For pizzeria owner Adam Goldberg, advertising isn’t something you do when you want to kick-start a slow sales month. It is part of business as usual. “It’s really important to never stop marketing and advertising … even when our sales are up,” says Goldberg, owner of the southern California-based Fresh Brothers pizza chain.
And the proof is in the pudding. Fresh Brothers’ short history reads like a case study in marketing success. After opening their doors in June 2008, they now have five successful locations, and are opening a sixth this May in Beverly Hills. Fresh Brothers’ Facebook fan page bubbles with activity, and Goldberg says when the store releases a new billboard, customers have been known to pull over to the side of busy L.A. traffic and snap a photo on their phone, then upload it to Twitter and Facebook. So how does a relatively new restaurant develop this kind of fanatical following?
“We have a strategy that we stick to, but the No. 1 thing is that we manage our brand in our advertising,” he says. “We take our ads to the next level — we want to engage our customers, and now they want to see what Fresh Brothers will come up with next.”
The first part of any good advertising strategy is knowing your customer demographics, says Stacey Hyland, a marketing coach in Montreal, Canada. “Define who your ‘perfect customer’ is,” she says.
“Define who your ‘perfect customer’ is,” she says. Zeroing in on this target customer will help you know what to emphasize in your advertising strategy, and where you should focus your marketing media. For example, Hyland says to attract university students, don’t take out ads in the newspaper and yellow pages. Conversely, if you would love to see more retirees, you should probably think less about Twitter marketing and more about print ads and flyers.
But don’t just guess about your customer base. “Have cashiers keep a tally by the register,” says Lisa Bradner, president of Geomomentum, a Chicago-based advertising agency. “When people come up to pay, just have them make a mark in a column categorizing them into a demographic.” Retirees, working professionals, students, families with kids — keep records for a week or so to get a good sample, and then look at your results. You might be surprised by what you find … and how it affects your marketing strategy.
After you know who your customers are and who you want to bring into the store, you’ve got the first piece of the puzzle. Next you need to use that information to develop a cohesive plan for advertising throughout the year.
“One of the most common mistakes I see are people who just advertise sporadically without an actual plan,” Hyland says. “I see a lot of small business owners who think they have a plan, but then someone comes into the store selling a super-discounted yellow page ad or offering a spot in a coupon book and they want to jump at it because they think it’s a great deal.”
Depending on your market and your budget, you might want to consider hiring an ad agency to help you define your goals and come up with that marketing plan. Goldberg says part of the key to Fresh Brothers’ advertising success is working with an outstanding marketing firm. “We work hand-
in-hand with a local advertising agency, and having someone like that to handle marketing helps you manage your brand image,” he says.
The marketing firm helps with design and placement of billboards, print ads, and the Fresh Brothers Web site. Because the advertising strategy is centralized, there’s very little wasted effort, and the look and feel of the brand stays focused and cohesive. And a marketing firm can also help you know what’s a realistic budget. Bradner and Hyland say they help clients by talking about what their current sales and marketing expenditures are, and then what their goals are. But there’s no magic percentage or golden number out there, so hiring a marketing expert to talk you through your budget and overall plan can be money very well spent.
Even if people haven’t searched your restaurant out themselves, you can still bring them in with social media. Encourage customers to “check in” on sites like FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter when they’re at your store. “It’s like word of mouth on steroids,” Hyland says.
Still, don’t fall so in love with new media that you forget how well the old guard works to drive business. “Everyone likes to get their information differently,” Hyland says.
If you’re not sure what’s working to bring people in, though, don’t just guess. “I’ve heard restaurant owners say, ‘Oh, I saw this customer walk in with a flyer, so that must be what’s driving business,’ ” Bradner says. “Instead, ask people how they found out about you.” You can do it at the register, when servers go to take orders, or even walk table-to-table yourself. But that’s how you’ll get a clear picture of what’s hitting home with your demographic. You can see a flyer or a coupon, but you can’t spot that person who saw five of his friends become Facebook fans or who saw an ad in a sports program for his kids’ soccer team and thought your pizza looked great.
Once you figure out which demographic is responding to each type of advertising, you can become more focused in your marketing and special offers. “Maybe you want to put an ad for an early-bird special on a slow night in a print ad in the newspaper — that will attract retirees and families,” Bradner says.
Similarly, a $5 coupon on Twitter or Facebook that’s good after 9 p.m. may boost your sales to college students and young singles who keep later hours. “The pizza business has so many different kinds of customers coming to the same restaurant … but just not necessarily on the same days or times,” Bradner says. “Use that to your advantage by focusing your advertising to each demographic.”
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in food and business topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado.