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May 8, 2024

Tips to prioritize the customer experience

with Matt Wampler
CEO of ClearCOGS

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Summary

In today’s competitive landscape, providing an exceptional customer experience is crucial for businesses to thrive. In this episode of the Local Marketing Lab, Matt Wampler, an award-winning former franchisee turned tech founder of ClearCOGS, shares tips to prioritize the customer experience for driving growth.

Execution trumps marketing hype. Matt emphasizes that flawless execution is paramount, even more so than aggressive marketing campaigns. His mantra? Focus on delivering a frictionless, delightful experience that leaves customers raving. Mediocre execution can undermine even the most brilliant marketing efforts.

Build communities, not just customers. Matt advocates for building in public and fostering authentic connections with your audience. By sharing behind-the-scenes stories and being transparent, businesses can cultivate loyal communities of engaged fans, rather than just transactional customers. This personal touch resonates far more than corporate fluff.

Embrace hyper-localization. In our data-driven world, businesses can tap into powerful localized insights to hyper-personalize experiences. Leverage location data and automation to deliver tailored marketing and operations perfectly tuned to each community’s unique needs and preferences.

This episode offers a masterclass in prioritizing the customer experience from someone who has been in the trenches. Discover proven strategies for execution excellence, community-building, and local personalization — the keys to unlocking raving fans and sustainable growth.

Key Takeaways

Here are some topics discussed in the episode around how to prioritize the customer experience:

  • The importance of building in public and sharing behind-the-scenes stories
  • Prioritizing exceptional execution and customer experience over excessive marketing
  • The power of authentic storytelling and transparency in modern marketing
  • Leveraging data and automation to enhance local marketing efforts
  • The evolution of marketing from overly polished campaigns to real, relatable content

Don’t hide behind your brand. Don’t be Jimmy John’s, be Matt Wampler, the owner of your local Jimmy John’s, and share it with the world.

MATT WAMPLER
Prioritize the customer experience: Friends eating at a restaurant

Resources

Other shout-outs

  • Shawn Walchef, Founder of Cali BBQ — Great person to follow when it comes to posting authentic content on social media and telling stories.
  • Jimmy John’s — Their playbook for helping Matt be successful as a franchisee.
  • Other great people to follow on social media who are posting great content:

Transcript

Justin Ulrich
What’s up everyone, and welcome to the Local Marketing Lab, where you get real-world insights from industry pros to help you drive local revenue and local for growth. This podcast is brought to you by Evocalize – digital marketing tools powered by local data that automatically work where and when your locations need it most. Learn more at evocalize.com

Well, what’s up? And welcome to the local marketing lab. Today we have a really cool guest. I’ve known him for a while. He’s an ex-operator turned tech founder. He spent close to a decade as an award-winning Jimmy John’s franchisee. He’s a huge Iowa Hawkeyes fan, an avid woodworker, and even makes his own maple syrup, CEO and co-founder of ClearCOGS, Matt Wampler. Welcome to the lab, my friend.

Matt Wampler
Justin. Thanks for having me.

Justin Ulrich
You bet. You bet. Yeah, it’s super exciting to have you on. I know we’ve had different conversations back and forth. We attend a LinkedIn live group with Shawn Walchef pretty often, so it’s always fun hearing your perspectives on things. So this was an exciting one for me.

Matt Wampler
I’ve been looking forward to it.

Justin Ulrich
Well, awesome. Well, before we dive in, why don’t you tell us just a little bit about maybe your background and what ClearCOGS does.

Matt Wampler
Yeah. So, look, ClearCOGS, at the end of the day is here to make your life simpler. We go tap into all that data you’re probably not using in your POS, your back of house system, and synthesize it down into the answers you need each day. How much to have prepared, what your prep levels look like, staffing. I mean, ultimately, our job is to provide you a cheat sheet with the numbers you need to run more smoothly and more profitably.

Justin Ulrich
Very cool. And how did you get into this, this path? You started off as a franchisee, and what was kind of the jump from operator to tech founder?

Matt Wampler
Yeah. So, look, I give Jimmy John’s a ton of credit. You know, I knew nothing about restaurants when I first started out, and they gave me a playbook that I followed, and all I had to do was execute, and I was successful. Now, at the end of the day, there were some things that weren’t in that playbook that certainly caused me some pain. Things like, 2 hours prior to close, do I have enough bread or do I need to bake more? 

