Foxtrot Media is a full-service marketing agency. One of their specialties is food service, specifically restaurant marketing. 13 years ago, the owner Deborah Smith, launched a blog focusing on food news in New Jersey called JerseyBites.com. As the blog grew in popularity, she began to get requests from restaurants who were looking to be featured. Soon, restaurateurs were looking for more help in marketing so her agency launched MarketToFoodies.com, specifically for food and beverage clients.
Total Food Service first crossed paths with Deborah when she was serving on a marketing panel at a conference. Our team was so impressed with Foxtrot Media’s mastery of social media marketing, that we chose to collaborate on the TFS social media strategy.
The more we’ve talked to Deborah over the past month, the more we learned that she comes to the table with a very diverse background in marketing and we wanted to sit down to learn even more.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Fair Haven, New Jersey and then later Red Bank. I’m now a full-time and very grateful resident of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. My office is also in Point Pleasant, about a half mile from the ocean.
Where did you go to college?
A Jersey girl through and through, Rutgers College was the only school for me. Fun fact, my mother was going for her Masters at Rutgers at the same time I was a freshman. Actually, it really wasn’t that fun of a fact for me.
What did your career path look like after college?
Oh boy, it’s quite a winding path but one that piled on the skills I use now everyday on behalf of my clients. My first job out of college was as an Executive Director of a Chamber of Commerce. Well before the internet was anything, I learned about the importance of Network marketing the old school way.
Networking became the theme for the rest of my career. Our local councilman was elected to the New Jersey Senate and since we’d worked together in my role with the Chamber and he liked me and my work ethic, he hired me to be his Chief of Staff. I was later brought on to the marketing department at the New Jersey lottery after our Assemblywoman was named Director. I was 27. At 31, I had my first child and decided I was done with working for someone else. The Internet was brand new and I looked at it as a way to start a business and still be home with my baby. I launched a Nanny Recruiting Website after a year of research and online networking. I ran NannyClassifieds.com for 11 years finally selling it in 2012. Through marketing my own online business, I grew up using the digital marketing tools and evolving with them.
What led to an interest in marketing?
I think if you are a creative person, you are just drawn to marketing. I wrote my first 30 page “short story” in the 3rd grade. If I wasn’t writing, I was painting, acting, singing, drawing. And I always paid attention to commercials and loved critiquing them. What drew me to social media marketing was the affordability and effectiveness of it and all the data you can get on the back end. Testing different ads to find the one that really hits the mark. There is a lot of creativity that goes into that as well.
Where did the idea for your agency come from?
The cart came before the horse with Foxtrot Media. I saw the social media train coming before most businesses because I was already knee deep in it with my own company. I started consulting other local business owners before my company was even formed. Then I started conducting workshops and speaking. For a few years, I was traveling all over the country teaching businesses about social media marketing. The more I spoke, the more I realized that these businesses were going to need help with execution. Back then there was no “Social Media Manager” person in-house. So, we started offering the day to day services that were needed and we’ve never looked back.
How long have you been in business?
Foxtrot was officially formed in 2010. We are in our tenth year and it’s been a very interesting and exciting ride. Initially our target was small businesses but soon we were working with major hospitals on their recruitment marketing and had a wide variety of clients. Our clients range from a national printing company to a nightly news program in addition to our many restaurant clients.
Who was the target customer for Foxtrot Media?
We’ve worked in many types of industries, but we love working with restaurants and other food-focused businesses number one because it’s a passion of mine and number two because we have our own secret weapon in JerseyBites.com and the social following we’ve developed for it. 82% of our social following is interested in restaurants, food & grocery and we can use our accounts to help our clients reach a broader audience. I personally love the content creation, photography, video etc. that goes with restaurant marketing and it’s so easy to show a fantastic return on investment.
How have the needs of the customer bases evolved since you opened?
Well, when we started, there was no pay to play on social media. It was all about organic reach. Twitter was hot. Instagram was not even a thought. Social Media was in its infancy and half our battle was getting businesses to understand this was here to stay and the sooner they got on board the better. Flash forward 10 years and now there is no denying this medium is not going anywhere and is still growing in popularity. Our latest struggle is getting clients to understand they need to invest in paid advertising to succeed on social. And, while they may not like this development, there are a lot of great advantages to being able to pay to reach your perfect audience instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that your organic posts are hitting the right people.
What have you done to meet those changing needs?
We are constantly staying on top of changes in the online world and adding new tools to our client’s portfolios. When it became evident that Reviews were where it was at for Local Search, we implemented a Review Generation Service. When Local Search started relying on consistent web-based data, we began offering a tool to manage menus and other online date across all online platforms. Google My Business is one of our favorite tools these days and one that we see many businesses underutilizing.
You’ve done a lot of work with restaurants. Can you share some of the common characteristics of restaurants that are doing social media properly?
Restaurants who are killing it on social media are doing a combination of things.
- Sharing engaging content on a regular basis on Facebook and Instagram.
- Engaging with their fans by answering questions and thanking them for comments.
- Investing in paid social media ad campaigns.
- Posting regular photos, posts and events to Google My Business.
- Proactively going after reviews from customers, monitoring reviews and responding to them.
- Managing their online data by keeping everything up to date including online menus.
Is there a fun fact you would like to share about yourself with our audience?
Sure, my blog led to my first published cookbook in 2016 called The Jersey Shore Cookbook. It’s been a hit with residents and tourists. I was even on QVC when it first came out. It features 50 recipes from 50 beloved restaurants at the Jersey Shore. You can check it out on JerseyShoreCookbook.com and of course Amazon.