Marketing is a general term used to describe all the actions that lead to the final sale of your product to the person who will consume it. It is the process of planning and executing pricing, promotion and distribution to satisfy your individual and organization needs, as well as those of your customers.

From this definition, it is easy to see that marketing is more than just selling a product or service. It is an essential part of business. Without marketing, even the best products and services fail.

In this section you will learn:

  • about the marketing plan
  • how to develop your promotion plan including:
    • promotion
    • direct marketing
    • advertising
    • publicity
    • sales promotion
    • trade shows
    • demonstrations

The marketing plan

You already know what your product is and what makes it different from your competitors’ and attractive to your consumer.

You now need to focus on getting your product to market and keeping it there. You can start by developing a marketing plan for each product. Be mindful that your marketing plan will change over time as your business grows.

Your marketing plan builds on your business plan. In your business plan, you identified important factors such as your target market, your competition, what made your product better or different, what consumers were willing to pay for your product and more.

In your financial plan you identified ways to finance and build equity in your business. Your marketing plan will also build on this to help you reach your financial goals and will help you do so in a way that is in line with your business’ strategic vision.

A marketing plan is critical to the success of your business! In writing your marketing plan, you should know your marketing goal(s).

Examples include:

  • entering a new market
  • establishing a target level of sales or market share
  • increasing sales or revenue
  • increasing awareness of your business or brand
  • increasing visitors to your website
  • attracting new customers
  • getting more repeat customers

If your product is brand new, your marketing goal may be to establish a certain level of sales or market share.

Before you start your plan, take a moment to consider your brand. The Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan has developed a series of guides to help food processors enter the grocery retail industry. The Brand Building and Private Label Brands of their Canadian Grocery Retail Guide explains effective techniques used by other successful food manufacturers.

Developing your promotional plan


The first P in the four Ps of marketing is your product, which you already know about.

The second P of marketing is promotion.

Promotion includes all the activities that inform people about your product and influence them to buy it. Regular and consistent promotion is crucial, so the market knows you are in business. “Out of sight” truly can mean “out of mind”.

There are many promotional tools available. They come at various costs and produce different results. Before you choose one (or more), you need a promotional plan.

Before choosing a promotional tool or combination of tools, consider these pieces of information you have already researched:

  • marketing goal (for example, increasing sales, entering a new market)
  • target markets (for example, your end consumer and your store presence)
  • budget

Next, you will decide which promotional tool(s) to use to reach each market. You’ll learn more about each of the tools in the upcoming sections.

Putting it all together, you’ll have a simplified promotional plan that looks like this:

  • My promotion goal is to increase consumer sales or increase wholesale sales
  • My targets include end consumers, wholesalers or other (be specific)
  • My promotional tools for each market may include direct marketing, advertising, publicity, sales promotion, trade show and/or a combination of these
  • My budget is: $X
  • My expected return is: $X

Please see the Promotional Programs and Marketing Support section of the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Grocery Retail Guide.

Direct marketing

Direct marketing involves reaching out to a specific target audience (for example, vegetarian, gluten-free, retirees, children under the age of six).

You can direct market to specific audiences in many ways. The most common method of direct marketing is placing an advertisement in a special interest publication. For example, if your product is just for people with celiac disease, you can find a magazine, newsletter, or website that is specific to that target audience. Direct marketing works best when you have researched your market and know exactly who they are and where to find them. It may be helpful to profile your ideal consumer so you can focus your marketing strategy more effectively.

Online platforms already have a large following, but it continues to grow. Data is becoming more available and analytics continue to improve. This is allowing companies in all fields to target people that will be more likely to buy their product. This is becoming a better and better way to identify and expand into your target market.

Direct marketing can be described as “shooting fewer arrows with more care” because, rather than trying to get attention from a lot of people, you are aiming at a select few.

Common forms of direct marketing include:

  • direct mail for example, mailing or emailing a letter or brochure directly to the target audience
  • online marketing channels (having your advertisement served specifically to people who match the profile you are targeting)
  • direct advertisement TV (advertising on specialty stations that cater to special interests)
  • direct advertisement magazine (advertising in specialty publications that match a certain group)


When you advertise, you pay to have your message delivered through the mass media, such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio and billboards.

