Stopping customer erosion

 
Oct. 1, 2006
Businesses large and small battle an eroding customer base. It's inevitable patrons will leave town, switch pizza preferences, get sidetracked by other restaurant options and, well, pass away. To keep the business afloat, those clients have to be replaced, which is no small task in a highly competitive marketplace.
 
One way is to grab new residents as they move to town, prime time, marketing experts say, to win their appreciation. Without ties to past preferences, new movers not only must find new pizzerias to patronize, they're commonly eager to do so.
 
"Taking someone
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Moving Targets

  Moving Targets

who's got a clean slate in a new town and saying to them, 'Let me wow you and turn you in to a customer,' can work well," said Jay Siff, co-founder of Moving Targets, in Perkasie, Pa. "Research says that 42 percent of people who move change their brand of toothpaste. Why do that? You can find Crest at every store in the country.
 
"The point is these people are incredibly receptive to change in their lives."
 
Chuck Airhart said he sees plenty of new movers to his town of Strausborg, Ohio, whose population is just 1,500. "A free pizza with no strings attached" is the mail-offer bait he uses to lure them to Kraus' Pizza, where he believes they stay for a long time to come. Moving Targets finds them, he said, and he keeps them there. "We have no clue where these people move from, but as long as they move into the city, it gets tracked and we know about it."
 
Airhart said direct mail accounts for nearly all the marketing he does. He prefers it because the response card customers are required to bring to his pizzeria confirms the method works and provides him with data for future mailings.
 
"It's up to you. You don't have to have (Moving Targets)," he began. "You can spend money in the newspapers, but you can't track it and see whether it works. To me, that's just dollars out the window."
 
Be nice to the newcomer
 
Siff said unconditional offers like a free pizza typically are more successful at drawing new customers than purchase-based offers such as a "buy one, get one free" deal. Not only is the customer not obligated to buy anything, Siff said it's perceived as more friendly, "like how your neighbor might bring you a pie when you move in."
 
Kamron Karington, a former pizza operator turned marketing consultant, said new mover offers also should be personalized. No matter the person's comfort level in a new place, it's always safe to assume they'd prefer to be recognized as someone other than "Occupant" when they move in.
 
"It gives the customer a sense that you are interested in them personally," said Karington, author of the "Black Book of Pizzeria Marketing." "It's friendly to greet someone by their first name. They don't expect that."
 
Where possible, Karington recommends the welcome letter be signed personally by the owner. "That really stands out and gets their attention."
 
While some marketers suggest reaching out to new customers with a something unique such as a house specialty no competitor has, Airhart said experience has taught him to keep the offer approachable to everyone: a
 
traditional pizza.
 
"These people here, they're back in time and don't try anything new," he said, laughing. "They know what they like."

Topics: Marketing , Operations Management


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