The Speed Of Business

By Dave Ostrander

As I write this article I'm munching on popcorn. Not the old fashioned stovetop variety but the new fangled microwave variety. Pretty good stuff and easy on my figure. I bought the stuff in a convenience store, while shopping for toaster waffles. My boys love toaster waffles for breakfast. I use the drive-up window at the bank more than the lobby. I use the drive-up window at Mickey Ds' more often than I'd like to admit. I used FedEx twice this week and do a slow burn when it takes longer to check out at the grocery store than it took to shop. What's happening here? The speed of which customers expect business to be conducted is at an all time high. We are never going back to the good old days. Customers want it now. I think we can thank television remotes, the pizza industry and the Internet - www.anything.com and it's on the way.

How do we fit in this phenomenon? We must deliver our stuff to our customers faster, hotter and better than we did a year ago. The American public equates speed with service. They will pay a premium for speed and convenience. I mean, who really needs a 600mhz-computer processor?

In their book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, authors Al Ries and Jack Trout make a huge statement of "it's better to be first than it is to be better." They pose the question, "Who was the first man to solo the Atlantic Ocean?" "Who was the second?" It doesn't matter. People will always remember first but rarely second. "Who was the first man to step foot on the Moon?" "Who was the second?" It doesn't matter. If you can't lay claim on being the first at something, your store will be doomed to be remembered forever, or never. Ten years before this book was published, I decided to position Big Dave's Pizza as the first, the fastest, the biggest, the best, but I never ever claimed to be the cheapest. Let the other guys own that.

I did randomly stir things up, from time to time, by accepting every coupon on the planet. This tactic allowed my competitors to become my printing and distribution company. They paid the printer and the postage, I just accepted their coupons. If you're not doing this, from time to time, you're probably not having any fun.

Did I mention that after saving up a year's worth of their coupons I mailed them back to the respective store managers on their birthday with a Hallmark Card? I only give the very best!

Since I didn't invent delivery I decided that I would be the fastest delivery operation in my town and strip my competitors Unique Selling Proposition ( USP ) from them. I was losing market share to them when they first came into my town. They were hell-bent on putting me out of business. They advertised everywhere. Full page ads, radio, TV and flyers. I figured that if they could do it in 30 minutes I could do it in 29. That feat was easier said than done. I had to rethink my pizza make, bake and chop area system. After I perfected that task I was ready to rumble. I launched my 29-minute-guaranteed-or-free-program and claimed the bragging rights for being the fastest pizza delivery place in town. Did we comp five percent of all sales because they were late? Did I hire extra drivers? Did I speed up my pizza make area by 80%? You bet.

Did it make me or cost me money? In the short-term I invested a little cash, but in the long-term my deliveries doubled to over 50% of gross sales. That was the beginning of the end of my competitor. I followed up with the Ultimate Pizza Guarantee, not only unconditionally guaranteeing my pizza but also guaranteeing every one of my competitor's pizzas. Coupled with the Worldwide Pizza Coupon Search, followed by Customer Appreciation Night and Big Dave's Annual Suitcase Party, we were a lethal marketing weapon.

If your competition isn't worried about what you're going to do next, maybe you aren't giving them enough reasons. The underlying benefit of these promotions was that we were being talked about and remembered by everyone in town. If your competition were to come out with a customer benefit and be the first to introduce it to your customers and embarrass you, why oh why wouldn't you do it first and one-up them?

What are the possibilities for the future? Do you ever think that customers will order your pizza on the Internet? Will they order it by fax or cell phone? Will you ever e-mail them preferred customer savings certificates? I see the day that the typical customer orders dinner from a palm pilot and it's waiting for her, or delivered, paid for by a secured server credit card and possibly ordered a week in advance. Let's think about these possibilities and start planning for them now so you can have bragging rights on being the first.

Remember, five years ago nobody bought a share of stock on the web. Today, there are over 6000 domains where you can order stocks on line. Just so you don't rack your brain, the answers to who was the first challenges: First man to cross the Atlantic was Charles Lindbergh, second was Burt Hinkler. First man to step on the Moon was Neil Armstrong, second was Buzz Aldrin. First man to run a 4-minute mile was Roger Bannister, second was John Landy. First President of the US was George Washington, second was John Adams.

Who was the first pizzeria in your town to offer some thing or service that was memorable or radical? Who was the second........doesn't matter.

Create a niche that you can be first in and own that distinction forever.


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