Advertising this time of the year

Is it worth trying to ramp up sales at this time of the year or is it better just to save your advertising budget and market hard after the New Year?
I have recently bought a pizza shop and the sales are down. The sales were fine when we first entered into the sale’s agreement process, but when we took possession of the shop the sales were unexpectedly low. We took possession in early November and by the time we discovered the decreased sales, got the ad copy together and established distribution methods it was close to Thanksgiving before we had a decent marketing campaign in play. So far the response has been mixed and no real notable increase in weekly revenues.
I recall reading that this is one of the worse times of the year to advertise because people are so overwhelmed with the holiday advertisements they simply just block out most advertising in general. Needless to say our advertising budget is finite and we want to wisely use our marketing dollars considering the recent lower revenues. All thoughts and suggestions are welcomed.



I’d like to help (or at least give one of my long rants about advertising), but before I do that, tell me a little more about your situation:

  1. Are you at least breaking even?
  2. How far have sales dipped from the start of the process?
  3. What kind of pizzeria are you (Dine in, delivery, carryout?)
  4. Give me an example of the “type” of marketing you’re doing (i.e. price points, menus only) and what kind of discounting (if any) you’re comfortable with.
  5. What is your area comprised of? (residential, business, college, military, etc.)


A little more background information for j_r0kk response:

  1. At our current point I would have to say no, we are not breaking even.

  2. Sales are off about 2k from the summer numbers and the summer is the low point of sales for the year. If we could get back the 2k we would be above the break even point. Since we have started marketing our sales have been one a slow upward trend, but the increase in sales do not cover the current advertising expenditures.

  3. We are primarily carry out and delivery. On a side note we offer a unique pizza that sets us apart from any other pizza shop for miles.

  4. Advertising methods:
    • Direct mailing of menus – it took us a few weeks do to lead time and they just got out the day before Thanksgiving, second batch just got to people’s houses yesterday. Hopefully we will get a more accurate response this weekend do to the no holiday week throwing things off. We have more scheduled to go out every week throughout December.
    • Fax Broadcasting – This seems to be paying for itself, we have been doing this for 4 weeks and our lunches are getting better.
    • News Paper – We did this for 3 weeks and are going to discontinue it until next year due to the lack of response and costs.
    • Full Page Circular – I think that is what you call this, we put a full page 8.5x11 sheet of paper in a newspaper type plastic back along with other advertisers and it goes out to 5000 home for $160. Do to lead time we just got the first batch out yesterday and are getting ready to do a few more weeks. Printing costs $160 and we don’t have any idea as of yet for response rate.
    • Welcome to the neighbor hood mailers – They send mailers to new people moving into our area. Cost is $1 per parcel and they estimate 600 people move into the area on average per month.
    • We are planning on trying some magnets; we just haven’t put them together yet.

On all of our advertisement we are offering incentives, free things with over a certain dollar amount order and there are coupons of various amounts contained in our menus.

  1. Our market is mostly dense blue collar residential and businesses, there is one naval facility but from my understanding we no longer get orders from there because we can’t get out delivery driver past the gates. We are going to try to figure out something to start getting business back from there.

I hope this additional information helps.


Okay good info:

  1. Not breaking even - So you need to do something quick that will get you up above that level. Good thing you’ve got an assload of snow coming at you in the next day or two.

  2. Sales off 2k per week from summer numbers - Were those numbers inflated or were they legit? Was the previous owner doing any high-impact marketing?

  3. Delivery/carryout-unique pizza - Same boat as me.

Now, as far as the advertising is concerned. Each market is different but, based on my experience, let me give you a little insight:

Direct mailing of menus - Good idea. No coupons, therefore smaller rate of return (probably .5%-2%)

Fax - Awesome! Good job

Newspaper - Sucks! It’s a waste of money UNLESS you can convince the editor to do a “wrap” in which a coupon is wrapped around the outer portion of each paper in your area.

Full Page Circular - Don’t do this if you’ve got a deal for a wrap. Actually, think about the number of people in the U.S. who don’t read the paper anymore and actually get their news from the internet.

Welcome to the neighborhood mailers - Great idea. You probably won’t get too much return, but the whole purpose of advertising is to stack good ideas on top of other good ideas to generate a great deal of return.

Now, let’s talk about some things you can do NOW to increase customer awareness:

  1. Make sure the exterior is clean, lit up like a football stadium, and customer friendly.
  2. Put up streamers outside to celebrate “new ownership”, “customer appreciation week”… anything
  3. Clean your interior space and make it carryout friendly (pictures, warm colors, chairs, Christmas decorations)

The total cost for all this so far is about $100 bucks.

Now, after this is done, and if the weather is permitting, get a banner printed up with your logo on it and a carryout special. The carryout special should be something simple (like one large one topping pizza) with a good price point. Make this a price point that is VERY aggressive. Aggressive = $5.99, $4.99, $3.99. Yes, you will have to sacrifice the food cost in order to get the sales up. Don’t worry though, because your labor costs will drop with the increased business. Wrap this banner with a PVC pipe “frame”. Get somebody out on the street corner and tell him to go crazy with that banner. Tell him to shake it, raise it, lower it, turn it upside down, turn it sideways… the entire time, constantly pointing to your place.

