Guide 3: Food Money Machine - Brand Promise
The Food Money Machine is the foundation of all growth. A Food Money Machine is a specific market opportunity combined with your company’s approach to capturing it.
A Food Money Machine Consists of Five Key Ingredients:
1. A target customer who’s aware of his or her problem.
2. A promise that your company makes to prospective shoppers.
3. A distribution channel for reaching and transacting with the target consumer.
4. A food product that fulfills the promise made to the consumer.
5. A sustainable competitive advantage.
After selecting a target consumer, the second step is to determine what promise you’ll make to get them to buy. The ideal promise is one that is unique, compelling, and credible.
There’s a reason why each of these steps is essential: If your promise is not unique, there is no incentive for a shopper to pick your company over any other competitor. If a legitimate difference does exist between you and your competitors’ promises, your promise should clearly indicate that difference. Otherwise, there is no differentiation in the mind of the shopper.
Actual product differences matter only if they help you differentiate the promise you make to your consumers. This is a subtle but vital distinction.
This leads to our second point. Consumers don’t buy products; they buy what a product does for them. In other words, consumers buy based on their perception of how a product will benefit them. Your promise must offer a compelling benefit. If the promise is not compelling, you are, in effect, promising to solve a problem your customer doesn’t really care about.
Finally, you need to make your promise credible. In many markets, buyers are extremely skeptical. They assume all companies are liars (or at least exaggerators). When you combine this skepticism with the common complaint that “all those companies sound the same,” buyers don’t know who to buy from and end up choosing randomly.
There are several key problems that arise when developing a unique, compelling, and credible promise. Let’s look at the most common problems and your options for addressing them.
Your Promise is not Unique (or not Unique Enough) Compared to Your Competition
This is probably the number one problem I see in food companies, and here’s why knowing about it is so important. Providing a dramatically different promise, even if your product is similar to the products offered by your competition, forces the customer to consider what you’re offering in more detail. If your promise sounds the same as your competitors’ promises, your offer gets lumped together with your competitors’ offers.
There are numerous tools at your disposal for making your promise unique. There’s absolutely no excuse for failing to improve the differentiation of your promise in your channel.
Consider Promising the Polar Opposite of What the Competition Is Promising
If the rest of the pack promises the lowest prices, consider promising the highest price in your category—and then figure out what the heck you have to include in your product to justify the higher price.
If the rest of your category promises customers organic or all-natural features, consider promising “fresh and local-grown.” Your promise then becomes: “We use only the freshest and local-grown ingredients.”
If the rest of the competition promises the fastest home delivery in the pizza industry, consider promising the slowest (but 200% tastier) home delivery in the industry.
This technique is based on the “Zig-Zag” principle. If everyone else decides to “zig,” then you consider “zagging” instead. Of course, you will need to carefully consider this strategy before employing it—sometimes it makes sense and at other times it doesn’t. However, here’s the general rule of thumb: Any time there’s an opportunity to be the polar opposite of your competition it’s worth taking a hard look to see if it makes sense.
Be Number One in Your Industry at Something,
Even if It Means Being Mediocre at Everything Else
In a cluttered marketplace, there’s no benefit to being the same as everyone else. If everyone else offers average quality and average service at an average price, you’re much better off picking one of the three in which to lead your industry. This means that you must also be willing to risk sacrificing the other elements of your promise.
You are better off being the company offering the highest quality in town but with absolutely no service at the highest prices than offering something middle of the road. You will certainly alienate a large portion of your category but will attract a narrower segment that values quality more than anything else.
The idea here is that you have to be dramatically better than your competition—at something—to warrant the attention of prospective buyers. A related rule of thumb is that it’s good to be either loved or hated because “no one makes money being average or just polite.”
Solve a Bigger Problem
When a food leader is struggling for ideas to make a promise more unique I can always rely on the strategy of solving a bigger problem, because it works in any market situation. The gist of this strategy is to solve a problem that is bigger than what your industry is accustomed to solving on behalf of consumers.
By expanding the problem to be solved, you instantly open up ways to distinguish your promise in your category. Let’s look at a few food and beverage examples to drill this point home.
In the candy market, all of the candy players are slugging it out over who can be better, cheaper, more outlandish, co-brand with the latest cartoon, and introduce new brand partnerships in hope of driving more sales. However, my friend David Klein (founder and inventor of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans) made a brilliant strategic decision to “solve a bigger problem” that skyrocketed sales for Spectrum Confections.
Klein created and introduced the world’s first CBD Jelly Bean that globally shook the candy and news world with his functional beans. David realized that people really wanted relief from various physical symptoms. The jelly bean with CBD was the perfect dosage vehicle for the popular therapeutic ingredient. David solved a much bigger issue for consumers and he’s been rewarded leaving competitors in the dust.
