I’m a great fan of Alex Polizzi and have watched the hotel inspector from its Ruth Watson days to Alex taking it over. Must admit I was starting to find the format rather tired so was delighted when Alex has re appeared in a new series called the Fixer where she goes into family businesses and looks at the issues facing them. So far she’s been to a wedding shop, a bakery and a furniture shop.
All three have showed the same issues that face many family businesses namely internal family tensions, sibling rivalry and succession issues! It makes fascinating viewing and you can see why using these sub plots TV programmes like Dallas were so successful.
For me what is central to the success of each of these businesses is the focus Alex gives them on who their customer is and her marketing advise. As a marketer I would say that marketing is central to the sucess of any busness. This programme like the hotel inpsector before it show that many businesses across the UK do not know who their customers are, what they want and how to communicate with them and that appearances do count! And like Alex does in this show need some marketing expertise and advise.
To take each point in turn. Who are your customers? Well you might say my customers are the ones that come through my door and buy from me. And yes you would be right. But as the Fixer showed you need to keep existing customers and you also need new customers. The bridal episode showed that some products are going to be one of events so how do you get customers over and over again? And if you are providing a service such as a once in a lifetime (!!!) product you need to make sure that the service you provide is memorable and also that the bride feels special from the moment she steps into the shop which was not the case when Alex first arrived. Tired, dingy bridal shop packed full of hideous dresses Four weddings and a Funeral came to mind with the meringue comment! In this case you only get one bite of the cherry so you need to make it special and you need to look world-class! But you can expand your customer base by having wedding accessories and out fits as Alex introduced. You may not get married again but you will go to lots of weddings. If you can expand your customer base so you are not reliant on just the one type of customer.
She also showed this in the bakery show. A bakery in Padstow the food capital of Cornwall. Yes principle customer the tourist or visitor but only in the main summer season and that customer is also seeing other food products such as Rick Stein’s and yes you have a huge market here but also stiff competition and you need to look world-class. Did it? No the first thing to greet you was a broken window and as you entered the shop the overall impression was what I call the blue tack sticky plastic notice look! Suspect this is not seen at Rick Stein’s outlets. Does this give the visitor the feeling of a baker of expertise who takes pride in his work? No quite the opposite and would have me speeding along the road to Rick’s place! First impressions do count and attention to detail for any business is crucial. We all get too close to our businesses so ask others to show you where your first impressions are letting you down! Alex fixed the appearance issues that the bakery had but she also realised that they needed to extend their customer base which she did by targeting the local market and taking the bakery out over the winter time to fairs and events and farmers markets. She also showed that for this business they could develop into new markets such as selling their Cornish pasties (frozen) to the main supermarkets. In this business the customers coming through their door accounted for their customer base which was decreasing but actually their customer base could be developed to be so much more.
Lastly the furniture shop which reminded me of an old folk’s home. They were adamant that their customer base was the older market. But as Alex pointed out the demographics in the Yorkshire town where they were situated showed a market for the younger market. She also pointed out that this younger market are the ones who move more, decorate more and buy more furniture. So a huge case for targeting this customer base. And quite often in business you need to do this. You can’t always think that your customer base will stay the same for ever. You need to look on an ongoing basis to the market and analyse the changes in it for your business.
You also need to know what your customers want. The brides wanted a world-class experience not a trip to a tired old shop packed full of dresses. Alex worked her magic and developed a shop you would want to go into and go back to. The bakery customers want to buy bread and baked goods from a local expert baker. Did they get that? No they were greeted by blue tack and plastic galore and lots of fizzy drinks. Alex worked her magic and the baked products stood out as they should as they are the product. The furniture shop should be an inspiration for furnishing your home. Was it? No it was a reality check of what you might face if you are placed in a home and full of clutter. Alex worked her magic! And she placed the furniture in rooms so you could imagine what your bedroom might look like and she de cluttered! Less in so many cases is more.
Alex showed too that communication is important both internal communication between all family members of the business. But also with your customers. And to do that you need to go out and communicate you can’t just stay in your business and expect customers to come to you. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. You are the communication tool of your business and you need to think on a daily basis how you are going to get that message out using as many communication tools as you can. Rembering that at the end of the day you personally are the most effective communication tool.
And as this Fixer clearly shows appearances do count they count a great deal they can either show a quality product and a business who takes pride in who they are and what they sell. Or they can show a business who gives over the impression there is no pride and that gives the customer the impression that the product they sell will be the same. So invest in your marketing communications make sure that it looks good and reflects the quality of your product. And remember again less is more. Don’t do what the furniture shop did and give your whole history in your adverts. Sell the benefits of your product and sell them simply and clearly.
The Fixer another success for Alex Polizzi and if you follow her simple advise it will assist you in growing your business too. Just remember your customer is king and you need to develope it, know what your customers want from you and provide it, communicate with them and appearances do count and above all less is more.