My marketing plan needs a makeover - where do I start?
I'm an English major, an idea person and right brain thinker. I thought I wrote a "good" plan, but realize that even though it initially worked, it isn't working now. I've upgraded my label from a primitive version, changed the packaging, and made the products consistent in branding and logo design. My products are an all natural line of gluten free fruit fillings, sauces, and a bisque that are versatile in both cooking and baking recipes. I'm stuck. I tested these products when they first came out last fall, and received over 1,000 comments. I made some adjustments and it continued to sell, then dropped off significantly in the spring of this year. The website is www.juliesfinefoods.com.
I agree with Lanie about the story. I would distill that down two two paragraphs max for use on the home page with a link to the about us page if they want to learn more. This will help with your SEO ranking as well. I also didn't get any idea of WHY you choose to make gluten free foods. Do you have or care for someone with Celiac's disease? Do you find that you don't digest gluten well? And have you struggled to find suitable products like yours for gluten free cooking? Give your audience something to relate to and show them why you are passionate about what you do.
I would also highly encourage the use of product shots on your home page. As it stands, it's a bit confusing what your main offering is. Almost makes it look like you offer party planning services. You might also rethink muffin imagery on a gluten free food site. I realize they can be made gluten free, but I don't see you offering any, so try to replace with your products if possible or other relevant imagery. On the product page, while the peach and butternut products look appealing, do you have professional packaging shots you could use there? Will make the products appear more official/trustworthy. Use your FB pics, they're much more mouth-watering!
To Craig's point, I would absolutely look into bloggers/influencers. There are a ton of them in the gluten free space and I wouldn't pigeon-hole yourself there, go for dessert and savory chef ones as well. Reach out and say that you'd like them to try your product and if interested, you'd send them a package free-of-charge. If they are not a gluten-free blogger, perhaps even look for some recipes they have posted where you could suggest they refer to your product as an option for those readers of theirs that have gluten restrictions or need gluten free diets. You might also look at your local media (newspapers, TV, radio) to see if any of the writers or on-air personalities are gluten free and talk about the products they love. Send them a care package saying you heard them say there were gluten free and you wanted them to give your product a try. If nothing else, you may get a tweet or FB post on their channels.
Do you collect contact info such as email from your customers? If not, perhaps start doing that and following up with quarterly newsletters featuring the best gluten free recipes you've found (crediting I any bloggers) and upcoming or newly launched products. You might also consider sending along a favorite recipe or two with each product they purchase. And handwritten notes are always a nice touch for a small, personal business.
Hi Julie, I took a look at your site and found it to be appealing and informative, yet not overwhelming. All great things. The one concern is Where to Buy, which is either non-functional (e.g. the directory) or vague (the listed stores). It is not clear if your website is your primary selling means but let's get back to basics:
Intent- what are you looking to accomplish with your marketing effort? dig deep, the answer is usually not what you think.
Audience- who are you trying to reach with your message? the more you know about them the better. If there is more than one audience then split them up into buckets.
Venue- where does your audience go to get the sort of message you want to deliver? Is it social media, web site, directory, magazine, etc?
Content- content is informed by the first three items. That which you write is designed to convey your intent to the intended audience and is deliverable through the media that your audience prefers.
When a client is stuck I always suggest they go back to the beginning. Feel free to reach out; I will gladly provide a no-charge, no obligation consult.
Julie ... What you are experiencing is part of the problem with open loop systems. You need to close the loop. We utilize a 6-step process — Discover, Define, Create, Test, Broadcast & Measure — for engineering our client's success.
I believe you need to go back to the beginning and research, research, research, research.
Research the marketplace. Dig deep to understand the dynamics of the food industry specifically the gluten-free segment. What's the size of the market? Who are the leaders? How are they selling their products? Where are they selling them? What are their processes? You must have competitors do a thorough competitive analysis. What's their structure? What's their business model? How do they price their products? How do they get their products to the consumer? Conduct a gap analysis. Go to the grocery stores and look at the packaging of your gluten-free brethren.
Research the consumer. What are their needs and wants? What are their likes/dislikes? What triggers their purchasing decisions: rationally, emotionally and physically? Define who your target audience is: demographically, psychographically, behaviorally, etc. Where do they go to get their decision-making information? What type of information are they looking for? Have you ever conducted focus groups to get insight on your product, taste, and packaging?
