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When I was a kid, the day after Labor Day was back to school day. In many communities in the country, including where I live in Northern California, school begins in mid-August. Doesn't seem fair to cut summer short, but that's another topic.

Back to school and cooler weather signals a return to work and the beginning of plans and the budget process for next year. As the days shorten, expectations shift, customers are on a more regular schedule and employees are more focused. In short, we go back to basics. Here are a few back to basics strategies:

Find out what customers want. In a saturated business like pizza, price seems to be what customers want. But there are other important needs as well; service, new menu items, value and cleanliness. Ed Koch, a previous NYC mayor, was famous for asking ordinary citizens, "How am I doing?" Simple market research will produce astonishing results. Ask your customers what they want. There are many easy online surveys as well as direct engagement over the counter.

Establish a clear Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Determine what you do that is singular to your company. Stand out in your uniqueness. Create messages that communicate exactly what you do that is different and better. If consumers have unmet needs, your USP may motivate them to become your customer.

Sell benefits not features and advantages. Customers don't buy ½" drill bits because they have tungsten tips. Customers buy ½" drill bits because they want ½" holes. The attributes of a product are its features. (i.e. Made with gluten-free dough). The advantages of a product are what make it better. (We taste tested and 80 percent of customers liked our new gluten-free dough more). Benefits create buying behavior. (Our new gluten-free dough makes a family night out that everyone will enjoy). Resist the temptation to tell your "story" rather than communicate benefits that customers want to buy.

Use your database wisely. The biggest hidden asset in your business is your database. Who are your current customers? Who have you lost? Who have you lost recently? Who are your prospects? What market segments do you miss? Identify and target different forms of communication for these "segments" within your list. Today's tools allow you to send multiple messages swiftly and economically.

Excite and inspire your current customers. It is cheaper to sell more to current customers than find new ones. Motivate current customers with exciting new menu items, rich offers, loyalty cards or "bring a friend" programs. Prospects are other restaurants loyal customers. It takes a big basket of goods and services to make them change.

The fall season is here and school is open. Stay focused on a strategy to build business and keep centered on the basics ... it is elementary.

Wishing you success in pizza – Ed

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Edward Zimmerman
    19846304
    thank you
  • Rich Leivenberg
    19796975
    Excellent advice. As simple as A-B-C.
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Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.
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