--Whole Foods continues to dominate the natural foods market.
--Mainstream grocery stores are selling more natural foods,
--Niche markets continue to focus on demographic groups co-ops hold dear
Meanwhile, food cooperatives are often not inclined to use the traditional tools of marketing, relying instead on newsletters (a limited—even flawed— marketing tool), word-of-mouth, and the goodwill of their communities.
A good marketing strategy has to encourage your existing membership to buy more food, but it has to continually reach out beyond your inner circle of friends and invite new people into the fold.
A good marketing strategy has to respect that potential market’s mindset: your best potential customer is too busy, too inundated in marketing messages, and maybe a little bewildered by cooperative structure.
A good marketing strategy tells succinct truths, is true to brand and has fun.
It invites, never cajoles and it knows that education, at best, beckons via marketing (but alas, your marketing materials can never allow educational messages to flourish—save your best educational efforts for your website, newsletter and in-store information desk.)
Time and time again, I’ve encountered co-ops standing frozen on the precipice: “We know we need to start marketing ourselves, but our situation is unique, and we don’t know where to begin.”
It’s a situation worthy of empathy: marketing isn’t risk free, the stakes are high, and it’s never cheap. Any successful marketing campaign begins with a clearly defined strategy.
Strategy begins with an exacting sense of identity, a definable potential market and a bright-eyed assessment of the marketing vehicles your co-op can bring to the task.