Lesson 4: Marketing

You can have the most amazing products ever conceived, but unless someone knows about you and your wares, you’ll end up eating a lot of your own creations. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to find your people.





Marketing isn’t the big mystery everyone thinks it is. In its simplest form, it is about telling your story and building relationships. As noted earlier, people buy from people. Telling your story will help create that bond.

Think about your own experience at a street fair you’ve attended. Two people are selling baked goods. On the one side, the seller is watching a video on her phone. On the other side, a baker makes eye contact with you, wishes you a good morning and offers a sample. You can, of course, walk away. But you don’t. You wish them a good morning and try out their product.

The one watching a video is a spider waiting for a meal ticket to land on their web. The other is a marketer. He’s not waiting; he’s engaging and, with any luck, selling.

Yes, there’s more to it, but in the end analysis, it’s all about relationships and building a memorable story where you are part of the brand.

Before we get too far, let’s start by saying there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. If there were, we would all be millionaires with billion-dollar businesses supporting our lavish, jet-setting lifestyle.

Your own marketing plan will be unique. It should be. After all, you’re unique. You decided to start a food business because you believe in yourself and what you have to offer. You know you’re a great chef, cook, baker or chocolatier. That uniqueness is your market differentiator. Let it shine loud and clear in everything you do.

Yes, it can be scary. There is a tendency in the marketplace to try to be just like everyone else. The world is full of imitators. Try not to be one. You don’t want to scare people off, of course, but with an authentic, consistent message of who you are and what you offer, you will find that you are remembered by customers, even if you eventually move on to a food truck, pop-up or restaurant.


The Basics

Know your target. In your business plan, you looked at who your customers are and may have even broken them into segments and personas. Think about what they want and where they like to hang out, either in the physical world or social media. These days you don’t want to waste your time on broad-based, or shotgun, marketing. You want to be a sniper. Figure out who is most open to your message and meet them where they are first. Then, work down your list of customer segments to find new prospects. Find a way to make their lives easier, more entertaining, and more flavorful, and convince them that you and your product are just what they are looking for.

Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is focused on changing your target customers in some way, i.e., connecting with them on a personal level. You build awareness and a relationship over time. Advertising, on the other hand, is about paying to get your message out to a broader audience. This takes money and time. The average person needs to see your message at least nine times before they start to remember you. In this age of social media, the number of impressions online is probably far more. Effective marketing doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Some of the best marketing in history has been free and ended up going viral.

Tell a great story. Story-driven marketing has largely replaced advertising. A well-told story captures the imagination, holds attention, pays off with a meaningful emotional experience and, ultimately, connection. Stories connect you to an audience in ways that mere words, graphics or ads could never do in this day and age. Tell your unique story to cut through the clatter and din of the marketplace. Get them to care about you. If you manage to do that, you will have a customer forever.

Set realistic goals. As a Cottage Food business, your goal is to make sales. For large ticket items, the sales cycle can be long. For you, it can be immediate since most food products end up being impulse purchases. That’s not to say that you don’t need to pay attention to the goal of turning one-time sales into long-term sales. Think about ways to build and deepen that relationship with your customers from the moment they first become aware of you until that last sale. A long-term customer is more profitable than a one-time buyer, but you can turn that one-timer into a lifer with the right strategy (coupons, email permissions, upsells, etc.).

Master the Four Ps. Positioning, Product, Pricing and Promotion are the cornerstones of any marketing effort.

    • Positioning: How is your product perceived by your target customers? What role does it fill, or what need does it meet? What attributes (price, presentation, quality, etc.) will give it broader appeal? What will a prospective customer be drawn to, and what makes a customer want to buy from you initially?
    • Product: It’s more than the food item you’re selling. It’s the packaging and presentation or the value-adds, such as the ability to subscribe to monthly or quarterly subscriptions delivered right to their door. If you have something that’s one-of-a-kind, you can sell it for a higher price than normal because a customer can’t get it elsewhere. It’s also about where the customer can find your product.
    • Pricing: A low price doesn’t guarantee a sale. It’s all about perceived value and whether the price meets that value expectation. Part of this, of course, is determined by the market and what your competitors are doing. But how you want to be perceived in the marketplace can also be determined. Customers don’t think twice about laying down $6 to $18 for a gourmet cupcake from Trophy Cupcakes in the greater Seattle area, so don’t believe that low price is the only way to make a sale.
    • Promotion: We alluded to this earlier. You don’t want to make one big splash in the market. You want to make waves continually. Think about ways you can continue to get your message out to customers about new products, holiday specials, new events you’ll be at or limited-time discounts on larger purchases. Is it online? Is it always in the same place at a farmer’s market? Can customers and prospects get an email listing about your upcoming events or new products? You won’t hit the spot every time, but when you do, think about building on that strategy for the next time.

Food Biz Academy

Main Office


Academy Staff