Show Notes

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Your food business probably has a website. You probably use social media. You may write blog posts. Perhaps you send weekly emails. But WHY? It can be easy to do these kinds of things because everyone else is doing them. But do you have a plan for how each of these activities work together? Do you have a strategy for marketing your food business?

In this solo episode you’ll discover the answer to one of the most common startup marketing questions. You’ll also learn a simple and actionable strategy for connecting your brand message and all your marketing channels together.

In this episode you’ll learn

  • Why food businesses should leverage digital marketing
  • How to turn your website into a transactional, money making machine
  • The three key pieces of your digital marketing strategy
  • How to connect all those pieces together so they work in harmony

Notes and Links

eCommerce Essentials for Food Startups free training course

Join the waiting list for the Food Founders Blueprint beta programme

Episode Transcript

Guy: [00:00:02] You’re listening to Good Foodies and this is Episode 32. Today, we’ve got a solo episode for you and we’re addressing one of the questions that we get asked a lot here at Sapling about how food businesses should be using digital marketing and a combination of e-commerce and all the different channels out there. And in this episode, Kylie and I are gonna talk through one of the core fundamental strategies that we have developed to show you how to connect all the different pieces together. We often find that getting started is one of the hardest things. And so we wanted to put this together to help point you in the right direction and give you a road map of exactly what to do and how to go about it.

Guy: [00:00:44] So let’s jump into that conversation that Kylie and I had just earlier today.

Kylie: [00:00:50] Yes, he was chatting to someone recently and they are asking questions about how to grow their social media following and how to improve their engagement. And then as I was digging in and asking some questions about what they were doing and why they were doing things, it really became apparent that they didn’t have a plan. They don’t have a strategy behind it and yet it almost seemed like they were doing it because they thought they should or because everyone else was doing it. And it led me to think, how many brands out there are doing things that they think they should do because everyone else is doing without really understanding the power of those channels that they can use.

Guy: [00:01:28] It’s like everyone’s got a website. Everyone’s got social media in various different combinations. Not everyone uses the same ones and I think it’s probably a more common issue than we might think. Obviously, it’s our area of expertise is what we do every day. But I think there’s a lot of people out there who are just doing stuff because it’s what everybody else does.

Kylie: [00:01:50] And I think to some degree, perhaps people don’t understand the difference between social media marketing which is marketing to people and using social media for audience building which is a completely different activity.

Guy: [00:02:01] Yes, very much so. And they can be done at the same time or you can do one first and then the other. As you dig into it, there are a lot of complexities and there’s so many options, there’s so many different channels, there’s so many different ways you can communicate. There’s so many different mediums that you can put stuff in like written content audio, like podcasts like we’re doing now or video and it’s really hard to know what to do. Which ones you should do, which ones give you the best results and how to connect everything together. That’s what we thought we’d talk about today. And this solo episode is a simple strategy to show you how to connect all these pieces and to bring some purpose to all of the the online audience building and marketing activities that you might be doing.

Kylie: [00:02:52] So let’s start right at the beginning.

Guy: [00:02:54] Sounds like a plan.

Kylie: [00:02:55] Tell me what you think digital marketing is and what it is for.

Guy: [00:02:59] Well, you’re putting me on the spot. It feels like an interview. But normally I do the interviewing.

Kylie: [00:03:06] I thought, give me a bit of power this time.

Guy: [00:03:08] Oh goodness.

Kylie: [00:03:09] Be careful.

Guy: [00:03:09] Well, I don’t think I’m ever going to recover from that. So what is digital marketing? So essentially, it’s using digital channels, things like your website or social media or online advertising as a way to communicate your message to your target customer.

Kylie: [00:03:26] The wider brands want to do that. They’re selling in supermarkets and they’re selling in a retailer. Why do they even need to do the marketing? Surely, people just go and pick their product up off the shelf?

