Some of the best practices in marketing are adopted by some of my favorite brands. This is part of a series on how a few companies are doing it right:
If you haven’t heard of it, Blue Apron is a food & recipe delivery service. You pay a set amount each week, and on the day of the week you choose, a box arrives on your doorstep with all of the raw ingredients for the included recipes. They have a total of 6 recipes each week, and you can choose a combination of 3.
I’m a HUGE fan of Blue Apron. It has been a life saver for our family dinners! As a matter of fact, if you want to try them out, I regularly get 5 invites for a FREE WEEK that I can give away, so just let me know you want an invitation! I don’t receive anything from Blue Apron by doing so – no money, no “points”, not even a kudo … I just like it that much.
Think about that. I like them so much that I’m willing to regularly promote them without any form of compensation. They’re obviously doing something right!
Here’s a few of the ways Blue Apron gets their marketing right
Small business marketing tip: give away your best stuff
First, one of the things you will hear most often, which can be the scariest for a small business and seem counter-intuitive: they give their best stuff away free. And I’m not just talking about the free week mentioned above.
I constantly see and hear some of the top marketers advising businesses to do this, but a lot of businesses can be afraid to. If you’re giving away your best stuff, why does anyone need to buy? When you do it right, it makes a HUGE impact.
Blue Apron gives you a whole week of meals free if you’re referred by another Blue Apron customer. (They also have a discount you can readily find online, but the whole week isn’t free with that). No obligation – you do have to enter a credit card but you can cancel before the next week processes and owe nothing. The best thing is their food delivery service … and you can get it free. Why? It will likely hook you!
They also give away their recipes online – free. My oldest son regularly tries those out, and if we have a meal that I rate 5-stars I will often grab the URL to the recipe and send it to him. So the second best thing they have – new foods and recipes you can be introduced to – is also free.
Multiple income streams: be the one-stop shop
They also have strategically diversified their products and services. When you add complementary products and services to your business very carefully, it can positively impact your bottom line. Blue Apron has a wine pairing that you can add on to your weekly delivery, which will include wines hand-selected to pair with the recipes you chose. I’m not a wine drinker so I’ve never participated, but for those who are this is a great add-on.
What else do they have? When I first joined, they had a few small products you could purchase, so I ordered the recipe binder and apron. (I actually now have a BLUE Blue Apron apron – say that five times fast!). At the time I made that order, they had a few other items, such as mixing bowls. The last time I was on their site checking the “market” area, they had greatly expanded the number of kitchen products available and you can now choose high quality pans, knives, bakeware, utensils and more.
I’m not recommending that you add on products or services to your business until you have your current offerings well under control; and when you do, be very strategic in coordinating those things that could best serve your target market.
Community support and social efforts
Blue Apron also supports the community and healthier food. Visit their page and check out their vision. They keep their efforts top of mind for their customers as well, by often including newsletters, cards, and information about the farmers they work with, sustainable food information, and more in the weekly box deliveries. These types of social efforts are important – more than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about.
Convenience and ease of use
What consumers want now is convenience to make their life easier. Blue Apron has the dinner niche covered.
Consumers, especially more true of millennials, also want a company that’s easy to work with. There’s no contract with Blue Apron. You can skip a week – or two or three – at any time easily by clicking a button online. You also choose your combination of meals up to a month or so ahead of time easily online.
Another convenience – which is the biggest reason why I selected Blue Apron over some of the competitors I researched – I can choose a combination of both vegetarian and carnivore meals. I’m vegetarian, my husband is very much a meat eater. All of the other meal services I researched you had to choose one or the other. Blue Apron was the only one that would let me select a combination of both – and I can handle the rest by adding extra vegetables for me if I’m cooking a meat recipe for my husband, or cooking up a piece of fish for my husband if I’m cooking a vegetarian recipe. It’s the best of both worlds.
Blue Apron also has superb customer service. During the holidays, one of my boxes had not come when I expected it on Saturday (the delivery service showed it delivered but it was NOT on my doorstep). The delivery services was then closed until Tuesday – by which time the food would no longer be good. I contacted Blue Apron to see if they could help track down the shipment, and they immediately gave me a refund. I was able to get with the delivery service, explain to them that one of their drivers was going to be getting in a VERY smelly truck on Tuesday, and they tracked the driver down and got my box off the truck. I picked it up myself, and then informed Blue Apron that they could charge me again since I had my box in hand, and they said don’t worry about it. Another time after I moved, and I had forgotten to update my address (and not even anyone in our old house yet to enjoy a free box of food), I called them and they were able to update the records through the shipper and get it delivered properly.
No hassles. No headaches. Just help.
What I haven’t talked about: a huge advertising budget
And there’s a reason why. I have no idea what Blue Apron’s advertising budget is, but I do know I wasn’t seeing many of their ads online or on television at the time I was researching food delivery services. I do see them more now (and not just because of re-targeting or awareness) … but the size of their advertising budget probably isn’t as large as you would think. They get a lot of free advertising through word of mouth.
That free advertising we like to call “social proof” of customers like me posting my latest dinner on Instagram, or sharing to my Facebook friends that I have an invitation for a free week, or even writing this blog post. If you’re my friend and you see I post something positive (or negative) about Blue Apron or another company, you will believe me before you believe the company.
Marketing is no longer just about how much you spend getting your name out there, but about how your company solves customer’s problems.
Want to discuss some ways your business could implement some of these tactics? Schedule a free marketing strategy call!
Vicky is the CEO and Chief Creative Strategist of Vicky Wu Marketing. She draws from 30 years of experience at the CMO level, the CEO level, marketing for Fortune 500 companies and multi-million and multi-billion-dollar organizations, PLUS strategies learned helping startups and nonprofits with limited budgets … now focusing on providing SMBs with effective and efficient marketing strategies – giving them access to the same level of expertise as the really big guys with deep pockets, that they may not otherwise be able to access.