“And this would have been in the early ’80s. He came up with this idea of buying Tacos on Tuesdays.” -Billie Jo Waara

how to enter new marketsOn the show today, we’re talking about how to enter new markets with Billie Jo Waara, who is the CMO of a brand doing some really interesting things in a sector that’s flooded with competitors with deep pockets. We’re talking about Taco Johns.

Here’s a fun little fact about Taco John’s. They actually invented and own the trademark for the term Taco Tuesday. See, you already learned something new and the interview hasn’t even started yet.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to create demand for your products before having a presence in a new market
  • What you can do to fan the flames around good online conversations about your brand
  • How to use product innovation to engage a younger audience

And a ton more.

Listen to the Interview on iTunes >>>

Billie Jo spent the first part of her career in advertising before joining Taco Johns as their CMO, so she has a lot of great stories and insights we talk about in the interview.

Book recommendations:

Show Notes:

Alex: What’s up, Billie Jo? Thanks so much for coming on the show with us.

Billie: You’re welcome. I’m excited to be here to talk about talk about Taco John’s. I always appreciate the opportunity to share our story.

Alex: So can you start back from how you got involved with Taco John’s?

Billie: Sure. So, I’ve been with Taco John’s for about two and a half years. I came aboard as their CMO back in 2014 and then… But prior to that, I was actually with the marketing firm or the advertising agency that is the agency of record for the brand. So I’ve been with Taco John’s for over eight years in various aspects but now, I’m sitting on this side of the table overseeing all their marketing efforts.

Alex: And it’s always interesting to meet people who come from the agency side to going on to the brand side, especially when you go straight to the CMO position. Any perspective that you gained from working with being on the advertising side and then the agency side, and then working on the brand side? That you couldn’t have gotten without getting that brand side experience?

Billie: Sure. I think that whenever you come and you work on the client side, you’re definitely taking a more holistic view of the entire side of the business. So certainly, things that we didn’t talk about at the agency where I worked, but still, you know, had a major role with Taco John’s as we didn’t talk about operations, or training, or recruitment, or food cost. And those are certainly things sitting on this side of the table, or working with the brand, or working within the walls or Taco John’s that you certainly have to think about more.

In my role, I oversee both R&D or menu innovation as well as marketing. And so, certainly, pulled a lot more to supply side and logistics than I was working with the advertising agency. On the advertising agency side, you know, we get to talk and think about marketing 24/7, as it pertains to not just Taco John’s but all of our clients. And so, there’s definitely pros and cons about where you’re sitting in the perspective that you bring to each conversation.

Alex: And so, is there anything, again, having come from the agency side, that you are able to implement? And make sure that you are facilitating the most creative and productive environment when you’re working with outside agencies?

Billie: Yeah. I think, you know, certainly, when you work within an advertising agency, you’re part of a team that involves creatives, or media partners, or account people. And so my background in the agency is I oversaw our research and strategy piece so we always represented the voice of the consumer.

Now being part of the brand and working inside the walls of Taco John’s, I definitely get to bring that voice up more front and center than maybe I’m had before. While, it’s always important to always be able to bring that into every conversation, I think part of what makes our brand successful is to really think about our customers and think about them all the time.

Alex: I know that’s something that Taco John’s does really well, you guys are growing quickly. So how many different locations do you guys have in how many states?

Billie: Yeah. So we have almost 400 locations across 25 states. So we have really built or reopened and built about 12 new locations over the last year, so that’s really exciting. We also are planning to open, you know, a very similar number next year and really expand the footprint. We have locations that we’re looking at in Nashville, in the Nashville DMA as well as Indianapolis. Our fans in Indianapolis have been waiting a long time for Taco John’s so.

We get probably emails, and voicemail messages, or social media messages from the Indianapolis market asking, “When are you guys opening?” So we’ll definitely be opening there in 2017. And then we have some other East Coast locations as well. We’re working on the new location with a franchisee in the JFK Airport, in New York and have a multi-store plan that will hopefully come to fruition in the New York City Boroughs, as well.