Those are things that my staff would be sticking their head out the door and looking to see, like, is it nice out? What’s the customer traffic look like? Maybe go look at sales last night, and they just guess. And, you know, we wasted a lot of crap. 

And so we basically said, hey, I think there’s a real opportunity to be able to help answer these granular level decisions and be able to provide an even better playbook, an improved one, a modern day playbook. And so that was really the motivation for starting ClearCOGS.

Justin Ulrich
That’s very cool. I mean, it makes total sense. You recognize the pain point and moved on it quickly, which is how a lot of successful businesses start. Let me ask you this, though. Apparently you’d won some pretty significant awards over at Jimmy John’s. You had the highest comp and the highest sales increase throughout the whole chain?

Matt Wampler
Yeah.

Justin Ulrich
What were you doing differently? I mean, you had your guys are peeking the heads out the doors, but, like, what else were you doing differently, do you think, to put yourself in a position to win those?

Matt Wampler
Yeah. Well, first off, half the credit should just go to the fact that Jimmy John’s gave me a great playbook. And then I think another 40% of the credit goes to the fact that the guy that owned the place before me was doing such a horrific job that they kept the numbers down. So those two things I had working in my favor. 

But, you know, the number one thing we did and not to come on the marketing podcast and throw shade towards marketing is we cut off all marketing. Like, literally cut it all off and just said, all we’re going to do is focus on execution. 

So if I can invest more in staffing and bring on more drivers, like, our goal was every customer should get their order in under five minutes. Like, how much would that freak you out if you ordered delivery and four minutes and 30 seconds later, there was a guy at your door with your order ready to go. And that really is what drove the increase. It was like, we’re freaking people out.

Justin Ulrich
You know, in all fairness, it’s not necessarily, I don’t see it as throwing shade, because I talk about all the time, you can’t throw good money after bad. You could spend money on marketing all day. And if it’s a crummy experience, you know, a crummy execution, the dollars aren’t going to do you any good.

Matt Wampler
Hey, bottom line, execution matters.

Justin Ulrich
100%. Create a solid guest experience. Make sure you’re tuned into your audience, you’re listening to them, what they’re saying, making the improvements where it counts, and then you start driving the traffic with the marketing.

Matt Wampler
Amen.

Justin Ulrich
Did you find that through your increased experience that you were providing, that you were getting better reviews or more reviews, or there was something that was driving more people there, or was it return customers?

Matt Wampler
It was returned customers. I don’t think our reviews were ever good. I feel like at least back in 2010, everyone pretty much just did reviews when things were bad.

Justin Ulrich
So yeah, yeah, it makes total sense. So if you had to make some suggestions to folks that are listening today that might be struggling with their marketing, what would you suggest that they could do today or maybe implement sometime this week to start turning that around for them?

Matt Wampler
Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, people buy from people. I mean, one of the things we would do at Jimmy John’s is, we do sampling, go cut sandwiches into thirds, wrap them individually, and then I, Matt Wampler, would go show up to the local law office and, you know, introduce myself. I’m Matt. I own the local Jimmy John’s, you know, wanted to bring you some free food. 

I mean, that was our way of, you know, people want to buy from people. I’m a local business guy. I’m not buying from a faceless brand. I’m buying from Matt. He’s the owner over there, and he knows my name. And I think that something that we didn’t do back then that I wish I had is social media now makes that so much easier to do. Like Shawn always says, don’t hide behind your brand. Don’t be Jimmy John’s, be Matt Wampler, the owner of your local Jimmy John’s, and share it with the world.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah, you’re right. People buy from people. You know, you build those relationships and solidify them in your community. And, you know, we had a guest, Eric Knott was on, CEO of PDQ, a few episodes back, and he talked a lot about being the mayor in your community and just getting out there as much as possible, establishing as many relationships as you can, and supporting the community whenever you can. 

It all comes back around when there’s a time that you might be in need and you might be support. You might need to help, you know, have more traffic coming through your doors.

Matt Wampler
Well, and let me say this. It’s something that we’re trying to do over at ClearCOGS as well. So our Toast launch, for example, so you go on Toast, you can download ClearCOGS. It’s free. We’ve got a free plan for you. 