Research the distribution channels and get their insight. Who are the existing distribution channels? What lines do they carry? What are their criteria for handling a line? What are the potential distribution channels? Is ecommerce a viable alternative? What are the issues and concerns of each potential distribution channel? What are the distribution channels emotional, rational and physical buying triggers?
Research yourself and your company. You're going to have to really dig deep here, look in the mirror and ask yourself some very hard questions. Am I cut out for this? Conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis: individually and company wise. Conduct a PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental) analysis. What's your mission, vision, goals?What makes my company and product unique? If you have employees, gauge their attitudes. Do you have the right employees to fit your company's needs and philosophies? What are your processes, practices and policies? Do they fit the needs of my target audiences? What are my costs: fixed and variable? Segment product purchases by geography, demographic, product. What's selling? What's not? Do you have the right product mix? Conduct a gap analysis.
Once you do the above then you can really define your blueprint for success, create your products, marketing and other key infrastructure, test them, broadcast/sell and then constantly measure and readjust.
Maybe it is time to hire outside counsel to help you be successful.
Wow, what a loaded question. This is a problem that plagues many small businesses. There's such an excitement to get to market that you don't really focus on fully understanding your target customer.
It sounds as if you made a lot of the right moves initially — testing the product, adjusting the product based on feedback, etc. But did you do the same with your branding and other marketing efforts? I can only assume that by your decline in sales that the answer is no.
My first suggestion to you would be take what you've learned and try to better understand your ideal customer. This alone will help you get started in the right direction.
You also mentioned that your branding was consistent, but after reviewing your website, I can't help but notice that your website doesn't aline with what you've done on your packaging.
I'm a branding designer and believe wholeheartedly that your marketing success begins with developing a strong brand. That doesn't mean simply creating a pretty logo or functioning website. There's a lot to this branding and marketing stuff and it's tough to learn on your own, especially when it isn't your day-to-day business.
I just happen to be located just up the road from you, in Greensboro, and would be happy to talk to you about your branding and marketing needs, in further detail. Feel free to contact me any weekday from 9-5. You can find my phone number here: https://plus.google.com/+BlakeDesignSolutions/about.
P.S. Noting that you're an English major, please ignore my grammar.
I am a systems and processes kind of guy -- even for marketing. When things go stale, I always recommend getting back to the basics. The basics, I have found, for sales and marketing are the same as the NO COST ways to increase sales that I have researched and pulled together. So it can be a double winner.
Take a look at http://bit.ly/bizgrowthresourceguide , which are guaranteed to increase your sales and profit in and of themselves, plus also form the basis for being successful at any other marketing tactics chosen. Try it. It works.
I always say don't shirk on strategy -- but I understand that not everyone would know where to start their *marketing* strategy.
I took the liberty of browsing the site. The business model is standard and the products and services are solid. The website could use a redesign, some optimization, and a blog for fresh content, but no, strategy doesn't start there. It's great that you've upgraded the label and the packaging, and that's a good step towards focusing your brand identity.
From what you've said, it seems your product was enjoying a bit of launch traction when it first came out. Hype was high and word of mouth helped a lot, but now the hype has died down and real-time, traditional marketing isn't getting the same volume of clients.
I think you've got the brand development down and your offering is feasible (proven, even, given the comments you had). I would recommend you start with aligning your offering to your target market -- develop buyer personas first. The 1,000 comments you received previously would help towards that, as well as insight from previous clients.
Once you definitively know who needs your products and services, you can start to market to them: I would recommend a content strategy including social media. If you have the budget, some paid advertising on PPC and social channels would work to create a following as well as actually land clients. While working on your content strategy and building up reputation, list-building and cold calling wouldn't hurt -- this brings in short term funds while you're constructing the infrastructure that ensures long-term sales.
Finally, if you want to build long term, sustainable marketing infrastructure through digital channels, I would highly recommend you start ASAP -- going from 0 to 60 in terms of full inbound marketing takes some time, during which your sales will stay in the same levels as they are currently unless you're willing to spend on advertising or perform some aggressive cold calling as you go.
I hope that helps. Good luck.
Hi Julie, Congrats on getting your business off the ground. I was an English major too, and we do make great marketers if we tap into our creative side. I agree with Chrishan, your website presence is quite bland. Your product should be targeted to young Moms who have kids with gluten problems and adults too. Having said that, your target audience is primarily women because they are usually in charge of groceries and meal planning. Another way to connect with your target audience is through social media. Make sure it is entertaining. Develop easy recipes using your products that you share. Invite people to share their favourite recipes. If you are interested in doing more with social media, or your website, PM me and I'll be glad to offer a complimentary consultation. Good luck with your venture.
