HELP with Marketing... can't figure out this area i'm in!

Hey all, let me give you a little background first…
Opened our original sandwich shop back in 1997 in a small town of only 5k people in a mile radius with a med. income of about $60k. Did pretty decent business for the area… paid the bills plus a little more. We used standard meats like Sara Lee and the such.

Closed the shop and moved up north about 2 years ago and opened up a new shop about 6 months ago. This area has about 50k people in a mile radius with a med. income of about $250k so we wanted to upgrade our product for the higher class of individuals so we changed over to using Boar’s Head. Since switching the end product is soooooooooooo much better with this new high-end meat.

Well, since we’ve opened, we are doing 1/2 the business we did at the original shop! And we can NOT figure out why! The customers who do come in always become repeats… they love the products and keep coming back. BUT it’s only every now and again. And trying to get NEW customers is like pulling teeth! So much more traffic and people in this area but so little pay attention and come in.

Here is what we have done so far…
-Joined Chamber of Commerce and stay active with it.
-Give out Gift Cards to fundraisers to help them and us.
-Put coupons in the newspaper (did this 2x’s and got back 1 coupon for the 100k people it went to)
-Put coupons in a local subdivision pamphlet (1200 homes, again 1 coupon back from it)
-Did the ValPak coupon thing that went to 10k homes (got 4 coupons back and no bump in sales)
-Have a Facebook with 162ppl so far and keep up to date with it.
-Have a loyalty program (credit card style with points for every purchase - getting all customer info for who join and text/email them hour specials and coupons with little to no response)
-Website with all menu info and specials
-Punch Card, buy so many sandwiches get 1 free. Gave out 500, get maybe 2 people a week that come in with one to punch.
-Free sandwich raffle posted on customer receipts… they go to our facebook and post their ticket # and we raffle off a free sandwich every week… 5-6ppl go post up.
-Mascot, we just got a boar mascot last Friday and we have someone out with a sign with what we have. (this has given us the most bump in new customers and sales)
-Free samples delivered to local businesses and schools. Hit about 30 places, responses from 3-4 for a couple sandwiches.

We are located in a mini mall with Staples, Dominicks, Babies R Us, Party City and a few other places… back off the main road about 70 yards. There is a Taco Bell and banks in front of us. The Landlord restricts signage and pretty much everything else you could possibly think of, which is where the mascot on the corner comes into play. There is a Jimmy Johns across the street in a strip mall… Subways are about a mile either way of us, and Panara is a mile away as well.

Any ideas on what to do? I’m drawing a blank!
We only deliver catering orders because we need a 24 hour notice so there is a driver available. I really did not want to get into Jimmy Johns style delivery, but do I really have a choice?

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

bigger the community doesn’t always mean better income… Just means more Competition…

You need to stay the course. Keep the high quality food… People will come… its gonna take time to grow when you are in a market with tons of other options for people to eat.

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

You said there are banks in front of you… Ask each bank manager if you could bring in free meals for all of the employees at the bank one day. Make sure you get all of them! Tellers talk to people with money all day long and a good impression will help spread the word about your great menu. You get it right…and that is the best marketing there is (word of mouth).

Continue to offer them menu items (delivered) and you will get the smell of your food in the bank. Nothing like the smell of great food when you are not in a restaurant. The smell always gets people to ask “Umm, what’s that?”!

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

It sounds like you are offering a premium quality product which is awesome. Can you share with us what your unique selling proposition is? You use quality meats in conjunction with that do you offer products that your competitors don’t or that you cannot find anywhere else? Do you have sandwiches that nobody in town makes that are truly special and unique to your brand? If not that is not a problem, just thinking about what you can leverage to create some excitement and differentiate yourself from some of the well branded stiff competition?

Since you are engaging in a lot of marketing with a diversified strategy have you analyzed the actual marketing material that you are putting out there. I am making an assumption as I have never seen any of your marking material but maybe your prospective customers are not relating to your message, your designs and or you have a WOW product that isn’t being marketing properly to differentiate you from the competition.

