A couple weeks ago on FoodTruckr, we brought you six advanced food truck marketing strategies to help you grow your business and reach more new customers than ever before. Today, we’re so excited to bring you the second half of that important lesson. If you’re really serious about your truck and you’re ready to take new, tactical approaches to expanding your business, then read on to learn five more advertising strategies for advanced FoodTruckrs!
1. Solicit News Stories
Have you ever watched the news or opened the paper to see a story on a local business in your area? Whether the story is based around human interest or relevant, topical news to your community, chances are good that these stories weren’t all sought out by reporters. In many cases, such stories are actually pitched by the business owners themselves—and the good news is that you can do it, too.
News outlets ranging from local television stations to online magazines are all out there looking for interesting stories, and they rely in part on sources and hot tips to help point them in the right direction. The story could be about anything—it just needs to be interesting, informative, or newsworthy, and most importantly, valuable to the news outlet’s audience.
Now obviously, an entire news story about your truck is good publicity—but you can even enjoy the same benefits simply by pitching a story that’s related to your truck and volunteering to contribute as a source. The trick to creating a good story pitch is to find an interesting, new angle that the writer or journalist can work with. Stories about new food trucks opening in your area might be old hat, but a story about how you and several other local food truck owners are working together to revitalize an area and build a brand new food truck park is a fresh take that people will be interested to hear.
Here are a few tips to help your story pitch get noticed:
- Send it to the right person. Figure out which section of the newspaper or segment of the local news the story would belong in, and contact that department or journalist directly.
- Include as many details and facts as you can. Journalists are busy people. Give them enough information in your opening pitch so that they can determine whether or not your story has legs and how easy it will be to pursue. Use facts, names, and specific locations wherever possible.
- Don’t harass the news outlet. The people or news departments that you contact may not be interested in your story. If that’s the case, accept it and let the story go—or try sending it to another source.
- Don’t expect to receive compensation. News outlets will almost certainly not pay you for the story idea or for appearing as a source in their publication. Don’t expect to receive any type of payment or compensation (beyond the free publicity!) for your time or effort.
2. Write Press Releases
In addition to seeking out coverage in newspapers, magazines, and television, you can also spread the word about your truck by writing and distributing press releases to the media. Press releases are a great way to garner attention, as they will typically be distributed to multiple channels and may be picked up by a number of news sources. That means more eyes on your story and more potential customers visiting your website to see what your truck is all about.
Again, the basic key to establishing how successful a press release can be for your food truck lies in whether or not you have something newsworthy to tell. Press releases are typically written for events such as when companies have new launches, receive awards or special honors, or new leadership comes into place. For food truck owners, relevant press release topics could include items such as an expansion to a second truck or a brick and mortar location, a special event you’re holding at your truck, or a release to announce the innovative new cooking process you’re using onboard.
You can either hire someone to write press releases for your truck or attempt to write your own. If you opt to compile your own releases, here are the basic components you’ll need to include:
- A news-worthy headline (that doesn’t overly promote your business)
- A dateline and introductory paragraph (sets the scene for your story by establishing the location and time as well as the most important facts of the release)
- A brief summary (a few sentences summarizing the information in your press release, including the who, what, when, where, and why)
- The body copy (the meat of your press release—anywhere from around 250-800 words telling the story with content, quotations, and statistics)
- The boilerplate (a general “About” statement describing your business)
- Contact information (your name, truck name, website, phone number, and email address)
For more information on writing and publishing effective press releases, check out this guide from CBS News.
3. Create a Street Team for Your Truck
The model of street teams as a marketing strategy was originally popularized in the music industry—but it has since proven to be an effective advertising method for platforms ranging from local coffee shops to independent authors. We don’t know of any food trucks that have street teams working for them (yet), but we think that this method of marketing is a natural fit for FoodTruckrs.
- The idea of a street team aligns well with the spirit of the food truck industry. Though food trucks are becoming more and more popular every day, getting one up and running is still an incredible feat—one that was only made possible by you sticking with your goal one form, one new government barrier, and one equipment purchase at a time. A street team for your truck functions similarly: Street team members will be doing their best to spread the word about your truck one poster, one conversation, and one event at a time.
- Street teams are made up of your biggest supporters. First of all, street teams are effective because the people on them are some of your biggest fans. Think about it—street team members are people who are volunteering their own time solely to help you. Though you may be providing them with small perks in return, their primary goal is to support your mission.
- Street team members seem more authentic to new customers than other forms of advertising. Television ads, social media posts, and coupons are all great ways to attract potential customers—but there are few things more persuasive or trustworthy than a real person standing in front of you and telling you why something is worth your attention.
