Marketing plans are an important tool for any business. But they’re especially useful in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories such as food and beverages. These are industries in which customers can be fickle: ensuring there is a good marketing strategy and content plan ensures sales are kept on target.
This article breaks down how to create a marketing plan for the food and beverage industry, plus the benefits of having one. We also drop a few expert tips for managing your marketing strategy in-house.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a commercial document that outlines a business’s strategic positioning, ambitions, and tactics to achieve its goals. It does this by outlining the steps and procedures related to marketing that are required to achieve the company’s business goals.
An effective marketing plan for the food and beverage industry should include:
- Your business’s key points of difference or Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- The way you will communicate those effectively through key messaging
- How you will manage outreach to stakeholders, and through what channels
A food and beverage marketing plan is designed to give the business an overarching roadmap of where it is at, and where it is trying to go.
This can then be aligned with budgets, resources, other planning documents and external factors (such as news or political events). Your marketing plan should be regularly tested against changing company priorities and market conditions and updated as required.
4 benefits of a food and beverage marketing plan
Marketing functions as a magnet for potential customers. Therefore, having a proper marketing plan in place should improve audience reach and reduce customer acquisition costs.
Here are four more major benefits of a food and beverage marketing plan.
1. Brand awareness
The food and beverage industry is notable for its fast turnover and fluid customer loyalty. As such, brand awareness is a key element in the success of a business.
Brand awareness is a result of multiple factors, but a good marketing plan is vital for it to grow.
A well-designed and executed plan increases the business visibility across multiple channels, which in turn retains the loyalty of existing customers and attracts new ones.
2. Stakeholder relationships
The food and beverage industry also relies on relationships across its stakeholder group – from producers and manufacturers to distributors and customers.
A marketing plan considering the various groups and how best to ensure the relationships are strong and fruitful for all parties is hugely beneficial.
3. Competitive advantage
The food and beverage industry moves fast, and customers can easily switch their allegiance to a new entrant to the market. An effective marketing campaign ensures its brand is kept front and centre of its customers, both existing and new.
4. Increased sales and revenue
While this is the aim for any business, the rapid turnover of the food and beverage industry means a good marketing plan can have a rapid impact on sales and revenue.
A well-planned and executed advertising plan, backed by strategic insights, can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line.
Food and beverage marketing plan: Key considerations
Before you dive headfirst into the development of your marketing plan, it’s important to prepare your company and educate your team about the purpose of the endeavour.
To make sure this happens, keep the following considerations in mind.
Focus on opportunities
The development of your marketing plan should start with a workshop of key executives considering what the business’s goals are, along with its Unique Selling Proposition, key messages, stakeholders (including consumers) and how to engage with and influence them.
Your marketing plan, which will likely draw on such a workshop, should then structure a strategy to take advantage of those opportunities. In doing so, it creates a clear focus on what needs to be done – and how to do it.
Plan for growth
Focus on the business’s marketing elements also creates the opportunity to plan. The time spent considering the various elements of the marketing strategy supports the ability to make business decisions around how to reach its strategic goals.
Such planning would include, for example, if certain markets offer growth potential, or if particular relationships need to be better developed.
Measure your success
A marketing plan also offers clear KPIs as a measure of its success. The highest-level KPI for a marketing plan would generally be around brand awareness, assessed through regular brand surveys.
However, other KPIs can be measured such as social reach, media coverage, and customer gains.
How to build a food & beverage marketing plan in 8 easy steps
An effective food and beverage marketing plan can be developed following the below 8 steps.
These steps are only guidelines and will need to be refined to meet your particular business needs. But they offer a clear roadmap to an effective marketing plan.
Step 1) Workshop it
Bring the company’s leaders together for a workshop considering all elements of the business that will feed into a marketing plan.
This will likely include the company’s evolution to date including successes and weaknesses, stakeholders, USP, messaging, and outreach opportunities.
A workshop can be followed by one-on-one interviews with key executives, to gather all the information needed.
Step 2) Understand the audiences
From the workshop and other research, develop a clear understanding of the audiences and where they consume information, how they are influenced, and how and why they make purchasing decisions.
Step 3) Understand your USP
Understanding what makes your brand different to the competition is key to a good marketing plan. Standing out from the crowd means making your USP clear and attractive to your audiences.
