5 ways to stretch your foodservice marketing budget

Like most foodservice marketers, you’re looking for ways to connect with operators and offer solutions to get them get through these unprecedented times. The challenge? Finding creative ways to reach them if your marketing budget has been impacted by COVID-19 related cuts. Here are a few low-cost tactics to reach operators while keeping an eye on your bottom line:

1. Sharable presentations and content

With far fewer face-to-face meetings, your sales team and brokers will appreciate any Zoom-friendly presentations you can offer. This is also a great time to create simple one-sheeters with recipes and ideas of how to use your products for takeout-friendly menu items.

2. Programmatic advertising

If you’re not familiar with programmatic media, it’s a way to purchase media on hundreds of well-known websites through real time bidding. While there are several tactics, the most well-known is retargeting (think of those ads that follow you around after you’ve looked at something online). This type of media buying is surprisingly affordable and can be a great way to meet your customers where they’re at online 24/7.

3. Case inserts

What better way to reach your current customers than with inserts right in the case of product? From information and a trial offer rebate on new products, to usage ideas and recipes, this is an easy and inexpensive way to engage with your top operators. (Just be sure to print on food-safe paper if the insert comes in contact with the product).

4. Paid social

A lot of foodservice manufacturers have begun to see the power in connecting with operators via social media, but many are still relying on organic posts and seeing only sporadic engagement for their efforts. For a minimal investment, you can boost posts to significantly increase the visibility of your posts. Better yet, invest in a paid social campaign to increase your followers so that future posts gain more traction.

5. Digital media

Gone are the days when you need to spend thousands on a print ad. Foodservice media partners continue to expand their digital capabilities, and many options are quite affordable, and through A/B testing, allow you the opportunity to see what messaging resonates with operators.

Looking for ideas on how you can stretch your marketing budget? Anita Nelson would be happy to strategize with you.

25 lessons I’ve learned in 25 years

March 1st marked my 25-year anniversary of owning IN Food Marketing & Design. Honestly, I had no idea when I started out that I would be fortunate enough to still be in business all these years later. As the date approached, I found myself getting a little sentimental and reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past 2 and a half decades. In no particular order:

