Kent is often called the ‘Garden of England’; if you’re looking for fruit, Kent has it covered, with apples, strawberries, pears and raspberries to name just a few.
Being one of the closet points to Europe it generally gets the best of the UK’s weather. In recent years we have seen a rise in vineyards which benefit from this compatible climate, notably the award-winning Chapel Down Winery.
But Kent isn’t just famous for fruit and wine, there’s also ‘Kent Crisps’ and now we have an array of gin distilleries popping up all over Kent, most notably Maidstone Distillery. They may be thought of as ‘the new kid on the block’, but there’s a great story behind it, the tale of George Bishop, a famous distiller from 1786, who started the same time as the famous Gordons Distillery.
Kent has a lot going for it when it comes to food and drink. So, are you a small producer who isn’t growing as quickly as you’d like? You may be completely new to the industry but have a product you feel will set the industry on fire, not just in Kent but national wide. Or you may be a well-established food or drink producer who feels something is missing in the processing, packaging and sales approach of your products. Are your products flying off the shelves physically and virtually as fast as you expected, or do you feel it could be better?
This guide will take you on a journey to discover the keys for a Kent business to successfully bring a food or drink product to market. Even if established, we pretty much guarantee this guide will help sharpen up your operation and maybe even give you some food for thought, (pun intended).
Setting your business goal
First off, what’s your goal for this product? The obvious answer is ‘PROFIT’. Or perhaps ‘MAXIMIZING PROFIT’, but just maybe you want to be the Brand Leader for a particular product or create Brand Loyalty? There can be many reasons for re-evaluating your current way of doing business.
Consider the following:
Does your product align with your key customer needs?
Does your product align to key customers lifestyles?
How do you know your product values align with those of your target audience?
Is your product properly tasty?
So, let’s break these down one at a time and look at ways you can sensor check your product or idea.
Does your product align with your key customer needs?
The Food & Beverages (F&B) marketplace is a thriving, yet ultra-competitive place to be. It’s important to make sure your product focuses in on a niche. Remember that too narrow is better than too wide. Your product should be aimed at a set of people who resonate with your F&B philosophy. And most importantly it should be aimed at a set of people you understand.
Does your product align to key customers lifestyles?
How does your product fit with your target customer lifestyle? Is it for everyday use, to provide health and wellbeing or something to celebrate special occasions? Whatever you believe it to be, its important that’s how your customers will see it. And if they do, then great, that becomes an integral part of the products brand story, much like, for example, a daily dose of a healthy fruit smoothie which is linked to a charitable donation for each purchase.
How do you know your product values align with those of your target audience?
In today’s world, your customers are switched on. They will see through anything artificial which is there merely to shift units. Remember, discerning buyers often value integrity as highly as the quality of the product! Short term gains, lead to long term losses. Do you remember Sunny Delight? Great packaging and marketing, and families bought it in vast numbers right up until the market changed, and people began to look more closely at the sugar and additives in their food and drink.
Think about your product as a person. What type of person would you like to be? Exciting? Nutritious? Wholesome? – whatever it may be, define them, test them with your target customers to make sure they resonate. Remember the short cut to brand advocacy is trust. The quick you can get customers to trust your product the quicker your market share will grow. Word of mouth is the cornerstone of sales today. Positive reviews and comments lead to more sales.
Is your product properly tasty?
Whatever you are selling, making sure it has a superior taste and quality to its competitors will go a long way towards its success. Consider Gordons Gin; Gordons has almost become a byword for ‘Gin’, much like Innocent has for ‘Smoothies’. Gordons has a lot to do with heritage and time in the marketplace, but the taste doesn’t lie. In such a crowded arena it has managed to retain a strong following due to both its perceived quality but also by adapting to recent trends for flavoured Gins. Innocent Smoothies; is the product better than what the marketplace can offer? Perhaps not, it is relatively new compared to Gordons, but it is certainly a recent British success story (Now owned by Coca-Cola). Brand Identity has played a huge role in the success of Innocent with its core values set at the heart of its brand story. “I’m not only enjoying a tasty smoothie but I’m helping people who are less fortunate than me”. Giving the customer two emotionally positive feelings in one purchase? a clever marketing device I’m sure you agree! So, can your product deliver two or even three emotionally positive feelings for your customers? Something to think about.
Cross-reference the points above to make sure your idea or product ticks these boxes
Organise a half-day workshop with key staff members. Work through each of the above goals to see how the product stands up to scrutiny by trusted individuals. If you can bring any potential customers as well, even better. The outputs of this exercise feed into step two so may sure you do it!
