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.




Toolbox Essentials

The Internet has definitely made marketing easier. But in some ways, it has made it more difficult. On the upside, it’s easier than ever to interact with customers. On the downside, it can be harder to find out where your ideal customers are hanging out, given the plethora of social media channels out there. There is something for nearly everyone these days, which is good news for food businesses because there are a ton of foodies out there documenting everything they eat with photos and videos.

Social Media

Social media is a great marketing opportunity to market your products and business. It’s easy to get carried away with nothing but posts with pictures of your products, but don’t miss the opportunity to share who you are and what your business is all about. If you’re always in sell mode, followers may stop following you temporarily; if they do, they rarely return.

Let’s look at the major social media platforms and who uses them. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does cover the top platforms.

Facebook is still the unrivaled leader in social network usage, with a 77% share. It has the most diverse audience, and though younger generations like to say it’s a Boomer hangout, more than 65% of the 3.03 billion monthly users are under the age of 45. 56.3% of users are male, 43.7% are female.

There are 2.5 billion active users on YouTube, and 70% of viewers have made a purchase after watching a video on the platform. By far, the largest market is under the age of 45. Nearly 55% of YouTubers are male.

Facebook’s younger sibling, Instagram, is known for its visual storytelling through short videos. Its 2 billion users are equally divided between males and females, and 85% of them are under the age of 45. 90% of Instagrammers follow a business, and 66% say they have interacted with a brand on the platform.

This darling of social media has experienced explosive growth. More than 1.2 billion users worldwide are on TikTok. The platform is equally split between females and males and heavily skewed toward people under 45. Only 14% of users are over 45. 49% of TikTokers report that the platform has helped them make a purchasing decision, and 55% said they made a purchase because of something they saw there.

This platform focuses on photos and videos with limited time access and skews heavily to younger users. 82% of users are under the age of 35. Of its 750 million users, 51% are female and 48.2% male.

Once known as Twitter, this platform is used for social discourse, following personalities and real-time engagement and conversation. Its 666 million users are overwhelmingly under 45, and 68% are male. It is more of a business-to-business marketing platform than a business-to-consumer one.

Pinterest’s niche is being a platform for inspiration and creativity. Users share content and ideas ranging from home décor to recipes. 76% of the platform’s 465 million users are female, and only 13% are over 55. More than 25% of the time spent on Pinterest is shopping, and 85% of users bought something because of a “pin” they came across.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the demographics for each platform.

Regardless of the social media platform(s) you choose to focus on or the traditional marketing strategies you take for a test drive, here are some important things to consider as you build your story.


Marketing musts…

Develop a sustainable budget
This may go without saying, but you need to make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s easy to think that a bunch of ads on Facebook will bring in business, but that’s rarely the case. There’s no easy way to build a loyal customer base except through hard work, one customer at a time. Still, you will have costs, whether it’s a portable booth for a farmer’s market, signage, coupons, business cards, or product signs. You don’t want to look like an amateur. You want to look professional and have your brand shine, whether it’s the colors you use or the fonts you use for signs.

Have a great product
We can hear the “well, duhs” from here. But the market is flooded with products that don’t match the marketing. Your product and your marketing need to be aligned in terms of quality and consistency, or your customer will be confused and, potentially, disappointed.

Build a trustworthy brand
In a small company, you, your business and your products are one. Your brand is not just your logo and signage. You are also the brand. Every relationship is built on trust. This is why it’s important to be authentic about who you are and what your business is. Be true to yourself, and your customers will reward you with loyalty.

Get a web presence
As a Cottage Food business, you need to have a website. People need to know how to find you and how to order. With an e-commerce site, they can even order online, as long as you either deliver the order or they pick it up. A website doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use a do-it-yourself site like Wix or Squarespace. A website not only gets you listed and ranked in search engines but also reinforces that you are a serious, legitimate business and not a hobbyist. These do-it-yourself sites are pretty easy to put together, and if you have teenagers, they can probably do it for you in the tenth of the time it takes you. If you want to know the secrets of building a killer website, visit our Web Academy.

Make a solid pitch
You should be able to tell someone else what you do in a brief paragraph or two. It should be memorable, get to the point quickly and be consistent every time and everywhere you share it. Your business plan should have provided you with the framework for this spiel. Yes, this is the classic elevator speech. You should be able to say everything you need to by the time you make it to the 10th floor (without pushing the Emergency Stop button).

Mine your data
Keep track of where your customers are coming from. If you’re selling at two places in town and one isn’t performing, dump it. The same goes for your products. You may love to make a particular item, but if it goes into the waste bin outside at the end of the day, it’s not worth the time or money to keep in your lineup. Similarly, use the data from your orders to see what your bestsellers are and consider adding more variations. You don’t have to invest in an expensive database management system or become the third person on the planet Earth who understands Excel. A good old-fashioned notebook and some chicken scratches that track your daily sales per product will work just fine, at least in the beginning.

Invest in good design
As you’re starting out, don’t try to design stuff yourself unless, of course, you are a designer. Your branding – the colors, logo and such – are going to be with you for a long time. Once people start recognizing them at events or online, you won’t want to change them. Sites like UpworkGuru or Fiverr allow you to solicit bids from professionals and freelancers all over the world. Check their reviews, choose a few, ask them to bid and choose someone to work with. Always be sure that the person you hire understands that you are purchasing the rights to all the work. More than one small business has unpleasantly discovered that they didn’t own the work they contracted someone else to do.



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