Attendees learn tips to engage customers

AFP Correspondent

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (March 10, 2015) —  St. Joseph’s University food writing instructor Tenaya Darlington offered numerous tips on how to effectively communicate products to customers during a session at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s “Farming for the Future” conference.
Darlington, who also writes a blog on artisan cheese under the pen name “Madame Fromage,” began by asking her audience to ask themselves four questions.
In the first, describe your ideal customer.
Next, visualize three images of your product — such as a tomato or pepper plant full of fruit, or a platter of fruit, or maybe a cooked dish.
Then, think of the marketing area in which you spend the most money. This could be your label, newsletter, etc.
Finally, concentrate on a new product, new variety or new release.
Referring to what she termed the power of collaboration in marketing efforts, Darlington advised, “Don’t be afraid to ask people.”
Determine who is your audience, find out what they are hungry for. Are they interested in being reached by digital or visual methods?
Try interesting ways to present your food products. Exploit food events.
Using artisan cheese as an example, Darlington said promoters work to distinguish themselves from commodity cheese by giving their cheese identities.
Naming and labeling can enhance identity, she added.
“When you’re not there — what does your packaging tell about you?” she asked.
She listed as examples Purple Haze, Blue Minty, Stinking Bishop, Prima Donna Gouda, Vampire Sky, Midnight Moon, Anton’s Red Love and Hooligan.
“What visuals and emotions do these create?” she asked.
Another point to consider is the need to be approachable.
Wine, she stressed, often has a reputation to be intimidating.
She countered that with illustrations of cheese packages that she said, “make you want to reach in and hold it.”
Another picture she pointed out, “looks like a big lump of fat.”
Still another, she emphasized, “Says ‘I’m handmade.’ ” That item, she noted, skillfully suggested that hands have touched it.
“Personalize the look of the product,” Darlington urged.
Also, “Use engaging signage.” Pairing ideas, flavor notes, and ideas such as which cheese to serve with coffee, and what to look for in selecting a specialty cheese can be conveyed in three or four sentences.
To illustrate her points, she shared two examples.
The message “Without you, I’m blue” appeared on a bleu cheese package.
A heart with the words, ‘We cheddar get together,’ decorated a wedge of cheddar cheese.
“Show your story on Instagram,” she stressed.
Use visuals and writing to advertise promotions such as the pint of the week ice cream.
Darlington suggested, “Connect and collaborate.”
She listed these tips: Sharing and linking via social media to restaurants that use your product; invite Instagram or Facebook followers to help name your new product; run a contest for seasonal recipes or pairings; contact a university for communication interns; tell media about your new products and recipes; invite bloggers to use your products in recipes; appeal to people’s values.
Finally, her advice on tips to improve your written communications included: be sensory, create the image of scent or flavor; be interactive and inviting; use active verbs to energize your text; evaluate adjectives to connote enthusiasm.
Darlington told her audience that performing these activities gets easier with experience.
“But,” she concluded, “it helps to have models.”
She referred the audience to the New York Times request for a champion cheese description at