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The space shuttle lumbers off the launch pad loaded with 2.7 million pounds of fuel. Ten seconds into the flight it clears the launch tower at 100 miles per hour. Oh, one other point of interest – in the ten seconds it takes to get its massive 4.5 million pounds off the ground, it consumes over one million pounds of fuel!

That's right, it guzzles almost half its entire fuel supply – just to get off the pad. Just to clear the tower. Just to get…moving. So, what's the space shuttle got to do with a marketing budget?  It has a lot to do with it. Say you have a $5,000 marketing budget set aside (wishful thinking?). You will gain far more bang for your buck by spending most of it IMMEDIATELY!

I'm talking right now. Here's why. If you piddle around and spend a little "here and a little there," you may never get your business off the ground as it sits there without enough thrust to catch anyone's attention.

The rent, wages and bills go on month after month. The only thing that generates the money to pay them is cash-in-hand customers. These are customers that must be stolen from your competitors with (you guessed it) marketing dollars.

Here, let's look at Pizzeria X:

The light blue bars show sales results obtained by spending $1,000 a month on marketing for six months. The dark bars show the results of quick-starting your marketing with $5,000 in the first month – then spending just $1,000 a month after that.

The difference is astounding. Front loading your marketing in month number one will put you $60,000 ahead in gross sales in just six months because you have acquired six months worth of customers in the very first month by spending the necessary cash.

Okay, what "kind" of marketing? This question seems to perplex many business owners. Not quite sure where to put the money, they eventually throw it into an "all or nothing" campaign. Sometimes it works – often it's disastrous. And when marketing fails to produce, I've seen owners become convinced it's a waste of money.

If you've just opened, or just have dismal sales and need to get the ball rolling, you're going to need to burn some fuel (money). The more you spend, the more customers you will attract.

But let me add a note of caution:

Pounding out door hangers or junk mail with low-ball offers will bring you a quick shot of business. But, it brings you the wrong business. You do nothing but attract coupon clippers. Of course, coupon clippers are on a constant quest for the lowest price. So what seemed like wild, euphoric sales in the beginning quickly dissipates as your dose of coupons fades.

Now, you find yourself in the same boat as a heroin addict. Satisfaction only comes from a constant "fix."  In a nutshell, you have stepped aboard a nightmarish marketing carousel that is spinning out of control. If you stop, you can't pay the bills. If you stay, you position yourself forever as a "low-end" pizza place eking out a meager living. Chances are you'll make more money with a paper route.

With pizza being a very mature industry, there are very few (if any) markets left where you can just open your doors and start counting the money. Indeed, every single customer you gain will be at the expense of your competitors. Those customers don't come easy. It's time to put some money on the table.

$5,000 Quick-Fix Marketing Strategy Okay, here goes:

1. Letters.

This is exactly how I took my own pizza business from $3,000 a week to $1.6 million a year. I sent actual "letters" to my trade area. The letter explained why we were different than the fast-food pizza guys. The letter also made an offer to give us a try. But there was NO discounting. I offered a free salad, two liter and cheese-bread when they ordered any large pizza (at full price).

Yes, letters cost more than flyers and door hangers. In fact, they'll run you about fifty cents each with postage and a menu. But they'll pull about five times as many orders. Best of all, this approach does not bring out the coupon clipper crowd.

Pick 5,000 homes (or addresses) in your trade area. Mail 1,250 letters per week.

2. Thank you cards.

Picture for a moment: you've just received a letter from a local pizzeria. This letter explains the difference between them, and the fast-food pizza shops. The letter goes on to make a very compelling offer of a free salad, free 2-liter, and free cheese bread. Okay, you say, "I'll give them a shot." And you place an order.

Thirty minutes later, a sharp-dressed delivery driver is at your door with a hot pizza. You pay, and just as the driver hands you the change, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small envelope. He says, "The owner asked me to give this to you."

As you take the envelope, you notice it has YOUR name handwritten on it. When you open it says, "Dear Sheryl, Thank you for your order. Please use this for a free order of cheese sticks with your next order, Kim."

Mmmm – a thank you card from the owner. Nobody else does this. Cost? Twenty cents each. Cheap. Plus, it makes a huge "personal" impression. The "owner" took the time to write a personal "thank you." 

Thank you cards are really a "bounce-back" or box-topper in disguise.

3. Door Hangers.

Okay, as you mail letters to each of the 1,250 homes in your area, you'll want to follow up with door hangers. This is kind of a dragnet to snag the people who didn't respond to your letter. Your door hangers need to have the same offer as the letter. Three free items. Plus you can include one or two other offers. Now, let me make this clear: you are going to door hang the same exact houses you mailed the letters to – two weeks after the letters hit. And you're going to door hang these homes twice in a ten day period.

Why? Because your greatest and quickest results come from hitting the same area repeatedly. You must make several "impressions" on the same people, not just one impression on everybody. You'll be amazed at the breathtaking increase you'll get by doing this.

4. Postcards.

Finally, at the end of this first month you'll start sending postcards to your newfound customers. Just because they ordered once doesn't mean you "own" them. It just means you got the first date. Postcards are the cheapest investment you will ever make to keep your customers from wandering off. You can mail a customer one postcard every month of the year for about five bucks. After all the effort and expense you've invested to gain customers, postcards are your marketing "drip system" that keeps them loyal. Postcard offers don't have to have steep discounts either. They're just a reminder or incentive to re-order. One of the best pulling postcard offers I used was free wings with the order of a large pizza (food-cost – less than $1.50).

Out of your $5,000 marketing budget – you should still have around $1,000 sitting in the war chest (wait a minute weren't we spending all $5,000?) At this point (assuming you didn't go over budget) you'll want to start testing Money Mailer or Val-Pak to that same 5,000 home area. One thousand dollars ought to more than cover it.

3-2-1: Ignition… We Have Lift Off!

Now look what you've accomplished in just 30 days:

  • You have mailed a letter to "Mom" explaining why your pizzeria is different, and better than the fast-food places.
  • You've sent Mom a personalized "thank you" card.
  • Then you send Mom a postcard with another offer for the family.
  • You've followed up with door hangers.
  • On top of that, you have created enough "buzz" with all this contact that when your Val-Pak or Money Mailer shows up in their mailbox they have actually heard of you.

That will boost response by over 100 percent.

Let's go back to the space shuttle for a moment. Once it has momentum, it takes less and less fuel to go faster and faster. The bottom line is you need to burn some fuel quickly if you want your business to get off the ground. Then you can gradually cut back.

This is how the big players launch their pizzerias. They spend furiously in the beginning to saturate their customer base. Then they cut back – but always spend enough to protect their turf.

If you're just getting started – and you've spent all your money on pizza equipment, remodeling and paying off crooked building inspectors, you'd better check the limit on that credit card. This is no time to be shy with the marketing dollars.

If you'd like to get your PhD in killer pizza marketing and see how I took my pizza business from $3,000 a week to $1.6 million a year, visit my website right now and discover the tricks I used to clobber the big national chains.