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For cheesemongers and delis navigating a post-covid world, it can be difficult to figure out the best ways of promoting cheese to existing customers and prospective buyers. Speciality Food spoke to two industry experts who revealed their top three ways of marketing and promoting cheese.
Get your customers excited about cheese
The key to promoting and selling cheese is arguably to get your customers excited about it. The best thing about this is that it is relatively easy to do – Brits love cheese.
Izaak Edge, manager at The CheeseWorks in Cheltenham explains: “[Cheeses] all look so different and so appealing in so many different ways that it’s harder NOT to be excited about cheese. We also do lots of tasting evenings and in-store tasting experiences. These let people try loads of different things they otherwise wouldn’t have, and if people like them, they always tend to come back for more!”
Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan has found that engaging with her customers about different cheeses and showing her passion has been extremely effective for this. “I regularly “go live” on Facebook to introduce a cheese or if I’m excited about something”, she explains.
“Going live seems to reach more viewers and they become more engaged in watching the video rather than scrolling past. I then get people coming into the shop saying “which cheese were you talking about on Facebook?” Sometimes almost instantly if they work or live locally. I often leave this till the end of the day when it tends to be quieter so I won’t be interrupted and I’ve had someone come under the half-closed shutter before, desperate to get some of the cheese I’d just been talking about. He’d literally run from his house as I was closing for the day because he just had to have some.”
Unfortunately, with the decline of the high street, cheesemongers and delis can’t purely rely on organic footfall and passer-by trade. Gemma explains how she took to social media to maintain business. “That local shopping era doesn’t exist anymore. I’m part of an online group called “Shop Local” and our County Council has a digital project called “Shop Local” to help local businesses reach more customers to attract them to buy in the county. That tells me that customers need to be constantly reminded that we are here and what we do. I suppose it’s a bit like the market traders shouting about each other “£1 a lbs” but now we all have to shout digitally.”
Similarly, Izaak values Instagram over everything else: “For me, the single best way to promote cheese, just for its current impact and potential outreach, is Instagram. Vaïk, who runs our Instagram has been doing an amazing job with keeping people up to date with all the ongoings at the shop, cheese of the week, sales, things like that.
“In this day and age, I can’t really put into words how important it is. Everyone is online now, and that will only grow, so establishing yourself on these platforms is really paramount. It’s also a really good way to see what others are doing, get ideas for new stock and such, it’s really great.”
But using social media for marketing isn’t as simple as posting a photo of cheese and hoping that customers come flooding in. There are dozens of hoops that platforms such as Instagram want you to jump through in order to be a social media success – otherwise known as the algorithm. Gemma has learnt this the hard way. “It’s all about the algorithm changes, they want you to pay for advertising so make it harder for you to reach without doing that” she explains.
“This just means I have to work around the algorithm, what it likes, what it’s changed. Keeping up to date. If the paid advertising was successful, I’d certainly do that and save myself a lot of time. Personally, I think paid digital advertising is convoluted. Made that way to keep you spending just like those grabber machines on the seaside front you can see them grabbing the toy buy the grip is loose, you feel like you almost had it and might try again until you eventually give up. Organic reach is more sincere and people like that.”
Make use of windows and display units
While digital marketing is an increasingly important tool for promoting cheese and drawing in customers to the store, in-store promotion is equally important and can persuade customers to buy after setting foot inside.
Izaak describes his in-store promotions at TheCheeseWorks: “Instore we have labels for literally everything to do with the cheese, what milk type it is, what animal it’s from, whether it’s vegetarian or not, etc. We are also now allowed to give people samples of stuff should they want, and if there’s anything particularly good, we can have it on the counter for a while for people to try. And that’s not even touching on the staff’s expert knowledge of the cheeses that we have in stock.”
If you have window space, Gemma explains the importance of using this for displays: “We have seasonal window changes to catch the eye of passersby and boards in the windows with a ‘cheese of the month’. The proof is evident enough when customer after customer comes in asking “can I have some of the cheese in the window”. They’ve read the description and seen the photograph before deciding to come into the shop to buy.”