The pizza restaurant industry had sales of more than $36 billion in 2012, up almost 4% from the prior year. Naturally, along with that growth comes increased competition, as more proprietors try to tap into those profits. With more fingers in the proverbial pie, getting your business noticed is more important than ever. While it may seem like a daunting task, however, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to accomplish this goal. It just takes a bit of diligence and creativity to out-market the other guy, improve business, and position your pizzeria for long-term success. Here are some budget-friendly tips to help get you started:
1. Take Advantage of Social Media
Even if your business doesn't have a website, you can still harness the power of the Internet to market your company. Social media marketing is free and has proven remarkably effective. Open accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and get the conversation going. Don't be shy, either. Invite people to try your pizza, tout the deliciousness of your crust and prod them to "like" you and to tell their friends about the "best pizza in town."
Also see PMQ's Social Media blog: Slice of Life
You can use social media to attract potential customers with coupons, free meals or a fountain drink on the house. Panda Express, for example, recently introduced a new dish on Facebook by offering a free single serving on a certain day. That offer swept the country, doubtlessly attracting a lot of new customers. In fact, one could argue that the free-serving maneuver was more effective than an expensive commercial or print ad. With social media, you never know what's going to catch on.
2. Ramp Up Customer Service
Taking care of patrons is key to any business, especially family-fare pizzerias, where good customer service automatically boosts word-of-mouth advertising. Make sure everyone on your staff treats your patrons like royalty, and they’ll come back for more. Start by making conversation with your customers—suggest pizzas they might like or recommend one of your new craft beers or desserts. Make sure to find out their names and always recognize them when they return. Who doesn't love a place where everybody knows your name?
3. Discount Effectively
If you're going to take the time to put together a flyer or direct mailer for your business, don't feature a measly 10% or 15% off. In some places, that's not much better than knocking off the sales tax, and too often the mailer lands right in the trash. Consider a $1 Large Pizza Day, or a "buy-one, get-one-free" deal. Remember, responses to direct-mail or flyer campaigns are generally fairly low, usually in the 2% range. So even if yours is wildly successful—say, a 5% response rate—and you mailed out 1,000 flyers, you're only offering discounted prices for 50 people. If those 50 people love their meal and vow to come back again, however, chalk it up as a big win.
4. Get Involved in Your Community
Like any business, word-of-mouth can carry you to success. Give people a reason to think of your restaurant when someone asks them to recommend the best pizzeria in the neighborhood. Get out there and meet the locals. Go to school and church functions and offer to sponsor a neighborhood sports team. Even if you just wind up supplying pies at your own expense, that good will can generate great buzz.
5. Make Your Giveaways Memorable
If you do partner with a local church or community organization, don't simply back up the truck and drop off the goods. Ask your most trusted and congenial staff members to stay and help make it a memorable experience for everyone. Bring along some company swag—pizza-shaped refrigerator magnets or pens and pencils with your logo are a nice touch. Hold a raffle for a free pizza party or sponsor contests to win other specialty pizzas. Your only limitation here is the extent of your creativity.
Once your customer count improves, make the most of it. Train your staff to up-sell every chance they get, offering drinks, appetizers, desserts and sides to go along with pizzas. Chances are your food costs are much lower on specialty items and other add-ons, so make sure your wait staff understands that. If you can get someone to spend $20 instead of $10, it just means all the effort you expended to bring in those customers was doubly effective.
What other ways are there to expand your marketing efforts? Give us your thoughts in the comments section!