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Nov. 19, 2021

Finding Your Niche With Bruce Irving of Smart Pizza Marketing

Finding Your Niche With Bruce Irving of Smart Pizza Marketing

This episode features guest Bruce Irving, the marketing visionary behind Smart Pizza Marketing and the host of the Smart Pizza Marketing podcast.

Listen as Andy discusses with Bruce how to find your niche in businesses and how you can become the go to expert in that niche. In addition, they discuss why you should use forms of media that your competitors may not yet have embraced.

Should every business be on every platform? Bruce says no. Instead find out where your customers are at and learn how to use those platforms to find new customers. Be consistent on delivering content because it is consistency over time that makes social media work.

Within this episode, they also discuss why using your phone works when producing content for social media and why you shouldn't overthink it. Instead see what resonates with your customers and do more of it!

As a final tip Bruce says, "don't use marketing lingo when selling inside your nice it is a dead giveaway of an outsider".

Episode Action Items:

You can find more information regarding Bruce Irving and his Smart Pizza Marketing Podcast at


Andy Splichal - Make Each Click Count PodcastAndy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.

New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and


Andy Splichal  0:02  

Welcome to the Make Each Click Count podcast. This is your host Andy Splichal. We are happy to welcome this week's guest to discuss today's topic which is finding your niche. Today's guest is the marketing visionary behind Smart Pizza Marketing and the host of the Smart Marketing Pod, Smart Pizza Marketing Podcast . A big hello to Bruce Irving. Hi, Bruce.


Bruce Irving  1:05  

Hi, thank you so much for having me.


Andy Splichal  1:07  

Excited to have you. Now I'm excited to here. Now, you know I usually don't do this start by talking about I guess company first thing off the top of the show, but today I can't help it. So here it is. Why pizza? And what does it take to become a bonafide pizza expert?


Bruce Irving  1:24  

Do you got to eat a lot of pizza in order to become a pizza expert. But why pizza for me? You know what, it's just a business that I grew up in. So I'm up here in the Boston area in the Northeast. And the first job that I had was at a pizzeria. And I loved it. I love making pizza. I love being in the restaurant business. And I worked at that specific pizzeria. That's pretty well known in the Boston area. If you're familiar with the Boston area, and I worked my way up, I found a different business that I worked with, we ended up partnering and I ended up owning a pizzeria and then turned into two. And then that's kind of how it all started with the pizza.


Andy Splichal  1:57  

Now my show is geared more toward ecommerce. And of course, you're geared toward restaurants and pizza restaurants specifically, but I couldn't resist having you on the show. And for this reason, you have found a niche and become the absolute expert in it. Can, can you tell us about that process?


Bruce Irving  2:14  

So I started the podcast back in 2014. About pizza in, you know, podcasting, if you're listening to this when it comes out in 2021 is pretty popular, but it's still not mainstream. I don't believe yet. We're still growing back in 2014. If you could imagine a room of 100 pizza operators. If I asked them how many of those pizza operators listen to a podcast for people would have raised their hands back then. Now it's significantly higher. But I started a podcast and I wanted to use the podcast as a way to talk to other pizzeria operators who either I looked up to or I wanted to ask a question of, and I thought podcasting was a fantastic way to be able to kind of pick their brain, ask them questions, have a conversation with them about how to grow our pizzeria like they did. And that's kind of why I started the podcast back then.


Andy Splichal  3:08  

Now, for those that are not familiar with your Smart Pizza Marketing Podcast, it's just all about pizzerias, right and advertising. And what are you doing with it?


Bruce Irving  3:19  

Yeah, so we talk a lot about marketing, how to restaurants and pizzerias grow and believe it or not, I have a lot of people who listen to the podcast who aren't even in the pizza industry, who may be a friend told them about because we do talk a lot about marketing and advertising and social media and how do businesses get locally or any business really use and leverage social media Instagram, TikTok, to get customers to get awareness to get those people to know who they are and to be the go to business for whatever category they're in. And that's what we talk about a lot on the podcast,


Andy Splichal  3:51  

Righ. So you could use this you don't have to be a pizzeria. You could use this as a professional service client or, or even promoting your your local store, if you're ecommerce but you have a brick and mortar as well, I'm assuming 


Bruce Irving  4:03  

Yeah, 100%. If we talk about a picture of a pizza, or a video about a pizza, just substitute whatever you do into that, but the the way that you use Instagram, or TikTok that we talked about is exactly the same.