Guy: [00:03:36] Well, yes a lot of food brands sell in stores, in supermarkets and independent stores and in a number of other places as well. And they will often do marketing within that store. But they may also sell online. So if you have an online shop, if you use e-commerce then you absolutely need to use digital marketing to drive traffic to your shop because you don’t have the luxury of the footfall that you might in a supermarket or an independent store. But there’s lots of other benefits to it as well. So one of the key things when everything is digital is you get lots of data. So exactly what it is you’ve put out, how many people saw it, how many people engaged with it and how many people clicked on a link perhaps. And you can track all of that stuff over time.

Guy: [00:04:28] And so it gives you much more information, in terms of what’s working and what’s not working. Of course, that only works if you actually look at the data and have an understanding of what it is you’re looking at. But it’s a very powerful way of marketing because it gives you so much information in return. And in fact, whether it’s successful or not, whether you reach a hundred thousand people or whether you reach one person, there is information even in that. So it’s one thing that we always say about digital marketing. It almost is never a failure because you can always learn from the data.

Kylie: [00:05:05] And one thing I think that you’ve not mentioned there which we found really successful with Eco & Beyond is that all of these marketing channels are great when you have a really tightly targeted audience. So if you have a really clear message and you have a perfect image in your head of who your target customer is that makes your marketing messages so much easier and clearer to that person on the receiving end. They can easily say yes this is for me or no it’s not for me. And that’s something that’s a big brand in advertising. They often go after the broad market. Whereas, what you want to do is try and get marketing that is much more targeted so that everyone knows is that for me or is that not for me.

Guy: [00:05:51] I had a funny conversation with someone recently and I asked them, so who is your target customer? It’s something that we ask everybody who comes to us for help and advice. And they said, “I know that I need to be more targeted. But at the moment I feel like my target customers only want to buy my product.”.

Kylie: [00:06:09] Which isn’t targeted at all, that’s just everyone and trying to sell to everyone, you probably not going to sell to anyone because unless you’ve got the most awesome product on the market, you’re not differentiating yourself from the other product that’s sitting right next to you that might be slightly cheaper or an offer or whatever. Your messaging has to really speak to that one person or that specific group of people who your product really is for.

Guy: [00:06:36] And that’s another huge benefit of using digital channels because you can get really targeted. You can either go and find where your customer is hanging out. Maybe they use one social network over another, maybe they’re in a forum somewhere. But you can also use social advertising or PPC or pay per click advertising like search ads to target certain words that people are searching for or to go and target people based on their interests or their buying behaviour. So you can get really targeted with who you’re reaching.

Kylie: [00:07:08] And I think, if given the data point that you said before is if you don’t really know to begin with and you just start putting out some marketing messages, and then you can look at your analytics and go, okay so for this week, we did this marketing. Who was coming to it? Who was reading it? Was it women? Was it men.? Where were they from? And so then you can go, “Okay, it looks like my product is being better received by women and I can start airing messages that are going to align more heavily with women.

Guy: [00:07:36] Yeah absolutely. And that is really the essence of marketing. Its putting things out into the market. Finding ways to communicate the things that you have to sell or the messages that you want to get out there. Perhaps, you have a very strong purpose as part of your brand. Particularly, the people that we talk to on this podcast and many of the listeners as well. They want to do something that’s bigger than themselves, so they have a purpose for putting something out there that’s more than just making a load of money. And yes, your marketing is all about finding the right way to communicate that message in a way that resonates with your target customer.

Kylie: [00:08:14] Cool. So I think we’ve got it down now what digital marketing is and why you might use it. Let’s go back to that strategy, partly you mentioned at the beginning. How do we tie in- I wanna do digital marketing and I’m going to use social media, where’s the strategy part come into it?

Guy: [00:08:30] Yes. I mean you could have an individual strategy for each thing that you do with digital marketing. So you could have a social media strategy. You could have an email marketing strategy. You could have a chat bot strategy or a content strategy. But instead of focusing on those things individually, it’s also really important to take it back step further and to talk about how all of these different pieces connect together or what they should connect back to.

