From ingredient suppliers to retailers, everyone in the natural product supply chain is collaborating more closely to meet shoppers’ expectations for products they can trust. At the center of this process lies you, the product marketer. While more scrutiny of the supply chain inevitably requires increased coordination and paperwork, it also presents a tremendous opportunity to strengthen your marketing message and reach a more targeted audience with information that will win customer loyalty.
As product marketers, we’re uniquely positioned to interact with both suppliers and retailers, making it much easier to leverage the supply chain for marketing purposes. While the idea of everyone working together for marketing success may seem obvious, pulling it off can be complicated. If product marketers work closely with both suppliers and retailers to “quarterback” or lead product campaigns in a highly coordinated fashion, they are more likely to reach an audience ready to purchase.
Strong Messaging through Suppliers
Supplement consumers want to be assured that the products they purchase contain quality ingredients, in amounts that are effective. As the product marketer, you know best how to deliver this message.
Leveraging the relationship with your ingredient suppliers to create strong, science-backed product messaging should form the backbone of your marketing campaign. This type of planning starts during the product development stage. Sometimes, the published benefits that accompany an ingredient don’t fit with the manufacturer’s product positioning—or, worse yet, make claims not allowed for marketing dietary supplements. Working together with your suppliers from the very beginning can help you sidestep a messaging mismatch.
In addition, partnering with suppliers that have conducted studies to support product benefits or with suppliers willing to cosponsor a clinical trial designed to test perceived benefits will make your job of telling a science-backed, engaging product story that much more effective. Just be sure the science you use references the specific product or branded ingredient so the connection is clear to the consumer. Also, working closely with the supplier to gather safety and efficacy details of the product ingredients reinforces the quality image of the finished product and become part of the consumer-focused message.
Once you have the messaging down, you can engage your audience in all types of ways, using video, social media posts, infographics, and your brand’s blog to tell different aspects of the product story, depending on the channel. The big ideas that come from the content you produce will also lend themselves to more traditional marketing components like print ads and trade show booths. Giving consumers a peek at the details of what makes your product effective builds genuine brand trust much faster than a slick tagline.
Time to Give Away Your Content
On the other end of the supply chain—the retail end—consumer product campaigns are often designed to reach a large audience. When large budgets exist for a product launch, a broad campaign reaching as many people as possible is a viable direction. Unfortunately, large budgets are rarely the case in the natural product industry. With a more limited budget, working in the right retail channels to reach the person most likely to buy your product becomes absolutely critical.
Reaching out to a small group of retailers to form an advisory panel will help you to test marketing concepts early on. This process can be done easily via e-mail or a regularly scheduled conference call, and it will help ensure the marketing materials will be relevant for retail customers.
Good content-marketing practices are taking hold with retailers of all types. There is real value in reaching consumers through e-mail newsletters, social media posts, and even in-store education events. Blatant product promotions are no longer making the cut in these channels.
Also, remember that retailers desperately need good content. Most of them have Facebook sites and newsletters to support their stores, yet continually generating information their customers find interesting is extremely time-consuming. Sharing content with retailers helps them save time and it helps you reach the most focused target audience you can find for your product: consumers who already purchase supplements and shop where your product is sold.
In order to effectively share content with retailers, the content needs to be easy for retailers to use. First, make sure the information is genuinely helpful to retailers and their customers; if the benefits of your product are the main focus, the content will read like an ad and you won’t get the engagement you’re seeking. Instead, try supplying content that incorporates the product as part of a larger solution. If you are marketing an exercise recovery product, produce a “Post-Workout Recovery Guide” illustrating five essential steps an athlete should take after a hard workout to ensure proper recovery. Your product will serve as one of the steps, incorporating the science-backed benefits established with the help of your ingredient supplier. Make the guide visually interesting and easy to share. Infographics or slideshows using photos work well for communicating in an easy-to-read, visual way.
Once the content is produced, put your connections with retailers both offline and on the web to work by distributing links back to the content. While a simple web link in an e-mail will do, the easier you make it for retailers to share in their own marketing efforts, the more likely it is that the content will be used. So, take a few minutes to write sample Facebook and Twitter posts and include a photo optimized for each channel. Making the post a simple copy-and-paste exercise for the retailers will provide retailers with interesting content that takes almost no time to share on their sites. Also, write a short paragraph that includes a link that retailers can easily place in their e-newsletter to customers. If the content is helpful and easy to share, it will lead to more links back to your product’s website, helping to grow sales and boost the site’s search engine rankings. Again, think education, not promotion, when developing the content.
The idea of supply chain transparency isn’t limited to consumer concerns over product purity. Communicating the results of a marketing campaign to everyone in the supply chain, regardless of outcome, reinforces the team approach and makes it easier to optimize future campaigns.
Using web analytics to track the campaign will show how successfully the marketing content performed. Using a free analytics tool like Google Analytics makes it easy to convey how many retailers shared the content, what marketing channels performed best for the product, and which messaging garnered the most consumer attention and resulting sales. If you really want to take analytics to the next level, try tracking the success by retail outlet to identify partners for more extensive marketing activities like in-store or online product events.
Sharing campaign results with the entire marketing supply chain team is the perfect way to summarize the team’s efforts and build a sense of ownership throughout the process. Everyone likes to know when their contributions make a difference. A short one-page campaign recap on a regular basis will keep the entire team informed and encourage members to suggest ways to improve future efforts. After all, if a product sells well, everyone in the supply chain benefits.
Follow These Steps to Successful Marketing...
1. Identify Ingredient Benefits with Supplier
- Identify relevant studies
- Plan a cosponsored study
- Gather ingredient production and safety details
2. Craft the Product Story
- Identify the primary, science-based product-benefit statement. What does the product do? How effective is it? Why is it better? How do your suppliers ensure quality?
- Use the ingredient supplier’s information to write supporting product story details
- Test concepts with retailers
- Build content that tells the product story for various channels: social, website, newsletter, etc., using formats that fit each channel (video, infographics, articles)
3. Distribute the Content
- Identify relevant retailer channels
- Incorporate analytics tracking in your digital marketing materials
- Provide retailers with “copy-and-paste” content for each channel
4. Track Results
- Identify which messages and content formats performed best
- Communicate results to the entire supply chain team
- Leverage team member expertise to optimize the campaign and to improve results
As a partner with The Shelton Group (www.sheltongrouppr.com), Todd Paulidevelops marketing strategies for nutrition-focused manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. Todd can be reached at [email protected].
Photo © iStockphoto.com/adisa