Direct mail gives pizza restaurants a cost-effective method of efficiently reaching savings-hungry customers. News headlines insist that advertising is slumping, but smart marketers know that now is a crucial time to reach consumers. You can't fight economic uncertainty successfully with a cut in ad spending. What are the benefits of advertising through an economic downturn? The answer is simple, no one else is advertising. During times when our country's economy takes a dive, many businesses make hasty decisions to cut marketing costs. Evidence shows that cutting advertising budgets during an economic downturn can cause both an immediate and long-term decrease in profits.

Maintaining ad spending provides an opportunity for you to increase market share and even dominate the market. While competitors reduce advertising, businesses can seize the moment and continue marketing efforts, keeping brand identity and awareness "out there" for current and potential customers, who will view their product(s) as strong and enduring. Direct mail is an ideal solution because it is an economical, cost-effective way for businesses to maintain marketing efforts and stand out in today's cluttered media environment.

In fact, a well-timed direct mail campaign can reverse any threat of a downturn in your business. Directly targeting your local current and prospective customers will stimulate consumer confidence. Today's pizza lovers are on the go, watching their money, and hungry. What better way to encourage them to seek your business than by providing them with additional savings?

Consumers demand coupons. Proctor and Gamble conducted a test, eliminating coupons and instituting an everyday low-pricing policy. The result, consumers boycotted, petitioned and even held public hearings. Fighting for their "right" to save, consumers turned to Proctor and Gamble competitors who, ironically, reaped the benefits of the test, increasing their coupon redemption rates as much as 48 percent. According to the research, 85 percent of all consumers use some form of coupons. More than 48 percent of coupon users represent household incomes of $50,000 and up. Consumers redeem an average of five coupons per week.

The bottom line – coupons attract new customers, reward loyal customers and promote spending patterns. Why not include coupons with a well-designed direct marketing campaign?

Okay, you know your perfect advertising audience is out there, but how do you target them? Pizza Express in Belle, West Virginia, decided to launch a direct marketing campaign. "(Direct marketing) has increased my business," said Pizza Express owner, Cheryl Dean. "With each mailing we receive new customers, which we were not able to do using other forms of advertising." Ed Giuffrida, owner of Mr. G's Pizza 'N' Pasta in Wading River, N.J., runs a coupon once every eight weeks in his local Valpak mailer. His piece includes eight coupons on one insert, offering a variety of pizza combination offers as well as dollars-off discounts. "My most popular ones are the combos, offering a pizza and a side item," said Giuffrida.

Giuffrida has owned his pizzeria for more than 14 years. He has tried other forms of advertising, such as newspapers and local savings booklets, but local cooperative direct mail served him best. So much so that it is now his sole form of advertising.

"My current advertising plan performs four-to-one over other forms of advertising methods," said Giuffrida. Bill Freitas, president of Papa John's Pizza in Herndon, Va., thought that he made a good decision more than five years ago when he began using direct marketing and coupons as a part of his advertising campaign. He says it's still working today. "The strategic use of (direct mail) along with the integration of other marketing resources, has continued to increase sales," said Freitas. "It offers the right combination of frequency, quality, price and coverage."

Chris Garcia, owner of Franky's Pizza in North Bend, Wash., uses Valpak advertising and says the direct mail offer he gets the most response from is the "Two Dollars Off Any One Pizza." He usually puts out two different types of advertisements – a single flyer once a month, and a trifold flyer with the menu on the back every three months.

He also uses other forms of advertising, including newspaper, door hangings and bounce-back ads (which are basically his extra Valpak coupons). When he looks back at his sales numbers, he notices a spike that lasts about a week when his direct marketing campaign mails. He holds his own in a competitive market consisting of a community of 10,000 people, which includes four independent pizza restaurants, as well as a Papa Murphy's, Pizza Hut and Domino's. "I think that the key is to be consistent," said Garcia. "If people know where to find you, they'll look for you. If you place your message three or more times it's better than if you do it only once."

With postal rate increases, advertisers are concerned about the rising cost of direct mail marketing. When you mail your message in a cooperative envelope, like Valpak, postal increases are divided among all advertisers included in the mailing. Such advertising can save postage and help your business make money.

For pizza restaurant owners like Giuffrida, local co-op advertising more than pays for itself.

"On average, I get about 12 redemptions a day," said Giuffrida. "Over the course of a month, I receive anywhere from 300 to 500 coupons. That's an amazing amount of extra business."

A successful direct marketing campaign can provide your customers with great savings and offers and provides you with customers. Remember, when targeting current and prospective customers, keep your message clear and concise.

Ideas for key offers for pizzerias:

  • FREE Pizza – Buy One, Get One Free
  • $ OFF Pizza (Repeat Multiple Offers)
  • Low Price Point on Specific Pizzas
  • Low Price Point on Meal Deals

When designing inserts for your direct mail campaign, remember to include all relevant information, your business's name, address, phone number, logo and coupon expiration date (if applicable).

Here are some tips:

  • The simpler the look, the greater the impact.
  • Keep the layout simple and unclut-  tered, limiting copy to essentials only.
  • Lead offer should apply to a primary offer or service.
  • Highlight key areas – category, client name and offers.
  • Use of any art and graphics should frame the category, clients and offers.
  • Include a strong incentive offer t
  • attract the consumer's attention.
  • Use full-color photographs or clip art whenever possible.
  • Avoid too many graphic effects.
  • Display business name prominently.
  • Make company logo highly visible.
  • Four-color enhances eye appeal.
  • If your offer includes anything "free," display the word prominently.
  • Describe any restrictions clearly, including expiration dates, but try to avoid too many restrictions.
  • Be aware of seasonal factors.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency.