Monday, October 12, 2009

Lessons Learned

There ain't nuthin' like the real world when it comes to providing reality checks, is what I'm learning.

The coffee shop venue connotes meetings for business, minus tight scheduling, so no matter what time you show up, 24/7 if its staffed for all time zones, you would hope to find a quiet venue for some serious negotiations, no competing sound track, suspenseful or otherwise.

Venues like Good Foot and Back Space to some degree, sequester or segregate (not a bad word in this context).

Maybe there's a loud music venue for those needing to unwind and/or various caves for video game playing etc. (sometimes with headphones). The business class set, on the clock and/or on Skype to the home office, is not at all bothered by all the commotion in some bat cave, out of sight if not mind.

Small venues that don't have the floorspace to accommodate these diverse uses in parallel (simultaneously), may take a more sequential approach (asynchronous), using the LCDs to effectively display when "quiet time" will be over, when karaoke is set to commence. Art galleries may feature loud music only once or twice a month. Libraries may never.

In sum, I'm not about promising free strippers and drugs in every venue (it's not mine to give the blue light in most cases), but in other venues, that's sometimes what's on the menu. Or perhaps you've got bar credits thanks to your stellar world game playing, so technically the goods are more in trade than for free. Your mileage may vary.

Some coffee bars cater to minors, others don't. The TV-rating system applies, not only to the stage magic, but to what goes to the LCDs (if they've got any).

The ambient culture has only a few paradigms (templates, grammars) to blend from. Following Python as a model, an eclectic computer language, we're free to pick and choose ("cherry picking" is a sin when doing statistics, but not when collecting antiques or memorabilia, art works, examples of esoteric crafts).

You've got the tavern, sports bar, coffee shop, video arcade, art gallery, strip club, country club, eating club, gift shop, TV studio, science museum, public eatery, inn, bed & breakfast, back office, library, VIP lounge... Victorian salon.

Branding in this phase space requires serious attention to your market niche, and that means having a clear sense of your clientèle.

You can't be all things to all people, nor should you even set out to please in this direction. If you're attracting young families with children, maybe you want a play area, for kids who wish to escape adult conversation. Portland has its share of brew pubs working this model and doing a good job of it.

Clear markings on the doorway aimed at scaring off the complainers, who won't like what they find, is a proprietor's responsibility, as well as a kindness to customers. People who weren't warned often feel justified in acting offended. Learn your community codes and post the relevant warnings (e.g. no minors permitted), not just enticements. Use eye candy to repel, not just attract.

Don't pretend your welcome mat applies equally to everyone. Be gracious with tourists however, as that's how to increase your fan base, should such be your goal. Establishments with no protocol for serving first timers, customers semi-innocent of a shop's culture, are likely to whither on the vine through attrition. Having too many people packed into a confined space is in itself a disincentive (a turn off), not to mention a red flag for the fire marshal.

It all boils down to truth in advertising. Give a clear sense of what you deliver at your venue, and then deliver it, consistently, whatever your secret sauce (value added). If you attract too large a crowd, don't be shy about throttling back on promotion. There is such a thing as too much advertising (also called over-exposure).