Small Biz Advice: What to Do When You’re Old News


holly-photo-280x290Dear Holly,

I own a restaurant here in Brooklyn that during the first two to three years was always a darling of the press. I got great reviews in every major NY publication, and business was great. I’m in my fifth year now, and I feel like I’m practically old news in this city. I never had to seek attention from the press before, but now I feel like nobody is covering what we’re doing. Do you have any advice about how I can stay relevant even when the media is not beating down my door? I can see that I’m not as busy as I used to be, and I don’t want to fall off the map. What can I do?


Frustrated by Fickle Foodies

Dear Frustrated,

First off, congratulations on all of your success so far. To be recognized by every major publication in New York is quite remarkable. You must be doing a lot right to get so much recognition.

But, don’t rest on your laurels. You’re in a predicament that many restaurants find themselves in once they’re out of the new phase. I know your story–I’ve heard it all before. There are very few industries that receive as much recognition and free press as the restaurant industry does. The problem is that this can create a false sense of security and often causes the owner to overlook the importance of marketing.

Here’s what you can do to turn it all around: fall in love with marketing. Any business owner should spend a majority of their time marketing their business whether they are a restaurant or a book store. You were lucky at the start that so much press coverage came your way. Now you need to make a consistent effort to keep yourself relevant.

If you’re not naturally gifted at marketing, I recommend you seek outside support. Marketing is what will make or break your business. It doesn’t matter how great your product is if no one is consuming it.

If you want to give it a shot on your own, first determine the message you want to get across. Consumers are quite savvy these days, and if your marketing message is good, it will strike an emotional chord with your customer.

Second, determine where your target market is. One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is picking a marketing strategy that never reaches their target market. Spend some time thinking about where the best place is to reach your market. Don’t invest a significant chunk of your time on social media if your consumer only looks at publications or vice versa. You’ve got to know your target market so well that you can tell me what they’re eating for lunch–and hopefully they’re eating at your place!

Most importantly, think long term. Marketing is an effort you’ll need to engage in for the lifetime of your business. Investing in a quick fix isn’t really your answer here. Yes, your strategy will evolve, and what you do this year may be obsolete in a year or two, but I’m sure there are certain strategies that will stay with you over the lifetime of your business. It’s your responsibility to understand what sticks.

Marketing is a vital part of your business! You should recognize that understanding your target market, finding out how to reach it, and knowing exactly what to say really takes time. Start now and you can surely turn this around this year. Good luck!


Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts free 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.


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