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Summertime for many pizza operators means no football, the end of basketball season and Friday nights spent barbequing dogs over the hot coals instead of ordering a great pie. Last week at the Pizza Executive Summit, sporting my best attempt at a summer tan, I was asked about "key marketing strategies" for operators facing declining sales, higher costs, upcoming regulations and, of course, the summertime sales blues.

I couldn't shout it fast enough! "Go Mobile!" Now, "mobile" has become a great buzz word and I know every marketer is using it. Most agencies (who buy their platform from guys like me) like to act like they created the word. Bottom line, it is exploding but few know how to harness it or are scared to try it for several reasons, including cost.

Don't worry, the cost is less than a case of cheese and pays back faster than a new peel.

My customers in either my restaurant or the mobile marketing world know I truly love mobile. It's more than a buzz word for me and should be more than a tactic for your business. Use it as a core strategy, use it correctly, and get the right help along the way. Used properly it can change your business and you can affect the customer's behavior, while creating a win-win.

An example that I shared with the group was Father's Day. We all love Labor Day and the 4th, but let's be honest. Father's Day rocks when your birthday is six months away and you really want an iPad. So this Father's Day, like most holidays for my urban upscale pizzeria, we were expecting a slow day as compared to other Sundays. Our solution was to create a text promotion to help the weekend sales and celebrate Dads favorite dish -- great pizza.

When we do mobile promotions, we always follow a few rules. First, we keep it relevant, so that the offer is compelling to our desired audience. Next, keep it short term. For us, it was the big day only. This creates urgency and hopefully affects behavior. Also, prepare the staff.

"Buy one pizza, get one free when you show your text" was our message. It went out at 9 p.m. Saturday after dinner but in time to be on the list for Sunday. The response was outstanding. While our redemption was a little low by our normal standards, around 5 percent, our actual numbers were huge! Our cost of the text promotion was around $40, since we have a super-sized database (about 10 times industry averages), so you should count on $4-10 if you were doing it.

It more than paid for itself. We had an incremental customer count of more than 100 people that contributed to 20 percent of our sales on Father's Day! One in five customers who came to see us on that day was due to the text promotion.

Now, I know what you're saying, giving away a free pizza is horrible for my average check, but remember, this is Father's Day. No football means dad wants to be surrounded by loved ones and cold ones! Our average check on normal Sundays is about $23. The average check for the text redemptions was $20.67. So we traded about $2 in average check for 20 percent more business on one day. That's the kind of return we are talking about. That average check includes the discount for the pizza, so this tells us these guests spent almost their same amount on the trip, they just added on to their free pizzas. Finally, with pizza being such an economical item to give away, my total cost including food, of the promotion was about $1.25 per CHECK!

If you find your business having the summertime blues ... remember, "Go Mobile!" Follow these simple rules: Be relevant, keep it short, prepare the staff and measure results!

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Latest posts by Tim McCallum
Tim McCallum
All things mobile fuel Tim McCallum, president and CEO of Raze Media, a leading, cutting-edge mobile marketing solutions company. McCallum is also the owner and general manager of Vapiano, a unique Italian fast casual concept, in Mockingbird Station.
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