By Anna Ritchie published June 12, 2012

Waffles, Wine and Wisdom: 3 Content Tips to Boost Your Local Rep

Anyone who runs a local food and beverage company (from restaurants to groceries to bodegas) knows how hard it is to keep up with their finances, inventory and customers, let alone content. Not only is this industry fast-paced, but it’s also highly competitive and constantly changing, which means you need to establish your presence — and fast.

One of the fastest ways to become the “go-to” food spot for your local community is by creating meaningful, tailored, and unique content. If you service your local communities 24/7, here are a few content marketing best practices just for you.

The key is in that defining word: community.  By developing content that directly engages with (not just speaks to) your community, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a lot of street cred, and – even better – loyalty.  You need laser-focused messages tailored specifically for your community that are meaningful, different, and fun, that will make your local community feel, well, special. And who doesn’t want to feel special?

Start with content that’s meaningful

Meaningful content – or content that conveys more than just what you have on the menu – will immediately stick out for your local consumers. Take The Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, for example (originally shared by Andrew Davis). This local joint joins the hordes of other take-out joints in the area. But wait, what kind of food do they serve again? The beauty is, it’s always changing, and it’s always a meaningful change at that.

The Conflict Kitchen has a clearly defined and meaningful purpose: educate the local community around the details of a particular conflict happening around the world. Every four months, it will change everything – from menu, to awning, to food wrappers – hitting consumers from every angle with the messages they’re trying to convey. To stay organized, they use a smart editorial calendar and use every aspect of the consumer’s experience with their content to help them understand the world a little bit better. For the consumers, this is a win-win. They get a different experience than they would get anywhere else, and can feel like, even if for a few moments, that they’re part of something more meaningful.

Best Practice Tip: Though you may not have the desire or capacity to change your entire restaurant around every few months, there are a few simple things you can do to produce meaningful content that will spark engagement and excitement in your local community:

  • Find out what people are rallying around in your community: Whether it’s an MS walk, food drive or trash cleanup, there are usually dedicated groups focused on enhancing their community’s “do good” nature.
  • Highlight those local events in your place of business with an attractive calendar, or on your company website.  Ask them for signage to put in your widows, or give them a feature in your regular newsletter.
  • Give props where props are due by highlighting a local successful initiative on your website, or via email, thanking all who were involved for helping contribute to your community.

A little personal touch can go a long way with your locals, and the more you can communicate through your content that you’re about more than just making money, the better.

Take it to the streets

Other types of content that perform extremely well in local communities are ones in which the community can see themselves reflected. The Waffle Shop in Pittsburgh (originally shared by Andrew Davis) is a great example of this.

The Waffle Shop broadcasts a live-streaming talk show with customers. You heard that right. Customers come in. They chat. They see themselves “on air” – and boom: an insta-community of super loyal customers is born.

Their editorial calendar includes “Open Talk,” a show called “CookSpeak” and a program called “Waffle Wopp.” Each show has its own format. “Waffle Wopp” is a teen magazine talk show hosted and produced by local teenagers. Their eclectic guest list, live music and fun interviews make the show one of the Waffle Shop’s most popular shows.

Best Practice Tip: Explore your local neighborhood or rove an upcoming in-person event and take video interviews with your customers. The insights you gather could provide great fodder for humorous YouTube vignettes, customer testimonials/case studies, or an ongoing content series (like “customer of the week”).

Consider educational print pieces: The “Whole” picture

Whole Foods isn’t a local business by definition, but is extremely focused on having a strong presence in the communities where its stores are located. Each location has its own online presence, promotions and other initiatives and, if you live in a neighborhood with a Whole Foods, it is often “the place” to go for specialty foods. One way Whole Foods engages with its local community is through informative print brochures, like the Thanksgiving recipe booklet Claire McDermott recalls:

“I was shopping there one week before Thanksgiving and I picked up a booklet about preparing the bird, unusual stuffing, why free-range tastes better, etc. The content was fun, totally useful (it was my companion on Thanksgiving) and perfectly tied to their offerings.”

Best Practice Tip: Don’t discount print as a powerful content tool to engage your local community. You have the unique opportunity to directly and personally engage with each and every person who crosses your threshold, so why not offer them something valuable and physical that they can take with them? An educational print piece will:

  • Serve as a useful and helpful resource (seasonally-focused content is a great idea)
  • Position your business as a place that cares about making your customer’s lives easier
  • Promote your products (of course)
  • Give customers a reason to come back again for future informative content or brochures

Finally, know your audience members. You know they like (or definitely need) food, but also have options about where to buy it. Take that option away by giving them something valuable that no one else does.

Take in-store engagement further

Print pieces are a great way to give your customers a little something extra, but how about for the more digitally-savvy customers? At Kendall Jackson Wines, they too (like Whole Foods) sell a product that customers can really get anywhere, and have also decided that content that helps their customers learn something new is a great way to keep people coming back for more. Though they don’t have their own stand-alone stores, like Whole Foods, they are implementing a very similar practice for engaging the local community around them with their QR-coded  tags and labels (as shared by Nate Riggs).

Here’s how it works: Kendall Jackson Wines knows that people have a lot of choices, and oftentimes aren’t highly knowledgeable wine connoisseurs. So, it features QR codes on some of its tags and labels to help people with their decision making while they’re “in the moment” (similar to Whole Foods providing a Thanksgiving brochure right before the holiday). They’re giving people meaningful, targeted content that’s not only relevant to them, but relevant to them right now.

Through the QR codes, consumers can immediately learn about the wine, any discounts, and other content without having to do an extensive internet search (like “what wine goes best with Branzino?”).

Best Practice Tip: This very local execution of a broader content initiative for the company really hones in on what works well when it comes to content: don’t isolate one audience group.  Create content for the people who are shopping in stores, not online; who have a million options to choose from every day and who are very likely to share their positive experiences with their friends, neighbors and colleagues.

To sum up: It’s critical that you don’t ignore the power of engaging your local community. A community is an extremely powerful force, and with the right kinds of engagement and educational content, you have the chance to forge connections that many big brands simply can’t make. Sponsor their soccer games, interview them after a big meal, and make their voices and needs front and center of your content strategy.

What great examples of local content from your neighborhood food/beverage providers have you seen work well? Share your own examples and tips in the comments below.

Author: Anna Ritchie

Anna Ritchie is a marketing and communications practitioner, focusing on social media, content marketing and Online Community management.You can follow her on Twitter @apritchie.

Other posts by Anna Ritchie

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