We asked the co-presenters Scott Anthony and Eric Shepherd of a Pizza Expo 2014 seminar on community marketing—both of them leaders in that area for their pizzeria companies—to exchange a few thoughts on the topic as they prepare for their presentation in March.
Eric Shepherd: “If your pizzeria is like most independent businesses, your marketing budget is extremely limited. You might even be thinking, ‘What marketing budget?’ On top of that, many independent pizzeria operators simply wear so many hats that a marketing hat doesn’t make it into the rotation.
“The great news is that some of the most effective and meaningful marketing is quite inexpensive, doesn’t require much time and greatly benefits your community at the same time.
“Regardless of where you’re located, there are numerous charities, nonprofits, organizations and schools working tirelessly to better your community. Each of these organizations relies to various degrees on fund-raising initiatives and networking. Some may need a venue to hold a meeting or event. Some might need a pizza donation or a way to offset the cost of feeding a group of people. Your pizzerias can assist with any or all of these needs, while gaining business in the process.”
Scott Anthony: “Your efforts should be defined by your target audience. If you’re in a downtown area with lots of commuters looking for a quick slice for lunch, then you’ll want to tout convenience and value along with fast service. If you’re in a suburb, you’ll market to families seeking a healthy value for dinner.
“No matter where you do business it comes back to what we all learned as children watching Sesame Street: ‘Who are the People in YOUR neighborhood?’ Answer that question and then get to know them.” Knowing their interests gives your marketing direction. For example, 9/11 ignited a sincere interest in first responders. So we shared that interest with our community and created a community event, “Pizza and Prevention,” that was noticed around the country. The event went on to win the 2013 Restaurant Neighbor Award for Pennsylvania and much local recognition for both me and my pizzeria.”
ES: “Facebook is a great way to research and connect. As a gesture, you can use your Facebook page to promote community events and organizations that align with your restaurant’s values and sensibilities. Engage with your community’s Facebook pages — be part of the conversation. Old-school means of outreach still work just as well: a phone call, attending a mixer, scheduling a face-to-face, etc.
“Your business can engage with community organizations in endless mutually beneficial ways: Invite a mothers group to use your restaurant as a meeting space. Host mixers, food drives or school-spirit nights. Offer to host weekly book club meetings for your local bookstore or library. Invite acoustic musicians to perform on certain nights of the week. Volunteer to provide a location for 5k runners to congregate post-race. Offer to donate some pizzas for a community event or meeting; provide slices cut into 12ths or 16ths as samples/finger-food, or provide a non-profit/community organization discount.”
SA: “Here are some ways to get to know people in your community:
“Network: Get out in the neighborhood, pass out business cards. Be involved whether it is with a PTO in a small town or the Rotary club in a city. Make your presence known with the people likely to buy from you.
“Create word of mouth: It’s the oldest form of marketing, but you can do it with technology—Tweeting, sharing on Facebook. It’s important to find out the communications channels your neighborhood is using and then join the conversation.
“It’s a tricky field, but public relations pays off, especially if you connect to your community through stories. Over the years I’ve gone from pitching my pizzeria community involvement to general editors to the theory of, ‘Read to be read.’ I now pitch articles about my store’s activities to specific journalists most likely to tell those kinds of stories.
“Don’t forget that a great way to tap into your market is by devoting one-on-one time to your customers. Sincerely greet them, engage in small talk, listen and learn about them. More than likely most will respond in kind, giving you priceless marketing information—if you’re listening closely.”
ES: “Community outreach, of course, is a two-way street. While we all would love to donate to every organization, we also have to remember we’re in business to make a profit. Ensure that your outreach is mutually beneficial to all parties. It’s not a difficult concept for your community organizations to understand (they are under tight budgets as well), and they will appreciate the honesty.
“However, it’s important to remember that these are members of your community, and that they support businesses that care about the community. It’s entirely possible that your business can be successful without spending on traditional advertising—by putting what little marketing budget you may have into strengthening the bond with those around you.”
Scott Anthony, a 19-year veteran operator, owns a pizzeria in Punxsutawney, Pa., As a marketing expert and consultant to the industry, he has been a frequent contributor to Pizza Today magazine and a regular presenter at Pizza Expo.
Eric Shepherd is the director of marketing and communications at Otto Pizza, a growing regional restaurant group with eight locations in New England. They will co-present a seminar, Community Marketing Principles and Tactics, on Wednesday, March 26, at Pizza Expo.
This Pizza Expo Exclusive is part of a continuing series leading up to the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center on March 24-27, 2014. Seminar speakers and demonstrators will provide professional advice on their area of expertise.
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To Learn more about International Pizza Expo, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.