Bringing Great Ideas to the Table (Opinion)

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You’ve toiled, you’ve tested, you’ve poured your heart and soul into your passion. You have a new, exciting product. Let’s say it’s a great-tasting, world-changing food product.

And, you’ve figured out how to get it produced. You know the basic logistics of how to get it on the shelf. You’ve had meetings with retailers, and they think you have a potentially successful product — you may have even gotten an order or two.

Now what?

One of the most critical hurdles you will face is creating demand for your product. That’s where food marketing comes in.

When you think about it, marketing food products is a lot like working with a caterer. You have an event (product), and you need someone to help you make it a success so your guests (customers) will have a great time and keep coming to your parties (repeat buyers). So you search for a caterer (marketing firm) who can make sure all the pieces come together on time, on budget … and in a way that reflects your style and personality.

Of course, whether you hire a marketing firm (caterer) to help bring your product to market is entirely up to you and your needs.

Before you take the plunge, here are a few things to consider.

• Know your eating public.

One of the most critical factors at this stage of development is getting to know your target consumer. Not knowing who you’re trying to sell to is like shooting in the dark — you’re bound to hit something sooner or later, but it will cost you a lot of time, effort and ammunition.

So before you do any marketing, define your target by asking questions — first internally, and then externally. Ask yourself and your key decision makers “Who’s going to buy from us?” Once you’ve defined the demographic, seek them out and strive to understand their motivations and behaviors.

• What’s your “one thing?”

What is it about your product that sets it apart from the thousands of other products your target consumer encounters each week? Is it a health claim? Well, there may be hundreds of “healthy” products on your aisle. Is it a taste claim? Again, there are a lot of products out there claiming to taste best.

So what is the “one thing” your product has that no one else claims? This is your Unique Selling Proposition, and once you figure it out, this will be how you distinguish and position your product.

• Form an emotional connection.

Now that you know the who and the what, it’s time to figure out the how.

If you’ve done a good job defining your target, then you know what excites them, and what turns them off. You know what they find useful, and you know what they consider passé. Use this knowledge to talk to them in their language, and in a way that excites and motivates them.

One of the worst things you can do is market “at” your target. Just telling them how great your product is doesn’t really cut it. Your goal is to convert your target into a brand loyalist; and to do that, you have to prove to them that your product is going to make their lives better/richer/easier in a way that hits them on a very deep, emotional level. Engage them.

The next step is to find the right marketing mix for your product. And there are a lot to choose from:  In-store, out-of-store, direct marketing, traditional marketing, PR marketing, social media marketing, retail partnering … the list goes on.

• Agency up?

It may all seem a bit overwhelming, and if so, a good option may be to hire an outside marketing agency to vet and recommend the right tools to market your product successfully.

An agency can provide an unbiased opinion when it comes to selecting the right tools and message. It can also bring a wealth of expertise and knowledge from other clients, businesses and past marketing programs that can help you quickly zero in on the right marketing mix.

Hiring an agency ensures you talk about your product in the right place and in a consistent voice that connects with your target audience, builds your brand and ultimately drives sales. And, of course, that’s the goal.

Scott Caldwell is senior vice president – marketing services at CJRW, a full-service strategic communication firm with offices in Springdale, Little Rock and Dallas. He can be reached at 479-684-2811.