The Pizza Story

I have a friend who once a year always has the same problem

We were catching up over coffee when I was back in Ohio, and I was asking him about family and what’s going on.

He’s said,

“Man, once again, it’s almost my daughter’s birthday, but she has a bunch of really severe food allergies. She’s gluten-free, and she can’t have any type of peanuts or nuts or she can have such a severe reaction she’d be hospitalized.”

“I’m just bummed because we just can’t give her the experience that most kids have on their birthdays. We can’t go to the pizza shop. We can’t have a big party. We can’t have the dessert afterward and I just wish that we could celebrate with her the way that all of her friends get to celebrate on their birthdays.”

And so of course, I’m consoling him, telling him how tough that is, and how I know how much work he has to put in because of that…

It had me thinking.

What if five minutes later someone had walked into the coffee shop or somebody had been sitting there next to us and said,

“Hey, I couldn’t help but overhear what you guys are talking about. My daughter also has food allergies and we actually just opened a restaurant that serves gluten-free dairy-free nut-free pizza and dessert. We have a totally compliant kitchen space and we also have a party space in the back that you can rent out specifically for birthdays.

“If you’d like to come in, I’d love to welcome you to the shop. Here’s my card and let’s find a time where you can come in and try our pizza, on the house.”

Can you imagine how amazing that would have been? Can you imagine how excited my friend would have been to tell his family about this? Can you imagine how many other parents who he would have told? (If you’ve got kids with allergies like this, it’s no doubt you know the other families that do, too).

So this is marketing.

It’s telling a relevant, empathetic story that matters to someone.

It’s about understanding. It’s about empathy. It’s about seeing people where they are. And then telling them the story they’ve been waiting to hear.

Marketing is specific. And if your product over-delivers, the right people can’t help but tell others about it.

Here is what I see all of the time:

(You) start a business or project and attempt to tell everyone about it. You tweet about it, you advertise about it, and you share and share with anyone who will listen. And despite all of this effort… it barely moves the needle.

And so you do the only thing you think you should do… you decide that the answer can only be to shout more.

The problem is that your product or business is not for everyone.

And so though you may be sending your message scattershot to the masses, most simply don’t care. Not only that, the people you share with… they don’t know what you know. They don’t have the upbringing you have. They don’t have the peer group you have, they have their own set of beliefs, worries, and circumstances that help them decide what to pay attention to.

And the good news is that’s something we can come to understand.

The good news is there’s somebody everybody out there waiting for somebody to approach them with the business with the product with the project that solves the problem that there.

People are out there telling their friend at the coffee shop about a problem they’re having. They’re waiting for the right person to come along with the right offer, and when they do, they happily will buy it.

But they’re not waiting for someone to come up and tell them a story that they don’t care about.

If that same guy at the coffee shop had overheard the conversation and pitched us on his new Deli that serves ice cream, we would have left worse off.

He would have interrupted us. No thank you.

But instead, he told us a relevant, personal story about something we care about.

The truth is that marketing is about the people we serve.

It’s about understanding them.

It’s about empathy.

So the answer isn’t sharing more, or throwing more messages at passersby who don’t care.

It’s about the right message, at the right time, to the right person. And it can’t be for everyone.

But for a few people…

And those people have been waiting for you to give them the opportunity to buy from you.

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