One of the more interesting (and sometimes awkward) parts of my job this past year is that I’m now on the other side of the table. I’m now (also) the client.
Yes, I’m still the Creative Producer at Rule29. However, last December my wife (Anna) and I decided to open Blackberry Market – a fast-casual cafe and marketplace in downtown Glen Ellyn (IL) offering fresh, handmade daily meals, grab-and-go market items, premium coffee, yummy baked goods, and catering.
Just six months prior, we were sitting at the table with the Rule29 team, not only discussing strategy, but exploring whether or not the concept was feasible at all. In the end, we pulled the trigger largely due to encouragement, support, and backing of R29.
Immediately, I began to see things in a new way. Meaning, it is one thing to strategize and plan with another client. It is another, when you are the client, experiencing daily the results (good or bad) of these strategies. Here are a few things that I/we typically consult on, yet have had the benefit of being of experiencing from the other side of the table these last few months:
#1. A (Good) Brand Extends Well Beyond a Logo. Many of our potential clients think of their brand as their logo. While this is often a prominent (visible) piece, it is not the core of a brand. A brand experience is a feeling. We have come to understand that Blackberry Market’s brand is just as much the music being played in the background as it is our signage and website.
#2. Social Media Works. I’ll admit. Keeping up with the latest social media craze is wearisome. And honestly, some mediums are simply a waste of time for particular clients. This said, I have become a believer in social media when done strategically and intentionally. For some of our clients, Twitter works. For some, it’s Instagram. For us, it’s Facebook. This is because our demographic plays here. And so do we. We post intentional pics daily. And daily we see the results. In fact, Facebook is our primary marketing channel because we are able to track some level of ROI. This is something that is often intangible and elusive for many of our clients, yet we have learned that with a little focus, it can be tracked and validated.
#3. Buzz is an (Unplanned) Art Form. Restaurants can live or die on word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth is something that is impossible to control. This said, I believe it is something that can be influenced. We talk a lot about “story” at Rule29 and Blackberry Market was a perfect space to practice what we preach. We wanted to help influence the conversation by simply telling the story. The story behind the name. The story behind the food. And the story of the community. While “buzz” is something that is not manufactured, it is something you can provide the language for. Tell the story that you want it to be told. It will most likely will be the story you hear.
#4. Look Like You Belong. One of the most common questions I get asked when I am at Blackberry revolves around whether or not we have multiple locations and/or have been around for a while. When I tell them this is our only location and we have been open less than a year, they reference how the design/space looks like a “national brand.” This certainly is a compliment to the talented team at R29, but also a reminder that great design does not only communicates feeling, but trust and longevity.
#5. Know Your Audience. Many potential clients walk through our door at Rule29 with great ideas. And a great idea is a necessary aspect of any good business. But, a great idea without an audience is worthless. If there was any arena in which I felt the tension of our own advice, it is the focus on our primary audience. There is a tendency for business owners to want to play to every person. The problem is that this positioning muddles your communication, your brand, and your story. When we finally agreed that our primary audience is local women/moms in their 30s/40s, we were able to make clear decisions that solidified the brand experience. And in the end, our demographic has widened, but only as a result of knowing who we are (primarily) communicating to.
All in all, I’m not sure there has been a better learning opportunity for my role at Rule29 than owning my own business that has reaped its benefits. In fact, for better or worse, Blackberry Market has become another playground to put a few ideas/practices to the test. And for those on the other side of the table, we’re now happy to share. 🙂