Andy Splichal  4:15  

Now let's talk about social media marketing. Where are you recommending your clients? Because you have clients as well, that are pizzerias, right?


Bruce Irving  4:24  



Andy Splichal  4:25  

So where do you recommend and put your clients and, and where, what are you talking about on the show as far as where people really should be advertising using social media?


Bruce Irving  4:35  

I'm not in the belief that every business should be on every platform, especially for my category of people who are more locally based. If you are in a local market, you need to really look at where the people who are going to be your potential customers are hanging out, what platforms are they using, and then you need to figure out how to use those platforms. So for instance, pizza and Instagram, and pizza and TikTok right now go really well together. So I'm trying to focus on those two platforms for now, if it's an environment in their local area that people are on there, and try to figure out how to use Instagram, spend some time, don't try to be on every single platform at once, because you're not going to be good at any of them, you're going to be mediocre at all of them. I would rather you spend a month two months, three months really diving deep and learning what is trending on Instagram? What are people liking for content? How can you use stories? How can you use video on that specific platform, create content for that and be consistent with it over an extended period of time, because in the beginning, it's going to take you a long time. But the more that you do it, the easier it's going to get your creativity is going to come out, it's going to take you a lot less time in a few months from now. Then once you get the hang of it and you have a good system down, you can add another social profile onto it if you have the time or desire. But Instagram right now, TikTok, those are the two hottest platforms for my category of business.


Andy Splichal  6:07  

Yeah, no, that's That's great advice is to know where your customers are, and really concentrate on developing your expertise in those marketing channels. You know, there's an old saying in the restaurant business, and only about half your marketing works. But the problem is finding out which half. Now how do you how do you recommend? How do you recommend your clients track their ROI and their success in advertising, especially on those channels?


Bruce Irving  6:32  

Yeah, I mean, social media is hard, because a lot of restaurants don't want to use coupons and coupons used to be the driving force force of marketing back in the day used to send out flyers and, and postcards and going in have inserts into the newspaper. But all those were coupon based, and with prices, skyrocketing for the cost of doing business, it's hard to ask people to use coupons, they don't really want to do that. So you have to really look at alright, what are these platforms are, you know, awareness is the new impression on these coupons, right? Like if you don't want to use coupons, what do you have to track, it's not easy, easily trackable a video that you post on Instagram. But if you build up that awareness on Instagram, and you create a pizza, or you promote a pizza that you have, just as an example today, and you understand that, hey, you know what I promoted that specialty pizza that we had on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we had 10 times more sales for that particular category pizza, we know that worked. Now, you're not going to see it in there register as a sale for a coupon code that someone knows that you can definitely track. But if you're doing your marketing well, and you have a plan in place to promote certain products at certain times, you know which marketing channel is working for you because you'll see the results in the register or in the POS system based on your marketing.


Andy Splichal  7:57  

So you're kind of backing in to the results by seeing what what comes in if you're doing a certain certain ad. How do you do it? If so, are you only doing one video per channel? I mean, are you? Are you worried about the ROI? I mean, are you not releasing, let's say only on TikTok ? One week only on Instagram the next week? Or I mean, how do you know which ones do and what? Or I guess how do you handle that?


Bruce Irving  8:25  

I'm not worried about the ROI. I think social media is part of doing business in 2021. And moving forward, it's not something that you can be like, Oh, I wouldn't get any ROI from that. So we're just not going to do it. The younger generation of folks are spending time on social media. And that's the only place they spend their time. They don't hang out with their friends like they used to, or we used to when we were young. They don't go to they don't go out on Friday nights like we used to. They sit in their room, they play games, they hang out on social media, the internet is the new party on a Friday night for them. So when you think of ROI, the ROI is awareness and being the go to person in your category because you're on these platforms and people know who you are. I call it the Costanza method. Are you familiar with the show Seinfeld? 


Andy Splichal  9:07  

Oh, I love Seinfeld. 