Guy: [00:09:00] And so, we have a concept that we talk about called, “The Oak Tree Strategy.” Something that we talked about in our free training course, ‘The E-commerce Essentials Course’ which you can get at and the whole purpose of it is to outline how all of these different things should be connected together so that they work for you rather than being just a chore.

Kylie: [00:09:25] I’m a little bit confused. You’re talking about strategy but where is this “Oak Tree” come into or what’s it about.

Guy: [00:09:29] So that’s just the name that we’ve given this strategy. So you can probably picture in your mind an oak tree or any tree really. A tree is made up of three distinct parts. So you’ve got the root system under the ground, you’ve got the trunk that comes up out of the ground and then you’ve got all the branches that come off the trunk and they all connect together. So the root system is your brand purpose, your key message. The thing that you stand for, your values, your vision for the perfect world that you’re trying to create or your products and stuff fit into. And so that’s key to the whole thing. If a tree hasn’t got a strong root system, then it just withers and dies.

Kylie: [00:10:13] Okay. So for Eco & Beyond then, we’d be talking about how the whole mission is to help people make more ethical, sustainable, and planet friendly food choices and to also celebrate brands that are also bringing those things to market. So that would be our “roots” for Eco & Beyond?

Guy: [00:10:31] Yes, exactly. It’s like that. That’s like the essence of everything.

Kylie: [00:10:34] And so I’m guessing from these roots, from something out of the ground comes the “trunk” and that is?

Guy: [00:10:40] So the “trunk” is your website. So we put the trunk at the centre of your whole digital strategy because this is something that you own. It’s your own platform. You can control the experience. You control what content goes on there. You can control whether there’s any ads or not. And the way that we tried to approach it or suggest that people approach it is that that website is also a ‘transactional website.’ It has an e-commerce store so that you can actually turn your website from being just a brochure full of information and pretty pictures into something that can make you money.

Kylie: [00:11:17] So you’re saying that a few brands should have their own website? They should have an e-commerce store on there as well as perhaps selling wherever they’re selling because their own store on their website puts them in control of being able to test things and try things and communicate with their audience directly.

Guy: [00:11:34] Yes. And so it goes back to that data thing. In terms of yes you can get data from your marketing activities but also having your own sales data is hugely important. Because the retailers can sometimes charge quite a lot of money for access to their data, though they tend to give you high level stuff. But yes, if you’ve got your own sales, you’re making a higher percentage on each of those sales and you’re also gathering valuable information about when those sales take place, who your customers are, where they live, how much they spend in each order and that kind of stuff.

Kylie: [00:12:07] So we’ve got our roots sorted. They’re growing nice and strong. We’ve got a trunk that we’ve got a website we’ve got that up and running. So what are the branches? What are they doing?

Guy: [00:12:17] So the branches are each of your marketing channels. In fact, the technical term which I learned when I was researching this was they’re called “boughs.”.

Kylie: [00:12:27] So how are you spelling that?

Guy: [00:12:29] B O U G H, I think. So that’s the name for one of the big branches that comes directly off the trunk. And the reason that we use this metaphor is because the branches have to connect to the trunk. And so your channels, your digital marketing channels which frig, let’s use social media as an example. Instagram would be one of those branches. And the idea is that whilst that branch can have all sorts of little twigs and leaves coming off it in terms of the things that you do there your content, you should always try to have that channel direct to people back to your trunk to your website.

Kylie: [00:13:07] Okay so let me see if I’ve got this right. You would have, if we’re talking about Instagram, that would be your, what did you call it? Your “bough.” Is that how you say it?

Guy: [00:13:16] Just a branch, it’s simpler.

Kylie: [00:13:17] A branch, okay. So you have your branch which is Instagram. But then on Instagram, you might be doing nice photos and then you’ve got stories and then you’ve got Instagram TV. So they’re all the smaller branches that come off the large branch which is your Instagram profile that has that link back to your website.