Of course I would recommend trying SOLO direct mail to drive the first time customers since the shared mail has been a bust so far. There is a large majority of TT members and strings on the success of SOLO direct mail and since it is one avenue that you have not yet tried it would be worth running a small campaign, testing, tracking and tweaking if it successful.

Mail Shark
Direct: 484-948-1611

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Competing against JJ’s, Subway etc. is just like competing against the Pizza Big 3…

Josh is correct, what is your USP? And is it valid for your market…

You use Boar’s Head…that’s fine, as I’m not ere to bash them, but to me, they’re over priced and contain too much sodium…the Publix chain uses them here, successfully, but it now links, in my mind, a grocery store sub, just a cut above Subway…

Now Firehouse subs does a smaller, higher priced hot sub that is well rec’d around here…

Keep defining your market!

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Pizza of the month, we’ve actually been doing that with all the banks in the area… we drop off sample trays for everyone at the bank with a small variety of products. They all even have our menus sitting on the islands with the banking paperwork.

josh@themailshark, we were thinking of partnering with one of the hair salons by us to do a SOLO mail… them on one side with us on the other so the pricing is better for the both of us. Also, what is your email? I will send you some images of what we have already done.

Patriot’sPizza, the closest place that makes sandwiches with Boar’s Head is in downtown Chicago, so about 50 miles away… and te closest grocery store is about 20 minutes north of us at a high-end shop. Around here 75% never head of Boar’s Head, the other 25% come just because they’ve had it before and love it. Never been to a Firehouse, just looked them up and they are far and few between up here. I will have to take a trip and check it out. We are more along the lines of Jersey Mikes, where as we pull the meat and slice it fresh right in front of the customer (which people love) but our big thing is sauces… we make homemade custom sauces that seem to be the rage with the younger crowd. We actually would like to sell our sauces in bottles but can’t yet… when people ask to buy some we put some in soup cups and sell it off.

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Jersey Mike’s is making a small inroad here, but not like JJ’s…

Using your words, 75% of your market hasn’t heard of Boar’s Head…that might be part of the problem…

Jersey Mike’s format turns me off, yet I luv the way the indies do it thru out TN…quite similar, but focusing on a steamed meat sub…

Firehouse Subs, too, is an emerging chain, and they are not cheap…ToGo’s is another, but as I recall, focuses on cold subs…

The market leader, of sorts, is Panrera Bread Co…busy as $$$…

It’s back to your USP…what is it & is it working in your marketplace…

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Can you give me a couple examples of different USPs?

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

USP=Unique Selling Point…

What makes your shop/sub better/different from the rest.

I can’t make your USP…you know your business, not I…

Are you the fastet?

The cheapest?

The biggest?

The freshet?

It’s your concept, so you know it best…

Me? I hate Subway…always leave hungry…hate Quizno’s…always leave broke…

I’m not fond of waiting in line @ Jersey Mike’s, as I prefer the Chipolte/Subway method…

It’s a tough market, IMHBCO…

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Sounds like you are a little weak on how you look on the outside due to limited signage…Can you press the landlord to see if you can get more in place?..

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

my email is if you can send me a variety of the pieces you have done most recently. I would like to take a look at the design and the offers. Also do you have a website that I could look at or please send me you FB link

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

josh@themailshark, just sent you an email.

royster13, indeed… we can not put anything out by the road, not even a temporary sign… so I got the Mascot and an A-Frame and have him out there waving people down to help with that issue. We acutualy went the route of 5-guys, whereas I have large white boards printed in the windows saying PANINI SUBS WRAPS then on the bottom… DELI CATERING.
From my perspective when you drive into the main lot we are the only one that really stands out. But it does not seem to be helping.

Patriot’sPizza, thats what I thought you were referring to… I would say our meat and cheese quality (Boars Head) along with cutting it right in front of the customer is the main USP that no one does around here. Secondly would be our sauces… thirdly I would say speed… even though it’s fresh we kick out the meat pretty quick and keep the customer engaged with what sauces and toppings they would like (like subway/chipotle).

