How Making Domino’s Pizza Made Me a Better Marketer

When you need inspiration, get in the shoes of people directly serving customers

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I’m a marketer who markets a marketing technology to other marketers. (Say that ten times fast.) For one week, however, I made pizza for a living. More specifically, I handled the cash register and the “make line” at the Domino’s Pizza Prep School (PPS) in Ann Arbor.

Launched in 2002, PPS is a four-day, all-immersive experience to simulate a true store business for all employees at Domino’s. It’s a mandatory requirement to attend PPS within a year of joining the company, and all vendors and SaaS companies that work with Domino’s are also encouraged to roll up their sleeves. As a proud partner of Domino’s at Appboy, I jumped at the chance to spend a week getting to know the mobile marketing titan from a different perspective. Scott Dzialo, our customer success manager for Domino’s, and I hopped on a plane at LaGuardia, drove a hilariously small rental car, and made our way to Ann Arbor for an experience neither of us will ever forget.

Dominos Pizza School

Appboy Success Manager, Scott, and me with PPS Class of April 2016!

Coaches and students flew in from Mexico, Paraguay, Japan, Sao Paulo, Ireland, England, Miami, Chicago, and New York City to spend the week learning and working together. For over 40 hours, in a real store dropped smack in the middle of Domino’s HQ, we came to understand the company from the ground up: educational classes, hands-on workshops, food prep, shifts in the store, cleaning, and more. Rinse and repeat.

Domino’s CEO, Patrick Doyle, spent time with all of us on our last day of school answering our questions and explaining why PPS is a key part of Domino’s culture. As people who make decisions that directly affect the company, the goal of the experience was to help us understand the day-to-day work in the stores. After a week of hard learning, I may not be the world’s fastest pizza maker, but I did walk away from my experience exhausted, a little sore, and incredibly moved. Here’s what I learned:

Celebrate success and take failure as opportunityDomino's Pizza Prep School

I’ve never clapped more in my life than my four days at Domino’s HQ. We were a bunch of marketers, IT people, account auditors, etc. and most of us had never made a pizza in our life, and yet, we celebrated everything that week. Did Scott sprint back from the 4th floor in time to meet our delivery goal? Applause. Did Cesar catch the pizza that almost fell out of the oven when we were slammed with orders? Applause. Did I finally stretch the pizza dough without accidentally making a hole? You betcha, applause.

Coming back to the Appboy office a few days later, I found myself literally (and figuratively) applauding everything. And you know what I realized? People tend to be more innovative and creative when their out-of-the-box thinking is celebrated. But even more importantly, I recognized that learning from my mistakes, both small and large, is just as useful as getting things right on my first try. You just had to look around and see “Failure Is An Option” framed on the walls to see that Domino’s believes it too. The learnings from “failure” can be what the next big innovation is built on.

Innovation is key

Spending a week at the HQ gave me and Scott tons of ideas about how Appboy can be a better partner, and it also proved that some of our thoughts in the past weren’t applicable in a real-store experience. But once we got into the mindset of a Domino’s employee and had the experience of day-to-day operations, we couldn’t stop thinking about new opportunities. It was a real-life reminder that when things don’t go smoothly in the store, the customers and the Domino’s team members can all be adversely affected. Asking every Domino’s employee to put on the uniform and get down to pizza-making for a week can spark ideas from employees of all different job descriptions (or vendors!) about what will help the end customer experience.

That’s why the PPS store was built into the heart of their HQ. It’s a daily reminder that at the end of the day, it’s about the pizza and the experience customers have with the brand.

pizza-prep-school-where-everyone-learns-how-to-make-a-pizza-regardless

Pizza Prep School Store (courtesy of Domino’s)

Building LTR (long term relationships) with our clients is a big deal at Appboy, and it was a fantastic experience to truly practice what we preach. Spending a week in a Domino’s employee’s cornmeal-covered shoes gave us a better understanding as to how we can support their needs and new initiatives, and we had a blast in the process.

Also, pro-tip: try Domino’s pan pizza. It’s delicious!

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