You know, when they’re doing that, we’re making them part of our community. We’re taking them on a journey. Sure, they’re going to get these great reports that I think are pretty awesome, but it’s not just that, right? They’re going on a journey with us as we walk into this new era of AI, we want to build that in public with them and not just be a faceless brand but build community around it.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah. There’s a lot of really good examples of that working out really well. If you look at, like, Nabeel from Lunchbox or Ashwin from JUICER, like those guys are — they’re building in public, and they’re creating a lot of really solid relationships and getting people to know them as individuals. One of the reasons why they see the impressive growth that they have on the tech side.

Matt Wampler
Be the mayor.

Justin Ulrich
That’s right. Be the mayor. Yeah. It applies to any community that you’re involved in, whether you’re B2B or B2C. Like, if you’re the mayor, get people to love you and want to see you succeed, and they’ll do what they can to help lift your ship as well.

Matt Wampler
And then the challenging part, how to be a good mayor?

Justin Ulrich
That’s true. Yeah, you don’t want to be the Burgermeister Meisterburger, but that could almost segue into the next topic. But I don’t want to get there yet into your woodworking, because for those who don’t know from the Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town stop motion. That’s the reference. 

But, you know, before we jump into that, I do want to ask you, Matt, like, are there things that you’ve seen maybe out in the wild or some of your clients doing that that you think are really successful or cool things that you think are driving impact to their business from market perspective?

Matt Wampler
Yeah, the building in public thing, I just think is just so important. I watch Shawn always preach it, and then people like Charlie Eblen at Single Tree, going out and living at. Ashwin on the JUICER side for tech companies going out there and representing it, or even, like, Andrew Simmons from Mama Ramona – talk about a guy who’s building in public and sharing all of the painful things that are going on. I think I take a lot of inspiration from that.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah, for sure. And it’s good content, too. Like, even, like, if you look at your LinkedIn feed, like, there’s a lot of noise, like, sterile kind of content, like PDF’s or whatever. But the content that I find gets the most engagement is when people are building in public. When you have someone like Paul Tran out there, and he’s showing all the behind the scenes. 

I just saw a post from Shawn the other day do the same same thing. He walked into a blank canvas, empty, gutted out location that they were designing where the kitchen was going to go in the facility. And it’s like those stories that you tell are what drive loyalty. Like, if you think of a solid experience that you have with a brand, it typically comes with a story that’s associated with it as to why you like it.

Matt Wampler
Yeah, I mean, you just look at it. I think that the industry’s been oversaturated with this glossy, overproduced, pitchy marketing stuff. I mean, like ten years ago it was Chick-fil-A was parachuting cows onto the football stadium. Right? Like now it’s real people telling real stories about their local community and what’s going on behind the scenes. And that’s what cuts through the noise. That’s what resonates.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah, 100%. It’s cool. What social media does, it helps you to test new things. Like there’s so many different, types of content, whether it’s written word or, with blog posts or whatever. You’re making videos, you’re putting pictures up and telling a story that goes along with it. Like, there’s so many different things that you can test. Try. 

I was listening to Gary Vee show the other day, and he was given tons of different examples. And what’s cool about it is it’s free. Your audience that you have that’s on there is likely engaged if you’re active and you’re driving content and it gives you the ability to test into further what resonates with that audience, and then you can grow and scale from there. But if you’re not out there even creating content or doing anything, you’re not trying. You’re going to get passed up. You got to get on social and be active.

Matt Wampler
Well, and you would be able to speak to this pretty good. I mean, it feels like as brands have gone more and more global, their individual locations are still very much local. And the demand and the way that customers react to marketing is different in every location. I’d love to hear you speak to that.

Justin Ulrich
I mean, this is kind of what we do, which is, I mean, I appreciate it. I typically don’t talk too much about product, but I will just say, like, at the end of the day, from a local marketing perspective, there are many different things that happen in your area that can affect the marketing that you should be doing. Local high school wins a game for example. If you just had a cold snap and it’s cold outside, and you want to launch a promo for 20% off coffee or hot chocolate or free drink, whatever it might be. 

Like, there’s things that happen around your specific location that you should be taking advantage of and driving marketing based on those things. It’s all data. And if you can take those different data components and dump them into an automation platform like ours, you can drive marketing to drive traffic when those local things are happening. 

