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Marco\'s Pizza sets sights high


When Cameron Cummins joined Marco’s Pizza in 2005, he had experience crafting marketing strategies that boosted car sales and broadcast revenue, but for his first foray into franchising, he wanted to make a real splash.

“We needed an audacious goal, something that will make us go supernova,” he says. “So, I proposed that we hit $1 billion in sales by 2010. Some people said that’s crazy, but with our product, and this market, I don’t see any reason we can’t get there.”

Currently generating around $80 million in sales with 155 stores, the chain is growing quickly, according to Cummins, who actually owns several franchises himself. Originally a consultant to the company, he joined the franchisor side of the business when he saw the potential bite that Marco’s could take out of the $32 billion pizza market.

To get Marco’s up to the $1 billion mark, Cummins will likely draw on past experience launching the Lexus brand, in which he sold 52 dealerships based only on two photos of the car when it was in production. To convince potential dealers to invest $1.9 million to $9 million, based on the size of the dealership, Cummins supplemented the photos with market research that showed the growth of the luxury market, and long-term strategies planned by Lexus. He also emphasized the car’s innovations by pointing out more than 350 patents used in the first model. The key, he notes, was showing that Lexus had done its homework and would support dealerships.

He also helmed the consumer-marketing arm at Clear Channel, taking revenue from zero to $60 million in five years. The newly-created division within Clear Channel focused on tying radio advertising with the company’s other properties like billboards and Internet components with local in-store promotions. Cummins says advertisers especially liked how the division focused on showing them the ROI that could be achieved with an integrated package.

Cameron Cummins' hot tips for sales and marketing:
• Pick employees like you'd choose a spouse: Good matches that draw on passion for the brand ensure longevity and customer satisfaction.
• Use customer data to drive sales, such as collecting addresses and sending out letters when customers haven't been in for a month.
• Share your story with local media: Pick up the phone and call editors to let them know why they should care and cultivate a buzz on your brand.

Since joining Marco’s, Cummins has dramatically changed the way the company operates, says President Jack Butorac. “We now have ‘Cam time,’” he jokes. “That’s when we break down what we’re going to do, set goals, and just go non-stop until we meet them. Cameron has so much energy, and you can feel that throughout the company.”

To some people, pizza may be pizza, but Butorac believes that Toledo, Ohio-based Marco’s will be distinct because it’s the only pizza chain started by someone actually from Italy. Founder Pasquale Giammarco brought over an authentic Italian family recipe, Butorac says, and also made sure it can be replicated at every Marco’s.

But in a market saturated with Papa John’s, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut, it remains to be seen if Marco’s can get a sizeable slice of the pizza pie. Much will depend on how diners like the product, notes Darrell Johnson, president and CEO of FRANdata, a research firm focused on the franchise industry.

Also, given that the company’s sales average out to about $500,000 per unit, Johnson estimates that Marco’s will have to start adding at least 500 to 600 units per year to meet its $1 billion goal. That far outpaces typical growth, he adds, but it’s not impossible. “It’s an enormous challenge to build that many units that quickly,” he says. “It’s not out of the question, but it’s very rare. It’s worth watching to see if they can do it.

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