After running a couple of pizzerias and having to figure out the promotion and advertising on his own, Bruce Irving turned his pizza shop business into a full on restaurant marketing juggernaut, helping not only his own businesses, but others see dramatic growth as well. Since he started in those pre-social media days and was still finding success, he quickly saw the advantages that social media could play – especially in local business – and adopted marketing plans on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram because of their incredible targeting abilities, as well as the reasonably priced paid marketing options, ability to run promotions/contests, use video, and even chat bots.
Rich: He’s the marketing visionary behind SmartPizzaMarketing.com and host of the weekly Smart Pizza Marketing Podcast. On his podcast he interviews the leading minds of the pizza restaurant industry. In addition he speaks at conferences about how to better use social media in your restaurant or business, and recently he was a featured presenter in the Social Media Examiner’s, Social Media Marketing Society. Bruce Irving, welcome to The Agents of Change podcast.
Bruce: Hey Rich, thank you so much for having me on the show.
Rich: I’m really excited to be here – well, I’m always excited to be here – I’m really excited for you to be here, Bruce. I’m curious to know how you got started in marketing and why the focus on the delicious but narrow niche of pizzeria marketing.
Bruce: Well this is a great question because I always have people who think I’m in the marketing business and that’s how I got started. But I actually started in this whole crazy podcast marketing world because I owned two pizzerias with my brother-in-law. And that’s kind of how the whole podcast and marketing agency got started, because we were running the pizzerias – and I did that since I was 15 years old – I really started working at that young age, and then I met my brother-in-law and we opened one that was pretty successful in the age of pre-social media. Then we opened a second one and that did pretty well.
And people would always ask us how we were doing our marketing, and we would always help them with marketing, and then this whole social media world came about and we used that in our marketing platform, when Facebook and Instagram first came out. And people would ask us, “What are you doing on these platforms that are helping you guys grow sales?” So we explained it to them, but part of me was like, we came to a plateau where we weren’t necessarily growing the way we wanted to grow. And podcasting was out there so I said what if I started a podcast where I could talk to other people in the pizza world and kind of pick their brain about what they’re doing, and maybe we can use that in our business. And that’s how the whole Smart Pizza Marketing got started.
Rich: Oh that’s very clever. And I find the same thing with The Agents of Change podcast, there are times when I’m like, I just have a question and I know there’s someone out there with an answer that’s much more smarter than me, so I just get to interview them on the show and suddenly I have all their answers.
Bruce: Exactly. In the pizza community there’s a pizza expo, like 10,000 people in the pizza community go to Las Vegas every year and they have guest speakers and these big names in the pizza world and tons of restaurants. It’s very hard to get them to talk to you one-on-one even at the conference when they’re there in person, or afterwards. So I was like, if I had a podcast I could probably have them come on the show and I’ll get their full attention for 25 or 30 minutes and I can ask them whatever I want. And it turned out to be so.
Rich: It’s absolutely true. And for the person that’s listening to this right now, yes, you can do the same thing as well. So as I mentioned earlier on, I did see that you have recently presented at the Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Society, which is a member-based organization, and they just let me in because I’m also going to be presenting there as well. So I was able to check out your slides, and I’m flipping through the slide deck that you put together and because I didn’t hear it I have to wonder, what’s the Costanza Marketing Method? Can you just give us a brief overview of what that’s all about? Because I thought of George and that immediately caught my attention.
Bruce: So I love the show Seinfeld, it’s one of my all-time favorite shows that used to be on TV, I just grew up watching that. So when we think of marketing we’re trying to come up with a way to explain to people what you should be doing. And we work with a lot of restaurants, so even though this is going to be restaurant-centric, you can really do this in any business.
So I was trying to come up with a catchy way to describe not only to the people that implement it on our end, but to the people who were going to be implementing it, for what exactly we do and the philosophy of what we think about marketing. And I came up with the Costanza Method. It just caught my eye because there was this one episode where George was meeting this lady. And you know George, George Costanza if you watch Seinfeld is a quirky weird kind of dude. And he said, “Listen, she may not like me in the beginning, but all I need is 3 or 4 times of being around her and I’m going to be catchy. It’s like that annoying jingle you hear on TV, the first time you hear it, the second time it becomes a little bit catchier, and the third time before you know it it’s Costanza in your brain. I’m going to be in, all I need is 3 or 4 times.”