Alex: So it sounds like you guys have this kind of pent-up demand in these cities that you’re not even in yet. How do you get that? How’s that? How do people find out about you before you are even in their city?

Billie: Yeah. I guess we think more of this as a very iconic brand that’s been around for, you know, over 45 years. We opened in 1969 and we’ve always done things a little differently than maybe some of our other Mexican fast food competitors. And so, if you’re from the Midwest, we definitely have a cult-like following in our markets.

And so, if you grew up with the brand, you kind of…there’s definitely a craveable flavor to our Potato Olés or even our ground beef that’s used for all of our tacos and a lot of our menu items. And so it is a really unique spice, or flavoring, or seasoning, I guess, is what you’d say, and people just love it.

And, you know, the most common story that we hear on social media is, “I wish Taco John’s was here. I grew up with Taco John’s. When I go home to visit my parents for the holidays, the first place I have to stop is Taco John’s.” And so, it’s really fun to read that fans have this amazing passion for our brand.

Alex: And is there any way that you guys kind of like fan in the flames when you have these brand advocates that are calling out the brand and saying how much they miss it?

Billie: Yeah. We’ve done some things over the years. You know, we’ve had different contests and things like that. So about five or six years ago, on social media, we really celebrated what we called at the time, our “TJ Maniacs.” And we really would have these mania events where people would, you know, post songs, or their favorite pictures, or talk about their favorite menu items.

And then we would reward them with just kind of free swag and free deals, and that was really a hugely successful campaign. And it was fun, from our end, to really see people that would send in videos, they would make up songs, and we still see that today.

Alex: So it sounds like giving out…I guess surprising and delighting the avid fans of the brand, whether it’s sending out a free product or a free swag, so stuff like that?

Billie: Yeah. Sometimes, when we go into a new market, we’ll reach out to our current fans that we know are living there and we’ll say, “Hey, we’re coming to,” you know, market XYZ, “Be sure to tell your friends.” And I think, you know, what we see is more than just free stuff, or rewards and surprise, and the likes, is that we’re communicating with them.

And we are in a relationship with them that really celebrates kind of the fact that they’re in the know. And we appreciate their work on our behalf or their words on our behalf, I should say.

Alex: Yeah. And that’s interesting that you guys have cultivated such a tight-knit relationship even in markets where you guys aren’t even at yet. How do you communicate with a group of loyal fans that are in a different market and target them directly?

Billie: Yeah. You know, sometimes, we’ll just reach out to them directly on social media. You know, it’s great with all the data that’s out there about where people are commenting from, or where their home base is, especially like on Facebook or some of those platforms. And so, we can just kind of do a search of everybody who lives in Indianapolis and they’re showing this brand love.

And we’ll reach out to them and say, “Hey, here’s some new news for you” or you know, as it feels right. We certainly don’t want to feel promotional or false. So we really just try to reach out and engage fans when it feels authentic, I guess. And that’s probably an overused term but truly, we just wanna have a real conversation with people when it feels right.

Alex: And I’m sure that pays off because it’s that authenticity… I mean that is truly authentic. It’s not just being authentic for the sake of staying true to a buzzword. It’s actually being yourself, and going out, and doing that which is something cool, that I haven’t heard of any other brands doing.

Billie: Yeah, it’s fun. And, you know, the other thing about our brand is I think it is truly this phenomenon that started with a really interesting story. You know, we started a taco brand or a taco restaurant that serves really unique menu items, at the time, in a rodeo town here in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Way back in 1969, before Tacos were kind of so ubiquitous as they are today. And so, you know, we’ve always been a little bit, I guess, different and kind of put our stake in the ground in alternative ways. And so it’s fun when people really embrace that and accept that.

Alex: And so are there any other, I guess, processes or systems that you guys have? It sounds like you are directly engaging with fans that are in a new market, existing fans. Is there anything else you guys do to help your new franchisees with a successful store opening or to make sure that the market knows?

