Food Business Marketing 101 - 5 Step Product Positioning

Developing a food business marketing plan is not a daunting process.

Coffee company positioning example
••• Susie Wyshak

Just Google "developing a marketing plan" and your head will spin with examples from The SBA and other marketing experts. We have all heard of or read about a brand's positioning. Let me take the complexity out of this and offer you a 5 step process to improving your food business marketing strategies.

New Food Product Launch Strategy

A brand's positioning is part of a strategic plan and frames what you are trying to say to the customer and how it compares to your competition. You might think that stuff's only for the big guys. When you launch a new product, remember this – 80% of new products fail in the first two years. Don't you want to be in the 20% that succeed?

Shouldn't what you say resonate with the customer and make your company stand out with a value proposition that motivates people to try it?

One concept from my MBA program continues to be useful for me when working with food entrepreneurs; the Positioning Statement.

Positioning Statements Don't Have to be Complex

Positioning statements are a way to concisely communicate to web designers and people designing your packaging and your advertising, what they need to do. Without this, they are flying blind and on your dime!

The format is 5 easy to follow steps. Let's use BRAND Coffee as the example:

Step 1 - To [the target customer with a problem or need],

Step 2 - [your brand] is the [frame of reference],

Step 3 - that is the [benefit oriented point of difference]

Step 4 - evidenced by [product features]

Step 5 - The reason to buy [your brand] is [what?]

Tips for a Great Food & Beverage Product Positioning Statement

Developing a food business marketing plan should not be a daunting process. Positioning statements communicate clearly and succinctly to all of your packaging, marketing and website professionals. Consider the Positioning Statement as a short blueprint to follow.

You are paying good money to your marketing experts, so it's important to be very clear in what you want and how you want to communicate to your customer. Don't fly blind in your marketing plan.

Let's use a real brand, Colorado Mountain Coffee to illustrate how you would build a positioning statement.

Step 1: Define Your Target Audience

Can you look at their website and guess who is Colorado Mountain Coffee's target audience? It is NOT just anyone who drinks coffee because their coffee is very expensive. You need to go to their site to buy it and then wait for it to arrive.

Coffee is a product partly driven by impulse. Do you think about planning your trip to Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks by getting on the web at 9:45 at night? Nope. But that is the customer behavior required for Colorado Mountain Coffee. Hence, the target customer here has other needs and desires that major brands don't fulfill.

Step 2: Say What You're Making or Offering

This one is easy. We know that the brand is Colorado Mountain Coffee, so what is it [Frame of Reference]? Well, it's coffee, but we really need to add a bit more so the customer knows immediately that it is more than just coffee. Maybe it is an artisanal coffee, gourmet coffee, or authentic Colorado Coffee. How about creating a designation for Colorado coffees that are grown above a certain altitude?

Step 3: Explain the Benefit

The Benefit must focus on an intangible aspect that the consumer can not easily compare to your competition. For most people, a benefit of coffee in the morning is to wake up! So, in this case, it isn't a benefit to mention since Dunkin' Donuts at $1.50 will do the same. 

The benefit has to be something that McCafe, Dunkin', Starbucks, or Folgers can not credibly deliver. In this case, the coffee grown at a high altitude is their differentiator.

Let's assume this provides superior taste not available elsewhere. Then, what can you say about the benefit of superior taste? Maybe it gives you the feeling of waking up in the Rocky Mountains or reminds you of a great skiing experience? You have to really think hard here about what "clicks" with your target customer, something Clearly Canadian mastered whether intentionally or by chance.

For another perspective, here are some examples of benefits of buying organic.

Step 4: State the Features

Features are the tangible parts of your product.

Some features of Colorado Mountain Coffee might be an enticing mountain aroma, a bold or aromatic flavor, sustainable packaging, a smooth flavor, or small artisanal roasters. This should not be a laundry list, so limit it to the most important.

Step 5: Offer an Incentive

Everyone needs a reason to buy – an incentive to hit the Buy Now button. It could be an introductory offer for first time buyers, free shipping, or a seasonal flavor only available for a few months.

Your Positioning Homework

I have laid out a 5-step plan for changing the direction of a branded food. Take some time to go through each step. Be prepared to go back and forth a dozen times or more. You'll see it's worth the effort when you have something that gives you direction.

Don't spend a dime on websites, social media, email marketing or advertising until you create your food brand positioning statement.