Sept. 8, 2003
Norman Rockwell's "Rosie" Sells For a Record — $4.9 Million a good sign for pizza sales?
It was a smallish place. A picture of Elvis. An American flag. And a soda fountain that dated back to the '40s. Fans whirred over a mustard yellow counter. And, the wooden back-bar had seen better days.
A friendly face offered me a newspaper. The lady next to me said "Hi." And, the coffee was goooood.
I pondered this "throwback" as I sat there (at that mustard-yellow counter). Employees were buzzing about like bees. The persistent crackling of eggs and bacon echoed from the grill.
I found myself feeling at home here. Very comfortable. Almost like family.
Why? I asked myself ...
What was so special about this place? No uniforms. No corporate logo. No "slick" McFranchise look. Nope. Just "mom and pop". And, it emanated from every corner. Floor to ceiling. Front to back.
The place had been here since dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Then it hit me. Its wonderful story was oozing from this old place. The owners hadn't tried to "keep up" with the times (except maybe for the mustard-yellow counter top dating back to the '60s).
Nah - this place was just being itself. The neighborhood place — where everyone knows your name. Yep, it even had Polaroids of customers tacked to a wall. This place was as comfortable as a pair of old sneakers.
Come to find out — the Blue Plate Diner has been around since the turn of the century. And, I'm not talking about the last one.
So, have I taken leave of my sanity? Is there a funny farm in my future? How does the Blue Plate Diner relate to pizza marketing?
Here's the connection.
If you have one store, maybe two. If you're running a mom-and-pop shop. If you have mustard-yellow counter tops. Then step outside, look up at the sky and smile. You have something no corporation will ever have.
You have the essential ingredients to become an integral part of your neighborhood. That favorite place down the street. That familiar old friend. A link to humanity. Embrace it. Be proud of it ...
Run with it.
So, instead of sending "ads" to your customers telling them of the latest "special," mail your "neighbors" a letter and "tell" them about it. Send them a "Thank You" card every now and then. Ask them about their kids, their dog, their vacation.
Shake their hands. Often.
Don't hide your "mom and popness". Flaunt it.
Well, I've got to go now. I'm finishing my fourth cup of coffee here at the Blue Plate (I usually have three). And, I'm reluctantly getting up to leave this "Norman Rockwell" slice of Americana behind. It's time to step back into the hustle and bustle. But, I'll be back. And ...
... You can take that to the bank!
So, what can you do to be that favorite little place down the street?
1. Hang pictures of your customers in the lobby.
2. Meet and greet as many neighbors as you can.
3. Call people and do nothing, but tell them you appreciate their business. Don't ask how the last order was. And don't tell them about a special you have. Just say, "Thank you."
4. Mail letters and "tell" them about a particular special. Sign your name to it and put your name in the return address field — not the name of the store.
5. Have drivers hand out "Thank You" cards with deliveries. Use these in lieu of box-toppers. Put the customer's name on the envelope — and the card. Offer free cheese bread or something on the next delivery (I've seen 82 percent returns on these).
6. Have elementary school tours where the kids can make their own pizza.
7. Don't try to look too "slick".
Norman Rockwell's paintings graced the covers of the Saturday Evening Post 318 times, starting in 1916. They captured the innocence of a long lost time. A time many people long for. I always say, "Sell people what they want to buy."
More than ever, people want a connection to humanity. To share a meal with their kids. A friend to talk to. Something "familiar" and unchanging.
A weathered back-bar. A mustard yellow counter. A picture of Elvis ...
Next month I'll tell you why you just might want to consider investing some of your marketing budget — in your employees.