Billie: Yeah. You know one of the things that we hear is people… Of course, if you didn’t grow up in one of our markets, you don’t know a lot about Taco John’s. Because we kind of are homegrown in the footprint that we’ve been in. But I don’t know if your fans know that Taco John’s was the original, I guess, creator, of the idea of “Taco Tuesdays.”

Alex: Really?

Billie: And so that’s something that we certainly try to do a lot of education around when we go into a market, is that. You know that idea started from one of our franchisees and we used it to build one of our very first national advertising campaigns. Then from there, we actually owned the trademark on it. And so, it is something that’s iconic to us and, again, speaks to the fact that we’ve done Mexican in a really original way.

Alex: And so, I guess, that kind of opens up the questions about so how… When was Taco John’s founded and how did it go from a few taco shops that were in Cheyenne, to 25 states and 400 locations?

Billie: Yeah. So Taco John’s was created back in 1969 right here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And it’s very interesting in the fact that the first shop, it was truly a kind of a walk-up taco shop that was started during the… We have an annual rodeo event here in Cheyenne called Cheyenne Frontier Days. And so that first restaurant, or taco shop, was opened during the rodeo.

Then there were two gentlemen, from here in Cheyenne, who thought it was a great business idea and they bought the rights from the guy, from the original Taco John’s, to turn it into to a franchise.

And so John Turner was the original guy who opened up that very first restaurant during those rodeo days. But then it was two more gentlemen, their names are Harold Holmes and James Woodson, who purchased that idea, purchased the license and the seasonings, and then named the restaurant after the man, “Taco John’s” or John Turner, in this case.

So some interesting things, Harold Holmes and his wife Nona, who still lives in Cheyenne today, they weren’t restaurant operators. They had a business that manufactured campers and travel trailers under the name “Holmes on Wheels.”

And so, we always talk internally and we talk a lot about our history and our legacy, is that we were almost one the first street carts or street trucks when you think about food and how it was distributed, and through our brand is that then we would take these manufactured homes or manufactured trailers, and that’s what the first restaurants were.

So if you bought a Taco John’s franchise license, we would bring a trailer to you on wheels and you’d set up in a parking lot or you’d set up on a piece of land. And then over time, that turned into permanent freestanding restaurants but the very first restaurants where manufactured travel trailers.

Alex: It was almost the food trucking before it was actually a food trucking?

Billie: Yeah.

Alex: Cool.

Billie: Yeah and then, so James Woodson was the other entrepreneur who was the other partner and he was a local realtor. So Harold had the buildings, James had the real estate background, and that’s how they really turned it from an idea that started here into 400 restaurants across the Midwest. So that’s just part of our DNA about who we are as a brand.

So one of those franchisees though, going back to “Taco Tuesday,” there was a gentleman named Dave Altman [SP] who is a franchisee in Minnesota and for him, he was just trying to come up with a promotion that would drive sales on the slowest day of the week.

So for him, it wasn’t this pay massive advertising campaigner anything. It was truly, at the time, just trying to do something to build awareness about selling tacos.

And so, at that time Taco John’s, while we’ve had a number franchisees, we, as a brand, weren’t doing any national or even coordinated advertising across all the market.

Everybody kind of did their own thing way back then and this would have been in the early ’80s. And so he came up with this idea of buying tacos on Tuesday and turned it into “Taco Tuesday.” So then other franchisees hopped on to that idea. And then that’s really what formed the foundation for kind of our first coordinated national marketing campaign was, “Taco Tuesday.”

Alex: And it clearly was successful because everybody is now doing “Taco Tuesday.”

Billie: Yeah. It is kind of fun when you like… I don’t know if you use Google Maps, you know, or Google Trends, and you can see… Like if you just look for the term, Taco Tuesday, and see where it pops up, not only across the United States, which is certainly where most of the traffic comes from or the most web searched term.

But it’s fun to see it across the world too. To think that an idea that started in and you has its roots in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but then really started in the Midwest, is now this kind of national term that everyone just kind of takes for granted.

Alex: And I take it Tuesday is no longer the worst day of sales?

