In the midst of this global pandemic, digital communication has been the most valuable tool for keeping relationships strong and getting things done. However, in the world of a foodservice professional—one very reliant on in-person interactions—some outside-the-box thinking is required to create a fulfilling and worthwhile digital experience.
Here are 5 ways to continue connecting with foodservice operators during this uncertain time.
1) Showcase the personality of your brand.
Foodservice operators are unable to connect with manufacturing reps, brokers and DSRs given the inability to travel, attend tradeshows, and simply keep their businesses open. These are the most “real” interactions they’ll have with your brand, so utilize this moment as an opportunity to lighten up your messaging and bring more personality to the digital table. Pivot your content away from product promotions, and more into being a true partner helping operators navigate the situation at hand.
2) Expand your social media capabilities.
Going hand in hand with showing the personality of your brand, take this time to expand beyond traditional social media posts. Perhaps you create a Facebook Group where your operators can connect and share ideas with each other. Get your culinary chef on an Instagram or Facebook Live with takeout ideas. Explore having a leader in your organization post a LinkedIn blog, or even host a Twitter chat to see how operators are managing this crazy time. Don’t be afraid to get creative and test the waters when people are craving connection more than ever. Get the scoop on foodservice social media here.
3) Incorporate more educational mediums.
Education is key during this time, as regulations, laws and opinions change daily. Explore hosting a webinar or podcast – whether on your own or by tapping into media partners’ capabilities that already exist. There are several series out there already you can sponsor, host or advertise on. Oftentimes, sponsoring these educational placements also includes lead generation, giving you the ability to interact with attendees post-event via email and sales contact.
4) Take advantage of digital tradeshows.
Just because tradeshows can’t physically happen doesn’t mean all your work should go to waste! Now is the time to invest in a stellar digital tradeshow experience because A.) you will stand out amongst competitors and B.) given the cost savings for both attendees and exhibitors, there’s a great chance some online events will continue beyond the pandemic. Create interactive slides with videos and games, have a dedicated sales rep there to answer questions, and offer free product samples throughout. Once again, don’t forget that one of the biggest opportunities is not necessarily what you do during the show, but how you stay engaged with leads after.
5) Have FUN with operators.
One thing we learned quickly while working remotely is that “water cooler banter” tends to get left out. It’s easy to dive into an agenda, cruise through a meeting and be done when it happens over video chat. While the efficiency is amazing, you also lose the personal touch that is so key in business. Don’t be afraid to have a happy hour with your contacts, or even take just five minutes at the beginning of a meeting to catch up. We had an awesome virtual game of Jeopardy with our programmatic partner Choozle, and it was wonderful connecting with both our contacts and other agencies around the city.
BONUS TIP: Have some grace.
Don’t forget–the foodservice world has been flipped upside down. Businesses are struggling, they are dealing with a whole new way of serving food, and external factors continue to change. Have some grace–make sure to be real, authentic and a true partner. Lift them up and don’t fret if they skip signing up for your latest digital tool. By being truly valuable now, you’ll have truly loyal customers in the future.
Looking for new ways to connect with your operators? Let’s connect.