Startup 101: Five Essential Marketing Tools For Food Businesses

Essential Marketing Tools

Marketing your food startup is as important as having a great tasting product. Delicious food and exceptional services are no good when only you know about them. And now, getting the word out about your business has become easier than ever before!

Use these five essential marketing tools to get you started:

1. Create a Compelling Business Name:

Your food business name is your customer’s first impression of your brand. It sets the stage and helps convey what your product may be about, what they may experience and how they may expect to feel after eating your products.  Descriptive names describe the type of business that you are in. Acronyms, abbreviated versions of descriptive names, are quick to say and easier to remember.  Invented names are simply made up words.  Whatever you choose, just be sure to make it memorable. For example, when artisanal banana pudding company owners, Lloyd and Trisha, first started dating, they called each other “Bao,” which means  “to be full in the stomach and in the heart” in Mandarin.  So when coming up with a name for their food business, they decided to combine it with the word bananas to create #Baonanas.

2. Establish Your Brand Identity:

Your brand identity is a visual representation of your company and consists of your logo, tagline, specific fonts, colors, design and other graphic elements.  Be sure to think about your customer and your brand. The elements should be created with them in mind. So ask yourself:  Does the design style appeal to your clientele?  Is the style reflective of your brand? Do your images leave a positive lasting impression? When you can say yes to these questions, you have probably created a great and appropriate brand identity.

Also, think about where your logo will be used — product packaging, staff t-shirts, business cards, food truck or cart, storefront, marketing materials in print and online, etc.  The design that you create needs to be applicable across each medium. You want to strive for versatility.

United Illuminating Sept 2018

Consider working with a design professional to bring your vision alive. Design professionals are trained to make words and visions come alive artistically and creatively. A good designer can help you explore options quickly and finalize a creative design that will resonate with your customers. Here are a few tips for working with a designer:

  • Clearly articulate your goals and brand positioning
  • Reference logos, typefaces and color palettes from competitive brands
  • Pull together an inspiration board of words and images related to your brand attributes and positioning.
  • Provide examples of designs that you like AND don’t like.

If you decide to go the DIY route, develop your own brand identity by using templates from free sites like Canva or working with crowdsourced, graphic design marketplaces like Fiverr or 99designs.  Be sure you do your research to not infringe upon existing trademarks. Others may inspire you, but your work must be an original creation.

3. Build a Simple Website:

Create a simple website that reflects your brand identity and brand story, and includes your product images and descriptions. The website should also include product locations and a way to contact you. Website builders and ecommerce platforms like Squarespace and Wix offer businesses the opportunity to create beautiful websites using readymade templates that are as easy to use as posting on Facebook.  Wix even offers use of their image library. If you are not tech savvy or would like to take your site to the next level, consider engaging a professional web designer. 

4. Create a Social Media Strategy:

Determine which social media platform is appropriate for your business. The most popular for food businesses are Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, because they offer excellent opportunities to post content with beautiful images. However, you don’t have to be everywhere.  Choose the one or two platforms that are right for you and update them regularly. Consistent communication with your customers will help you establish a social community and build your base. Plan out how often you want to post on your social platforms. Start small. Aim for two or three times a week to start, and build up from there as you continue to  establish your business. Be sure to proofread your posts, be creative with your images and explore how you can promote your products while sharing your brand story. Ideally, your social handles should be uniform across all platforms (and your website) so that it will be easy for your customers to find you. 

Family-owned food business Outer Limits Hot Sauce has mastered how to effectively promote their brand on social media.  The all-natural condiment company is active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  And they use the different platforms to provide their customers with information on how to use their product (including recipe ideas), announce locations to purchase and showcase their collaborations with other food businesses.

5. Develop Promotional Materials:

Professional business cards and postcards are perfect for face-to-face interactions with potential customers.  You can create both on the cheap with Vistaprint using the templates provided on the website.  And just in case you need a little help, they even offer design services with a quick turnaround. Stamps and stickers are a cost-effective way to brand anything from takeout containers to shopping bags. All you need is a high resolution version of your logo to create using sites like Etsy or Customized Stickers. Remember: Your design should be consistent with your overall brand identity. And don’t forget to include your contact information (website, phone number or email address) and your social media handles (when appropriate).

Djenaba Johnson-Jones
Djenaba Johnson-Jones is the founder and CEO of Hudson Kitchen, an incubator based in Northern New Jersey that supports startup and established food businesses through food business consulting services, networking events, and a Food Business Bootcamp. Hudson Kitchen’s 24/7 kitchen and storage facility is slated to open later this year. Comments may be sent to djenaba@thehudsonkitchen.com.