Baking & Snack: How is the approach for targeting consumers different from that for businesses such as food service, convenience stores and retail outlets?

David Leavitt: In both the case of marketing to a consumer or a business, you must show you are helping to solve a problem — their problem. You have to listen to them and understand their issues. If you are targeting consumers, you are still dependent on a trade channel and must show the buyer or store manager you are relevant to their business model and their customers. If you are a supplier to food service, show that you fully understand their business model, and how you can make them better at executing their business and making their customers happy. In both commercial and consumer environments, you have to fully understand the entire value chain: the seller (restaurant or retailer) and consumer (patron or shopper).

How can a company tell if its website and/or social media campaigns are working? Can a company go overboard with its social media strategies?

There are a combination of metrics you can use, including traditional media metrics such as reach and frequency of delivering your message, to media channel-specific metrics such as increasing “Likes” on Facebook, consistent commentary and discussions on topics on your wall. Every platform has a suite of analytics you can use. As for websites, when, where and how much time someone spends on your site are all metrics. Additionally, one needs to ensure their search marketing is optimized (often referenced as SEO and SEM).

Yes, a company can go overboard. Like I mentioned earlier, you can try to do too much for what your company has the capacity to handle. If you can’t be fully committed to a strategy or tactic and do it well, you are better off not engaging in that social channel. Don’t post a video just because you can. Don’t feel you need to give morning, noon and evening updates on Facebook. A daily thematic update on Facebook is usually all you need, and you don’t have to respond to every single comment in a thread. Let your fans lead or be a part of the discussion instead.

How can a company use giveaways and contests to connect more with a consumer audience?

In any promotion you do, it still comes back to your positioning and branding in the marketplace. What you do needs to reinforce positioning and strengthen your brand relationship with your consumer/customer. If the promotion is only a sales gimmick and does not reinforce your brand and your relationships, then it will instead weaken what connections you do have. Think of the consumer and brand relationship as a friendship. Gimmicks don’t strengthen the relationship, but thoughtful engagements do.

This relationship-building effort applies to both a consumer audience and a trade/customer audience. If you are an Italian bread brand, made with a third-generation Old World recipe, what would link better to your company positioning: a sweepstakes with a trip to Italy or one with a trip to Cancun? If you are company with a strong tie to social responsibility, do you run a sweepstakes offering to sponsor a project that helps a winner’s local food bank or do you give away a free home entertainment system with a widescreen TV? The answers are obvious. Be true to your brand.