8 Ways to Have a Rock Solid Brand

 Branding is tough! It’s so much more than the logo and graphics, but people don’t always see that. Your brand is how people experience your store - online, in the store, interacting with your shoppers, etc. So how do you have a rock solid brand? We think you’re well on your way if you can master these 8 areas.


Once you have worked through to identify your core values and your customers understand who you are and what you do, you can begin to build your brand. You are ready to externalize the awesome-ness that is your store’s brand.


The more excited and happier your customers are, the more time they want to spend promoting and shopping at your store. And the happier they are, the more they will naturally and purposefully project the store’s brand. That’s part of why having great core values is so critical - you need ambassadors for your store and who better than your customers who understand and believe in your values?


You need to have a fantastic visual identity, not just a logo and some Shutterstock images. Branding really is so much more than that. Look for or create images that truly represent who you are. I often see trends come up with startups - the ‘rustic’ or ‘vintage’ theme with some distressed letters and simple but funky veggies. All very cool but I promise, it won’t necessarily be as relevant in 5 years.


It’s hard to really dig in and find who your demographic is. Your market study will touch on it and your current current shoppers will probably represent a good majority of it. But knowing who they are and knowing how to reach them are very different ideas. If you want to be hip and trendy in a suburban, middle class neighborhood you may not be as successful as you’d like. Before you commit to your brand identity, take time to really find out who these people are and what is the most effective way to reach them.


The natural foods industry is not a culture known for taking risks. We like to save for the future, we worry about every single customer and we don’t want to offend anyone. But taking risks and being bold is sometimes the best strategy for making an impact and being the leader in your community. Just remember; you do NOT have to be exclusive, please everyone nor do you have to compromise your core values because you’re worried about what some people will think. Another reason why knowing and living those values is so important!


As a marketing expert, I’m constantly analyzing store’s brands and marketing strategies. And one thing that I consistently see is inconsistency - either in signage, images, theme or style. It’s tough with owners running the website, social media platforms and printing flyers. But you need to have standards and brand guidelines for them to follow if you want current and potential customers to recognize you in the sea of current and future competition. Don’t wait until Whole Foods moves in to be the first choice for groceries - be consistent now and be consistent in the future.


People, by nature, latch on to the latest and greatest trends. Kombucha, anyone? By knowing what is trendy and what is steadfast will not only help your business now but it will prove to your membership that you know your stuff! So please, while I know gluten free kale chips with siracha and sea salt SEEMS like a good idea, do your research and taste them before you advertise the 2 for 1 sale.


You want to be set apart from the competition, that’s the unspoken truth. But you don’t have to have a single, game changing idea to do that. Don’t gravitate to an idea just because it’s new and cutting edge. You will probably just alienate your customers and as a result find yourself in the ‘unreliable’ category when your competition gets the one up. You can identify yourself as the best choice without giving your brand ‘edge’.


Logos, images, font and colors can change over time - but your identity is more or less consistent. If you can identify who your store is then you can focus on that. Once you can really laser focus on your brand, come next year you’ll be a rock star! People will be used to your message and your consistent identity will shone through as they load their shopping carts with local, organic products.

Effective Shopper Surveys

By Nicole Klimek

Getting your customer’s opinions and feedback is critical, we all know that. But when the comment card box is at it’s capacity or your cashiers spend more time telling you what customers said than how many rings per minute they did. . it may be time to let shoppers speak their mind in a more streamlined way.

Enter the shopper survey! Whether you’ve done one or haven’t gotten around to it, here are some useful tips to keep in mind.

  1. IT HAS TO BE EASY. People don’t want to spend more time than they have to on surveys - yet they want real results. So making it easy for them to speak their mind and feel heard while getting filtered information you can use needs to be simple, easy and rewarding. When we worked with LifeSource Natural Foods in Salem, OR we implemented a shopper survey that could be filled out online, in store, with a staff person or alone. Then everyone who took the survey and left their email address received a $10 coupon. How sweet, right?! LifeSource averaged about 25 responses a day during the 2 week campaign. That’s a lot of useful information!

  2. KEEP THE CONTENT SIMPLE. You don’t want to overload people and you want to be engaging. So please don’t give people a survey that is complicated to fill out, requires much writing or too much critical thinking. It sounds like you’re only asking blanket questions and to be honest, you are. It’s your job to do the critical thinking, not theirs. The best question that BriarPatch Food Co-op in Grass Valley, CA asks their customers? According to their Assistant Operations and Customer Service Manager, Michael McCary, it’s “what is your overall shopping experience?” Pretty simple!

  3. GET THE DATA! Always remember to get the basics like; age range, demographics, which gender, if any, the shopper identifies with, annual income and if they have kids in the home. These are valuable data points and they can be measured and compared against each and every survey.

  4. BE VISUAL WHERE IT MAKES SENSE. If you can break up the monotony of all the text, add some images. If you’re doing a survey to gain insights on your re-brand, show images of your current logo and a mock up of a logo look and feel you’re going for. If you’re planning an expansion, show images of your fixture plan. People want to react to to something visual, give it to them.

(want an example to give you a starting point? Ask and you shall receive!)

Hopefully you can gather some valuable data to use during your survey and if you’re still wondering what other kinds of effective, innovative survey methods are out there, shoot us an email at and we can talk!