The underlying technique for solving a bigger problem involves two simple steps: First, look at the things the customer purchases before and after they buy your product; and second, look at the activities the customer engages in before and after they buy your product. Using this “before and after” analysis, you can identify all the possible options for “solving a bigger problem.”
In David Kleins example, he realized the dosage metric per jelly bean would be a tremendous benefit to consumers and elevated the jelly bean from candy to remedy.
Unfortunately, the other candy companies missed it because they defined their business around the products they manufacturer and retailers sold – candy. By focusing on this narrow definition of the problem, they missed the opportunity to solve a bigger chunk of the customer’s larger problem.
While David’s CBD Jelly Beans provide an example involved in the major shift in industry boundaries, there are much simpler examples that follow the same “solve a bigger problem” idea.
Let’s say your company manufactures laundry detergent. An example of “solving a bigger problem” would be to automatically ship the consumer refills or new containers of detergent each month or quarter. You instantly shift your customer promise from delivering “a quality wash” to delivering a lifetime of stress-free clean clothes without having to ever run out of detergent again. This is one method to set you apart from your competition.
To solve an even bigger problem for washer and dryer buyers, you might offer clothes washer equipment makers a free 90-day “laundry detergent” subscription that automatically rolls them into a monthly auto-ship replenishment program for their buyers.
This solves the customer’s headache of having to continually pick-up or re-order detergent from the store. Remember, customers don’t want detergent; they want nice looking and clean clothes. If you’re in the “nice looking clothes for life” business, you realize that your consumers are going to have to re-order detergent dozens of times over the next 10 years. Why not solve the customer’s “bigger problem” from the outset, with a single purchasing decision?
Would such a promise work? I have no idea—you’d have to test it and Amazon is on it today. However, I do know that it’s a unique promise with a compelling benefit. Because of this uniqueness, customers will pay more attention to it than if you make the same promise everyone else is making.
Regardless of whether a consumer loves or hates a unique promise, they are forced to stop and consider it; they can’t simply continue with their autopilot mentality that rejects all vendors because they seem to be completely identical.
Solve a Bigger Problem by Bundling Third-Party Products with Yours
What happens if you don’t have the staff to support “free” samples for your product, or you don’t have product development capacity for creating add-on products, or even additional features?
In these situations, you can still “solve a bigger problem” by pre-bundling the commonly used accessories consumers typically buy with your product. Even if you buy these third-party products at retail prices, the simple convenience of a single package will be appealing to your consumers.
This approach is like the difference between selling coffee beans and selling a coffee making home kit like the Keurig with pouches. A kit may include a starter assortment of coffees, machine, cups, flavors, and serving accessories. This solves a “bigger problem” for the customer—eliminating the need to evaluate other products in related categories and to research compatibility issues. It’s all done for them.
In many grocery deli departments, retailers sell “solution meal specials” that are often joint-marketed by alliance partners. Pre-bundling is based on the same idea. Instead of promising the consumer only the benefits of your component, you can promise the benefits of the entire solution set. You can do this even if the other components of the solution come from other suppliers.
Niche the Promise to a More Targeted Customer
Another technique for beefing up the uniqueness of your promise is to target the promise to a more focused audience. For example, if you sell a supplement or vitamin, simply add the words “for Moms” or “for children” to your promotional materials.
If you sell coffee with various extra amounts of caffeine, you might add the words “for students” or “for computer workers.” You can validate the promise with an argument that extra caffeine keeps you alert, and the coffee is specially designed for your target consumer’s needs.
Coke has even started using this technique over the past few years with their names on the label of Coca-Cola products. Interestingly, they offered 100’s of peoples given names and consumers would search for their name or friends name on the package while the product inside was unchanged and yielded massive sales results.
Sometimes, creating a niche version of a product only requires superficial changes. Often, much of the niche-specific differentiation can come from simple label changes, suggesting target markets, or defining new and clever uses for a product.
Multi-Niche the Promise to Multiple Targeted Customers
The niche strategy is not just a technique relegated to smaller companies. Large companies can use the same technique—with a twist. Instead of targeting a single niche, you can multi-niche your products by targeting multiple niches. You would simply have multiple “editions” of your product that would enable you to make the promise that “this edition was made specifically with your needs in mind.”
You could create dozens of editions, with perhaps minor (or no) differences in features, that would support making more specialized promises. For some people, this may seem a bit sneaky or devious. Allow me to explain why this is not the case and, in fact, is a significant consumer benefit in both perception and reality.
Let’s go back to the vitamins targeted for kids. At first, this just seems like wordplay. In reality, the words make a difference to the consumer. The Mom knows the product is safe for her kids and has the nutrients that she is looking for in a multi-vitamin. Mom knows it will work for her for her kids and is happy.