Guy: [00:13:37] Yeah that’s exactly right. And that’s a really nice way of putting it in terms of the smaller branches that make up your your Instagram account. In terms of those other bits and pieces: photos, videos, and the stories. So yes, it’s a nice way of putting it. And you would have one branch per channel. So social media breaks down into what. There are loads of different social media platforms that you could use. And each one of those would be a channel.

Kylie: [00:14:04] And so then, you’d also have what you talked about right at the beginning, we’d have a social media strategy but then you might within that have an Instagram strategy and a Facebook strategy and etc. etc. but right?

Guy: [00:14:16] Yes, exactly. But the whole point to all of this is not to have some pretty metaphor, the angst that quite nicely. t

Kylie: [00:14:23] But they want a nice metaphor!

Guy: [00:14:24] Yes, I like it and it relates back to Sapling which is the name of our company obviously. But it brings purpose to each of the channels. So instead of doing Instagram just for the sake of it, you’re doing Instagram to build up an audience there. You’re going to wear your tribe. Your potential customers and then you are giving them value. You’re creating great looking images and really engaging videos and then you’re leading them back to the trunk, to the website, to your online shop so that you have a reason for putting stuff on Instagram. If you just put stuff out there. Yes you might build a small audience on Instagram but it’s isolated there.

Kylie: [00:15:05] Yes, what’s the point of having an audience if you’ve got nothing for them to buy from you or you can’t give them discount codes they can use somewhere that you control. You don’t want to have to send them all the time back to the supermarket.

Guy: [00:15:17] Exactly.

Kylie: [00:15:17] Losing your margin etc.

Guy: [00:15:19] So it makes sense right?

Kylie: [00:15:21] Yes! I’m still concerned about the leaves. Leaves are pretty and they die and stuff.

Guy: [00:15:27] Yes. I think you’re taking this tree thing a little bit too far.

Kylie: [00:15:31] But what does the metaphor works really well like if you see a tree in the distance, it’s typically the branches that you’re seeing first because that’s the biggest part of the tree. And so that’s like, you’re attracting the customer and then the closer you get to the tree, the more likely it is you’re going to notice the trunk etc. It’s still like a metaphor for that reason.

Guy: [00:15:52] But we can even take it even further because the bit that you don’t tend to see is the roots by when you’re walking you see a tree in the back. In the distance you don’t see the roots but it’s the most important part.

Kylie: [00:16:04] I know in our garden when I try to uproot one of our plants because it’s almost dead, if those roots aren’t healthy, I know that if I re-planted it, it really just not going to work.

Guy: [00:16:14] Yes, exactly. And so all of these pieces are really key. And so what ends up happening is you start with your brand’s purpose and your values and then you communicate that to the different branches, brew your trunk. So it really solidifies the whole thing.

Kylie: [00:16:32] The inverse of that would be if you don’t have strong roots and you don’t have a strong purpose and you don’t know who your target customer is. It kinda doesn’t make sense to be doing any social because you’re not leading them back to something that’s got a good solid foundation.

Guy: [00:16:46] Yes although these things especially when you’re using them organically, it does take a long time to build that audience or to build that following and so on one hand, yes, you have to have that very strong, you have to be rooted.

Kylie: [00:16:59] Nice pun there.

Guy: [00:17:01] You have to be rooted with this strong purpose and mission.

Kylie: [00:17:06] That’s a great word in Australia as well.

Guy: [00:17:07] I knew you were going to say that. I just knew you were going to bring that up. Thank you for derailing the whole conversation. But yes, you do have to have this strong brand thing but that’s something that you can develop and refine over time. So in a way, it’s actually, it’s good to be working on that whilst you get started with some of these channels because they also take a while to build up.

Kylie: [00:17:29] Yes, totally. At Eco & Beyond, we reiterated, quite a few times around who we were targeting and what we were for. And it’s taken us a couple of years to work out what we want it to be for and what the message is. And so I wasn’t saying, it’s silly to just have social for social sake, what I’m saying is, you have to have an idea to start but then, you need to also continuously be visiting that root system and making sure that the roots match your branches.

