You’re passionate about what you do, you love creating and leading, and you’re finally living your dream: you own a specialty food store. No matter how you ended up here, you had to work hard, and you deserve recognition for that. Your customers will give you the recognition you need once they go to your store and experience the excellent customer service, high-quality products, and warm environment.
But first, your customers need to find your store. In this day and age, there’s one significant marketing channel that no business can afford to ignore: online. One starting point is with a website: you need to get online ASAP. However, creating a business website is just the beginning. Marketing your small business and food produce online is extremely important for success, especially while competing with larger corporations. Here are a couple ways to get your small business noticed online.
What’s in a (store) name?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is key – if your business doesn’t show up when someone searches for it (or for a product or service you provide), you miss an opportunity for them to find your business offline. One key to SEO is to have an authoritative domain name. What makes a strong domain name?
Consider the following in your domain name selection:
- Does your domain name match your company name? It may be confusing for customers and potentially difficult to find a company whose domain does not match their company’s name
- Branding. You want your domain (and your business) to be well-branded – unique, meaningful, catchy and clear.
- Google your brand. See what your competitors are doing. It will be hard to rank in SEO against huge competitors if your domain is not unique or already belongs to a popular competitor.
- Keep it simple! Make sure your domain name is easy to remember (and to spell!). Avoid hyphens and other punctuation symbols that might be confusing.
- Be safe! Before you purchase a domain name, make sure it is not trademarked. You might be surprised by the domain name you purchase not being available to trademark. Also, keep a look out for expired and ‘for sale’ domain names. Sites like “Go Daddy” can help you do domain name research and purchasing.
“Influencers” can help you on social media
Social media is popular among teenagers and millennials, but also has a large adult following. Sending free samples of your products to Instagram “influencers” who post often about food, health, or wellness (or a topic relevant to your specific business offering) can help bring your specialty product to the attention of a vast audience of interested consumers. Be sure to first reach out to the influencer and ask if they would be willing to exchange goods for a promotional Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat post or story.
Be sure to tell them what makes your products unique and better than the competition! You can also do this with blogs, reaching out to creators online and asking them to write a review of your product. Consider the number of “followers” the influencer has, the frequency of their posting, whether they already have supported a competitor or offered promotional posts and whether it appears that their followers are the demographic that you wish to target.
Be active online
Sure, it’ll be great when an influencer finds your product and wants to communicate to their following how much they love it. But their followers need to be able to find you. So do internet users who come across your business online organically (e.g. through Google search).
Make sure you have social media presence across several platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and keep your account active! Social Media is called “social” for a reason – it’s an opportunity to engage with a community, get involved in conversation relevant to your business, make connections and reach potential customers (who might not have come across your store offline).
Don’t just share photos of your products – make sure the person viewing your page knows what your business stands for. For example, you can show pictures of your friendly staff interacting with guests, customers enjoying the samples in your store (with their consent, of course), and your customer’s lifestyle. Show your fresh, cage-free, locally raised chicken eggs being used to serve a family breakfast or a grandfather and his grandson barbequing your specialty meat products together.
Social media is an avenue for showing what makes you, your business, and your food, ingredients, and products unique. Make sure you use “tricks of the trade” – like using hashtags or tagging people. Keep an eye out for “National Days” that trend online and that relate to your quality products – e.g. “#NationalCheeseDay.
Ask your family and friends to share
The more people you can get to share your page online, the better. Start out by sharing yourself, on your personal account. Ask your family and friends to share (links to pages). Share your site URL to your community Facebook page. Share it in groups related to your business – small business groups, lifestyle groups, health and wellness groups, and cooking groups. Just be sure you don’t overdo it – no one wants their facebook feed to be spammed with the same post about your business every day. You can also incentivize sharing your page: perhaps you offer a discount in store if the customer shares your page on Facebook or sends your website link to 10 local friends.
Take advantage of free real-estate
Google My Business offers a free service to business owners that allows your store to show up in customer searches. Take full advantage of this! Make sure to include high-quality photographs of both the inside and outside of your store and your products, and ensure all of your business information is correct and up-to-date, including the phone number, hours, address, parking information, accepted payment methods, and website link.
Similar to incentivizing sharing your page online, ask satisfied customers to review your business online. You can offer people incentives to write reviews of your business online. Search results are often organized by rating as the default setting, so having a high rating is important. And, to reinforce that your business is reputable and of a high standard, you don’t only need high reviews – you need a lot of them.
Most search engines sort secondarily by the number of reviews. It’s not nearly as impressive to have 1 person say your business is 5 stars as it is to have 100 say it’s 4.8. While the rating may be objectively lower, the number of people reviewing it shows that you are an established business. Take a look at the Google My Business page for Reading Terminal Market – it has a 4.7-star review, which is excellent. However, the sheer quantity of reviews itself is remarkable. To get over 15,000 people to review you online and still have 4.7 stars is a sure sign of an excellent business.
Run an advertisement
Try running a Facebook ad or using paid search marketing to promote your business. While these methods might be more expensive, they are certainly effective. Start out small and see which keywords and phrases get clicked on the most – you don’t want to spend your whole advertisement budget on the keyword “organic,” only to find out “natural” is searched twice as often.
Speak to Mercato – we can help you get noticed (and deliver) online
Mercato is an online marketplace for specialty, craft, independent, and niche food stores. We allow these businesses to better compete against big guys like Wholefoods or FreshDirect. Mercato can help you establish an online presence, manage customer reviews for free, allow for online orders and fulfillment and more. Mercato handles your deliveries and has a team of experts to answer questions on many aspects of your business. We have experience marketing online, working with influencers, on social media and more.
Running a small business can be hard – how do you get customers to realize that your specialty food store products are fresher and tastier than the competitions, especially when the competition is a multi-million dollar food giant? It all starts with getting noticed, and the best way to get noticed is online. Try out some (or all!) of the tips above and get your business to stand out online!
Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you grow and compete online.