The Anatomy of a Successful Food Product Website

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One of the best parts of working in the food industry is that there's a lot of information overlap. Although each subsector is different, it's easy to work with restaurants, chefs, bloggers, beverages or food products because a lot of the tips and tricks are the same. (Precisely why we cater 5 Minute Food Marketing to everyone in the industry).

That's true for food marketing website tips too. If you own a physical product instead of a restaurant, many of the tips we gave you in our Anatomy of a Successful Restaurant Website post are still applicable to you. But, who has the time to sift through something with tips you may or may not need? Let's put it all in one place, shall we? 

Today's for you. 

In this guide to building a better food or beverage product website, you'll learn: 

  • Why does my food product website matter?
  • What information does my food product website need? 
  • Where should information on my website go?
  • How often do I need to update my food product website? 
  • How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?

Ready? 


Why does my food product website matter? 

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Well, does the packaging matter? You probably spent hours laboring over what wraps your product — let's give the same attention to the tool that sells it online. 

I was recently chatting with one of my beverage clients about how tedious it was to get the packaging just right. Everything — from the official labeling to brand colors to fonts — was carefully considered (and usually debated) by many passionate people. You need it to pop on the shelf, and you need it to clearly convey what you do. You don't just need it to be beautiful, you need it to be functional too. 

Well, the same goes for your website, whether you sell your product online or not. We're living in the research era, where purchase decisions are often heavily weighed by consumers — especially millennials — who want to know the story behind the brands they invest in.

Gone are the days of delivering the first impression on the shelf or at the farmer's market. Often times, the first impression is happening before they even hold your product in their hands. It's happening online, hopefully on your website.

Where should I host my website to sell a food product?

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I don't want to spend too much time convincing you that you need a website. To be frank, if we're stuck on that point of the conversation, I don't know how much I can do to help you join the 21st century. 

But, what's more helpful, is where to host your website to sell your food product. 

If you don't hire out web services, it is possible to DIY. While most seasoned web developers may custom build your site or use more customizable platforms like Wordpress, I point all of my DIY clients to Squarespace (or Shopify, if you need more custom sales functionalities). They even have a dedicated section for e-commerce products — showing you successful examples in the space and pointing out industry-specific capabilities it has, like flexible payments and seamless checkout. Read up on that here

Bottom line, whatever you use, it's got to be mobile-phone friendly. That's where most of the searching is happening. So get on a platform that does it for you. 

What information does my food website need? Where should it go? 

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This is where things start to go south on many websites I see. You know how newspapers have all of the most important news of the day "above the fold?" That's what we're trying to do with your website. Consider the example above. 

All of the important actions you want a visitor to make are at the top, front and center — HOME - SHOP - BLOG. (this one's pretty simple, I might add an "About Us" as well.) 

Here's what every food website should have "above the scroll":

  • a BUY NOW or SHOP NOW button

  • a link to learn more about you (about page)

    • We'll dig into this another day, but your about page should include more than a cutesy story of how you got started. That is important, but, more importantly, people want tactical information — what is shipping like? Do you offer returns? 

  • a link to contact you 
    • bonus if you don't even have to click to get to the email or phone number

Those are the big ones. Further down, we weave in...

  • killer food photography and product descriptions

  • a link to your social media accounts and/or email sign up

  • miscellaneous — any other aspects of your product that you'd like to boast. Sourcing? Charitable partnerships? 

How often do I need to update my website? 

This one's simple. As often as information changes. Hospitality is about anticipating someone's needs before they're spoken. Giving someone false or out-of-date information before they've even purchased from you is hurting your business in the long-run. 

How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?

Obviously, people are going to visit your food website when they're searching for products to buy, BUT what if you had them coming back regularly? What if you could stay top of mind all the time? It's possible, but you'll need to blog. And that's a story for another day. (Hint: 1 week).  (And no, we didn't forget about SEO. It's coming too.)

Do you have any other questions about your food brand's website? If so, leave them below or email us today

For more helpful tips like these, sign up for our FREE 5 Minute Food Marketing email series — we'll send you one helpful food marketing tip per week.

The Anatomy of a Successful Restaurant Website

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No science classes here, I promise. This is a different kind of anatomy. Restaurant website anatomy.

(And, yes — right now we're specifically digging deep for restaurants, but if you own a food product, don't fret! We'll be talking about you next week in The Anatomy of a Successful Food Product Website.)

We're not talking about colors, logos or things that a creative team would handle. That's why this isn't called "designing a successful restaurant website." Today's about tactically placing information where it will perform the best. It's about where to put that reservation button so people click it more often. Today's about anatomy. 

