My hometown of Canton, OH, isn’t exactly a one-horse town. You football fans out there may recognize it as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and we actually have a pretty nice little shopping district. That being said, we are lacking a number of things the big cities enjoy. One of the major holes in our retail landscape is (or should I say WAS) a really good health food supermarket. I know we midwesterners have a reputation for being bacon eating, beer guzzling slugs (hey, I ̶r̶e̶s̶e̶m̶b̶l̶e̶ resent that remark), but you’ll actually find a growing number of people who are paying more attention to their health and fitness. I can tell you that a number of people here have practically been begging for a convenient health food option.
Enter Earth Fare.
If you have not heard of Earth Fare, it’s a complete health food supermarket. We’re talking everything from meats and produce to pet food and beauty items, completely free of added hormones, artificial fats and trans-fats, artificial sweeteners and tons of other ingredients that are on their official “Boot List” of ingredients that they have deemed unacceptable. This is truly an unprecedented concept for our area.
Unique Store, Unique Marketing
So what the heck does this have to do with digital marketing. Well, on top of having a unique business model, they are also using the internet in some interesting ways to engage their audience and position themselves as a community member in each of the areas in which they are located.
1. Blogger Outreach
Any business can put out a press release to announce a grand opening. At this point, most are probably savvy enough to build excitement on social media and post announcements across those platforms as well. But Earth Fare took it a step further by inviting bloggers (including yours truly) out for a VIP sneak peak.
The bloggers received a tour of the whole store, enjoying some yummy samples along the way (I especially enjoyed the dark chocolate espresso bites in their very cool bulk food section).
The bloggers were encouraged to take pictures and ask questions along the way, and each left with a swag bag filled with full-sized products and two $25 gift cards, one to give away (keep reading) and one to keep for myself. (Uh, oh, I guess that means I have to nofollow the link above. Thanks, Google!)
In addition to one super awesome digital marketing blogger (wink, wink), the group included lifestyle and “mommy” bloggers, all who will be writing their own reviews of the store. So rather than just your standard newspaper article, Earth Fare will enjoy exposure from several sources who all have their own built-in audience.
One of the most impressive things to me about Earth Fare is that they really seemed in tune with the community and expressed a concern for making sure they provide an experience that is tailor made for the area. Quite a difference from your standard, cookie cutter chain stores that are nearly identical from city to city, state to state.
They didn’t gain this understanding through your typical “market research” techniques, such as surveys. Using the Meetup website, Earth Fare representatives personally met with businesses and organizations committed to healthy eating and asked them what they were looking for in a healthy grocery store. This also helped them build their extensive variety of local products, something they strive to offer in each of their 37 stores.
The Meetups proved to be so successful that North Canton Earth Fare created it’s own Meetup for healthy food enthusiasts.
Take a cue from Earth Fare and think about how your company might benefit from engaging face-to-face with your community. The internet is great, but the true value comes when you use it to form real live relationships with the people in your area and show a commitment to addressing their concerns and desires.
3. Market-specific newsletters
Another sign that they truly care about the areas in which they are located is that, rather than having a standard newsletter that gets blasted out to all their subscribers, the newsletters are specific to the market.
You hear a lot in email marketing about list segmentation, but I’m not sure how many companies practice it, or how many apply it to their newsletters. Ask yourself if everything in your newsletter is suited to everyone on your email list, or would they be better served by having content targeted to their specific wants and needs? Sure, you don’t want to be creating 50 different newsletters, but look at your email list and see if there any natural segments that deserve their own content.
4. Branding and story telling
Ok, this may not be a unique digital marketing technique, or at least it shouldn’t be, but it’s one I think Earth Fare does particularly well. Earth Fare’s value proposition, of course, is that it makes it easy for families to eat healthy. That concept is crystal clear on their website, where visitors can view their Quality Standards, their complete “Boot List,” answers to commonly asked questions and more.
The storytelling extends to their blog, where they describe in detail why it’s important to purchase natural products and how their products meet those standards. While I normally preach against touting your own products too much on your blog, in this case, the posts are providing detailed product information that the types of shoppers Earth Fare attracts want to know. Plus, the blog also contains recipes, how-to’s and other useful information that does not directly talk about their products but that would definitely appeal to their customer base.
Earth Fare also has rewards programs, deals through texts, social media involvement and other typical marketing techniques we’ve come to expect from brands in this day and age. But what sets Earth Fare apart is its hyper focus on its target audience and the different ways they find and engage with that audience.