Print still relevant to the pizza business
During a discussion at the recent Pizza Executive Summit, I made a disparaging comment about door-hanging as a means of marketing a pizzeria.
 
Actually, the phrase I used was "waste of time." E-mail was the future of marketing, I said.
 
But after the summit, a few operators and vendors challenged me to rethink my opinion of traditional print marketing methods. Used effectively, they said, there was no more effective way of increasing sales and gaining new customers.
 
So in the interest of fairness, I polled a number of operators and asked them about their marketing efforts and what they found to be effective. And after considering the feedback, I may have to indulge in a slice of humble pie.
 
While e-mail marketing is a valuable component of any pizzeria's marketing campaign, it is by no means the only solution, operators told me.
 
"One advertising medium does not produce results; it is a combination of everything working together," said Scott Iversen, director of marketing and franchise development with Topper's Pizza. "It is all about impressions. The more times we can put a Topper's logo, a Topper's product or a Topper's person in front of someone, the better off we are going to be."
 
Topper's engages in a lot of guerilla-type marketing, particularly doorhanging, Iversen said.
 
"It's really a part of our culture as far as what the local stores are doing," he said. "All of our franchise locations have doorhanging maps that break the area into certain sections, and they are out there doing it every single week."
 
According to the 2009 Pizza Industry Study, 40 percent of operators ranked direct mail coupons as very important to their marketing efforts, while 32 percent ranked them as important. Only 15 percent ranked direct-mail coupons as not important.
 
When it comes to box-toppers, 40 percent of operators ranked them as very important while 35 percent ranked them as important. Only 13 percent of operators said box toppers were not important to their marketing efforts.
 
"There are still some cases where email just can't reach prospective customers, so we use door hangers to hit our targeted delivery zones," said Mindy Kaplan, director of marketing with the 30-unit Lou Malnati's Pizza in Chicago.
 
Latino pizza brand Pizza Patron relies almost entirely on print marketing to attract new customers, company officials said.
 
"We allocated all of our resources towards print advertising using items like our Pizza Peso coupons good for $1 off any purchase, box-toppers, door hangers and direct mail," said Andrew Gamm, director of brand development with Pizza Patron. "Our advertising strategy for 2009 was to target the neighborhoods within a 1.5 to 2 mile radius around each of our stores. We have seen great response to our direct mail efforts this year due in large part to the strength of the offers we have been able to develop."
 
And Domino's also relies on print for new customer acquisition, officials from that company said.
 
"We still consider print to be a critical component of our marketing mix," said Rob Weisberg, Domino's VP of print & precision marketing. "We see digital marketing growing but do not believe it will replace print."
 
Looking at the numbers
 
Sandy Lechner, CEO of media company Synergy Media Team, outlined the potential returns of a well-orchestrated campaign combining print-based and online marketing.
 
Lechner's plan, using the fictitious Sandy's Pizza as a model, involves obtaining readily-available demographic data for the neighborhood around the pizzeria and sending coupons for a free pizza to 1,000 targeted households within a 3-mile radius.
 
Recipients of the mailing would be directed to a Web page where they could print out a coupon after filling out a brief survey and providing some personal data.   "I can tell you with that campaign I am going to see between a 13 and 18 percent response rate," Lechner said. "If I mail out 1,000 cards, I am going to see between 130 and 180 responses every single time."
 
Such a campaign might cost around 73 cents per mailing, he said. That, combined with the food cost associated with giving away free pizzas, could bring the total cost of the campaign to around $1,000.
 
"So if you get 130 new customers in and your normal check average is $15 but they spend an average of $7 (because of the offer), there is your $1,000," he said.
 
If the operator retains 45 of those people as regular customers and they come in 3 times a month to spend an average of $20 each time, the net result of the campaign would be more than $30,000 in additional sales over the course of a year, he said.
 
Even a single return visit each month by those 45 customers would result in a $10,000 sales gain.
 
"That is real ROI," he said "You can't get those numbers with e-mail, Facebook or Twitter."
story continues below...  
 

 
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Operators do say they see a shift in the way pizzerias are marketed, though. Pizza Patron, for example, plans to increase its online expenditures, and 2010 will be the first year they include online marketing in their advertising budget, Gamm said.
 
 "The ideal situation is when all of the pieces work in concert to deliver uniform brand messaging across all customer touch-points," he said  "Online and print share a common driving purpose: to send customers to Pizza Patrón whether online or in person."
 
The future of print as a marketing tool is difficult to predict, he said.
 
"Who knows what the next twenty years will bring?" he said. "Less than 10 years ago, I didn't pay a single bill online and I purchased all of my clothing at retail stores. Today, I pay all of my bills online and make most of my personal clothing purchases on the Internet with great satisfaction."
 
Sandy Lechner's tips for effective print marketing
  • Every customer should leave your restaurant with a menu and a magnet
  • Always mail "Sorry" cards to any customer who had a problem with their order
  • Mail "We miss you" cards to lapsed users
  • Donate coupon books for charity fundraisers – 500 coupon books might cost $100 to print but could result in 500 new customers
  • When a driver makes a delivery, have them door-hang the houses on each side of that delivery. If it's an apartment building, have them door-hang the apartments they pass.
  • Mark doorhangers with a code to identify the driver who passed them out. Collect the ones redeemed by customers and have a drawing at the end of the month for prizes
 

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