Show Notes

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When starting an artisan food business you might think to start with the product and then work out how to get it to market.

Marcus Carter from the Artisan Food Club says that’s backwards thinking. He suggests starting with a plan for sales and distribution and only THEN working on the product if the business has legs.

In this episode you’ll get a chance to hear about the food industry from a very different viewpoint, how to reduce risk when selling to independent stores, how to use social media to drive traffic to physical stores and much, much more.

We’ve also got a handy resource of the week to help you keep track of all your sales and marketing efforts so you can focus on building your business.

In this episode you’ll learn

  • How to work map out your food business on paper before investing lots of time and money
  • How to work BACKWARDS from sales and distribution to product rather than the other way round.
  • How to reduce risk in selling your products to independent stores
  • How the 80/20 Rule applies to independent stores and selling your food products
  • How to use social media to drive traffic to local stores
  • The Law of Local
  • The importance of getting on the phone to sell your products
  • How the Artisan Food Club is bringing independent stores and food producers together

Notes and Links

Learn more about The Artisan Food Club

Eat17 independent store

The 80/20 Rule or Pareto Principle

Resource of the Week: HubSpot free CRM

Episode Transcript

Guy: [00:00:01] You’re listening to Good Foodies and this is episode 23. Today we’re talking to Marcus Carter about artisan food, reducing risk, and how sales and distribution are key ingredients for any successful food business. So, stay tuned.

Guy: [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to the show. My name is Guy Routledge from Sapling Digital and Eco & Beyond, and I’m joined in the studio today by my co-host Kylie Ackers. Kylie welcome to the show.

Kylie: [00:00:38] Hi.

Guy: [00:00:39] We’ve got lots to talk about today on the subject of artisan food. We’ll be talking to Marcus Carter the owner the director the CEO the everything of the Artisan Food Club and to kind of ease us into that conversation, I thought I’d ask you kindly. Have you ever thought of starting your own food business?

Kylie: [00:00:59] So I have a little bit, but let me share this. It’s a lifelong dream of yours to create your own little deli that has loads of great healthy food. So that’s really our food dream if we ever get there one day, it will be wonderful.

Guy: [00:01:16] Yeah you’re right. For a long time my kind of retirement plan or my dreams of retirement plan and I wonder if it is now more of a dream than a reality was to get to open a deli or a restaurant or something like that. But the more time I spend in this industry of food, as much as I love it, it’s you know the reality of how complex it is setting in.

Kylie: [00:01:37] Yes I think that the allure of food on your doorstep and being surrounded by nice food all day was where the dream came from and then yeah the reality behind this isn’t very different.

Guy: [00:01:48] Yeah I think you’re right and some of those challenges and the struggles and the frustrations and also the money in the business side of things are exactly what we talk about in the conversation with Marcus. So he goes into a lot of detail and talks about some of the ways to work around these issues and some of the things to be aware of because a lot of this information is very hard to come by and so there’s some great stuff in this chat with Marcus. The place that we started off was talking about what it actually means to be an artisan producer.

The Interview

Marcus: [00:02:26] That’s a big question. I generally say it’s something they’re skilled in their craft. So whether it be a food maker or a cabinet maker or anybody, it’s somebody that’s skilled in their profession. And at what point they stop becoming an artisan is a debate that will go on forever, I think.

Guy: [00:02:43] Yeah quite possibly. I mean I think the way that I’d always heard about it is you know something that is made with the hands. So yes with an element of craft to it. But definitely with perhaps more care and attention rather than something that is mass manufactured. Would you agree with that?

Marcus: [00:02:57] Yes definitely. Yeah. I mean yes small production well not, I keep saying “small production” I don’t mean that because you can still be artisan and have a sizable business. Yeah my mum for instance was making over a ton of Pâté a week and we were still making small saucepans, 36 saucepans I think it was all still hand made, hand produced but it was on a bigger scale as we just scaled up production but it was still very much hand made product even on a large scale Yeah.

Guy: [00:03:21] So I guess it’s that care and attention to detail. I mean I was at the CYP Smith distillery recently and they said they still refer to their production method as like small batch and artisan even though there are big and well known brands so yeah. Yeah. I guess it definitely doesn’t mean they’re just a small startup although that’s the kind of people that you do a lot of work with, isn’t it? The start ups and the small producers.

Marcus: [00:03:42] 100 percent yes definitely the people with dreams.

Guy: [00:03:46] The “people with dreams”, it’s a really nice way of putting it. Because sometimes I think people see the small producer or perhaps even more producers feel this themselves and it feels more like a struggle than a dream. I guess it’s that dream that carries them through. Is that the kind of experience that you’ve seen?

Guy: [00:04:00] Yes although I will I do try to bring reality to the dream and that’s what Food Club’s about you know is about getting small producers in the position where they can decide if they want to grow or not grow and what’s actually comfortable and works for them. You know what sort of food business that they’re looking to build things and bring sort of put some reality as well. You know there is you know people say “I want this business” and I’m going “you know that’s a lot of work” for you to build up a 300 or 500 million pound food business. You know that’s not you know an Instagram page. Couple of meetings and that’s five or six years or even 8 years or 10 years of the graph.

Guy: [00:04:39] Yeah, it’s definitely a challenging industry. And I guess it’s because there are so many moving parts. You know you’ve got the physical ingredients, you’ve got the the packaging, the distribution, the sales, the marketing, there’s lots of pieces to it and people like yourself helping the producers work through all of those. Or maybe not through all of those stages but you’re bringing your experience and your background in sales, primarily I think to help them out.

Marcus: [00:05:04] It’s interesting you say that because I actually do exactly what you said but I try and get in to look at it in reverse. I say look at sales. Look at distribution. Look at the way that the business is going to operate. And then if you think you’ve got a business that you can operate then go back and see if you can. If you if you know if the products that make the product if that makes sense.

