Acquiring new customers for smaller food brands is one of the biggest barriers to growth. I realized this early on in running my kombucha business. I was seeing very successful repeat business through initial family and friends — my problem was getting it into the hands of new folks to try and spread the word.
I initially tried to purchase some Facebook and Instagram ads but didn’t see much return — I was able to secure a few new orders but unless I was really prepared to increase my marketing spend, I couldn’t scale without breaking my budget.
As my business grew, I started to notice the community of Indianapolis foodie Instagram accounts: locals passionate about trying new products and restaurants and sharing them with their followers. These were not the typical Instagram influencers you see with one million followers who charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per post. They were, as Later referred to them, nano-influencers: folks with 1-10,000 followers who are very active within a specific geographic area or niche focus area.
This felt like a great opportunity to experiment! I reached out to all my favorite foodie accounts and asked if they’d like a few bottles of kombucha for free. I didn’t explicitly ask for anything in return, but almost every single one went out of their way to share an Instagram Story or post about our product and recommend it to their followers! After just a few influencers posted, I found myself with several new customers that I never would have reached ordering my products and in turn continuing to spread the word.
In talking with some of the folks I gave product to, it felt like this exchange was really a win-win for both sides!
- I gave away about $2-4 worth of product and in return gained followers and new customers in the process
- They learned about a new brand, received free products to try and were given an interesting new local brand to review and share with their followers — something they seemingly love to do
This was such an easy experiment, and it really paid off for me. I found new customers without spending a bunch of money on ads. I also think that partnerships like this feel more authentic than an ad or other paid ways of reaching customers.
As a friend of mine who operates a local Indianapolis foodie account commented, “I feel like what you’re doing is a dream for a local foodie!”
I hope so, and I’m so grateful for these folks’ willingness to try my product and promote it!