Billie: No, it’s not. Actually, it is one of our highest days of the week in terms of sales. You know he had a real impact but it was truly just a really simple marketing idea that turned into something great.

Alex: And that’s pretty amazing. It’s crazy how a concept like that can be adopted internationally and then just have such a big effect on the day that it was the worst day of sales.

Billie: Yeah. It’s funny how that works but it means that great ideas can come from anywhere.

Alex: And speaking of which, so it sounds like you guys adopt some ideas that your franchisees suggest?

Billie: Absolutely. You know, we are a system that’s 95%, or approximately 95% franchisee-owned. So our success is certainly not indicative of the people who only work here in our support center office or our main headquarters office.

Our success is built upon the ideas and the hard work of people who invested in the brand, their crew members who are in restaurants. And people who wanted to make their local businesses successful.

Alex: And in fact, that’s something really unique to Taco John’s is having that… Instead of having that, I guess, the idea of everything coming from corporate going out to franchisees, it’s listening to… Because you guys are fostering this entrepreneurship and these entrepreneurs who are opening up their new restaurants.

How do you guys facilitate a conversation where the franchisees can express their opinions and creativity? And feel like they’ve been heard and that something might actually be implemented?

Billie: Yeah. We have a really strong franchise association. So it’s the Association of Taco John’s Franchisees that we work with on a fairly regular basis throughout the year. We also have a number of committees. Some of them are advisory in nature, you know, but it’s comprised of franchisees who have interests in say, operations, or supply chain, or technology.

And so there’s different franchisee committees that we work through. And then there’s one board that is elected from franchisees across the system every year and that is our… We call it our Advertising Production Committee and that Advertising Production Committee works very closely with our advertising agency, as well as Taco John’s marketing. To really make sure that anything we advertise, on a national basis, really meets the needs and expectations of the chain.

Alex: That’s interesting and it’s clearly working. You guys are launching these networks that…

Billie: Yeah. You know we have campaigns that worked very well and some that weren’t networks, some that worked somewhat well. But overall, we all know that we had a voice in them.

How to Enter New Markets

Alex: So with Taco John’s starting in 1969, there’s been a… It’s got a ton of brand history but a lot of changed since then and, especially in the last 10 to 20 years. So how do you guys adjust? Or is there a challenge with adjusting or maintaining that history while shifting to a new consumer taste?
Billie: Yeah. You know, I think it’s a good question because it’s always a balancing act. And it really is a balancing act but our focus never changes away from our customers.

So whether it’s our customers of those who are with us when we first opened in 1969, or in their markets, you know, in the ’70s and early ’80s. Those are people who still come into our restaurants on Tuesdays or on Wednesdays when we sell breakfast burritos for a special price.

So we always wanna make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our “loyalists,” we call them. But we also understand that our long-term customer is also influenced by what’s really relevant in today’s world. And, you know, our audiences of tomorrow, we need to make sure that we’re showing them who Taco John’s is.

And so we talk a lot about millennials, we talk a lot about that next generation. Sometimes, it’s labeled the iGen, sometimes it’s labeled Gen Z, whoever those teens and tweens are, and even younger. We’re, certainly, always innovating and doing things to reach out to people who maybe don’t know who Taco John’s is or who didn’t grow up with the brand because we… Well, we’ve been around for over 45 years so we wanna make sure that we’re around for another 45 years.

So we wanna really gain ground with those new types of customers or those new demographics of customers. But we always really value those who have been with us through the long run as well. And so growth for us, as a brand, is not just about new units or new markets. It’s also about really broadening our base of customers who visit Taco John’s.

Alex: Do you have any examples, in particular, of an initiative that you guys launched where you were targeting a younger consumer? Or at least trying to broaden your audience a little bit that was successful?

Billie: Sure. So are we just added something to our core menu this past year in 2016 that was a result of some successful LTOs or limited-time offers. That idea or that core our menu item is the Street Taco. So the Street Taco, when it first came out, was really directed toward a millennial audience.