Define the bare bones of the products brand story
Following on from step one now is the time to start to flesh out the products brand story. Hopefully, the workshop has helped you define what the product is and isn’t. Look for keywords which can inform values as well as act as a potential hook for your story.
Take these points into account and then work through the questions below. These are some of the simplest yet most challenging questions to ask yourself when creating the basic foundations of your product’s story.
The first two are relatively straight forward questions, the third is a lot more challenging.
Here’s a hypothetical example:
Who you are?
We are Kent cheese.
What do you do?
We produce a range of 32 individually crafted organic hard and soft kinds of cheese, bringing pleasure to any caring cheese-lovers palette!
Why is your product important to the consumer?
Our products are handcrafted at our farm in the heart of the Kent countryside. We are a family run business who have been making cheese for over 80 years with all of our ingredients sourced from the farm. We are obsessed with cheese. We also support the local community by providing all primary school canteens within a 20-mile radius with a free monthly quota of cheese!
Answer the who, what, why questions
Pull together key stakeholders from your business. Include a valued customer as well if they feel comfortable to be involved. Make some tea and coffee and on a flip chart or writing wall if you have one, write down these 3 questions. Who are we? What do we do? Why does it matter? The first two are easier to answer but the more you can refine the answer the better. The 3rd is tough. Uncovering the key truth in that answer will go a long way to understanding your difference as a business.
Understand the potential customer
This is a critical step in the whole process. The better you understand your target customer’s wants and needs, both practically and emotionally, the quicker you can connect with them and ultimately get them to buy your product again and again. You want brand guardians. The power of word of mouth will out-do any banner ad or company message. Let your customers sell your product. Always remember a brand is what your customers say about your product not what you say.
So let’s look at some ways you can fully understand your customer, and break them down to provide some practical steps to uncover the answers.
What do they value the most?
This feeds back into your goals. All human beings are different and have different perceptions of the world. One person’s achievements could be someone else’s idea of misery. When defining these values, make sure they align. But how? We start with an internal exercise. Describe an audience group who you believe would fit into your products world. Then ask yourself what would you like them to think, feel and do when they come into contact with your food or beverage product.
Once you can isolate two to three audience traits then you can break them down further to focus in on specific aspects of their day to day life to better understand them.
What role does food/drink play in their life?
Are they interested in pure inconvenience and healthy living? Is it about indulgence and escapism? Is it about daily go out usage? What does this mean? – Linz Think about the audience you are targeting and tailor how you would connect with that audience. Take as an example, a single 35-year-old female commuter. She has health and well-being at her heart as she has a stressful job in the city. She is looking for convenience with health benefits. Consider the ingredients you’d like to promote. The story you would like the product to tell her. Also, where is the best point of sale for the product? train or bus stations? maybe local supermarkets in areas close to where this customer works?
What is their lifestyle?
As discussed above, understand where your product falls in your audience’s lifestyle. Doing a mapping exercise here is useful. Create an axis on the wall which are labelled, for example, every day to premium on one axis and healthy to indulgent on another. Draw up a list of your competitors and map them on the axis and then think about your product, where does it fit with the competitors. What is the price point? This exercise will help you focus in on the marketplace and the customers you believe will be attracted to your product.
Where do they shop?
There is a big difference between the city dweller to the mother with three children who live in the countryside. Do you think your product exists to cater to both these audiences? If so you will have to get the product to them and tailor the communication to cater to their wants and needs. Using e-commerce through e.g. Ocado, or direct through your web-site is big business and is only going to get stronger with the way the world is changing. Making sure your product is available through your e-commerce site is a must today, as well as bringing you into the big national food retailers. Today Waitrose and Sainsbury’s actively encourage local producers to get in touch with them. Here are the links to these pages.
What drives their purchasing decision?
This is where understanding the customer’s values make a difference. Is it about cost, quality, convenience or flavour above all else! Once you can zero in on their primary values you can then know how best to communicate the right messages to them. Creating emotional connections between your product and the customer will drive sales fast and more effectively than anything else.
Three exercises to build strong customer profiles
Define the audiences and work through the first exercise; Know, Feel and Do. What do you want the audience to know about your product? How do you want them to feel about your product? And what do you want them to do? The second exercise is mapping. List out your competitors and create an axis with key attributes on each axis. Pinup all your competitors and then add your product to the mix. Where does it sit? Thirdly, look at all the buying options out there for your audiences. List them out in the priority for each audience. Are there similarities? This will help you understand where-else alongside your e-commerce where you need to be selling your product.