Guy: [00:18:01] Yes and you can start with one branch or one or two maybe if there’s a couple of things that you want to do and then you can add them over time just like a tree grows and develops new branches and offshoots and stuff like that. The same can be said for your digital strategy as well.

Kylie: [00:18:16] Cool. So we got the tree down. I get that. Now we talked about strategy why they do digital marketing but this is all really abstract, it’s quite theoretical and metaphorical where do we go next? What do you have to do to get started? What do you do?

Guy: [00:18:31] So this is a starting point, right? So it’s a way to connect everything together so that everything is purposeful, so that the things that you do on all your different channels lead back to a central place. You’re absolutely right. This is a starting point and it’s a strategy of how to connect everything together. From there, it’s a case of actually working on the individual strategies and then taking the action to to build up your channels and to come up with compelling offers and promotions and all that good stuff. And of course, to build the team around you who can go and make that stuff happen for you as well because you can’t do it all yourself.

Kylie: [00:19:10] So for our listeners who have now got really excited they understand the tree and they want to get started and they want to develop their roots and their trunk and their branches and start really building that into their business. How do they do that? What was their first step?

Guy: [00:19:24] Well, I mean the majority of entrepreneurs are very inventive and they are good at coming up with ideas. I mean we’ve never short of ideas, right? We’re just always short of time and money. With this road map of how to put it all together. You can go often and do all this stuff by yourself or you could go and pay somebody to go and do it for you. Although that tends to be very expensive. And in many cases, when you’re first starting you will go through lots of trial and error and lots of pivots and adjustments. And so at the very early stage, paying thousands of pounds to a consultant or to an expert or to an agency could actually be something that then you no longer do in a matter of weeks or months.

Kylie: [00:20:05] And you also I guess don’t benefit from the learning if someone else does it for you.

Guy: [00:20:10] Yeah exactly. And that’s I think something that’s been really key for us over the last, what three to four or five years? It is doing stuff ourselves, making all the mistakes, learning from them and then being able to do it again but faster the next time around. So faster, different with a different twist, different spin on it.

Kylie: [00:20:26] And making a lot of different mistakes.

Guy: [00:20:28] And then making lots of new mistakes. Those broadly speaking of the ways you can do it, you can either go and do it yourself or you can pay somebody to do it. But what we have tried to do is put together all of that knowledge that we’ve gathered from all the mistakes that we’ve made and the successes that we’ve had as well and we’ve put it into a program which walks people through exactly the steps to go and do it themselves. And so essentially, there’s six different pieces to it. So it starts off with clarifying that brand purpose and your “why” and why you’re doing the thing you’re doing and getting that message very clear. The second thing is then, building your audience. So finding your tribe, working out who your target customer is and it’s not just anyone who buy your product. It’s finding the person that is best suited for what you have to offer.

Kylie: [00:21:18] So that’s your raving fans of people who just can’t stop talking about your product, yes?

Guy: [00:21:22] Yes, exactly. And if you can get a really clear picture of that person and then go and find loads, more of them then you would do really well. So after that, once you’ve got a picture of who your target customer is, then it’s about building your website. And so because we talk about e-commerce a lot, we put together a step by step how to build your e-commerce website. Literally, all of the technical steps, one after the other so that you can do it yourself again to keep the cost down. From there, it’s about attracting customers, then selling on autopilot using your e-commerce website. And of course, all the other sales channels you have as well. And then finally, building your dream team so that you can get help to scale this thing up. Because to begin with, you might have to do it all yourself but then you can get help from interns or assistants or students or whatever it might be to get yourself going and then you can hire a bigger more experienced team.

Kylie: [00:22:19] That’s something that we’ve recently done both for Eco & Beyond and Sapling is bring on a team of people and I have to tell you, it’s a dream! It has really changed our working day, being able to have other people do some of the tasks that perhaps, we shouldn’t be doing. So some of these repetitive tasks that you just think, “This is not what I want to be doing but it’s just part of business.” And it’s made such a difference. It means that you as a founder or the owner of the business can get on and do the stuff that you really want to do which is all about growing the business and finding new opportunities.

