Canadian Pizza Magazine

the pizza chef: Clone your best customers

By Diana Coutu   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

I’m often asked for advice on how to get more new customers. The truth
is that it’s difficult – especially these days. Experts say that a
potential new customer needs to see your ad, menu or flyer seven to 10
times before they even consider doing business with your establishment.

I’m often asked for advice on how to get more new customers. The truth is that it’s difficult – especially these days. Experts say that a potential new customer needs to see your ad, menu or flyer seven to 10 times before they even consider doing business with your establishment. Knowing those odds, perhaps it’s best not to focus on new customers as much as on your existing customers. 

Customer retention is a great marketing strategy, but many businesses take it for granted, assuming that just because a guest was a patron once, they will come back again and again.  A lot of places are guilty of assuming that you know how valuable you are to them, but a business that takes the time to show it will definitely stand out in a crowd. There are several ways to let your customers know that their business is important to you. Here are a couple of my favourite promotions. 

Red ticket, green ticket

This promotion is a direct mail strategy that rewards your best customers and gives them a gift for their friend. Simply buy two rolls of admission tickets (also recognized as beer tickets), one red and one green. Take your best customers and mail them a red ticket and a green ticket along with a letter explaining that you’d like to thank them for their business and give them a free large two-topping pizza when they redeem their red ticket. In the letter, ask them to help grow your business through word-of-mouth by giving the green ticket to one of their friends who has never been to your pizzeria and you’ll give their friend a free medium two-topping pizza. 


This promotion is a win-win. Your best customers will be grateful that you thought enough to mail them a gift and they’ll also feel great when they give their friend a free medium pizza – all because they already do business with you. This strategy rewards your best customers and enlists their help to grow your business and look like a superstar while they do it! You’ve no doubt heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together”? This strategy introduces you in a most positive way to another potential great customer. Remember to include a menu for their friend with the letter.

Piecing together the puzzle

This next strategy I call “Puzzling, Isn’t It?” is a lot of fun. Buy two identical puzzles and assemble one of them. Remove 10 random pieces from the assembled puzzle and assign them each a value. For example, piece one is worth a $10 gift certificate, piece two is worth a $20 gift certificate and so on. Next, glue the puzzle together without the missing pieces and mount it on a board. Glue the missing pieces to another board indicating each one’s number. Put both boards in a prominent location in your customer area. Mail the second puzzle out piece by piece to your customers with a letter explaining this promotion.  Our letter usually begins with the headline: “Why have we sent you a piece of a jigsaw puzzle? Puzzling isn’t it?”

Our letter talks about how fortunate we are to have them as regular customers. We point out how many other businesses aren’t thriving in this economy and we think it’s because those businesses don’t realize that great customers are the missing piece of the puzzle.  

The letter goes on to explain the value assigned to each missing piece and wishes them luck that their piece is one of them. We invite customers to come in and check their puzzle piece against the missing pieces. Our drivers also carry a photocopy of the pieces to check at the door. Because we want everyone to have fun with this promotion, we say every puzzle piece is a winner. Puzzle pieces that don’t match up with the missing ones are redeemed for a voucher for free parmesan garlic sticks or side salad with their next order. This promotion is a lot of fun because when the missing pieces are found both customers and staff are thrilled and even if the puzzle piece isn’t a big winner, customers still get a reward for playing along. 

The other benefit of this promotion is the puzzle being on display in your customer area. People can’t help but ask what the puzzle is for. When it’s explained to them that it’s a promotion for our best customers, they want to play too. 

Both of these promotions have important things in common. They are direct mail promotions. They aren’t for everyone in the neighbourhood – only for your best customers. They reward your top customers, and each promotion gives them something positive to say about your pizzeria to their friends, their co-workers and their families. When you focus your efforts on your best customers, you won’t be able to stop the great word-of-mouth advertising created.•

Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and member of the board of directors for the CRFA. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis; for more information contact her at

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