is why a strategic foundation for your business is so important. A brand strategy will bring alignment throughout your business, and allow you to run your business in a smarter way.

5 Ways That a Brand Strategy Leads to Balance

1. Clearer Focus Will Require Less Mental Energy

A strategic foundation will narrow your focus so that you aren’t wasting time on things that don’t matter. You’ll have a better idea of why you do what you do, how you will accomplish it, and where you should be spending your time and energy. By doing this, you’ll free up your thoughts allowing you to be more present with your family and friends outside of your workplace. You’ll be more deliberate in your efforts, and begin to see how you can spend your time more wisely on a daily basis.

2. Spend Less Time & Energy Worrying About Decisions

When you have a clearly defined vision and values for your business, decision-making is simplified. Many decisions, big and small, become easier because you have defined guidelines in place. These guard-rails provided by a brand strategy will continually bring you back to your roots and ensure that you’re always aligned with your core values and always consistent. When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business – giving you more mental energy to spend on things you enjoy outside of work.

When decisions are easier, you aren’t as drained with the day-to-day of your business

3. Empowered and Engaged Team

One of the best ways that a brand strategy will help you find a work-life balance is how it can help empower and engage your employees. Studies show that employees who are more engaged perform better, are more committed, and more loyal.

Although your brand is at the forefront of all your marketing efforts, it is also displayed throughout your team – from the receptionist answering phones to the service technician out in the field. Smart branding means that your team members will have a complete understanding and ability to confidently deliver on your brand promise. When your team members are engaged and empowered, this means they will often take on more responsibilities and be brand ambassadors for you.

This allows you to delegate with more confidence, freeing up more of your time to do other things you love.

4. Better Results from Marketing Agencies You Hire

The beauty of a properly built brand strategy is that it enhances everything that you’re currently doing. It’s likely that you’re doing some marketing; whether you’re doing it on your own or you’ve hired a marketing agency to do it for you. For most business owners, the reality is that they feel like their marketing efforts aren’t as effective as they could be. In fact, we recently did a survey and found that 100% of business owners feel that their marketing efforts aren’t effective.

A brand strategy will give you the confidence to know that you’re sending the right message, with the right look, and talking to the right people. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. When your marketing efforts are performing well and you’re seeing great results – it puts less stress on you outside of your work.

5. Customers Working for You, Brand Evangelists

What’s better than getting a new customer? Getting a new customer from a past customer referral.

When you are doing great work and have a great brand, people take notice. When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen. Knowing your customers intimately is a vital step in the brand strategy process. When you truly know your customers, their desires, their fears, and their goals – then you’ll be better equipped to turn them into brand evangelists.

When you are relating to people on a human level, people will listen

Having a free workforce of past customers who gladly refer their friends, family, and colleagues to is a great feeling. This is one other way to make your business run stress-free and create a brand that you’re proud of.

It may seem impossible to find a work-life balance, but it’s worth the effort. However, I can assure you that not having a strategic brand will greatly hinder your efforts and set you back tremendously.

The only thing stopping you from building a more strategic brand is you. At Longitude°, we have developed a streamlined process that will help accelerate your growth and help you reach your vision for your business. Smart business leaders everywhere are loving BrandGPS, and you will too. Want to talk with a Brand Guide? Request a meeting today.

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