Bruce Irving  9:08  

It's one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. It's probably one of the best sitcoms ever. But there was one episode where George was sitting in the diner. The diner is a familiar place wherever the people from Seinfeld hung out. And they're talking about this waitress and George wants to go out with this waitress but Jerry feels she's way out of his his league. And George is like, you know what, all I need to do is get in front of her three times. It's like that. Cars for Kids commercial, right? You hear the 1-800 Kars4Kids commercial on TV and the first time you hear it you're like oh my god, that is so annoying. The second time you hear it you start to kind of hum along with the song and the third time you hear it you know word for word, what's going on? George said I need to get in front of her three times and then she's gonna know who I am and she's gonna want to go out with me and when she sees me she's gonna think stanza be part of her part of her part of her day. So I think of it that way when you're marketing on Social media think about it in the Costanza method, you're showing up every single day, day after day all the time consistently over time. So when someone thinks of an auto body shop or a real estate agent or pizza, and they live in your area, they just think about you because they always see you.


Andy Splichal  10:16  

So it's a must on social media. How do you produce the content, the video content? Are you outsourcing that? I mean, how do or how do you recommend people create their own if they're listening to your podcast, create their own video content?


Bruce Irving  10:32  

I mean, the phones that we have nowadays are 1000 times better than the cameras we had 20 years ago to produce content. So it's so easy today to produce video and content. And you know what the great thing about social media is, people don't love produced highly produced videos or photos like they do in a magazine or in a newspaper. On social media, you can be a little bit more raw, it doesn't have to be as professional or highly produced, you can be in the moment in show and use your phone as a way to produce that video or take a photo. So it's very, very easy. I think a lot of people spend too much time overthinking what they should be producing, instead of just producing more content, and then going back after they produce the content to really see what resonated with their customers and do more of that.


Andy Splichal  11:22  

Is there any way you could do damage to yourself in one of those videos? And have you seen that before?


Bruce Irving  11:31  

If you're a relatively good person, I don't think you will. You know, I don't I've never seen a video where somebody had their hair a little bit messed up or maybe their shirt was untucked and watch that video and said to myself, You know what, I'm never doing business with that person. That just doesn't happen. But you have to be careful of what you say, obviously, you don't want to offend anybody, or you want to make sure that you are who you are. But if you are a genuinely good person, and you put yourself out there, you're going to be 100% fine.


Andy Splichal  11:58  

So you had mentioned that Tiktok and Instagrams really where you're finding the the most success with social media? What are the other channels that you tried for your clients? Or do you try any other ones right now?


Bruce Irving  12:12  

I yeah, I mean, Facebook is still a great place. The only the only thing about Facebook is, it's more pay to play. So it depends on what our customers want? Do they want to produce content in an organic way and try to organically grow these platforms and get in front of people? Or do they want to spend money on advertising. And the reason I said Instagram and TikTok was those are the only two channels right now. Where you can have the potential to get your content in front of new customers organically without having to spend money on that. Now, you can spend money on both of those channels, but you don't necessarily have to in order for it to get any reach. Facebook is a different animal, you need to pretty much come up with an advertising plan to spend money on the content you put on that platform in order for it to get in front of anybody. Yes, you can do Facebook organically and there still are some people who are doing a good job of it. But if you're starting out today, it's almost impossible to get organic reach on Facebook.


Andy Splichal  13:11  

Are there any challenges that you have struggled with and getting results for your clients?


Bruce Irving  13:16  

Yeah, you know, getting people to believe, especially if they're not a native user of a platform, getting someone to produce content on TikTok. If they don't go on TikTok and consume content. Sometimes they just think it's a young kids game where they're just singing and dancing on there. And yes, that's how it started. But that's not what it's evolved to. So getting buy in from people to actually believe in the process and believe that they can pick up their phone and take a video of themselves talking about their business or answering a question, it takes by it, that's the hardest part for us is to have them believe in it and give it time, it's not going to work over sink overnight. It's gonna take you a long time. It's the consistency over time that makes social media really work. Because you're going to show up more and more people are going to trust that you're not going to just disappear in you're going to get much better at it, the more that you do it. So having people buy in and believe in the long term plan is the hardest part for us.


Andy Splichal  14:15  

What is the average age when you say of pizzeria restaurant tour?


Bruce Irving  14:23  

I would say average age across the US that's a great question and probably somewhere in their late 30s to 40s.


Andy Splichal  14:32  

And is that older? Perhaps than like TikTok users in general, are I mean, are they marketing to kind of a younger crowd than their typical age?


Bruce Irving  14:44  

Definitely, definitely marketing to a younger crowd. But we've always kind of done that, right. We've always kind of wanted to market to the colleges or the schools or been part of the community when it comes to the baseball team or the football team. So we've always marketed and leverage this schools as a way to market to younger folks, you're just doing it in a different way now.


