I’m a loyal customer of a food business that frequently inconveniences me and occasionally drives me a little crazy.
The business is a local farm. I subscribe to a produce and meat delivery from it.
I never know in advance what will be in my delivery. When I order something,
I may or may not get it. Sometimes there’s no variety in what I do get. Lots of
one type of vegetable or only one big cut of meat.
And I stick with this arrangement. Even though I could easily go down to Whole Foods (there are two in my hometown) and get whatever I want, when I want it, for about the same price.
So why don’t I take my business elsewhere? Why do I put up with the frustration of being the farm’s customer yet not always getting my needs met?
It’s a matter of believing in something bigger than just my “right” as a customer to get what I want when I want it.
A Food Business that Represents “Something Bigger”
I support the farm because I believe in what they’re doing. I want to be a part of their mission to follow the healthiest, most sustainable practices in growing and raising food; to have complete transparency around every step and piece that goes into what I eat.
If being a part of that mission means I don’t always get the eggs I ordered or have to eat extra helpings of a vegetable I don’t particularly like, so be it. I still grumble once in a while and ask if there’s another way for them to do business (the reply is a polite “no”). Throughout all the disappointments and inconveniences, I stay a loyal customer.
A Better Way to Engage People in Your Food Business
Before I became a customer, I heard the farmer give a presentation about the farm. His talk centered on his values and how he brings them to life through the farm’s operations. He shared a saying that stuck with me: “If you don’t know your farmer, you probably know your doctor.”
I then visited the farm to see it for myself and signed up for the regular deliveries.
I almost always tell friends about the farm (only mentioning the positive aspects of being a customer) and have brought several out to visit it.
Increasing Customer Loyalty to Your Natural Foods Brand
People want the opportunity to be a part of something bigger. As a natural foods entrepreneur, you’re in a position to give that to them.
What’s the “something bigger” you’re inviting your customers to take part in? Start by answering these questions about your business:
What are the ideas and values that your natural foods business represents?
How do you communicate those bigger ideas and values to current and prospective customers?
Given the opportunity, could you speak for at least 20 minutes about the values and ideas your business has been created around? Are you confident that what you have to say would enlist people to join you in furthering that cause by becoming customers?
What inspires your customers to say something about your business to one of their friends? What do people find interesting about you and your business that prompts them to talk about you?
If you don’t already have the answers to these questions, I invite you to take the time out to answer them and consider how you’ll make your responses obvious to others.
It’s a big world of food out there. That didn’t escape your notice when you started your natural foods business. You saw endless possibilities for your brand and products to make it big.
Yet something continues to keep you small in this great big world. It keeps your revenues small, your company small and your thinking about growing your business small.
This something is resources.
Resources and the pain of lacking in them.
You’re Small in a Big World of Food
It’s easy to envy those at large food companies. They have access to three things you most commonly lack – people, time and money.
Your envy is short-lived. You know conventional food is not where you belong. You need the freedom of having your own business, of championing your own cause, and of deciding who you and your lovingly prepared products serve.
You’d be fully living your dream if it weren’t for those resources you don’t have.
Where the Lack of Resources Hit You Most
People – There are many different functions to be performed in your natural foods business. Without a crew of people to help, you get to do most of them.
Everything from production to distribution to marketing to finances is on your plate. You won’t be great at fulfilling all of those roles, which is perfectly understandable.
This prompts you to mainly perform the tasks where you feel the most comfortable and have the most control. More about this phenomenon in “Feeding Is Not Leading: How to Avoid One of the Most Common Traps of the Natural Foods Entrepreneur.”
The lack of people power feels especially acute when you consider expanding into new regions. How can you support roll-outs into new markets with the same amount of store-level support, including doing demos, you provided when your products were only sold in your own backyard?
Time – You suffer from the “not enough hours in the day” syndrome. There’s way too much to do all the time. Every one of your activities has to be prioritized.
Since you are your business’ most valuable resource, it’s important to set firm limits around the amount of time you put into work. If you ever burn out, your business does too.
Money – You’re in a “have to spend money to make money” business. The activities that cost you up front (production and distribution) have to be handled before you can do the activities that make you money (marketing).
The higher price point of your product ingredients further increases your upfront production costs.
Getting others to sink their money into your business may come at a price you don’t want to pay. Your autonomy may be more valuable to you than having investors to answer to.
Selling your products at the right profit margin goes a long ways in helping with your finances. More in “The Art of the Deal: How the Wrong Kind of Sales Sink Your Natural Foods Business.”
New Resources for Natural Foods Entrepreneurs
There are some new resources especially for the natural foods entrepreneur. One of them is even free. Learn about it here.
I also hear from many in the natural foods business who are hungry to do something about the isolation and lack of collaboration among their peers in the industry. I’ve decided to provide something new to fulfill this desire. Get the details here.
