Selling Food Online

Selling online is not allowed under every cottage food law. Don’t stress. Let’s look at what selling online actually means.

Selling food online can be done by using an eCommerce platform. It could mean allowing customers to purchase from your website, picking up their product from a specific location.  Food orders can be taken by phone, computer, or iPad. If you want to sell online, remember the marketing and advertising strategy is complex. It’s always changing, time-consuming and different from a brick and mortar business. It becomes your responsibility to drive customers to your product. Customers may live in your state, outside your state or in another country. Make sure you can sell online by reviewing your Cottage Food Law. Yes, there are people who sell illegally. You don’t have to become one of them. A mistake repeated more than once is a decision ~Paulo Coelho. In the micro food business, the decision to follow the law starts with you.

If you are allowed to sell your product online, selling begins with participating in social media promotions. Where are your customers? Where do they hang out on social media? Start on those sites inviting followers to engage. There are a number of strategies you can take to sell your products online when first starting your food business.

If you are interested in selling your food product sell using food websites like eBayEtsyAmazon, Shopify and your company website. Once you set up which sales platforms to use, ask yourself if you can fill orders for all these platforms. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. (No pun intended.) You can always start off on one platform, setting a goal to be on 3-4 different platforms in 6 months to a year.

 So how does online selling happen?

When you’re ready to take your product to market, take a moment to get your food product in the hands Food Bloggers. These are people who love to talk about food and photographs of food. Send them a sample. This will be your biggest expense.

Toss fear out the door and ask them to review your food product. (You’ll need thick skin.) There may be some Bloggers who will want to charge a fee, turn them away. Work with new Food Blogger since they are as hungry as you. These are Bloggers who have a low number of followers and eager to make a name for themselves. If the Blogger has 900 – 1500 followers or more, perfect. You’re putting your product in front of people who know nothing about your food. If you sell locally, look for local food bloggers.

You can even ask them to post a link to the product allowing followers to buy. Below is a sample email. You don’t have to use this one, it’s only a sample. Keep your email brief, insightful, honest and graciously to the point. How many should you send out? As many as you can, or until you receive Bloggers willing to review your product. Start your email goal with 50 bloggers. Don’t stop if someone contacts you…keep sending emails and hit that 50 mark.

Engaging with a Food Blogger

The Food Blogger is Steph Prier. She writes about all baked goods but is partial to shortbread.

Subject: The Irish Shortbread Company has cookies for You!

Hello Steph,

We’d like to introduce you to our shortbread cookies. We are new food entrepreneurs and the owners of The Irish Shortbread Company. We bake hand-crafted shortbread cookies in three flavors; Irish Cream, lemon, and hazelnut. We’ve been in business just under a year and we’d love to send you a can of our cookies to review.

What’s unique about our shortbread cookies? Our cookies come from a 125-year-old family recipe; imprinted with our family crest and are the perfect accompaniment to any beverage, hot or cold. We noticed you have reviewed similar products on your blog and we know you will love our cookies. Forward a mailing address and we’ll get the cookies shipped to you for review.

We appreciate you supporting our new business and look forward to reading your review. Would you like Irish Cream, lemon, hazelnut or all three?

Thanks again.

Sincerely,

Rob and Rachel McGowan
The Irish Shortbread Company

In conclusion, there are a few things you can do when selling online. Make a list of Food Bloggers in your community or create a profile of a food blogger you want to review your product. Keep track of who you email and the responses you receive. Build a list of Influencers and Ambassadors supportive of your product and business. Email them from time to time with updates about your products and business. You may want to email them for no reason to build a professional rapport.

A Sample Email

Here’s a sample email you can use to make the connection with those willing to toot your horn! Never be afraid or hesitant about reaching out to connect with kindred spirits.

Greetings [name],

My name is [your name] from [company]. I’ve been following your blog or YouTube Channel since 2012.

Your recent post [blog topic] really resonated with me. I thought it was something my audience would appreciate, so I shared it on [social media site] and email my subscribers.

I wanted to get in touch with you to discuss [topic] further and see if we can collaborate on something similar.

If you’re interested we can set up a phone call that would bring value to both audiences. Let’s talk soon.

Best,

[your name]
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