Change Agent: Lisa Dimson talks disruption, technology, and innovation
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Change Agent: Lisa Dimson talks disruption, technology, and innovation

Change Agent: Lisa Dimson talks disruption, technology, and innovation

Words like disruption and change are regular parts of Lisa Dimson’s vocabulary. The CMO of fast-casual pizza brand Your Pie believes that her job is to be a change agent who leads the brand’s marketing team to reach customers and drive results.

“Whether it’s innovation in our go-to-market approach or creating new experiences that the customer embraces, we seek ways to bring new products or experiences forward,” she says. 

Dimson had 15 years of experience in marketing and related positions when she joined Your Pie in October 2019. Before that, she had served in leadership positions with Yum! Brands, Arby’s, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe. At Your Pie, she wasted no time retooling the company’s marketing strategy and brand development and homed in on leveraging technological innovation to raise brand awareness and increase sales.

“We are always looking for the best ways to connect and build relationships with our consumers,” she says. “Maximizing first-party data gives us the best lens for understanding their needs and experiences, allowing us to enhance how we serve our guests.” 

For Dimson, the customer is king. “If the entire organization isn’t focused on the customer, we won’t be the brand of choice for consumers,” she says. “Whether they choose to join us around the table or crave the convenience of online ordering, pickup, or delivery, we want them to choose the experience that’s right for them in the moment.”

Describe your role as CMO. My role as the CMO is in great transition. I’m a change agent, charged to scale our strategic marketing efforts to drive results. Leading the brand strategy requires a new level of alertness because of the fast-changing marketplace that has propelled dynamic opportunities. While I lead brand strategy, media, digital/ecommerce, social, creative, PR, and customer acquisition and retention, the role demands how we do business to rapidly evolve with our guests. This requires agility and cross-functional synergy to accelerate business growth. The marketing spirit is to challenge the status quo in our highly disrupted environment and move quickly to analyze new strategies and tactics. Ultimately, we want to be your local go-to for customers desiring delicious pizza and great service.

What’s the most challenging part of being a CMO today? Serving is what we do, whether it’s delicious pizza, a great customer experience, or making a difference in our communities. Our ability to tell our stories is a necessity. We have to ensure we’re creating engagement and experiences that reflect our culture, values, and of course our craft, while influencing how we fit into today’s consumer lifestyle. And while we yearn for a return to normalcy, the reality of uncertainty is always top of mind. Recovery and resilience in an industry that was strongly affected by Covid has not been easy. It requires listening and analyzing our evolving customer need states, which has led to rebuilding our marketing engine. The pandemic advanced our future planned go-to-market strategies into “now” strategies, and the speed to deliver required grit and hustle.

How has Covid-19 affected how you have led your brand’s marketing efforts? Consumers are socializing, engaging, and behaving differently than ever before. Rapidly evolving new customer journeys require resource shifts to support new consumer behaviors. Disruption forced rethinking the budget to maximize effectiveness in key channels with heightened attention on technology and digital transformation. We are using data in smarter ways to help problem-solve and to improve how we answer the questions consumers have when selecting a meal solution. The Great Resignation affected all areas of our business: our restaurant teams, supply chain, partner resources, and support teams. Our teams and restaurants have worked hard over the last few years. Consumers have also gone through so much change and uncertainty. Through storytelling and enhancing our brand experience, marketing continues to seek ways to inspire and look for ways to bring back the “fun” in pizza and perhaps make that moment in time better.

What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today? 1) Connection. We serve our guests and communities every day. The ability to connect and care about all facets of your ecosystem is critical. These interactions ultimately translate to connecting with your customer in providing a great experience and results. 2) Business IQ. The push-and-pull of business requires a leader who understands how to set and meet business objectives and goals to drive profitable shareholder value. Understanding how to measure, analyze, and affect results is key to achieving success. 3) Catalyst for change. It’s exciting to be a change agent! Whether it’s innovation in our go-to-market approach or creating new experiences the customer embraces, we continue to seek new ways to bring new products or experiences forward. Staying relevant is the baseline; pushing forward is a must to being effective.

How do you prepare a marketing plan and execute the strategies? The marketing plan supports the brand’s overall business operating plan and goals. We use key data to inform the marketing plan and customer journeys. To monitor performance, we set road maps and review key metrics to measure results.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness? By their ability to hit strategic business objectives and goals that drive growth and profitability. From a marketing perspective, the key areas of measurement are those that drive an audience outcome leading to transactions and sales. They are rooted in awareness, engagement, conversion, and customer experience.

Discuss your core consumer marketing strategies and objectives. We focus on attracting and retaining customer loyalty in our growing digital spaces, as well as on providing the best in-store experience. Understanding the customer journey and seeking ways to intersect in their micro-moments is core to our marketing strategy. It’s in those micro-moments that we increase awareness and influence engagement, while ultimately trying to incorporate positive disruption into their daily lives. In addition, we assess how we can reduce friction in their journey. The reduction of friction can be achieved only by a system that embraces a vision using the voice of the consumer and data to guide change. When you can remove friction, the overall experience for the customer is better. Consumers remember great experiences and frequent places that can deliver them.

