Catering Supplies Distributors: Tips for boosting brand awareness
It’s no secret that any B2B distributor / wholesaler market is competitive, and the catering supplies industry is no exception. Whether you’re supplying packaging, disposables, equipment or food and drink, the catering B2B world is fierce and it’s important to stand out from the crowd. But that’s easier said than done.
Customer expectations have changed
There has been a significant shift over the last few years in B2B customer expectations and buying habits. The shift has forced distributors to think differently about how they sell and has pushed them to take inspiration from B2C businesses. Businesses, like consumers, are now looking for a personal service where the focus isn’t solely on price anymore. They want to feel valued, they’re looking for a company with good morals that they can relate to and most importantly, they’re looking for accessibility and good quality, quick service.
Distributors can’t rely on traditional sales techniques any longer - the move to digital is already happening, and you don’t want to be left behind. Customers expect to find you online, they want to buy your products from your website, they want to understand you on social media and they assume you’ll be on Amazon or eBay with your competitors.
This change in customer expectations has made the term ‘brand’ even more important. Distributors were once the ‘behind-the-scenes’ guys. They supplied quality products at a competitive price, and word of mouth or recommendations from other companies was enough. In 2019, customers want to know who you are and why they should buy from you and not someone else. So how do you stand out from the crowd? You need to create a strong brand that helps you to market your services and demonstrates what sets you apart from your competitors.
What is a brand?
Your brand is your company’s personality. It’s the characteristics of your company that represents your company values, but it also highlights your value-added services that are your USPs.
Do you guarantee next day service, are you an eco-conscious, ethical supplier, do you provide a personal, one-to-one service, do you support local charities and organisations, are you pushing the boundaries of technology, or are you just simply the best in the business?
These values and services will carve out the sort of personality you want to portray to your customers which will in turn reflect your branding; the company logo, colours, imagery, marketing, customer service etc.
Increasing brand awareness
To promote yourself to new prospective customers, you need to push your
brand out into the market and get people to listen to your story. Brand awareness is simply marketing your company, but instead of focusing just on your products, it’s marketing your brand as a whole and creating awareness about what the business stands for to help build a good reputation. There are many ways you can boost your brand awareness and there will always be new, on-trend marketing tactics to boost sales, but we’ve curated a list of tried-and-tested methods that you can always rely on if you’re looking to boost your brand awareness.
5 tips for boosting brand awareness:
There is nothing more effective for building a relationship with someone than simply talking to them face-to-face. This is what the digital world lacks - it creates barriers for personal interaction. Visiting events and conferences relevant to catering businesses is always a strong start in brand awareness.
Networking with competitors, potential clients and your existing customers will not only put you in front of the people you need but also help you to get inspiration and spot gaps in the market that you can position yourself in.
Exhibiting at a Catering event, like the Food & Drink Expo in Birmingham, will give you the prime opportunity to talk face-to-face with potential customers and be your own brand ambassador that can portray your business exactly how you intended.
Yes, by digital presence, I mean a website and social media. Whilst having these two things won’t necessarily set you apart from your competitors, it will help you to stay relevant. Having a website, an eCommerce site if applicable, as well as a social media presence is essentially mandatory. If your customers can’t find your website or you’re not on Twitter then it could be branding suicide. How will your customers get to know you, understand you, research what you have to offer if they can’t find you online?
It’s also the perfect platform to express what your company is all about. Use your website to showcase the best of you and use your social media to highlight the personality behind the products. Although, there is a catch. It’s more harmful to your brand to have a digital presence that’s out of date, so if you design a website and create a profile on Twitter, they need to be regularly updated with your latest company information and they also need to be visually up to date. Customers will be quick to judge your website if it’s stuck in 2001, or your latest Twitter post if it’s from a year ago.
There is always strength in numbers. Picking a partner can be tricky and isn’t always appropriate, but a great partnership could have a lot of impact.
There are many options you can consider when looking to partner with someone or something and it’s important to consider the main objectives:
- The partnership must benefit both parties
- They must be appropriate and relevant for your customers
- They must align with and complement your brand values
Partnerships can come in many forms and you can only decide which is best based on your goals. You could consider:
- A related distributor company that sells products related to yours that your customer already benefits from, or would benefit from when buying together. For example: If you sell disposable coffee cups, you could partner with a coffee bean supplier.
- An individual or company that is a strong influencer in your sector that could help you to promote your products. For example, if you sell kitchen equipment, you could partner with a famous chef or restaurant chain who would openly promote the use of your products.
- A charity or organisation that you could donate time, profits or products to that align with your company values. For example, if you supply food and beverages, you could pledge to donate a percentage of profits, from a particular item of food, to a charity every time you sell it.
- An association that is relevant in your industry that promotes good practices within the industry. For example, the FPA or CEDA. This shows your customers that you’re dedicated to providing a quality service.
This is very similar to networking, but personal connection is vital in every aspect of communication with customers or prospects. This includes marketing materials, emails, phone calls etc.
It’s important you understand your audience when communicating with them to deliver a personal, noteworthy experience. If you’re sending out marketing material to your prospects, address them by name if you know it, ensure it’s relevant to them by understanding their habits and knowing what their challenges are. This can be difficult to manage, but with an effective CRM in place, it’s easy to keep track of communications and information about individuals that you may find helpful. This can be as simple as your telesales reps knowing the size of the company that they’ve called in order to recommend a relevant product to them.
A personal connection couldn’t be more important with your existing customers. You should know your customers and their needs so that you can offer them a personal experience for them to feel valued. Sending a generic email could harm your brand’s image as it shows a lack of effort on your part; always address them by their name and only offer products that are relevant.
Customer retention links very closely to personal connection. It’s important that you deliver on your promises and ensure your customers receive the quality service you’ve advertised. Customers are savvy and will quickly see through a brand that promises the world but delivers nothing, and good reviews are your lifeline for a great brand.
There is nothing more valuable for a business, its brand and its reputation than great customer reviews and recommendations. If you have customers who speak highly of your company then create a space for them to leave reviews and make sure they’re displayed on your website and used in your marketing. You could even create in-depth case studies with your customers to really highlight the relationship you have and the services you provide.
It’s often said that your brand is what people say about your business behind your back, so ensuring your customers are happy is top priority for boosting brand awareness. Amongst all the tips and ideas for marketing your brand, ensure you can deliver on your promises and deliver quality, personal customer service; the rest will take care of itself.