“How-to” Document, Sample 1: Marketing a Sustainable Mobile Food Vendor

The following is a one page, randomly chosen excerpt from one of our “How-to” business plans, this one the target marketing section of a plan for a sustainable mobile food vendor.

2.  What is the best method for low-cost advertising to your target market and other promotion?
The following are a list of commonly cited factors by green entrepreneurs working in this space as effective uses of their marketing time and money.
  • Set up an account for yourself at http://www.twitter.com.  Twitter allows you to have ‘followers’, people who sign up to read your posts, called ‘tweets’, that are short:  140 characters long (which is about one sentence).
  • Many mobile food vendors set up twitter accounts so that people who like their food can hear where they are setting up every day.  So when you head out in the morning and set up shop, send a ‘tweet’ and let your followers know your location and if you have any specials going on.  This is a great way to create viral buzz, and build customer loyalty.
  • To generate word of mouth advertising, you’ll need something catchy.  This might be a signature dish (“You have got to try their roasted eggplant falafel wrap”), a unique promotion (“Free chips and guacamole if you have to wait longer than 5 minutes”), or a very unique sign on your cart (if there are mural artists in your town, you might consider employing one of them to create something extravagant, yet tasteful, and very artistic).
  • If you have something unique, plus good food, plus an eco-ethic, people will talk.  If you’re then showing up in the same places over and over, you’ll have a loyal clientele.
Your own website.
  • You’ll need a place where people can find out more about you, so that if they want you to show up at their event, it is convenient for them to research you and make sure you’re the right food option for them.  You should have a sample menu, an “About Us” page where you talk about your commitment to sustainability and healthy food, and a contact page.
  • Further buzz can be generated if you have a blog, which lets customers know of upcoming events, where you’ll be, and any special promos you’ll  be doing.  You can set up your own blog on WordPress that can accommodate this and all the other information in the bullet point above.  If you can set this up yourself, it will cost you roughly $20 per year to have a fully functional, hosted blog with updates as often as you’d like to post them.
  • Yelp is a fast-growing consumer review website where, increasingly, customers are finding out about their local food scene (yelp covers a lot more, but most of their traffic is people looking for reviews on local food & restaurants).
  • You can set up your Yelp profile and let your clients know that they should review you if they like your food and want you to succeed.  This will help establish your web presence that makes you easier to find if someone is looking to hire you for an event.
  • One caveat, however, is to be aware of bad reviews that are suspicious, inaccurate, or spiteful.  One eco-entrepreneur cited that these were likely coming from local fast food restaurant chains unhappy with the competition.  You can counter these by answering below them or posting your own comments, and overwhelm these negative reviews by encouraging your clientele to post their own, happier reviews.
  • Your menus can show what types of dishes you can do for catering events.  You never know when the person who stops by to get a smoothie will be having a family reunion of 40 people in the park a month from now.  Make sure they can call you, refer to your website, and that your healthy and eco-friendly dishes are easily understood and transparent in their ingredients.  If you’re using 50% organic and local produce, advertise that.  Customers may decide just from that that you are the caterer for them and that they want you at their next event.
  • There is no reason this has to be a full menu.  You can print what you need on paper the size of a business card, with your logo, catchphrase, sample menu item names, a link to your website, and your phone number.
Craig’s List.
  • You can post an ad for your catering under “Services” on Craig’s List (www.craigslist.org).   Make sure your ad accurately describes your service.  If you’re using ingredients that are 80% from local farmer’s markets, let people know that.Good terms to use, only if they are genuinely applicable (otherwise it’s greenwashing), and that people will search for are “Organic”, “Vegetarian-Friendly”, “Local”, and “Family owned”.