Guy: [00:05:25] So not starting with the product then saying right how can I take this to the market and who who can I find who will buy this. But you’re saying work in reverse.

Marcus: [00:05:33] I mean obviously if your, you know, if your granny gave you her jam recipe and it’s your granny’s jam recipe that you want to take to market. Brilliant! But keep it as a paper exercise. Keep the food as a paper exercise and then go off and investigate the market, investigate the shops. Talk to some shops. Look at your distribution channel, look at the cost of sending 36 jars of jam to Etting Bools, 36 jars to Exeter, you who’s going to make sales calls what you think your average sale is. You see a lot of sales take at least five phone calls particularly with Altium product, you know between three and five phone calls you know to get an order it’s not you don’t wake up in the morning makes six phone calls and get six orders.

Guy: [00:06:12] Is that five phone calls because it takes five attempts to even get somebody on the call?

Marcus: [00:06:16] No, no. Even a shop that’s all doing so say a shop takes 36 jars of granny’s jam. And you know even after a week or a month and you say “How’s it going?” they say you know what’s going really well we’ve sold 20 or we sold 15. Here you go. That’s fantastic. Let me follow me back in a couple of weeks three weeks further back in three weeks. Well it slowed down a little bit. You sold another four. But you know give me a call back in a fortnight. How’s it doing, great. You know when we sold a few more we’re down to about eight now eight or ten. I tell you what, give me a call next week and then we will put the order in next week and each of those phone calls each one has to be logged in your customer management. You know each, so it’s not you know you don’t know when those 36 jars are going to be sold. So you know and this is where I get you know in the Food Club you know people don’t realize how many phone calls they have to make every day just to get orders.

Guy: [00:07:07] And this is just with one one shop, one supplier, one distributor, perhaps you know that constant checking in to find out what’s going on. Sounds like a very labor intensive process.

Marcus: [00:07:17] Yes. And it’s it can be sold as you know you can have some days you know where you may have 15 phone calls and get 10 orders, another day make 30 phone calls and get no orders.

Guy: [00:07:27] But at least you can say it with a smile on your face and an almost like a knowing laugh like you’ve been there and done this before.

Marcus: [00:07:33] Because I know that as long as the product’s selling you know as long as it’s moves when you phone up a shop and they say “well you know we’ve had the thirty six jars now for two months and you know we’ve sold four” you know you’ve got to make some decisions there. But you know that it’s like the fruit machines in a pub if you keep putting the money in, you’re going to get rewarded. You know but the idea was you get more out than you put in making sales calls. This is tough and a lot of people don’t like doing it you know because. And also a lot of food producers, they feel judged as well. You know when a shop says “no” or something’s not right they do take it very personally.

Guy: [00:08:07] Yeah I think that’s definitely a very common thing. You know you almost feel like your business is your baby and you take it very personally when people say “oh I don’t like the taste of that” or “I don’t like the look of that packaging” or whatever. But I guess perhaps it’s different for different people with different goals and different backgrounds. They perhaps want something different from their business perhaps some people just want to do what they love because they know they have this amazing recipe from granny and that they make the jam on one hand you can turn that into a business but as you’re as you’re saying it’s very challenging to do that. And then on the other hand perhaps someone finds a gap in the market and they see a business opportunity and they kind of see it from a slightly different angle perhaps then they’re not so personally associated with it.

Marcus: [00:08:51] Yes they’re very few and far between those people you know there aren’t many people that see a two year gap and a good example would be Pip and Nut that you know saw a huge gap in the market of peanut butter and you know just went for it. Absolutely storming it. You know as opposed to having a product that she makes and they to take it into the marketplace.

Guy: [00:09:12] Yeah absolutely and I’ve met Pepper a couple of times and in fact she’s due to be on the show. She’s got an amazing product an amazing brand and and yes it’s you know it’s definitely gone beyond that kind of small producer level and an into the mainstream.

Marcus: [00:09:26] Just going back a little bit. I want to be careful to say it is unusual for me. The reason it becomes quite personal is because so many producers and this is quite emotional in the sense of the context that so many producers are doing in the face of their friends and family. So many friends and family have supported them and helped them in those first six months to get some product to market. You know they’ve encouraged them. They’ve spoken about it whenever they’ve had dinner parties or spoke on the phone they’ve spoken about how the chat going all the chance going all the sauce is going and how fantastic it is and how supportive we are of you. So a lot of producers are it get themselves into some tricky situations that you know they’ve almost in a situation where they’re doing it for their friends and family because their friends and family supported them even though you know there’s a point where it might not be working. But they’ve invested quite a lot of the emotional with the product you know and the stopping can be quite hard. You know if something isn’t working which is why I’m so adamant that people need to go forward you know play the game forward play it through to sales it through to distribution before you get too committed and see is it something you want to do. Do you want to be sat on the phone for nine o’clock in the morning till eleven thirty making phone calls. Do you then want to be sent from 2 o’clock till 3 o’clock 3:30 making phone calls, packing orders, shipping goods, following couriers, working with damage delivered or deliveries, lost stock, invoices that don’t get paid you know shops where buyers go on holiday and you can’t get an answer about what they do don’t need stock. So that’s what I try and get people to look at going forward before they get themselves into the commitment of standing up in front of their friends and family and say “this is what I’m going to do for a living”.

Guy: [00:11:09] Yeah so you’ve painted a very vivid picture there of how challenging it can be. But I guess the good news is that there is help out there and you are one person in particular who does help people. But what I think is really encouraging is that you’re also not afraid to say how it is and you’re you’re not saying look come on in to this you know the garden of roses where everything is amazing and the money is flowing and growing on trees is saying look it’s going to be really tough. And I think we have a very similar approach as well. In terms of the way that we talk about you know marketing and that side of thing.

