What a Business Failure can Teach about Marketing

This is a post written a couple years ago about a business that had a great deal of potential. Sadly the owners made some poor decisions so the business folded. Sigh. I have left this post here even though the business has closed because it is an opportunity missed. Maybe someone else with a good idea for an espresso and (alcohol) bar can learn from it.

Espresso coffee cup with a smiling face on it

Meeting friends over a cup of coffee?

In another post I mentioned Watertown, a favorite coffee shop where I liked to write and also to meet up with clients over a latte.

I wrote about it because I liked Watertown. It was new. It was good. The owners seem nice. (They still do.) I wanted to see it succeed.

Sadly, Watertown has changed significantly. Still the same name. Still the same nice owners. Still the same location. But no longer the same business.

They have gotten their liquor license and have made the decision to be a bar all day long and push the alcohol purchases. They believe that being a bar means they need to play LOUD music all day long; too loud to have any kind of decent conversation. (I am not imaging this. The owners told me that the loud music is important for a bar – even at 9:00am.)

They do still have great coffee and free wifi. You just have to be able to think to a heavy loud beat.

Blue drink splashing out of a martini glassThere is a much higher margin on booze so for every drink they sell they technically make more if they sell booze than the coffee. The problem is that there are far more people who want to have a good “Cup of Joe” during the early part of the day more than a good “Shot of Jack”.

Watertown has missed a great opportunity! They could market themselves as a great coffee place; a great place for meetings during the day and then as a bar starting sometime in the late afternoon. 3:00 PM would possibly be a good time.

By marketing themselves as this dual personality they would gain a few of important things:

First, it is a fun niche and a treasure trove of marketing possibilities. It is different. It is unique.

Second, they would be addressing two and overlapping customer bases and could use them to feed each other.

For example during bar time they could have a special offer: When you buy a certain drink you get a 10% off card on baked goods bought with an espresso drink good from X hour to X hour during the day. The X would be the slowest time of the day so would do double duty to encourage people to come in during that time. They could make it fun and change what drinks have the bennies on them from week to week or more often.

The same could be done with the day crowd. If you buy a bakery good and coffee you get a card that gives you a bennie at the bar during the bars slowest hours.

This bar is located very near 3 large hospital and medical centers. There are tens of thousands of employees between all of the hospitals and related clinics, offices, and other support services. There is no other good coffee venue as well positioned as Watertown is. They had a good opportunity to do some niche marketing and missed it!

Instead the owners have decided to go after hard-drinking millennials and pretty much only them. I have to admit that I know very little about twenty-somethings’ alcohol consumption at 9:00AM. Maybe they have a business idea that will fly.

I truly wish them the best with their business endeavor, but unless you are a millennial looking for a stiff drink and loud music at all hours of the day, I can no longer recommend the place.