The cost of the PVC pipe and the banner should be around $150 bucks.

What this will do is create community awareness of your pizza place. It will give them a chance to identify the logo with the place itself. It also gives you, as the owner/operator, a chance to talk with the customers and form a bond with each and every one of them. Make sure all boxes have marketing material on top and make sure the image of your place is festive. Also make sure you get all the customer’s information with some kind of giveaway. Have them fill out an entry form (including e-mail addy) and put it in a bowl. This will give you a customer database with new people who probably have never been to your store before.

This excercise should be done only for a week or two. After that, quit it. You don’t want to become “tired” in the customer’s eyes. This should increase your customerbase substantially, and if you do it right, give you a new group of people to target with direct mail or e-mail.

The entire cost of this excercise should be around $250. With that $250 spent, you’ll bring in an additional $2000-$5000 over the two week span, depending on how good your special is, how good you are at keeping someone out there with a banner, and how good you stick with the plan. Oh yeah, I forgot… it’s gonna hurt, getting your butt kicked that hard. Hope this helps. -J_r0kk

One thing I forgot to add:


I don’t care what time of the year it is, you ALWAYS get your name out there. People are going to eat. Might as well be from you.

I’ve got to get ready for the rush. Later on this week I’ll post advertising strategies I use. -J_r0kk

I think the only thing j left out is to build a database and keep hitting your current customers. Piece of cake if you have a pos. If not, when an order is placed, your phone people say “Can I add you to our mailing list?” You should have quite a few addresses already since you’re delivering.

We recently made a great change to our pizza. We switched flour, sauce, and cheese, and we’re putting out an awesome product now. I sent postcards to everyone telling them about our changes, it’s pulling about 25% and doesn’t expire until 12/10
Per our discussion earlier this month, I just mailed out a postcard to all of my customers offering them 10% off their next order and a chance to win a FREE iPod. Drawing held 12/23. They should hit mailboxes today and Monday, and I’m expecting a pretty good return on them too.

Lastly, Christmas Cards!!! I did this last year and got a lot of positive feedback. You don’t have to go with the custom foil imprinted ones for 2-3k. I get my cards at Eckerd drug store-$3.99 for 52 cards. Last year I printed lables for the inside, this year I might make everybody sign them. Include a couple coupons, a reminder that you sell gift certificates, a magnet and menu if you can. Very time consuming, but everybody opens up christmas cards-and hangs them up. (leave the religious cards out, just so no one gets offended)

You will always get a far better ROI from mailing to existing customers than by fishing for new ones.

Promote catering for Christmas parties etc. Give away some pizza to the business around you let them know you can help feed them for their parties.

I believe the numbers up to the end of July were legitimate numbers; August I am starting to suspect might have been doctored up as not to reflect the start of a downward trend in sales. As for September and October we have no data, we already had entered into the sales proceedings and the sell was contractually obligated to sustain sales at their current levels as if they were running the business for themselves. The transition period took a little longer then expected and I have a feeling the seller stopped advertising during the summer and sales dropped off…but could advertising alone account for such a sharp drop off in such a short period of time? For example: We took possession of the shop on a Thursday and we made $200 for the day, during the summer they were averaging around $800 on Thursdays. Not a great way to start off.
As for high-impact marketing, I think all they were doing was Fax Broadcasting and Direct Menu mailings that they had stopped before summer.
I like the give a way idea for customers who sign up, this would be a great holiday promotion. You also have a good point with the carry out special with a good price point; it will get the people in the neighborhood to notice us.
I read about the Peal-A-Deal fund raising, there are plenty of schools around, this might be a good way to get our name out, customers in the door and our revenues up in the short term.

I am most likely going to pursue the chance-to-win/give-a-way idea; I am sure something as nice as an iPod would turn some heads.
Also, the Holiday card idea is nice, good opportunity to get in contact with our customers on a more personal level and send them some warm wishes.

We just started getting our special event catering advertising out this past week. We include it on our Faxing, Box Toppers and any other advertising where we control the copy.

Thanks again for all the responses and great ideas, keep the suggestions coming if you have more.

Thanks again,

With delivery you should have a POS. You mentioned menu mailers, but not new customer 30-60-90 day post cards. Are you doing database mailers? If not, then that is also a good place to start. Bring back some of the customers you might have lost in the transition. It is much easier to retain a customer than to generate a new one, and you already know the people in your database eat pizza. Be sure they eat yours and not your competitor’s.

Get out a press release. Send it out or hand deliver it to the local newspaper, TV, radio stations, or any mass media outlet you can think of. Press releases are a great FREE way to generate publicity. Here is a great article on creating an effective press releases:

Pizza Master6000:
The previous owner had an old POS system; we up graded to the latest PDQ POS system. We will need to contact the company who installed it and get a list generated off the old system; the date base could not be up graded to our new system. I like your idea to send stuff to the 30, 60, 90 day customers’ mailers, I will combine it with a greeting card with and a special holiday coupon.

The old system should have some way to get to the dabase and export it into a usable file like csv, and PDQ should be able to update it directly into the new system. You might want to send PDQ an email (or call) and see what they will do for you.

That should have been part of the installation package actually.