Marcus: [00:11:41] It is very rewarding it’s hugely rewarding but if it’s done in the right order you know if you I mean I’ve been with producers and I’m not 100 percent I’ve been with producers that have got product ready to go on pallets and they haven’t looked at distribution. I’ve got producer, like I see producers in the Food Hub everyday that have spent a year developing a product and not one minute on distribution you know and it’s such a massive part of the business it’s everything. You know you meet the best salesman in the world and you can be the best manufacturer in the world if your distribution isn’t right the whole thing collapses. It is literally the link between you and the shop. I’m talking about independent shops all the time. I’m not in a supermarkets but you know to get 36 jars of anything from one side of the country to the other is an art to it without affecting a wholesale price too much. So a lot of people start at 250 locally to 252, 285 to 295 a jar which is fine. Retail’s thick end to four quid or mid four pounds. But all of a sudden it’s 12 pounds to send 36 jars to Kent. Well all of a sudden you haven’t to a wholesale price up 40 P to cover the distribution 30 P to cover the distribution because you can’t put a delivery charge on and all of a sudden the product is now in the shops at 595.

Guy: [00:12:59] Yeah absolutely. And you know when you factor all these things together it just it shows the complexity of this industry and all of the things that you have to be able to think about and understand. And this information is not very easy to come across. No I mean it’s either it’s very fractured in lots of different places or people they just don’t share that information which I think is why you’re a fantastic example to the food startup community or the food entrepreneur community because you are very willing to help people and to share like coming on podcasts like this, to talk about the industry and some of the challenges to try and help people to either see that they shouldn’t be in business or to see how they can be in business and go ahead and succeed.

Marcus: [00:13:42] Sales to independent shops is easy. 43 53. We’ve gone through it all but most people don’t realize the only selling against the fear of loss. All independent shops worry about is losing money on the stock they buy. I’m not saying they’re not worried about the money the products they make money on but they’re more worried about the products that don’t work. So the less risk you propose as the first initial order, the higher your chances are of making a sale and the higher the risk of the first order, the lower the chances of making a sale. The other thing I find fascinating is the amount of producers that will sit in the meeting trying to get 120 pounds and then a case or two off the shop totally convinced that the product is going to sell but not willing to take any of the risk themselves. They want the shop to take all the risk by parting with 120 pounds in a case on a product that they don’t know whether it’s going to sell or not. If you sat there and offered two mixed cases of 35 quid, the shops now gotta like and go why not. If it works we can go out and do some business if it doesn’t work. I’m not going to lose 35 quid. It is every shop in the UK can sell 35 quids worth of anything. It’s whether the customers that bought that 35 quid can come back and buy again and the trouble with 120 pound order is everybody’s going to buy 30 or 40 quids worth of that 120 quid order then the shopkeeper realizes that all of a sudden the last 80 quid isn’t going to sell. And what the kicker is, is for him to write off that 80 quid. He has to put nearly 400 quid to tell if he’s working on a 20 percent margin. So it’s not the antiquities where he’s out in stock that didn’t sell or give it away. It’s the fact to make that 80 quid back in money he has to put forward a pounds with the till and for a lot of shops outside London that’s half of these trading. So the risk when you’re sat there going “my product is the best product in the world it’s absolutely fantastic”. Take the risk if you’re so convinced it’s gonna sell off on sale return or offer a small introduction although I’m so convinced it’s going to sell I don’t want you to take any risk.

Guy: [00:15:42] That’s a great way to approach it. And I really like the idea of you know it’s kind of like the win-win situation where you’re trying to meet somebody you meeting someone in the middle but you both benefit in some way because even if you take the product in there and you lower you offer it at a much lower price than what you would like to sell it for. You can still get some data you can get some feedback you can go through the experience end to end of making that first deal or making the next deal. And it can start the relationship.

Marcus: [00:16:08] But it’s beyond both in an unknown quantity. I say to producers all the time when you walk into a shop not that many do. When you walk into a shop to a cold caller you phone up to make a cold call. You’re what I call a “scratch card”. The shopkeeper looks at you as a scratch card a you’re either a scratch card that they want to buy or a scratch card they don’t really know what they’re going to win. They’re happy to scratch the card but only if it costs plenty of the quid because you could be a two or three thousand pound a year account or you could be 120 quid order that he ends up bidding 80 quid or you could be a 35 quid investment that didn’t really work out but you got your money back and nothing ventured nothing gained.

Guy: [00:16:46] And so it’s interesting the way that you talk about this and we’ve gone through quite a lot of the the problems and the struggles and you’ve given some amazing information and insight into kind of how the business mind of the independent shop works. What are your thoughts on how online shopping and social media and how all that stuff fits together? Is that a way to take your product to the people rather than taking it to the shops who then attract that the people in the local area?

Marcus: [00:17:13] My general view is anything you do so say is you start supplying the shop okay in Cardiff or anywhere in the UK. Any money that you spend promoting your product outside of that shop is questionable about who’s going to see it because the chances of you having enough money to push somebody into that store has a zero in my books and I know there are people out there, bear with me, money needs to be spent in the store. As soon as you step outside of the shop, even one step that you’re in the most noisy is a place that we’ve ever been in so far as information to consumers go, you’re suddenly competing against Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, British Airways, Virgin Trains; they’re all out there making the same noise on the street and you’re trying to say “Oh I make chutney and until my family make it” and you know there’s two of us and you know we were in ten shots and then you hear me. No, they can’t. Coca-Cola was shouting a lot louder inside the shop. You’ve got every chance of convincing a consumer to buy your product, improve shelf wobblers, through tastings, through staff trainings, however you want to do it you know posters. I’ve never seen, buy one get one free deals in shops or anything like that. But you know there’s a lot of ways you can promote your product in the shop. Plus you’ve got a consumer that’s come into the shop to buy something you know to try and stop somebody that’s walking past the shop to go to the hairdressers who saw an article and then decided to pop into the deli to find your product is zero. So in my books, I think I’m still answering the question, is social media is brilliant for you. What I call them what are they called, “culture carriers”. You know the people that like your product.

