Marketing tea can be quite a challenge, especially around here. The U.S. is definitely a coffee drinker’s paradise, with a coffee shop on every corner (almost), thanks to a certain chain. Add to that the almost sacred tradition of “sweet tea” and that coffee chain buying a certain tea chain. What’s a tea company to do?
There are numerous things to address when trying to sell your tea to a U.S. market, but here are 5 of these marketing challenges that most readily come to mind:
1 Educating the Consumer
Tea is not a subject generally taught in our schools, so it’s not something that most consumers know much about beyond some of the big name brands, such as Lipton, Celestial Seasonings, and Twinings. How do you sell them on Ti Kuan Yin or Formosa Oolong then? Education! Start them with the basics and ease them into the intricacies.
2 Standing Out in a Crowd
Every vendor seems to carry a lot of the same teas, from classic blends like English Breakfast to Jasmines, spiced teas, and even straight teas from the various tea growing countries. How do you stand out? This problem is true of many other businesses, too. Consumers can buy a microwave at a dozen different stores, but picking the right one is key. Tea vendors have to present their advantages, which could be such things as: proprietary blends, wide selection, help in making that selection, and offering the right teawares to prepare the tea.
3 Catering to Their Tastes or Presenting What You Think Is Best
This is always a toughie. Do you try to present the good stuff only or also carry any tea that your customers want? This is not a decision you have to make when starting your business, but one that can evolve over time. You can also go either way here, offering the cheaper basic teas and then little by little adding in more rare and pricey teas, or start with some of the high-end items and add in flavored teas, cheaper tea blends, and even herbals as customers request them.
4 Competing on Price
We all know this one. Coupons, sales, two-for-one offers, and other deals abound. But even without these, a tea vendor’s normal prices have to be either lower than his competitors or justified by superior quality and service. Speaking of which, that brings us to number 5.
5 Competing on Service
Service these days isn’t just how fast and accurate order filling is. It’s also your social media presence, where customers are more and more gravitating toward as the point of contact for giving you feedback, addressing grievances, and asking product questions. It’s also where you get to shine as really knowledgeable about your products or fall flat by posting something that clearly shows your lack of understanding. (I’ve seen some pretty amazing things on Facebook and Twitter along these lines.) But don’t forget that fast and accurate order filling. Having a package arrive with something inside obviously broken is never good. Having the package arrive when promised (or earlier) and in good condition (no clinking of broken teapots coming from it) is always good.
Marketing’s an ongoing effort but well worth it!
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