Even though these are called “mass” media, it is still possible to find ways to target specific audiences. For example, you can place an advertisement during a specific TV or radio broadcast you know would be popular with your potential target audience.

When preparing an advertising campaign, you have two areas to consider:

  • the medium: where you are going to place your advertisement (for example, TV, online, on-air, print) and the costs associated with each of those choices
  • the creative: what your advertisements will look like, what message it carries and its associated costs (for example, photography, design)

You may want to hire an advertising agency or consultant to help you prepare your advertisements and choose your media.


One way you can make your budget go further is by co-marketing. For example, Foodland Ontario has a long-established consumer promotion program of OMAFRA. From its inception in 1977, Foodland Ontario has partnered with producers to achieve the maximum penetration of the Ontario market by Ontario-produced fresh and processed agricultural products.

One of the main objectives of the program is to maintain consumer intent to purchase Ontario produced food. In a recent survey, eight out of ten Ontario grocery shoppers indicate that they intend to purchase Ontario food. If your target market is Ontario consumers wishing to purchase local food products, then the Foodland Ontario program may be a good option.

Canada Brand helps companies distinguish themselves in the global marketplace by sharing many advertising resources, such as photos and research.

You can also look for co-marketing opportunities with products that complement yours but are not in competition with you (for example, fresh salad and salad dressing or roasted coffee with a coffee maker).

Some final thoughts on advertising

Advertising can be very expensive, and you can quickly exhaust your promotion budget with one-off space sales in newspapers, trade/consumer publications or radio that may not reach your target audience.

Make sure you have an advertising/media plan that fits with your overall objective for your product and ultimately your food business.

There’s an old saying that a good advertisement can make a bad product fail faster. Your priority should always be the quality of your product. When the quality is excellent, word of mouth will follow. And that’s the best advertising anywhere.


Publicity gives you free promotion through stories in newsletters, newspapers, magazines and television. You can get publicity by sending out a media release or inviting the media to a product launch event.

A media release is a one or two-page letter identifying a newsworthy story outlining who, what, when, where and why.

You can send out a media release to announce the start-up of your new business, introduce a new product or announce any other success story related to your company. If the media finds the story interesting, they will publish or announce the story as a news item which will be free advertising for you.

Social media

Releasing information on social media (such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) allows you to reach the media and your market at the same time, because they will turn up when a potential customer does an internet search.

You can also get publicity by developing friendships within the media or with those who are known as trendsetters or social media influencers. Positive word-of-mouth can also generate interest in your story.

Publicity is one of the most effective and least costly means of promotion. Consumers tend to trust stories they hear in the media more than they trust advertising, that’s what makes it effective.

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Sales promotion

What’s the difference between an advertising campaign and sales promotion? They may appear similar at first, but there are a few key differences. An advertising campaign tends to be a long-term effort that creates sales over time. Advertising campaigns typically result in full-price sales. A sales promotion is meant to spike sales quickly. It usually involves an incentive to get people to buy immediately, such as a reduced price for a specific period or a two-for-one special.

A lot of options are available to you when it comes to sales promotion. You may want to use several of them to promote your product and your business.

Suggestions for inexpensive promotions

As a new food processor, you can promote your product inexpensively and effectively by advertising through:

  • social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  • trade journals
  • in-store demonstrations
  • contests
  • flyers and coupons
  • swag (pens, note pads, magnets, tote bags)
  • online Yellow Pages
  • business cards
  • window banners
  • personal selling
  • newsletters
  • greetings cards
  • sports team sponsorships
  • home parties
  • seminars
  • direct mail
  • word of mouth

Trade shows

Setting up a booth in a trade show can help you:

  • establish a presence in the marketplace
  • see what others are doing in the industry (because you will see them at the show)
  • get a list of serious buyers more quickly than you could with a traditional sales approach

Trade shows can be expensive, but if you pick the right one, plan how to do it properly and present your business well, they can offer a high return in sales and contacts.

Once you choose a show remember that location and appearance matter. Make sure you are in a good spot where people will see you and ensure you have an attractive, professional booth. It is a good idea to visit a trade show before you participate in one so you can see how others present themselves.

If your budget is tight, look for regional collaborations that will let you be a part of their booth. Check what trade shows are happening in your region and see if they have initiatives that let small businesses share booths. Check with food industry associations for the same opportunities. You’ll find a list of the food and beverage events and trade shows on OMAFRA’s Dateline webpage.

