Here Is How My Ex-Client Could Fix His Business, But He Won’t Read This
I had to let my first client go earlier this year. While I’m very grateful for this person because he helped me start my own business, I can’t help but remain bitter about the gig and the way things ended.
I’m not going to cover it here, but I wrote a piece about it called My First Client Almost Ruined Me & My Business; check it out if you had to deal with a challenging client in the past.
But anyway, I had big plans for this client, I had a pretty good view of their business and industry, but I never got the chance to implement it or even get my ideas considered.
My Client’s Problem
My client owns a restaurant and cocktail bar in Paris. I initially got hired because he was looking for a social media manager. He had two Instagram accounts: one for the restaurant, the other for the cocktail bar, and wanted someone to manage them and create engaging content.
He wanted something different than just posting about the food. “The food here is good, but I think what’s special here is the design of the place and its history.”
I thought that was cool; that’s why I initially started working with them.
By talking more with this client, I discovered the underlying pain point; the actual problem he was trying to fix. Even if he worked a ton on the design and overall image of the places, trying very hard and spending a lot of money making it look “cool,” “cool,” people were eating and drinking elsewhere. His clientele was mostly older people living in the neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that, but he was looking for something more trendy.
So I was getting his point. You don’t make cool people eat somewhere by posting pictures of leeks and duck breasts. You have to show the decor, create an experience around eating and drinking there, create an aesthetic in general.
Products Don’t Sell Themselves
The first few months went by very well. The Instagram accounts were growing very fast, and the engagement was getting better and better. The tone on social media was getting closer and closer to what we were trying to accomplish.
But after a while, things plateaued.
Did I finally reach all the cool people in Paris yet? Probably not, but I had to find a different way to reach them.
When you think of a bar and a restaurant, you think influencers. The problem is: cool people in Paris don’t follow influencers (honestly, I don’t blame them), but they value other cool people’s opinions. So my goal was to make these people share pictures of the places on their Instagram.
The easiest and least costly way to do so would be to create an experience through one item on the menu. It doesn’t have to be crazy innovative. Here was a suggestion I made for the cocktail bar:
- Invest in a couple of glass smokers.
- Put a cocktail on the menu that’s 70% more expensive than the average rest of the menu to set it apart.
- When someone orders it, bring it in the smoker, to the table, burn the wood in front of the client, serve the glass through a massive cloud of smoke.
Smoking a cocktail isn’t crazy innovative, but it looks cool and premium. It’s a good enough reason to make you take out your phone and make a few Instagram stories.
The client declined the idea.
I didn’t care they rejected this specific idea. It didn’t matter. What matters was that this client understands they needed something visually cool and exciting on their menu, something that would be worthy of an Instagram story.
“We could hang a few paintings” or “We could ask the clients to use a specific hashtag.” He suggested instead.
Those are terrible ideas.
No one is going to use your hashtag if they have nothing to show. And paintings aren’t going to push people to post.
I’m not trying to say my idea was revolutionary or the best, but I believe it would have worked.
Doing The Right Thing Doesn’t Always Sell
What was shocking to me about this establishment was that they were making very little money off their wine list.
The restaurant had a long history of serving very specialized wines from the southwest of France. The wine list was very niche, and unless you had some knowledge about these wines from that specific region, it was impossible to know what you were ordering.
Most importantly, they were all pretty much the same price.
If you went to this restaurant, chances are you wouldn’t be able to know anything that was on their wine list, but also you couldn’t pick anything based on the price. So, the wine list was too confusing.
Most tables were ordering beers and cocktails, which doesn’t look too good for a French restaurant specializing in wines.
So I suggested changing the wine list as follow:
- Have a large variety of prices
- Have a few wines that people know well and would feel confident ordering (a Bordeaux or a Burgundy)
- Make the second cheapest wine on the menu with the most significant margin and the highest perceived value because people usually go for that one.
- Suggest wine pairings directly on the food menu. If they don’t know the wines, you’re serving and if they can’t choose based on the price, make a choice for them.
None of these suggestions were ever considered.
I was told that clients appreciated how well the wine list was curated. At the same time, I looked at the dining room and saw that only one table had ordered a bottle of wine. Everyone else was drinking beers, cocktails, and water.
I never said the wine list was terrible, just that it could be improved to push customers to order from it more.
The Lesson to Learn
I came across this problem more than once while working with clients: they are in love with their product, but they suck at selling them.
They refuse to admit that people come to their fancy cocktail bar to be seen, treated like kings and queens, and show everyone how refined their tastes are.
Instead, they want to think that their bar has the best decor and the best drinks.
And while it is relatively easy to increase the customer experience and increase the perceived value of your products, it is quite hard to quantify how better the decor is and how better the drinks are compared to the place next door.
When it comes to restaurants and bars, fighting over the quality of what’s served is a lost battle for the most part, especially in a city like Paris. But having a different approach, having a different menu, and having products that are unique to your place will make a crucial difference.
Most of the problems I am facing with clients usually come from this different framework that we both have. Clients usually focus on the quality of their products; I usually focus on their perceived quality. More often than not, these frameworks clash.
While the two previous examples are just marginal examples of our disagreements, we couldn’t make this relationship work. My suggestions would always clash with their beliefs. They were indeed in love with their establishment but were disconnected from the reality of the market.
How would you make someone come to your bar with average cocktails for an average price, while this person could pay the same price and have roughly the same drink at a bar with a view on the Eiffel Tower? If you can’t provide any unique experience, you should feel grateful for anyone ever daring to come in.
But it’s hard to convince a business owner that when they are so deeply in love with their business, they should be in love with their customers instead.
Do you feel like you tried everything to grow on social media and especially Instagram? Hopefully, what follows will be the last thing you will have to do to reach your goals.
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