And that’s kind of how we teach the philosophy of marketing. Use the platforms that you have available to you, create content, and then have it be in front of your intended customers 3 or 4 times. So when they think of what you do or your products – so for us it’s pizza – so when they think of pizza they think of your restaurant because of it, they’ve seen it 3 or 4 times.
Rich: Ok, so I understand that general philosophy, that makes a lot of sense. So what are you finding now in 2019 that works for marketing local businesses?
Bruce: I mean Facebook is really still big, I know there’s been a lot of data or controversy as to whether people are still on the platform or still using the platform. But for us it’s still the most affordable platform to use for local businesses. It is getting a little more expensive now than it used to be when we first started 3 or 4 years ago. But still for a local business to have a budget of a few hundred dollars to be able to create content either through video or photos and push that content into the feed of people who are in your local area with a radius, is still the best way to market.
And Instagram is huge. Especially if you’re a local business that has a visual product. Being able to search people who are in your area on Instagram is huge right now.
Rich: Ok, so obviously we want to get in front of our ideal customers whether we’re local or global. But we’re focusing on local right now, so how do we accomplish that? How do we get in front of our ideal local customers using tools like Facebook and maybe Instagram, too?
Bruce: So on Facebook, let’s just start there and then get into Instagram, on Facebook you can go into the Ads Manager and go into your audience selection and be able to – if you have a physical location, a brick and mortar location – you can go in there and say my customers come from 5-7 miles around my business. You go in there and you create an audience and you tag your physical address as the pinpoint on Facebook and then say I only want my advertising to show to people who live within 5-7 miles of my business. And then you can select people who live in that area, people who have recently visited that area, or people who are visiting that area from somewhere else. So if you’re a vacation destination, maybe they don’t live in your area but they come in there if you’re near like Disney World or something like that.
And then what you do after that is you save that audience and you have to create content. We all know that Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all of these platforms that we spend our time on are very quick, the newsfeed goes by super quick and people just scroll through. So the next part is you have to create content that’s going to get someone to stop the scroll. And you have to do that with pictures and better yet video. That’s the thing that we try to teach people and it’s hard for us because people just aren’t comfortable on video. But you have to create content that’s going to make them stop, and then you can serve that content to them with the copy.
Rich: And you’re finding that video is working for you? Because I’ve heard definitely some different things about video on Facebook and how they count a video watch. And whether or not people are watching the 3 seconds of video or watching more than that, from what I’m hearing from you for your experience is video is working as a way of getting in front of your ideal customers.
Bruce: Yeah, because we’re not creating long form content, we’re not creating 7, 8, 9, 10 minute videos on Facebook for these local businesses. We’re just saying go on there for 30 seconds or 60 seconds and explain what you do and how you do it. The thing that we try to get our customers to do is you have your own unique story of why you do things the way that you do, and a lot of customers come to us and say, “Bruce, my customers don’t understand why my prices are what they are, or why I don’t deliver to this area, or why I don’t open on Sundays.” And I say listen, that’s your fault. You could easily go online and produce content and answer those questions through video in 30 seconds, and then push that in front of all of your potential customers. So that way when they think of your business they know that Joe’s Pizza Shop isn’t open on Sundays, but they do open on Mondays at 4:00, because they’ve seen the content that you produced by answering those questions and you’ve pushed it where they are.
Rich: Ok, so that makes sense. The other thing that I’m hearing from you is so far it’s been about targeting specifically from the platform. We’ve had conversations on this before, Mike Stelzner mentioned it, it’s like he doesn’t even have anybody at his upcoming conference talking about organic Facebook posts. Are you doing anything in the organic world of Facebook, or is it all about targeted posts?
Bruce: No, we do a little bit of both. I think really for us it depends on where you start. If you’re just starting a Facebook page – believe it or not we do have people that are just starting a Facebook page in 2019 – and it’s really, really hard to grow – if impossible – to grow organically. But, if you’ve done a good job of engaging your customer base on Facebook, they’re still a place for organic reach for sure.
What we usually try and do is, if you do have an engaged audience and you have some sort of audience on Facebook, I have a 24 hour rule. We put something out and in the first 24 hours we go back and look at how it performed. And if it performed well organically then we’ll spend some money on that as an ad because if it performed well organically it’s going to perform well as an ad. And then vice versa.