Guy: [00:19:04] Yeah. Your tribe of people.

Marcus: [00:19:06] Yeah, your tribe. if you can get your tribe to tell other people about it. Brilliant. But once you start going outside of there it’s a very expensive game. You know I saw there was a jingle the company launching something on telly the other day with a 30 second commercial about a vitamin based thing and I thought blimey you know there’s that there’s a company with millions of pounds trying to convince me that you know next time in scenes will Tesco or wherever it is I should look this product. But for a small producer you know it’s not really an option.

Guy: [00:19:35] And I think certainly going for the broad mainstream approach of kind of trying to be a small producer that copies Coca-Cola definitely doesn’t work. I think there are some ways to approach it as a small producer.

Marcus: [00:19:46] Facebook ads I think a it and what shops what producing myth is that if you launch of your jams in a shop and you’d run a Facebook ad in that area for people in that area that like jam and they go into the shop to buy, you’re now driving traffic into that shop for that retailer. You’ve now become a demiGod in the retailers mind you know if somebody comes in and says I saw Facebook the other day. I mean to buy this jam, how much is that retailer going to like you as a as a supplier and their seven pound a week you know or 7 pound whatever it is you can run a Facebook out in Tunbridge Wells for people like jam or enjoy breakfast or you know there’s ways you can work those Facebook out that are very clever.

Guy: [00:20:28] Absolutely. And it kind of goes back to touching on what you mentioned earlier about if you can go to the shop owner and reduce the risk then they’re much more likely to give you a chance. It’s much more meeting them in the middle so if you can go in and say “hey, here is some some product we want to test it out” is 35 quid whatever and then you drive a load of traffic into their store and they all say “Oh I came from you know so and so’s granola or so and so’s cold pressed juice. They will be amazing and they’re much more likely to give you another another stab.

Marcus: [00:20:57] I will say this is not a broad brush stroke by any means but a lot of food producers think that the shop is their customer and if the shop is only the holder of the stock the shop is your, you know the person that does hold the stock for the consumer to buy it and shops only reorder products that consumers are buying. If you don’t help the shop in some way get the consumers to buy it, you will just get a lot of first and second orders you know and you can tell that that was too funny. There’s a lot of companies that can get 20 or 30 shots in the first say six weeks to take their stock. “How’s it going?” “Our sales are great. We’ve got 20 shops in the first week”. You phone them up three months later. Not good. None of them we ordered. They all took a first order but nobody we ordered and I say in the Food Club all the time you know we get first we get products going into shops and then reorder, and reorder’s a key. You know it’s a shop isn’t really a customer until place the orders. We used to say that a patchwork years ago you know our customers know a customer to leave water three times because anybody or buy stock once and they might mistakenly buy it twice but they’ll never buy it three times unless consumers are buying it.

Guy: [00:22:11] Really really interesting. And so we’ve talked a lot about the industry and some of these challenges and some of the some of the approaches and how you can kind of stack the odds in your favor a little bit in terms of reducing risk and going into lots of shops and lots of places perhaps leveraging social media and Facebook ads and stuff like that. Let’s talk about the Food Club. So can you tell me exactly what it is and what you do for people?

Marcus: [00:22:35] You know it’s so funny. I’ve spent years spent five years trying to work out what is right. So today. This is why I think it is today is. Ultimately, it’s a way for small independent shops the order of multiple small suppliers. They only get one invoice a month. So a lot of shops want to work with small suppliers, want to work with new up and coming brands that are in maybe their local area and three other shops. So they got a huge point of difference. What they don’t want is an invoice with every order because you know some of these small run shops are looking between 3 and 5 at that invoice month that they’re having to process just to put stock on the shelf.

Guy: [00:23:17] It’s a paperwork nightmare.

Marcus: [00:23:19] Yes it’s beyond a nightmare you know and it’s all just this huge paper trail. So a lot of small shops end up working with wholesalers excluding then the small startups because they can’t work with the wholesalers. Just to just to make the paperwork easier and make the deliveries easier. Now seventeen’s had a very interesting thing about four years ago five years ago in the magazine. You know we work with a lot of small suppliers direct, it means a lot of work for the guys in the shop because a lot of small orders are coming in but the sales warranty you know because it’s different you know people go into each 70 knowing that they’re going to find products that they might not see in other shops in the area because James or just Shevonne or just SAFTA or Andrew have sourced products all over the UK from small producers but it also brings a huge point difference but it also brings work and I sometimes you know what I’m trying to do is help farm shops and delis and butchers work with small producers with less hassle.

Guy: [00:24:16] It’s a nice simple way of putting it. I don’t know why it’s taken you five years to say that.

Marcus: [00:24:21] The wholesalers can’t be taking on these small producers. I mean cultural fare can’t take on the little jams supplying, and that’s supplying for shops. You know it just doesn’t work for the shops I work with. It does help them because it’s actually a nice product well branded it’s a great taste you know to work with that lady direct or that gentleman direct is a lot of work and I just want to give these people this little gap in the middle between starts up and went and what I try to do is get it built up. I’m not saying I have I take any credit but you know the sauce shop was right at the beginning Frankie a beetroot catch up or foraging Fox I helped to get a few shopped and she went on and grew. You know when I’ll include a business in that, that’s what I want is to give people the leg up and the confidence in those first six months or first year or first 18 months that actually the product sales when they’re not involved because everybody can sell their own food. There isn’t a producer in the country that counts an awful locally in fact I always say it’s the law of the local for local produce that goes into a local shop they’re only asking how many they want. They’re not asking whether it’s normal or not you know the law of local says the local shop has to buy off the local produce but can that products sell outside the local area and that’s what I try and help people do.

