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Business owners can underestimate the power of marketing, and when new challenges arise, it’s often the first area that’s put to the side. Although the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic has, we hope, passed, you never know when a new variant – or uncertainty of another kind altogether –could be around the corner. Investing in your business can help boost your brand image and increase your market share into the future.
Step 1: Have a marketing strategy
Marketing can help boost your brand profile. Petra Smith, managing director and founder of Squirrels & Bears, a marketing consultancy helping small businesses increase their brand visibility, tells us, “Relying on hope as a marketing strategy is never a good idea; it’s essential to have a marketing plan in place. The already highly competitive environment will be even busier, and brands will have to really stand out to reach and attract their returning and new customers’ attention. Uncertainty is high and cash is low, but keeping existing clients and fighting for the share of a smaller consumer base is more important than ever.”
Step 2: Create an engaged customer community
One key way to make your business stick out from the competition is by engaging with your customers and the wider community. “F&B brands play an essential role in a community, from the way they support local suppliers, to how they’ve been able to help the communities they’re part of,” explains Nick Coleman, CEO and founder of Snaffling Pig and Startup Logistics. “Covid-19 has brought about a real consciousness in supporting local, independent businesses, so the demand has sky-rocketed for smaller businesses.
“Engagement with your customer community has got to be at the heart of any marketing strategy,” Nick says. “Covid-19 is a perfect example of this: while our in-trade revenue streams are on pause, our e-commerce sales were up 10 times compared to the same period last year. There’s no way we could have pivoted so effectively to a direct-to-consumer model without that loyal and engaged customer community, who trust and believe in our brand.”
Step 3: Build trust
Trust plays a huge factor in your brand’s image and not only determines whether a consumer will purchase from you, but whether they will continue to come back and advocate for your brand through recommendations. In 2019, a survey by PR company Edelman of 16,000 consumers revealed 81% of people said that trusting a brand to “do what is right” plays a key role in purchase decision, whilst three-quarters said they would continue to buy from a brand they trust, even if another one becomes “hot and trendy”.
Build a relationship with customers to create a rapport, entice customers to stay engaged by keeping them updated through your online community and make the most of data to better understand their habits, values and desires.
Step 4: Watch trends
Trends have always played a big role in the food industry and continue to do so perhaps now more than ever. Keeping an eye on these trends has the potential to put your business or brand ahead of demand, according to Natalie Orringe, chief marketing officer for Vuelio, part of the Access Intelligence Group. “Change in consumer behaviour has been driven by the impact of technology, including social media, that can cause patterns in food consumption to go viral. Whether it is the shift during Covid-19 to buying ‘direct’ from the farm or peak in demand for flour as people turned to home breadmaking, spotting emerging patterns is critical to accelerating growth.”
Step 5: Communicate
Communication has been particularly important during the pandemic, from keeping in touch with customers to spreading a message about your brand’s purpose, and doing well here will help to keep your brand at the forefront of people’s minds. “Communicating with your customers and providing the best possible service, even during challenging circumstances, will impact how they see your business now and in the future,” Petra says. “Taking care of business by taking care of people, including customers, employees or suppliers, will go a long way. They are all vital to your business, and they are also strong brand advocates, essential for your future survival and growth.”