Q&A: There are No Magic Bullets for Food Marketing

Q&A: There are No Magic Bullets for Food Marketing

Today we’re answering some of the questions I'm frequently asked by clients and listeners. This year, I've been talking a lot about RangeMe, and the number one response I get is, “What the heck is RangeMe, and should I be using it?” (Spoiler alert: if you are a food brand considering retail sales, the answer is yes, you need it!) The other top question we're asked is "if I send you some free food, will you promote it for me?" Find out why we don’t -- and why you shouldn’t be asking. There is one common thread in both of these topics, and that's there is no magic bullet for food marketing. RangeMe and influencer campaigns will not guarantee you new customers -- there is no one thing you can do or buy that will result in immediate sales. Growing sales takes time. Your marketing tools should be a steady source of power for your sales engine. Properly executed, your prospects will see themselves in your brand, which makes closing the deal so much easier.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Find out why the last episode was an unannounced rerun.

  • How we should all be more forgiving and offer ourselves more grace following the pandemic.

  • RangeMe: a digital dashboard that connects sellers with buyers in the retail channel.

  • Why it will benefit you if your growth plans include selling into retail channels.

  • Nicky Jackson, the marketing executive & entrepreneur who founded RangeMe.

  • Why retail buyers love RangeMe; how it enables solid, reasonable comparisons.

  • Why you should go for the free version of RangeMe and work yourself up to premium.

  • How ECRM, an established middle man in the industry, now owns RangeMe.

  • We avail ourselves to help you understand how it works and how to register yourself.

  • Why we won’t promote you for free food and why you shouldn’t be asking us to!

  • Why we created the coaching group, Social Marketing Made Easy for Food Brands.

  • How one year of coaching will create the foundation you need to start doing more paid work.

  • Why there’s no one thing you can buy once that will result in sales.

  • What we’re here for: to help calm the content chaos, get your communication channels aligned, and drive people toward making sales.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

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Click Here for Full Transcript:

“GEORGIANA DEARING: The most common thread in today’s two questions is that neither of the answers gives you a magic bullet. There’s no one thing you can buy once that will result in immediate sales.”

[0:00:16.7] GEORGIANA DEARING: Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind that good food, good people and good brands that you know and love. If you’ve ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, “How do they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?” then we’ve got some stories for you.

[0:00:42.9] GEORGIANA DEARING: Hello, foodies. Welcome to another Marketing Monday. It’s September and we’re closing out the third quarter of 2021 this month. Today, I’m going to use this time to answer a few of the top questions that had been sent to me from clients and listeners. I plan to do this about once a quarter. If you have questions, send them my way.

Before we even get started with your business questions, I’m going to answer this quick question which is, why was the last episode an unannounced rerun? The answer is, like many small businesses, the fallout from the pandemic caught up with our small team. Everyone is hale and hearty but we did have an active case that set off a chain of exposure within our small crew. We are all fine.

The truth is, we’re all going to be managing our way through staff and supply chain issues for quite some time. It’s not over yet. I’ve been in several industry group discussions in the past month or so and all of the businesses from producers to vendors are still working their way through COVID-related issues. Have you been facing the unexpected lately? You’re not alone.

Let me know what’s on your plate, I’d love to hear what’s happening in your business and I hope that all of you foodies and food brands remember to offer yourselves some grace. Let yourself miss a mark or a deadline or a recording session and then pickup where you left off when you're able.

[0:02:10.8] You know, I kind of like that a byproduct of a global crisis is that we’ve learned to be more forgiving. Remember to offer that forgiveness to yourself too. Now, back to business. I’ve been talking a lot this year about RangeMe and the number one question I get is, “What the heck is RangeMe and should I be using it?”

The short answer is, RangeMe is a digital dashboard that connects sellers with buyers in the retail channel. Yes, you should be on RangeMe if your growth plans include selling into retail channels. Stick with me for the longer answers here, because what is it really?

The RangeMe dashboard was created by Nicky Jackson, a former marketing executive at big brands like Kellogg’s, Pepsi Co. and Jim Beam. Also an entrepreneur, she started her own line of baby products and quickly realized how hard it is for startups to get in front of retail buyers. She thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could upload my products to one location and then connect with multiple retail buyers from there?” That question is how the RangeMe dashboard was born.

Retail buyers love it because every brand on there is presenting their products in the same way with the same toolbox. It evens the playing field and allows them to make solid comparisons between brands. You know, in the early days of my business, I actually made a lot of money helping brands with flashy cold calling marketing tools. We made fancy shippers, we did a gazillion product packaging ideas, a lot of it never made it past the sales pitch meeting stage.

[0:03:44.4] There’s an old industry joke about retail buyers having a couch full of potato chips from all the unsolicited sample packages that were shipped in by hopeful brands. RangeMe replaces a lot of that energy. The energy spent on getting a brand’s attention has become a very narrow window and this tool is being used by more and more large retailers as step one for a vendor to take if they want to become part of a retailer’s product catalog but it’s not going to close the sale for you.

