Rutgers student Adam Schefflan compiled the information in this section. Matt Matsuda edited and condensed it.
Many potential customers of Intersect Fund clients will be Upper Middle Class: they are earning enough to have disposable income and are willing and able to spend on goods that convey an emotional and psychological satisfaction of quality and uniqueness.
For Middle Class clients, online marketing is extremely important and can definitely help expand a clientele. In addition to farmers’ markets, fairs, and sales through networks and friends, there are a number of different groups that many business owners do not consider enough, such as working with corporate offices, and—for example, with artisan food products–local restaurants, super markets, and organic food organizations.
Many products can also benefit from placement with Rutgers student organizations, as university students are a great potential market. Businesses should sector their market and not attempt to engage “all students.” Instead, they should focus on those students most likely to have an interest in their product. For example, an artisan food product might focus on groups like Slow Food Rutgers- This is an environmentally friendly club at Rutgers, formed to support food grown organically and locally.
Customer Market Research Guide
Demographic information: middle-upper middle class, earning at least $50,000 per year, both men and women, 30-60’s, both single and married (majority married), healthy, Caucasian, own their homes, perhaps two children, medium/nice dependable cars, maybe some pets, willing to pay for something different, blue collar and white collar balance.
Psychographic Information: These potential customers value high quality, long lasting, tasty and healthy food products. They are committed to seeking out products created by others that can be “enjoyed,” and are not just functional. They are attracted to offerings that are homegrown, made with care, and evoke different registers of nostalgia. As a result these customers seek out and will pay premiums for local food grown from local producers, and usually have positive memories of food from childhood or growing up.
Qualities of Product: These customers are committed to variety—they don’t only want one type of product. They respond well to craftsmanship, and believe in supporting local businesses with personal connections. They are particular about quality and sense of taste—purchases need to be good quality or they won’t buy again or make recommendations to their friends. These customers have a general commitment to products where taste overlaps with health and nutritional self-perceptions. They are willing to pay for what they perceive to be organic or beneficial to their own health.
Media Interests: These customers will read magazines like Gourmet, Costco cookbook, Menu, Time, Bloomberg Businessweek and follow newspapers like the Star Ledger, Home News Tribune, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer. They will watch TV Shows like regular network news, Suits, crime dramas, the Cooking channel, DIY network, HGTV, most HBO major series, and public television cultural and dramatic programs. Online they will follow organic food websites, online shopping venues like Ebay or Amazon, and make use of interactive sites like Pinterest or Tumblr. If talking about the younger teen/organic crowd, potential customers probably draw their sense of style from retailers like Urban outfitters and American Apparel.
Taglines can go a long way. If a business has a strong, easily identifiable, and memorable logo it should be used as much as possible to promote to customers. T-shirts with the logo could be printed, and the image used extensively on the business website. A catchy tagline to go along with the visuals is necessary for building customer familiarity.
All small business should consider gift packages containing small samples of key products. The package or basket should have plenty of business cards and contact information, as well as fun and useful materials such as “how to…” details and recipe ideas. Packages should also be sent as gifts to public relations companies or corporate offices to gain popularity and perhaps future clients. Locally, New Brunswick has many restaurants and shops that could be potential clients.
Coupon promotions can be generated and promotional materials forwarded by a postcard mailer on a recipe postcard mailer.
For artisan products, business owners should consider their own brand image: custom recipe cards or do-it-yourself recommendations should emphasize the local, handcraft nature of the product, the quality of the product, and offer a sense of “good times” nostalgia.
This is particularly important for businesses whose products find audiences through open-air markets, craft fairs, bazaars, and other community selling opportunities.
In terms of product design, businesses should consider the following guidelines:
Utilize the business logo at every opportunity.
Artisan products should convey strong brand image. For example, with an artisan food product, the container or jar could be made “homey” looking. For a jar, there should perhaps be a cloth underneath the lid to represent that it is more of an artisan food product.
Because many business owners cook, bake, and prepare the product they sell, they should consider being part of the company image themselves, and should certainly decorate their products with appropriate materials or “ingredients,” such as shrubs and flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and flours, nuts, honeys, sweeteners, ground coffees and teas.
