Establishing yourself as a vegan business can be as daunting a prospect as it can rewarding.
You are contributing to an ever-growing movement of awareness and people striving for a better future. Indeed, veganism has almost categorically been recognised as the only sustainable option for our planet, even by the most mainstream (and carnivorous) of scientists.
Yet despite this undeniable sway towards a plant-based lifestyle and the exponential tide of people hopping aboard our happy little bandwagon, there is no denying that to label yourself as vegan is to pitch yourself into a significantly-niche market.
Luckily, we have a few tips to help you find the leads you need to make your business thrive.
1 Know Your Business
What are you trying to achieve? If you could picture your business in one, five, even ten years’ time, what would it look like? Every company needs a business plan, but it rarely takes into account the ultimate goal. Of course, we all want our businesses to be an overwhelming success and continue to grow and grow, but if you can develop an ideal image of what you want your business to be – within reason and rationality – write it down. Keep returning to this at every stage of your business and ask yourself, ‘am I on track?’ It may adapt, change and grow as you progress, but if you can maintain this image as the metaphorical carrot drawing you forward, it will prevent superfluous energy, expense and time wasted on pursuits that don’t feed that ultimate goal.
For example, print media may well be an excellent choice for a business similar to yours, but if your demographic is younger or more technologically connected, your ad spend would be better directed at online marketing.
Likewise, simply because there are dozens of social platforms out there, it doesn’t mean you have to be constantly investing in and posting on all of them. Select the ones that suit your business. We’ll be covering the best social media choices for your business in a later blog post – so stay tuned!
2 Know Your Audience
There are vegans and then there are ‘vegans’; Hippies, yogis, health nuts, young, old or 100 per cent mainstream, 9-to-5-working, suburban families. Veganism is particularly ‘on trend’ at the moment, drawing people in who may not have found it had their favourite Instagram celebrity not made the change sometime last week. Likewise, there are those who make no admission of it, despite having lived plant-free for a quarter century.
So who amongst this myriad of vegans or your target audience?
Each business, even if just as vegan-oriented as the next, will have a specific demographic and it is essential that you find yours. It helps to imagine your ideal customer. What is their name, their income? Where do they live, what magazines or clothes do they buy and what Facebook pages might they follow? Creating this simple profile gives you the opportunity to see your business from the outside in, to place yourself in the mind of your customer and ask of yourself, what do I want from this company?
Below, you will find a link to a downloadable Customer Profile, allowing you to create your target client.
3 Diversify Your Marketing
Unless you live in a gated community that contains your entire audience-base, you will want to reach beyond your physical location with your marketing. Again, it is important to picture your clients and assess how best to engage with them. If you have a younger audience or a highly visual product, such as clothing, food or cosmetics, perhaps Instagram is your best platform, possibly backed up with a carefully targeted advertising campaign. If your business is of a more corporate persuasion, perhaps LinkedIn or Twitter are a better direction to take. These are choices that are essential to assess for your company’s marketing. But ultimately it returns to the aspect of knowing your audience and expanding upon that. As with point number two, begin by assessing who you are marketing to and then explore the secondary and tertiary markets that may be interested in your product, despite not being who you immediately anticipated connecting with.
For example, say you had just developed a new sports-oriented pea protein smoothie powder. Fitness fanatics would be your primary audience and you may well also come from a background in fitness, so it is the demographic not only to whom you wish to market, but also with whom you most readily connect. You know them because you are one of them. However, new mums who are constantly on the go and may wish to drop a few post-natal pounds may also be a valid market, as too might yogis who are invariably health-conscious and might prefer a lighter meal before their practice. These are strong secondary audiences.
Beyond that, you can begin the search for tertiary markets, those who may not immediately know they need your smoothie powder initially, though it might well fulfil a need in their life. Perhaps they are dairy-intolerant, maybe they have only recently become vegan and are looking for a way to supplement. They could be recovering from an operation and unable to eat solids. There are myriad reasons why people might desire your product that are so far removed from your original concept.
4 Get Networking
We vegans tend to stick together. We create Facebook groups, vegan-specific events and routines, destinations and acquaintances based upon our dietary and ethical choices.
This can be used to great effect when marketing your business. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing. If a close and trustworthy friend recommends something, even if it is inferior to other offerings, you are far more likely to accept it than something no one has recommended.
One of the beauties of Facebook, from a business perspective, is that to your audience, it can feel far more like a friend recommending to them than a business pitching to them. Likewise, it is viral, so when one acquaintance Likes a particular page, their friends will see it and be more likely to also Like the same page. We trust the ones we know.
So creating pages, events and activity on Facebook is a wonderfully familiar way to expand your audience amongst total strangers. Similarly, Instagram can be a superb way to draw in a growing audience. If you a filling their feeds with stunning and relevant images, popping up in their searches or reaching them through mutual friends, they will want to see more and more, even if the images are only loosely associated with your business.
Returning to the protein powder metaphor, you could post images about anything from professional-level athletes to busy mums burdened with shopping to a happy cow thanking you for going dairy-free! Reinforcing this with tagging relevant athletes, influencers and businesses, and posting carefully curated hashtags, your marketing will grow organically of its own accord.
Facebook advertising can be minutely specific in its targeting, so you can create a range of campaigns each directed by its imagery, wording and targeting to one of your predefined demographics. Unlike print advertising, which blindly pitches your brand to a hugely diverse audience, you can literally place your brand right in front of the eyes of those who most want to see it.
5 Think Outside the Vegan Box
We have seen it numerous times. Indeed, we have even tripped ourselves upon a number of occasions with this potential conundrum. Simply because both we and our business concept are vegan, this does not mean that our audience is or need only be vegan. This has the potential of being an ethical tightrope. Do you really want non-vegans connecting with your brand? Are you willing to serve them on some level? Or can you justify incorporating them into your demographic that you might positively influence them, or simply that they want to make an ethical choice in your business, even if other areas of their lives may not align?
There can be a gentle and unintentional prejudice with any target group. It is almost unavoidable; “we are us and they are not us”. Veganism has a tendency to become somewhat of an extremism, given the passion of its principles, but it need not handcuff us to our singular perspective. Health and wellness is the single fastest-growing industry in the marketplace. If someone is conscious of what they eat, though still omnivorous, they may well be your perfect customer. Similarly, environmentalists, charity workers, activists, or their online counterparts, ‘clicktivists’, are generally people of high ethics. Though a follower of Greenpeace may not be vegan, they are of an ethical nature, and in so being, they might be a perfect candidate for your marketing campaign. Restricting yourself to a solely vegan audience is precisely that: restricting. There are plenty of conscious, ethical individuals in the world who may well suit your company perfectly, despite not subscribing to a wholly plant-based diet, but need that discount them from your market targeting? That’s a question only you can answer, but it is also worth asking yourself, do you want or mind non-vegans also being your customers? Occasionally, and we feel it would be rare, the answer would be that no, you do not want non-vegans partaking in your enterprise, but for almost all the scenarios we could imagine, to cast your net beyond the confines of the purely vegan pool can only be a positive for your business and inspirational to those you reach.
So drop your guard, let go of your prejudice and reach further into the world of your potential clients – they are far more numerous than you might think.
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