The 5 Marketing Tools Good Food Brands Need

The 5 Marketing Tools Good Food Brands Need

As a small food business owner, are you confident about conveying your real worth or marketing your own brand and product line? Or are you uncomfortable with marketing because you feel that promotion is self-indulgent?

This is a common mental block for most good food brands. Though they’re proud of their product and believe in their mission, they are wary of marketing - especially online marketing - either because they don’t understand it, they think they don’t need it, or they’re afraid it’s a lot of work.

In this episode, I’ve outlined 5 key marketing tools that every good food brand should have in their corner. When these tools are aligned with your brand positioning, your sales grow and marketing gets easier.

Virginia Foodie Essentials:

  • It's general sales knowledge that it takes seven to eight touchpoints to close a sale, and food brands have five key marketing tools where they control their brand story: product packaging, website, sell sheet, social media, and email marketing.

  • Because craft food brands command a higher price point, the key factor in closing sales is brand perception.

  • Being always on and reactionary is an exhausting way to run a business. And certainly not how marketing should be managed.

  • I'm a big advocate for intentional planned content sharing  and the reasons for managing it this way are plentiful.

  • When you get all your content marketing to align, you'll see improved sales, and you'll also start to calm the chaos of managing your marketing projects.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Good food brands make mindful choices that impact our planet

  • Many craft food brands underestimate the cost of doing business

  • Good food brands should share their story to frame their price point

  • Packaging can make or break your product’s sale at the shelf 

  • Website should include eCommerce to boost your ROI

  • Sell sheet should feature relevant content to close the deal with Buyers

  • Social media lets you speak to customers where they are

  • Email marketing glues all your sales and marketing together

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Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Georgiana Dearing The way for your good food business to be around tomorrow and to keep on the forefront of meaningful change is for you to make sure that what you're doing right now is profitable.

[00:00:16] Georgiana Dearing Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the 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 did they do that? How do they turn that recipe into a successful business?" Then we've got some stories for you.

[00:00:43] Hello my Foodie friends, it's Marketing Monday. And today, I'm speaking about marketing tools for good food brands. You know, I spent most of my career, more than 20 years, helping large corporations launch products and sell them through retail and distribution channels. My team and I did a lot of good work for a lot of big names. And while we were all contributing jobs to the economy and we were all working hard to deliver our best, I was just one little piece of a much larger puzzle. I'm working with craft food brands now because I believe that your work is important and that I have skills that can help you. Your contribution to the food system is vital to changing how this country thinks about food, how we source food, and ultimately, how we pay for food.

[00:01:30] One way to spur our food economy towards being more mindful of choices that impact our planet is to start with the food makers like you. If you're committed to making quality food, if you're mindful about your choices and you're thinking about how your business decisions also impact the earth, then you're dealing with something that's not a mass-market product. You're not buying commodity ingredients. You're buying the best quality ingredients. You're also probably going to be purchasing in smaller batches. And if you're doing all of that, it will cost more. One of the hardest things for people to talk about is money. People have powerful feelings about money. Plus, they have discomfort when asking for a specific price.

[00:02:17] I often see craft food brands dramatically underestimate the cost of what it takes to get their food from the farm to the shelf. And the way for your good food business to be around tomorrow and to keep at the forefront of meaningful change is for you to make sure that what you're doing right now is profitable. So I can't tell you what price to make your product. But I can tell you that you need to convey your real worth along every step of the way from your kitchen to your customer’s home. And that's where I come in. By helping my clients say the right thing at the right time and in the right place. And today, I want to talk about those places where you tell your story. It's general sales knowledge that it takes seven to eight touchpoints to close a sale. And food brands have five key marketing tools where they control their brand story. And those tools are your product packaging, your website, your sales sheet, your social media channels, and your email marketing. And when those tools are aligned with your brand positioning and working in concert, your sales grow and marketing gets easier.

