For the past few years, food trucks have been on the rise across the country. Trucks have been popping up in cities across the United States in ever increasing numbers and styles. Many have lauded these mobile culinary entrepreneurs for taking a new approach in a relatively stagnant restaurant industry.
The restaurant industry has slowly embraced certain aspects of the food truck phenomenon, delving into social media and marketing at a hyperlocal level. But the food truck trend has lessons for industries of all kinds, even outside food services.
For marketers with ever-shrinking budgets who are under constant pressure to deliver results, food trucks are unconventional role models for using limited resources, finding new opportunities and embracing new media. The following are just a few of the ways you should be modeling your marketing department after this exploding industry.
One of the reasons food trucks can be so bold with their menu options and marketing techniques is that they have streamlined risks. A traditional restaurant risks millions of dollars with any major change. That financial risk is lower with food trucks, due to the much smaller overhead, and this in turn fuels creativity and innovation.
Marketing Lesson: By locking your marketing into a traditional large budget line item such as a commercial or major newspaper ad, you’re putting yourself in the same position as the restaurants. Instead, try investing in newer, cheaper content channels such as blogs or video. The smaller financial investment allows you and your team to invest elsewhere–such as with new product selection or channel strategies.
Do your research
Because of their smaller scale, food trucks are often a labor of love for one or two people. With so much individual stake in the venture, food truck owners place considerable effort into researching their industry and clientele to offer unique and/or personalized offerings. This is why the variety in food items offered across the industry is so vast – each truck has to be well branded and differentiated from the competition in order to succeed.
Marketing Lesson: If you are not doing constant research on your industry, your customers and your competitors, you’re likely slipping behind the competition. In the technological age, industries can change rapidly. Customer tastes are fickle, competitors come out of nowhere and new products can quickly leave your business irrelevant. You must constantly assess the success of your marketing initiatives to determine if your strategies are still effective. Marketing automation solutions have made understanding campaign effectiveness and return on investment much easier for marketers in the last several years through closed-loop reporting, competitive SEO analysis, and detailed analytics.
Embrace New Media
From the start, food trucks have been champions of new media. They use social media to build demand, promote their products, and build communities. Sites like roaminghunger.com have even been established to aggregate food truck tweets to help local foodies track down their favorite truck.
Marketing Lesson: You’re probably already using social media in some way for your marketing efforts. But make sure you’re using it for activities that deliver maximum effect. Posting for the sake of posting is the fastest way to lose your followers and subscribers. Use social channels for activities consistent with your marketing goals and in ways that provide value for your audience. Companies like Deloitte are giving their customers a voice by using twitter for fast customer service and insight.
Create a sense of community
Food trucks often create a friendly experience for their customers. Trucks become social gathering spaces for the communities they serve–building their brand, fostering loyalty and creating personal connections with customers. Developing this unique community around their businesses has helped food trucks thrive across the country.
Marketing lesson: The modern customer expects a more personal experience with brands. Marketing can no longer be “pushed” onto customers. Your marketing efforts should focus on developing customer relationships on multiple levels. Even large companies like Coca-Cola have begun to swap their traditional marketing methods for strategies focused on providing value to their customers through relevant content and social media engagement.
Food truck owners readily experiment with new technology such as mobile payments in place of more expensive POS systems.
Marketing Lesson: In the age of big data, marketers have no excuse for not delivering accurate ROI numbers for all marketing activities and comprehensive analysis of how consumers move through the sales funnel. Marketing automation platforms have become incredibly powerful and cost effective for companies of all sizes to accomplish this measurement.
These strategies have allowed food trucks to create business models that are more adaptable, agile and better suited to rapidly changing times and trends. Taking a similar approach to your marketing by operating leanly, fostering creativity, developing community and streamlining processes will help make your marketing a better business partner. The marketing department with the most impact is no longer the one with the largest budget and ad spend, but the one willing to shake off traditional marketing paradigms and take their message directly to their customers.
About the author: Adam Blitzer is co-founder and COO at Pardot. He is responsible for product management,marketing, and operations. He is a frequent speaker at industry events such as Dreamforce, SugarCon, and American Marketing Association panels.