Even if your product functionally serves a wide range of users, consumers don’t know that. They will assume that a more specialized offering is better, more relevant, and more appropriate for them than a generic offering. More importantly, they leap to this conclusion quickly and with less comparison-shopping than if they were considering a generic product.
Your Promise Offers No Compelling Benefit
If your promise offers a benefit the target consumer doesn’t find compelling, this means you don’t know your target consumer well enough.
You have two options here: You can keep the same target consumer and find the benefit they do care about (then change your product to support the new promise), or you can change the target consumer to one that values the promise you’re already making (and keep the promise that your product is already able to back up).
Either way, the general rule of thumb here is: If you find yourself in the situation of promising the wrong benefit, back up and learn more about your target consumer before trying again.
Your Promise Is Unique and Compelling, But Your Target Customer Doesn’t Believe You
What if your promise is unique, and you’re certain the offer is compelling, but sales are still down? This often means prospective consumers don’t believe your promise. Skepticism among consumers and business-to-business customers is probably at an all-time high, while trust is at an all-time low.
To illustrate this point, walk downtown of any major city and attempt to give away $1 bills, one at a time, to people on the street. You will find it’s a difficult task to accomplish. Most people, will duck away and immediately start walking away from you due to skepticism. They know there is a catch and do not believe anything you might say in relation to the event.
Your target consumer is the same. He doesn’t trust you or your competitors. He assumes you are lying or at least exaggerating your promises. In fact, companies that exaggerate their promises (“We’re the best in the food industry” or “We’re number one”) is such a common practice that it’s actually acknowledged by U.S. law.
As I understand it, a food company making a general boast that they’re the best is called “puffery”—and it’s legal. The lawmakers determined that since everyone knows companies exaggerate and nobody believes them anyway, there’s no harm in letting companies exaggerate their non-numerical claims (of course this is not legal advice—please seek an attorney prior to making claims of any type). That’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of skepticism, particularly in the United States.
So, how do you counter such skepticism? You must supply overwhelming proof that what you say is true. I’ll list several ways you can provide this proof. At the end of the day, it is simply impossible to have too much proof.
Proof Technique #1:
Testimonials and Customer References
Hands down, the best way to provide proof to skeptical consumers is to provide them with consumer testimonials. Show them letters and notes from your happy customers. Let them watch video clips of your shoppers explaining how happy they are with your products. Invite them to attend a live, in-person event at your facility or wine tasting event with your product to meet your happy consumers.
This works equally well selling to consumers as it does to other businesses. When I was building my consulting website, I included a case study tab with many of the projects I’ve worked on and provided specifics – such as the first and last name of individuals we dealt with – details about their situations and concerns. It also includes information on what we worked on and statements regarding “before” and “after” financial results that demonstrates the benefits of working with us.
The reason it works so well is that it provides ample proof that well respected and well-known companies trusted my solution. We don’t have to say we are the best in our market, our amazing proof makes the point for us.
Proof Technique #2:
Demonstrations and Free Demos
Another way to prove your point is with a simple demonstration. Simply demo your product to a customer or allow them to taste it for themselves. Demos work incredibly well at proving your point. If your product tastes great and better than your competition, demonstrate the product and prove it. Great food photography is a hack for sampling and can save money and time.
Costco Wholesale demo’s everyday they are open. It’s part of their core structure and marketing to members. You can’t walk through a Costco on a Saturday and miss the many demo stations situated throughout the building. They do it, continue doing it and encourage vendors to demo (I know based on almost a $100 million in purchases for clients from Costco Wholesale.) their products due to the positive impact it has on sales and new product introductions.
Successful companies know that demos drive sales. I can look at your demo plan and tell you where success will be for your company in the next year. Demos prove your promise to consumers. The promise you decide to make has implications for how you approach product development and needs to be considered before the product is developed.
Proof Technique #3:
Increase the Specificity of Your Proof
Here’s a simple way to increase the credibility of your proof. Simply increase the specificity of the proof. Let’s go back to the case studies section created for my consulting website. I created it as a marketing tool for my business-to-business sales efforts. I included names, numbers, and the specific accounts for each project. I did this for an important reason: Specific details improve the credibility of the story. Specifics increase credibility.
Here’s another example: Since a lot of my client work involves integrating marketing strategies with the rest of a client’s operations, I’m familiar with how my efforts impact sales and revenue for various food businesses. I’m confident enough after more than 3 decades of reviewing food companies to know quickly if I can assist their growth and likely by how much.
I’ve been fortunate to assist many food entrepreneurs begin their food enterprises from scratch and we quickly surpass a million in sales and I’ve helped others quickly double sales volume of their food businesses utilizing so many of the strategies we discuss in Food Money Machine.
My experience and knowledge allow me offer the very specific offer of $1 million in new revenue or a doubling of the business after I review your products and current position in the market. Specificity increases credibility, and credibility increases sales.
© FOOD MONEY MACHINE 2021