Imagine pulling up to your favorite curb in your shiny, vinyl-wrapped food truck, ready to sling Japanese tapas to a hungry mob of Wall Street types on their lunch breaks.
Now you’re probably wondering how to attract customers to your food truck over the neighboring burrito cart. Food truck marketing is the key to your success, and a well-written marketing plan will make the execution of your strategy super easy.
So here it is: everything you need to know to write the perfect marketing plan for your food truck. In this article, we’ll walk you through all the components of a complete food truck marketing strategy – which you can of course tailor to the needs of your business.
To set you up for success, we’ve also put together a sample marketing plan template you can download, customize, and fill in with your own strategy. Take everything you learn here and follow along with your template – at the end of this process, you’ll be well on your way to creating an expert-level promotion strategy specifically tailored to your food truck.
While a business plan establishes how you’ll conduct your business in the future, a marketing plan is a blueprint of the ways you’ll make your business known within the market.
A marketing plan:
Keep your business plan handy as you build your food truck marketing plan. The two documents – while distinctly different – should rely on each other like a codependent power couple.
There are a few things you should check off your to-do list before you actually start writing your marketing plan. Here we’ll take you through all the elements you’ll need to prepare before you start writing your plan.
The thing about running a food truck is that your competition is likely to change a lot. But choosing one or two food trucks for your competitor analysis will help you write an informed marketing plan that aligns with where your business is currently positioned.
Here’s what you should do when you’re conducting a competitor analysis:
You should repeat this process on a semi-regular basis to make note of new food trucks on the scene.
You probably conducted a SWOT analysis of your own business when you wrote your food truck’s business plan. If you did not, perform one now:
Compare your SWOT analysis to the ones you did for your competitors. Note any interesting overlap, and keep this information close at hand when you’re writing your marketing plan.
Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of a marketing plan, you’ll want to remind yourself of your vision, goals, and target audience. Ideally, you can pull this information straight from your business plan. Here’s what you’ll need to include:
Mission statement: Your mission statement is the reason your business exists. Mission statements are usually one to three sentences and approximately 50 words. They describe your food truck’s value, inspire your customers, staff, and stakeholders, are plausible and realistic, and they are specific and to the point.
Elevator pitch: Your elevator pitch is how you would describe your business to a stranger if you only had 60 seconds. Make sure you include your food truck’s name, what type of food you offer, and what makes you unique.
Target audience: Describing your target audience can be fun. Some people like to create personas, which is a character who represents your target demographic and psychographics. Imagine your ideal customer walks up to your food truck window, ready to order. Who are they? What are they looking for?
Voice and tone: Now that you’ve created your persona, how do you want to talk to them? Will your tone be more casual or formal? This is your chance to define a personality for your business.
Goals: Not to get too existential, but what’s the point of all the work you’re doing here? You’ll want to list some tangible goals you can use to measure your overall success in your marketing efforts.
Some obvious examples are:
You may have others, and that’s great! Just remember that as you go through the components of your marketing plan, you’ll want to return to these goals to make sure each element of your strategy rolls up to one of these goals.
Now that you’ve identified the who and why, it’s time to focus on the how and when. This next section is the heart and soul of your marketing plan.
As a food truck, you’ll want to focus your marketing plan on creating direct lines of communication with your customer base that allow you to update them in real time as to where you’ll be and when.
For each section of your marketing plan, identify the following:
Note: Don’t feel pressured to execute on all the components of this plan! You know your capacity best, from budget to human resources. We’re giving you the full menu, but we also want to stress that you should prioritize what’s best for your business.
You’re in the business of feeding people when and where they’re hungry. Well, earning media exposure for your food truck is all about feeding news-hungry journalists a good story.
So how do you make your food truck newsworthy? Here are some ideas:
Whether you’re frying up fish tacos at a food truck hall or slingin’ sliders at a country music festival, events are your bread n’ butter. Events are a huge opportunity for you to make sure people notice your food truck and establish a connection with your brand.
To set you up for success with your events programming, you’ll want to build a mini-marketing plan for each one. Here are some of the key items you’ll want to strategize ahead of time:
A unique exterior goes a long way to attracting people to your truck. Here are some options to consider when you’re branding the exterior of your food truck.
Food truck marketing is largely about making your customers feel special. We know you’d all like to reward your customers for being your food truck’s biggest fans, but not every food truck owner can afford to pay for expensive app development. Thankfully, there’s another option called “white labeling” which is a templated app solution that allows you to re-skin a ready-made app with your food truck’s brand and messaging.
Here are some things you’ll want to include in your mobile food truck app:
A solid customer loyalty program should cover the following:
A solid loyalty program will keep your customers coming back for more, and increase the amount they spend each time.
Your website is the online face of your food truck. Also, just FYI, 86% of people look at menus before going out to eat – meaning the online menu on your website needs to look great.
You’ll want to make sure you include certain key assets on your website to make it easy and enjoyable to navigate:
When you’re designing your website, you should also be thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so it ranks as high as possible when people are searching Google for places to eat.
On a basic level, here’s how to improve your search engine rankings:
Social media is essential for food trucks.
It wasn’t so long ago that social media marketing was viewed as cutting-edge. Today social media is a standard component of any marketing plan – which means your competitors are also vying for attention across channels.
If you do nothing else, make sure you understand the quirks of every social media channel available to you before you start mapping out your strategy. Every channel comes with its own features, characteristics, and potential problems you’ll need to be aware of.
Instagram, for example, is a no-brainer for you, given that we eat with our eyes and people love to look at beautiful pictures of food. Twitter requires constant monitoring and maintenance, but is a great platform for updating users in real time about where your food truck is parked, what specialty items you’re serving up, and why they wish they were there.
And while Google+ may seem like a backwater social media channel that basically no one uses, just having a presence on the channel has been said to boost search rankings.
It’s no marketing secret: people love free stuff. Tap into that by hosting contests and giveaways to drive traffic to your website and increase engagement across your social media channels.
Whether you’re giving away free passes to a major music festival or a free side of fries, there are some elements every successful contest should include:
Word of mouth is nothing new, and it’s tried and true.
You provide customers with an experience, they talk to their friends about that experience, then those people either choose to eat your food or stay away.
Online review sites are just word of mouth through the world’s biggest megaphone.
Most people regularly look at online reviews to help them make decisions about where to eat. So it’s safe to say you should be taking the time to claim your business on review sites.
Here are some of the reasons why you should claim your business on review sites:
Remember that no two marketing plans are the same – the most successful marketing ideas for food trucks prioritize what’s most important to the business based on budget, time, and resources. But also don’t be afraid to take some risks, as you’ll need to test certain initiatives before you can know whether or not they worked. Make sure to fail fast, learn, and optimize your efforts for the next drive.