It’s just step one. That first step on RangeMe is free and that’s the real reason you should be on there. Go for the free version and work your way up to premium. Premium dashboards cost about $1,500 per year and free dashboards are free. Go for the free version, start using it right away and don’t pay the big bucks until you’re ready to take full advantage of the paid version.

I’m going to tell you a big complaint I hear is I paid all this money and I got nothing for it. My first thought is, “What did you do after you paid for this tool?” My guess is, not much. If you listen back to episode 28 with Joyebells Sweet Potato Pies. You’ll hear how Joyebells got their big win through RangeMe.

It may seem like an overnight success in that short reference to the tool but if you listen carefully to how hungry she was to make that sale, she was working her connections and she was persistent in her follow-up. RangeMe tells you in their literature that they’re there to make the introduction.

[0:05:25.1] GEORGIANA DEARING: You need to make the sale. The dashboard is now owned by ECRM, which makes sense as their business has always been about connecting the right buyers with the right sellers. They’ve been a middle man in the industry for years. This dashboard is a natural extension of that concept and it’s becoming more important as more business transactions move online.

Once you setup your free account, how you can use RangeMe best for your brand is a much bigger discussion that ties directly to your sales strategy. I’m happy to help you navigate that. If you are curious, email or DM me and we chat about your needs but to recap, what the heck is RangeMe and should I be on it? RangeMe is just step one of getting into big retail channels and if your plan is to be on Whole Foods one day, then yes, you need it now.

[0:06:19.3] The other question that I’ve been asked over and over again this year is, “If I send you some free stuff, can you promote my brand?” or another variation of that is, “I’ve got a few cases I can ship, can you connect me to some influencers who will promote us in exchange for food?” Actually, I’ve been asked the free food question from day one of starting vafoodie.com and the answer I give every time is, “No, I won’t promote you for free food.”

As a responsible business, you shouldn’t be asking that question of any influencer. You are literally looking for people who are holding up signs that say, “Will work for food.” Let that sink in a minute, what expectations do you have for the performance of a person who says, “Will work for food” is that a business decision you want to be making?

When I get asked, “If I send you some stuff, will you promote it?” I turn that question back around to you, the asker, and I ask you, “What are you trying to do and what is that worth to you?” We have these phones in our hands all day and it appears so seamless and free but food marketing is a real part of a brand’s business plan and it should have business decisions behind it.

When you see someone doing something cool on Instagram or Facebook and you catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if they’d do that for my brand, maybe I’ll ship…” Stop, just stop it. Take a second and think about why you think you need that particular promotion and what does the end sales goal look like for you.

[0:08:02.8] Sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. The coins going in your bank account, so put a value on your marketing and make a budget and plan for how to get those sales. Those are big lofty concepts here but the truth behind influencer marketing is who is influencing who and where are they leading their followers.

The other reason that I say no to small brands all the time on VA Foodie is because they are not prepared to receive the traffic we would send them. Social media is at the top of the inbound funnel and you need a system to move your audience closer to the sale with each interaction. A single curated post on VA Foodie is worth well over $200 in earned media, meaning exposure.

That’s not including cost for the photography, writing, research, hashtag, strategy, et cetera. Ultimately, the cost for us to create original content per brand starts around $500 and goes up from there. I mean most folks who ask us for single ads don’t have the digital presence they need to get a return on a $500 investment.

There is so much more they should do before trying to pay for inbound social media. That’s really why we started the coaching group, social marketing made easy for food brands. We did it as a way to realize a return on a small marketing investment for these small businesses. One year of coaching will help you help yourself gain followers and then have a brand presence that you control.

A messaging that support your sales goals and once you have that foundation in place, you can build a plan to start doing more paid work, reaching out to influencers, more driving traffic but you need to have that foundation in place.

[0:09:59.5] The most common thread in today’s two questions is that neither of the answers gives you a magic bullet. There is no one thing you can buy once that will result in immediate sales. Being in sales is hard, it takes work and persistence and a commitment to a goal. You’re putting yourself out there too. There is a personal thing you have to overcome in sales, you are asking people for money.

Marketing is the tool you use to drive your sales engine. Your marketing should be set up so your prospects see themselves in your brand and that’s the key to making sales easier. The two channels today are two places to tell your brand story, one is retail, one is in the general public and the audience are a bit different.

There’s a lot of content a brand needs to be creating to be successful in these channels and that’s why I do what I do. I’m here to help you calm that content chaos and get your communication channels aligned so that they’re all driving people toward that one goal, to get you sales, which makes you money so you can keep doing the thing you love to do: Create and share yummy, responsible and sustainable food.

That, my friends, ends this marketing Monday. If you’ve got a burning marketing question about your food brand, send me an email. I’m george@vafoodie.com. I’ll help when I can and I’ll share answers to your questions here on the next quarterly Q&A and that’s a wrap folks.