[Big Cheese Expertise Guest Post] Hi everyone! My name is Tara Mei and I’m the founder of Hotcakes and Bread & Jam. Here are my top three tips for new brands looking to get their product into independent farm shops and delis that you can action for free.
A quick bit of background first – Bread & Jam is the largest community of food and drink entrepreneurs in the UK and Hotcakes is an online distribution platform for cutting-edge, emerging brands. Hotcakes supplies hundreds of independent retailers across the UK with hard to find, exciting new products.
I think the way we distribute products at the moment is a hugely overpriced affair, so I created Hotcakes to make life easier for everyone involved. Working with small producers has shown me that they often make the same simple mistakes that can make buyers overlook them, so I’m here to fix that with my tips.
1. Know your POD
The acronym stands for Point Of Difference, but what it really stands for is Point Of Difference As Far As My Regular Customers Are Concerned Not Your Nana. Finding your POD can be really, really hard because everyone needs to have one and it can sometimes feel like all the good ones are taken.
Buzzwords are a common pitfall – they’re like the dirty fast food of PODs – you get all judgy when you see others using them but throw in a few yourself and it feels oh-so-good.
Here’s how you can find your POD for free.
Ask a friend to host a barbecue. Invite 50 people of all shapes, ages and sizes. Put your product on the BBQ table and when someone approaches, ask them what it is. They will attempt to answer. Immediately follow up with “ok, so what’s special about it?”. They will artfully filter out all the boring, buzzwordy stuff and tell you what stands out to them. Repeat 49 more times and you will see a pattern. That’s your POD.
Your POD doesn’t have to change the world. You’re not starting a revolution, because nobody got rich doing that. You’re starting a kick-ass food business, which is a million times more profitable.
Your POD just needs to keep your product flying off the shelf and, like an acapella cover of Despacito, get stuck in someone’s head for weeks and weeks on end.
2. Keep it professional
It’s easy to focus on the fun stuff. The brand. The influencers. The yoga studios. When you’re working with shops, I think it really helps to put time and effort into outstanding customer service.
Here are a few changes you can make in the next ten minutes.
- Add a compliment slip with samples that reminds them where they found you and how to order, not just ‘hope you like it!’, which is way too easy to ignore
- Make sure stuff arrives on time and dispatch orders on the same day you get them
- Something broken? Replace immediately
- Work out your product cycle – when are they probably going to run out, given the size of their store? Call them a couple of days before.
- Use a CRM to keep things in check (I like Pipedrive)
- You don’t have to be ‘great at sales’ and super charismatic to sell and you don’t need to hammer down your price.
You just need to keep your promises and be so incredibly efficient to deal with.
3. Tell it like it’s in a PDF
I work with hundreds of startups every day and know I’m on to a winner when they’ve got a stand out buyers pack.
A buyers pack tells me what they make, who they are, how much it costs and how I’m going to get my hands on it.
In that order, with a sprinkling of some good POD all the way through it. It’s on brand and it’s on a pdf. Five pages max, one with prices and one without.
I think writing all this stuff down can be really intimidating sometimes because it feels like you might say something wrong and look an idiot… So you just don’t. And then it becomes really difficult for everyone else to think about working with you as a supplier.
Your buyers pack is like your Tinder profile.
Ultimately, Tinder is about getting to the point – are you tall enough, good-looking enough and nice enough to be my boyfriend? Likewise: are you well priced, organised and nicely packaged enough to be in my shop? And how annoying is it on Tinder when you see a good looking person who hasn’t bothered to write anything in his profile? Total laze-ball, amirite? Make the buyer swipe right. Write something up. And don’t lie about your pricing or your height!
On that note: photos are really important too (though they aren’t free). I’ll go back to that Tinder analogy one more time: just like how you’re suspicious of the profile lacking a full body shot, don’t write up your pack without inserting a product shot either!
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More food for thought…
Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you enjoyed this, you’ll also like How to get your food & drink products into retailers or Tips to get your food & drink brand into the travel sector.
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