Be sure that each business can identify and promote a unique feature of the product or service. Is it monetary value, special service, a “patented” technique, recipe, or secret process?
Businesses should also think about containers or packaging that can be repurposed into home decor. Rustic or pretty jars and vases would be attractive to customers who will collect them for secondary uses later.
Cross-promotions should be strongly considered. These can include beauty product businesses working with health and wellness services. For specialized food products, a jam purveyor should think about collaborations with a baker; pies or cakes with coffee; salas and relishes with chips. Many customers do not think of products as singular items, but only in pairs, such as “milk and cookies.”
Business owners should make sure that customers know of any awards or prizes that their products have won. Such awards should always be mentioned, even on product labels. This is an element of recognition that strongly convinces potential customers to buy, and also to consider paying a premium price. Likewise, businesses should consider ways to incorporate satisfied customer testimonials into their promotions.
Attention should be paid to “themed” promotions in particular months, such as organic emphases around Earth Day, or “hot” promotions a gift baskets for Valentine’s Day. Themes are possible for any holiday or celebration or occasion, e.g. a standing birthday assortment.
A lot of commerce for middle class and upper middle class customers today takes place via the internet. All businesses necessarily need a strongly branded, attractive, and easy to navigate website. The website should look as appealing and eye catching as possible. Additionally, the more interactive the website, the more likely it is that people will be repeat visitors. Businesses should make sure to always add the website link and logo to all promotional materials.
Products sold in a variety of locales (e.g. open-air markets, bazaars) will benefit from having the business place a calendar on the website explaining the different events where the products will be featured and sold for potential customers. For example, “Come see us at the Intersect Bazaar, or the local farmer’s market next week…next month…”
A feedback section would be beneficial, where customers who have bought and enjoyed the products can provide their testimonials and suggest recipes for future clients.
Pay attention to attractive use of visual imagery. Gift baskets should be exciting. For example, pictures of gift baskets should prominently feature the business owner’s products and not other generic products. Creative pictures require imaginative, eye-catching concepts, and a lot depends on not just stacking or showing off the product on a table. Simply dressing up tables, working with themes, and making use of visual props will add excitement.
Websites should be organized for efficient reading. Avoid designs where each tab and page is overloaded with text. Instead, words should be placed on the bottom. Structure the website to be visually pleasing without too much reading.
For artisan products, a section should be devoted to a brief narrative and some pictures of the purveyor actually making or creating the product. The public likes to know about the hard work and “secrets” of talented individuals. These personal stories should also be put back into context. Show the business owner at work with family, onsite at fairs and markets, showing off awards or on special occasions.
Today, business owners should connect their internet presence to all of the major social media websites, especially making sure to create and maintain a presence on Facebook.
Through use of social media, calendars, and online forums, the business should make every effort to integrate the client into the “family” of the business, posting regular updates to a blog section of the website to update customers about buying opportunities, but especially to make clients feel more connected—more loyal—to the company. A website with outdated materials is no longer dynamic, or of continuing interest to customers.
National professional networks are important. For artisan foods, business owners should seek out the non-GMO/natural foods network, and the Green Polka Dot Box that specializes in selling artisan foods around the United States. Additionally, the Organic Consumers Association is a great way to get some publicity. The Organic Consumers Association lists all different types of natural products by both location and brand. Business owners can actually add their own companies to the website.
Inexpensive Marketing Tools
Join networking websites like Green Polka Dot and organic websites where organic foods purveyors seek out each others businesses and connections
Advertise locally or with mailers like small operators that make use of 14 cent mailers. Work out likely neighborhoods and houses to target
Reach out to a wider market, utilize the internet to target more consumers, target the healthy foods/non-gmo market and local restaurants
Keep up with social media sites
Keep informed about contests and competitions, and advertise all prizes or recognition received
Make use of cross-promotions. Consider, for example, VeggiDate, where vegans and vegetarians can look for dates. Business can try to advertise on it.
Consider VegNJ, which shows all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants, caterers, bakeries, products, in NJ
Try to get in touch with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey
Where budgeting permits, consider advertising, or doing joint advertising with other businesses in local newspapers, such as U.S. 1.