In this guide to building a better restaurant website, you'll learn: 

  • Why does my restaurant website matter?
  • What information does my restaurant website need? 
  • Where should information in my restaurant website go?
  • How often do I need to update my restaurant website? 
  • How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?

Ready? 


Why does my restaurant website matter? 

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If you've ever been involved in a restaurant opening in any capacity, you know how much time, sweat, energy and tears are put into the design process.

Last week, I grabbed drinks with the owners of LIVstudio (the creative brains behind some of the most beautiful restaurants in Denver) and we talked a lot about this. In most restaurants, the design isn't accidental. Everything — from the chairs underneath your butt to the cup in your hand — was carefully considered (and usually debated) by many passionate people. Not only that, but the WHERE things are (the bathrooms, the bar, etc.) are just as important as the color of the paint on the walls or the tile used to pave the entryway. You don't just need it to be beautiful, you need it to be functional too. 

In the days of online EVERYTHING, people are likely searching your restaurant before they come. Fewer and fewer people are stumbling into dining decisions — now, they're researching them. Studies have shown that 85% of the people conducting these searches go on to make a purchasing decision, too. 

Gone are the days of delivering the first impression at the hostess stand. The first impression is happening before they even enter the building. It's happening online, hopefully on your website.

Where should I host my restaurant website?

 photo courtesy of squarespace

photo courtesy of squarespace

I don't want to spend too much time convincing you that you need a restaurant website. To be frank, if we're stuck on that point of the conversation, I don't know how much I can help you join the 21st century. 

But, what's more helpful, is where to host your restaurant website. 

If you don't hire out web services, it is possible to DIY. While most seasoned web developers may custom build your site or use more customizable platforms like Wordpress, I point all of my DIY clients to Squarespace. They even have a dedicated section for restaurants — showing you successful examples in the space and pointing out industry-specific capabilities it has, including Open Table integration, easy-to-edit online menu templates and more. Read up on that here

Bottom line, whatever you use, it's got to be mobile-phone friendly. That's where most of the searching is happening. 

What information does my restaurant website need? Where should it go? 

 photo courtesy of squarespace

photo courtesy of squarespace

This is where things start to go south on many websites I see. You know how newspapers have all of the most important news of the day "above the fold?" That's what we're trying to do with your website. Consider the example above. 

All of the important actions you want a visitor to make are at the top, front and center — ABOUT, RESERVATIONS, MENU, PRIVATE DINING, GIFTS, BLOG. I don't even have to scroll to find them. 

Here's what every restaurant website should have "above the scroll":

  • a link to learn more about you (about page)

    • We'll dig into this another day, but your about page should include more than a cutesy story of how you got started. That is important, but, more importantly, people want tactical information — where to park? Is there valet? Are you connected with other restaurants? What are your hours?

  • a link to make reservations & contact you (contact + reserve page(s))
    • bonus if you don't even have to click to get to the phone number
  • a link to your menu
    • ALL OF THEM. And, try to keep this as up-to-date as possible. If you know you can't stay on top of it, set expectations accordingly. The disclaimer, "menu is subject to change" goes a long way. PDFs don't work well on phones, I highly suggest adding menus into the body of your site. 

Those are the big ones. Further down, we weave in...

  • killer food photography

  • a link to your social media accounts and/or email sign up

  • miscellaneous — any other programs your restaurant has that you'd like to boast. Private dining? Gift cards? Sourcing? Skies the limit! 

How often do I need to update my restaurant website? 

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This one's simple. As often as information changes. Hospitality is about anticipating someone's needs before they're spoken. Giving someone false or out-of-date information before they've even stepped into the restaurant is hurting your business in the long-run. 

Obviously, if your restaurant is more seasonally driven, the menu may change frequently. I'm not saying you need to update it every. single. day., but even monthly (with the disclaimer!) goes a long way. People who want to "keep the mystery" won't be looking for it anyways - you can preserve that for people who crave it. 

How do I get more traffic on my website once it's ready?

Obviously, people are going to visit your restaurant's website when they're searching for somewhere to eat, BUT what if you had them coming back regularly? What if you could stay top of mind all the time? It's possible, but you'll need to blog. And that's a story for another day. (Hint: in 2 weeks).  (And no, we didn't forget about SEO. It's coming too.)

Do you have any other questions about restaurant websites? If so, leave them below or email us today


For more helpful tips like these, sign up for our FREE 5 Minute Food Marketing email series — we'll send you one helpful food marketing tip per week.

