Two and a half years ago I sold my pizzeria. It wasn’t planned, but the money I was offered for the business was more than I could turn down. It was a tough decision, and I knew I would miss it. But I’d always wanted to get more involved in consulting for other restaurants, and I knew this would free up some time for me to do that.
The new owners didn’t want much training, which surprised me. When it came to marketing, I offered them the plan I had developed for the next year; they said they’d do their own thing. They said they’d been in business before, so I figured they must have an idea of what to do.
Within six months I received a call from them that sales had fallen by 30 percent and they didn’t know why. My first question was: What you are doing to keep your name in front of the customers? “We haven’t started doing anything yet” was the reply. I wasn’t surprised. I had not seen a menu with any of the orders I had received from them. I’d received no direct mail, and the boxes the pizzas came in — which previously displayed my logo and phone number — had gone to plain white. I never saw them or any donations from them at any community events. They also, I was sure, changed to lower-quality sauce and toppings.
“We didn’t think we had to do much,” they told me. “It was so busy when we took over we could hardly keep up!” At this point I was pretty sure they probably did not have the past experience they had told me they had. I knew this would be a challenge to get them to understand why marketing is so important.
I finally got them to start following my marketing plan. They direct-mailed their menu, joined forces with charitable organizations and even began to come out to a few community events. They brought back the higher quality sauce and toppings. Guess what — business started to pick up! I wish I could tell you this story had a happy ending, but within four months they stopped doing any marketing and business started to go down again. They lasted for another year before finally closing the doors.
Within a week of the closing I received a call from the people who took over the lease of the building. They wanted to know if I would help them reopen the pizzeria. I agreed, under two conditions: They had to follow the marketing plan I would provide them, and they could not cheap out on ingredients. They agreed. They opened three months later, and I am happy to say they are doing well and still following the marketing plan I put together for them.
So it’s been my direct experience that a solid local marketing plan can make your business prosper, while ignoring basic promotional tactics can put you out of business. During my seminar on Tuesday, March 8, at Pizza Expo I am going to share with you a marketing plan you can use in your own market. It will show you how to partner with community groups, how to use direct mailing to target your customers and how to identify places to go to network with other businesses. I’ll also recount some of the fun — and sometimes crazy things — we did to get noticed. The following is a taste of what to expect:
- Have you ever seen someone driving down the road with a forgotten-about cup of coffee on the roof of their car? Imagine seeing a local pizza delivery driver with a stack of pizza boxes and a 2-liter bottle of soda pop on the roof driving around town! I will share how we pulled this off and how we used the response from people to gain more business.
- Get involved with your not-for-profit groups, schools, kids sports teams, etc. I will show you how a simple fund-raising coupon can lead to dozens and dozens of kids selling your pizzas. In return, they get a nice big donation from you.
- Get your menus and flyers out in front of people. One of the best ways is to use direct mail to make the connection. I created a one-year plan that kept me in front of my customers and also helped me figure out which areas of my community contributed my best customers. I will explain how to set your community up into zones, when and how often you should market to those areas, how to use the corresponding data to your benefit.
- Promote your community by involving people in something fun and educational. I created an amusing contest that had people looking for golden tickets throughout our community that highlighted some of our town’s key features. Not only was it fun for families, but it also promoted our heritage and culture — and because of that the tourism board and heritage center jumped on and promoted it as well!
Join me on Tuesday at Pizza Expo to hear these and more ideas on how to build your sales and create a marketing plan that is simple and easy to follow.
Wayne Rempel purchased a pizzeria in Alberta, Canada, in 1999, operating it until 2013 and battling the big-chain competition with unique marketing and promotion campaigns. He now offers marketing advice to other restaurant owners and will speak at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at Pizza Expo on the topic of Marketing and Promotions for the Mom and Pop.
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