Guy: [00:25:30] That’s brilliant and so and you’re taking some of those painful things that people either aren’t very good at or they don’t like. So you’re doing sales and paperwork effectively which are two things that a lot of people find very challenging or that they find very kind of mundane and frustrating and just taking those pains away. How would somebody get started with you if they were a producer and they wanted to to work with you?

Marcus: [00:25:50] Phone me up. Just phone me up. I get so many emails from producers say “Hi Marcus so show me met somebody and they said the food is fantastic” and I go “brilliant”. I said “Thanks a lot. Give me a phone call tomorrow and we can have a chat” and I would say two in ten people phoned me back and I’m like, I don’t understand why you sent the email. I don’t understand why, my view is if you’re not willing to phone me, it’s not a great way to start this if you’re not willing to tell me. It’s unlikely any phone shop. So it’s a tricky one you know because that means you’ve gotta be willing to get on the phone and talk to me. If a producer phoned me up I say to them I’d work with you quite happily. I had a guy that makes a dessert, phoned me up at six o’clock on a Saturday night and I thought it was a wrong number and I said what I don’t understand he said. I said I want to join the Food Club and I mean, I’ve heard about you and I wanted to tell you about my tiramisu. It was a French guy and I’d say he’d think in this guy’s phoning me at six o’clock on a Saturday night to pitch his product what’s he going to be like during the day he’s going to be massive, it he’s Clippy you know absolutely bang on it you know I mean I’m not there’s some fundamental things in food production you know and phoning people up is one of them and so many people rely on emails now you know I get emails you know if you’re interested please owed me I’m like, what have you’ve got to make something you know make some phone calls.

Guy: [00:27:13] It’s really interesting because I saw on your website that there’s even quite a humorous little thing that says “Here’s my email address, but if I don’t reply which, I probably won’t because I’m not very good on email, then give me a call here’s my phone number” which I thought was really funny and I guess I’m of the modern age and I like everything digital because I don’t have to talk to anyone. And it’s faster and they can reply on their own terms which I think is more interesting and more important. That point about if you’re not willing to call me to talk about pitching your product and getting into the shops, then you’re unlikely to be willing to call the shops yourself. So it’s almost you’re using it as a bit of a filter to see if people are now stepping up to the plate.

Marcus: [00:27:52] Yeah. My wife’s an executive coach and works with them and her thing and her golden rule is if somebody doesn’t own, then you can’t start. You can’t force people you know and I know there’s you know on that contradict myself to a certain degree because I am here to help people. But you know there’s you’ve got to have some basic skills people skills is and it’s dying out in my book. You know that disability. I mean I always say it’s I call it the “chimney test” that you should be up to a job if you’re in sales you should be able to go down the chimney in any house and start talking to the person you’d be happily, in a very nice way. But so many people when you just got to talk to people and it’s a dying art. It might but you know. You know I see companies trying to build online businesses and shop and also shops are very insular you know shop like people talk to you know they like speaking to people they like speaking to suppliers. I mean the whole concept of the Food Club is to bring shops and producers together, not apart. You know if I find a shop for a producer and send in orders, I really hope that the producer phones up the shop to say “thank you” talk about product, because don’t forget the shops buying into the invoicing system. They’re not trying to bypass the producer. They still want to talk to the producer. What they don’t want is the producer sending them 24 invoices a year but they still want to talk. So the motto for the Food Club’s always been “bringing shops and producers together”. That’s what the Food Club is all about. But I would still say very few that producers actually phone shops and a lot of producers only phone shops for orders or debt collecting. I say to anybody when’s your last phone a shop up just to say “hi”. I’ve never done that. I said when are you ever called into a shop just to see if everything’s alright. No agenda just popped in to say “hi”. Even went to the cafe next door bought a few donuts took them in and said “thanks for your business. I was passing by the block and bought a couple donuts for you” check they don’t sell donuts of course. Never a good one that one. But you know I mean it’s just you know I mean I’ve got butchers. I constantly drop you know chocolate eclairs and things into when I’m in town.

Guy: [00:29:49] It’s a people business, isn’t it? And it kind of makes sense because food is such a people related thing I mean, yes you could cook up an amazing 3 course meal and eat it by yourself, but it doesn’t really have the same feel to it as if you’re sitting down and enjoying and sharing and having all the conversation that goes along with their terms.

Marcus: [00:30:06] A lot of independent food shops really like hearing from them. We supply Whole Foods. We got 32 brands in Whole Foods and I have you know I keep saying to all the suppliers you know all the people in the shops all the the teams the grocery teams all specialty teams in Whole Foods they crave people coming in to talk to them and talk about the product for ten minutes. You know spending 10 minutes talking to the grocery buyer in cans until Piccadilly or Fuller. It’s a fantastic 10 minutes for your brand. There’s a guy. That is it go away. When I was living in London he was all over Whole Foods everywhere I went. He was in the back room in the front of the house you know in what you know just getting to know all the buyers, you know and they really get interested in brands where people come and spend time with them it’s the same with independent shops. You know they love hearing the stories after the product selling a lot of producers go in and try and give the full story on day one in the page and they’re like well that’s a lot of information. But as your relationship grows you know and that’s what you’re building a relationship. You know a CRM. I use capturable but it’s a customer relationship management tool. It helped me manage my relationships so continuity of conversations and there were people or you know we’ve built a long relationship. Talk about holidays it’s no problems I’ve had with my little boy and it chops I’ve got deep relationships with shops so.

Guy: [00:31:25] It’s so important and even just the small kind of things. Going into the shop to say “hi” I mean even if your agenda is to go and check to see where the product is and how much is left then maybe treat it like that but then go and you know find the people who you’re working with as well to to build that face to face relationship. I mean just those small little things will make you stand out make him memorable and and really go a long way I’m sure.