If you put something out on Facebook or Instagram and it just does poorly depending on the audience size, then we won’t spend any money on that as an ad because if it didn’t work organically then it’s highly likely – or unlikely – that anybody is going to interact with that even if we spend some money.
Rich: Ok. Now pizza seems like something that’s fun to talk about, and in the show – as my transcriptionist has often complained – whenever I have come up with some local generic business to talk about as an example, I almost always go with pizza. But not everybody is selling pizza. And a lot of small business owners I know and marketers struggle with ideas for content. What type of advice would you give a local business owner who says I’m not sure what l kind of content I should be sharing?
Bruce: For me that always goes back to what questions do you get asked. No matter what business you have, there’s probably 15-25 questions that you get asked over and over again. The same questions, be it variations of the same questions. But for the most part there’s always those basic questions that you can start with. And I always say to start there, because the part about creating content that people get stuck with, is the starting part.
Once you get started and you start writing your subject line and you start creating ideas for blog posts or videos, once you get rolling, some of those ideas tend to spread like wildfire. You start with 5 and then before you know it you have 15. So start with the 15 or 25 questions that you get asked. Start putting them down and then what kind of content can you create around those basic questions that you get asked over and over again.
Rich: Alright, we can certainly start with that sort of stuff. How do we know if it’s being successful or not? Is it literally just the number of likes and comments ad shares we get?
Bruce: No. I think that after that point we have to use retargeting. We use some Facebook bots that are special to our clients. We’ll send out posts that say, “Hey listen, use the keyword in the comments below and we’ll send you an exclusive coupon code”. And what we do with that is we only show that stuff to people who have engaged with our video, and by watching a certain percentage of that video or liked and commented on our post and engaged with us in some capacity on Facebook. Because we know that by watching 15% of that video, you’re probably likely going to buy from us whatever product that video is showing.
Rich: Ok. Now I noticed that you also mentioned contests that you’ve run. Tell me a little bit about what contests you have found to be successful to your business.
Bruce: So it’s easy for restaurants or pizzerias, depending on the price point of your product. If you have a higher price point you may have to figure out some sort of way to give away something that you feel comfortable at that price point to give away. Like if you’re a local roofer you can’t give away a free roof, but you could definitely give away a smaller item – if you charge for a consultation, or the flashing – you could definitely give that away as a way to get people to opt in to your bot.
We use a bot for all of our contests. And the reason we use a Facebook bot for our contests is it gives us a couple things. It gives us subscribers on our Facebook page, which allows us in the future to send them messages through Facebook Messenger. And it also allows us to capture people’s email addresses through Facebook Messenger, which is very important because that’s kind of like the only asset that we get to own.
No matter how many likes you have on Facebook or how many people watch your video, who knows what’s going to happen with Facebook in the future. There could be a point where Mark Zuckerberg is like, “I’m done”, and he just shuts it off. You want to be able to take those customers and move them to wherever the next platform is. And you do that by collecting people’s email addresses with these Facebook bots. So we do that.
Rich: I was going to say I did want to talk to you about chat bots, so let’s just fold this all in together. So walk me through, you have a contest – whatever it’s going to be, free pizza, free flashing – how are you using chat bots, how are you engaging me because I live 5-7 miles from your shop?
Bruce: So we use a tool called ManyChat, it’s a free tool to 500 subscribers, it’s only $10/month after that. We’ll connect that to our Facebook page and if you’re a restaurant we’ll say what are you comfortable giving away. If it’s a free dinner we’ll say we will create a post, we’ll get a picture of whatever it is we’re giving away and we’ll write some copy there, “We’re giving away a free dinner for one, type in the word ‘dinner’ in the comments below and we’ll send you the coupon code/enter you in to win”. And once you connect ManyChat, the keyword is there. So once that ManyChat recognizes the keyword, then it triggers the sequence in which we send people communication through Facebook Messenger.
Now technically the comment isn’t what subscribes someone to your Facebook page, they have to send you a message. So the first response from us is, can we notify you here if you win. That’s the message that gets triggered when they put the keyword in. 99% of the time they respond back, “yes”. Then from there we say, “Great. We will notify you, we’re going to pick the winner on this date at this time, and we’ll notify you if you win. In the meantime, here’s $2 off your next order, click the link below to get started.” And there will be a link to their order form or reservations or follow us on Instagram. And then from there we pick the winner and we can send them broadcasts through Facebook Messenger.
