The questions never seem to get easier in our business, do they? We had to dig back a little bit in our history to see what marketing efforts worked for us when we were a young brand. Obviously, PMQ readers are familiar with our current strategies. La Nova started as a gas station with one pizza oven in 1957, and we remember what it was like to have to cut into our own pockets to market the brand. Hopefully, these ideas will be able to help you grow your market share.

I believe you need to sit back and think about what percentage of sales you are willing to devote to marketing your brand. Our industry averages are between 2 percent and 10 percent. As we all know, when you are fighting for business, no one can afford a 10 percent marketing budget. No chance. So I would like to give you a few ideas of what we used when we were at the 2 percent level or even better, before we spoke of budgets and percentages. Some call it guerilla marketing, others term it as street attack, we feel like it is best to use the term as "going back to the basics".

I think the most consistent idea that has survived the test of time is the door hanging and doing mailbox flyers that most pizzerias do when they start their business. Unfortunately, when we start to get busy and the tills are ringing, we go away from that simple solution to brand strengthening. I constantly talk to operators that say, "We used to go door to door." I am amazed that people get away from it. Even if you take your menu alone, without discounts, and work that strategy in off hours, you will see an impact. You don't have to create a discount to your trade in order for it to be effective. When I order pizza during travel, it is always the business that has the most offerings that gets my business, not the cheapest or most discounted offering. With your full menu, you give yourself the ability to hit a wider market base because they display all of your offerings, not only the deals you are offering at the time.

Another idea, that is a little more time consuming, but effective, is to reach out to your existing customer base. I suggest taking 10 customers that you have done business with that week, and contact them to discuss their satisfaction level. As a reward for their time, an offer of a marginal discount for their time is a nice incentive. Not only will a customer respect your concern for them, but they will not forget your reward for their time. No one likes telemarketers. If you approach them as a concerned business owner, rarely will they be apprehensive about taking a moment to tell you how they feel. You get two benefits for this sacrifice. Not only will you get a real feel for what you need to do to increase customer satisfaction, but also you re-stimulate your existing customer activity. If you give them a dollar off of their next order for their time, you can recycle business.

Lastly, I would like to suggest what we feel at La Nova is an integral part of our low-cost marketing efforts: the suggestive sell. Our phone staff is instructed to always suggest an additional option, or item that the customer on the phone has not asked for. It is a bit of a different system than we see a lot of other pizzerias use. We do not run a deal of the month or a deal of the day. We look at that customers existing order and look for an additional item fit that works for that order. If our customer orders pizza alone, we suggest wings. If the customer orders pizza, wings, and soda, we offer a dessert option. It takes away from the generic feel of the offer, and hopefully lets the customer feel comfortable about the additional item. This takes time to train your staff to effectively administer this system, but when in place, it is a very effective way to increase your ticket average.

I understand each of us deals with different market conditions and staff issues. These are not magic solutions that guarantee growth. They are simple, cost-effective ways that stimulate growth. It always comes down to quality products, great staff, and customer service. Even then, there is no guarantee of success. As always, we want to extend our best wishes for your success and we hope that these ideas can be of assistance to you. Thank you for taking time out to better our industry.


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