Article about the 5 Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Plan for Food and Drink Businesses from Smoothie PR. Image is of the words marketing plan and symbols associated with it.

[Big Cheese Expertise Guest Post] Hi, my name is Sally Dorling and I’m a co-founder at Marketing Foods. We help food and drink businesses with all aspects of the marketing mix, so here’s what to put into your marketing plan in the first two years of business.

Marketing overview

“So, marketing is a waste of time, right? I know lots of people who say they can do it for themselves. Just focus on the sales side. And anyway, why pay someone to do something they can do themselves? Anyone can use Twitter.”

Wrong.

Creating a marketing plan for your product or brand is crucial to its success. We have a saying here at Marketing Foods:

“If you do nothing, nothing will happen; but if you do something, you must do that something well.”

There is no one set of rules or a golden bullet. Each concept needs a tailored, experienced and flexible approach to get the best from an (always limited) marketing budget.

Let’s look at five key aspects of any successful and effective marketing plan for the first two years of business. And remember, your marketing strategy is the bigger picture that will help you get improved results and reach your objectives.

1. Target customers?

“We want to be on the shelves in Waitrose, then we can relax and focus on some NPD and then think about early retirement. The product is great, so it will go well – correct?”

No.

Great as a multiple retailer listing can be, they are not necessarily the key to your success, and might not be right for you at first. Supermarkets put their own interests first and are increasingly difficult to approach, wanting strong evidence that your product is going to increase their profitability backed by a considerable promotional spend.

The early stages of your business are crucially important and should be mapped put in your marketing plan.

Face to face interaction with consumers is a fantastic way of getting feedback on your product and finding out who is in your community.

Article about the 5 Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Plan for Food and Drink Businesses from Smoothie PR. This image of a market stall symbolises getting to know your customers.

So, your first 6 months could be spent with a stall at food markets and attending events. You’ll be able to home in on your range and begin to gather evidence of sales which can then take you into independent retailers and farm shops.

By the end of year one you will be building a far better idea of:

  • Where your product sits in retail
  • Who your consumers are
  • Who your next stockists to approach should be

2. Advertising and social media

“Luckily with social media you don’t need to pay for advertising any longer. I’ll fit posts in around my day as and when I can – that’ll work, right?”

Err – sorry.

Social media may have taken a big chunk out of advertising budgets, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of marketing. What social media can do is provide a fantastic cost-effective tool for you to reach out to your audience, but it must be curated well and a small spend on advertising is worth trying out.

Article about the 5 Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Plan for Food and Drink Businesses from Smoothie PR. This image of a smartphone displaying lots of social media symbols.

You may have had a lot of likes for the post of your cat jumping up in front of the TV, but is that right for the launch of a new range of indulgent luxury chocolate bars?

Avoid aiming to build a huge following for the sake of it, it is the quality of your following you want to focus on.

A successful business will do a bit of advertising (print and digital) as well as having a great social media strategy. Your marketing plan should have an area for budgets to get the best out of your spend for a year, and allocate a certain amount of time for creating your own style guide. Try to get a measure of your success by adding a promotion or a prize draw and always encourage interaction.

3. Supporting a listing

“I’ve got my products into Whole Foods Market, all I need to do is just watch the sales grow.”

Hmmm.

Wherever you get listed, this is just the beginning.

You need to support your launch and help nurture sales growth by various means:

  • Special offer
  • POS materials
  • Sampling
  • Merchandising
  • Informing your consumers where to buy it

Article about the 5 Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Plan for Food and Drink Businesses from Smoothie PR. This image shows lots of small sampling glasses of beer.

Strong support in your strategy will be key to keeping your shelf space and growing your rate of sale. If you are aiming for a multiple retailer listing, you will be expected to promote your product, which is costly. Make sure you allow for this when calculating your margins.

Sampling costs money so to make sure that you get the most out of it, add it into your marketing plan to account for that outlay. Create a press release and circulate this to trade and consumer press to help raise awareness – the more the merrier – making sure that you also subscribe to Charlotte’s 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar to try out the best in cost-effective PR!

4. Buyers

“Somebody told me that supermarket buyers will know your product is out there and that they will approach me, come the time”

or

“We like whacky. I’m going to dress up as a banana and just stand in the reception at Aldi HQ until the buyer has to see me”

Which one is the right approach?

Neither.

Your marketing plan must include a strategy of who you want to approach, when. You must have a ‘knock-out’ presentation ready in case that call comes, but work on tailored documents for each retailer.

Buyers are busy people so they want to know the answer to these questions:

  • The shelves are already full so who are you going to replace and sit alongside?
  • Why is the product on trend?
  • Why will it sell?
  • Who will it sell to?

Article about the 5 Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Plan for Food and Drink Businesses from Smoothie PR. This image of an IPad showing generic data symbolises the prep you need to do for buyers.

Buyers want to see your research and the analysis behind your approach. It is expensive to buy data, but there are ways to find out that information.

Top trade titles such as The Grocer have excellent research-based articles and you can access data from the excellent Mintel reports at The British Library for free.

Creating a compelling presentation is key to getting a listing. Also, find out buyers’ names and follow them on LinkedIn. Prepare the ground but set this out for yourself in the marketing plan.

5. Timeline and budget

Can I mention the dreaded word ‘sensible’ here?

OK, let’s just go ‘realistic’.

Your marketing plan is a 10,000-metre race, not a sprint. You need to pace yourself. Be generous with your timeline and make sure it is one you can stick to. You will need a realistic budget that reflects your business plan in terms of growth, and remember, a little can go a long way.

A marketing plan is essential…

It is a roadmap that can direct your business and help you reach your objectives. Pick five key focus points each year and build your plan around how you will achieve them. Aim high and be confident but remember too that you probably won’t become ‘Innocent’ in the first 12 months.

We hope this has been of some use and if you would like some expert help please do get in touch. We love all things food and drink and would love to talk to you. We’ve even got a special offer to maximise on this blog! Clever, eh?

Special Offer for Smoothie PR Readers!

Get a free 1 hour’s marketing health check for your food brand or business. Just contact us at info@marketingfoods.co.uk or on 01844 202884 and quote “I’m a smoothie follower” to qualify 😊 You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see our latest updates.

Marketing Foods was founded in 2008 to help start-up, small and medium-sized food and drink businesses successfully market their brand. We are based in Buckinghamshire but work extensively across London and the south-east. Our clients include businesses with just an idea, a new product or brand and successfully established companies looking to maximise their potential.

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you enjoyed this then you’ll love ‘How to get stocked in farm shops and delis‘ and ‘How to pitch to supermarket buyers‘.

Or, hang out with us for a bit longer and try out my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar – I’ll teach you how to do your own responsive PR in only 10 mins a day!

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