Different types of shows

Some shows are for the final consumer (consumer shows) and others are for businesses within the food industry (trade shows). Examine your goals:

  • Do you want to be in a show where you’ll be able to take lots of orders on the spot?
  • Do you want to build your brand awareness, introduce a new product and gather leads?

The answers to these questions will help you decide which type of show to choose.

Another thing to consider is whether your product should be presented at a horizontal show, a vertical show, or both.

Horizontal shows highlight vendors who sell a wide variety of products or services. The people who come to horizontal shows are from many different target markets. For example, a healthy lifestyle show would be a horizontal show. It would include many products and services that are part of healthy living (for example, fitness equipment, training advice, running shoes, food and more).

Vertical shows tend to focus on just one type of product. The advantage of vertical shows is that the people who attend are all from a very specific market and your objectives can be more focused. The disadvantage is that your product or service must fall exactly within the focus for the show or you will not get the results you want. A seafood show or an organic food show would be examples of vertical shows.

Choosing your show

There are food and beverage trade shows across Canada and in almost every country around the world, as well as online shows. You will need to research which trade show is right for you.

To develop your list of potential shows, search online for “food industry trade shows” then find out as much as you can about each one. Here is a list of some of the main food and beverage trade shows in Ontario and Canada:

Now you need to know who goes to the shows you are considering. Ask the people who organize the show for a demographic profile of attendees. A demographic profile is relatively general. It won’t give you specific names of people who attended but it will give you a range of titles. That will tell you if the attendees are buyers or not.

You can also ask the organizers for a list of names of past attendees. You can then contact these people to see what they thought of the show. Some shows will only share this information with you if you have registered to exhibit.

In addition, you can ask a business that exhibited in that show the previous year for their impressions of the show and whether they will be attending again. It is best to ask someone who is not your competitor. If possible, go to the show as an attendee.

Be sure to ask the show’s organizers how the show is being promoted. If it is a new show, promotion must be very good to get the traffic you need to make it worthwhile, especially if you plan to exhibit. Ask about the schedule and check timing around other events such as lunch to know when attendees can visit your booth.

Also, be aware that some shows move their location from one year to the next. A show that was in Toronto one year may be in Calgary the next. Make sure you know exactly where the show is going to be held.

Finally, ask the contact person for lists of groups or other exhibitors attending from your area. That way you will know if your competition will be in attendance. You may also find a complementary business that would be willing to share a booth.

Preparing for the show

Now that you have chosen a show it is time to get ready. The contact person for the show will give you basic information. Make sure you have:

  • a floor plan so you can choose a high-traffic area. You will pay extra for a good location, but the added exposure may be worth it. Ask for a plan that shows where the other exhibitors will be located.
  • booth specifications including dimensions, lighting, tables, chairs, skirting, electrical requirements and any display or sample restrictions
  • information about all the services being offered such as accommodations, equipment rental, assistance with setup, dismantling or storage

Training your booth staff

Your booth staff account for 90% of the positive feelings that attendees have about the show and your company, so pick and train them well.

Trade show attendees expect your booth staff to be very knowledgeable. Your booth staff should know everything about your company and have very good people skills. Be sure that they understand exactly what your objectives are for the show (for example, taking orders and raising awareness).

Your staff should also know your competitors and be ready to speak to your product’s competitive advantage.

Make sure they can emphasize the benefits of your product instead of simply repeating the product features list from your brochure.

Train staff to collect contact information of visitors to your booth either by collecting business cards or scanning all badges. Be sure to follow-up with visitors after the trade show, particularly those that showed considerable interest in your products.

Other preparations


Your trade show budget will have to cover your booth staff (and their training), accommodations, the space for your booth and your booth display, handouts, promotional activities, product transportation and travel. If the trade show is outside of Canada, add insurance costs and plan to spend at least an entire day before and after the show in the host country.


Contact existing and potential customers before the show. Invite them to drop by your booth and inform them about special promotions available only at the show or new products to be launched.


Most trade shows produce a program that is given out to attendees. There are usually advertising inserts in the general media or industry publications. You can place ads in the program as well as inserts typically at a reduced rate. This gives you the opportunity to advertise in specific vehicles aimed at your audience.


