PR and marketing expert Sophie Chadwick gives food and drinks startups some invaluable marketing tips – including the power of networking and blogging.
The word marketing can instil fear in a lot of new businesses as it is usually interpreted as a necessary but costly activity. However, you shouldn’t let that put you off, as there are many different forms of marketing and there’s nothing stopping food and drinks startups from achieving results, even on a shoestring budget.
Know your audience
One of the most important aspects of marketing any product is knowing your audience. Before you even think about how you’re going to market your product, you need to figure out who your target audience is going to be. The good news is that you can do that for free, but it will be time consuming.
Just keep in mind that the more time you invest in researching who your ideal customers are, and creating buyer personas, the more accurately you can market your product to them – saving you time and money further down the line. Once you have done your research, creating buyer personas is relatively straightforward with plenty of free templates available online to help you along the way.
The key questions you should ask yourself when researching your audience are:
- How much disposable income do they have?
- Where do they like to shop?
- What do they look for in a product?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- What media do they consume?
As you work through these, you will begin to build buyer personas and branch off into more specific questions that will inform your marketing tactics. Every business should have at least three buyer personas in mind.
Have an online presence
In an increasingly digital world, having an online presence is no longer optional. You don’t need to blow your entire budget on a complex website, though. Having a simple design that allows users to easily navigate through the pages will help you to better tell your company’s story, and let you implement tracking software to provide ongoing statistics – these stats can then be used to illuminate pitches to high street retailers. It won’t be the be-all and end-all of your pitch, but demonstrating that people are actively visiting your landing page and showing interest in your products can make a real difference.
Nailing social media should also be a key area of your marketing. Not only is it free to run and set-up, but it’s also the best way to build a strong and engaged following. And, if you can show retailers that your product already has a strong and interested following, then it shows that your brand has a promising future.
Think about it: if you were a large retailer, would you choose to do business with a brand that has a minimal online presence, or one that already has a strong online presence with engaged followers on social media?
Have a compelling brand story
Consumers buy brands not products. Focus on building your brand’s story rather than just a sales pitch. Whatever your product, it’s more than likely that it already exists in a similar, if not identical format – this is where branding comes into play.
The quality, style and message of your overall brand can make all the difference to consumers and high street retailers. Brands express who you are, from your mobile phone to your laptop, right down to the food you buy. The most powerful brands are those that incite an emotional response from people and have a real impact on their purchasing decision. Distinct packaging is a good start but you then need to back that up with a compelling story for your brand.
Networking is key
Networking can often be the best way to get yourself and your brand in front of influential people. It’s easy to dismiss the need for networking as it can often be time consuming, but the benefits and possible opportunities merit the effort. High street buyers will often attend trade shows to look for exciting products and up-and-coming brands. Treat these buyers as part of your target audience – you need to be where they are to get your product noticed.
Know the power of food bloggers
Food bloggers are active on social media, and most will have a sizeable and engaged following. Best of all, you already have something in common – food. Engage with bloggers as fellow foodies and get them excited about your product. Sending them a sample of your product will incur you a small cost, but in return, if they review of feature you brand you can expect a positive response. Not only is it free marketing, but it will open your brand up to a wider audience and may set the bar for how consumers perceive your products.
Think big but start small
Once you have decided on your brand identity and marketing strategy, focus on independent stores first. This allows allow you to test out different aspects of your product on a smaller scale and see how people react, before you then tackle pitches to bigger retailers. You will have the opportunity to test product price, shelf position, promotion, and so on. It also shows high street retailers that you can keep up with demand, and they will be more likely to stock a product that has already been tried and tested on retailer shelves, even if it’s on a smaller scale. Focusing on independent retailers to start with also allows you to scale your marketing strategy.
Implementing all of these strategies will give your marketing a boost. There is nothing wrong with treating each as individual strategies and rolling them out one-by-one though, as all of them allow you to boost to your marketing and will still have a positive impact.
Sophie Chadwick is an account director at award-winning PR and marketing agency, Peppermint Soda.
Find out how below how food and drinks startups got stocked with major high street brands
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