Rich: Ok. So I know that there are a lot of rules around what you can send via chat bots on Facebook, when you can send it, promotions versus just information. Can you kind of walk me through what we can and can’t do? Like for example, let’s say that you have a weekly special for your Facebook fans, can you promote that once a week like if you’re giving away free toppings for pizza, can you just push that out through the Facebook chat bot once a week, or does that kind of go up against their community rules for chat bots?
Bruce: So you can send promotional messages but within 24 hours of somebody subscribing to your Facebook page. Now I don’t suggest you ever send someone one message a week on Facebook Messenger, because I feel like there’s level of comfort that people have. It’s like email, Messenger, text. Email is a little less formal, people are more comfortable giving out their email address. They’re a little less comfortable giving out their Facebook Messenger, and fairly uncomfortable giving out their text.
So when it comes to Facebook Messenger I would suggest one or two a month. And here’s how we do it. So you can’t necessarily send someone a promotional message blatantly after the 24 hour period. So the workaround that we do is, anybody on our Facebook Messenger subscriber list we’ll send them a message like this, “Hey, we have something awesome going on this week. Want in?” And there will be two options, click ‘yes’ or click ‘no’. The people who click ‘yes’ get sent to that next set of messages which is the offer. The people who click ‘no’ just get a personal message from the owner that says, “Ok, have a great weekend, we’ll see you next time”.
Rich: So that message, as far as you understand it, the one that says, “Hey, you want in?”, that’s not promotional. But if you send, “Hey, 50% off pizza, click here”, that would be considered promotional, as you understand it?
Bruce: Exactly. We’re giving them an option to either be in or be out.
Rich: And once they say, “I’m in”, is the clock reset for 24 hours where you can promote to that person, send promotional messages for the next 24 hours?
Rich: But again, if you piss off this audience they’re going to disconnect from us and possibly report us as being aggressive, and it’s not going to work out even if they don’t because we’ve just lost a potential customer.
Bruce: Exactly. And that’s why I say don’t send one message a week through the broadcast messenger, because that’s kind of pushing it. When someone opts in to your Facebook by giving that keyword and comment, they’re kind of telling you they want to be included in whatever it is you’re doing. And by giving them the option when you do send out those broadcast messages, again, they’re opting in to those and you’re not just sending them every day like you would a Facebook post.
You want to be really intentional when you send that message and what’s in the message. Because you don’t want to be flagged for spam.
Rich: Right. And are their tools within this chat bot tool that you’re using, like maybe segmented into “meat lovers” versus “vegetarians”? So if you’ve got a meat special going on you can only send it to the meat eaters and vice versa if you’ve got a vegetarian offer going on you only send it to the vegetarian. Or can it be that nimble or is it basically an all or nothing sort of thing?
Bruce: No. See I look at it just like a little bit more sophisticated than email. We always try to explain it as think of it as email through Facebook Messenger. You can tag subscribers, you can send to people that opened those messages last time, you can send a different message to people that didn’t open the last message. If they clicked on the meat lover button you can send those people meat lover deals. If they lick on the not meat lover button you can send those other options. But it is very sophisticated, there’s so many different options I always try to just give the basic overview because sometimes their head can be spinning with all the options that are available.
Rich: So you would argue, start simple with these chat bots. And chat bots basically are just flowcharts of yes/no type questions until people get to some sort of end game, correct?
Bruce: Yeah. People hear “chat bot” and their eyes roll in the back of their head and they feel like they can’t figure that out at all and they just give up. And I really explain – especially on our podcast – there’s companies out there that charge people $1,200-$1,500 a month to do chat bots, and you could literally do it on your own. If you can use Mailchimp, you can use ManyChat.
Rich: Ok. And when you’re getting people into that chat bot funnel, is it almost always through advertising or do you find that some people are coming just to your page for whatever reason, and then that little chat bot opens up at the bottom of the page on Facebook and then you engage them that way? Or can you even measure those sort of things?
Bruce: So what happens is when we do these contests with Facebook bots, for the most part the organic reach increases always, because we get to follow that interaction where people are actually commenting and liking that post and sharing it with all their friends. And don’t ask people to share it as a way to get into the contest, just a word or warning there. But we see that organic reach naturally being higher with these contests and we don’t spend as much money on those.
