Field Reports23 Nov, 2009 By: Thomas Haire, Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Ramon De Leon started working with the international Domino’s Pizza franchise 20 years ago as a delivery driver. Today, he is the operating partner of six stores in the Chicago area. De Leon is a strong believer that successful marketing lies in creating personal relationships with customers. So in 2009, De Leon is combining his lessons learned as a young entrepreneur — he started selling clothing to peers as early as elementary school using deals he got from the factory where his parents bought on consignment for their own company — with the modern marketing channel of online social media to create interest and buzz around the Domino’s brand, while also increasing sales. De Leon sat down with Response to explain some of the many creative ways that marketers with small budgets can engage consumers using photos, videos, blogs, online social communities and a little ingenuity.
Q: When did you first discover the importance of customer service and what it can do for your business?
A: I was going to the university at the time, and I had a part-time job delivering The New York Times from three to five in the morning. After class, I had time on my hands, and a car, so I thought, why not deliver pizza at night. I went first to a competitor, and told them I knew the delivery area well. They turned me down, so I saw there was a Domino’s store opening, and I called the manager. He met with me the next day. I learned from pizza delivery that interaction with the customer would pay off in loyalty. Creating a rapport and a relationship with customers, through conversations and by remembering them — it paid off.
Q: When did you first get involved in online social communities for the Domino’s brand?
A: We started online ordering for Domino’s in Chicago in 1998. And from the beginning, I used AOL’s Instant Messenger to interact with customers. We started using Facebook in 2005. Now, we have discounts and incentives that can be found on Facebook, where we interact with a lot of high school and college networks. We post a lot of photos of events that we deliver pizzas to, and also offer coupons and menus on these networks. The idea — what these customers want — is to be real and to be transparent. We want to respond to all comments about Domino’s, good or bad.
Q: Do you do all the Twittering for your franchise or do you have others who post?
A: I want to be the global voice for my six stores. I like to make the initial contact, as the official spokesperson, with a customer. But once we have set up an event with a customer or established a relationship, it’s up to the individual store manager to maintain that customer service. I do reach out to customers who make complaints or have questions on social community sites. However, sometimes the customers come to me. They get a print piece, and it tells them I’m on Twitter, or they recognize me from photos on Facebook and videos online — and they say, “Hey, maybe I’ll order a pizza from this guy.”
Q: What are the advantages to putting your brand on an online social community?
A: I’m interested in getting their business, but I’m really more interested in the conversation. I get to know them and how they order, what groups they are involved in, etc. It might have some valuable information and how I can further be a part of their lives.
Q: How do you combine some of your traditional DR with what you’re doing online?
A: We just incorporate the social media into what we’re always doing — door hangers, direct mail, ads on top of pizza boxes and menus to take away. I just put my social media stuff on it. We didn’t have to dream up anything, we just reformatted it to include my Twitter handle or my Facebook fan page. The results have been positive in terms of sales and profitability. It’s more time than money. There is a small start-up cost: camera, phone, something to make videos. But what we’ve invested has more than paid for itself.
Q: How do you combine branding with DR, specifically social communities?
A: Back in 2004, we started offering photos through online social communities that people could swipe for personal use. We just made sure we branded the Domino’s Pizza logo on the bottom. Or we would go to events and carry a Domino’s Pizza flag, and people would want to take a picture with it and then we’d post those photos. Now, using groups like Facebook, people can just tag me in a photo and immediately I become a marketing tool for the brand. We also have cardboard cutouts in our stores where people can stand and take their photo while they’re waiting for pizza. Then customers post it on their blogs — Facebook, Twitter, wherever — and show their friends and again, we’re getting our brand out there.