Marcus: [00:31:48] But I’ve heard I hear shots you the other thing is a bit careful. I do believe this. I’m one of the few people in the UK who’s got 100. Sorry I going to say 100 percent 360 view but the 360 view is above that one of the few people with a 360 view of the industry I’ve done everything. I’ve done wholesale, I’ve done manufacturing, I’ve launched brands, I’ve done sales, I’ve done, I’ve done everything. So when I look at somebody’s business in one area I wouldn’t automatically see the knock on effects throughout the whole process. You know and it’s really important. You know so many producers are so close to having very successful businesses but their minimum orders just 40 or 50 quid in the wrong direction. The way that they’ve set their case sizes up is just slightly wrong. It’s just the wrong amount. You know they got if they went from 12 to 6 is their sales would increase. Just little things like that, that nobody would really really consider. But you know if you look at the thing from right from conception right through to the consumer we to get to the way I look at it and not one area and there’s a lot of people that are very specialists in areas. But you know I’ve got this full 360 view and it’s so many producers are so close to successful business.

Guy: [00:33:01] Yeah and we really want to help them all kind of get over that line and so they can start enjoying it and reaping the benefits rather than feeling like they’re a failure in front of their family who they’ve know maybe been with them for so long.

Marcus: [00:33:13] But enjoying the business as it is you know I say funnily enough as we’ve gotten Bannon’s modern from Rob from the bench yesterday you know and I say to so many producers you could buy 25 local shops to farmers markets and foreshocks to the farmers through the Food Club and have a really nice business you know actually making money. You could still have a part time job, you spend the weekend with the kids, you pick your kids up from school, and you got the afternoons to play or you can go down the road of having two distributors, 600 shops you know trying to chase a supermarket account for the next three years and all the problems that come with that and not have any kind of social life or personal enjoyment out of the business. And what’s interesting is you could be in working with these two to help me a general here. You could be with these two distributors supplying 600 shops and maybe making actually less money than that small little 30 shop business at home to farmers markets that you run each week and that’s the fact. That’s the interesting point is the cost of growth is massive so many producers say to me you know well when we grow production we’ll get slicker ingredients costs will go down and profit will be. I’m like hang on a sec. If you go from ten thousand to hundred thousand, you’re going to need at least one person where there’s 18 grand but you don’t have to make a lot of savings on ingredients to make 18 grand and then that still doesn’t alter the wholesale price. You know it gets to two hundred grand, you know got three people you know you know you got 45 grand in payroll or hang on, I haven’t talked about that.

Guy: [00:34:45] And that’s why a kind of looping back to what you said to begin with is you want to work backwards from what is the kind of what is the goal, what is the end in mind, how are we going to get it to people that did the distribution aspect of it, how are we going to sell it. What is the price going to be and kind of working all the way back to right now that we’ve looked at it on paper. A) do we want to do this and B) how can we make a product which ticks all the boxes and gets us from that from where we are to where we want to be.

Marcus: [00:35:10] The sales is beginning middle and end of it. There isn’t one problem in any independent food business in the UK at the moment that wouldn’t be sold as sales. Every problem that every food producers got is 95 percent of the time that due to lack of sales and that fixes everything. You know but it’s but it’s tough you know if you want to be in I always say if you’ve got ten shops, two will be great, four will be good or be bad which to be pretty bad, but if you want four good shops, you now only 20 on the books if you want six good shops, you need 30 on the books or managing 30 shops to actually listen where the 820 will comes in. You mean the 80/20 rule in independent shops is exactly right. You know 80 percent of your business will come from 20 percent of your accounts but you need the other eight shops in ten in order for the whole matrix to work. You can’t just find find two and then eight you’ve got to keep working with everybody because you know some of them will slowly creep up. Most of them but where they where they start but it’s really important that you know it’s just about finding new shops getting as many new shops on as broad as possible and finding where the consumers buy your product. And a lot of people say to me “oh I’ve got a fantastic shop” I see you have got a fantastic shop you’ve found a fantastic group of consumers to buy lots of your product. Oh yeah makes sense.

Guy: [00:36:29] So you either need to go find more shops or find more of those consumers which you know both of those are challenging but they are perhaps the secret to unlocking success. Marcus, we could talk for hours about all this stuff. There’s there’s so much that I wanted to touch on that we haven’t had a chance to. But you’ve kind of dropped so much knowledge that is so so valuable. We’re really grateful for all of that insight.

Marcus: [00:36:51] I did want to just quickly say that you and I have been working on the code of conduct for the best part of three months now and yeah and I’m really excited you know a lot of problems independent shops have worked with small producers is the erratic service that they receive. You know they could have 10 small suppliers that they’ve taken on, four could be absolutely fantastic, and six of them. I mean I hear so many shops say to me “you know what Marcus, it’s a great product. We really like it. But you know we’re placing orders with them is just too much work”. I was with Marketplace Farm yesterday. This is Dan’s Farm in Devon 25,000 visitors a week or something they get he said I’ve been trying to work. He said I’ve been trying to get hold of the supply for two months and they won’t pick up they are Coggins return at all. That’s a buyer but darts trying to contact a supplier for two months and haven’t returned to call. But you can see where the shops start to get a little bit you know what about the thoughts of taking a loss as opposed to the idea of the code of conduct. It’s a 20 page document. It’s for producers in the Food Club and they’ll get a mark or a badge on the page to say that they they’ve been through the code they’ve been through the questionnaire and they’ve had a 20 minute interview with me or 80 to check that they understand it, which means that the shops get together very consistent level of service that if they price an order with me as a dropship wholesaler that that product in that order is going to arrive within three to five days and if it doesn’t arrive within three to five days there’s going to be a process in place to fix it. Get it sorted out and get the issue resolved and the stock back to the shop as quickly as possible.

