The most important ingredient in your pizzeria operation, at this moment, is your marketing. If you think you can’t afford to market your business during this economy, I will tell you this: you can’t afford not to! If you don’t advertise in this market, then failure simply becomes much more likely.
I grew up in New Zealand, a market of only four million people. Due to the small size of the market, business is fiercely competitive. As a result, innovative branding and marketing often makes the difference between a flourishing venture and a failure.
Since I graduated from university eight years ago, I have been heavily involved in marketing in New Zealand. This experience certainly helped me when, in November 2008, I opened a new pizza concept in Hollywood, California. It was, quite possibly, the worst time in the past 50 years to open a pizzeria in the United States. Yet, despite the economy, Lucifer’s Pizza has been profitable from day one.
How, you ask?
For starters, we put marketing first. I knew differentiation was a real key, so I spent many months surveying my competition. I looked at what they offered, their price points, their location, turnover and customer base. I found many “me too” operations — places that essentially offered the same product, the same basic concept, similar pricing and poor branding. Armed with this information, it was time for me to put together something different.
I decided to create a gourmet establishment that specializes in spicy pizza. I implemented a secondary menu that we call our “Are You Hot or Not?” menu. It allows customers to choose a chili rating from zero to blazing. We then spice their order according to their wishes.Once I developed this differentiator, I set out to brand the business around this.
We came up with the name “Lucifer’s Damned Good Pizza.” It gives the business a strong brand presence based on friendly male and female devil characters. Essentially, it plays on the sexy side of marketing. We had a private label hot sauce made for us using our branding. We also had “devil face” iPod covers made. This was extremely cheap. In fact, all of our branding measures were brought to fruition for less than $10,000 total. Yet the result is a heavily branded concept store that looks and feels like a franchise.
Take a look at your operation and ask yourself this question: “Am I any different from the 20 to 50 other outlets within my seven-mile radius?” Be honest with yourself. Do you really have the best offerings around? Is your image what you want it to be? Are you unique in your market?
If not, now is the time to make changes.