March 7, 2011

Local Growth for your Food Enterprise!

You can impact sales and growth of your product locally and with methods that do not have to break the bank. Your company has the resources to grow sales in your local markets and gain additional new consumers with very limited investments of time and money.

You’ll need to try a variety of ways to market and sample your product locally as you begin to fully understand your ideal consumer and their socioeconomic position relative to your customer base. Most processors would be wise to fully undertand their ideal consumer prior to large scale advertising and marketing efforts to provide increased productivity to marketing expenditures. Use of these ideas and tools will provide better results with your budgeted marketing monies.

Use an Influencer Approach
An Influencer approach focuses on food writers, chefs, retailers, associations, and leaders of your ideal consumer market. Use word-of-mouth and direct influence with these individuals and sample them. In this approach, you help create your products position and superiority by spreading the word through respected individuals of your target consumer. Get support by engaging and sampling influential retailers, operators, and media before you launch your product or start a new initiative. Go to tradeshows and industry meetings to promote your product.

Try a Bottom-Up Approach
A bottom-up approach pitches your food product to consumers and customers of your potential retailers and food service operators. In this approach, you prove the need for your food product before requesting support of retailers, restauranteurs, or media. Get potential consumers interersted in purchasing your product by sampling before distribution is set-up or retailers are available in a limited form. Possibly, your products are only available direct from you. Tap your friends, co-workers, family, and neighborhood networks to talk-up, email, and expand on the quantity of people that know of your food item in the target communities. Recognize that different types of consumers have different cultures and needs. Your sample approach needs to take this into account. Look for customer acceptance in a wide range of retailers, each with different consumers, different displays, and unique retail needs. Approach consumers with samples in their community and be available for the one's most likely to buy direct and share with their community as early adopters. Meet your county extension agent, banker, and local politicians to present your food product to them. They often understand the challenges of growing a new product or enterprise and can be great advocates for your companies growth. Collaborate with other initiatives in your community for exposure and introduction to new folks in a expanded settings.

Create Some Buzz
Make a lot of presentations and sample in your region – to communities, groups, individuals, by phone, in person, to retail staffs, associations, schools, and the media. Write a press release announcing the launch and distribute to all news outlets including your neighborhood association newsletter with samples. Place on your website. Set-up a Company page on Facebook. Coordinate publicity at the neighborhood, community, and state level. Share marketing copy, logos, posters, brochures with news office, websites, etc. Use brochures (Microsoft Word document), posters, presentations (PowerPoint presentation), and your website to publicize your new product. Be sure to have the web url on your label and email everyone possible your brochures and powerpoint at appropriate time or in response to inquiries. Plan sample events across your area and within your local communities to publicize the launch/introduction of your product. Schedule a kick-off session for retail staff to learn about your product, ask questions, and build awareness. Build awareness of your food product before your launch by running an Early Adopter Program. Do publicity as much as possible and sample journalist and radio personalities. Some consumers will notice your product from articles in the local newspaper and ask for more information or seek out retailers that carry your item. Listen to customers and end-users wherever possible, and remain flexible in your outlook as you gather requirements for new retailers and customers. Build interest in your company and product for community support.

Keep in Touch with Your Communities
Survey your consumer communities annually to get feedback and gather new requirements on your consumer needs. Use an annual form to verify your company's policy decisions. Run a Help line so consumers and retailers can reach support directly. Track problems and enhancement requests so they can be tracked independently. Share FAQs with customer communities at retail and on your website..

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