Marketing Food Specialty Products Online

Dora Ann Hatch  |  6/24/2010 12:03:56 AM

Dora Ann Hatch is the Area Community Rural Development Agent in North Central Region

People love to eat and they love to experience new foods from new locales. Many entrepreneurs of food specialty products are taking advantage of selling online through the use of websites and blogs. Through the use of technology they are expanding their customer base world-wide.

Retired nurse, Betty Girling, owner of Betty’s Gourmet Delights online store, did just that. She began her business at the Waveland Farmers’ Market in Mississippi. The farmers’ market was a great opportunity for Betty Girling to test market her jams, jellies, pickles, soups and other food specialty products. As demand for Betty’s products grew she established an online presence.

Betty has been successful, but to be successful, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you at a disadvantage by not having your food product online?
  • Can your food product be sent through mail delivery?
  • Would your existing customers be likely to take advantage of online sales?
  • Are you technology savvy?
  • Could you build your own website or do you know someone who could?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then decide on some goals. Below are some examples:

  • I want to generate 5 per cent more sales that are directly traceable to this website.
  • I want to increase the number of people in our geographic community who receive ongoing communications from my business.
  • I want at least two online contacts per year with each of our “good” customers…hopefully with product referrals that encourage additional purchases.

The next step is to create a brand for your food like Betty Girling did. When you visit Betty’s website you learn about Betty and her products. You learn:

  • Who she is -- she’s a retired nurse who has cooked since childhood.
  • What her company values -- she and her family have been in the food business for years, having owned a grocery store and praline shop.
  • Her strengths -- she sells online and at other events listed on her website.
  • Her logo -- she is easily recognizable by her logo and displays at fairs and festivals.
  • Betty markets her products in a variety of ways. She participates in farmers’ markets, fairs, and festivals. She lists the places she will attend on her website so that customers can visit her in person and buy her products.

Other online marketers use emails, blogs, or Facebook to bring their customers to their website. They give something free at their sales booth in exchange for a customer’s email address. Later, they email customers to announce new products or sales.

Other easy and effective ways to market include mentioning your website in news articles, putting your website address on product labels and business cards, and including the website on stationery, notepads, etc. When the customer is ready for a new jar of jelly, he has your address on the label.

Marketing is key to a successful online business. One must market, market, and then market some more.

For more information on this subject, contact Dora Ann Hatch, community rural development.

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