Being a HUGE fan of gluten free goods... I am now going to be frequenting your site more often. But, back to your question. I wanted to start with one of my own... prior to a marketing plan, have you taken time to create or revisit your business plan? Perhaps the answer lies more in tightening the business side than the marketing side. If you are hoping to gain more advancement in the search engines, then a visit to your site is highly recommended. There have been several big changes to the various internet platforms that really have had a huge impact business websites SEO standings. Companies that once were top of the pile have been shuffled to the bottom due to some of the new search engine algorithms. There are some really easy, cost effective tweaks that can be made to your site and some domain name suggestions I would make that could increase your ranking pretty quick. If you would like, contact me and I'll be happy to share a few ideas over a complimentary consultation with no apron strings attached... (lol, sorry I had to toss a pun in there.) Many wishes for your grand success... the world needs more tasty gluten free options and NOW is your time!
Have a beautiful day!
It sounds like you did all the "right" steps in laying the groundwork before moving forward. But, if marketing isn't your area of expertise you may not be looking at the right metrics to figure out why there was a sudden drop.
You would benefit from a marketing professional coming in to do an assessment of your current marketing efforts - analyze your website, analytics, sales, distribution, sales process, etc. Until you have a thorough understanding of what's going on, your initiatives will basically be just shots in the dark.
There have been some good suggestions made, but depending on how your product is sold/distributed it could be more of an issue of where your product is placed at a retailer than your actual website. Though, it really is impossible to say without more knowledge of your business.
Once an analysis is done, then you can move forward in creating a comprehensive plan for moving forward. One that takes your goals, budget and abilities into account.
Happy to talk more. Best of luck!
Hi Julie -- First you need to understand what truly drove previous success and sales. Did you get visibility at your launch? PR? Or, is the product seasonal? I would think so. (If you were launched in the Fall, you were heading into the holidays and the prime baking season -- I baked dozens of cookies for Christmas and nothing since.) Also, have you done anything to update the website and add new content? You need fresh content all the time -- maybe recipes? Think about your marketing as an ongoing thing -- it never rests.
Julie, there are several extremely basic issues....
The biggest one is, how are you continuing to GET THE WORD OUT. One of the biggest mistakes most marketers make is building a nice website and just waiting for the buyers to find it. If you don't continue to PUSH your message OUT to your target markets your product will either die or just limp along. Guaranteed.
An equally fundamental issue is, what's your DIFFERENTIATION? What makes your product special? "Versatile gluten free products" is simply not good enough. Figuring out how to differentiate yourself is not easy (which is why 90% of businesses give up on doing it!) but it is absolutely critical to your success.
A third basic issue: "Gluten free" is big territory. Your website home page needs to spell out and promote that you're talking about fruit fillings, etc. specifically. The first two things every website visitor wants to know are what exactly are you offering (do I need that?) and what makes it any different than what I can get elsewhere? You've got to answer both of those questions within the first 2 to 5 seconds, or they will simply move on.
If I can help further, call me. I do marketing and differentiation consultation for businesses of all types and sizes.
Al Shultz alshultz.com/
I agree with the comments so far. I checked out your site and it does need some personality. Can you tell me if you're marketing to other businesses or consumers? I went to the "Where to Buy" page and I was confused. I would recommend that you provide an option for users to buy online. Also, if you happened to collect email addresses from folks who have already purchased, I'd recommend keeping in touch with them with new product offerings and special deals. Also, people love personal stories. I would strongly recommend writing in the first person. Start by rewriting your "About Us" page. Pick up a copy of Cook's Illustrated for a good example. Finally, a consistent brand image is great unless it's sterile. You're not selling medical equipment. Food is fun--show people eating or baking! Hope this helps and good luck!
Before I answer your main question... What happened in spring? Did your marketing change in any way? Did your search ranking drop? Did your web traffic go down? These are important questions which can help figure out the problem.
