I don’t know about you, but it seems that a lot of businesses are struggling to attract new customers. I hear many business owners talk about how customers are price focused, that competitors are driving prices down and that customers aren’t loyal to shops or brands or businesses anymore. The ironic thing about this is that every day I see examples of businesses that are literally chasing customers away!
As you know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m a keen cyclist. One of the things that we often do as cyclists is drive to a central meeting point, park our cars, kit up, get on our bikes, and go for a ride. We obviously finish back at our vehicles and then head off to work or the rest of our days. One of the other things we cyclists are renowned for is drinking coffee. When we find a good coffee shop or cafe, we tend to frequent it. Not just when we go cycling, but when we go back for business meetings and with our families and friends – and we’re all pretty active on social media, so we check in at these cafes.
A few days ago a friend of mine returned from a five week holiday in the UK and was keen to get back out on the bike and hit one of our favourite routes. We met at a regular gathering point at 6 o’clock in the morning, which means it was still dark where I am at the moment in the depths of winter! We parked our cars in the cafe car park, unloaded our bikes, got kitted up and were about to head out when someone strode over to us in the darkness from the café entrance.
Now, I don’t know if he was old but he was certainly grumpy! In fact, I’d say he was down right rude. He stopped about half way between us and the café doors and challenged us an with an interesting question:
“You’re not thinking of parking there are you?”
We kind of looked at him blankly.
I said, “I’m sorry?”
He said, this time as more of a statement “You’re not thinking of parking there are you. It’s a private car park.”
We looked at him blankly again.
I said, “So you’re asking us to move?”
“You’ll have to go and park across the road somewhere” was his suggestion
“Now?” I asked almost incredulously
His reply, “Whenever you’re ready.”
My friend and I looked at each other, gob-smacked, as he strode off into a storeroom somewhere.
My friend said, “So what do you want to do? I guess we have to move.”
It was cold. I wasn’t fully firing yet so it took me a moment to respond. “Well, that means we have to pack our bikes back in the cars and drive around the corner to another car park.”
I couldn’t believe what had just happened! The café and shops don’t even open until 7am and we’re usually back at the cars by then, loading up our gear and eager for a morning brew to chase the winter chills away after a cold and windy ride. Why would it be so important to evict 2 cars at this time of day?
In any case, we packed our bikes and moved around the corner and it only added another ten minutes or so to our morning excursion.
Now, here’s the thing. Do you think I went back to that cafe for a coffee with my friend after we’d finished our cycle? Will I be meeting cycling buddies there in future? How about checking in on Facebook to share how good their coffee is?
Pretty simple answers aren’t they?
I’m not sure if this guy got out of the wrong side of bed or had something else going on for him personally, but he certainly scared off not just two customers, but potentially dozens of our cycling and ‘regular’ friends. Such a simple opportunity gone begging for a business that’s no doubt looking for more customers. There’s a lot of cafes in our area and I’m pretty sure they’re all competing for the same cup!
Compare that scenario to the one of a little cafe in a tiny, former railway town in the midst of the Imbil State Forest,
As well as my love of cycling, I also happen to ride dirt bikes on the weekends. One of the things about dirt bike riders is that we usually drive to a central meeting point, park our cars, kit up, get on our bikes, and go for a ride. Sound familiar? We often ride through the surrounding forest, arrive at a cafe or a takeaway, drink energy drinks or cups of coffee and probably even consume a pie or two.
One of the towns we often ride to is Imbil, Queensland and the Rattler Café there is frequented by hundreds of dirt bike riders like us. Imbil used to be a thriving farming and railway town, situated in the heart of logging country. Since the advent of trucking the railway’s stopped being used and not a lot of people go to the town apart from tourists and locals. With the permanent population hovering around 942 and 3 other cafes in town business can be a little tough!
For many, the idea of dozens of dirt bike riders roaring into town might sound less than good for business. However, not only does the Rattler Café in Imbil have great pies and cold fridges stocked with drinks, but the staff bring us carafes of water for us to refill our hydration packs. They literally wait on us, hand and foot. They ask us if we’d like to park our motor bikes out the back of their shop, they let us use their facilities – once they even charged my mobile phone for me behind the counter while we were having our ‘smoko’!
So, which of these cafes do you think is spending the most on marketing? Which one has the most loyal customers? Which one understands the value of customer service and which one thinks every person could be their next customer?
Sometimes it’s very simple to market to our customers, they’re right under our nose, but we just don’t realise it.
Pro tip: Treat every person you meet as a potential customer. Imagine if every person you met could potentially buy from your business, maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day. Would you speak to them a little differently? Would you be a little more polite? Would you make a few latitudes or be a little more flexible with the way you dealt with them? Treat everybody as a potential customer, and you’ll be amazed how many more customers you actually end up with.
Enjoy your coffee!
P.S. Check out Imbil and The Rattler Café next time you’re in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. They’re at 116 Yabba Road, Imbil, Queensland (Google maps link HERE)