February 25, 2013 |

2009 March: Best Foot Forward

By Pizza Today

2009 March: Best Foot ForwardAn epic chain reaction has seized the entire planet. This will most likely be the ugliest financial fall-out most people have ever seen. Today alone, 11 pizzerias will slam their doors shut forever. A shake-out like the one gripping the entire world right now will take the weak players first. But even good operators will be confronted with dwindling sales as recession-battered customers cut way back on discretionary spending. So, you can sit around waiting for a tornado to spin you and your dog to Oz, or you can deal yourself an ace.

Your first ace is a powerful USP. That’s because the best way of eliminating your competition is to separate yourself from them. And the proven way to accomplish this is to craft a “Unique Selling Proposition” (or USP, for short). A USP is that distinct and appealing statement that sets your pizzeria apart from every other “generic” pizza shop. A USP that resonates in your marketplace can be the difference between surviving and thriving.

Let’s look at a few from outside the pizza industry: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Of course that’s Federal Express. Tylenol is “the pain reliever doctors use.” Volvo says: “Drive safely.”

Of course, other delivery businesses offered overnight service before Federal Express coined their famous phrase. Dozens of pain relievers contain the same stuff as Tylenol. Most cars have the same safety features as Volvo. So why have these companies taken ownership of a common feature in their industry? Because they grabbed it and ran with it — before their competitors did.

The big one in pizza is: “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” You cannot think of the USP without linking it to its source, Papa John’s.

It’s a sad fact though that most pizzeria owners don’t have a USP. Only a “me-too” nondescript business that gets by solely on the momentum of the marketplace. They make no promise, they offer no benefit, they have no justifiable reason for anyone to choose them. So, it’s no surprise that most pizzerias, lacking any type of USP, merely get by. Failure rates are high because they offer no reason to choose them over their competitors.

Now think about it … why should someone switch from their current pizza shop to yours? Are you offering a compelling promise, unique feature or special service? I know what you’re thinking — “We make the best pizza in town.” (Yawn). Would you abandon your favorite steak house because another claimed “Best steaks in town?”

It’s foolish to expect a major surge in business when you’re blowing the same horn everybody else is blowing. You just simply will not stand out from the crowd.

There are three steps to a powerful USP:

? Unique benefit

? Guarantee

? Repetition

Simply boasting of the “best pizza in town” just puts you right smack-dab in the middle of the herd. Exactly where you don’t want to be. However –– what if you added some real “teeth” to that same phrase? Here is the USP I adopted for my shop: “The best pizza you’ve ever had, or your money back –– every penny.”

The guarantee does some very heavy lifting for us here because subconsciously it says that our pizza must be good or we couldn’t make that guarantee. I credit those twelve words with my own explosive sales growth.

Okay, let’s get to it. With paper and pen, write several one-paragraph statements that convey your big promise. A promise that resonates in your marketplace and a promise you can deliver on (no pun intended). Then, ruthlessly edit the best paragraph until you have a concise sentence that offers up the crispest, clearest Unique Selling Proposition your customer can seize upon.

So, what’s your USP? What do customers think about you when placing an order for pizza? Better yet, what do you want them to think? Why should they call you instead of someone else? What is so special about you?

Remember, “Best Pizza in Town” ain’t it. Your USP must say: “Buy my pizza –– get this specific benefit.” Is your USP low price? How low? Can you back it up? (We will beat the lowest price by $2 or you get it free). Are you putting out “high-end” pizza? Remember my USP? Not only did I claim “best,” I went further and backed it with a money-back guarantee.

Enforce your USP with an “Iron- Clad Guarantee.” A strong guarantee is what’s known in marketing as “risk reversal.” Instead of trying to persuade a potential prospect to fork over his hard earned money to try you out, you promise him that if he’s disappointed for any reason whatsoever you will refund his money with no hassles! To make my point, put yourself in the customers’ shoes and decide which pizzeria would get your money. They are identical in every way, except for what’s on their front doors.

Tom’s Pizza — No checks. No refunds.

Tom’s Pizza — Your complete satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back!

Which place would you choose?

Develop a high voltage Unique Selling Proposition that makes people think of you and you only. Live up to it. And, put it on everything: menus, fl yers, door hangers letters — everything!

A USP defines you to the world. After all, anybody can scream “Best Pizza in Town.” But guess what? Nobody can say “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” except Papa John’s, because they have defined themselves and removed the guesswork.

A solid USP must be clear, concise, and forceful. It must sell your product, not just sound cool. Domino’s created urgency with its 30-minute guarantee in the 1980s. Papa John’s creates desire — after all, its claim of “better” implies other pizzas are inferior. ?

Kamron Karington owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and author of The Black Book: Your Complete Guide to Creating Staggering Profits in Your Pizza Business. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.