By Tim Powell, Managing Principal

An online strategy is as critical as any business unit or corporate strategy in today’s market. Food companies, however, have often lagged behind other industries for a myriad of reasons. To achieve success, it is important to allocate the right resources and competencies.

Every company should have a digital strategy. This is what informs a firms’ marketing tactics and outlines how to achieve goals online. While the execution of digital tactics is what most companies need help with, creating the strategy is the essential first step toward success digitally.  Without it, there is no guiding light. Ensure a strategy is in place first. Period.


In June, we hosted a strategy session in Chicago and attendees identified a number of critical issues that managers and executives can further refine:

  • Foodservice is a Challenging Environment for Digital Strategies – foodservice is different than retail in several ways, especially when it comes to reaching the audience of any social media strategy. Operators and patrons are the target for messaging and both audiences have slightly different motivations.
  • Influencer Campaigns – the critical part of analytics is finding an influencer and tying a promotion to it. You need to find a way to intercept a person in the buyer journey.
  • The Purpose of a Digital Strategy – often, there are challenges as to why a firm wants a social strategy. Do you seek a coupon? A social media presence? Manufacturers should first set a strategy that clearly defines what the goals are. Is it using Facebook? Is it Instagram? Is it Influencer? This will often dictate the budget and purpose.
  • Ownership of the Strategy – marketing and sales have historically controlled digital strategy, but many attendees think there are more cross-functional needs such as finance, IT and operations. It really should be aligned with a firm’s overall corporate strategy which means upper management should be involved.
  • No “One Size Fits All” – a comprehensive, digital marketing approach must be personalized – it can’t be simply copied from peer or competitor efforts (must align with corporate strategy). This begins with auditing current efforts, traditional and digital, and using the findings to discover what pieces are working, what pieces are missing and if it is leading toward success. The overall strategy should be a compilation of different tactics served at the right time to the right audience.

Although there is no one right way to develop or execute a digital marketing strategy, there are a number of interrelated shifts in a manufacturer’s planning, thinking and approach that are required to transform traditional marketing into a digital plan.

Any digital marketing strategy must be aligned with a firm’s corporate strategy. They should not be separate entities. For example, if a manufacturer’s strategic thrust is differentiation, low cost, focus, synergy, etc., the digital strategy must support the overall thrusts or it has little chance for success.


Tim Powell is a Managing Principal of Foodservice IP. His responsibilities include recommending and developing business strategies, market sizing, designing qualitative and quantitative research methods, strategic planning and project management. Tim serves as a trusted foodservice adviser to management at several food companies.