How do you go about creating a customer-centric marketing and brand philosophy? Our go-to-market strategy is always anchored through the lens of the consumer. The filter that fuels decision-making is greatly aligned with the guest in mind. If we aren’t meeting them where they are, the effort is not worth the investment.

Describe your marketing team and the role each plays. Over the last few years, the marketing team has evolved in all areas to allow us to anchor in our go-to-market approach. Key areas of growth have been made in innovation, digital strategy and activation, CRM and loyalty platforms, off-premise services and third-party partners, etc. In addition, we have expanded our team through business partners to extend our knowledge, productivity, and effectiveness. Finally, our teams thrive when they can engage in more purposeful work, when they feel they are making a positive impact. Exposing our team members to new opportunities or asking them to think differently to accelerate our business is putting renewed energy into growth and manifesting strong initiatives to accelerate growth.

Why is it so important for the marketing department to have a personal touch when it comes to helping the brand connect with franchise prospects? Each franchise prospect is seeking the right business that aligns with their values, interests, and goals. Our ability to tell our story and share how we, the franchisor, can partner with them to reach their goals is of utmost importance. Prospects want to know what to expect and how our experience and knowledge will support them as they pursue their personal vision for their restaurant business and their communities. We make every step of the journey personal because our business and our success together is personal.

How does this help your franchise sales and development effort? Brand storytelling is woven throughout the prospect journey. Every interaction answers the prospect’s questions and reveals important aspects of our business to inform their decision. Lead generation and targeting are developed with the intent to generate quality leads and, ultimately, prospects who share our vision. To generate quality leads and prospects, we are continuously optimizing channels to create a streamlined but informative sales process.

What ways/tools do you rely on to do this? Many of our franchisees were originally brand fans. We find that our restaurants are the strongest source of development, as our owners inspire and create great experiences prospects are drawn to. As we seek ways to expand into new communities, awareness is ignited by our digital channels. These include CRM, search, website, social, and paid digital strategies. 

Do today’s prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? What, and how do you provide it? One of the great benefits for an owner entering into a franchise system is to gain access to things such as brand properties, logos and signage, marketing programs, and name recognition. In today’s crowded landscape, franchisees look to use these marketing programs to give them an advantage over their competition. Our dedicated teams guide prospects through an extensive process to learn about the company before they invest—everything from what to expect through business financials, development, operations, training, technology, and marketing.

How is today’s consumer and marketing data helping you fine-tune your marketing initiatives? The data we leverage is based on consumer interactions on our platforms and in our restaurants. Whether it’s through experiential reviews and feedback sources or through various social channels and third-party platforms, we digest this data to prescribe and enhance experiences in our restaurants and digital platforms. We also can strengthen brand awareness and messaging by using digital marketing’s data sets to A/B test various creative executions to engage and optimize efforts with smart intention. Reviewing the data allows us to target a qualified audience and their preferred purchase behavior to influence conversion. A push for first-party data collection in our restaurants and digitally is key. However, we leverage third-party data for retargeting capabilities, which allows us to incorporate our brand into a greater universe of consumers at various stages of the customer journey.

Describe the evolving role of social media in your brand’s marketing efforts. Incorporating our brand in consumers’ lifestyles in a genuine and authentic approach allows us to add value to their needs. Where we have found the most engagement is through user-generated content. The experiences, imagery, and recommendations from our fans outweigh our best creative. Also, creating positive disruption in consumers’ feeds (leading them to think about delicious pizza when they are considering meal options) creates engagement and potential conversions. Using the right creative at the right time to capture attention influences future purchase behaviors.

How do you work with other internal departments and does technology help? The pandemic caused us to work remotely and forced us to be more efficient with communications by leveraging virtual channels to stay connected. We used existing platforms, including Teams and Zoom.

Do you see vendors as business partners? Why/why not? Yes, our business partners are critical relationships. Every vendor is vetted to ensure they are a business and cultural fit before any engagement. They are valued as an extension of our team, which allows greater access to knowledge and resources to optimize processes and programs to inform decision-making and strengthen our business.

How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted? While there have been many changes during the past decade, the greatest change has really happened in the last 2 years. The advance of digital transformation throughout the restaurant industry has created new levels of accessibility and convenience for consumers. To be resilient, restaurants had to compete by quickly adapting to new consumer purchase behaviors by embracing new technology and profoundly shifting how they operate. While we adapted over the last few years, the personal connections in our restaurants and the experiences they serve every day with our guests continues to be vital. The way for our business to continue to transcend is to humanize our digital channels to a level mirroring personal experiences for the guests using those channels.

What advice would you offer to aspiring CMO executives? I like to think of the role of the CMO as the connection hub of the business. Your relationships with your customers, your franchisees, your teams, and your business partners are essential to thrive. To be successful, your ability to connect with others is core to fueling results. Personally, connecting together is how we can make a difference for our guests. After all, we serve the greatest food ever, pizza! Pizza makes everything better!

Published: March 14th, 2022

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Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 1, 2022
Franchise Update Magazine: Issue 1, 2022

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