How to promote and market your specialty food store

Use these tips to promote your quality food store or independent grocery. Learn how to make the right decisions that will allow your store to stand out amongst the competition. These tips will help you gain inspiration for coming up with new and different marketing avenues for your food business.

Marketing is the action and promotion of your business and products using advertising and research. Marketing strategies vary depending on the business’s field, offering, model and its mission statement. You can learn more about this in our guide to “Branding Your Grocery Business”.

Gourmet Food Markets

The gourmet and artisanal food markets have been growing in the past few years due to changing consumer lifestyles and eating habits. The range and variety of different products available allow consumers to pick and choose their ingredients and products more carefully. The abundance of online product information and social influencer marketing allows customers to do research about specific ingredients and to follow up on food trends. “Niche” or culturally specific products and ingredients are more readily available and more familiar to many people.

Finding your market niche

Do your research. This is a crucial step in finding your place and marketing yourself in the gourmet, specialty or craft food industry. Find a field or angle that speaks to you. This will enable you to be more passionate and knowledgeable when selling your product. It will also help you better connect with and persuade customers. For example, do you love working with craft cheeses? Sustainable, nose-to-tail Meat? Fresh fruit or vegetables? Do you have a passion or interest in plant-based or organic products? Thinking about a specific area and addressing that consistently in your marketing will help establish your brand identity.

Researching communities online

Find a popular market or a conversation that’s relevant in contemporary culture. Three concepts you should understand are growing markets, trends, and fads.

  1. Growing Markets: These trends often start out slow and then gradually grow into the market. They never fade out because the products are always in consumer demand.
  2. Trends: Trends are products that are popular for a while and at high demand, but eventually burn out over a few years.
  3. Fads: Similar to trends, fads are also at high demand quickly but they also die out very fast and suddenly.

Doing research into growing markets, trends and fads can help you with your marketing strategy and shape messaging (and inventory) based on what customers are looking for.

Diet Trends

Here are some graphs that demonstrate particular food trends and diets over time:

Example 1: Keto Foods

The keto diet has recently become popular among consumers in North America according to Google Trends. The diet consists of high fat, low carbohydrates, and ample protein. Attempting to target followers of this diet would require the food marketer to be thoughtful of the nutrients and types of ingredients they choose to sell and to communicate the message through appropriate channels to followers on the diet. Tell the story in some marketing materials (posters, advertising etc) that your store provides “keto friendly” products and produce (giving examples).

Example 2: Gluten Free Foods

The availability of gluten-free products has grown in tandem with consumer interest. For instance, gluten-free pizza, pasta, and bread being made in today’s food industries with healthier ingredients. Celebrity advocacy further fueled awareness. Twitter and social media platforms are key channels to advertise on and to tap into the market interested in the gluten-free options you sell. “Piggy-backing” off these celebrity/influencer conversations is a possible marketing entry point.

Ideas for Marketing Your Unique Business

It can sometimes be intimidating to compete with big name chain stores and grow awareness for your small business. However, embracing the uniqueness and potential of your small, niche or independent business can help you move forward with customer relations and marketing. It takes strategic and consistent marketing strides forward to increasing your consumer base.

Social Media

A range of audiences can be reached on social media platforms. People love clicking on photos of appetizing looking food. With an intriguing caption and well-edited photo of the product you’re trying to sell, you can gain an online audience. Utilize hashtags to join, and gain visibility in relevant threads and conversations.

Phone Apps like VSCO and Afterlight give easy access to users to different and various filters and control of exposure, tint, and highlights. These applications can help make your product or dish look high quality and catch the eyes of online users.

Email Marketing

Start an email marketing campaign that sends monthly or weekly newsletter emails on upcoming events or even discount coupons to your customers. This method keeps them in the loop with your new products and upcoming promotions, which keeps them thoroughly engaged. Be careful not to spam, or over-send email to your customers. It helps to have a well planned and thought-out strategy. Platforms such as Mailchimp can be used for free (up to a certain number of email subscribers) and allows you to automate and design professional emails easily.

Blogging

Starting an online blog for your food business is a great SEO strategy. SEO stands for “search engine optimization”, which allows you to get the greatest online visibility on the web. A blog helps communicate your food brand and its ideas clearly to your customers. You can also use a blog to gain a following and then integrate your social media platforms within it as well (for example, emailing pertinent blog posts to your customers as appropriate). To gain more tips and insight on getting more traffic to your online store and getting noticed on Google, check out Tips for getting your specialty store noticed online.

Participate in Local and Community Events

Participating in popular neighborhood events (especially those that relate to your product offering) can help you establish yourself as an authority in the market and show off who you are as a brand. Engaging with and speaking directly to locals will give you a great advantage. You can form a connection with the potential customer, speak about the quality of your ingredients and products and find out more about their tastes and interests. This can bring people into your store, refine your inventory and generate ideas.

You’ll learn more about how to appeal to customers when speaking and advertising your products. Speaking at events like business networking groups or local clubs can go a long way since people that are interested will spread your brand through conversation. For example, by teaching a workshop (cheese pairing, wine tasting, food preparation). You can look up upcoming events near you on websites like Eventbrite and Meetup or create your own!

Host Events

Hosting promotional or seasonal events can help bring customers into your store to see what your services and products consist of. This could range from special seasonal packages to holding contests, for example, having customers compete to cook a dish with your ingredients and getting judged. It helps to be creative when it comes to events because you want your customers to be excited to participate.

Coupon Deal Sites

Consumers love deals and discounts because they feel like they’re getting a bargain/win on their favorite products. Consumers are becoming savvier about bargain hunting and deal shopping online. Using coupon deal websites to advertise your store, services and inventory can help promote awareness of your business and drive people into your store. You will able to get bigger audiences because coupon websites like Groupon display coupons that are in the same region as the user and this may enable you to get an edge on big-name competitors.

Join an Online Marketplace

Online Marketplaces like Mercato can help gain exposure for and market your business. For example, on Mercato’s platform, not only will you have access to a supportive team of representatives, they help you get online, and handle orders and delivery. Mercato also features businesses in their own marketing campaigns through google ads, email, social media, etc at no extra cost to your business. They also allow you to manage reviews for free (Yelp charges merchants a fee). Reach out to Mercato to find out more about how they can help you market your growing business.

Partner with Other Businesses

“Teamwork is what makes the dream work”. Working with other local businesses allows you to share resources and come up with a plan that benefits the partnership mutually. Coming up with a proper arrangement is important, so all parties know what services are being offered to one another.

Seasonal Offers and Baskets

People love getting festive during the holidays and what better way to get into the festive mood than to offer products like food baskets, so customers could gift them to their loved ones or friends. This is an example of a way to creates a connection with the consumer, instilling loyalty and also marketing the store as having a caring “special” touch.