For the “cost” of giving your customers one great status update a day, you can turn your Facebook page into a goldmine for marketing your natural foods brand.
Last week you learned how to lure customers to your page and entice them to become “fans.” (Find “How to Get Fans for Your Natural Foods Brand on Facebook” here in case you missed it.)
Now it’s time to engage with them and cultivate lifelong loyalty to your
Make Your Facebook Page About Your Customers, Not You
You’ll measure the success of your Facebook marketing by the level of engagement with your fans. Getting people engaged and entering into conversations calls for you to put the focus on them instead of your product or brand.
Be open, inviting, warm, friendly and personable on your Facebook page. Use the word “you” often and ask questions in your status updates to spur dialogues.
Use Your Facebook Page as a Customer Research Laboratory
Capitalize on the ways Facebook allows you to connect with customers in a more immediate, personal way than traditional marketing.
Posing even the simplest questions to your fans can yield some great marketing insights.“What’d you have for lunch today?” “What’s for dinner tonight?”
Their responses could become the inspiration for your next product. Or help you identify some potential promotional partners.
Periodically, invite your fans to answer a few questions about themselves, make suggestions to improve your company and offer other ideas.
As mentioned in “6 Ways Facebook is Vital to Marketing Your Natural Foods Brand,” Facebook has a feature called Insights that allows you to track your fan base demographics by gender, age, location and even language.
A Little Facebook Every Day Goes a Long Way
For most Facebook pages, there is a direct correlation between frequency of posts and number of fans. Plan to post one status update a day. It’s more important to post a little something every day instead of posting a lot once in a while.
Create a content strategy and calendar. Without a clear idea of what to talk about and when, the endless possibilities for status updates can be daunting.
On Facebook it’s important to demonstrate that your business is approachable and has real people behind it. Constantly monitor your page for comments and post responses within 24 hours. Thank customers for compliments and personally address any negative feedback.
What to Post on Facebook So Your Fans Stay Engaged
You want to provide interesting, fun and relevant status updates. Keep them short and simple, with one topic. You have up to 420 characters per update; strive to use half of that allotment.
Photos and brief videos (no more than two minutes) are a great way to bring your business to life and engage your fans. Show people how you produce their food, who makes it and what goes on behind the scenes. Make your fans feel like they’re a part of the team and encourage them to submit their own photos too.
Over time the response of your fans will teach you about the best content to post to your page. If you ever get stumped for ideas, ask your customers what they want by posting a poll or posing the question in a status update.
Not everyone reads every single update on Facebook. When you hit the jackpot with a post (as you can see by the number of “likes” and comments), run it again. A great post is worth rebroadcasting.
To make sure you don’t miss anything yourself, sign up to receive the free weekly email on building your thriving natural foods business and avoiding the costliest mistakes around marketing, management and money. Sign up here.
Here’s a fractured Facebook fairy tale.
Goldilocks, a loyal natural foods shopper, is in the store. She’s got a craving for a new snack; she’s down to three choices. She studies the packages. One of them catches her eye.
There’s a Facebook logo on the back. Right above the logo it says: “Free Stuff for Fans. Join our community and be the first to know about our latest creations. Enter to win free t-shirts and prizes at (insert web address which shall remain anonymous).”
“This one is just right!” Goldilocks exclaims. The
brand’s promise to reward her purchase makes her feel important and connected
to a larger community. She buys the product.
At home Goldilocks enters the web site address to join the community and get her free stuff. She can’t wait to tell her 489 Facebook friends about it.
Then something unspeakable happens. The link doesn’t work. Nothing comes up when she enters the web address. Instead of telling her Facebook friends how great the product and the offers are, she broadcasts a warning to stay away.
Fans of Your Brand Are What Make Facebook Worthwhile
I’m sorry to say most of this story is true. (It wasn’t really Goldilocks and she didn’t really broadcast the bad experience on Facebook.)
By not giving Goldilocks the opportunity to follow through on “Liking” its brand, the natural foods company lost a golden opportunity to capture her loyalty.
Social media experts report it takes between 500 and 1,000 fans to begin to see measurable results from your Facebook page.
If you’re already at this point, next week’s article on content that keeps your fans engaged is a must read. Sign up for the weekly email so you won’t miss it.
If you still have a ways to go to reach those critical numbers, read on…
What the Natural Foods Brand Got Right
Our fairy tale isn’t a complete disaster. There are a couple of things the natural foods brand got right:
1. It developed a strategy in line with the importance of Facebook for marketing. Revisit last week’s post “6 Ways Facebook is Vital to Marketing Your Natural Foods Brand” for a refresher on what Facebook can do for your brand.
2. It offered its customers incentives to “Like” it on Facebook. It’s not enough to simply have a Facebook page. People must be lured to it. You must make the case to the customer that by NOT connecting with you, they are missing out on something of value.
