In today’s hyper-competitive market, you have to stand out to succeed. But beyond having a great product, what can you do to grow your food & beverage business?
Having a specialised, food & beverage accountant helps… 😉
But there’s more to it than that. You need to build a brand around your food & beverage business to help you stand out from your competitors. This is something we’ve recently worked through ourselves with Air Accounting.
Having a clear positioning, content and social media marketing strategy has helped our business grow.
So we wanted to introduce you to the person who helped us. That person is Lucy Bloomfield.
Lucy built her own skin care eCommerce business from 0 to 10,000 customers in 18 months. The growth of her business alone was impressive, but Lucy told me her real achievement was her work with customer retention marketing.
Most eCommerce businesses have an average retention rate of 20%. Lucy built her business to a 40% return customer rate.
She achieved this by building a brand that her customers loved. Now, she helps other businesses do the same.
She’s worked with multiple food & beverage businesses, including Deliciou, The Chocolate Yogi and Full Filled Co. Naturally, we thought she would be the best person to teach you how to grow your food & beverage business and build a brand.
Take it away, Lucy!
How important would you say a brand is to grow a food & beverage business?
I think it’s essential to any business, but particularly in food & beverage. The whole industry is incredibly saturated and I’ve noticed that as soon as someone launches a new product, others quickly follow suit. It’s tricky to be unique with so much competition but that’s why branding has such a huge role in the food & beverage niche.
If you’re a food & beverage business owner, you have a complex business already. I know that branding can seem like it’s just another task in an ever-growing to do list.
But it is important.
The food & beverage businesses that rise above their competition and become leaders invest heavily into their branding.
Take my clients, Full Filled Co.
Their branding has gotten their product into hard-to-reach retail shelves and the business has gone from strength to strength.
Branding needs to be a part of your business growth strategy, the same as new customer acquisition and understanding your business numbers.
How do you start building a brand?
The first step to building a great brand is determining who you want to speak to.
I start by creating an internal document called ‘Target Customer Persona’ and answer these questions –
- Who are my customers?
- What do they do in their spare time?
- Why do they want to buy my product?
- What jobs do they typically work in?
- How educated are they?
- What is their economic status?
- Plus any other questions that you can think of which would tell you more about your customers.
If you’re at the start of building your food & beverage business, you will need to make assumptions until you have real customer data to dive into. That’s okay, to begin with but I also really encourage you to talk to your customers as soon as you have them. You will learn and be able to adapt your business to your market if you do.
If you’re an established food & beverage business, you have a great advantage. You have customers you can speak to already and all you need to do is pick up the phone, ask the right questions and listen. Better yet, if you have a business Facebook Page and have been active on it or have run ads previously, you have a wealth of data at your disposal.
Some of the biggest realisations I had about my client’s food & beverage businesses were after studying –
- The way they structured sentences in emails; and
- After speaking with them on the phone and hearing their accents or the way they structured sentences.
Understanding your customers better is how you build a brand.
Once you understand your customers, you can take that understanding and deliver a better service and product to them. You can also use that information to shape the way you communicate with them.
Think of branding as your business holding a mirror at your customers.
The way you communicate in oral, written and visual form should be appropriate for the people you serve already, so you can attract more like them.
Is branding the only channel which will grow a food & beverage business?
No. Branding is one part of the successful business puzzle. It’s a different type of game than most food & beverage business owners are used to. It’s a long-term game.
Facebook ads might increase sales for incredibly low costs or an influencer might drive traffic with a single photo… branding isn’t like that.
When you think about building a brand around your food & beverage business, you have to think in years because the result of that work won’t be noticeable for a long time. But it is a worthy investment into your business, because –
- Branding allows your customers to make their own decision about purchasing from you, using less invasive methods to convince them that you and your product are the right fit for them.
- Branding helps your customers fall in love with your business, meaning they continue to purchase from your business, time and time again.
It’s more important than most business owners think, but you have to dedicate time to it differently than you would another channel.
How much time should business owners devote to their branding?
Unfortunately, branding isn’t something that’s done once and need never be touched again. I like to schedule 6-month reviews to revisit what my client’s food & beverage businesses are doing, how they’re performing and where we can improve. This includes –
- Reviewing customer sentiment towards your business;
- Feedback regarding existing food & beverage products; and
- Discovering what your customers want from you next.