  1. Be curious. Ask questions and bring a sense of curiosity to every interaction and endeavor. It will force you to keep learning and growing, and you’ll be amazed at some of the crazy and interesting things you’ll learn.
  2. Practice gratitude. I use the time when I’m walking from my car into the office each day to reflect on my blessings. It helps me bring a positive energy into my workday.
  3. Be mindful of finances. Making business decisions on a wing and a prayer is not an effective strategy. Understand financial metrics and apply them rigorously.
  4. Have a strong support network. Let’s face it. As a business owner, there are days that are really, really hard. Having business advisors, family and friends who you can freely share and process with makes all the difference.
  5. Follow your gut. Every single time I’ve ignored my gut, I’ve regretted it. I once lost hours of sleep tossing and turning over someone I was about to hire, and still went ahead with it. Yep, bad decision!
  6. Be true to yourself. Walk your own path, at your own pace, in your own time. Fight the urge to compare yourself and stay focused on what is right for you.
  7. Have fun. If I had a nickel for every belly laugh and silly moment over the years, I could retire very comfortably today. Take your work seriously but make sure you’re having fun doing it.
  8. Listen well. As a business skill, there’s almost nothing more important than really listening to the people around you. Stephen Covey’s quote sums it up well: “Seek to understand before being understood.”
  9. Show appreciation. No one in business is successful without the help of clients, employees, partners and advisors. Be intentional about showing appreciation on a regular basis.
  10. Take risks. Some of the best decisions I’ve made have been the riskiest ones, like rebranding as a food agency in 2008. Did it close some doors? Absolutely. But it’s opened many, many more.
  11. Be humble, but not modest. It can be uncomfortable to receive accolades or talk about successes, especially as a woman. But to be competitive in business, it’s important that we share our positive news.
  12. Be true to your word. This is at the heart of what integrity is all about: just doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s one of the key factors in building trust with clients, team members and vendor partners.
  13. Give back. Find ways to bring your time, talents and resources to your community to make your purpose bigger than just financial success. Giving back 5% of our profits to hunger-relief efforts has enriched our agency in so many positive ways.
  14. Be kind. By this, I don’t mean we always have to be “nice,” but I do believe we can always choose to be kind. Over the years, I’ve had to let many people go, both for performance and financial reasons. Bringing empathy and kindness to those conversations has made all the difference.
  15. Invest in people. Great people are the most valuable assets of any business. Helping them grow and develop is one of the smartest things you can invest in. I love the anecdote about the CFO who was worried that employees would leave the company after getting expensive training. The CEO replied, “yes, but what if we don’t and they stay?”
  16. Make courageous choices. Whether it’s saying “yes” to an opportunity that takes you out of your comfort zone or saying “no” to a piece of business that isn’t quite right, I’ve found the universe always seems to reward choices that require a bit of courage.
  17. Make time to think. Great ideas generally don’t emerge in a sea of “doing.” They arise when you allow yourself the space and time to take a step back and ponder.
  18. Empower people. We accomplish A LOT at our agency every day, and it is so true that people will rise to the level of the expectations you set for them. I’m blown away on a regular basis by the great thinking and ideas of my team members.
  19. Admit when you’re wrong. As a leader, you’re probably going to be wrong… a lot. Own it, apologize, and make it a point to learn from it and do better the next time around.
  20. Love your space. You spend 40-50 hours a week in your office. Make it a place you like to be in. My office is filled with plants, flowers, inspirational quotes, favorite photos –and usually a calming essential oil wafting from my diffuser.
  21. It’s ok to change your mind. Over the years, I’ve had ideas that seemed fantastic one day, then awful the next. If possible, give yourself time to reflect on it. If not, give yourself permission to change your mind.
  22. Be clear about your values. When you know what you stand for, making decisions becomes really, really easy. I love that our values have permeated our organization so much that we reference them in our Slack shoutouts.
  23. Challenges lead to resilience. It seems cliché, but tough times really do make us much stronger. If you can remember that as you’re going through the sh*t, and know there is an amazing lesson to be learned, it really does help.
  24. Good clients are priceless. Over the years, we’ve been blessed to have some absolutely fantastic clients who are collaborative, transparent, receptive and appreciative. They are the true gems who make this business so fun and rewarding. Make sure to have a good vetting process in place so you bring on the great ones.
  25. Celebrate successes! Too often, we forget to celebrate our achievements, large and small. Take a moment to raise a toast to your successes. And to all the clients, partners, employees, family and friends who have been part of our journey, thank you for making it a wonderful 25 years!

5 Social Media Tips You Need to Know (for Foodservice Manufacturers)

Social media marketing comes with its own set of nuances and unofficial guidelines. Even more so when you’re marketing in the B2B space. Read on to discover a handful of social media tips and tricks for the B2B industry we know best—foodservice.

  1. Understand your goals
    • Are you using social media to drive traffic to your website? Increase brand awareness? Generate leads for your sales reps or brokers? Give operators recipe inspiration? Perhaps it’s a combination based on a variety of campaigns? Whatever the answer, this is something you need to know before posting.
  2. Have a strategy (don’t wing it)
    • Know your audience and social media platforms. What kind of content would they like to see and where? What voice do you want your brand to have on these outlets? This doesn’t have to be the same on each platform. For example, you might reserve Instagram for recipe information or LinkedIn for new products and tradeshows.
  3. Tap into your network and be authentic
    • The old saying, “It’s about who you know, not what you know” rings true. Tapping into your network on social is a great way to build a loyal following. Plus, it humanizes your brand and gives you added credibility. Recognize your chefs, sales teams, distributors, and other team members on social media. Showcase behind the scenes peeks, innovation ideas and what goes into making products. Overall, show that what you do takes a team!
  4. Engage with operators
    • Follow restaurants and influencers on all of their social profiles. Like their posts, comments and spark conversation. This is great for reminding operators about your offerings and getting them to see your posts.
  5. Make followers feel special
    • Acknowledging and responding to the comments and messages that come through your notifications is a starting point to making your followers feel important. Expand on this by offering more incentives to follow, such as sneak previews for new products or the first chance to win a giveaway.

All in all, social media is a great place to try new things and find what works for your brand. Use these tips to get your start or to freshen up your online presence. Stay tuned for what not to do on social media—coming to the blog soon!

