Your marketing plan gives you enough information to give an enthusiastic investor a fair amount of confidence that you won't be so buried in operating costs that your bottom line never sees the light of day, yet not enough to actually execute. It's not intended to be your "how to" manual, after all. So, what do you do?
In a perfect world, execution of a mobile foods marketing strategy should begin six weeks to three months prior to launch, in order to have your truck rolling smoothly on the streets right out of the gate. But, in too many cases, execution often begins long after, despite the fancy long-range planning in the marketing plan. Or worse, marketing isn't really a consideration at all.
In fact, a vast number of new mobile foods entrepreneurs believe that Social Media Marketing means setting up a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account - they're done, and it's free. Social Media Marketing is the free alternative to the expensive, not-so-effective, yet far-more-expensive traditional marketing, so the cost of marketing is drastically reduced. Not so.
It usually happens when you're reviewing your operating expenses for the month - you realize there's more month left than budget, and the epiphany strikes. There's more to marketing a food truck or stand than meets the eye.
After countless hours frantically searching for easy, cheap, or free solutions, and an empty bottle of Jack Daniels, the tightness in your chest and sinking feeling in your gut tells you that you've either drank too much, or you're going to need to do something serious about that marketing plan.
The six most basic questions to ask to kick start a marketing strategy are:
1. Who do I need to reach?
2. How many of them are there?
3. Where are they?
If you've done a thorough market study, your marketing plan will identify your primary customers, the size of the population, and the locations where they would be likely to stop by your truck or stand for a meal. The next three questions deal with execution.
4. How do I reach them?
An effective execution of your plan should include a combination of blog advertising, Facebook ad campaigns, print advertising, writing on other blogs and influential social network pages, as well as Public Relations campaigns.
5. How do I reach their influencers?
By analyzing your target population's lifestyles and other demographics, you can key in to the people or organizations that influence them the most, and open the door to reaching an exponentially larger population in the foodie culture.
6. How many can I afford to reach?
Your current situation will dictate your marketing budget. With little funds available, you'll be limited to low cost or free resources. However, these resources often require far more time and effort on your part and produce much lower results.
But where do I start?
Start with a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and a Youtube channel. These accounts should be linked to facilitate sharing between them. Be certain to make profiles and pages open for public viewing, and that they are SEO friendly; this will strengthen your social network presence tremendously.
If you've already built a website, attach a blog to it. Static websites will wow people when they find them, but they do almost nothing for you in terms of search engine ranking (making it almost impossible to find you, in the first place). Write blog posts around important and popular keywords, and use these keywords repeatedly in your social network.
Publish frequent social media press releases that include keywords that attract large influencers. These influencers share your story with their social networks, increasing your following dramatically. Consistently posting follow-up articles, video clips and status updates after the distribution of the Press Release encourages follower loyalty and ultimately increases the fan base.
Use this Social Media Marketing Checklist to keep your social clout in line with your business goals:
Understand keywords; use them frequently throughout your blog and network. Update blog content religiously. Engage with potential customers on your social network by actively speaking with your audience. Encourage existing customers to join your social network so they will share your brand with their own social networks. Be specific and consistent throughout your blog and social network. And remember, Social Media Marketing isn't just about tweeting your next location.