Canadian Pizza Magazine

Word-of-mouth marketing magic

By Cory Medd   

Features Business and Operations Marketing annex cory medd pizzeria marketing two guys and a pizza place word of mouth

Nowadays, consumers have a lot of options when it comes to spreading the word about your restaurant. Consumer review sites and social media have changed the way people make decisions. Photo: Fotolia by Adobe Stock

Have you ever had an experience at a restaurant that was so good you just had to tell your friends or make a social media post about it? When travelling, have you ever had a local resident passionately say to you, “You just have to check this place out, the food is amazing!”? And you probably made it your mission to get to that place during your trip.

This is word-of-mouth marketing and it is essentially a free, targeted and trustworthy form of advertising that can help put your pizza place on the map. The tricky part is, you can’t buy it and you need to work really hard to build it!

A customer saying positive things about your restaurant is 10 times more valuable than saying it yourself in an advertisement. Nowadays, consumers have a lot of options when it comes to spreading the word about your restaurant. Consumer review sites and social media have changed the way people make decisions. Many studies suggest that most consumers research online before making a purchase. This may include Google and review sites.

Erik Shellenberger of is an authority on the topic of marketing, and after a five-year study, he has concluded that about 66 per cent of new customers actually walk through your door because of word of mouth. Now imagine if these new customers were to have that same amazing experience, and they spread the word as well. This snowball effect will generate a return bigger than you could ever have dreamed of from any paid traditional advertising. According to a Nielsen study, 92 per cent of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than any advertising.


Here are some ways to help increase your chances of word-of-mouth sales:

  1. Be awesome. Be great to every person who walks in the door. If you are doing an exceptional job, people are going to notice and they are going to spread the word. It just takes time.
  2. Have a story and tell it. Let people know what makes you different. Is it local ingredients? Are you family-owned? Have you won any awards or been featured on a TV show? Do you have a fantastic selection of healthier options? Be careful how you portray this information, and make sure you follow through with your promises, as people will have very high expectations.
  3. Support local initiatives and get involved. They will support you back. There are many great ways to help your community, including supporting teams, local charities and charity events, and non-profit organizations.
  4. Feed people for free whenever you can. People can always use pizza for their charity event or meeting, and if it’s free it’s very likely that it’s extra delicious! Don’t forget to make a semi-annual trip to the front desk of local hotels with freebies. Those clerks chat with a lot of people, and usually these people are new to your city and need to eat. Another creative way to get people into your door to experience your product is to trade gift certificates with other companies for their staff parties or employee-of-the-month rewards.
  5. Your staff are your ambassadors. They need to believe in your goals and mission as much as you do. Train them well. Treat them well. Build a culture.  
  6. Create an experience. Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be all about the food. Maybe it’s the overall experience and value that gets people talking about your restaurant. Do you have fun décor? Do you give out free peanuts that they can throw on the floor? Do you offer free board games on certain nights?
  7. Do something crazy! Think outside the box and create a buzz! You could host a large outdoor event, run a fun promotion or create an insane contest. Maybe you have a “secret menu” consisting of old menu items or wild and crazy items that are delicious! You could feed the loudest fans at the local sporting event. Perhaps your team can break a Guinness World Record. This feat may forever be remembered.
  8. Engage with your customers as much as possible. Customers love getting a response from the owners. Establish that connection, and customers are more likely to help you grow. This may include fun interactions on social media, replying to every email or responding on review sites like TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp. It’s important to respond to everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. An honest response to a negative review will increase the chances of that customer coming back to give your restaurant another try.
  9. Include positive reviews in your social media and advertising. This may reassure a customer that your product and service is everything you may have stated previously in ads and posts. You could do it subtly in your Instagram story, or if you really want to get the word-of-mouth ball rolling, throw some rave reviews into your traditional advertising platforms.
  10. Build a loyalty and referral program. This may help you spread the word fast and efficiently, and if built correctly you can even track the performance of your referrals. Maybe this isn’t as organic as the other suggestions, but sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands!

Building a great reputation isn’t easy. It may take years. Be patient, do your job of offering a great product and give great service every time someone walks in the door or gets delivery, and it should happen organically.

You can’t just advertise that you are the best pizza in town these days: you need to let the customers decide that, and they will tell their friends. Don’t push it. It’s more than just “likes” and “hashtags” – it’s finding people that truly LOVE your brand! Have fun! •

Cory Medd owns Two Guys And A Pizza Place in Lethbridge, Alta., which opened in early 2002. His unique pizza creations have garnered many accolades over the years, including Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Two Guys Pizza was also featured on Season 4 of the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here!” Cory is the proud recipient of a Business Excellence Award from the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce and BDC in 2013 and 2014. When he isn’t working on making his business better, Cory spends time with his wife and two daughters. He is always open to chatting about pizza! Please contact him at

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