MARKETING: Before you open, know your USP

July 21, 2003

Kamron Karington is a marketing specialist and former owner of two pizzerias. He is the author of "The Black Book: Your Guide to Creating Staggering Profits In Your Pizza Business."

Okay. There I was, minding my own business, when Steve Coomes (he's the editor of this site) e-mails me and writes:

"I just visited a couple of guys who just opened a new pizza shop. They've done several things right (product is good, systems are pretty good), but they've leapt into this deal without a clear marketing plan.

Any chance you can boil down some of your ideas into one column that basically says, "When you start, at the very minimum, do these three things ... or whatever the number would be."

Hmmm. The first thing an operator should do with his or her marketing, huh?

OK, here it is. Right here. Right now. The absolute first thing you need to do before you spend one thin dime on marketing, you need to have ... a killer USP -- a Unique Selling Proposition. This is what makes you stand out from your competition, sets you apart from the crowd and makes people choose your pizza instead of someone else's.

Your USP is so important, in fact, that you shouldn't even sign a lease or buy equipment until you know what your USP is!

And, believe me "Best Pizza in Town" is NOT a USP. It is a slogan (and a corny one at that).

A USP is what makes you "unique." After all, anybody can scream "Best Pizza in Town," but guess what?

Kamron Karington

Nobody can say "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza," except Papa John's, because Papa John's owns it. Everybody thinks of them when they hear that.

The same goes for FedEx: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there over night!" But back to pizza. Remember, "Delivered in 30 minutes or it's free?" That USP launched Domino's Pizza.

A great USP takes the vast details of your business and product and boils them down to a powerful sentence, and in some cases two. It must be clear, concise, and forceful. It must "sell" your product, not just sound "cool."

Domino's created "urgency" with its 30-minute guarantee. Papa John's creates "desire" -- after all its claim of "better" implies everyone else's is "worse."

So, what's your USP? What do customers think about you when placing an order for pizza? Better yet, what to you want them to think? Why should they call you instead of someone else? What is so special about you?

Remember, "Best Pizza in Town" ain't it.

By the way, one of the craziest USP's I ever saw was ... "Worst Pizza in Phoenix!" It's nutty to be sure, but think about it: While everyone is screaming "Best," this operator does the opposite. This same approach worked wonders for a pretzel maker in Coney Island many years ago, making them the number-one pretzel seller on the Boardwalk. Their sign said: "Worst Pretzels in Town!"

Is your USP low price? How low? Can you back it up? (We will beat the lowest price by $2 or you get it free).

Are you putting out "high-end" pizza? My USP was "The Best Pizza You've Ever Had -- Or, Your Money Back -- Every Penny!" So, not only did I claim "best," I went further and backed it with a money-back guarantee.

Develop a powerful Unique Selling Proposition that makes people think of you -- only! Live up to it. And, put it on everything: menus, flyers, door hangers, letters -- everything!

Keep the promise

Enforce your USP with an "Iron-Clad Guarantee!" A strong guarantee is what's known in marketing as "risk reversal." Instead of trying to persuade a potential prospect to fork over his hard earned money to "try you out," you promise him that if he's disappointed for any reason whatsoever, you will refund his money with no hassles!

To make my point, put yourself in the customer's shoes and decide which of the following businesses would get your money. They are identical in every way -- except for what's on their front doors.

Tom's Pizza -- No checks. No refunds.

Tom's Pizza

Tom's Pizza -- Your complete satisfaction guaranteed -- or your money back!

When you put your guarantee out front, on menus, on flyers, on door-hangers -- you are reassuring people that they are not taking a financial chance on you. And, at the same time you are sending a strong subconscious message that your product must be good or, you could not offer such a strong guarantee.

If you do not guarantee your product, I can guarantee you are missing sales.

Tell it to the world

Tell people clearly what your USP is, and then tell them about your 100 percent-satisfaction guarantee. Then ... give them free pizza!"

I know. You're freaking out about this one, but ... giving away free pizza to qualified potential customers is the cheapest way to advertise. And, there's a very diabolical reason for this: it invokes the "reciprocity" obligation that binds 99 percent of all human beings. Give humans a gift, and they feel obligated to repay that kindness. This is a deep-seated human characteristic that evolved with civilization. If Grog gave you some of his food. You "owed" him some of yours. That way everyone was pulling for the same cause: survival of the group.

Direct marketers use this today. They'll send you "free" address labels with your name and address on them -- then launch into their pitch for a donation for starving children.

Anyway, back to giving away pizza. It will cost you no more than $3 to hand someone a free pizza. But don't hand them to just anybody. Send a postcard to 500 homes around your store that reads:

Can I Bake You a Pizza and Give it to You FREE?

Hi, this is Tom over at Tom's Pizza. I just realized my lifelong dream of having my own pizza shop. And now that I've got the doors opened, I'd for love you to stop by and let me bake you your favorite pizza.

But, here's the catch ... I won't let you pay me. That's right. I want to give you your first pizza - FREE!

That way you can treat your family to a great dinner, try us out and save some money at the same time.

Please stop by any time this week -- and please ask for me -- Tom. And, I'll bake you the tastiest pizza you've ever had.



Trust me. You'll get plenty of takers with that. And here's what you'll accomplish: You'll get lots of people trying your pizza. You'll keep them from shopping the competition (which ultimately will hurt them). And, you'll create an "obligation" with those who got the free pizza. They will be highly inclined to order from you again.

Compare this to spending money on flyers, door hangers and mailers that ask people to quit buying from the pizzeria they always buy from, and to risk their money on this new place. It's hard enough to change people's habits and routines. But, it's even harder when you ask them to take the all the risk, and spend their money to find out whether they will like your pizza.

So let's summarize:

* Tell them why your pizza is different with your USP.

* Guarantee them they will not be disappointed.

* Give them their first pizza FREE.

* Make sure that doing business with you is a greased slide -- easy to do. There's no risk to them and it will put you on the "smart" fast track.

Once, right before lunchtime, I took 10 free pizzas to a large business I knew ordered from Papa John's a lot. And over the next three months they ordered more than $3,600 in pizza from us!

That's what I call a successful giveaway.

Other articles by Kamron Karington ...

* MARKETING: Upselling is both an art and a mind game
* MARKETING: How to make your advertising 2,400% more profitable
*MARKETING: 'Lazy' customers will turn 'a 180' on the 30/60/90 plan

Topics: Marketing

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