Steve Case former CEO and Founder of American Online visited the Gazella team headquarters and here is what he taught us.
The first stop of the Rise of the Rest tour featuring Steve Case was Omaha, NE. After a quick early morning press conference the Rise of the Rest team and venture funding company Revolution made their way to the Omaha Startup Collaborative which hosts some of the fastest moving companies in the Midwest. Companies such as Ulytic an urban analytics platform using computer vision software and Avert a high tech way to detect concussions share the 7th floor of the collaborative.
Steve had a jammed packed schedule, but was still kind enough to meet our team briefly. While Steve's marketing brilliance primarily came during his time growing Procter and Gamble and of course the quickly growing American Online (AOL) we knew that his marketing expertise could likely translate into the restaurant marketing world. In 1982 Steve was manager of New Pizza Marketing at Pizza Hut, so we were sure to listen carefully throughout his trip to Omaha.
Here are some examples of Steve Case has used in marketing brilliance to make huge impacts:
The main event in Omaha was the business pitch competition with a top prize of $100,000. Case himself sat on the panel of judges, and as he asked his difficult, but pointed questions. Our team was able to gleam marketing insights that could be used not only in the technology businesses that were pitching, but essentially any other business.
Our goal was to take the top marketing insights from Steve over the day, and review those insights making them valuable for our Gazella Wifi-Marketing restaurant clients. Here is what we came up with-
1. What's your competitive advantage?
Steve asked the question "What's your competitive advantage?" to Amy Johnson of LifeLoop during the rise of the rest pitch competition. Amy handled the question appropriately and went on to win the competition and $100,000 prize. For Gazella most of our day is spent with restaurants and this question got us thinking. There are over 600,000 restaurants in the USA alone. How does one restaurant have a significant competitive advantage over another? While each and every restaurant concept seems to produce their own advantage through atmosphere, staffing, location, and customer expectations, there was one common theme we pulled out. Restaurants using technology received a significant competitive advantage. Deploying technology in restaurants is a quick step in the right direction for restaurants creating a competitive advantage.
2. Free Trials Actually Convert to Paying Customers
Steve and AOL did this by handing out what seemed to be hundreds of thousands of the free AOL CDs. Although the trial was free AOL built a 165 Billion dollar company giving away free trials. The free trial is not only good for tech business, but restaurant business as well. While we wouldn't recommend sending food samples via our Gazella Wifi networks, giving away a "taste" isn't such a bad idea. Instead of giving away an entire meal or appetizer, give away a taste of your new menu. Produce a good product and customers will come back for more, just as they did with AOL.
3. Set yourself up for growth.During the second pitch Gear Supply founder Joshua Koterba was asked by Case- "Gear Supply, why not Guitar Supply?" Gear Supply is a subscription box for guitar enthusiasts with 30,000 monthly subscribers, instead of backing themselves into a corner, the team only allowing them to sell to guitar players, they could essentially sell to the many different types of "gear" that is needed. This likely a softball of a question from Case, but from a marketing standpoint can't be disregarded. When it comes to restaurant marketing set your self up for success. Use your email marketing lists to not only encourage customers to come to your restaurant, but cross promote. For example a restaurant near a stadium could up sell a dinner and baseball game special to their loyal customers that log in to their wifi marketing platform or on their restaurant email marketing lists. While food and the restaurant is the catalyst the customer benefits in more ways than one.
Overall our team had a blast during the Rise of the Rest tour. It is apparent that Steve and his team have not settled and are continuing to grow ideas, people, and partnerships. A big thank you to the startup collaborative and all of Lincoln and Omaha business communities for making this event possible.