Food Product Marketing Plan

Market owner with clipboard checking deli case inventory
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Too often, we're looking for answers without asking the right questions. As marketing consultants, we always focus on the questions first, in order to gain both balance and perspective when we counsel a business owner on what direction to take. Here is our favorite list of questions/sentiments for any business conducting a self-examination.

Your Company's Brand Awareness Level

Do consumers even know your brand exists?

Twitter is becoming a food entrepreneur's best friend to ask the consumer what is on their mind. You can conduct in-store surveys. This can be combined with food demo's you are already planning. Another out of the box idea would be asking a non-competing brand to poll its customers on their website (with a promise to reciprocate).

Do Consumers Prefer Your Products?

Brand awareness is simply not enough. You need them to be your brand evangelists! Set up a blind taste test at a neutral location, letting consumers sample your product and your direct competitors. Find out which one 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 must to help you think about your whole brand experience. Make sure the public knows if your process is "greener" or if you support their favorite charity.

All of these factors contribute to an improved product perception.

Do Consumers Recognize Your Products?

A major salt company once changed its package without telling Hispanic folks, one of its key user groups, that it was the same product. No surprise; they lost sales. Food packaging needs to do more than protecting your product.

 Packaging communicates your brand identity that gets the product flying off the shelf!

What Are Your Products' Perceived Value?

Value perceptions come in all shapes and sizes. Value is a function of quality, price, and quantity. Don't forget to tell them that your product has a superior refining process, a lesser carbon footprint or a larger, fuller container than your competitor's.

Where Are You in the Product Life Cycle?

Are you developing new product launch, a re-launch, a seasoned product or are you the one trusted for generations? You can position each one as a positive.

Have You Maximized Your Best Distribution Channels?

If you're selling a single-serve, on-the-go, youth-oriented product, don't overlook convenience stores. Conversely, if your product lends itself to bulk sales, why haven't you approached the warehouse club stores? An Associated Press story related that traditional supermarkets now account for less than half of all food product sales.

What Is Your Strategy to Grow Market Share?

Virtually no one owns a single product category, even the most dominant players. There is always room to grow. However, the size of the pie is finite. The only way to get more is to take it away from someone else.

So, how will you get your "unfair" share of the pie? You can do it through line extensions (more items, more SKU's); you can do it by expanding into more sales channels; or, you can grow your market share by joint venturing with a compatible, non-competitive player and growing your volume. For example, if you sell peanut butter, work out a joint promotion with a maker of jellies and jams.

Do You Have Brand Awareness & Brand Preference With the Trade?

Food and beverage at retail require developing winning retail sales pitch because they are the gatekeepers to the shelf. Join your retailer's or wholesaler's trade associations and serve on committees; attend or exhibit at the trade shows; refer other food entrepreneurs to them; author guest columns for the trade press. You are your brand. Become highly visible.

What Have You Committed to Long-term Brand Building?

It's easy to fall into the trap of just promoting the deal of the week. In the end, it keeps you on the shelves but it doesn't build your brand. Consumers are fickle. They will often switch brands to get the sale price and then switch back. To build loyalty, you need to continuously advertise and promote your brand's attributes, both the physical and the intangible ones. Engaging in cause-related marketing helps this effort. Sponsor that fundraiser. Consumers will support the brand they believe supports their ideals, their lifestyle and their values. Demonstrate that you really care and they will continue to purchase and recommend your brand.

Do All of the Above!

Simply put, if you're not asking the right questions, how can you find the right answers? Not everyone has the insight of a Steve Jobs. The vast majority of us need to conduct at least some informal market research with the most important people in our world... our customers.

Food entrepreneurs can learn more from their customers. People love to give their opinions. Social media makes this easy and scalable to ask about your package design, price points, promotions, your products' taste, ad campaigns and all before you go to market. We call it "marketing insurance." Save yourself a lot of anxiety and expense by learning about consumer preferences before you embark on that costly new packaging, point-of-purchase display, and ad campaign. We can tell you countless horror stories…or we can steer you away from the slippery slopes. Just keep listening. You're bound to learn something.