Then, I use that information to shape the projects and communications for their food & beverage business. Surveying, strategising and planning are the lengthiest part of working on your branding but once it’s done, you only need to commit a small sliver of your day to deploying your branding strategy (and achieving world domination in the food & beverage industry).
How I like to think about branding and how it can grow your food & beverage business
Let’s break down the projects you do to grow your business into categories:
- 0-100 or explosive growth;
- 0-50 or sustainable growth;
- 0-25 or incremental growth;
- Admin or internal obligations; and
- Short-term results or what you do to pay the bills and fund the projects which will grow your business.
Branding, content marketing and social media are 0-25 projects –
They have huge payoff over the long-term, but they’re not going to result in immediate or explosive growth.
So they need to be allocated time that is reflective of the potential results. Just a 20 minutes a day, for two to three years, following an in-depth plan, can transform your food & beverage business long-term.
How do content & social media marketing fit into a brand strategy?
Content marketing and social media marketing are the primary communication method between you and your customers. They support your branding strategy.
They help you provide more value to your existing and potential customers.
One clear-cut example of a recent client project was my work with my client, Deliciou. I helped them develop their branding, content and social media strategy. This included internal processes for how they manage their private Facebook group.
Food & beverage businesses: If you have a product that your customers can use to make anything (whether meals, drinks, art or something else), having a private Facebook group is a great way to create a community around your product.
Like I mentioned in the previous question, having a strategy for how you tackle all these little moving parts is important for long-term consistency, but the actual execution of the strategy is very simple once you have the plan. Managing a private group doesn’t take more than a few minutes a day, but my client has seen great return from that investment.
When you have a private Facebook group, you have direct contact with your customers. You can ask them questions any time about what they’d like from your business and they often post their own content (we call this user-generated content) that you can then use in your marketing and social media.
It’s a win-win for everyone, for a very small amount of time involved.
What’s your opinion on showing the faces behind a business?
Customers are craving authenticity from anyone they follow online, whether that’s a business or an individual. Showing what’s happening behind a business can be hugely powerful for adding that authenticity to your business.
When I made the decision to put my name and face on my company’s social media, everything changed. I would say it was the moment that our customers began to really love Trefiel.
But, it does come down to context and which platforms you’re using to deliver your content to your customers. Different platforms need different types of content.
How and why you reveal yourself to your customers on a platform is as important as the decision to do so.
When I was working with The Chocolate Yogi, I could see that the founders were such beautiful people whose audience would resonate with them as people. So I really encouraged them to be in front of the camera (on Instagram Stories and Snapchat) and to share the behind the scenes of their food & beverage business.
If you, the business owner, live and breathe your company’s mission and values and you’re your own customer, then put yourself out there.
But if you’re less attached to the idea behind your business, then don’t do it.
Viewers can see straight through insincerity and it’s worse for you and your business to be seen as disingenuous than not to be seen at all.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about growing a food & beverage brand?
I don’t know about you, but my strengths aren’t in managing my business numbers and that’s why I believe that having someone in the business (whether that’s a virtual CFO or a Co-Founder) that understands and can work with numbers is so important.
For me, that’s always meant finding a really good accountant that knows my industry inside-out and upside-down.
This is part of the reason I’ve loved helping the team at Air Accounting with their branding and content marketing so much. I’ve reconfirmed how important a specialised food & beverage accountant is and how they can help their clients transform their businesses and reduce their stress.
Plus, the less I have to think about things I don’t understand, the more I can think about actually growing my business.
That makes me a happier business owner, which I figure is some of the best advice you can take if it means making daily entrepreneur life that little bit less stressful.
Where can our readers find out more about you?
If you’d like to grow your food & beverage business and begin building your brand, check out my ‘From 0 to 10,000 customers’ series. It covers influencer marketing, branding, wholesale, outsourcing, hiring, firing and a few other valuable lessons I learnt while growing my own eCommerce business.
Alternatively, if you’d like to connect with me and ask any follow questions, connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m always excited to chat business with passionate business owners who want to grow… and build a brand, of course.
Well, there you have it –
That’s how you grow your food & beverage business using branding.
When we asked Lucy where we should start with our own brand and content marketing strategy, she recommended we start by documenting our journey of becoming Australia’s food & beverage accountants.
So, we decided to start our own blog post series called ‘From 0 to Food & Beverage Accounting Hero’.
You can find the first post in the series here.
If you’d like to see what we’re doing to build our own brand and grow your food & beverage business at the same time, you can receive the series straight to your inbox by clicking the button below.