Location matters. If it didn’t Walgreens wouldn’t spend top dollar to be on the “corner of happy and healthy.” But not everyone can afford prime real estate for their businesses. So what do you do? How can you turn any address into a shopping destination? Believe it or not food trucks have mastered this art and I will share my top five observations to help you transform your business into a destination.
#1 Dominate Social Media
The best example of a food truck that has mastered the art of social media in the Lynchburg area is the apple cider donut queen herself, Mama Crockett. Mama Crockett’s Cider Donuts has a Facebook following of over 42,000. With a simple 5-page Squarespace site and Instagram following of 5k, Mama Crockett’s proves you can do more with less. It’s important for small businesses to update their customers on a regular basis with specials and giveaways to keep them engaged. The donut food truck posts at least once a day, but the real secret sauce is how they dialogue with their customers. Don’t forget to respond when your followers talk to you. Mama Crockett’s is set to open a storefront after years of running a truck, but the address is irrelevant. People will drive to buy those donuts by the dozen because they have become loyal fans of the brand.
#2 Take Gorgeous Photos
Most business owners underestimate the power of good photography, but it’s necessary for food trucks to survive. Off Route 221 in Forest, the Rookie’s truck, formally known as Mookie’s, successfully navigated a name change due to a strong visual brand. Even with a new name and logo, the epic lines at this small trailer never let up. People knew exactly what brand it was by simply glancing at their signature cookie lifestyle shots on social media. Customers couldn’t care less what the food truck was called… as long as they still had their ice cream sandwiches ready to go. When you show people more than the product, but the way the product enhances the customer’s life, people will find a way to buy what you sell.
#3 Encourage Customer Photos & Reviews
When folks have a great meal, it’s not long before they recommend that food place to a friend. The food truck culture is such that people, usually unsolicited, post images of their purchase and share with their friends. If it wasn’t for Instagram, I wouldn’t know about half the restaurants in the Hill City. While I don’t see many folks going to the dentist and sharing photos with their friends, consider investing your dollars in decorating your office. Give your customers something worth posting. Whether it’s exposed brick, rustic wooden beams or eccentric lighting, do more in your office than simply set up shop. For example, there is a CPA office on Timberlake Road that has the lobby floor completely covered in pennies vs. typical flooring tiles. A floor full of pennies? That just begs to be photographed! When your location is visually appealing people will take photos, share, and hopefully tag your location.
#4 Host Events
Let’s talk about food trucks and festivals. One of the top three ways food trucks make money is leveraging festivals to sell food to hungry attendees. Combining a special event with your business is a great way to expose your brand to new customers. You could attend an expo, promote it in advance and go directly to your customers or bring an event to your storefront and use that to draw them in. Marketing your business via events is a great way to help shoppers break out of their comfort zone and try something new.
#5 Hire Friendly Employees
Who doesn’t love to visit a friend? Customers are much more likely to interact with your employees than with the owner. While some food truck owners still run day-to-day operations, most have staff of some kind. It takes a special person to work in tight quarters all day and still have a smile on their face, but food truck workers knock it out of the park. I’ll drive out of the way to patronize some businesses because I absolutely love the people who work there. I’m even willing to pay more for their product because of the service. Take the time to find employees who consistently give out 5-star service, and you’ll quickly develop a loyal base of customers who are willing the make the drive to do business with you.