Here at Charles Kate we talk about business development plans all the time. But what do we mean?
A business starts with a business plan. You outline the business concept, your targets, objectives and forecast your income and outgoings. Dependant upon the detail of your business plan, it will cover anything from your first 12 months to your first 5 years. What a business plan usually lacks however is the specific identification of the opportunities in which to source that income and fulfil your objectives.
A business development plan does however identify those opportunities. Perfectly applicable to a start-up business or an already well established business. Taking the time to create your business development plan will separate you from the rest.
Start by identifying the most challenging trading periods during a normal working week.
This is notoriously weekday lunchtimes, particularly at the beginning of the week if you are a pub, bar or restaurant.
Next you want to identify the target audience for your venue and the demographic of your target audience geographically specific to your venue.
If your venue is in a city or town people are less likely to travel longer distances to you unless you are offering a very specific or high end product/ service, where as in more rural locations you find customers are more willing to travel to venues.
After identifying your audience and approximated the distance they are willing to travel, plus you’re toughest trading periods during the week. Now identify the best way to contact those groups of people who are most likely to visit you and then do exactly that… You contact them. More often than not (we are all guilty of this) hospitality venues spend a lot of money on advertising which can often be of little use. Even now in the day of the web, a phone call for many still goes a long way, more so than a one off advert in the local magazine.
My food lead pub is not trading well on a Tuesday lunchtime. It is situated just off a high street in a busy borough of Greater London. My geographical reach is minimal due to the high volume of pubs in my area. I do however have a large volume of office workers within a 5 minute walk and in addition to this also have a high volume of residents living within a 10 minute walk, many of whom are retired or semi retired.
So who do I need to contact? First I want to identify all local clubs that often have participants who are over 50 years old. This is likely to be Rotary Clubs or local Church groups whom do enjoy going out as groups for lunch.
Then I’ll create an offering that appeals to them – 2 courses for a fixed price. Now I’m going to contact all of these groups and sell my offering.
In addition to this but running concurrently I also want to go and contact the offices identified earlier in my plan. Chances are you wont get past the front desk however, a bit of charm, a good pitch and you may be able to leave leaflets at reception or get a receptionist to send a generic email round on the company newsletter that will inevitably reach staff.
The key is persistency – don’t give up. Don’t get disheartened if things don’t always go to plan. Believe in yourself, your venue and what you offer. Believe in your business development plan. You can take my example and apply the theory to your business.
Essentially you are networking and this should be a crucial part of your business development plan. Identify different networking forums which are relevant to you in your local area. Almost every town will have some form of business chambers, normally at a nominal annual fee. These chambers give you the opportunity to meet with like minded, local businesses and to sell your services. Particularly helpful when you consider how many business meetings take place in hospitality venues and the many parties during the Christmas period.
If paying a nominal fee is not an option for you then that’s ok, pick other networking opportunities which will only cost you your time. Consider getting involved with local charities or community initiatives. Again you will be exposed to local people and often other local business participating, whilst supporting worthy, local causes.
Finally; your marketing. It is an important part of your business development plan but often a difficult ‘elephant in the room’ for many small businesses – it doesn’t have to be. If you have created initiatives to bring customers to your venue and have started to network then your marketing objectives are the last piece of the puzzle. Prospects you contact will no doubt check out your online presence. Whether that be a website, blog or social media platform. It is imperative your online presence is sending the same message as you are when speaking to people.
Social media is an obvious one for the hospitality industry. Its free (if you want it to be) and one of, if not the best way to reach our customer base.
So we do need to manage our social media affectively. This is something as an industry we do not always do so well at. Making sure we are posting good quality content using pictures, videos and minimal wording. The best thing to do is create a social media plan. Then, each day when we come to publish a post we don’t find ourselves out of ideas.
Posting daily keeps our social media relevant and engaging. Particularly in recent times such as a lockdown, where our customers can not visit us.
Marketing as a whole can be a taboo subject as mentioned earlier on. It really need not be… It is untrue to believe marketing is expensive. In fact almost anywhere you look there are opportunities to gain exposure for free or at very low cost. For example if you are working with local charities then let the local newspaper know what you are doing. Its local, the charities want the exposure, you want the exposure and a journalist needs a story. They are there to report what’s going on in the local area…
Look to enter local and industry specific awards, use social media influencers to interview you and try your product. All of these options are marketing opportunities for you at no or very little cost. Its about letting others give you the exposure you want.
In summary; lockdown has been awful for all of us and certainly in the hospitality trade, however taking the time during this period to work on your business development plan and identify opportunities for your business post Covid19, probably wont arise again because its hard to imagine any manager or business owner will ever have this much time on their hands again. Using this time productively may just be the key to transforming your business and will almost certainly put you ahead of those people who decide not to do anything. We at Charles Kate can of course assist in doing this. Whether it is doing the plan for you or offering a consultancy service – you do get your first half hour free! Either way; do at the very least, whilst you are sat home-schooling or watching day time television, out walking or doing some long anticipated DIY… Start thinking about creating a business development plan for your venue.
Liam Bignell: Business Development Manager, Charles Kate Associates