When asked, most pizza operators believe they are in the “pizza business.” Emphasis is placed on consistently creating the finest pizza, delivering the best service and keeping a clean restaurant.

Most operators can tell you more about the price of cheese or their current food cost than they can about how to sell their pizza. We all start out in this business for the love of the pie – setting out to convert the masses into believers that we serve the Holy Grail of Pizza.

“If you bake it, they will come…and eat” – our mantra. In reality, we are in the business of selling pizza. As wonderful as your food may be, nothing happens until it is sold. Selling and marketing are even more important with your catering profit center. Borrowing from Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, we must spend more time working “ON” our business rather than “IN” it. When you get stuck washing dishes for three hours, your worth is about $25. As good as you are on pots and pans; your operation only saves/makes that $25, not a penny more.

Investing those same three hours into high ROI marketing, like catering, can yield you returns in the thousands. As diligent as you have become in operating your pizza business, you need to invest at least one afternoon a week to learn, practice and perfect the art and science of selling and marketing your restaurant and catering business.

Catering represents your highest return on your marketing investment. I’ve routinely seen clients invest as little as $100 in a mailing for catering and bring in tens of thousands of dollars of jobs. I’ve always been a little lazy, but position it as efficient with those around me. My mantra at school was “Why study four hours for an A, when I could study thirty minutes and get a B.” I want to make you the most efficient pizza marketing force on the planet.

With that mission and assumption that you have three hours or less to invest in sales and marketing, my job is to get you focused in the right catering direction. Logically, the largest catering jobs will come from the largest employers and non-profit groups in your area. I like to maintain a “Top 100” list. This is a list of the 100 prospects that have the ability to book the largest events with me. It takes the same effort to get a company that employs 50 to book an event with you as it does to get a factory that employs 1,000 to book a safety luncheon. Developing your “Top 100” list can be done in an afternoon. Ask yourself what type of companies you would like to have as clients.

For my operation, I focused on the hundred largest employers in our metro area. You might decide you want to do business with medium sized employers or focus on a niche or two. Armed with your target, you must now develop that list. I use goleads.com or zapdata.com to acquire my business names. You can use a chamber directory or do some research at your local library.

Once the list is inputted in your computer, hire one of your key employees to call each company and get the decision maker’s name. Letters addressed to the decision maker yield higher responses than those addressed to “Company Event Planner.” With your list completed, you now have your strongest marketing weapon. I would mail your “Top 100” monthly with specials, menus and offers of menu sampling. In real estate it is referred to as farming your market. Each month you want to change the format of your mailing. Post cards, 3-D mailers, letters and flyers are all great to rotate in the mix. You don’t want your prospect to get immune to your marketing message by seeing the same mailer each month.  I have invested as little as fifty cents to as much as five dollars per mailer. At a high of five hundred dollars in marketing cost per month, one large event more than recoups your investment. And I promise you five hundred dollars invested in any other medium won’t.

Referrals are another great way to attract your “Top 100.” Pass around your list to clients and friends and see if there is a referral you can tap into. Make sure and reward those that help you book catered events. A couple of dinners for two go a long way to priming the referral pump.

Concentrating on your “Top 100” an hour or two a week could add 10 percent or more to your bottom line, because this highly targeted group has the ability to provide you with large transactions. The first time I developed my “Top 100” I invested $100 in mailings and picked up over $40,000 worth of catering within nine months. Those initial clients from my super-targeted list have earned me in excess of $250,000 over the years.

Every day you have a choice to make. Will you get bogged down in $8 an hour work or choose to invest a little of your time each week into sales and marketing. Those extra sales translate into owning a real business and not just a job. Focus on your “Top 100” and see your profits rise!

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