Branding and packaging
The previous steps will have enabled you to hone in on several important issues. Defining and understanding your audience, making sure your product is safe and protected and now is the time to take the outputs from step 1 and 2 and feed them into the branding and packaging process.
Hopefully, by now you have a statement which sums up the story behind the product. Also, you should have a list of words which define your values as a business and for your product which echo with your target audience.
Let’s state the obvious; your product needs to look better and communicate better than the competition, on shelves and online. This is fundamental and should not be overlooked, but invested in. If you try and cut corners here you will lose out. There are thousands of brands fighting for shelf and fridge space. How do you make yours stand out?
Well, it all comes from the defined storey you have written down. That becomes the springboard for creative exploration. We suggest it’s important to start loose with mood boards before funnelling ideas down into more defined creative territories. These territories encapsulate not only the logo but the tone of voice and messaging, visual assets and campaign ideas. This process is bringing to life visually the brand story you have written out. This is great because it gives you confidence that what is being created visually correlates directly to the essence of what your product stands for.
Depending on your product, the above process should be applied directly to the type of packaging you have defined. Do you know how and where it will be manufactured? Do you know the sort of packaging you want to use? Is your product an everyday item or is it for a special occasion? Either way the container whether a bottle, plastic container or bespoke card packaging need to work in harmony with the design and packaging. If you look at packaging and design, the great ones, complement each other beautifully.
Another important thing to consider is the hierarchy of messaging on the pack. There is a limited amount of space to work in and making sure when customers see your product they will be drawn to it visually, they understand the values and story behind the product enough to pick it up and find out more, before hopefully putting it in their basket.
A famous packaging agency coined the phrase ‘Packvertising’ which is a great way of explaining the importance of the branding and design on the pack. The packaging needs to not only sell the product but the ethos of why it’s there in the first place. It stands above all the competition on the shelf. But how do I know it does that? Simple, create prototypes and head to the supermarket. Put your packaging next to your competition. How does it stand up? Be brutally honest! Does it stand out, does it communicate what you want it to. If you have the confidence ask a shopper to look at it on the shelf and ask for feedback. Questions such as ‘How does this product appear to you?’ ‘How could the product’s packaging be improved?’ Getting sound bites from real shoppers in the marketplace is critical as they are in that mindset rather than being in an environment where they know they are being asked to comment on design (traditional testing) which is a lot more expensive.
Test three designs with trusted colleagues and your target audiences
Once you have the designs down, print them out on boards and head to the high street or which environment your product will be sold and ‘Vox pop’ the public who you feel would buy your product. You will quickly get a good idea on which one appeals and which one doesn’t. Remember to ask a question which will benefit further development rather than ones which make you feel everything’s great just as it is. You should be looking to implement a programme of Continuous Improvement for all your products because you can be sure your competitors will be!
If you can, bring the product with you so people can taste it, and reflect on the packaging to see if it feels like a good fit.
Marketing and advertising
Making sure you have a solid, exciting marketing plan ready to unleash on the world when the product is ready to go live will go a long way to driving momentum and delivering sustainable sales growth.
Marketing has changed so much over the last 10 years, and with the explosion of paid social campaigns, for example, Facebook advertising, making sure you squeeze every last penny out of each £ you spend has never been easier. Facebook advertising is a licence to print money when setup correctly. If you target the right audiences with the right messages, you can deliver sustainable returns on investment, especially when selling F&B products online.
There are lots of things to consider before you go live with the product:
Make sure your e-commerce website works properly and is convenient for customers to use. Easy check out with any niggles and delivery on time. A good way to think about this is to put yourself in the mind of the customer. Amazon is the standard, so no pressure. What you want to do is cut down the number of pages and clicks to make a purchase. Also to have an email to provide a receipt and a thank you for your purchase, once they have completed the transaction.
Its important consistency runs across all brand touch points. For example, the website should lead with the product and the essence of the brand story, whether that’s a strap line or positioning statement. The colours, imagery, and quality of product photography should be or a consistently high standard. These standards not only need to be applied to the website but if and when you have a stall at a trade show or market that same look and feel needs to applied there as well. Remember, the quicker the audience can buy in to and understand your product and its story, the quicker they will become brand advocates.
How and where to advertise?
This depends on your audience.
Facebook would always be a good place to start as you can target so specifically on audiences you know will be warm to your product, maximising your return on investment. You can search out keywords of pages people ‘Liked’ which relate to your product. That way, you know they have already had an interest in what you’re selling. You don’t have to invest thousands either, you can start with £10 per day, to begin with, to test the waters so to speak.