- Street teams typically work for free. Again, though you may compensate your street team members in some way (such as discounted meals and free swag), their time and marketing efforts are effectively free. A street team can save you a ton of money and time by spreading the word about you and advertising your truck on their own.
To learn more about street teams and how to effectively recruit one for your truck, check out this blog series from SimpleCrew.com.
4. Order Branded Plates, Cups, and Serving Materials
FoodTruckrs in the early stages of their businesses are typically looking for as many areas where they can cut costs as possible—and as a result, many of them opt for plain cardboard containers, paper plates, and white Styrofoam cups when they’re figuring out how they’ll serve their food. Those options are all fine and good in the early stages of your business—but as your truck expands and you begin to grow, we believe it’s important to take your paper products to the next level by ordering branded materials.
For starters, branded to-go containers and cups make your truck look more professional—and they can be an effective way to incorporate your food truck’s brand into each customer’s experience. However, the most important reason to opt for branded serving materials is because they offer a convenient and powerful way to continue marketing your truck even when your customers are on their way back to the office.
Branded serving materials are more memorable than plain containers that customers may receive at any old restaurant—think, for instance, of Chipotle’s memorable cups and bags (including those featuring their new Cultivating Thought author series) or the red cups Starbucks uses during the holiday season (which have even inspired their own countdown website). They say something about your truck, and they remind customers instantly of the delicious meal they enjoyed every time they go to take a drink for the rest of the afternoon or when they see their leftovers sitting in the refrigerator.
Furthermore, branded serving materials also offer you a free place to promote things like your food truck’s website, Yelp page, or Facebook and Twitter pages. Personalizing your truck’s to-go containers, cups, and paper sacks doesn’t cost much more than buying the plain, unmarked versions instead, and it’s a great way to provide customers with more exposure to the places where they can check you out online.
5. Institute a Loyalty Program
Our final advanced marketing strategy is one that we talked about earlier in the “How to Run a Food Truck” series in our lesson on promotions to turn casual customers into true fans. However, it’s such an important tactic and one that we believe in so strongly that we wanted to highlight it again in this lesson. We’re talking, of course, about loyalty programs.
Here’s the thing: the concept of creating a loyalty program for your food truck isn’t particularly advanced or complicated, but the actual work that it takes to set one up (and maintain it) effectively is. We’ve seen a lot of different loyalty programs at a lot of different businesses, and we know that many companies aren’t really using them to their full advantage.
There are tons of different ways to go about setting up your loyalty program—but no matter which method you choose, you should aim to make sure that it performs in the following ways:
- Loyalty programs should show fans that you care. The entire purpose of a loyalty program is to reward your customers for their continued patronage. Your program shouldn’t be secret or hard to learn about, and it shouldn’t be difficult to become a member. Rather, you should be promoting your program frequently and regularly sending out messages of thanks and special offers that are exclusively for your biggest fans.
- Loyalty programs should encourage customers to visit more frequently. A good loyalty program incentivizes customers to visit more often and to order more when they’re at your truck. Your program should offer rewards, coupons, and bonuses to bring customers to your ordering window—and to give them a reason to look forward to their next visit even as they’re leaving.
- Loyalty programs should offer insights into your audience. Finally, to truly get the most benefit from your loyalty program, you should be gleaning insights about your customers and their buying behaviors from the data you’re collecting. Monitoring information such as how frequently customers redeem rewards, the demographics of your audience, and how much people spend in the average transaction can help you learn more about what your customers really want—and help you to make better decisions about your business.
Though instituting an effective loyalty program does require some time (and possibly a monetary investment) on your part, the rewards it can bring you are truly immeasurable. Loyalty programs are a fantastic long-term marketing strategy that will help your food truck grow to its full potential.
Take Your Truck to the Next Level
We hope that the advanced marketing tips in this lesson and those we presented in Lesson 22A will inspire you and drive you to aim even higher in your food truck business goals. We’ve seen so many successful FoodTruckrs develop their businesses even further by using strategies similar to those outlined here, and we firmly believe that every food truck owner can unlock the same potential in his or her truck by following these important principles.
If you’re feeling prepared to keep working hard and take the next step in advancing your business, our next unit is for you! In the final few lessons of the “How to Run a Food Truck” series, we’ll be focusing on goal-setting—figuring out what’s next for your truck and some of the unique paths you can take to get there. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting new lesson!
In the meantime, we want to know more about what you’re doing to advertise your truck. How much do you spend on marketing in an average month? What’s your favorite way to attract new customers to your business? Tell us about your most effective marketing strategies in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter pages!
image by Joe Goldberg