You know Street Tacos are a smaller-size tortilla. It has some more unique flavors which is either beef for chicken. It has some really great chimichurri sauce on it, some fresh, crumbled Mexican cheese or queso fresco, and it was really a great idea.

But we built it with knowing the tendencies and the eating habits, dining habits of millennials. But what we saw is that it was a great crossover item. In that people who were boomers and maybe more mature audiences who were expecting one thing from Taco John’s really appreciated the new flavors that came out in that particular core item.

So when we first launched it at as an LTO, it was very successful. We launched it again in 2016 with the variation of with shrimp for a limited time. It was also very successful. So now, it’s part of core menu.

And that’s just an example of how we continue to evolve, not only in marketing but also menu of what we offer in restaurants. From who we were as a brand that was heavily reliant upon brown beef, or, you know, a traditional crispy taco, or a special taco, or even our iconic Meat & Potato Burrito.

But when we introduced the bright new menu items, it really does help transfer our business into the future.

Alex: And I think street tacos is as a great transition into a different or a younger audience, I love Street Tacos. Anyone who loves Taco Tuesday, I think, thinks of Street Tacos so.

Billie: And it’s great. You know we did that without alienating our loyal fans but also be offering something that’s really relevant to today’s menu of our today’s palate, I should say.

Alex: So can you walk us through maybe just a high level of the process of saying, “Okay, we see that this Street Taco thing is an emerging…I guess a recurring theme in Mexican food, that the younger generation likes.” I guess how did you guys identify that and then when did you feel that it was time to actually implement that into your own restaurants?

Billie: Yeah. What we saw is that we were actually doing some rebranding work initially when we first put it in front of consumers. So we had been talking…our chefs had been talking about Street Tacos for a while and really wanted to find an item that would play really well, in terms of that balance between guests. And so, we were doing some work in a new market in terms of overall branding. So we were looking at new brand positioning.

We were guests kind of our menu and what we had to offer to guests who weren’t familiar with Taco John’s. And during those focus groups, we brought out, you know, things that we had on the menu at the time. One of which was our Baja Boneless Chicken Wings. We also had our traditional menu items like the Meat & Potato Burrito, you know crispy, tacos, with our six-pack and a pound. We showed them Potato Olés.

And then we were also bringing out new menu items such as Street Tacos, and it was crazy the reaction from all guests on that particular item. They certainly loved, you know, our traditional items but they showed a huge affinity for some of the new items we were showing.

So then we took that information, of course. It was funny because that wasn’t really a focus group about menu. It was really a focus group about just the brand in general that we were using, and so then we took that.

We further refined the actual menu item into something that would be, you know, actually workable in stores or in our restaurants from an operation supplies training, all of those logistics. And then we put it into tests. Once we had that worked done, we put it actually into test which is what we do a lot more.

And we’ll actually, put it into a restaurant to see if what people say in a focus group room or what they say in an online, you know, kind of panel holds true in a restaurant. Will people put their money down on an item or be willing to pay for it? And we saw just huge results.

So from there then we, of course, put it on our counter for an LTO launch. And it was exciting from start to finish. It just received positive, positive comments about it and so as we look at it as a brand, you know, the Street Tacos, not only was an LTO item, it’s on our core menu. But it also gives us a platform for future development that is really exciting.

And so in 2017, we have some new items that are coming forward that are variations and enhancements to our current Street Tacos.

Alex: That’s exciting. There is some really big players in fast casual in the QSR industry. So how does Taco John’s, one, differentiate itself in your words? What are some the main ways you get that message out there?

Billie: Sure. So, you know, it’s a good question. We’ve always seen ourselves and it’s always been interesting about how our customers see us, as well. If you don’t know Taco John’s and you see our drive-thru, you see our menu… For those unfamiliar with the brand, those types of customers or potential customers put us, you know, along the same lines as some of the biggest players in the QSR Mexican space or the fast food Mexican space. Such as like Taco Bell, or Del Taco, or they think it’s a traditional fast food.

