Too often, food consultants look for marketing answers without first understanding some of the basics of brand awareness. As a small business food marketing professional, you should focus on establishing and gaining a foothold in your target market before deciding a direction to take.
Create Brand Awareness
Do consumers even know your brand exists? Twitter is a food entrepreneur's best friend. With Twitter (and other social media platforms), you are able to reach your intended customers immediately. They are also able to reach out to you, providing feedback or insights that used to take months to gather.
In-store surveys are still a great way to reach out to consumers and establish your brand. You can combine these surveys with food demonstrations to give consumers a chance to try your products and give feedback.
Influence Consumer Preferences
Building brand awareness is the first step—you need a method of influencing consumer preferences. Set up a blind taste test at a neutral location, letting consumers sample your product and that of your competitors.
Find out which brand they prefer, and most importantly, find out why. Is it the taste, the packaging, or what they believe you stand for?
Developing a product positioning statement is a precondition for helping you think about your entire brand experience. Make sure the public knows if your process is "green" or if you support a favorite charity. Any factors that can differentiate your products from your competition will contribute to improving your brand's perception and preference.
Establish and Maintain Brand Recognition
When consumers see your logo, tag line or advertisements, you want them to be able to identify your business and associate it with positive attitudes. Think of the commercials with a jingle you can sing along to, even though it might be irritating after hearing it 100 times. You know the product and the business that created the jingle.
This is what you want to establish and maintain. You could try creating an equally memorable and irritating jingle, and work to make sure it is played over the radio, streaming media, or television.
The Power of Perceived Value
Value perceptions come in all shapes and sizes. Value is a function of quality, price, and quantity. Each consumer will be different in the way that they value products.
Perceived value is value to the consumer, from the consumer's eyes. It is what they want from a product. This could be container reliability, a longer life-span, easier to read labeling, or be better for their health while being affordable. Products and services do not necessarily need to be the lowest price to have the best-perceived value.
Brand and the Product Life Cycle
Are you developing a new product launch, a relaunch, a season-based product, or are you the one brand trusted for generations? You can position each one of these as a positive brand advantage.
Find the Correct Distribution Channels
If you're selling a single-serve, on-the-go, youth-oriented product, then you don't want to overlook convenience stores. Conversely, if your product lends itself to bulk sales, be sure to approach warehouse club stores.
Remember, with e-retailing and newer technology becoming popular, traditional supermarkets now account for less than half of all food product sales. You should look at e-retailers for distribution opportunities.
Grab More Market Share
Even the most dominant players in an industry can be edged out of some market share. The size of the pie is finite, so the only way to get more of the pie is to take it away from someone else. Create a plan to elbow your way into more shares of the pie.
You could look into line extensions (e.g., more items, more SKU's), expanding into more sales channels, or establish a strategic joint venture with a compatible, non-competitive player.
All of these options enable you to grow your volume. For example, if you sell peanut butter, contact a maker of jellies and jams, and establish a joint venture (a finite partnership between businesses that dissolves once the goals are met) to use each other's marketing power to grow awareness.
Food and beverage products at retail require developing attractive sales pitches because retailers hold the keys to the shelves. You can join a retailer's or wholesaler's trade association and serve on committees to develop relationships with them for an advantage.
For more exposure, attend or exhibit at trade shows, refer other food entrepreneurs to the retailer, or author guest columns for the trade press.
It's easy to fall into the trap of just promoting the deal of the week. While this approach might keep your products on the shelves, it doesn't build your brand.
Consumers are fickle and will switch brands to get the lowest price. To build loyalty, you need to continuously advertise and promote your brand's attributes, both tangible and intangible.
Engaging in cause-related marketing helps this effort. Consumers will always support the brand they believe supports their ideas, lifestyle, and values. Demonstrate that you care about their values, and customers will continue to purchase from you and promote your brand for you.
Brand Building via Social Media
Food entrepreneurs should engage with their customers because people love to give feedback and be heard. Social media has made it easy for consumers to receive information on or inquire about your package design, pricing, and promotions before you go to market.