2010 April: Commentary

This particular issue of Pizza Today has a marketing focus. Not that we neglect the subject otherwise, but we wanted to cram as many marketing tips and techniques as possible in this edition to keep our readers at the top of their game. In this economy — a phrase I’ve grown tired of writing, quite frankly — you, as a pizzeria owner, need every competitive advantage you can get.

Here’s the rub with marketing, the thing precious few independent restaurant owners truly understand: you can’t do it sporadically. You either commit to it, or you don’t. If you’re only going to advertise once in a while, when you feel like it or when there’s a big event, such as the Super Bowl, you’re pretty much wasting your time and money. Marketing doesn’t have to be non-stop, but it has to be consistent and frequent if it’s going to produce long-term results instead of one-and-done sales spikes.

I understand the typical operator’s reluctance to get serious about marketing. It costs money, sometimes lots of it. It takes time. It is difficult to measure the results. But good marketing — and there’s more than enough bad marketing out there, believe me — is not an expense. It’s an investment.

Not all investments pay off. But if you are well diversified and spend wisely, then you’ll come out ahead in the long run –– way ahead, if your message is on target.

The key is to experiment and find what works for you — then ride that horse until it’s dead.

I’d like to introduce you now to George Philbrook, owner of two-store Nonni’s Pizza in Revere and Malden, Massachusetts. When Philbrook took over a failed restaurant location recently, he wanted to get the word out about his new store opening. He says he “broke the place in” with a grand opening at the end of January. Prior to the grand opening, Philbrook mailed 45,000 fliers for a free large cheese pizza, carryout only. The free pizza could be redeemed from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 23.

Says Philbrook: “We ended up making 1,900 pizzas in nine hours, with an average wait time of 7-15 minutes.”

New customers piled in three-deep rows filled Nonni’s modest lobby. The goodwill he generated that day can’t be measured, but I assure you it runs deep. As for the exposure: Nonni’s successfully managed to get 1,900 customers to try its pizza in one day.

That’s a response rate of 4.2 percent, by the way. And while it seems sickly sad that an offer of a free large pizza would only tempt 4.2 percent of the marketing base, the fact of the matter is that the typical direct-mail campaign has a response rate of just one percent. A two-percent response is considered “successful” — and Philbrook more than doubled that.

And that’s why your marketing needs to be consistent in its frequency. One campaign isn’t going to change your business forever. But a successive attack of them will make a big difference provided your message is on target and your offer is compelling.

Best,

Jeremy White, editor-in-chief
jwhite@pizzatoday.com