Food businesses and grocers have a unique opportunity to engage customers with a topic everyone has a deep and genuine connection to: food. Content marketing can be an essential way for businesses to communicate meaningful information, inspiration, and knowledge to deepen customer relationships. Ahead, find the basics for content marketing in the grocery business.
Imagine a grocery store could have a 30-minute, or even one-minute, conversation with a customer in their home—how would it portray its unique personality and its values? What would it have to say?
Identifying the substance of this conversation is at the very core of content marketing for grocers and food businesses. “All grocers are selling similar things, and they likely share similar target markets,” says Emily Ross, SVP, managing director, at John Brown Media, U.S. “It’s essential to know what makes your brand unique and valuable for customers, and then create content that speaks to that.”
Before deciding what type of content is right for your grocery business, it’s important to ask what business goals you are hoping to accomplish, Ross says. “A lot of times, a client will just come to us with a content need,” she says. “But first, I always ask, ‘What’s your goal?’ Because that’s how we develop and align the content solution.”
Focused on building loyalty? Create content that incentivizes participation in rewards programs or promotes unique or exciting store offerings. Want to drive sales? Develop content around topics that’ll encourage greater basket size. Hoping to educate your shoppers? Share tips, tricks, and recipes that build trust with customers and profile the provenance of ingredients.
Identifying how your content connects to your overall business goals will ensure that your solution is deliberate and purposeful.
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s essential to think about your audience. Content that draws on resources like customer segmentation and tools like social listening, focus group research, and social media engagement can create a more meaningful connection, says Leah Mennies, editorial director at John Brown Media, U.S.
“The better you know your customer, the more effectively you can tailor your content to their needs and desires and build a lasting connection,” she says.
Whether they’re busy parents rushing to get food on the table or home cooks wanting to make something delicious for friends, the content should inspire target customers without intimidating them. “It’s easy for us—a bunch of food professionals—to lean on our experience and bring our own narrative into play,” says Esther Reynolds, food editor at John Brown Media, U.S., “but that’s not necessarily reflective of the target audiences we’re creating for.”
Reynolds bridges the gap by putting herself in the customer’s shoes and trying to identify what will be of most use to them. “We try to reinvent tried-and-true concepts with ingredients, methods, or tricks that make them feel new and exciting,” Reynolds says. “This can be anything from adding pickle brine to potato salad, or soy sauce and scallions to an otherwise conventional bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.”
Humans eat with their eyes, and visuals that beautifully showcase products and recipes can grab customers’ attention and encourage them to buy or try more. “Visuals are the quickest way to break through and inspire customers,” says Nicole O’Toole, John Brown Media, U.S.’s creative director. “If a company can create that desire through their marketing, they can influence customers’ purchases and habits.”
Still images are the bread-and-butter of food and grocery imagery, and for good reason: They give viewers a chance to linger on an image. While they are styled quite precisely, the photos must resemble what a customer might see in-store or at home: “You want readers to feel that sense of achievement, rather than disappointment,” O’Toole says.
These short motion graphics usually live on social and “give you the opportunity to add life, interest, and humor to an image,” O’Toole says. They can be used to make a dish’s preparation or serving feel playful—for example, showing slices being cut into a pie—or instruct by showcasing techniques or recipe steps, like garnishing.
When it comes to detailed instruction, video is king. “Video can inspire viewers to try an unfamiliar skill once they see the technique in action,” O’Toole says, as well as entertain and excite viewers about your content. “Things like seeing syrup poured over pancakes or a cake rising in the oven are satisfying to watch!”
Aligning content marketing with other marketing initiatives ensures a cohesive and unified experience with your brand. “You need to look at the bigger picture first, rather than just creating something,” Ross says. “You need to understand your overall brand strategy, which includes all the channels you’re using first, then the tone you want to adopt in them, and finally the content strategy for each platform.”
GIFs and videos might be prioritized for Instagram, while print content will allow the space to share more about a given topic. While each channel’s content and objectives can differ, overall tone and visual style should still be consistent to create a seamless brand experience. Furthermore, be aware of how competitors are using their channels—doing so can illuminate industry best practices, spark ideas for your own channels, and, most importantly, help identify opportunities for your grocery business to stand out.
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