Nervous About Taking These Next Two Steps

We bought our store about a year and a half ago. It’s 15 years old, a solid name, downtown and six blocks from the local college in a smaller town with about 11K households. I don’t get much biz from students because I’m not willing to play the game with the big three and focus more on younger families that will spend a couple extra bucks for a better product. I’ve managed to take the store from losing a small fortune every month to paying myself enough to cover the mortgage on our house and our student loans. My wife has a great job that we’re able to live modestly and be comfortable with out two children.

Since the middle of January I’ve come to the point where I’m making enough to probably double my monthly take, but I’ve decided to take a gamble and start up online ordering through Point of Success, which I think will help my customer base on campus, and starting a direct mail campaign through Mail Shark. Both will start the last week of April. I’m taking the opportunity to expand our sandwich operation to bump up lunch sales, although at a lower profit margin, and add some specialty pizzas that I think will sell well. I’m also organizing a more consistent door hanging routine in the areas that our direct mail will not be hitting (I plan to have them focus on higher income neighborhoods that would take more time to door hang and I think will be more receptive to mailers).

I project that I will need the online ordering and mailers to generate 25 new sales a week with an average ticket of $20 to break even. My delivery tickets average $18 and take outs are around $15. So I really only need a 3% return of new orders from the mailers to break even on the two. However, I’m getting nervous about committing the money instead of bringing it home now and continuing my work that has generated a slow and consistent growth. We’ve nearly doubled sales since taking over, but double of almost nothing isn’t much to brag about.

I would love to get some thoughts and opinions from some of you veterans.

I’ve focused my POS on-line sales w/my Facebook marketing…and am about to re-launch an ad program w/FB again too…

We discount heavily on-line to college students, as we are still gaining market share…being so close to the campus you should OWN that market, despite the big 3…make your discounted specials take-out only & I run deep discount specials everyday (take-out) on a different item…great to push new items…

The phone stops ringing & the tickets start printing, making life on the make line easier…

Not sure mailers work w/students…we use magnets & plaster postcards

But I’m in a unique situation…

well so far on the mail shark I can say that my first week and I have a 3percent rreturn HEADING INTO this weekend.
indie, you had mentioned you are in a college town, for you I think it is VERY important to have facebook and twitter.
another thing would be an application for smart phones, we actualy are getting one today…rather cheap.
lastly online ordering is great, we dont do a huge volume like aot of guys here, maybe 50 a week.
One thing you are really missing in your marketing that is SOOOOOOOOOO effective for the money is email marketing…here is what I do.
I went to all the banks here in town and asked if I could put a fishbowl on there counter. In return each friday, when I collect the email address I bring them a large pizza and once a week I send out box toppers for their bank.

ON my fish bowl I write, FREE PIZZA DRAWING, when I return I always get 3 or four for the winning pizza and enter the rest in my data base. then every thursday night I send out emails…no more otherwise it tends to get more like spam.
my cost is 30.00 a month for constant contact and my return has been a little slower but about 100 a week.

whats your email address I will send you a copy of this weeks

If your not getting rich I’d go big or go home. Who wants to make 30-50k a year for the rest of their life? Not
me, I’m here for the money.

I don’t think you are taking a gamble. I think you are taking the next logical step in your business. I don’t know what your situation is but if what you are doing is making a gain, take that money and reinvest it in your business if you are able. Sounds like you have had good success and aren’t over reaching. I agree with the others find out how to get that college market in your doors. You don’t have to make huge sacrifices but find out what attracts them; that’s an entire market that you are ignoring.

PM

Thanks guys. I have felt for a couple months that we’ve hit a plateau where I could say “ok, these are our sales and this is what I can take home” and we would be fine, especially since we own our building and will have it paid off in the next 5 years. But, I tend to look around and know we can do better. We can realistically bump sales another 20% without adding any payroll and it would likely drop food 2-5% too. The college market is not something I’m extremely interested in because so many places are fighting for their business and I think that demo is looking for price points, not quality. I’m happy to take what I can get, but when I’m at a point of focusing on specific demos right now, they’re going to be lower on the list.

I realized that with the online ordering and direct mail, I have to launch an email campaign or quit acting like I want to be successful. I had not, however, thought about working with other businesses to collect more addresses, that’s a great idea.

GK, and Rockstar…I watch a lot of what you guys do because it seems to translate very well to my market. Thanks for the great input. I fully plan to learn how to do programming for our facebook page to integrate online ordering, it just seems crazy not to take that time.

Pakula - You’re right, why toil away these long hours without making a pile of cash? I need to learn to not feel bad for making a living…or even, god help me, make a great living.

30-50k would be fine by me as long as the wife has a stable job making 50k+ and I don’t have to work more than 40 hours a week. working more during the first couple of years is fine.