From developing social media strategies to community management and reporting, we bring expertise and experience to achieve your social media marketing efforts. Contact Anita Nelson directly at 612-353-3410 to discover how you can grow your foodservice business.

The 5 hottest foodservice marketing trends

It wasn’t that long ago that a robust foodservice marketing campaign consisted of trade ads, sales materials and an operator rebate or incentive. And, while many of these tactics are still viable, today’s operators are busier than ever and it takes a more thoughtful approach to engage (and convert) them. Here are the biggest trends we’re seeing in foodservice marketing campaigns:

1) Data-driven planning

With the amount of data available to manufacturers today, it’s not surprising that savvy marketers are leveraging it in their planning process. For example, if you’re seeing seasonal search trends for a particular product or recipe, why not capitalize on it by proactively building an entire campaign around those key search terms? Leverage the wide variety of tracking metrics available, including website analytics, click-through rates and A/B tests to name just a few.

2) An authentic, emotional approach

For years, most foodservice marketing messages focused either on generating profits or reducing labor. While these are important benefits, meeting operators on an authentic, emotional level takes your message to a completely different level. Social media is a great place to test this by sharing behind-the-scenes photos and showcasing the stories of the people behind your products. For example, what is your culinary team working on? Where do they get their inspiration? Those are the kinds of stories that connect operators to your brand on a more meaningful level.

3) Solution-oriented promotions

Gone are the days when promotions were limited to cash back rebates or trips. Manufacturers today understand the challenges that operators face and are creative with prizes that bring long-lasting value to the operation, such as free publicity, culinary training or items that can help drive profits or increase efficiency, such as new equipment.

4) Content-first campaigns

Building long-term relationships with foodservice operators takes more than a product-centric, sales-focused approach. By nurturing the relationship through valuable trend or recipe-focused content, you’re demonstrating you want to offer solutions, as opposed to just moving cases. Each channel has its own unique challenges, so develop content that addresses those. For example, sharing creative participation-building ideas for K-12 operators, or dessert ideas that could build delivery revenue for a pizzeria operator.

5) Sampling made easy

We all know the power of trying a new product in the grocery store and immediately deciding to purchase it. Foodservice operators are no different, and they’re passionate about what they serve. By making it easy for them to sample your products, there’s a good chance you’ll earn their business. We talked to one operator who sampled a bottled sauce years ago, and it’s now a staple ingredient on their menu ­­– so much so that they switched distributors in order to get it!

Looking to grow your foodservice business? With nearly 25 years in B2B food marketing, we bring expertise and experience to heat up your sales. Contact Anita Nelson directly at 612-353-3410.

Beyond email: 5 proven ways to engage your customers

You’ve invested in a marketing automation platform, honed your list and perfected your process for deploying emails on a regular basis. Now all you need to do is sit back and watch the sales roll in, right? Not so fast. While email is an effective way to communicate directly with your customers, it shouldn’t be the only way. As more and more marketers hit the “send” button, you may find your emails getting lost in the shuffle. Consider these proven tactics to complement your efforts:

1. Direct mail

It may seem like a step back in time, but direct mail can be a highly effective tactic—especially since so many marketers have diverted their budgets to digital efforts. In a recent foodservice campaign where we leveraged email, direct mail, and high-impact print and digital media placements, our best performer (by far) was direct mail.

2. Events

In today’s digital age, personal connections can go a long way toward building relationships. Consider hosting a lunch-and-learn to address a customer pain point, or sponsoring special events at your key industry conferences.

3. Webinars

Beyond your products, you likely have all kinds of valuable information to share with potential customers such as trend research, recipe ideas and preparation tips. Webinars are like making a virtual sales call to a highly engaged “room” of customers.

4. Social media

With the right strategy and platforms, social media can be a powerful way to connect with your customers. The key is having compelling content to drive to, such as a blog or recipe collection. But even without those, there are easy ways to dip your toes in the water and begin building a social presence. One example: follow industry leaders on Twitter and retweet content while adding your own point of view.

5. Promotions

Looking to drive trial or ramp up sales quickly? Coupons, free samples, rebates and sweepstakes are all ways that you can lower the barrier for prospective customers—and potentially convert them into long-term users.

Looking for new ways to engage your customers? We’d love to talk! Contact anita@infoodmktg.com.