A Book From 1999 is Still Right About Food & Restaurant Marketing

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Technology and marketing change so much every day that an online article about it can become irrelevant within a matter of minutes. 

So, imagine my surprise when a book from 1999 totally changed my perspective on everything.

Even though it was published almost 2 decades ago, marketing genius Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers rings true for brands today. Especially for restaurants and food brands. 

It's a quick read, and it's written broadly enough to apply to many types of businesses. But, if you haven't read it in the 19 years it's been on the market, I'm going to take a wild guess it isn't going to happen. 

So, I'm going to break it down for you. 

Even in 1999, at the dawn of the internet, Godin realized how much was at stake. Consumers were bombarded with more and more advertisements every day, and the internet was only going to pour gasoline on the situation. So, instead, he proposed a different method for businesses to reach consumers — permission marketing. And, spoiler alert: it's going to help you crush it in growing your food business. 

In this Permission v. Interruption Marketing guide, you'll learn:

  • What is interruption marketing?
  • What is permission marketing?
  • What food marketing method is best for my restaurant, food brand or food product?
  • How do I implement these strategies in my food business?

Let's do this!


What is interruption marketing?

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Commercials. Billboards. Magazine ads. Pop-ups. Banner ads. Random direct mail. 

Interruption marketing is everywhere — the number is widely debated, but most estimate that we're exposed to anywhere between 4,000 - 5,000 advertisements PER DAY.  You know why that number is so shocking? Because you don't notice most of them anymore. The truth is, we're getting really freaking good at tuning it out because most of it isn't relevant to our lives.  

How many times have you seen a commercial for a car you're never going to buy? A magazine ad for a perfume you'll never wear? A pop-up for a product you can't even use? 

These companies are relying on what I like to call the "Throw Everything At The Wall And See What Sticks" method. By airing an expensive commercial during prime time, they comfort themselves by knowing that SOME percentage — no matter how small — may be enticed by the message. 

Not only is interruption marketing expensive and nearly impossible to measure, it's annoying. It's viewing marketing as a shouting contest instead of a conversation. It's requiring your customer to halt their day and listen to whatever you want to say whenever its convenient for YOU. 

It's outdated. Seth Godin knew that in 1999, but many, many restaurants and food brands still aren't listening. 

What is permission marketing?

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“Rather than simply interrupting a television show with a commercial or barging into the consumer’s life with an unannounced call or letter, tomorrow’s marketer will first try to gain the consumer’s consent to participate in the selling process." - Seth Godin

Tomorrow is here, folks. Technology has come with its pitfalls, but personalization isn't one of them. Permission marketing turns promotion on its head — making all of that clutter an asset.

Permission marketing is selling and marketing to people who have OPTED INTO that relationship. Or, as the book's title suggests, turning strangers into friends and friends into customers. 

Permission marketing is like dating. To start, you offer something interesting enough for customers to agree to a first date (free information, a discount, etc.). Next, you slowly get to know each other, earning more permission over time. It's simple — once someone has agreed to pay attention, it's easier to teach them about your product or service. 

We're talking about ditching commercials and print ads in favor of something a little more personal. Something that can really build trust and loyalty. Tools that can turn strangers into friends. We're talking about opt-in communication here: mostly email, social media and blogging. 

How does this help my food business?

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To explain the core of permission marketing in action, we're stripping away the digital world and going to go back to 1908 — to Proctor & Gamble and good ole' Crisco. 

Long story short, P&G needed Crisco to take off, but there weren't TV shows and magazines to rely on, so they needed to get creative. Here's what they did. 

1. They paid the train lines to use and advertise Crisco in concessions served on board. 

2. They held "high society" tea parties in major cities — inviting "leading ladies" and only serving products using Crisco with the tea. 

3. They created and promoted free cookbooks, and inside were helpful recipes — all touting the benefits of, you guessed it, Crisco. 

Once mass media emerged, Crisco made the switch. But, at the time, the most successful campaign was the free cookbook. The exchange of free information led to brand loyalty beyond their wildest dreams. 

The bottom line is that people want to buy from companies they trust. You build trust by sharing free and useful information before a sale — telling your story patiently to each customer that's willing to listen. Frequency, reliability and trust will always outweigh exposure and reach. 

Implementing Digital Hospitality

If you own a food brand with a physical presence, like a restaurant, you're probably already doing this in-person. Successful food brands were founded on hospitality, which is defined as "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors and strangers." You banter with guests, answer any questions and always deliver what is needed — often before it's requested.