Guy: [00:38:20] Sounds like a great plan and this is something that you’ve released recently. How how do people get hold of that?

Marcus: [00:38:25] Well it’s a we’re just in the middle of a we bought an admin fee into the Food Club of just under 20 pounds a year. Now because there’s a lot of value being in the Food Club now. People are starting to sign up to that and then when they sign up to that we released the code and then they get to put them on the training. And it’s a really important. The amount of food producers in the industry at the moment that have they haven’t got a blueprint at all to follow when it comes to supplying shops. Most food producers have an interpretation of supplying a shop based on what they think it should be. Yet it’s absolutely crucial because if a shopper let down on supply the way I say see is if a shopper needs 36 jobs we keep talking about 36 jars of jam.

Guy: [00:39:07] It’s clearly the magic number.

Marcus: [00:39:10] That is normally six cases of.So 36 jars of jam. Normally, most orders in the independent food shop world are triggered by consumer coming in saying “John, where’s the jam?”. Jesus, we’ve run out. Okay, let me get onto the supplier and get an order. So normally it means that the consumers told the shopkeeper that they’ve grown out a lot of shops are organized but most shops. The consumer will tell them they went out because they got so much stock they can’t keep on top. So when the supplier then takes three weeks to get that order to the shop. There’s a lot of people have come in to buy. And don’t forget if a shop places an audit because they got consumers buying it so the shopkeepers now stood there for the next 14, 20 days. Somebody comes in and says “where’s the jam?”. He goes “I’ve ordered it. When is it going to be in?”. And he has to say I don’t know what he has to say to his best customers. I don’t actually know when it’s going to be because I’m never too sure when the orders are going to arrive and then what happens is after three weeks, the shop finally gets sick of people coming in asking where this jam is because it’s actually quite good seller. They phone up the supplier, the supplier said oh and then I said about two weeks ago let me have a look. Oh I’ve just looked on the ABC Bruyere log and it says that there was a problem with it and it’s still at the depot. I didn’t realize because they don’t check the courier logs and then the shop’s thinking, you’re kidding me. So I’ve missed two weeks of sales because you didn’t have five minutes to check the courier log because I hear that all the time in the in the Food Club. So what I want to try and do is bring a lot of consistency in the day for shop places an order with a customer with a producer in the Food Club, that they know within three to five days it’s going to arrive and if it’s not gonna arrive it’s reached five days that they are going to be fully updated daily as to where the product and where the the problem is and no shop in the country minds when the product gets delivered as long as they know when it’s going to get delivered. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Guy: [00:41:06] No, it’s fantastic and it’s so important to bring that kind of systematic and process driven way of thinking to things because then you can be like. Right. This is what we need to do. These are the steps. This is the order and now I can just go about actually getting it done. Whereas when you first start out you kind of you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t know what the steps are. You don’t know what the prices should be you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get your first orders. You don’t. There’s so much and that’s why it’s you know it’s great to have people like you waving the flag A) for the artisan producer or the small producer and. And also you know helping with the club and with the training that you offer in there and with now there’s this code of conduct just so that everybody’s on the same page. One question that I always like to end with with everybody if you can, what is one piece of advice that you would give to small producers who are looking to grow their food business?

Marcus: [00:42:02] Sales and distribution. Nail your sales and distribution and whatever you’ve got to put through it will work a treat. But don’t just think because you’ve got a product that sales and distribution will work on its own. Sales and distribution are 80 percent of the job and the products you’ve got is about 20 percent of the job. And don’t you don’t think that a great product will sell and deliver it.

Guy: [00:42:23] So that was Marcus Carter from the Artisan Food Club. And you can find out more about them at artisan food dot club. Still to come today is our resource of the week which will help you keep on top of all of those sales calls that you have to make. But up next is our lessons learned.

Lessons Learned

Kylie: [00:42:46] As someone who really likes to plan things out in advance and know where I’m going. I loved Marcus’s comment which was about, you know having a business on paper first. So he’s talked about you know knowing where you’re going and what you’re doing but you know planned it out on paper it’s like if you want to reach a certain goal how are you going to do that and make the plan before you even start putting it into action.

Guy: [00:43:09] Yeah it’s a lot cheaper and a lot faster in many ways to plan things out in advance. And I think the other thing that he talked about was working backwards as well. So instead of like planning forwards and starting with right so I’ve got this product and then what do I do with it. He’s saying no, let’s start from the end. There’s a great quote actually which is “start with the end in mind” and I forget who it’s from but it is one of those things you know you see on Instagram posts from time to time and gets lots of likes. And yeah I think that’s a very valuable way of approaching things. So it’s what what are we trying to achieve ultimately what is the goal. How are we going to get there and working backwards in each step.

Kylie: [00:43:48] And it really gives you a roadmap for what you need to be doing every week or every month. And if it is it you need to be in X number of stores then you know that you need to make you know X times 10 number of calls every week and be prepared to have your packaging already ready. Know that you’ve got to ship x number of products every week. So you need so much cardboard boxes and so much tape burn etc. etc..

Guy: [00:44:11] Yeah absolutely. One of the things that I can think kind of goes hand in hand with this is the idea of reducing risk and I think Marcus was speaking too in terms of reducing risk for the shop owners. I mean, primarily he’s talking about working with independent stores that’s his bread and butter. That’s what he’s done for many years. And it was really interesting to hear how he talks about these people and some of the challenges they face. And in terms of that they’re just worried about protecting their stock almost and the money they’ve invested into that idea of reducing risk, I think is very important. And that’s similar to working things out on paper. You’re in a way you’re reducing your own risk by doing it on the back of a napkin first before you spend investing lots of your own time and money and things.