Andy Splichal  15:04  

Yeah, I mean, I guess I can definitely see that as a challenge where they if they don't use TikTok or Instagram on their own and then not even pizzeria but if you are any professional service or, or even ecommerce business owner, trying to use these social medias that you don't use, and market to a younger crowd that there could be a hard time to see the benefits of doing so.


Bruce Irving  15:31  

True. But we also didn't grow up driving a car. But we learned how to do that because it was necessary to get to where we want to go.


Andy Splichal  15:38  

So do you ask them to look at TikTok become familiar with TikTok or you just give their private clients a trust me? This is the channel that will work and how does that work with private clients?


Bruce Irving  15:50  

I think showing people examples of other people who are similar to them, doing it and seeing success and seeing what they're doing helps tremendously. So if you take someone who's a realtor, let's just give an example of in, you can go to that realtor who maybe doesn't believe in using TikTok or is like, you know, I don't want to do TikTok. That's not my audience. If you can show them somebody else who's doing TikTok, for example, the way you're trying to tell them to do it. And they can see that it's not singing and dancing. They're not making a fool of themselves. They are starting conversation, they are seeing some reach with it. I think that makes it a lot easier for them to understand what you want them to do versus just saying, hey, let's do TikTok and they're like, oh my god, now I need to sing and dance and get on there and do all that kind of crazy stuff. It just makes it a lot easier.


Andy Splichal  16:39  

Now with your marketing company, what problems are you solving for your clients? And how are you standing out from the competition.


Bruce Irving  16:47  

The reason we stand out as because we're the only place that helps pizzerias the way that we help them with social media and understanding it and educating them on that platform. So when we when I niche down and I niche down to pizza before I even knew what niching down really was is just what I knew. We are one of the only places that really helps pizzeria owners understand and leverage social media in today's world. And the only reason I started that is because I was in the pizza business. So I understand the daily struggles that these operators go through and how hard it is to find people who care that want to work there. And the rising costs of employee pay and the costs of doing business nowadays. So that's why we stand out. And that's why we help pizzeria owners is because I was one. 


Andy Splichal  17:36  

So you're your own category?


Bruce Irving  17:38  

Yeah, I know exactly who I'm talking to. Because I am that person.


Andy Splichal  17:42  

Has he ever faced any competition? Has anybody ever tried to come in and gotten in? You know, seniors success and try to duplicate it?


Bruce Irving  17:52  

Yeah, there's tons of competition out there. And I love it. I love competition, because there's always these marketers who come into the pizza business. And you'll see Facebook ads or Instagram ads, and you'll see them telling people how to market or what they should be doing. And you can flag them right away by the words that they use. Like if you say butts in seats, or if you say, clients know nobody in the pizza business calls their customers clients or has ever said butts and seats and you stick out like a sore thumb. And we all can see it. And we all know that you're an outsider coming in to try to sell us something that was which we're always standoffish about that.


Andy Splichal  18:33  

Well, that's great. So that's a great tip. You need to know the lingo.


Bruce Irving  18:36  

Yeah, it's it's you don't use markers lingo. When you're trying to help somebody in a category, you got to learn that category and talk like they talk. And if you can do that, they'll trust you.


Andy Splichal  18:47  

Now, conversely, have you ever been tempted to go outside of your niche? Have you ever thought we was working great for pizza, I could do this for any kind of restaurant?


Bruce Irving  18:57  

100% all the time, I get emails, and I refer them out because I don't know their business. And we even have I've even started another podcast more about general marketing. And I get emails all the time from real estate agents or from someone who owns a salon or somebody who has a ecommerce business that ask for help. And I'm like, You know what, I'm going to refer you out to somebody because I don't know that business. And the last thing that I want to do is take somebody's money and have say that I can help them if I'm not 100% Sure I can help them.


Andy Splichal  19:31  

Have you always been so steadfast to that policy? I guess a lot of times when agency started I fell into this trap before I really niche down to Ecommerce but when you start an agency and I started mine in 2014 at the time you almost want to take anybody who will pay right you know if they'll pay you you'll take it cuz you don't have that many clients. Yeah, I mean, it's hard to stay steadfast especially at the beginning and this is great advice for for agency owners out there.