All we're encouraging you to do is extend that courtesy to potential guests online through permission marketing. Digital hospitality is simply that — it's the exchange of helpful information, entertainment and goodwill online. It's committing to potential customers before they're in the door. It's hanging your hat on relationship building instead of blasting meaningless marketing messages. 

With the new technology available, you don't have to print a free cookbook and ask folks to write in and request it like P&G did in 1908. You can start now. 

Stay tuned next week when we breakdown suggested permission marketing channels and how to use them — from websites and blogs to email and social media. 


For more helpful tips like these, sign up for our FREE 5 Minute Food Marketing email series — we'll send you one helpful food marketing tip per week.

The Ultimate Guide to Beat Writer's Block

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How many times have you sat at the computer to write, stared at that blinking cursor and felt like it's mocking you? Do you have great ideas strike you at inconvenient times — like the car or the shower — only to get home, try to write about them and go totally blank?

You've got writer's block, friend. But luckily, you're not alone.

Some of the most famous writers in the world — from Kurt Vonnegut to Maya Angelou — have expressed their frustrations with writer's block. It's a natural speed bump in the process. But, for people like me who write for a living or others that are on a strict deadline (hello, college term papers!), we literally can't afford to have it. If a paper or project is due, the professor or client doesn't care if you had writer's block. They care that you can complete the work. 

For me, knowledge is power. Oftentimes, the more I can learn about something, the less intimidating or paralyzing it can feel. I'm the girl who will stay up all night googling how criminals are caught so I can feel safer in my house. I've WebMD-ed the -ish out of every ailment you can imagine, thinking if I understand it, it can't impact me. 

While a lot of that behavior is next-level, Looney-Tune crazy, there is merit to some of it. The more you learn about something like writer's block — why it happens, how to beat it and how to prevent it — the more you can feel in control of your creative process and work towards eliminating it for good. Well, at least significantly.  

In this guide to beat writer's block, you'll learn:

  • What writer's block is

  • Why you may be getting writer's block

  • How to overcome and prevent writer's block in the future

SO LET'S DO THIS!


What is writer's block?

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Quite literally, writer's block is defined as "the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing." It's when your fingers sit on the keyboard, but your brain can't give them instruction on how to continue. It leaves you feeling unmotivated, creatively drained and undeniably frustrated. 

There's one hard truth about writer's block, and it's both the good and bad news about it — it's all in your head. It's not a condition that infects your body like a virus. It's not a mental illness that requires professional treatment. Like any fleeting emotion — happiness, sadness, anger — writer's block is influenced by your environment, but 100% controlled by your brain. 

Basically, we're not dealing with a broken arm here, people. You can pull yourself out of this one. 

But to fix an issue that your brain is constructing, you first have to figure out why it's happening in the first place. 

Why do we get writer's block?

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There are a lot of reasons that people feel stuck in their creative endeavors. It's easy to blame it on a lack of inspiration, but no one made a successful career by sitting around and waiting for inspiration to strike. You've got to learn how to spark inspiration within yourself whenever you need it.

So, the root of the problem is established — you get writer's block because you're feeling uninspired.

Now you have to figure out WHY. 

Here are common reasons I've experienced or heard others discuss AND how to beat them: 

How do I beat writer's block?

You're Uninspired Because You're Distracted

It's very difficult to be jazzed about whatever you're writing while you're also doing something else. As much as you think you may be an all-star multi-tasker, you aren't if whatever else you're doing is keeping you from working. So, turn off the TV, put your phone in another room and leave yourself no other option but to work. 

Distractions aren't just things like TV and snacks, though. I'm what I like to call an "A-1 Procrastinator." Meaning, if I have something I need to be doing that I don't want to do, I'll do ANYTHING else on my to-do list to take its place— clean the house, call a friend I've fallen out of touch with, reorganize the kitchen... ANYTHING but the most important task at hand. If you're like me, it's important not to rationalize this behavior because you're completing something else. Drop the dish towel and get back to that laptop, friend. It's not going to write itself. 

You're Uninspired Because You're Overwhelmed

Too many things popping in that noggin of yours? I get it — sometimes we've got so many items on our mental to-do list that we feel paralyzed by the thought of tackling it one by one. 

You know what to do here. Write it out. This is what I call mental dumping. Get out a piece of paper or word document on your computer (I highly suggest good ole pen and paper for this one) and list out every single thing you have going on in our head right now — your to-do list, what groceries you need this week, your aunt Mary's birthday that you're trying not to forget... all of it. Then, take that piece of paper, fold it up, and get back to your work. 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

You're Uninspired Because You're Directionless

This is super common in longer pieces of writing. Instead of being overwhelmed by other tasks, you're overwhelmed by this project and the fact that you have no idea where take it. It's called analysis paralysis, friend. But it's beatable too. 