6 things you (probably) didn't know about your marketing plan

by Nicole Klimek

There are so many clients I work with that either don’t have a useable marketing plan. . or plain just don’t have one! A lot of people don’t understand that a marketing plan isn’t just some stagnant document that you have to create once a year to supplement your business plan. One of the first things I tell clients is that your marketing plan is a living, breathing document that should be reviewed monthly and yes. . . even adjusted a little! Here are a few more tidbits that some people may find helpful.

  1. It takes more than a few hours to write. It shouldn’t take weeks but honestly, it could. I find that the more a client is prepared and armed with background support, data and some goals, the more likely they are to write a successful plan in 1-3 days. If it takes more than 3-4 weeks, you’re likely off target and may need read further.

  2. Shopper surveys are a catalyst. Ok, yes. You probably knew that already but I don’t think people use them to their fullest potential! You can gather so much useful information through surveys and all of it can help direct your marketing plan. One thing I find that people have a hard time grasping is the type of questions they should ask and how to administer the survey. Look for our future blog about how to create an effective shopper survey, but for now you can take a look at this shopper survey to get some general ideas on simple, effective questions.

  3. Set realistic goals. Again, you already know this. But most plans I review aren’t effective because they aren’t realistic. You have to know your store, your demographics and your overall growth strategy before you can write attainable goals in your marketing plan. Be specific! Create metrics to measure the success rate of your action plan.

  4. You can change the plan! Seriously! While a lot of the content shouldn’t change, there are some things that really should! If you get a new store in town, the market hits a recession or some other local trend starts up, you need to adjust your current plan to address the updates. If your goals are no longer the top priority for some reason, take action! Staying on top of the market trends is one of the most important actions you can take to be effective.

  5. Plan the attack. Your action plan is the heart if this whole thing, so don’t skip it, go to fast or lose sight of your overall goal. You need to create a strategy for each of your goals. Learning about your market through multiple channels is one of the most critical pieces. You have so many tools to use and so many insights to analyze. Radio, tv, flyers, online, social media, in store, newspaper, billboards, chamber of commerce, bus ads, speaking engagements, sponsorships, and so many more. Knowing what to focus on depends on your demographics. And you know your market, right?

6. There is a formula! I like to outline 3 things, at least, when I’m writing a marketing plan;

  1. Strategy (ex. position YOUR STORE to be the low price leader in natural foods).

  2. Key Message (ex. YOUR STORE has great prices on brand name products and are especially competitive on the staple items).

  3. Tactics (ex. Be diligent and accurate on price shopping your competitors. Have a staples or basic line that is visible and part of your staff’s lingo. Merchandise to the best of your ability! Offer a monthly coupon that is meant to offset any prices you can’t beat. Personal shoppers to teach people how to shop low cost).

We’ll have more blog posts on this topic but hopefully you’ve learned a few new tidbits that can help you start planning with some more depth. If you have any suggestions, tips or advice of your own - please share! Ask questions!

Connecting startups

By Nicole Klimek

I was on a phone call with Food Co-op Initiative’s Quick Start group of startups last night and I left the call feeling mostly excited and renewed. . . but also a little frustrated. There seems to be a huge disconnect between the startups and the support organizations they work with. When they can find them. And when they’re able to help. Isn’t there a way to connect all these startups - over 100! - across the nation and give them information in an organized, easy to maneuver way?

So naturally, my hand went into hyperdrive and my desk filled with yellow post it notes, trying to brainstorm some ways to connect startups quicker and more efficiently. Social media? Facebook page? Slack? What could be used that’s free? How could they converse while sharing documents, ideas, etc? After a few hours of odd looks from my kids and hand cramps from Google searches, I think I have a good list of tools startups can use to engage with each other and quickly get the support they need.

  1. Loomio - I love this platform! It’s cooperatively run and can be used to make actual decisions! We started to use it at seven roots and so far it’s a hit!

Loomio dashboard

Loomio dashboard

2. Slack - since slack was created as a tool to be used internally, it’s really good for teams that are within the same org. I like it because it’s user friendly and very visual - a must for this designer! The one thing that I’m not crazy about is the lack of linkability to websites and other platforms. I’m sure that will change over time!

3. Basecamp - I am so biased here! I love Basecamp! It’s a unique, very fun and stimulating platform that you can use as a team or with clients. It IS more team focused so it has some limitations as a multi-org collaboration tool. I’d still give it a try though, it’s amazing!

4. Others! There are so many great platforms out there; Asana, Redbooth, Trello, Monday, etc. I suggest getting together with your own group and trying a few so you can first see how it works internally. You may want multiple platforms even!

How to use them

It can be super daunting to try a bunch of platforms but I swear, once you figure out how to best use the chosen one, you’ll be so happy you did it!

  1. Invite all the startups in your region

  2. Invite all the support orgs you can

  3. Task people to make connections

  4. Gather lists of what content startups need

  5. Start gathering what’s on the lists

  6. Post it! Share it! Chat about it!

I’m sure we can collaborate more and make it part of our daily routine if we just found a common platform that can be used by all startups and someone to organize the launch. If you can think of anyone who would be good at organizing something like this - ask them! seven roots will provide all the content we can!