Everyone wants to sell more, right? When your food business has a consistent stream of sales, it makes it easier for you to plan inventory and fulfillment, and can even help you manage your budget. While your friends and family may be great customers, their loyalty will only get you so far — if you want to grow your business, you need to reach more people.
These tips from Heather and Corrie Miracle of Sugar Cookie Marketing, which they shared at the national cottage food conference, will help you build and improve your marketing prowess.
Don’t Skimp on Photography
We’ve talked about this countless times — photos are really important, especially for an online food business. An awesome photo can make someone (a potential customer) stop scrolling, really look at your product, and buy. Both makers and customers have been forced to do business online over the last year, and photos can be the difference between someone purchasing, or someone scrolling on by.
Taking good food pictures isn’t hard, but it does take some planning. Indirect natural light takes your photos up another level, so consider the time of day that you’re shooting photos. Use the windows in your house to your advantage. You don’t even need props or extras if you have great lighting.
If you’re starting with bad photos or videos, they won’t look much better after editing. If you don’t take a great photo, you can do a little bit to improve it — Heather and Corrie recommend using the Lightroom mobile app to adjust light, temperature, and color balance. It’s the biggest difference you can make in your photos, and it’s totally free.
Yes, You Need to Be On Social Media
Your digital profile is everything when you’re running an online food business. You need to be on Facebook and Instagram.
Fill out your profile as much as you can: uploading a profile picture and header image, adding a creative page name, indicating your page’s category. Use tools like Facebook’s Creator Studio to repurpose content, see how your content performs, and more.
Beyond setting up your accounts, social media advertising can be a useful growth tool for your business. Facebook Ads Manager can be used for more than just boosting posts — it allows you to narrow in your audience and target people with specific interests who are located in specific areas. A word of caution, though: you can also spend a lot of money quickly with Facebook ads, so do your research and check out Facebook’s ads training before jumping in.
Use Technology to Manage Sales
Your time equals profit. The less time you spend chasing down information from customers, the more time (and money) you can spend marketing and growing your business.
Tools that help you manage your online sales, like Castiron, help you keep your transactions, orders, and customers organized. If you use something like Google Forms to take orders, you’ll still be stuck wrangling payments and customer communication across a bunch of different channels.
Use a CRM to keep track of customers and, yes, grow your company. Cottage cooks and food artisans should try to be as consistent as possible about adding customers to their CRM. When someone places an order, make sure that they go into your CRM. Be sure to add any relevant notes about the customer, which will allow you to personalize your follow up. Take note of when they order and follow up on appropriate occasions — for example, if a customer orders on Mother’s Day, follow up the next year. (At Castiron, our ecommerce platform also features a built-in customer database that you can use to manage your customer list, automatically updated every time someone places an order!)
Use Your Website as a Business Card
Build a website, and treat it like a business card. Your website should talk about you, your business and the products you sell. It should also give customers an easy way to get in touch with you, or to place an order. Think about your website as a catalog, showcasing everything that you have to sell in one place.
As you market your business on platforms like Facebook, drive all of your traffic to one place: your website.
Make Your Network Work For You
Don’t want to spend money on ads? Networking is the cheapest way to market your business. Even if you’re shy or don’t love public speaking, you have options.
Research local groups on Facebook, like mom groups, local shopping groups, or local food groups, where you might be able to share information about your business. Your local Chamber of Commerce can be another marketing channel, helping you get your name out there while connecting with other small business owners.
Consistency in marketing is everything. Make your messaging, branding, and posts consistent.
Schedule your posts on Facebook, or pay for a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to publish your content on a schedule, so you don’t have to remember to post. But it’s important to stay engaged, even if you’re not publishing posts yourself: always look for opportunities to engage with clients and potential customers. People buy from those they know and trust, so let them get to know you.
Use Reviews as a Marketing Tool
The best way to get reviews for your business? Ask for one. Follow up with your customers after they receive an order and, if they’re happy with what they received, ask if they would be willing to leave a review for you.
Heather and Corrie mention the importance of getting a positive review before you ever get a bad review on your page. Make it easy for your customers to leave a review by sharing a link directly to the reviews section of your Facebook page or Google business profile.
Watch Your Competitors
Watch your competitors, note what they do that works, and then put your own spin on what’s working. There will always be competition, so learn from them.
On Facebook, if you have a business profile, you can watch pages and see a preview of their performance metrics. Set up Google Alerts to see what your competition is doing across the web. While you’re at it, set up Google Alerts for your own business to see if people are writing about you.
Once you’ve perfected your recipes and started selling your products, it’s time to focus on marketing. Consider the internet your marketing playground, and don’t be afraid to test new techniques and tools to see what works for your business!