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

As I play Devil’s Advocate for a minute…

Just because we eel our USP is original and indeed true USP doesn’t always men our customers do…

Although I like the idea of slicing in front of the customers seems intriguing, it is not as efficient in the eyes of many people…tho it is considered ‘fresher’ in my eyes…

But let’s look at the traditional deli…a passing thing, sadly…

Sauces? Eh? I’m a deli mustard guy myself…maybe a flavored mayo…

My gut tells me you might be in a slightly saturated market…

And your concept is nice, but it may not be what the market desires…

I don’t know what your grooms sale are, or if you have done a true pro forma, but this venture may never yield great returns…

…jes sayin’

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

See to me… slicing infront of me is no big deal… publix does this all the time (a local grocery store) and they use boars head as well.

Like the last guy said… Sounds like you have A LOT of Competition around you… not just subs but other food options…

Can a person come in for lunch and get a sub, chips and drink for 8 bucks?

Are you driving home how your meat is the best? Do you offer samples?

You should also try selling it to customers outright by the pound… if your the only one in the area that they can get boars head from you might be able to make some cash up there.

Sub stores are like pizza. dime a dozen… almost every corner has one… its hard to separate yourself from the others.

Another thing is, do you bake your bread fresh? or is it ordered in?

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

It sounds like awareness is a key challenge…and since location isn’t your best friend, you’ll need to keep working at other ways to get your name and product out there. A solo mail may be a good place to start, but it will need to tell your story well, with visually appealing graphics.

Just looked through the thread, and I keep going back to the demographics. With a median income of $250k, this is not a coupon-clipping market. I caught part of a Technomic seminar at the Pizza Expo this week, where the speaker was talking about how some successful growth chains were branding their concepts. He talked a lot about the popularity of fast casual concepts (particularly in the demographic you described).

I’m trying to remember the mnemonic he used – I think it was: Story (can you tell your unique story in a way that captures people’s attention); Soul (how do your product, service, and layout/décor make people feel?); and Stomach Attraction or something like that (“Craveability”). Fresh bread could be a big factor here, especially if you bake it in-store. Even toasting a sandwich fills the restaurant with that hearth-and-home aroma. But your colors, layout, and graphics can also draw people in & back, or turn them off in the first seconds.

Some of the key reasons people are choosing to go to these growth chains are the essentials of fast casual: freshness, healthy options (especially if you’re trying to attract moms – the diners/buyers are "trending female " according to Technomic) – fresh ingredients, lower-calorie options, local/green, and layout and décor – again attractive to busy moms with kids. Think Panera – speed of service keeps the kids happy, and the environment and perception of a healthier meal appeals to Mom (and maybe Dad too, or a friend who’s joining her).

I would second some of the people above and recommend that you look closely at the concepts that are doing this successfully.

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Quick thought on coupons. When it comes to coupons the WEALTHY use them and they use them often (links to two informative articles below). There is plenty of research and evidence on that but being in the restaurant business for many years & working for an owner that heavily couponed I experienced it first-hand. Have seen presidents of banks, CEOs, etc. use coupons. Just because people make above average incomes doesn’t mean they want to spend more money, it just means that they can.

I also just recently did a postcard mailing for a Super Upscale Restaurant (famous chef, mixologists, award winning food, etc. etc.) in one of the most affluent parts of Maryland. The coupon was for a $10 Gift Card redeemable on the guest’s next visit. The result was that they got a HUGE response.

Wealthier Consumers Use More Coupons … ons-13002/

Cutting Coupons Most Popular Among Wealthy White Women … 39912.html

Mail Shark
Direct: 484-948-1611

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Very true. The wife of one of the super-high-paid Utah Jazz players… always used a coupon.

In the Black Book I talk about how to coupon without discounting… you might want to try it…

Here’s the deal: I found NO difference in response rates when I sold a 3-topping pizza at $9.99 or $12.99 - as long as the offer was wrapped in a coupon border.

