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Marketing Insights: The best laid plans

The best laid plans


When times are tight, many businesses cut their marketing budget. It’s
a natural reaction. After all, you need to stay profitable and expenses
have to be controlled. It may surprise you to know that many marketing
experts argue that the best way to stay profitable during an economic
downturn is to increase or at least maintain your marketing activities.

When times are tight, many businesses cut their marketing budget. It’s a natural reaction. After all, you need to stay profitable and expenses have to be controlled. It may surprise you to know that many marketing experts argue that the best way to stay profitable during an economic downturn is to increase or at least maintain your marketing activities. Often advertising rates are attractive because publications are hungry for the business. There is also less competition for consumer eyeballs because fewer ads are being placed. Effective marketing is not an expense, but an exercise in business development. The key to ensuring that your marketing efforts are growing your business is to have a plan and the budget to support it. It doesn’t need to be a Swiss watch scale plan, but it needs to be focused to maximize impact.

Timing is everything
Structure your marketing plan to capitalize on those times where there is natural momentum.  Superbowl, March break and the dog days of summer are times when consumers are looking for pizza so their awareness will naturally be heightened. Take a calendar or spread sheet, divide it into periods or months, and plug in your major campaigns. Identify other opportunities like Mother’s Day, NHL playoffs and back-to-school. These are secondary campaigns. Don’t simply place your advertising because a sales representative has space they haven’t sold and will give you a good bargain. If it coincides with a strategic time period then it’s a win-win.  If not, you’re best to pass on it.

What’s your message?
Make sure that the message matches the target. Don’t trot out the same generic advertisement for everything. The Superbowl message couldn’t be more different than Mother’s Day sentiment.  Big sporting events and elections are all about celebrating and gathering together so you’ll want to promote larger pizzas and have your message speaking to how pizza is loved by all and easy to share. Steamy summer days and Mother’s Day tend to be all about not wanting to cook.  Here’s where you should have your message be about having more time for yourself. 

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What’s in your marketing toolbox?
Marketing campaigns should be integrated. It’s not uncommon to see operations promoting one product in its advertising only to find out that a totally different product is being sampled or heavily merchandised in the store. If your newspaper advertisement is promoting your large pepperoni pizza for Superbowl then this should be what’s featured on your coupons, in your sampling program and on your website. Use all of your guns. Consumers respond to recency (how long ago they heard your message) and frequency (how often they hear your message). Have your flyers hit the mail at the same time your ads appear in the newspaper and leverage digital marketing wherever possible. If you have an electronic newsletter, add that to the mix for sending electronic coupons at the same time your campaign appears. You will save on postage and internet analytics programs will allow you to measure its success.

Price is a marketing tool too
If you offer a limited time discounted price on certain menu items, this is a valid promotional tool.  Too often these off-price strategies are last minute ‘Hail Mary’ plays that can erode your bottom line if they go on too long. Be purposeful, not reactive, about your discounting activities. If the special goes on too long or is employed too frequently then you’ll have trained the consumer to view the promotional price as the regular and now expected price. A week to a month of promotional pricing a few times per year for each product you highlight should do the trick. 

Make sure that you anticipate the sales lift you expect to see resulting from your sale price.  Plan to have the necessary inventory and operational support in place. Bundling menu items into a promotional offer will also offer consumer value and possibly increase your cheque average at the same time.

Out and about
Take a look at special events and other forms of outreach that may support your business development efforts. Are there shows you can exhibit at?  Can you sponsor pizza day at a local school? Perhaps it’s time to sponsor a little league baseball team? The uniforms will display your logo for all attending the game to see. You’ll be giving back to the community and enriching the lives of local families, a key target market. You’ll want to integrate other activities with these events to maximize their impact, so at the games you sponsor consider handing out coupons for a free beverage with purchase or a discount.

The marketing budget
Once you’ve identified the components of your marketing plan and have plugged them into your calendar, it’s time to flesh out the budget. Simply attach the forecasted cost for all of these activities and then see if it seems reasonable. If the budget is too high, start cutting those activities that aren’t mission critical. If it comes down to pizza day at the school or the little league uniforms, consider that you’ll likely gain more awareness from the uniforms because parents won’t be at the school to see who’s supplying the pizza. 

Studies show that when we write down our goals we’re more likely to achieve them.  If nothing else, a marketing plan will allow you to control your costs and focus your energy where the true opportunities exist.


Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries.  She specializes in retail brand strategies.