Section 1: Understanding your customer and the market
Section 2: Your vegan marketing toolbox
Section 3: Creating and carrying out your marketing plan

Finding things to say

One of the hardest parts about producing content is finding interesting things to talk about.  People forget about what attracted someone to your company in the first place, their niche interest in what you do.  So often I see a company share a vegan news story that’s made the headlines, but I will have already seen the story shared by four other vegan pages that morning, and it’s already popped up in my Google News app twice because Google has a sneaking suspicion I might be vegan.  I’m not following these pages to get generic vegan news – I get that elsewhere – and neither are the people who are following you.  So before you just share the big vegan news story of the moment, pause and ask yourself if it relates specifically to your company or industry?  If not, then it’s likely your followers will have picked it up elsewhere anyway and all you are doing is giving traffic to someone else.

Instead, what about creating your own content around the story and make it relevant to your customers and followers?  For example, there was a story circulating at the start of the 2020 coronavirus lockdown in the UK about a ‘magic cake’ recipe.  With fresh food in short supply, the newspapers had picked up on a recipe to make a cake without using milk, eggs or butter!  Wow!  That’s magic!  Can you even get your head around that?!  Now, of course, I know what you are thinking – that’s just a vegan cake surely?  And indeed it was, but it went viral without the v-word ever being mentioned.  It was The Petite Cook’s water cake that just used flour, vegetable oil and water with baking powder, sugar and cocoa powder.  It was the most successful ‘vegan by stealth’ activity I’ve seen for some time.

Rather than just sharing that story on Vegan Business Tribe and linking to someone else’s website, we made a short video discussing the story and asking what vegan businesses could learn from the ‘vegan-by-stealth’ approach to promoting your product.  If you call your vegan product something else, like the ‘magic cake’, are you going to reach a far wider audience?  And that’s what people follow us for – they will have already seen the story elsewhere, but they want our unique take on it.  You can set up your own ‘Google Alerts’ for news stories that mention specific keywords and then tell your audience what this news means for them.  For example, when The Vegan Society publish a new report, don’t just share it; read it yourself first and then pull out the bits of information that are really of interest to the people following you and give them the benefit of your expertise.  Use it to show the people who are following you, but who are not yet customers, that you know what’s going on in the industry and have an opinion on it.

And in the same way that TV series tell an ongoing story, you can plan activities that are going to give you new things to say for a long period of time.  For example, if you are moving your business from your kitchen into your first micro-factory – even if that’s just your converted garage – document every stage of you doing this.  Post a time-lapse of you putting down the new flooring and make a video walking your customers around the empty space planning where everything is going to go.  Share the video of you unwrapping the new food mixer when it arrives and then run a competition for what name you should give it (Mixy McMixface, obviously).  Plan out opportunities to get as much content as possible from your project and create a new playlist on YouTube, or a new page on your website to post it all.

If there’s nothing noteworthy happening in your business at the moment (I don’t believe you), then start a campaign that your customers will follow. Remember, you are not looking to launch a business – you are looking to start a movement. If you build a big enough tribe around you that care about what you care about, it might be a huge movement that is going to change the world. If you are a vegan food company, can you launch a campaign to educate the local school children about veganism and healthy eating – and document your ongoing efforts, both the highs and the lows, in achieving this. That would make amazing content. Or pick a worthy cause or charity that you know your customers really care about and talk to them about doing a joint project together. For example, professional Vegan Football Club Forrest Green Rovers (Go The Green Army!) ‪sent spare football kits and boots to Zambia Camp Phoenix project, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases orphan elephants back into the wild. The camp wardens had created their own local football team and needed a kit to wear. Forrest Green Rovers know that a large part of their fan base care about animals, and obviously love football, so it’s the perfect project to be involved in. Not only was it the right thing to do, but now they can post updates about the Camp Phoenix football team as well as their own; this is all great content that strengthens the relationship they have with their audience. A customer knows that if they spend money with this company then some of that money is going into supporting activity they care about.

Or you can plan an activity that is simply there to create shareable content. Plant Milk company Oatly are a brilliant example of a company that did this when they launched their ODDS campaign (Oatly Department of Distraction Services) which has now turned into a content monster. If you go to Oatly’s website and look for their ODDS section, you will see several different distraction campaigns that are there solely to get you to interact with their brand. Some are directly related to their product, such as their ongoing guides of how to make bird feeders or hand-puppets from your used Oatly packs, and others have nothing to do with the product at all. Take ‘Lisa’s Dream Gallery’ where Oatly’s art director creates illustrations of dreams that customers have sent in for her to draw. They are quite surreal, but it’s also a magnificent long-term content generation strategy that they know will appeal to their customer base.

Someone like Oatly can do this. They can monetarily take their eye away from trying to sell people Oat Milk to build their brand, but you might not have that luxury. So, combine your content creation strategies around more obvious marketing activity. Record an interview with a different customer each month about how they use your product, creating both content and testimonials at the same time. Record short videos of you packing up orders and the little extra surprises you are dropping into each box and share these on Instagram. Keep nurturing your followers to make them want to be customers too.

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