Anyway… mass advertising only works if you can buy enough of it… and constantly. That’s because each customer has their own unique buying cycle… they don’t just jump up and order when the occasional ad catches their eye… they buy when the timing is right for them… so unless you can keep (and afford) a steady flow of mass-advertising you’ll want to transition to targeted database marketing…

And… database marketing will save you a fortune and make you a fortune. Once you’ve built your list… you can contact them via email offers and Facebook for almost nothing.

(By the way - one of my clients does about $40,000 a month in a town of 5,000 - crazy)…

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Just to stir the pot a bit…

Subway – Seems they are pushing a healthy agenda. As well as price. $5 footlong. Branding. Consistency.

Jimmy Johns – Freakish Fast w/ delivery.

Panera – Quality, fresh baked, consistent. I actually really like Panera’s product.

So why is your place better than Panera? Better product? I do a lot of business lunches at Panera… the wifi sucks though. So maybe you do better there. My brothers like to take the kids to Panera, no servers to worry about… food is fast. Kids are happy. It is generally a little noisy so kids making noise is okay. Are you kid friendly? Do you have salads? My wife likes a salad, I want a big sandwich. Are you offering enough diversity in your menu to satisfy both? Do you have booths with plugs for laptops? Maybe install some of those new outlets that have usb plugs built into them. Let people charge their cell phones?

Offer a discount if people check in on Facebook and like your page. $1.00 off. Just have them show the post and the “like” to the cashier.

How many subs do you have? Start a “Sub Passport” when they try every single sub, they get something fun/exciting visible for other people.

Reach out to real estate agents ( I am one. ) I meet my clients at a lot of coffee shops and Paneras. Offer me something. I usually buy my clients lunch. People who are moving to the area. New potential customers for you. Make my life easy. Booths that offer some privacy, plugs for my laptop. Awesome wifi.

Setup a few of your tables for 8 tops. Reach out to neighborhood HOAs, non-profits, etc and suggest they hold their meetings in your dining room.

Find a dentist or two. Dentists are after the same customers as you are. New people to the area. Sell them discounted giftcards for them to use in their referral program. For every new patient someone refers to the dentist, they give them one of your gift cards.

Convince RedBox to put a machine outside your door.

Do curb side service for Mom’s who have babies and kids in the car and don’t want to get out. Have them call in their order in advance and then call you when they get there. Mark a few spots right out front for your curb side pick up. GO AFTER MOM.

Offer service on par with Chic-fil-a – when it is raining, walk people in with an umbrella, walk them out to the car with it. People tell this story to others. WORD OF MOUTH.

I hate eating alone. But I obviously do it. When I do, I go to places that have something for me to read. Weird? I guess, but I go to places that have the paper, or a free paper for me to read while I am eating.

Go on and find 10 or 12 meetups that have about 20 to 30 people in them. Message the organizer and let them know that they can use your dining room for their meetup. Find the ones that meet on Monday and Tuesdays.

Hire a guy to do balloon animals on the First Monday of the month. As I become older and wiser and a lot closer to parenthood – these ideas become a lot clearer to me. I wish I had done this with my pizza shop. Distribute flyers about the event to Day Cares. Try to get the Day Care involved as well. See if a few of their workers will come and work for tips for a charity or something.

Organize or find an existing community 5k. Let your place be used for the registration.

With school either letting out or getting ready to let out. Find out if your library has a summer reading program where kids can get certificates/coupons/prizes for reading during the summer. If not, help them start one.

Just some ideas to chew on…


Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Wow! Lot’s of terrific ideas here. Here’s my 2 shillings worth. I like the track Scott Hack is on. Any business that is part of my community is special to me. Plus, when a business makes me feel special I spread the word.

Case in point: I have not been to a Home Depot, Lowes or Menards in years. There is a local hardware store that makes me feel special every time I arrive (the store is 3 miles out of my way). The people walk me through my project, help me select the right items and even let me know about the best deals. I couldn’t tell you if their products are cheaper or not. And what’s more, I don’t care! And, all my friends & family know about this place.

Re: HELP with Marketing… can’t figure out this area i’m in

Great tips, Scott! Thanks for sharing.