And the other piece is like, each location has its own, yes, they have the brand, typically, that they need to comply with from a corporate perspective, but they have their own personality. Like, if you go into a location, in the west coast versus a location in the east coast of the same business, like, you’re likely going to get a similar experience but a unique personality to that location. And that’s what the local businesses need to take advantage of.

Matt Wampler
You know, it’s just funny watching the pendulum swing. 40 years ago, it was all local, and then it moved to these giant brands, and now all of a sudden, with technology, it just is almost swung back to the hyper local. We have all this data, we can do something with it. I always sit there and look at your company and think Evocalize is doing an incredible job of driving all of this demand to your store. But if they’re not ready to execute on it, at the end of the day, it’s worthless or even counterproductive. 

And I think that’s really where ClearCOGS comes in. How do we take all of that data, the hundreds of millions of data points that we look at every day, including your marketing, to make sure that your team is set up for success, so that when you launch that limited time offering with al pastor, like, you have the right amount of al pastor at each individual location so that you’re delivering on those marketing promises.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah, 100%. Or if you have too much al pastor is going to go bad, launch a promo.

Matt Wampler
Yeah. ClearCOGS at the end of the day.

Justin Ulrich
That’s right. Awesome. Well, hey, I teed up the woodworking piece.

Matt Wampler
I’m so excited.

Justin Ulrich
No, I don’t know that you should be. All I know is, like, I take it we grew up at the same time, and TV for us was like, when a show came on TV, it was like, you knew the time it was coming on, didn’t have DVR. You sat down and you knew that if you were watching Home Improvement, you knew that you were gonna see some good, solid comedy. 

And I thought growing up, my dad was a building contractor. I also do woodworking quite a bit. And the first thing that came to my mind of, like, the character you probably would never want to be associated with was Al Borland. And I thought, if I could turn Matt into Al Borland…

Matt Wampler
That’s great. I’ll have to start doing infomercials.

Justin Ulrich
Oh, man. I was just thinking through, like, how funny he was. Cause he’s kind of adult. Like, he would, like, shoot sheets of plywood across the studio or whatever. I don’t know.

Matt Wampler
It’s COGS Time with Matt.

Justin Ulrich
That’s right. COGS Time. I should have put that up there.

Matt Wampler
I gotta tell you, I think this is one of the coolest things that anybody’s doing in marketing. Leave it up to the marketing people that come up with these great marketing ideas.

Justin Ulrich
But I tell you what, it is a lot of fun. Actually, from being in marketing, typically, marketers are creatives, and so too often, you have to create content and stuff that’s like, sometimes you have to the one-pagers or the PDFs and the stuff that’s just not as fun. 

But this is so fun, creating these images for people, and sometimes they’re hit or miss. But, I always, I always have fun doing them. There have been some where I’ve done them late at night, and I’m just laughing out loud because it’s like slap happy time, you know? But.

Matt Wampler
So this was actually a huge inspiration for us. So we actually took this idea and said, all right, we love this. How can we use that exact same idea for our customers? And ultimately, we came up with this idea of, like, okay, you know, we’re in the forecasting quantification. 

How do we not just send people data, but how do we turn that data into something visual? So all of our toast customers, when they sign up, even for the free plan, they get sent over to a platform with all of these AI generated images to help show how much they help visualize what they’ve sold in the scale of their operation.

Justin Ulrich
Oh, very. So like the pile of bacon or a pile of fries that fills the room.

Matt Wampler
Yeah, it’s exactly right. We started doing some prototypes, but we’re automating the whole thing to be kind of all, thank you for the inspiration.

Justin Ulrich
Oh, I mean, I’m one of many, but I appreciate it. That is really cool idea, though. How fun.

Matt Wampler
Has anybody showed up to the show and had a AI image generated of you yet?

Justin Ulrich
No.

Matt Wampler
I should have done that. I should have shown up with one. Be like, you know what? I’ve got something for you. In fact, by the time it’s aired, I’m sending you over an AI generator. 

Justin Ulrich
Perfect. I thought of doing one of myself and just have it being the most boring, drab picture, maybe even just me taking a picture of myself because it’s kind of like, it’s one of those things, like, yeah, it’s, it’s really fun to do for everybody else, but it’s like, I don’t want to go around, like, creating my own. It just seems tacky.

