OK, before I start, let me say upfront, this is not a political piece.
The mood of the country is foul and vocal groups on both the political left and the political right are growing louder. The Tea Party and the Occupiers have much in common; although to see it, you may have to use fun house mirrors.
There is much anger that big government and big business have conspired to un-level the playing field. Bailouts, crony capitalism, too big to fail; these are the common complaints of the Occupiers and the Tea Party. How can you use these headlines and this frame of mind to drive your business and shift customer loyalty?
Brag about being a small business
One sign at the protests really says it all, FOR SALE – America.
This defines the mood, without politicizing it, people are angry at “Big Business” and local businesses that differentiate themselves can gain support and loyalty from local customers. Depending on your politics, personal style and humor, a sign on your door that says “Not Too Big to Fail – Please Eat Here” will elicit laughs and support.
This defines the mood, without politicizing it, people are angry at "Big Business" and local businesses that differentiate themselves can gain support and loyalty from local customers. Depending on your politics, personal style and humor, a sign on your door that says "Not Too Big to Fail – Please Eat Here" will elicit laughs and support.
Other signs can be more subtle:
"Small Business and Proud of It"
"Local Business, Supporting Our Town"
"We're hiring local young adults and teens to keep our town employed."
"Supporting our Local Economy – One Pizza at a Time"
You get the idea, wear your local roots proudly and promote to your current customers and prospects. Locals that support national chains may think twice about where their food dollar really goes.
Buy local food from local farmers
The "buy local" movement plugs in to everything hot for consumers. Consumers want to know where their food originates. They want to see local farmers survive and thrive. Local means fresh and fewer truck miles, so buying local taps the green and sustainable movements. All of these trends support the Occupiers and Tea Party anger without the slightest hint of politics. Another sign at the rallies said, "The Police are one layoff from being on our side." This is the fear that many of us feel today; we are one phone call or email from losing our job. Tap into this fear, not by promoting fear, but by suggesting a positive solution; buy local from small local business.
Remember to tell the local story. We buy our peppers, mushrooms and onions from Farmer Joe in Smalltown. We pay a little more, but we think freshness is worth it and so will you. It is true you may pay a little more for local produce, be proud of it, promote it and raise your prices 25 cents; your customers will support it.
Support local vendors
You may use national vendors, but some of your vendors are local. Tell your customers. If you have a stack of carry out menus on your counter, place a sign that says, "We print locally with Fred's Printing in this shopping center." Get Fred to supply business cards with a 10 percent off message. Fred can promote your service, too.
Another great promotion is to choose a local school and give them a donation for school supplies. A tasteful message in your shop that says, "We donate a portion of our proceeds to Fairfield Elementary." Of course, you might start a lunch program with the school or gain catering for teacher's meetings or PTA night. Many local promotions are possible.
The attitude in the country is angry. Many of our fellow citizens are out of work. Young people do not see the American dream as brightly as it once seemed. Waving signs and marching in the streets will not build your business. Take control of the mood and the circumstances, and turn it to the positive to gain your operation publicity and hopefully new customers. Keep the faith; we are all in this together. Use the power to Occupy Pizza Street for good and good will happen for you.
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.