In this article we will review the most profitable B2B marketing strategies for companies operating in the food sector, in particular for distributors, wholesalers and food service suppliers, with the goal of expanding their business and thus reaching new retailers, as well as restaurants and hospitality professionals.

B2B marketing in the food, wine and beverages sector

In the food sector, wholesalers and distributors play a fundamental role. For such companies, one of the strategic objectives is to maintain and increase its customer base in the retail sector (retailers, grocery stores, supermarkets, deli shops) and in the food service sector (restaurants, bar-cafes, hotels, catering).

From the point of view of food producers, distributors and wholesalers have the ability to place the product in multiple retail locations, where customers will most likely be looking to buy them. Furthermore, distributors and wholesalers usually have a network of agents who have close contacts with retailers and food service business, in order to present new products, deliver marketing material (useful to the retailer) and tasting samples.

The strategies

Below are some marketing strategies for acquiring new B2B customers and strengthening your market position.

1) Marketing materials (physical and digital)

Distributors who deliver food products have the possibility to provide marketing materials such as coupons, brochures, cardboard displays, shelf talkers, which retailers can exhibit along with the product. Usually the manufacturer bears the cost of the materials, but it can also be the distributor himself to produce informative and promotional materials, suitable for their particular context and their customers. Marketing materials will then pass from the distributor to the retailers, who in turn will put them in the hands of the final consumer, promoting both the products and the brand.

In the food sector, it is important that promotional materials are visually attractive and engaging. A good idea is to produce marketing materials that recall digital content (with a QR code, a web address, a social media page) where both the end customer and the retailer can learn more about the products. In the next points we will review the best practices for digital content and the main channels to use.

2) Digital Marketing and Search Engines

The main container for all product-related information should be the company's website. The website receives visitors and potential customers from different sources, including search engines (mainly Google). Our potential customer will search for specific keywords on Google, which we can intercept with an optimized web page, particularly tailored for a set of keywords (the search phrases that are typed in by the user) and the user's search intent. Therefore, it becomes important to understand what these types of B2B-oriented searches are.

We can be listed on Google's first page results both by optimizing the company website (with the so-called "SEO", Search Engine Optimization) and / or with the sponsored results provided by Google Ads.

Local searches (local SEO)

Some of the searches made on Google are on a local basis. For example: "wholesale coffee beans Los Angeles", searched by a retailer or a bar-cafe. This type of search contains a word such as "wholesale", "supplier" and sometimes also indicates the type of business ("for restaurants", "for catering", etc...) in addition to the city or region where the potential customer is looking for a wholesaler or supplier.

Wholesale italian food distributors marketing strategies

(Google suggests local searches for wholesale coffee beans. In the image, the first suggestions contain local searches, mostly by city)

National searches (national and international SEO)

Similar to local searches, B2B customers looking for wholesale supplies also do national and international searches. Thanks to digital media, in fact, it is now possible for retailers and catering operators to order directly online from their supplier (sometimes directly from the manufacturer). For this reason, it is important for a company that distributes food and drinks to intercept this type of search on Google, based on its products and its target.

For example, a gourmet food retailer could search for "Italian food wholesale" or "Italian wine suppliers", a restaurant owner could search for "pasta for restaurants" or "Italian restaurant supply".

Some of these keywords will be competitive, but not all of them. To intercept users who search in target we need to know how to optimize the pages of the website, creating dedicated sections for the product lines and the target audience (retailers, grocery shops, supermarkets, restaurant and food service), if possible with your own internal team, who will need training and probably support from a specialized agency.

In case the company wants to extend its business and find importers, wholesalers and distributors outside its national borders, we will have to create sections of the website in the target language, and perform a keyword search specific to the target country.

Google Ads

Google Ads allows you to show sponsored ads with a pay-per-click cost, by choosing the keywords we are interested in. In order to select relevant keywords in the B2B food sector, the reasoning is the same as for SEO, with local, national or international focus.