Guy: [00:22:55] Or just creating new products…

Kylie: [00:22:56] Or just having some time off!

Guy: [00:22:58] Yeah, that’s a great idea. To go on a holiday. Take a break. Only work 12 hours a day.

Kylie: [00:23:03] Yes, I do.

Guy: [00:23:04] So yes, this is something we’re really excited about. Where we’re launching a beta version of this program. And so you can join the waiting list for it at the moment. The best way to to do that is to find out more of the details about it is just to head to our website which is

Guy: [00:23:20] And yes, you can scroll all way down to the bottom and fill in your details to register your interest, if you want a bit of help and guidance going through all this stuff. I mean essentially, we’re trying to give you the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to approach growing your business particularly, through these digital channels and through e-commerce.

Kylie: [00:23:40] Something else that we are really excited about and I think that everyone, that anyone that joins a program will find really valuable is we are going to share all the processes and the templates and the checklists that we use in our business. So for example, for Eco & Beyond, we have a content team. We have a team of writers and we have lots of processes and tools that we use that makes our editorial calendar planning, communicating with all the writers going through the editorial process and then all the way throughout to publishing it and how we then integrate it into social media. So all of the processes that we’ve developed over the last X number of years and the checklist that we have in place we’re going to be sharing that. So you can plug and play that into your business, so that you don’t have to go under these same processes.

Guy: [00:24:28] Yeah. We mentioned it as one of the resource for the week, a few sessions ago. is one of the tools that we use. It’s like a combination of documentation and an active checklist for everything that needs to be done. And I mean, it really has made our business run like clockwork. It’s incredible.

Kylie: [00:24:45] Yes and we use Trello a lot. And then to communicate between the tools so we use Zapier and it is a godsend. It’s all the things that I used to have to do really manually. Now, Zapier does it for me.

Guy: [00:24:57] And I know that we’ve talked about a lot of these resources in previous episodes and sometimes it can sound a bit overwhelming like, “Oh, I need to use all of this tech and I need to work out how to connect them all together.” Well, that’s again something that we have a step by step process to show you how to put it all together so that you can take advantage of all this stuff and automate those things that a machine can do so you don’t have to do them. It means you can focus on the important stuff, all the fun stuff.

Kylie: [00:25:24] And the other great thing about the program is, it will be available to answer any questions. So if you go through the processes in the training and it’s not clear, then you just have to ask and we’ll go through it again in a different way so that you can get it.

Guy: [00:25:36] Yes. Because the whole thing will be delivered through a private member’s group, through a community group. So the information and training is just one part of it. Then there’s the community for being able to connect with us. But also with fellow food entrepreneurs who are going through the same thing and then the really nice thing about community is that we can all help each other, be accountable as well. So yes, some great stuff we’re really excited about. As I said, to register your interest to join the waiting list, just head to and I think that’s pretty much it. I think we’ve been talking far too long for one of these solo episodes so we should wrap it up. Kylie, anything else to add, last minute?

Kylie: [00:26:18] Oh, I was just going to say, if you wanted to get some more details on any of the stuff that we’ve been talking, you had to go and check out the e-commerce essentials retraining that we do go into “The Oak Tree Strategy” again so that you can see the visualisation of that with the pretty pictures of the tree.

Guy: [00:26:36] Oh yes, that’s true. And there’s also core marketing principles in there as well. So if you want to get a bit more of this foundational stuff to help point you in the right direction, whether you join the program or not, then there’s some good stuff over there and that is

Guy: [00:26:54] So that will wrap us up for today. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it, as always. And we hope you’ve got some value out of this and find it interesting and can start applying it to your business. So yes, I think that wraps up for today, for any notes and links and details of what we’ve been talking about, you can always head to the show notes at Otherwise, have a lovely week and we’ll talk to you soon. Cheers.

Kylie: [00:27:22] Bye for now.