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Being in the Customer’s Face

business-closed-signA well-known breakfast and lunch hangout, which opened in 1914, closed its doors this summer. The establishment was being run by a third generation of the family and was the longest continuously operating restaurant in Minneapolis. It survived through many of the historical events that have shaped the United States, including the Great Depression, the second World War, and the fall of Communism. Yet, after 99 years, the restaurant was closed at the end of June.

I assume they had most of the bases covered, yet daily traffic was not adequate to enable them to pass the business on to the next generation or to sell to the next interested entrepreneur. The owner was surprised to see a line way out the door of customers wanting to experience the restaurant’s renowned food one last time before it closed.

“What’s the point?” you may ask. If you want to believe the owner had “all the bases” covered, why were they just closing the doors forever? Why were they not getting value from the past 99 years? The real reason has to be buried in the flawed execution of one or more of the “Basic 6” (Accounting/Finance, H.R./Leadership, I.T., Marketing/Advertising, Operations, Planning Strategy/Execution).

If the business had been marketing itself week after week, bringing in existing and potential customers on a regular basis, they could have had lines all the time. These clients standing in line to get that final experience were not “first-timers”—they were old-timers. The business could have been consistently reminding these customers that they were there. The reminding, or marketing, has to be done on a regular basis. Starbucks, Staples, Office Max, and other retailers are relentless; every week, they are sending emails or direct mail, reminding the client that they are there. Marketing communication—with no beginning and no end—is one of the “Basic 6.” A business, whether profit or non-profit, has to continuously sell itself to stay alive. I believe this closing business could still be here if they had practiced the “Basic 6,” particularly if they had practiced good marketing on a continuous basis.