Video is by far and away the best way to advertise currently with big shifts towards YouTube over Facebook. Why? Well, a lot of people use YouTube as a search engine to solve problems or to find recipes or learn something new. The point is if, for example, you are selling ‘Local cheese’, when someone searches for a recipe with cheese in it, your ad would be lined up to play before the recipe video. That way you know the person watching your advert is already warm to your product and are more likely to watch the video. Also with that the more of the video, they watch the more the video will be re-targeted to them, whenever they’re on YouTube.
The cost of creating video content is higher, depending on the style of story you want to tell but it is worth the investment. Think about it this way. You want to maximise the return on investment with video. So when you storyboard an idea make sure it gets to the heart of the story, hero the product, and includes your target audiences. Also, think about how it can be broken up into shorter 15-second taster ads which you can spread across all social channels.
Google Display advertising
As we all know Google pretty much runs the internet. So using them to advertise your product is a pretty good idea! Display ads can help you promote your business when people are browsing online, watching YouTube videos, checking Gmail, or using mobile devices and apps. The Google Display Network reaches 90% of Internet users worldwide, across millions of websites, news pages, blogs, and Google sites like Gmail and YouTube.
Again you don’t have to spend a fortune and can be very specific on who you are targeting. You create audiences by providing Google with specific URLs from websites you know your audience is interested in. With cookies now, once a user or visits the sites you have told Google, it will show your advert and then re-market to them wherever they move around the internet. Clever aye! This is also a very cost-effective way for your adverts to keep your product in front of mind with potential customers.
Instead of the advert linking through to the home page of your website, set up targeted landing pages, designed to be conversion focused as well as providing all the necessary information your customer needs to make a purchase. With landing pages you can tailor specific offers that you don’t have to show on the main site, providing you with an effective and agile way of quickly running offers quickly and conveniently.
Create a pre-launch following to keep the excitement building
Facebook is a great place to start building a following for your product in the build-up to launching it. Start a group and tell the story of the product and the journey you are on. Post videos of behind the scene, give glimpses of the packaging, tasting sessions. Anything that your audience is going to be excited about and want to know more. The bigger the audience you can create pre-launch the more sales you will get on launch and the snowball effect of them and confidence you’ll have will continue to drive you forward into the next part of your marketing strategy. Which is…
Fulfilment by Amazon
The way to satisfy customers today is to provide convenience. That is the ultimate goal. If your business can provide a service or product which is more convenient than your competitor you’ve got them. Amazon and Airbnb are earth-changing examples of that. Rightly or wrongly Amazon has made the purchasing of products and services so eye-watering simple and convenient that everyone else is playing catch up. One wrong more on a checkout page, staff not picking up the phone or late delivery of substandard goods today huge damage to your brand’s reputation. The Amazon effect has changed everything. So remember when thinking about service, think convenience, think Amazon. Amazon’s is a huge multinational you say, yes it is now. But it started in a garage on the 5th of July 1994. When and where did your business start?
Fulfilment by Amazon is another great channel to sell your food or beverage product on. Amazon accounts for 50% of all online purchases and has a customer base of over 15 million alone in the UK. That is a market you should not pass up. FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) is a hassle-free way of selling your product online. Amazon takes around 30% of the overall fee per product but there are big profits to be made if your price point is right. Also, FBA means that you don’t have to worry about customer service or shipping, Amazon takes care of all of that. All you need to do is make sure you keep a stocked inventory and watch the £££ roll in. You can also take advantage of Amazon PPC (for a fee); to help your product feature higher on specific pages. If worked out correctly for every pound you spend on PPC you could be making a £3 return.
Overall FBA is a great way and hassle-free way of selling more of your product but also getting it out there across the country and Europe. It may not be the primary selling channel but it should definitely feature as a sales channel. There are tons of tutorials online for how to set up a product on Amazon, here’s a video to get you started, click here.
So that’s it, we hope this guide has opened up your mind to the power of branding and given you some practical examples to help you understand better how successful branding is much more than just an apple or a tick or a smile for that mate.
We hope this guide has really resonated with you and hopefully it has thrown up some thoughts in you mind about your business, about things you are doing really well and maybe some you aren’t. As we said no one’s perfect.
If you would like to discuss any of the points made here further or would like help in implementing them into your business then please get in touch with us today. Either by phone on 0772 555 8614 or by email at email@example.com
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