Bruce Irving  19:59  

You know what I think the reason I have been is because I didn't start the podcast or the content that I create as a way to generate revenue for the agency. It kind of turned into an agency. When I first started the podcast, I was operating a restaurant. And that was the my main source of revenue. And I did that for two years before people started to reach out to me who listened to the podcast, who owned restaurants and said, Hey, Bruce, I heard you talk about this on the podcast, and I think I should do it, but I don't have the time to do it. Can you help me with it? And then that's kind of how the agency started for me. So it was never a point in time where I'm gonna start an agency, what? How am I going to get customers? It was never that point for me. So it was always the opposite.


Andy Splichal  20:44  

Right, yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Now, personally, on your journey, have there been any business books out there that you can attribute to your success as an entrepreneur?


Bruce Irving  20:55  

Oh, that's a great question. I think The ONE Thing is a great business book. I love that book is just focusing on one thing at a time, it's sometimes we get, especially with social media and marketing, and we get all these, we get all these shiny object syndrome. And there's so many different things coming up. And we should do this and we should do that. You tend to lose focus on what really works. I love that book.


Andy Splichal  21:19  

I'm sorry, what was what was the name of it?


Bruce Irving  21:21  

The name of the book is The ONE Thing. Oh, the one thing it's Gary Keller, who wrote that by the real estate guy.


Andy Splichal  21:29  

Gary Keller, right?


Bruce Irving  21:30  

Yes. Yeah, One Thing by Gary Keller, that's one of my favorite books of all time, there's a couple other ones, but I can't remember the name of them off top my head.


Andy Splichal  21:36  

So we've touched on this. But real quick, again, who is the perfect client for your agency? It's a pizzeria. But is there a certain size? What? Who do you the think perfect client?


Bruce Irving  21:48  

I think anybody who wants a restaurant, so restaurant or pizzeria, we can help no matter how big or small you are now that we, I think you either have money or you have time. So if you don't have money, you definitely have time, if you don't have money, you're either not really managing your business well, or you're not busy enough to have the resources to hire somebody. In that case, you have time to do everything we talked about on your own. And I think you should start that way. Because you don't want to have somebody who's like, oh, I can kind of afford, you know, 500 or 1000, or however much it is a month, I can kind of afford that for two or three months. You know, if you're that person, you better off doing it on your own until you have the money that you can be like, You know what, no, I have six months to give you the fee to do it for me. And if you don't have time, you're busy in your restaurant, you have money to hire somebody to do it for you so that the second category is the perfect person to hire us the first category, listen to the podcast, and then just go implement on your own.


Andy Splichal  22:50  

Now, how can a interested listener, learn more about working with you?


Bruce Irving  22:55  

It's is our home base. That's where we have all of our podcasts, all of our blog posts and webinars and all that good stuff. If you just go there, you can find us there. You can also find me on Instagram at Smart Pizza Marketing or the Bruce Irving on Instagram. That's my personal one.


Andy Splichal  23:12  

Quick, are you thin crust or thick crust?


Bruce Irving  23:15  

Thin crust all the way.


Andy Splichal  23:17  

How does Italian pizza compared to American pizza?


Bruce Irving  23:22  

I think it's a lot different. In Italy, they're very hold to the fact that Neapolitan pizza is the way to go here in America. There's all different styles and I think that's what makes pizza great. Here is the pizza in America. You can have thin crust you can have thin crust or thick you can have Detroit style pizza, you can have square pan pizza, there's so many different categories of pizza. And it's the one area of food that you can pretty much guarantee everybody in your house will like.


Andy Splichal  23:52  

Is there anything else you'd like to add? Before we wrap it up today?


Bruce Irving  23:56  

I would love to add an advocate for people out there to just try it out. Don't be so hold on to the fact that I don't use TikTok or I don't use Instagram, so I'm not going to use it for my business. Try it out. Be open minded. Go on the platform, see what is working for your category of business on that platform, and then test it out. Do it for 30 or 60 days before you make judgment on it. You're gonna be surprised by the results that you see.


Andy Splichal  24:24  

Well, that's great. Well, thanks again for joining us today, Bruce.


Bruce Irving  24:27  

I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.


Andy Splichal  24:28  

For listeners remember if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcasts and leave an honest review. And if you're looking for more information regarding or connecting with Bruce you can find the links in the show notes below. In addition, if you're looking for more information on growing your business, check out our all new podcasts Resource Center available in we have compiled all the different paths. Yes, by show topic, and I've included each of their contact information in case you would like more information on any services I've discussed during previous episodes. That's it for today. Remember to safe, keep healthy and happy marketing and I will talk to you in the next episode.