Elizabeth An, a Vietnamese restaurant owner, had a similar problem. When she opened her restaurant called Crustacean back in the 70s she said, "Customers didn’t flock to the new restaurant at California and Polk streets right away, and some early negative reviews were damaging."
What do you think she did?
"So Elizabeth called loyal fans of Thanh Long (a family owned Vietnamese restaurant) and invited them to Crustacean as her guests. “For a month, I gave meals away,” she said. “We’d come such a long way, I figured I had to give it my best shot. I told people who liked the food to tell their friends about it. And they started coming back.”
Would you do that when faced with a similar obstacle?
An's strategy is pretty common. Just walk into your grocery store on a Saturday afternoon and look around. You will see sales reps hawking tiny bite sizes of pizza, sausage nibbles, and mini cups of soup. One day I went to Costco and they were giving out a tablespoon of tiramisu cake. The line was so long that people were getting a bit feisty. Everybody wanted that free tablespoon. Now, will everyone purchase a cake after trying it? Nope, but some will. And those are the ones you want to impress!
1) Service above everything!
If you are going to give something away for free, give something of value! Know your target audience. I have a group that I organize a meetup group for kids and their parents, and I receive requests for sponsorship. I have turned down the requests because they want to offer my group plastic bowls or cleaning products. Those things are fine, but my parents want their kids to be around other English speaking children. Why offer them plastic bowls?
2) Over deliver! (I know, service again!)
If you give something away for free then make sure you go over and beyond what the participants expect! Don't just say, "Hey, you get what you paid for! You paid nada so sayonara!"
3) Offer something unexpected!
I used to drive past at least 45 nail salons to get to one place in South Holland, Illinois! Why? Because they gave me THE BEST leg rub at the end of my pedicure. I went to other places and they would just throw a couple of slaps on my calf and call it a day, but this place spent at least a good 3-4 minutes on my legs! Even though I was there for my feet! Ahhhh..............
4) Listen to your customers!
I don't believe that they are always right, but they have some valid points. If they are willing to tell you the truth, then you will find out what they are telling their friends. I went to a newly opened restaurant that I found through Facebook. The directions on the page were wrong. After I walked for about 45 minutes I finally found the place thanks to the kindness of two ladies. After I told the proprietor about the confusion, he blamed everybody. "No, uhm, maybe you went to the wrong site, or you didn't download the google map. You should have....yadda, yadda, yadda!" All I was waiting for was, "Thanks, I'll check it!" I think he thought I was being a pest, but after about 10 minutes another guy walked in and said, "Give me a beer! I've been looking for this place for at least 30 minutes! That map is wrong!"
You don't have to listen to their dating troubles, but you can be a friend to the community. In Tokyo there are some entrepreneur's that get their name out by hosting events, service projects, food drives, and by being a source of advice or by offering a safe haven where foreigners feel comfortable enough to gather.
Just because a person is a cheapskate doesn't mean they are broke. They may be looking for that extra bit of something that will keep them coming back for more.
Here are some of my give-aways! If you have any more suggestions let me know!