KEVIN BRATCHER w/ BEYOND THE EQUATOR
Set the scene – how did Beyond The Equator grow out of the parent company, Supreme Specialty Foods?
Supreme Specialty Foods started as a trading company specializing in superfoods. As we learned about the industry we realized it was still forming and there were a number of openings for products that answered the question “I know it is healthy, but how do I use it?” From there we started transforming superfoods into useful and easily understood ingredients like oils, flours, and powders, many of which are the base for BTE retail products. We try to offer healthy alternatives to everyday products consumers already use like oils, dressings, butters, and protein powders.
What was your role in the development and launching of BTE?
I introduced the idea of a retail company focusing on functional superfood products that actually taste good to my partners and explained the disconnect between superfoods and the standard consumer. As a team we decided to bridge that gap and use our expertise from the wholesale industry to innovate and create products that would have a greater reach. I’ve overseen most of that launch and helped put together the rest of our team that is now pushing everything forward in 2018.
What do you like most about what you do?
I enjoy working on every aspect of the company from Marketing to Operations to Finance and seeing everything that goes into launching a product. Work is always exciting and the opportunities are endless, it is just a matter of executing them day in and day out.
Has technology been a challenge as you’ve grown BTE? If so, how?
Technology has been a challenge but has also allowed us to reach millions of consumers that we would have limited access to in the food industry without it. We struggled with the importance of SEO and Social media at the start, and are still learning all of the ways these can help bring BTE to the next level.
Have you done any marketing experiments since starting BTE? If so tell us about your successes and failures.
We’ve recently started investing heavily in online marketing and the learning curve has been a challenge so far. As a consumer, we are programmed to ignore most of the ads we see online. Now, as a retailer, we are trying to create content that will actually catch the consumers’ attention and keep it through to a purchase. Looking at it from the consumer’s perspective has helped us succeed by creating useful content that a consumer actually wants to read or try. Our current campaign tried a number of approaches to drive traffic and after tweaking the formula multiple times we finally have found the audiences we need to target and some good ways to approach them.
Any tips/tools you’d recommend to other small businesses?
Try things or approaches that may seem out of the scope of our company or business, try to broaden your approach to the consumer. Companies will often follow the leaders in their industry without looking outside their own industry and seeing how other successful companies are functioning. While we operate in the food industry, we can learn a lot about marketing, operations, and manufacturing from companies in wildly different industries.
How did you get started using social media as a marketing tool?
I’ve started a number of different projects, most of them just for fun like my Bodacious Brewery, but they have all taught me different ways to use social media and understand how people will react. Social Media is a powerful marketing tool and as I started using social media more on a personal level, parallels between standard posts and potential for marketing started becoming obvious.
How is social media a tool for you and BTE?
We can update our followers on new products as well as educate both our followers and the general public about product benefits, uses, and nutrients. Recipes have been a great way for us to interact with our followers and give them something tangible to do with our products.
What makes you want to post BTE/chia related photos/posts to your personal social feeds?
In such a competitive business space you have to fully embrace what you are doing and it becomes a part of your persona. If I only worked on BTE from 9-5 it would be significantly more difficult to grow and introduce it to everyone we would like to reach. I have to be the first person to buy into what we are doing before anyone else will.
Has social media marketing helped grow BTE? If yes, how so?
We can reach consumers outside of standard retail spaces via social media. A lot of our customers have become brand ambassadors and used word of mouth to help us grow. Being able to interact with these customers has given us incredible feedback on our products, design, website, and everything in between.
Any negative or unexpected experiences you had from marketing through social media?
Tying into my last point, I didn’t expect as much interaction as we have had with consumers. On both Instagram and Facebook, consumers let us know how they are using our products, which competitors products they use, which health benefits are most important to them and whole lot more. I expected to answer some questions and respond to some comments, but the messages and information we receive on our products and posts is definitely unexpected.
Any advice you’d give small businesses who are thinking about starting a social media marketing campaign?
Create trial runs targeting a number of different markets with a number of different ads. See how they perform over time and hone in on your ideal social media target market. Your overall target market for your products may not be the same as your social media target market, it depends on what you are selling and how your end consumer uses social media.
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