3) Social Ads

In addition to having a well-maintained social profile, the use of social ads (e.g. Facebook Ads) allows us to reach our B2B target by means of several options for the potential audience.

Many companies already use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn Ads and other social platforms, but very often they are unable to define criteria to reach the business owners and managers, as well as restaurants, bars and hotels (the potential customers for wholesale food, wine and beverages supply)

There are many Facebook Ads options to define a B2B target audience, especially in the food sector, here are some of the most useful:

  • Target Facebook business page administrators: usually the owner or manager of a business is also the administrator of the company's page. By combining this criterion with others, it is possible to select your B2B audience. For example, we can create an audience of grocery stores, retailers, patisseries, restaurants, hotels, cafes, clubs and other businesses that buy in bulk.
  • Target followers of B2B media publications on Facebook: for example, if you supply restaurants and hotels, it will be easy to find specialized magazines and online publications dedicated to that specific sector (e.g. InfoHOTEL Italian magazine).
  • Create ads for your competitors' followers: in the Ads targeting options it is possible to select the followers of the Facebook page of a company (and therefore also a competitor's page).
  • Create custom and lookalike audiences: you can create an audience similar to your website visitors (by installing the Facebook pixel) or those who visit a specific section of the website (perhaps the one dedicated to retailers or customers in the catering sector). It is also possible to start from a list of company contacts (your customers or companies belonging to the same category) that we already have, so that Facebook "finds" potential customers based on profiles similar to those provided.
  • Target B2B job titles (e.g. "owner").
  • Target entrepreneurs based on interest or industry.

Obviously, the best results are achieved by combining these criteria, the location options to define the geographic area, and other interests and demographics that can further narrow your "business" audience (using a smaller budget and with more efficient campaigns).

4) Email Marketing

Email marketing can be a powerful tool for B2B campaigns. It is not difficult to build lists of potential customers and send commercial emails. However, to be noticed (and not considered "spam") one must first of all think about the information given. The content must be interesting and visually appealing for our target audience.

Content is therefore the main "problem" of B2B email marketing, and we need to make a separate discussion in the next point.

5) Digital content (engaging)

When we send marketing communications through digital channels (for example emails) we must put ourselves in the shoes of those who receive them, and understand how to combine the informative aspect with the promotional content.

Any content that is only promotional, today has the effect of alienating the customer who is overwhelmed by communications (bordering on spam). For this reason, we should publish diversified content on our website and social pages, such as:

  • Product presentation, with high-quality visual content, images and videos
  • Recipes (for both consumers and catering sector)
  • Marketing materials for resellers, dedicated to particular product lines
  • Tips for the retail sale of products
  • Menu ideas for restaurants and hotels
  • Industry news and insights (generally interesting our potential B2B customers)

Email campaigns, social ads and other campaigns (digital and otherwise) should always lead to your company website , which will serve as a hub for all content published.

6) Events and Fairs

For food companies, tasting events are always opportunities to promote their product and brand, with the possibility to target different categories: B2B customers, end consumers, retailers, partner distributors and Ho.Re.Ca business owners.

In addition to considering food and beverage fairs, based on your budget, it is possible to create private events for existing and potential B2B customers, with the opportunity of retaining, promoting products and finding new resellers and buyers for your company.

7) B2B marketplace and e-commerce

The B2B e-commerce platforms are now used both for the domestic market and to find customers abroad, i.e. international distributors and importers. Italian Food News and its marketplace is an example of a specialized platform (in this case Italian food and wines) for producers, wholesalers, distributors, food sector suppliers and professional buyers in several countries.

Italian Food News: B2B Marketplace

To learn more about Italian Food News, go to the sections dedicated to producers and suppliers, and join our international B2B online marketplace. For inquiries and information on how to register (as a buyer and / or national distributor), please fill in the contact form below:

Join the B2B Italian Food Marketplace

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