Get a professional design company to prepare your booth and materials. Be sure to check the show’s requirements for booth width and height. Try to create a booth that can be used for several different shows to maximize the efficiency of your budget.


Demonstrations, sometimes referred to as “product sampling”, are an effective and inexpensive means of promoting a new or existing product.

There are three types of in-store demonstrations.

Live demos

At a live demonstration, a member of your staff does simple food preparation. This is best for a new product that requires information or answers to questions or for a product that needs special preparation.

One advantage of a live demonstration is that you can encourage the customer to buy the product. A disadvantage is that a great deal of time is required for the demonstration, so costs can be high.

Mobile demonstrations

These are a form of live demonstration where a demonstrator walks through the store offering samples. The demonstrator usually has a base operation near the product sales display. Not all stores allow this type of demonstration.

Static display

This is an area displaying the product and offering unattended samples. One advantage is that this type of display is very cost effective. A disadvantage is that there’s no control over purchasing decisions or how much sample is used. This type of demonstration needs to have the consumer familiar with your product.

Steps in planning demonstrations

To plan a demonstration:

  • determine what type of demonstration you are going to use
  • decide which stores you are going to target (choose one that stocks your product)
  • find out the store policy on how to set up in-store demonstrations. Every store has different policies.
  • during the demonstration, hand out sample information about the product as well as any coupons
  • be unique and try new ideas to stand out from the competition
  • know the competition, but don’t downgrade them during the demonstration
  • talk to the store managers. The better the relationship you have with them now and the better they know your product, the more cooperative they will be. Talk to them about two weeks before the demonstration so that they will have product on-hand and on the shelves.
  • be prepared to work the whole weekend, not just peak hours. The normal run of a demonstration is Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • The store may want incentives from you, such as cost cuts on products. If possible, get the store to run a special offer for your product during the demonstration. However, be prepared to pay for this opportunity.
  • ensure demonstrators have a food handler’s licence and follow regional health codes for food preparation and handling
  • Demonstrations can be costly and should be evaluated regularly to determine return on investment.
  • ensure demonstrations take place close to where the product is displayed or merchandised


Coupons can be an effective way to increase your sales and profits. However, you should be aware that:

  • the cost of physical distribution, mailing coupons, placing advertisements and paying the retailer a handling charge for redeeming the coupons can add up
  • there may be reduced contribution margins because coupons are price reductions
  • new and existing customers using your coupons may have still bought the product by paying the regular price
  • most printers in Ontario can print coupons

You need to estimate various rates to determine the effectiveness of a coupon promotion. The estimations could be based on past performance or on experiments that run coupons in one city or part of a city. Rates include:

  • redemption rates
  • displacement rates
  • acquisition rates
  • stock-up rates
  • conversation rates

Company literature and giveaways

Keep in mind that attendees do not want to lug your marketing materials (and everybody else’s) all over the exhibit hall. In fact, about 90% of all marketing materials get thrown out right away. Keep yours small and light (think business-card size with a link to more information or offer to send it by mail/e-mail to the attendee’s office). You may also need to prepare materials in different languages for specific markets.

How much should you bring? That depends on how many people you think you’ll see. Be sure to take lots of samples of your product.

Lead capture and follow-up

The main purpose of displaying at a trade show is to make connections that can help you grow your business. You will want to capture the name and contact information of anyone who comes to your booth so you can follow up with them after the show. You can do this by:

  • having booth staff fill out lead sheets
  • renting a lead machine at the show
  • collecting business cards
  • getting people to sign up for more information
  • having a guest book

Follow up immediately after the show. This is a good business practice and increases the likelihood that attendees will become customers. Let customers know in advance when and how they can expect to be contacted by you.


  • I have identified the target market(s) for my promotional campaign.
  • I have weighed the strengths and weaknesses of each promotional tool for my target market(s).
  • I have set a goal, budget and expected return on investment for this campaign.
  • I have considered co-marketing opportunities.
  • I have identified any activities within my company that are worthy of publicity.
  • I have considered what self-promotion opportunities may be right for me.
  • I have made a list of trade shows that I would like to attend or exhibit at.
  • I have contacted retailers for information on their in-store demonstration policies.