Matt Wampler
You don’t have to. We’re going to have one over to you. You can release it along with the episode.

Justin Ulrich
Oh, perfect. That’ll be great. That’ll be great. Well, hey, who do you think is doing a super good job in terms of marketing? You want to give a shout out to so that folks can go look to them for inspiration?

Matt Wampler
Well, it feels bad to just throw out Chipotle or not Chipotle, Chick-fil-A. I mean, I love Chick-fil-A, but they’ve got enough publicity as it is. 

Shawn over Cali BBQ, I think, has created one of the best communities out there and really stayed kind of relevant and on the cutting edge of what it is that people want to see today. So I highly, highly recommend, going following him, and trying to join that community. And again, I still go back to all those people building in public, the Ashwins, Andrew Simmons. I think that is a, it’s not the Chick-fil-A, but, man, it’s almost the real version of that.

Justin Ulrich
Yeah, no, those are really good suggestions. I do love what Shawn does. I talk about him on the show all the time, and no matter what level you are and if you’re an operator or you’re from corporate, you could attend his weekly calls that he does on LinkedIn and Digital Hospitality is what they’re called. And they’re just, they’re gold. It’s just a bunch of people coming on like you and I, and we talk about the things that we’re dealing with or talk about various topics. It’s a really good community to be part of, for sure.

Matt Wampler
And it’s always just a nice reminder some of the things you probably should be doing that you’re not.

Justin Ulrich
100%. 100%. Well, awesome. Matt, how should folks follow you? Follow your brand?

Matt Wampler
Well, for all those restaurants on Toast, go right over to the marketplace, enable ClearCOGS, come along this journey with us, and, for everybody else, follow us on LinkedIn, stay up to date, see us building in public, and, you can always go to clearcogs.com, set up a meeting. We love talking with restaurants. You know, how do we navigate this new era of AI? We want to be there with you and take you through it.

Justin Ulrich
Very cool. Well, awesome. Yeah, I would say for sure follow Matt. He’s got some great content. Obviously, with the number of followers you have, you’re not producing garbage, so you put some good stuff out there.

Matt Wampler
I think I’m more on the quantity over quality side of things. I’m not sure my content is always the best.

Justin Ulrich
Well, people like the quantity then, because…

Matt Wampler
It’s downside of building in public.

Justin Ulrich
That’s right. Well, awesome. Thanks again for joining us in the lab, Matt. It was a ton of fun having you on.

Matt Wampler
Justin, you’re the man. Thank you.

Justin Ulrich
You’re right. I am. You’re welcome.

Matt Wampler
Thank you.

Justin Ulrich
As always, thanks for joining us in the Local Marketing Lab. This podcast was sponsored by Evocalize. To learn more about how Evocalize can help you grow your business, visit evocalize.com

If you learned something from today’s episode, don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook @Evocalize. That’s Evocalize and on X at Evocalize. 

And remember, keep innovating and testing new things. You’ll never know what connects with your customers best unless you try. Until next time. Thanks for listening.

Matt Wampler headshot

Matt Wampler

CEO of ClearCOGS

Meet Matt Wampler

With nearly a decade as an acclaimed Jimmy John’s franchisee under his belt, Matt Wampler’s transition from operator to tech founder is a testament to his innovative approach in the restaurant industry. A proud Iowa Hawkeyes fan and skilled woodworker, Matt’s journey reflects his commitment to simplifying restaurant operations.

As the CEO and co-founder of ClearCOGS, he taps into the power of data from point of sale and back-of-house systems, aiming to equip restaurant owners with the tools they need to boost operational efficiency and customer engagement.

Host of the Local Marketing Lab podcast, Justin Ulrich - Headshot

Justin Ulrich

VP of Marketing at Evocalize

Meet the host

Justin is a seasoned marketing leader known for his creative expertise and innovative go-to-market strategies. With vast experience spanning both B2B and B2C landscapes, Justin has made his mark across a spectrum of industries including software, POS, restaurant, real estate, franchise, home services, telecom, and more.

Justin’s career is steeped in transformative strategies and impactful initiatives. With specialties ranging from channel marketing and brand management to demand generation, his strategic vision and execution have consistently translated into tangible results.


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