Mopping up after your competitor's mistake.

Years ago in the early 90's, at the height of my parents' nightclub success, I watched their business continue to flourish despite a distinct lack of re-investment on their part together with the growing challenge of some swanky new clubs opening in the town of Bedford around that time. To my mind, it just seemed to defy logic.

As he mopped the floor after one particularly busy weekend, I put the question to my Dad; "How come the 'Irish Club' still packs them in every week, while all these new clubs with their million-pound investments and top DJs seem to fizzle out after only a few months and we get all our regulars back?"

He took a break from mopping the floor for a minute and gave me a terrific insight into how any business should assess their customer proposition.

"Here's how I look at it," he said, "a fella leaves the house on a Saturday night and he has £35 to spend. It costs £3.50 for the taxi into town and he keeps £4.50 aside for the ride home. He'll want a bit of grub to eat later on too, so he'll set aside another £3 for that. So that's £11 on food and taxis which leaves him with £24 to spend on drink.
He meets the lads in the pub and a pint costs £2.50, so he either sticks to buying his own or buys a round for his four mates and altogether spends between £12 and £14 before heading for the nightclub."

"Now our friend has a choice... does he choose the flashy new club where it's one entry price before 11pm and a higher one after (but free for ladies before midnight, and a different price after that again). "

"And even if he does choose to go in there with the lads, once he gets to the bar - with a tenner left in his pocket at this stage - he discovers the drinks are one price before 11:30pm but suddenly go up afterwards. So at any given time, this lad doesn't know for certain what he can get for his £10. It also means every round will be a different price for each of those fellas because of these so-called offers. And with all that investment, you can be sure it ain't cheap!"

"Or... he can come to our door and if he's a member come in for free (EVERYONE was a member back then). Once he's in, he knows that every drink whether it's a pint, a bottle of beer, a shot, a short and or an alcopop is £2 all night. So that guy with the tenner in his pocket can confidently walk up to the bar and buy a round for himself and his 4 mates without having to worry about looking an eejit or tapping into that burger money he's saving for later on."

As my Dad went back to mopping the floor, I realised that all the 'smart money' being poured into these new nightclub ventures was being wasted as long as they continued focusing on the wrong aspect of their customer experience. It didn't matter about the flashy DJs, state-of-the-art lighting systems or fantastic mixologists, who generally pull pints in Bedford, if all they REALLY have to offer is uncertainty.

Customers need to know where they stand so they can make an informed decision. Without it, they'll just go and queue somewhere else.