[00:03:31] With that in mind, here are my high-level recommendations for the five marketing tools every good food brand needs to tell its story. First is your product packaging. Your packaging has the smallest real estate of any communication tool you own. And yet, it needs to pack the hardest punch. Sales are made or lost in those very few seconds when a hand reaches towards a shelf and puts the product in the cart. And in e-commerce, it takes microseconds to click that add to cart button. Because craft food brands command a higher price point, the key factor in closing sales is brand perception. How do consumers feel about your brand? Is it memorable? Does it look like something they'd want? Take full advantage of every last bit of space on your package. But make sure your message is as simple and direct as possible. Also, remember that premium customers expect premium packaging. And inferior-looking packages can send a signal, unintentionally, that your products are less than premium. And that makes asking for that higher price that much harder to do.

[00:04:41] It's very hard to convey all of that in a little bit of space, plus meet all those FDA requirements as well. Good food package design is an investment for craft food brands. Every color choice, every nuance turn of a font or a serif, every image or illustration can tell a story that enhances your brand's image. Well, thousands of dollars can seem like an insurmountable cost. The money spent with a reputable design partner can pay off exponentially in sales volume over the coming years. A good firm that specializes in packaging will help you make decisions that keep the print and production costs at a reasonable price per unit. If you're serious about retail sales, product packaging should never be a DIY venture.

[00:05:28] The next tool in your toolbox is your website. It's your calling card. Small food brands are often cautious about selling online, and launching a website can be another hefty financial investment. So to give you the maximum return, I recommend that is a fully functioning e-commerce site. With many startup clients, websites are one place where I see a newcomer sphere of seeming too pushy get in the way of making the brand profitable. For some reason, small purpose-driven brands feel like sales are intrusive. And then they behave if the sales are implied. And there are those money feelings showing up again. Many times that passion for your brand often also extends to your feelings about the way your site should look. And I frequently see brands design themselves right out of effectiveness. They pick the colors, images, and language that appeal to their own personality. But that doesn't mean that those choices follow the best practices for how shoppers interpret information on a website.

[00:06:30] Western shoppers expect certain things from their buying experience when they interact online. You can love them or hate them, but Amazon has dramatically influenced how we shop. Americans want all of their credit card transactions to feel as seamless and as smooth as the experience they get from the big retailers like Zappos, Amazon, and even Goldbelly.

[00:06:51] I like Shopify for small brands because it does a lot of those things without any special programming knowledge. Shopify templates create a very comforting environment. And it has all the tools to make your site perform the same way that the big e-commerce players do. Plus, it has a fairly low cost of entry and you're able to easily access all the backend tools you need to calculate shipping and manage inventory. Depending upon how you go to market, you can easily add inexpensive plugins to run flash sales or manage subscription orders. Having an active shopping cart doesn't mean you need to be selling in one’s and two’s of every product direct to the consumer. Order fulfillment is a big piece of the e-commerce puzzle. And most retail food brands handle their e-commerce sites by selling in case slots only. And that is a perfectly acceptable solution.

[00:07:43] Starting your e-commerce selling with case sales is an easy first step into B2C sales. If you aren't even ready for that, having a wholesale shopping cart for boutique retail sales is a big trend in craft package food selling. And Shopify has plugins to help you gait those prices away from the general public. I've seen many brands sell cases only on their own websites and at the same time have other e-commerce sales channels. There's a value that affiliations with other more typical grocery shopping sites bring to the relationship, and handling broken case orders and very small shipments is one of them.

[00:08:21] Someone has to pull products and fill cartons, and it may not make sense for you to set up a shipping station just for B to C sales. There are labor costs involved. And more than one brand has reported to me that sales on their own websites went up after they set up a Walmart e-commerce or a fulfilled by Amazon sales channel. As long as your wholesale prices are profitable, your brand can benefit from these relationships while still maintaining your own e-commerce portal. Of course, if you're selling into retail, your sell sheet is a must. Sell Sheets are strictly a business-to-business communication tool. And these days, most of this exchange of information happens in the digital world.