Kylie: [00:44:57] Yes and Marcus was talking, I think about you know making your order size so that someone you know it’s a no brainer for them to order from you. And I think the same goes with everything if you want to make sales is make it as easy as possible for everyone to buy your thing, whatever that risk reduction is so whether it is a package size or whether it in a location, quantity etc. etc. It’s just make it as easy as possible for someone to be able to make that decision to take a gamble on you.

Guy: [00:45:26] And something else that plays into that is the idea of using all the tools at your disposal in terms of things like social media or your website to send people to the shops. So if you’re selling in independent stores and you can actually drive some traffic in there through your marketing activities or even just by shouting on the street corner and say hey go over there you can buy my jam whatever it is kind of all works together with this idea of reducing risk but also helping your products to move and fly off the shelf.

Kylie: [00:45:55] Yeah I mean if you’re an independent and you have a growing or you know good social media is let them know where you are for sale. No absolutely send them to the shop where your product is available. But also equally if you’re at a farmers market or at festivals, the same goes as social media is great for just letting your customers know where you’re going to be so they can actually get there and buy your thing.

Guy: [00:46:18] And I guess one of the issues with social media is you don’t always know where your followers are and they might live in the UK, they might live further afield, they might live in a remote part of the country, they might live in the city. So I guess sometimes there is that kind of resistance to putting a lot of focus into that because you know keep them scattered all over the place. But I guess one option is if you’re in independent stores or in supermarkets or you know for sale somewhere in person, that’s one piece to the puzzle but you can also have online sales as well. Whether that’s through Amazon or through Accardo or through your own online store.

Kylie: [00:46:58] Or some of the smaller marketplaces as well like Gumble and Table right they’re not big supermarkets but they are places for selling a product.

Guy: [00:47:08] Absolutely and I think it comes down to the idea of if you can be in as many different places as possible then you’re going to give yourself the best chance. And in terms of the online stuff it’s definitely a growing trend I mean there is a huge amount of movement from consumers to buy online and we have an episode coming up which is going to talk a little bit more about e-commerce and kind of choosing your platforms and how you can go about setting something like this up yourself if that’s something that you’re interested in doing.

Kylie: [00:47:33] It goes back to that thing you know, be everywhere that your customer is so that you can make it as easy as possible for them to purchase your product.

Guy: [00:47:40] Yeah it was something that Hugh Thomas was talking about in his episode a couple of weeks ago in terms of being everywhere and yeah I think it’s definitely good advice and very relevant to the conversation that we’ve been having here as well. So I think that’s pretty much it. Did you have anything else Kylie?

Kylie: [00:47:57] No, that’s it sounds like hard work.

Guy: [00:48:00] It just made it sound like a lot of hard work. But what’s great is that there are people out there who are trying to help in as many ways as possible. So do definitely go and check out Marcus at the Artisan Food Club. Of course all the links and details of how to do that will be in the show notes at Good Foodies dot co dot UK. Right. Shall we wrap this up and move on to our resource of the week.

Resource of the Week

Guy: [00:48:26] So our resource of the week, this week is really well suited to the conversation that we were having with Marcus. Kylie, you might remember him talking about the need to make lots of phone calls.

Kylie: [00:48:37] Yeah like every couple of weeks calling each of your stores and checking to see how much of their stock is left.

Guy: [00:48:42] Yeah absolutely. But it’s not just like making one phone call every couple of weeks, it’s making making millions or hundreds of phone calls every day.

Kylie: [00:48:49] It’s remembering what you said last.

Guy: [00:48:52] Exactly. And so our resource this week is going to help you do that. It’s not going to outsource your phone calls unfortunately but it is going to give you a tool and a way of keeping track of all the people that you are on your list and in your contacts, network in your database. And all the conversations that you’ve had with them. So, the resource this week is a CRM tool which is a customer relationship management tool. It’s completely free from the guys over at HubSpot. So they’re at HubSpot dot com and they have a whole range of sales and marketing tools. But one of their free tools is this CRM and so it’s basically a database where you can store all of your contacts information their names, their email addresses, you can keep notes on them. And every time you send them an email or you make a call phone call to them. All of that information can be logged and tracked so you have this timeline of all of the activity that you’ve had with an individual customer or an individual shop or something like that.

Kylie: [00:49:53] And what I love about it is if you use Chrome there’s a little Chrome browser extension and you’ll get a pop up when someone opens an email that you’ve sent to them and you can also set follow up tasks so if you’ve email to someone or called someone and left a message you can carry a soft little follow up task which will remind you in two, three, five days time to follow up with them. So we use it for a lot of our podcast outreach. It’s a brilliant little tool and it’s free. So you know there’s no cost to using it for all your outreach recording. And yes just a wonderful way to keep everything altogether in one place.

Guy: [00:50:28] Yeah definitely. And it integrates with lots of the other aspects of the HubSpot ecosystem of which when you start paying for it is gets very expensive. But there’s a lot that you can do with it for free including integrations with your web site, integrations with all of any if you do send any emails. Contrary to Marcus’ advice then all of the links in there attract so that Chrome extension will literally pop up and say someone has clicked the link in the email that you sent them. So it’s a great way of keeping track of who has done what and also what you have sent people so that you’ve always got a good picture of what needs to be done. So really really useful tool. So I think that pretty much wraps us up for another episode. Join us next week and we’ll continue the theme of artisan food where we’ll be talking to Alisa Catering, about how they’re rescuing a lot of this artisan food that is surplus to requirements and would otherwise go to waste. And they’re turning it into all sorts of fantastic breakfast and canapé treats for catering events. So do join us next week for that. In the meantime to get any of the notes or links or details of anything that we talked about in this episode, do head over to the show notes at good foodies dot co dot UK and you can find everything you need over there. So thanks so much for joining us today we really appreciate it as always and we’ll see you next time.

Kylie: [00:51:52] Bye for now.