Remember those old-school, roman numeral-laden outlines that your professors used to require you to make when you were doing a research paper? They weren't just for fun/torture. Writing is easier if you make a roadmap first. You don't need to get fancy here, just outline where you need to take the piece, the points you need to hit, etc. and then work on filling in the gaps. By breaking it up into categorical chunks, you can take it one step at a time because you've already planned out how to connect the dots. 

(pssst.. See the headers in this piece? That's the outline I've had sitting in my drafts for a week for this one.)

You're Uninspired Because You're Uninterested

Not every piece you ever write is going to shake you out of your chair with enthusiasm. Sometimes, it's just a snooze fest. But, you know what's less interesting? Sitting there and ruminating over it for longer than necessary. 

If you can't think of ways to make the topic more appealing to you, revisit your WHY instead of the WHAT. Instead of thinking about the topic, find inspiration by remembering WHY you're writing it. If this piece itself is boring, what part of finishing this will be exciting? Say it out loud a couple of times. Maybe even write it at the top of the page. Consider...

  • "It's important I finish this because..."
    • ... it's a story that needs to be told
    • ... the client is going to love it
    • ... I need to pass this class to graduate
  • OR "I'm excited to finish this because..."
    • ... it won't be weighing on my mind anymore
    • ... I get to go to a party after I finish
    • ... I'll never have to look at it again
    • ... I'm going to reward myself with _______
Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

You're Uninspired Because You're Exhausted

Fact — when you're tired, so is your brain. Writing is very mental, and if you're eyes are closing, it's going to be hard to get words on the page. Now, in a perfect world, my advice would be to outline the piece, go to sleep and pick it back up in the morning. BUT, I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're probably on some sort of deadline and running out of time. So we've got to simulate alertness. 

When I'm borderline asleep and need to get moving, here are a few things I've found get the job done:

  • chug a glass of water
  • have a light snack
  • drink something caffeinated  
  • pump some seriously upbeat music (dancing optional but encouraged)
  • go for a 10 minute walk
  • do 30 jumping jacks 
  • laugh — call a friend for 10 minutes, watch some funny YouTube videos, whatever works for you

You're Uninspired Because You're a Perfectionist

This is perhaps the hardest one, because it's ingrained in us much more deeply than being sleepy or distracted. But perfectionism is important to recognize and refine in your life as a whole, not just when it comes to writing. 

If none of the above is helping, you need to ask yourself — Am I unable to write this because I'm worried I'll fail? 

BOOM. Many people struggle with any decisive action (not just writing) because they're obsessing over the repercussions — Will this not be good enough? What if I work really hard on this and it sucks? What if the client fires me? What if I'm not as talented as I thought? 

The most important steps to solve this are: 1.) admitting your perfectionism is prohibiting you, not helping you. 2.) Realizing that not doing this at all because you're worried it won't be perfect is worse than finishing something that's incredibly average. 

I have this written in a sticky note at my desk. I suggest you do the same — DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. 

Stop caring about word choice, grammar and winning a prize for how impressive this piece is and just GET. IT. DONE. Write the whole draft without carrying about any of that. Focus on FINISHING. Then, you can go back, clean it up and edit. 

How do I prevent writer's block from happening again?

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This is a toughie. Because writer's block is essentially a self-constructed state-of-mind, there's no preventative measures or pill to help cope. There is, however, one thing you can do consistently to make sure that it happens less and less. 

WRITE MORE. (Sorry, don't hate me.)

Writing is like a muscle— it's got to be exercised often to be readily available to you. Just like you can't lay on the couch for six months and expect to pop up and run a half marathon, you can't avoid writing and expect it to come easy to you when you need it. 

If you don't work in copywriting, freelance or a career that requires it all the time, there are still small exercises you can build into your routine. Here are a few I suggest:

  • Journal / free write - I do this once a week. I write about whatever I feel like, and it can't be for public consumption. Try writing about an article you read, something that's been bothering you, your goals, anything. 
  • Try a writing prompt - There's a reason they made you do these in school. Try this list to get you started. 
  • Email or write a letter to a friend - We're so focused on texting and short communication these days. When was the last time you wrote a long letter or email to a friend? Deep-diving into communication with one is still a useful writing practice. 

And, always remember: 

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
― Charles Bukowski

Still need some assistance getting that writing project started? Get in touch today, and we'll see how we can help.