But then when me see our current customers and what they pay on their average guest check or what they’re willing to pay for some of the higher quality menu items that we offer. We know that we’re not the same and it’s also our guests don’t always say, “Hey, you’re a step up from what we see in other restaurants.”

And so, we’ve always seen ourselves as this kind of stepped-up version of a traditional QSR Mexican chain. So a couple of years ago there was some big movement and big discussion about this category called QSR-plus.

And I think Technomic, which is an industry research group but they first coined the term QSR-plus. And it is this restaurant category that offers some of the same conveniences and potentially value of a traditional fast food location or restaurant. So it offers a drive-thru. It has, you know, an average check between \$7 and \$10.

But on the flipside, taking some cues from the fast casual side of the business, it offers a higher quality. Consumers give it credit for being higher quality. Maybe it has a higher level of customer service, those types of things. When we saw that definition, it was kind of a crystallizing moment for us because that’s the way we see ourselves is QSR-plus.

Certainly, there’s always work that we can do to make sure that customers see us that way and that even if you don’t know our brand or have never walked inside one of our restaurants. That we get credit for that from a brand awareness standpoint. And that is some of the things that we’re working on.

But we’re always really proud of the quality. You know chips and shells are made fresh in our restaurants every day. We’re doing a lot of things, behind the scenes, that I don’t know that people just see as they come through our drive-thru. And so, it’s always looking for ways to tell that story.

Alex: So it’s more letting the product itself tell the story and then let your brand advocate group grow and spread the word for you, it sounds like?

Billie: Yeah. Well, we certainly have always thought that we could rely on the food to tell the story because people know that there’s just something better about it. But I think we have to take a more active role in telling that story and bringing the kitchen forward, I guess, is the way to say that.

To make sure that customers understand why the food tastes better. It tastes better because it is better but we need to finish telling that story. So you’ll see more of that from our brand moving forward.

Alex: Well, I think the best marketing is, obviously, a great product. So I think that’s a good starting point or the best standing point you can have.

Billie: Yes, absolutely. And we’ve been doing that for, you know, all throughout our history so it certainly have proven to be true for us.

Alex: Now, I’ve got a few questions I ask each of our interviewees. And the first one is, is there anything that you do, on a daily basis, that helps you stay productive or any tools that you use or routines?

Billie: I haven’t been doing this very long but it’s proven to be amazing for me personally, just as a marketing professional. Is I really try to shut down the email during the day. So I respond at certain points during the day but, otherwise, it becomes overwhelming and, you know, it’s hard to be always on.

Over probably the last 90 days, I’ve kind of been very…tried to be very disciplined about when I respond so that I’m not interrupting other thought processes and other meetings to respond to needs. So I always try to do it very much at the end of the day, at the middle of the day, and the end of the day.

And that’s worked really well for me just to stay organized and on top of things but yet be responsive. The other thing I try to do is always your respond same day. I try not to let things go beyond the day, if possible.

Alex: Are there any tools you use to or do you just turn off notifications or you just really get self-control you don’t look at email?

Billie: Yeah, I absolutely turn off notifications. Actually, if I’m walking into a meeting, I try to leave my cell phone in my office. So I am just trying to be better about those types of things.

And then the other thing, I think, is just being disciplined about it. And I, personally, have not always been very disciplined about that. But I think it’s that amazing to me how much…when you’re focused and you give yourself the ability to be focused, how productive you can be.

Alex: Yeah, I can imagine. That has to be hard to do, leaving the cell phone behind. Because I was just thinking the other day, I was scrolling through or checking notifications on four different social media apps and email. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m a slave to this thing.” It just takes so much of your time.

Billie: Yeah, it really does and then… But if you also give yourself you know 90 minutes at the beginning of the day, or 90 minutes at the end of the end of the day, or time over, sometime in the middle of the day. You can get through a lot if you just are also focused on that instead of also talking to people or you know?

So it’s been focused on the task at hand, I guess versus doing all things to all needs, all the time.

