Canadian Pizza Magazine

The pizza Chef: June 2015

Diana Cline   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Focus on your best customers

I’m often asked for advice on how to get more new customers. The truth is, it’s difficult, especially these days. Statistics show 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 to focus more on your existing customers.  

Customer retention is a great marketing strategy. Yet many businesses take it for granted that just because you bought something there once, you will do so again and again. Think of all the businesses you visit regularly, and ask yourself what have they done to let you know they appreciate it? A lot of places are guilty of assuming you know how valuable you are to them, but a business that takes the time to show it will definitely stand apart from the crowd.  

There are several ways to let your customers know that their business is important to you. Here are a couple of my favourites.  

Red ticket, green ticket: this promotion is a direct-mail strategy that rewards your best customers and gives them a gift for their friend. Here’s how it works: buy two rolls of admission tickets – also known as beer or liquor 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 by word-of-mouth advertising, tell them to give 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 extra special 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.  

This next strategy is also a lot of fun. I call it “Puzzling isn’t it?” Here’s how it works: 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 number 1 is worth a $10 gift certificate, piece number 2 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?”

The letter we send out talks about how fortunate we are to have them as a regular customer. It explains how many other businesses aren’t thriving in this economy and that we think it’s because those businesses don’t have the same great customers that we have. That’s like the missing pieces 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 the customer to come in and check their puzzle piece against the missing pieces – and 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 a side salad with the customer’s next order. This promotion is a lot of fun: when the missing pieces are found both the customer and staff are thrilled, but even if their puzzle piece isn’t a big winner, the customer still gets 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, and when we explain to them it’s a promotion for our best customers, they want to play too.  

Both campaigns are direct-mail promotions that reward your best customers and give them something positive to talk about with their friends and families.

When you focus on your best customers, you won’t be able to stop the flow of great word-of-mouth advertising.

Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, owner of Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg, Man., and a director for the CRFA from 2009 to 2013. 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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