- Real-life example: A Food Manufacturer’s Guide to Alternative Protein
Step 4) Create key messages
Develop your key messaging, and bespoke messaging as necessary for particular audiences.
The key messaging should hold throughout all your communications, as a consistent brand position. More specific messaging, including for advertising campaigns, can be developed with the key messaging underpinning the overall positioning.
Step 5) Outline your objectives
Figure out what the ultimate objectives are (such as building market share or gaining more customers in a certain age bracket or region) and develop a detailed plan for outreach to that particular audience type.
Step 6) Create a tactical plan
This step is around considering the content, channels and strategies for the target audiences and objectives. It may mean bringing in an advertising agency, branding agency or social media agency.
You may also choose to develop the content and outreach strategy in-house.
Step 7) Develop a budget
The tactical plan will likely require a budget for advertising, social and media spend.
You will also need to consider the time and internal resources required to carry out the plan.
Step 8) Analyse the impact
Once the tactical plan has been implemented, analyse its success through metrics such as social reach and engagement, brand awareness, media mentions and sales.
A business should be ready to pivot or refine a marketing plan if it doesn’t deliver the expected results within a certain time frame.
Highly effective marketing strategies for food and beverage businesses
There are several highly effective marketing strategies for food and beverage brands. It is an industry that lends itself naturally to strong visuals, branding, and direct outreach.
Below, we outline some of the best ways to market food and beverage products.
- Social media: Social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can be used effectively to build an audience and brand awareness, and sales.
This can be done in different ways, either by building organic reach through content or paid advertising. The advertising can be very targeted to particular audience types, interests and geographical areas.
- Mainstream media (earned and paid): Mainstream media such as television, radio and newspapers offer huge reach and can be very effective. While it is less targeted than social, particular channels can be selected for their audience types.
Mainstream media can be used through media ‘pitches’ which can result in ‘earned’ editorial content, or by purchasing ad spots.
- Direct outreach: Direct connections with existing or potential customers is a great way to build sales within this sector. Ensure you build a database of customers’ contact details and remain in contact with news, offers, and loyalty deals.
You can also connect directly with potential customers by participating in trade shows or running in-store promotions at supermarkets or other retailers.
- Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing refers to reaching out to various social media personalities whose profiles fit your brand positioning. You may want to send them some of your products to try, ask if they will promote them, or pay them to do so.
If you pay them, any post they publish will need to be signposted as an advertisement.
- Content marketing: Creating content such as recipes, cocktails or other ways to use your product is an effective way to show off your product and its uses. Doing this in a way that promotes easy purchasing decisions, such as a clickable ‘buy’ button, can be an effective way to increase sales.
5 top marketing tips for food and beverage brands
There are multiple ways to market a food and beverage brand. There are also ‘best practice’ tips to ensure your marketing plan delivers the results expected. We outline them below.
1. Ensure your brand has an impact
The food and beverage market is huge and consumers face multiple choices when shopping for a product. Having brand cut-through is key in the customer’s journey toward a purchase.
This may mean promoting a point of difference, or it may mean a catchy brand name, intriguing colour palate or standout packaging.
2. Understand the audiences
A deep understanding of the target audience goes miles in helping the marketing plan work.
Often, a business will create ‘personas’ of the type of people they want to target to try and meet particular needs or wants. Desktop and market research should be conducted to support the understanding of audiences.
Furthermore, customer feedback can be collected, and the results worked into the marketing strategy.
3. Use beautiful visuals
Food and beverages lend themselves naturally to impactful visual advertising; use them liberally. Whether a simple image on a social post or a detailed television commercial, visuals are an all-important way to capture the consumer’s attention and increase sales.
4. Pay attention to packaging
Packaging matters. When faced with numerous choices at the point of sale, packaging can make a difference in consumer decisions.
The difference might be that it is made from recycled plastic, or that it’s made from fully recyclable materials. Or it might be a colour palette or a brand (see notes above) that gives it the edge.
5. Track (and respond to) metrics
Almost all marketing tactics are measurable. It is easy to track a certain visual on social media, for example, to see how it performs against others.
It is also possible to run A/ B testing on elements such as images, text, and taglines. All metrics should be tracked to offer insights into which elements of the plan are working, and which should be tweaked.