If you live in a city, you should be able to run into one with out going too far out of your way – they seem to be everywhere these days. In the past few years, the popularity and prevalence of these rolling restaurants (I’ll use the title restaurant loosely) has been increasing at a blistering rate. From a business and marketing point of view, this new trend offers some exciting insight into the creativity and ingenuity of some entrepreneurs. This article isn’t so much about the food truck itself, but rather the marketing behind it. There are a ton of things we can learn as business owners or entrepreneurs from this movement, so lets take a closer look:
1. Be Unique
2. Minimize Your Options
3. People Want To Save Money
4. Be Social
5. Be Where Your Consumers Are
7. Its More Than Your Product
Be Unique – While not re-inventing the wheel can be a common business practice to save time and energy, being different is how you get noticed. We’re not talking about the standard social media accounts and snazzy business cards; being unique is more of a company spirit. To be truly unique and have that differentiation shine through in your business, it is important to incorporate the uniqueness into everything the company does. For a food truck, the design, presentation, and food is an extension of their uniqueness (or blandness, in some cases). On the other end, large corporations have unique company cultures that can be seen in their products; laid back (Google), conservative (Vanguard Group), or inspiring (Red Bull). By finding your niche and being able to incorporate that across the company and product, whether it’s the product driving the uniqueness or the company steering the products, setting yourself apart is important to attract customers and future like-minded employees.
Minimize Your Options – This topic addresses two things: don’t stretch yourself too thin and keep things simple. The majority of new trucks on the streets are focusing on niche foods instead of providing the standard array of greasy breakfast, chicken, beef, and other sandwiches (I guess that is a niche itself). Either way, narrowing your focus can help you produce a quality product. When starting out in business, it is important to have focus. By trying to accomplish too much all at once, problems can occur and important matters can get lost in the shuffle. For the second topic, keeping things simple – your customers need to know what you are providing. Giving people too many options can cause confusion and delays or losses in purchases. If I walk up to a food track that offers 100 items, it might take me a while to choose. If I don’t have time, I might just opt for a truck that has 3-5 things so I don’t get bogged down trying to make a decision. In every business, the less room for confusion, the better experience a customer will have.
People Want To Save Money – Whether you are a customer or provider, everyone is out to pinch a penny. There is a market for luxury items, but even at that level, there is penny pinching. It is always good to be cost-conscious. Know where your money is going, what returns you are getting, and how much you can realistically charge your clients. Food trucks came to be because its a low cost way to enter the food business as well as a low cost way for someone to grab quality food on the go. Low cost also means they can charge less for their food and compete against the brick and mortars (depending on the city and food, this may not always be true). By being able to keep your costs low and providing a quality product at a reasonable cost, any business will be on the right path for financial success.
Be Social – Being social is more than just creating social media accounts. Food trucks were early adopters to using Twitter as a way of letting their customers know where they were or if they were changing their menus. The constant interaction allowed them to also understand what their customers wanted. Not all businesses can be as adaptable, but they can be as social as possible. If social media isn’t a strong suit or you are not seeing results, try being social in other ways such as networking or attending events. Social media is important, but we can’t forget that meeting and interacting with people in real life is just as important, especially with those who are in the same business or experiencing the same issues. It takes a community to raise a child, it takes a business community to grow a business.
Be Where Your Consumers Are – Obviously, food trucks have an advantage in being able to go where their consumers are. The key take away is knowing who your target is and being able to put yourself or product in front of them. This is not always intuitive. Knowing who and where to target is essential, but it is also essential to know how your product is being received and used. Do your due diligence when creating your marketing strategy and make sure to consider how your consumers may vary their approach to finding your product or service. If you’re appealing to a young demographic and provide some sort of freeware, than social media may be a good location for your digital presence; however, if you’re selling a niche good with a small market, then SEM might be where you should focus.
Perception – Quite simply: You can have the best product or service, but if your consumer perceives it as low quality, you’ll quickly find yourself out of business. Food Trucks are a great example of this and I find myself completely disregarding the trucks with poor design, rusty bumpers, or lazy presentation for the more fancy trucks with graphic vinyl wrapping and creative food choices. Perception can be everything in most industries and is the main reason companies form strong brands. For food trucks, they are highly visible entities and the higher the visibility, the more important perception is. In a start-up perception from outsiders is important to not only reach the right consumers, but connect to the right people. When starting a business, if little attention is given to perception and branding at the beginning stages, the business could get stuck with a weak brand or negative perception from others. Changing this can take a lot of energy (and money) away from more critical things and create a long unnecessary road to success. Invest in the perception of your brand!
Its More Than Your Product – This relates closely to the previous section. With the amount of competition there is today and the ability for others to enter and exit markets, building a great product isn’t then end of the road. No matter what business you are in, people should be a top priority. No one likes to turn away from a great product because they had a bad experience with a company representative. With food trucks, sometimes their personalities are their selling point. Being able to draw customers in, forming relationships and getting repeat business is a huge factor. Not all industries have a large amount of interaction with people, but everyone at some point relies on others for something. Just remember, the greatest asset you have is yourself, so why not be the best you can be?
215 Marketing, Over and Out.