Rich: Alright. Any last words as we shift maybe from Facebook to Instagram, because we have spent most of our time here today on Facebook? Any special tips that you might share with us for engaging your local audience using Instagram?
Bruce: Yes, a couple things. When we first started teaching Facebook a couple years ago, we would say less is more. Less posts you have to post on a weekly basis to get you through the reach. I feel like it’s the opposite now. If you’re really looking to build your page organically, you may want to consider posting every single day, or twice a day even. Because the organic reach is really small and it used to be you wouldn’t want to annoy people in their feeds, but Facebook does a really good job of making that algorithm work for people.
So post more if you think you need to, post some videos, and then don’t be afraid to spend some money on advertising for those posts that perform well. You may think to yourself that post performed really well so I don’t need to spend any money on it. But, if it performed well without spending money on it, think about what would happen if you spend $10, $15, or $20 on that, you could reach a whole different audience that you may not have, and then there’s social proof on that post.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Oh you know what I want to ask you about, on Instagram you had mentioned something about checking out the top posts on Instagram. Can you kind of fill in the gaps for me there? Why are you doing that?
Bruce: So what we do is, on a local business if you go to your Instagram right now and you go to the little magnifying glass at the bottom – that’s the search bar – if you type in the city you’re in you’re going to see a whole different bunch of options come down from the drop down.
So let’s take Boston for example. If you type “Boston” into the search bar on Instagram, you’re going to see a whole bunch of different areas that you can select that people have checked into those areas. And then once you select one of those you’re going to see two things. You’re going to see ‘top’ and you’re going to see ‘recent’. The ‘top’ one is the most popular posts from that area that you’ve selected to search. In the ‘recent’ one it’s the most recent posts from that same area. And what we do as local businesses is we really want to focus on our town or neighborhood, so we go in there and start engaging with those posts from those geographical locations that we selected.
Now you have to really be careful. You don’t want to use a bot for this because sometimes a bot can be a little bit awkward and leave a comment where it probably isn’t relevant or shouldn’t be there, and you really want to be careful of that. So it’s really hand to hand combat. Spend 15 or 20 minutes a day searching your local area for those posts that are in your area. I bet if you have a local business and you type in your address to that business, there’s probably people posting about your business that you don’t even know about.
Rich: And then what would you do with that information?
Bruce: So for us what we do is we’ll leave a comment and we’ll engage with them. We’ll like a post if it’s appropriate, we’ll leave a comment that has to do with a picture, not just a random comment. You want it to be specific. And then maybe we’ll send them a direct message. We do this a lot for our customers because we’re restaurants and we have the ability to give out things that aren’t too expensive. So for our local pizzeria we’ll shoot them a message and say if you’re ever in our neck of the woods send us a message and we’ll send you a coupon for a free pizza. We create a specific coupon code that let us know they got it on Instagram, and we get 50-100 customers every month just by doing that.
Rich: I can see you even running some sort of contest, if you will, where it’s like we’ve chosen the photo of the week or the photo of the day and that person gets a free soda with a slice, or whatever it might be, just to engage that local audience as well.
Bruce: Yeah. So one of our clients in Orlando has a box on the inside of the pizza box that says, “Show us your pie. Tag us on Instagram using the two hashtags and we pick one winner every week for a free pizza.”
Rich: There you go.
Bruce: So they pick one winner every single week from the people who have tagged them on Instagram, and they get a ton of user generated content because people are tagging them, we ask them if we can use that photo if it’s a good one. We get a lot of followers from that and interaction and it’s just a great way to engage people on that platform.
Rich: Bruce, I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there running local businesses who would like to learn more about you and learn more from you, where can we find you online?
Bruce: Just go to smartpizzamarketing.com, that’s our website and you can find all of our podcast episodes there. We talk a lot about pizza, so if you like pizza that’s great. But everything we talk about you can use in your business, too.
Rich: Awesome. Bruce, thank you so much for stopping by today.
Bruce: Rich, thank you so much for having me. That was awesome.
If you’re looking to grow your business – especially in the pizzeria industry – then Bruce Irving is the guy to see. His agency and podcast have helped teach businesses how to grow creatively and strategically, because he’s been there and knows the industry well.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.