As far as your question... where to start? First you need to figure out EXACTLY who your target market is. Once you know your target market, you can figure out how to best reach them. Once you know the best ways to reach them you should determine whether you have the time and knowledge to set up your own marketing plan or if it's best to hire a pro. Then establishing a marketing budget is important to know what you can afford to do... the more marketing options you can use (which are right for your business) the better. To help you figure a marketing budget, it is important to know what the life time value of a customer is. Once you know a customer's life time value, you easily decide how much you can spend to get a customer and make a profit... this can put you ahead of competition. Then figure out what you need to do to up-sell and/or keep your customers coming back.
A website and branding are important marketing tools, but establishing a sound marketing plan first will tell you where your marketing efforts should be going.
Along with all the great advice you've already received so far, keep in mind that no marketing plan is ever really "finished." Good marketing and branding requires consistent optimizing to not only grow your customer base, but to retain the ones you already have as well. You tested last fall? Now might be the time to test again... And also remember the strongest marketing you can possibly do nowadays is social marketing. Why? It's so much easier and efficient to track your audience via analytics to see how they are flowing through the marketing funnel. Marketing and branding is also a very full-time job (with lots of overtime) to be done effectively. Most businesses are better off hiring or contracting this very tedious part of their business so that they can concentrate more on the operations of their businesses. Also, it's quite a learning curve if you are not in or well familiar with marketing and branding... most especially for a startup. Consider seeking a good marketing company to help you before giving up on your business. Anything can sell... ANYTHING... that is, if you market it right. Hope this helps. ;-)
I suggest starting with the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of your firm. Are they still relevant? Is the management team in alignment with regards to each? Is a consistent "on brand" story being told by everyone in the organization?
Go back and reevaluate your vision, mission, values and strategic positioning and ensure everyone on the management team is in agreement.
Then go about developing your brand platform which will inform the evolution of your marketing plan.
An outstanding 73% of U.S. prefer direct mail for brand communications because they can read the information at their convenience. I would recommend adding a print advertising campaign to your marketing plan. With coupon codes, they're easily trackable to see who is using which platforms to get to your brand.
Let me know if there is something I can personally help you with. We have some great formats that are mailed directly to your target audience and are personalized too that our clients really like and have found a great return on!
If you wanted some one to give you tactics and how to implement them you got that in spades! The only person who told you to go directly to your customer Janice Dacres-Jones. It's imperative you talk with your customers directly. Call them, email and ask for their phone number whatever it takes, but speak to these real people and find out what they are thinking. No amount of speculative planning will take the place of direct contact when it comes to finding out where you stand and why things slowed down. You already know who your customers are because you have customers. What you need to find out is how to attract more and how to keep selling to the ones you have. This is the first step to modifying your Action Plan. There's more information about marketing and the other aspects of running and building a successful business at the Small Business Learning Center (SBLC.Biz) Got a question? let us know. (email@example.com)
To start with clean up the website, instead of the big black box that leads to 'suggestion' have it brighter colour and discribe it as 'endorsement from customers' (The big black clock until clicked looks like you haven't got any. Once you get there you should see sound bites not a wall of text, this is probavly one of your most valuable pages, tweet/facebook the endorsement over a period too ... that's just a tip)
are you Pinterest? add a customer comment over a pic of whatever they are commenting on an pin it.
Go into gluten free forums and comment ensuring your website link is there as part of your signature.
Get the SEO sorted on each and every page on your site so that people can hunt you down.
The list could and does go on ... good luck
Hey, Julie. Congratulations on your business. I was an English major also and understand how you feel. I think you have an opportunity to tighten up your website and create a more engaging presence. My company, Propel Media Group, has clients in the food industry and has helped create increase visibility, greater engagement and of course, new customers. One of my clients has secured business with OWN, Nickelodeon and VH1. Happy to offer a 30 minute consultation.
Ms. Julie, your marketing should never become stale, whoops forgive the pun.
As in your products, you need to continuously be churning the pot. I would suggest looking for a professional marketing mentor. I am sure that your plan probably needs a tweak or two, as do all marketers find sooner or later. But don't fret as most marketers find it is the little nuances that get the customers back. Your basic plan will work I am sure. Are you in a holiday marketing situation, customers who travel seasonally? I can not speak as to your specific product lines personally, as I am really not sure where my oven really is.. I can't bake or cook to please anyone but myself..Interactive marketing plans today are the best way to bring in the elusive cash flow. Get your customers involved, get yourself a blog or active site to allow your customers direct contact. Betty Crocker type cook book with yearly updates as my Mom used for decades for instance.