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  • 09.02.10

It’s Not About the Pizza and 7 Other Social Media Insights

Everything you need to know to succeed in business you can learn from the Pizza delivery guy. (Part 2 of 2)

“I’m just the guy who gets it,” offers the humble yet vivacious Ramon
DeLeon
when explaining his unlikely rise from delivering pizzas around
Chicago’s lakeshore to delivering keynote addresses on social media
around the world. What seems to be intuition for DeLeon is in fact an
uncanny ability to be way ahead of the curve, to observe what’s going on
with his target and adapt accordingly. DeLeon gets it in a way that is
both inspiring and enlightening, offering eight essential insights for social media
success.

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Pizza

Marketers long-trained to push out messaging, often look at social
media as a new channel to tell their story. A few minutes with DeLeon
and they will realize the folly of this approach. In fact, I spent 40
minutes on the phone with DeLeon talking through his social media
success stories before the quality of his pizza even came up. The truth
is that when it comes to social media, it is simply not about the
pizza. “My focus has always been on the consumer,” noted DeLeon. “Out
of ten tweets, maybe only one will mention our product.”

2. It’s About Connecting With the Customer

Most companies pay lip service to customer service, hiding behind
phone trees and avoiding intimate interactions. DeLeon, on the other
hand, has been on a first name basis with his customers ever since his
days delivering pizza. Explained DeLeon, “My whole thing is the
connection with the customer–how can I help you?” Starting first with
Instant Messaging then Facebook in the mid-90’s, DeLeon established
tight bonds with the local college kids so much so that when they
graduated, those students brought Domino’s with them into their new
companies.

3. Make Deposits in the “Good Will Bank”

Many CEO’s ask their marketing head’s to focus on “things that
deliver immediate ROI,” often at the expense of relationship building.
DeLeon likens marketing to dating, noting that he “always includes
customers in marketing pieces to give some love back after spending
[their] hard earned dollars and to create very strong bonds.” These
bonds were money in the bank when Domino’s faced it’s YouTube video
crisis in 2009. Noted DeLeon, “because of the relationships we had with
customers they had our back, so they still would order and support in
confidence.”

Ramon DeLeon

When two young Domino’s employees in North Carolina posted a video of
them cooking a pizza with cheese they’d put up their nose, Domino’s
Corporate and the local franchise were both caught completely off guard.
Not so DeLeon. He immediately created his own video, noting how
horrific the other one was, and then follow up with anyone in Chicago
who commented online about the offending video. Local bloggers and
tweeters responded favorably to his outreach, acknowledging that DeLeon
had been “part of the social media scene forever” and would “never let
such a thing happen in his stores.” Remarkably, DeLeon’s store sales
actually rose during this period while nationally Domino’s took a hit
and the local NC franchise ultimately went out of business.

5. Learn to Apologize (Really Well)

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Admitting a mistake often comes hard to corporate America. DeLeon,
on the other hand, has turned apologizing into a PR-generating,
customer-satisfying art form. When a well-known local blogger had a
problem with a delivery and wrote about, DeLeon responded with an
amazingly heartfelt video apology they he posted on his YouTube and
Facebook pages. In the video he and his shamefaced manager invited the
blogger into the store to “make things right.” DeLeon’s apology video (http://www.viddler.com/explore/dpzramon/videos/19/)
has been watched over 125,000 times and is regularly showcased in
speeches by marketing gurus Seth Godin and Jeanne Bliss.

6. Don’t Get Bogged Down by Trying to Measure Everything

Much to the chagrin of marketers, not every effort, online or
otherwise, can be tied to sales. DeLeon believes that “sometimes there
are too many metrics,” adding, “how much do you love your wife?” As an
example, DeLeon points to a poster program in his stores that invites
customers to take pictures of themselves in front of a Domino’s poster
and share them with friends. “I’m not telling them to tag these or
anything–just share them with your world,” noted DeLeon, who praises the
program as generating good will and giving his customers something to
do while they wait for their pizzas.

7. Make Each Program Your Own

Geo-based social networks like Foursquare are just emerging as
powerful tools for local retailers. Not surprisingly, DeLeon was one of
the first retailers to try Foursquare in Chicago, but did not settle
for the norm of giving something free to the people who checked-in most
at each of his stores. Instead, DeLeon challenged his “mayors” to take
responsibility like a real mayor; “to do whatever [they] think [they]
gotta do to keep me in business!” By putting the onus on his best
customers to “represent” his stores and rewarding them by allowing them
to give free pizzas to whomever they chose, DeLeon tightened his
relationships and made the program his own.

8. Have Fun and Keep it Real

Fun is not a word that is heard a lot of outside of start-ups. Ramon
DeLeon evaluates his own success with two questions, “am I having fun?”
and “are our sales and profitability up?” The fun part for DeLeon is a
constant, since he clearly loves connecting with people, whether he is
on stage, behind a counter, on Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare or in his
homemade video shout-outs. Regardless of the channel, DeLeon tries to
be the same person and advises all others to take this approach.
Concluded DeLeon, “there are real people behind these tweets and I just
want to have fun with them.”

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Final Note: While DeLeon could not offer actual sales figures, he
noted with pride that sales growth in his stores over the last 18-months
has significantly out-performed both the Chicago market and national
average for Domino’s stores.

About the author

Drew is the founder of Renegade, the NYC-based social media and marketing agency that helps inspired B2B and B2C clients cut through all the nonsense to deliver genuine business growth. A frequent speaker at ad industry events, Drew’s been a featured expert on ABC’s Nightline and CNBC.

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