Brand Differentiation Boosts Sales
In many instances, manufacturers’ reps act as barometers when it comes to evaluating levels of business activity in the foodservice industry. The latest business report from MAFSI, the trade association for reps, indicates that sales growth is still on the rise, but at a much more moderate pace than was predicted at the beginning of this year. Though restaurant and foodservice operators are benefitting from smaller increases in food and energy costs, and are spending on concept enhancements from facility remodelings to social media marketing tools, the outlook for sales of new and replacement kitchen equipment is growing dimmer. What can equipment suppliers do to prosper during these difficult times?
Perhaps the most important strategy is competitive differentiation. Equipment manufacturers and dealers must work to be certain that their companies stand for something, that their brands are clearly associated with defining values and competencies. Is a company devoted to providing environmentally responsible products? Above-and-beyond customer service? Preserving food safety? Educating customers how to operate more effectively? Introducing goods that save time, money or energy?
In a sense, it hardly matters with which standards and practices a company a company is associated, as long as the chosen message is shared consistently and repeatedly with all business partners. This, of course, includes a firm’s own employees, who must be trained and managed to perform job duties in ways that are consistent with corporate objectives and its mission. Equally important is ensuring that customers know what separates a certain supplier from competitors, to give them reason to spend precious equipment-purchasing dollars with the business whose identity, products and activities align best with their own program requirements.
Restaurateurs and other providers of consumer goods and services build the communication of brand identity and values into the DNA of their concepts, from start-up to unit expansion. B2B companies such as foodservice equipment suppliers, on the other hand, too often fail to distinguish themselves in the minds of customers, relying on low prices, relationship selling and product performance as their value propositions. Given current conditions in the over-supplied foodservice equipment market, it is imperative that manufacturers and dealers refine their brand statements and use every marketing tool at their disposal to make sure every business partner is kept aware of what makes their companies different from and, hopefully, better than all of their rivals.