Pizza marketing that makes money!

The difference between being a good pizza operation and a great pizza operation is learning how to aggressively market your restaurant all 365 days of each year! That's where a good marketing plan comes in. Begin with a good list of potential customers. If you deliver, you already have a list. If you don't, start building one now.

Statistics show that of all the people who buy pizza, 40 percent, or four out of 10 people will purchase times a three month, 27 percent of these people will buy twice a month and 33 percent will buy once a month. Now think about it, the habits of these individuals will not change unless you give them a reason to change, and to do that consistently you must automate the process of marketing your pizzeria.

Get The Local Businesses

John McNulty, Shakey's Pizza licensee in El Monte, California is a great example. "After all these years, it's nice to reinvigorate your love for your business," says John. McNulty's family has owned and operated the Shakey's Pizza restaurant since 1964. "I purchased the restaurant from my father in 1989. We weren't able to stretch our marketing dollars and were buying fewer ads.

"But all that has changed," John says. "I have hired a woman to handle our neighborhood marketing. She makes contacts with local businesses and opens the doors for potential catering, morning meetings, business luncheons and delivery opportunities.

"By marketing to businesses, we have already hooked up with a huge car dealership and are delivering food once or twice a week for luncheons and meetings," John says. "We have lots on the horizon such with our Uniform Day event. We've invited recruiters from all the armed services as well as the local fire and police departments. They will each set up recruiting stations in our parking lot. We're advertising through the local high schools. It feels good to be a part of the community."

Lost and Lazy Customers

Within 30 days, begin marketing using your database. Send out bounce-backs, birthday offers, box toppers and other special offers. Be aware that simple targeted offers show the best returns. You must establish an on-going marketing program that delivers a consistent message and builds customer loyalty.

If the customer has not returned after 60 days, send a "We Miss You" half price offer or a 2-for-1 offer. These customers may be ordering from your competitor and you want them back.

After 90 days, send out a more generous offer. Something like, "You buy the pizza and we'll provide all the trimmings absolutely FREE." List all your trimmings on the offer like breadsticks with sauces, salads, your choice of beverage and a dessert pizza.

If these customers have not bought from you for 90 days, then they are probably looking elsewhere for pizza. When a customer buys from you for a period of time and then stops, you need to market to get them back. This is called marketing to "lost" or "lazy" customers and the goal is to get them back.

After 120 days, send out an absolutely "FREE" offer with no strings attached�eat in, pick up or delivery. Another way to contact these "lost customers" is to make a personal appearance at their residence or business. If you are making a delivery in that particular area, plan to stop at the home, apartment or business in that area just to let them know that you are there, that you care about them and that you would like them back. You might even deliver a FREE 6-inch pizza to tantalize their taste buds.

Birthday Clubs and Automated Systems

Many pizzerias try to do this kind of marketing using a manual systems to organize and track results. They quickly find that the marketing is successful, but it requires more time than they can spare to keep it going. Even the marketing modules of popular POS systems don't seem to provide an effective solution.

Tom Gray, owner of two Jet City Pizza pick-up and delivery restaurants in Redmond and Seattle, Washington, was looking for a way to help his restaurants reach their full potential. "Eventually, I want to expand, but I don't want to make the mistake of growing before I have fully developed the potential in my existing locations."

Tom already had a POS system that was supposed to run a birthday club and other promotions, but found that it was too hard to track and took up too much of his time. So, he began using a database program especially for restaurant marketing.

"We are (now) saving time by having our customers sign up on our website. Now it's easy to track. Our birthday club is going well. Twice a month I get a report that tells us who should get a birthday postcard. We developed a bright and attractive postcard that has a pizza with birthday candles on it. The response has been good," adds Tom.

Bounce-Back Certificates and VIP Clubs

The birthday club is just one of several successful programs being used by Gray. To increase business in January, which has typically been a slower month, Tom created a bounce-back certificate. During the month of December, every customer was given a sealed envelope that contained a bounce-back certificate. If customers brought the envelopes back during January, they would get to open them and receive a discount on their purchases. Discounts ranged from 15 to 100 percent. "I was very pleased with the rate of return; it was much higher than other campaigns we have done in the past. We will certainly do that again in the future," says Tom.

Tom has also implanted his own version of a VIP club, calling it the Very Important Pizza Eater Club. His employees tape an invitation onto every pizza box, inviting customers to go to the company's website and sign up to become VIP members. They are told that as soon as they sign up; they will get a free cheese pizza and start receiving other valuable certificates.

"Our goal is not to compete with all the other pizza restaurants in our area. Our pizza is gourmet and so we need to attract people who want a top-quality pizza. I feel like we're working better and smarter."

Let Employees Do Your Marketing

Let me emphasize that next to email, door hanging is by far the most effective and inexpensive way that you can distribute marketing materials. Door hanging needs to be planned in every market segment around your restaurant. You need to use a map and systematically cover all of the zip codes in the one to three mile radius around your restaurant, and track the results of this activity. Pay your marketing individuals or drivers based on their results. Each marketing piece needs to have an expiration date and a way to identify which employee distributed it.

The missing link is the ability to execute. Pizzeria owners' time is filled with urgent tasks and decisions, tasks that take away the time for organized and consistent marketing. That is why a good marketing software program is so important. Set up each marketing campaign in the software, and let the software do most of the work.

Parker Greenman of Papa Leos understands the importance of marketing software. "There's no magic cure that will bring people through your doors, but with a little extra effort I'm already seeing some great things happening," says Parker.

In February, Parker held a successful Valentine's Day coloring contest. Preceding the contest, his employees personally handed every child that came in a form and an invitation to participate in the contest. Parker also dropped off the forms at local schools, where several grades participated as a class. The response was amazing.

"Not only were there grand prizes, but also every child who entered got a free pizza." He continues, "We got tons of new customers from that one campaign alone." Even after including the cost of the pizzas, this type of marketing is extremely profitable.

Parker has also seen dozens of new customers come to his stores through an employee challenge program that he developed. After printing up $3 discount certificates, Parker challenged his employees to give them to friends and acquaintances. The certificates say, "You have a friend at Papa Leo's" and have a space for the employee to sign his/her name. The contest is a race to see which employee gets the most certificates redeemed within a three-week period. That employee will win a crisp $100 bill.

Once customers come into the store, they are invited to join the MVP club. When customers sign up, they fill out a card that captures their data. As a reward, they get an instant $5 gift certificate and free pizzas on their birthdays. Since starting the program, Parker is seeing 50 to 60 customers join the MVP club every week.

Diversify your marketing, and track your responses. The main thing is to have a a marketing program in place. You can't just sit back and wait for customers to come to you, you have to go after them. Until next time.