Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing Insights: Changing course

Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Changing Course

Maybe you’ve just purchased an
existing business from someone else, or perhaps, your market has
changed because your customer base is younger, older or more diverse
culturally than before.

Maybe you’ve just purchased an existing business from someone else, or perhaps, your market has changed because your customer base is younger, older or more diverse culturally than before.

Chances are you’ve looked around and realized that pizza has become a commodity – selling based mostly on price with consumers easily substituting one brand for another.

When price is the only point of difference, your bottom line quickly becomes squeezed. The only alternative is to find a brand position that offers consumers extra value and that may mean a total revamp of your business.


Repositioning a business can be a time consuming and costly proposition. You’re possibly looking at new business practices, new products, a new store design and possibly a new business name. It’s a daunting prospect but you’ll be glad to know that some of the most impactful changes are the least expensive. 

Start by allotting a week or two for some serious self-examination. This stage of the process can be dirt cheap, a lot of fun and very insightful.

Diane Mahony, a Toronto-based retail consultant, has worked with some of the biggest retailers in Canada. She advises for businesses to begin the process with a healthy dose of practical reasoning.

“It’s really important to be realistic about what can be accomplished,” says Mahony. “Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.”

It’s also important to make sure that what we believe to be our core strength matches what our customers come to us for. While an operator may be very proud of their family’s secret pizza dough recipe – is it really why customers buy your pizza? Perhaps it’s your great team, flexible portions or your creative menu items.

A good 360-degree evaluation does just what the name implies – it looks at things from all angles.  This means you should look at your business through your customer’s eyes.
“Sometimes we just stop noticing the cracks and outdated merchandising because we pass it every day and we become immune to it,” suggests Mahony. “Try walking up to your business with a fresh pair of eyes as though you’re seeing it for the first time as a new customer would.”

Elicit input from your team, your current customers and people who aren’t customers. From this last group you’ll want to know why they aren’t buying from you. Consider placing an ad on indicating that you’re in search of “non-customers” for a focus group and that each participant will get a free pizza coupon. You’ll garner feedback and have a chance to get new people to try your product.

You may discover that your hours of operation aren’t convenient, or that they don’t know where you’re located. You may even discover there’s a service issue you weren’t aware of.

Look at what your competitors are doing as well and list their strengths and weaknesses. So now that the soul searching is complete, what about the outbound activities? What if the name of your business just isn’t working? Should you change it?

“A good business name should clearly state what the business does well,” confirms Mahony.  “Changing a name may not be the best move if there is a lot of established awareness associated with the business.”

If you’ve just purchased an operation from another business owner who ran it for years under an established name and it’s a beloved landmark – think twice before you change the name. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Look at your notes from your analysis of your business. If you listed innovation as a key strength – choose a name that communicates this positioning. It can be as simple as going on the Internet to an online thesaurus and typing in “innovative pizza.” You’ll get several synonyms for these words that may hold the nuggets of a new name.

Avoid simply saying “Joe’s Pizza” – it may give your ego a boost to see your name in lights on the storefront but it won’t tell a story to your customers. You don’t have to make all the changes at once and some of the most effective repositioning strategies are very inexpensive.

When asked what the biggest “bang for the buck” action an operator could take towards a revitalized retail experience Diane Mahony is emphatic: “Just simply dunging out the clutter and making the retail space nice and open can create an incredible impact.”

It’s great advice. Sometimes we have so much clutter in our stores that it’s hard for customers to navigate. Make it an “easy shop.”

Look at your sales per square foot, transactions, average sales and total sales pre and post your “retail makeover.” You’ll likely see the benefits of your repositioning exercise fairly quickly and once you’re clear about your retail brand; you’ll find it much easier to communicate it to the market.

Change is sometimes challenging and a wee bit scary but this exercise is all about adding value. Offering the consumer value is about more than price – it’s about giving them something special that’s important to enhancing the consumer’s experience and your bottom line.

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