Reaching the “average” folks in foodservice

A smart marketing manager at a foodservice products company said to me years ago… “I’m not worried about reaching the high-flier buyers who are looking to innovate.  I want to reach the masses of ‘average’ customers who basically do an adequate job every day.”

His point was innovators will find his product regardless because it’s their nature to constantly search for ideas.  It’s the big blob in the middle of the “bell curve” — the 75 to 80 percent — that ultimately makes a product mainstream.

Problem is those “average” foodservice audiences — whether you’re trying to reach restaurant managers, brokers or distributor reps — aren’t proactive types that prowl for information.

Of course, every industry has the same issue.  Each of us is part of an “average” group depending on the market.  Just ask my wife.  She reminds me often that I’m apparently immune to messages about fashion that go beyond t-shirts and cargo pants.

Think about products you use in your daily work life that don’t spark your creative juices.  Maybe it’s printer paper.  A hotel vying for your offsite staff meeting.  Or a new stapler.

How would any of those companies get your attention?  Some possibilities for breaking through:

  • Tell customer stories. Most humans hate change.  That’s why compelling stories that quickly explain how others have already succeeded with your anchovy-topped cupcakes are so important.  More on this topic later.
  • Spray and pray is OK. Sure, we all want to target market for efficiency.  But target marketing, by definition, is effective with people who care about your product or brand.  Email campaigns are great for your fans.  But “average” cafeteria managers probably won’t register for your blog on creative uses for fish sticks.  So, “spray and pray” marketing still has some value — via fun, simple social media posts that will hook the occasional average Joe and Jane.
  • Train, train, train. The reality is many other people outside of your control like brokers, distributors and buying groups are largely responsible for promoting your products.  The vast majority of these reps are “average” (just as the vast majority of us marketer must admit we’re “average!”).  This reality is why a key marketing strategy in foodservice is still simple, consistent training to these audiences that is available online when they need it — not when you want to provide it.