There is something pretty encouraging about starting a new business during a recession and actually making out okay, as we have done.
Mind you, we are pretty seasoned at what we do, and my partner and I already had some clients to add to the mix when we hung the sign on the door, but we still pat ourselves on the back as we hear disaster stories every day in the news.
It’s fun to look at the companies that not only survived, but did well, over the last 12 months and see if there are any lessons to learn.
RIM, Apple and McDonald’s did just fine this year, for example. RIM launched new products with cool design and features; Steve Jobs came back for the iPod Touch roll out; and McDonalds, with 66 percent of its stores outside the US, continued to outperform the S&P 500.
It wasn’t just big, well-funded marketing-oriented companies with a strong balance sheet that did well. One of our favourites is a small restaurant chain called Cora’s that’s only open from 6 am to 3 pm. (Yes there really is a Cora)
Cora’s customers want friendly service and cheap food piled high. Cora’s serves eggs, omelettes, crepes, waffles, French toast, fresh fruit…and that’s it. They have 100 stores and are growing.
Cora’s is not just a franchise and operations success, they are a poster child for marketing focus. And they are just fabulous at creating customer relationships based on stories.
The brand itself reflects the inspiring story of Cora Tsouflidou, a single mother of teens who had to learn the restaurant business from the ground up to support her family.
Even the recipes have stories. Take this one: “the scrumptious crepe “April 89” began the day Cora met a customer named Betty. Betty was a charming character and on that particular day, she had a craving for crepes and fruit, but she also wanted to treat herself to something sweet.”
“Cora got to thinking about what she could make, and a novel idea sprang to mind. Rather than cooking up three crepes and serving them with a portion of fruit as she usually did, she was inspired to make a large, thin crepe onto which she poured a generous portion of custard and covered it with fruit. The she folded two sides of the crepe inward over the fruit, positioned rosettes of whipped cream on top, and sprinkled the dish with a bit of icing sugar. She then presented the breakfast to Betty who couldn’t wait to give it a try. Betty took one bite and exclaimed “Mmmm! It’s absolutely divine!” And so, a delightful dish was created in April 1989. At Betty’s suggestion, and in honour of this delicious treat, it was named after the date of its creation.”
Now tell me you don’t want to order that crepe!
Telling stories is a way to win customers’ hearts and is one of the most powerful advantages a small business has over a big corporation. It allows you to create an emotional bond that simply reciting facts won’t do. And it makes a brand memorable, even in the midst of a recession.
Elizabeth Walker is a partner in Marketing Masters and a Duct Tape Marketing Coach located near Toronto Ontario. Find more information online.
Image Credit: Paul Hami