[00:09:05] Regardless of whether your content is in a digital dashboard or on a printed or PDF handout, your sell sheet is there to help close a business deal. That means, the things you say about your brand should be relevant to the category buyer. Your opportunity to start a business relationship where the category buyer typically comes around just once a year. When they're considering adding or changing products in their lineup, they'll research many other brands at the same time. If your sell sheet doesn't capture their attention now and make them feel confident about doing business with you, then they'll choose another option or move on entirely.

[00:09:44] The key point is that if it doesn't seem like it's worth their time to dive deeper into your brand story, there's a good chance that it won't be worth their time to do business with you either. So when you communicate through your sell sheet, you should be addressing the buyer's primary concerns right off the bat. Then close with the feel-good brand story that resonates with your target shopper.

[00:10:05] Category buyers are most worried about their own job performance. And they'll want to understand whether your product will help them make their goal or not. They're worried about hitting their sales target goals. And many have bonuses riding on the outcome. Their biggest concerns have nothing to do with how scrumptious your food is, or whether your grandmother taught you how to cook when you were four. Scrubbiness and grandma's story are essential to the why story of your brand. But they're not the part that's going to close the deal on your sell sheet.

[00:10:37] The fourth tool in your toolbox is social media. And social media is another love-hate relationship for food brands. The biggest complaint I hear about social media is that you know you need it, but it takes so much time and energy. I think the mistaken perception about social media is looking at how individuals use it for their personal accounts. And assuming that that is how a business should behave. And the shorter answer is, it's not. Being always on and reactionary is no way to run a business and certainly not how any marketing should be conducted.

[00:11:14] I'm a big advocate for intentional, planned content sharing. And the reasons for managing it this way are plentiful. Social media is the one place you can speak to customers exactly where they are at any point in time. Over 90% of social interactions happen on mobile phones. Your brand is literally sitting in the viewer's hand during a moment of downtime. Why wouldn't you use that opportunity to expand on your brand story in a friendly, engaging, and conversational way? And plan content is the way to make sure that you're saying the right brand things at the right time.

[00:11:56] The last tool is email marketing. Email marketing is an essential part of any successful food brand's marketing strategy, and yet it's often an overlooked tool. It's definitely underutilized. It may be the last thing on my list, but to me, it's the glue that holds all your sales efforts together. Email is another place that good food brands feel squeamish about. To many brand owners, email feels like another intrusion. But the truth is people just don't think about your brand every day of their life.

[00:12:31] If you aren't showing up in their inbox every month, they're going to forget about you. Unless you remind them, hey, I'm out here.. They're going to forget about you. They may love your products. They may have eaten it all up. Saving a little tiny scrape in the jar for later. And that jar is going to get pushed further and further to the back of the refrigerator until they forget about you. National clean out your refrigerator day rolls around, and then they're just going to throw that little scrap out. But if you're showing up in their inbox every month, even if they swat you away most days because they don't read anybody's email, your headline is showing up, and your brand name is showing up over and over.

[00:13:12] When they're ready to buy again, they'll know where to find you. Oh, when they think of what they're trying to plan for a meal, they'll remember your name. In test after test, email works. No one is angry about it as you think there'll be. And if they are, they can unsubscribe with just one click. The best part of email is that once you set up the system, it just becomes one step in your intentional, scheduled, content plan.

[00:13:40] In fact, all of these tools we talked about today, your package design, your website, sell sheets, social media, and email marketing can and should all be working in concert toward your sales goals. When you get all your content marketing aligned, you'll see improved sales, and you'll also start to calm the chaos of all your content marketing. And that's what I'm here for. It's why I have coaching courses, it's why I have group calls, it's why I talk to my clients and I send you these messages. I'm here to help. And if you're interested in working with me, DM me and we'll set up a call. I'm happy to have a free half-hour and chat about your brand. But until then, this is a wrap for this Marketing Monday. And thank you for listening.

[00:14:31] Thanks for listening. And if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My Brand at If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people and good brands.