4 Lessons Business Owners Should Learn from THE Pizza Guy to Know in Chicago


8826_162635821012_556501012_4060578_1699670_nRamon De Leon owns 6 Domino’s Pizza franchise stores in Chicago. Yup, you heard right. Chicago - the pizza capital of the U.S., which makes his success all that much more impressive. And not only has he been successful as a Domino’s Pizza franchise owner, he has had great success in the social media world as a visionary and speaker. Ramon has flown to marketing events from Amsterdam to Mexico, and most recently Venezuela, to consult for marketing professionals and companies like Southwest Airlines, and share what he has accomplished with social media.

I first heard Ramon speak at a social media conference at UC Irvine. He impressed the entire room with the amount of knowledge he shared in regard to using social media tools, but what made the biggest impact on me was his passion, his energy and just how much fun he was having. These three things are critical to being a successful business owner (as well as key to loving going to work everyday.)

So what’s his secret? Below are 4 lessons that every business owner, large and small, can learn from the pizza guy to know in Chicago.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen big shifts in marketing and advertising. When I stepped into the advertising world, there were three dominant parts making up most of the media plans that our clients relied on. TV. Radio. Print. It’s needless to say that this is no longer the case.

The world around you changes and you need to change with it. Ramon has mentioned a few times that before Facebook and Twitter, he communicated with his customers through AOL Instant Messenger. He then migrated to Twitter and Facebook. Now he has done some really cool stuff by leveraging FourSquare. And you can bet that he’s already keeping an eye out for what will come next. The ability to grow and adapt will allow you to succeed despite the changes you face with your next generation of customers.

Identify Your Audience and Be Wherever They Are:
Ramon understands one thing about his industry. College students eat pizza. A lot of pizza. So he goes where college students go. He has delivered pizza to pep rallies at local colleges. He filmed video of these events, took photos and posted them online. You may not be familiar with this, but back when Facebook first started, it was only available to college students. Ramon has said that back in 2005, he seriously considered going back to college, just so that he could create a Facebook account. Why? Because that is where his customers were.

Take surveys, run searches, and directly ask your customers where they are spending their time both on and offline. You can also try services such as Flowtown, which allows you to enter your email list and find out what social networks your customers are on, in addition to other information such as age and occupation. Follow the direction your audience is going in. If you wait for them to come to you, you may be waiting indefinitely.

Provide Value that Wows:
Ramon is great at providing people with service that warrants a trademark “RamonWOW” reaction. When a customer had a problem with her order, not only did Ramon personally apologize to her; he filmed his apology, posted it online, acknowledged the mistake, and guaranteed that they would make it up to her. He went above and beyond the call of duty. When customers request that Ramon deliver a pizza himself, (and yes, this does happen), he does his best to make that happen. Back in January, Ramon's Facebook status read that the time it took the first person to respond to his status update would be the dollar amount that person would pay for their pizzas. The first response came 2 minutes later, and that person then enjoyed pizzas for $2. When asked about this Ramon says “I cannot make money selling pizzas for one dollar, but I can make money off of the conversation it generates.” A win, win, I say.

Really think about what would make your customers stop and notice you. There are very few instances in which customers don’t have a choice between your company and a hundred other vendors. Why should they choose you? It may be that you have better customer service, or that in addition to handing over a product you also tell them how to use it. Maybe your blog offers great industry insights. Or maybe you just remember their name when they walk into your store. Whatever business you're in, find out how to go the extra mile and create your own “Wow” moments. Not only will this make your customers happy, it will also give them a reason to talk about you. There is no better marketing that great word of mouth.

Be Passionate & Have Fun:

It’s easy to see that Ramon loves going to work everyday. He knows his business, loves his business and finds creative ways to market it.

Last year, a car crashed right into the lobby of one of Ramon's stores. Many would not see this as a marketing opportunity. Ramon, on the other hand, created a "Board 'Em Up" special. And also used this opportunity to share his Twitter handle.

The tools that we as business owners have at our disposal today amaze me. Small businesses can compete with big businesses in ways that they couldn’t before. Take full advantage of these tools, and have fun while doing so.