Alex: Yeah, it makes sense. Is there anything that you have learned over these past few years that you wish, that would have made your job a lot easier? Or I guess if you could go back and tell yourself something when you were first starting your current role at CMO, what would it be?

Billie: I think having an awesome team is so important. I think before maybe early in my career, I tried to do everything and tried to be knowledgeable about everything. And say, “Okay, well, I can’t coach somebody, I can’t be a good mentor to someone unless I know what they’re doing as well or I understand their day to day as well.”

And that definitely has proven to be false. Is that if you have a good team around you, and you have good people, and you’re respectful of each other’s talents, and there’s a lot of trust in the relationship. That a team is always better than the single person.

And I wish I would have known that or even had the ability to consider that, you know, when I was first starting my career. So that I didn’t have to do everything or know everything early on.

Alex: It can be a tough pill to swallow.

Billie: It is and I think it’s about trust, you know? Obviously, if you spend time in the relationships to get to know people’s talents, and people’s abilities, and their own desires, and what they enjoy doing in their day-to-day work but it takes time.

And my time, instead of trying to know everything and do everything, it could have been better spent, building relationships and it would have gotten further, I’m sure. I can say it’s a lot of stress and late nights.

Alex: So are there any books that you frequently recommend to people?

Billie: Well, certainly, I am an avid reader. So another thing that I wish someone would have told me is to read, watch, do anything in terms of pop culture. I think that’s what makes a great marketer.

Currently, I have a lot of counterparts who will say, “Oh, I’m not an active tweeter, I don’t really know Snapchat that well, I don’t follow anybody, I don’t post videos or anything like that.” Or, “I’ve never watched that show that’s, you know, in the top 25 right now,” or, “I don’t know what that new network is,” and all of those types of things.

And I think you know order to be a great market this day, you have to be a great consumer of all mediums.

So not that I’m always tweeting, or always using Facebook, or whatever. I’m certainly active and I’m certainly watching and learning all the time. And I think even on TV will some people say, “Oh, I never watch TV,” or, “Oh, I never watch who,” or, “I don’t know that current show is…” I always try to watch a few shows each year that I’m unfamiliar with.

But I always try to listen to new different kinds of radio stations that maybe I wouldn’t always prefer to do. Just to make sure that you can understand multiple perspectives and multiple influences on your current customers.

So one of the first books that someone gave me, when I first started working in the restaurant space was called, “McDonald’s Behind The Arches” written by John F. Love. And it really talked about the history of McDonald’s and how they grew from a single concept and started with thinking about malt and shakes to really becoming a national brand.

And whenever I’ve talked, or thought about, or encountered unique situations, it’s funny to me how I’ll think about this particular book and how, “Oh, I read that about that, I had a similar experience in that particular publication.”

The other book from a different side of marketing, but I think is really good and just kind of always makes you think about consumers is, “Then We Set His Hair on Fire” and it’s written by Phil Dusenberry. And it’s just stories and ideas coming from an account planning or a consumer insights perspective in advertising.

And so that was another book that very early on I read in my advertising career. It’s something I always reference back to, in my mind, as we think about campaigns or marketing.

Alex: That’s interesting. I’ll also get both of those to read. I love the McDonald’s books because it’s just a framework of what a successful… I guess the originator, the franchisee concept.

Billie: I completely agree with you and it’s interesting to me how many…how things in history always still circle around, you know? The experiences they went through and different challenges, you know, are certainly things that we’ve encountered as a brand as well.

Alex: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show and share some of your insights into your work in Taco John’s.

Billie: Absolutely.

Alex: Where’s the best place for other students to go find out more about what you guys have on the horizon and a little bit more about yourself?

Billie: Yeah, thanks for asking that question. It’s actually a perfect timing. We’re launching our kind of new website at tacojohns.com here in just a few short weeks. So they’ll kind of have a new online digital experience when they visit the site.

But also, you know, we are very active on social media platforms so LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. We try to put our messages out where a lot of different types of our customers can see them.

Alex: Perfect. Well, thanks again, Billie Jo.



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