It’s too bad that after getting so much right, the natural foods brand did not deliver on its promise for online content. It’s probably alienating rather than winning customers in the process.
Do These Two Things to Get Facebook Fans Now
- Add a Facebook “Like” box to your website – A Facebook “Like” box allows people to “Like” you right from your website. It’s easy to get the code to install one.
- Give customers the incentive to “Like” you on the spot -- When you do demos or are at any other event, incent people to use their mobile devices to give you their Facebook “Like” right there on the spot. (Have an extra mobile device on hand for those who don’t carry a phone with Internet access.)
Use Some More Advanced Ways to Get Facebook “Likes”
After you cover those two bases, consider some more advanced ways to get people to “Like” your page.
Research by advertising agency DDB Paris found that the top reasons for “Liking” a brand were: “to take advantage of promotional benefits”, "to be informed of new products offered by the brand”, "to access exclusive information” and “to give my opinion about the brand”.
Some experts swear by installing a “reveal” function on your Facebook page that only gives those who have “Liked” you access to those kinds of goodies.
With the “reveal” function, when people who are not “fans” (that is, people who have not “Liked” your page yet) come to your page, they see different content from people who are already fans. When non-fans become fans by “Liking” your page, the fan-only content is “revealed.”
All you have to do is provide something valuable enough to make people become a fan. The exchange is transparent: “You become a fan, we give you something.”
Great Content Keeps Your Fans
Many visitors won’t give you that vital Facebook “Like” unless they see you have engaging content. More next week on generating the content that helps you get and keep your loyal audience.
To make sure you don’t miss anything, sign up to receive the free weekly email on building your thriving natural foods business and avoiding the costliest mistakes around marketing, management and money. Sign up here.
Here’s an essential status update for your natural foods business. There’s an important venue for you to play in that adds tremendous value to your brand.
There you can meet with your most valued customers every day and give them more reasons than ever to love and buy your products. In this place they’ll also encourage their friends to do the same.
This place didn’t exist three years ago, but your customers expect you
to be there. It’s a Facebook fan page.
Tap Into the Huge Potential of a Facebook Page
A Facebook page presents huge potential to connect with your fans in a new way. Fifty percent of Facebook's more than 500 million active users create and consume content on it on any given day. The average U.S. user spends nearly six hours per month browsing around on the social network.
Here are six reasons it’s vital to take the plunge and get underway with a Facebook fan page for your natural foods brand. Or, if you’ve already started a page, consider these compelling reasons for increasing the time and energy you devote to your presence on it.
#1 It’s Free
You can’t afford not to have a Facebook fan page. Whether your marketing budget is $1 or $100 million, the cost of having a Facebook fan page is the same for everyone: zero dollars.
You will need to invest your time to post content on to your page and interact with your customers. Tips on how to move forward in those areas will arrive soon. (Sign up for the weekly email message so you don’t miss out.)
#2 It Increases Your Brand’s Visibility
A Facebook page allows you to brand your business, use your logo and customize your “look” just as you would a website.
Your page is open to anyone who stumbles across it. If someone searches through Google and your fan page pops up, that person can view the entire fan page without “liking” it.
Obviously, it is your hope they will “like” the page. More on generating those essential “likes” next week.
#3 It Gets Down to Marketing Essentials
Successful marketing is all about focusing on the relatively small number of customers who are the most active in consuming your product. The people who “like” your Facebook page are your most enthusiastic customers. Those are the people you’re most interested in marketing to.
Keep these core customers excited about your brand, and they will take action to spread the word about your company. Friends will see their friends commenting on your links and notes and posts. This will prompt them to “like” your page too.
#4 It Adds Value to Your Brand
Your Facebook page empowers consumers to talk to your brand. If you listen to them closely and demonstrate you’re hearing them, this makes them feel important.
Customers who feel important are willing to pay a lot more to get this feeling. For customers, the quest for self-importance is at least as important as the quest for value.
#5 It’s an Important Market Research Tool
Facebook pages have a feature called Insights that allows you to track your fan base demographics by gender, age, location and even language.
You can also track comments that receive the most interaction. This allows you to continue providing content that will engage your target audience.
#6 It Hits Your Personal Sweet Spot
Interacting with your most loyal customers keeps your motivation to build your natural foods brand high. Their presence fuels the energy you put into providing them with high quality products that enhance their lives.
You and your business will thrive on the feedback and appreciation you’ll consistently receive from an active Facebook fan page.
How to Get Started
Refer to this great “how to” for setting up a Facebook fan page. Find it here.
Don’t miss upcoming posts about how to get fans for your Facebook page and how to maximize your Facebook presence. Sign up to receive the free weekly email on growing a thriving natural foods business and avoiding the costliest mistakes around marketing, management and money. Sign up here.