April 9, 2020

Foodservice Product Launches: The 7 Most Common Marketing Mistakes

After working with foodservice manufacturers for over 25 years, it’s safe to say we’ve been part of quite a few product launches. Here are the 7 mistakes we’ve learned along the way (so you don’t have to).

1) Focusing too much on product attributes.

What need are you truly fulfilling for operators? While a product might check all of the boxes on paper, it will flop if you’re not actually solving an operator pain point. There is so much that goes into product selection for operators beyond taste. Some questions to consider: Can low-skill employees use with ease? Does it store well on their shelf? How many menu items can it be used for? Take time to conduct operator testing to get their feedback.

  • Do your research with REAL operators and focus on solving their problem in your messaging.

2) Not bringing sales along on the journey.

The classic sales and marketing love/hate relationship. Your sales team, whether direct or brokers, are with operators every day. Understand what they need to be set up for success – whether that’s specific sales materials, a sampling program, competitive cutting guide, or contest. By aligning your sales goals from the start and giving them the tools they need, you’ll have a dedicated, reliable force to amplify your marketing communications efforts (not to mention, follow up with leads!).

  • Work closely with your sales from the start to align your efforts with theirs.

3) Spending too much on marketing communications before you have distribution.

Don’t fall into the trap of a beautiful, well-executed marketing communications plan that reaches operators, and then when they go to purchase the product they realize it’s not available to them. With only a few key moments to drive purchase with operators, you must make it worthwhile. Ensure you’re gaining distribution as you begin to market to operators.

  • Balance your efforts with an operator-pull, distributor-push approach. 

4) Putting all your faith in sales and brokers.

We know. We just told you that you should lean in more to your sales team. But at the same time, there just simply aren’t enough sales members to reach every single operator. Start to grow your direct-to-operator relationships through email marketing and social media so when you have a new product launch, you already have an audience. Not to mention, you receive valuable data on who your customers are. 

  • Build up your direct-to-operator relationships to supplement sales efforts.

5) Getting too fancy with messaging.

Have you seen the stoplight video? It’s a classic tale of trying to make something flashy, different and exciting, when at the end of the day, it’s a simple stop sign. A new product launch is exciting in and of itself. Don’t complicate the message by trying to pack every single product attribute into your headline or ad. While these differentiators are important, you must communicate that you are launching a NEW product.

  • Keep it simple, stupid.

6) Moving onto a new campaign too quickly.

Some product launches may be in the works for 5 years before they go to market. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone must know about this product, because you marketed it for a full quarter with a robust media plan and it was a main focus at a tradeshow (and it’s practically been your whole life the past 2 years). But don’t forget: most operators need to see a message at least 7 times before it sticks. With operators, they likely have to sample it and try it before they even consider purchasing. Build a communications plan that expands for at least a year. You may only have an exciting burst for a quarter or two, but then it’s time to weave into all aspects of your messaging. (Build awareness, drive purchase, encourage usage, and repeat!)

  • Expect to communicate for at least a year – plan how your campaign comes to life beyond your initial launch outreach.

7) Setting it and forgetting it.

Following our same theme as above, with all the work that goes into a product launch before, you shouldn’t be ignoring it after. Don’t forget to track analytics: paid media, sales data, digital analytics, customer service inquiries, sample requests, rebate redemptions, the list goes on. Stick to your launch plan and own it, but give yourself enough grace to pivot as needed. Not to mention, you’ll be better prepared for your next product launch down the road.

  • Track, track, track! The good, the bad, the ugly. Don’t be afraid to pivot halfway through.

Have a product launch coming up? We’d love to help. Reach out to Anita Nelson at anita@infoodmtkg.com or 612-353-3410 to chat!

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