Social Media is NOT the Answer to Your ProblemsRecently, I came across this request from a pizza parlor owner on one of the business mentoring groups I participate in.

I’ve tweaked it for privacy:

I own a pizza parlor in a busy food court in a Chicago mall, and I’m trying my best to keep afloat. I think social media is going to be the key to my success. I want to become a social media maven and use it to advertise for free. Any social media mentors willing to help me, please get in touch.

Unfortunately, this business owner is under the influence of social media.

He believes it is the answer to all his problems though he has no understanding of how it works.

As a result, he is jumping on the desperate wagon and is unable to look at his business objectively.

He’s forgotten how to make good business decisions.

This particular pizza parlor is located in a busy mall. Busy mall equals hungry shoppers and foot traffic.

So I’m wondering why he would choose to ignore the people walking past his pizza parlor for the allure of social media?

Of course, he can ultimately use social media, but not in the way he thinks.

And he has a lot of work to do before he can even consider turning to social media.

For now, the best place for this business owner is behind the pizza counter rather than behind his computer.

Thinking Outside the Pizza Box

It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, a great starting point is thinking about “what you know” and “what you have” And then focus on “what you need.”

Let’s assume this Pizza Parlor Man knows how to make great tasting pizza and can deliver it efficiently to his customers.

What he has is foot traffic and free competitive intelligence.

His objective is to turn those feet towards his pizza parlor by using the competitive intelligence around him.

He is within sight of all his competitors.

He can see how busy they are, who their target customers are, their busy periods, and so much more.

What he needs is people to try his pizza and convert to customers.

Clearly Defined Target Audience

Of course, I don’t have insight into the competitive intelligence. But even without it, I can make assumptions to identify his target customers clearly.

Remember, the trick is to specialize. Not to try and sell to everybody, even in a busy mall.

My suggestion for Pizza Parlor Man is to target three specific audiences:

  1. Families with children—parents shopping with their children
  2. Mall staff—anyone who works in the mall, shop managers, salespeople, etc.
  3. Office workers—people who work in nearby offices

Being Different is Good

Now that he has a clear target audience, he can create marketing programs for each.

But before he does, he should differentiate his pizza parlor from competitors and implement a taste-test strategy.

Here are suggestions on how he can be different:

  • Provide the friendliest and best customer service possible
  • Hire charismatic staff who will engage with customers
  • His employees should look like they love making pizza
  • Create an atmosphere of fun and high energy
  • Create a party-like atmosphere; it can be infectious
  • Clean the place until it sparkles
  • Ensure employees look good; uniforms pressed, hairnets neatly tied, etc.

Try Before You Buy

The food business pioneered the try-before-you-buy-strategy.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Just ask Costco. Their customers are obsessed with free samples.

According to a former Costco executive, samples of a certain frozen pizza brand helped boost sales by 600 percent.

Of course, we don’t want Pizza Parlor Man going broke giving away pizza, but he does need to factor free samples into his marketing budget.

If customers get an opportunity to try before they buy, chances are higher they’ll buy.

It’s the rule of reciprocity.

And, this is important to answer: “what he needs.”

One of his charismatic employees could stop shoppers as they walk by (focusing on the three customer streams as much as possible).

And he should offer samples to get as many people as possible to taste his pizza.

Industry standard conversion rates for food samples are about 30 percent, but Costco has proven it can be much higher.

While customers are waiting for their order, they can have a taste of something.

Maybe it’s a dipping sauce, or maybe it’s fries or even a drink.

All of these are potential upselling opportunities, and the rule of reciprocity kicks in.

Back to the Party—Families

When it comes to children in public places, many parents will do almost anything to keep them quiet and happy.

If kids like your pizza, and their parents like the price, you can almost guarantee a sale.

To close the deal, throw in a value-add for your little customers.

This way, they will drag their parents in for a bite every time they visit the mall.

For families, you need two things:

  1. kids special that rocks, and
  2. value-add.

Here are some value-add ideas at different price points:

  • Choice of brightly colored drinking cups
  • A small box of crayons
  • A photocopied picture of a pizza for coloring
  • Their favorite TV character entertaining them while they wait for their food

Back to the Party—Mall Staff

The mall workers need to eat, too. And they usually eat during off-peak hours.

This is a great way to keep the pizza parlor busy during those off-peak hours.

Take this opportunity to offer a special deal for mall staff only—possibly a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

They can buy a pizza for lunch, and they can take one home for their hungry family.

I’ve never met a teenager who doesn’t like cold pizza.

This take-home deal will create loyal customers who aren’t even in the mall!

Back to the Party—Office Workers

Pizza lunches are very popular with office workers. They’re quick and easy to order, clean up, and the price is right.

Many companies provide employee pizza lunches at least once a week.

Pizza Parlor Man could create a corporate lunch special for nearby businesses.

And to entice them, perhaps he can drop off pizza samples at the receptionist desk.

In most cases, the receptionist will share the pizza with the company’s decision-makers.

Before long, orders will be coming in.

Time for Social Media

After all of this, Pizza Parlor Man can use social media.

Not as a quick-fix for his problems (which rarely works), but to enhance his solid marketing efforts to date.

He finally has something more to share on social media than “Please buy my pizza!”

He has a smart, well-run, party-style pizza parlor.

There are children eating and loving his pizza while chatting with their favorite TV character. Happy parents are enjoying a minute of peace, and there are many corporate customers.

Now, it’s time to build his social media strategy, but that’s a whole different article.

Suffice to say, it speaks to how he is different. And is built on the success of his foot traffic tactics. It targets the different groups he caters to.

Social isn’t his hail mary or a desperation tactic he needed to turn to first.

Rather, it’s the component that rounds out and reinforces his other activities.

Photo by Oliver Pacas on Unsplash

Sharon Miller

Sharon Miller helps small businesses with strategic advice on structuring, messaging, and positioning their business. She guides them through a process to enable rapid revenue growth and provides the tools they need to operationalize their business. Her philosophy is simple: 1) do the hard work first, and 2) work ON your business. Her successful marketing consulting business for tech startups plus a wealth of corporate tech experience has afforded her the opportunity to mentor small businesses globally, either through personal one-on-one coaching or through her proprietary step-by-step business mentoring program.

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