Being in the industry for a long time first as a vendor's daughter and most recently as the director of business development, I know the importance of communication with customers. At J&J Vending, we’ve tried multiple platforms for direct communications, to varying degrees of success. Some of the best are: email newsletters; window clings and/or laminated signs at the market; and taste tests with communications to hand out in person. Although they can all be effective they each have their own pros and cons.
This my personal favorite type of communication because I have complete control over it. We create the news blurbs in house and send them when I know the product is in the market, or the latest blog has been posted, etc.
The potential downside here is if you flood a customer’s inbox. Be mindful of their time and their space. I would recommend sending one point of contact featuring a new product no more than once a week.
And remain hopeful! Even if they never open an email you send, they are still seeing your name in their inbox once a week. In other words, whether or not the emails you send are read they are seen, which means you aren’t forgotten.
Window clings/laminated signs
Be selective. Although these can be very helpful (especially in locations where many employees may not have a company email) they can also clutter your market. You also run the very likely risk of sales material being out of date due to driver neglect.
At J&J we recently hired a full time employee whose job it is to visit each market to reset that month’s new POG and check to make sure that all clings are still timely and relevant.
In person taste tests
These can be very time consuming but are a great way to spread the word about your company and to feature new products in the market.
Biggest problems I’ve seen with marketing
Lack of Consistency
If you would like to do this but don’t have enough man power to make it happen on a consistent basis set up sampling kits so that drivers can leave samples and sales pamphlets behind the next time they fill their markets.
With any communication I think the most important part (the part I have struggled the most with) is consistency. If you are going to send out emails create a month’s worth at a time and set them up for auto send. If you are going to do window clings make sure items from October aren’t still being featured in January and if you are going to do in person taste tests make sure to advertise in advance so that employees know when they can expect you.
I highly recommend taking care of this portion of the business in house. Notice, I did not say do it yourself, I said bring it in house (in other words hire someone who knows about marketing to help you out).
I truly believe if you outsource this piece of your operation you lose the connection you sought to create in the first place.
Today’s customers do not want to interact with stock photos, they want to create connection with the companies they buy from and they want to feel seen in return.
Highlight items that you know are going to be popular in your markets, not that have been generically approved for a national program.
How to get started
This is my FAVORITE part of my job. Because it gives me joy I choose to do it myself.
That said I use canva.com (a free design platform) to create all of my communications. You can use any design platform that you are comfortable with, but again…did I mention canva.com is FREE?
If the thought of marketing makes you anxious, annoyed or sick to your stomach, don’t do it yourself, hire someone to help.
Whether you choose to do it yourself or to hire someone in house to handle the responsibility just get started. Don’t wait for the first email to be perfect, just start sending relevant content and improve the design/format as you go.
About the Author
Jennifer Skidmore is the Director of Business Development and third generation vendor at J&J Vending Inc., a family owned and operated vending and office coffee service in the SF Bay Area. In addition to her work at J&J she also serves as a board member on CAVC. More Vendor’s Daughter blogs can be found here thevendorsdaughter.com. For more information on J&J Vending visit www.jandjvendinginc.com