FoodBuy Cooks Up BTB Campaign

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FoodBuy.com, a business-to-business site that helps members of the foodservice industry negotiate group pricing with suppliers, is putting the finishing touches on a marketing campaign that should kick-off March 15. The campaign will focus on educating b-to-b buyers on the virtues of the Internet as well as the benefits of the site itself.


The foodservice industry is a lucrative one weighing in at $376.2 billion in projected sales for 2000, according to the National Restaurant Association, Washington.


Reaching the decision makers at the 700,000 food service operations through the Internet, however, is a difficult task. The majority of the people holding the purse strings for these companies have yet to embrace the online world, said Karen See, president/ CEO of the site's agency of record, Abovo Marketing Group, Atlanta.


"We have to sell the value of the Internet as a means of doing business," she said. "We're doing stuff that business-to-consumer sites did years ago. We have to show them the Internet is a business tool versus just 'me ordering my children's Christmas presents.'"


The first stages will include print advertising in industry trade publications, a direct marketing campaign and attendance at industry trade shows.


"The first step is really to explain all of the different components and types of information and relationships that they'll have on the Web," said See. "We will need lots of different mediums to get the message across."


The first direct marketing mailing will hit approximately 50,000 manufacturers, distributors and food service operators who Abovo has identified as early adopters.


"We're targeting those already on the Internet in the first wave. The early adopters are the low-hanging fruit," said See. "Early adopters are very important to lock in as loyal customers. We need testimonials and word-of-mouth buzz that comes in the industry because these guys all talk to each other."


The mailing will include an offer for a free premium item that may either be a desktop or apparel item.


Once the site generates support in the form of mentions in formal newsletters and magazine testimonials, a further reaching direct marketing drop will be launched to pull in other members of the industry.


A heavy public relations campaign will also accompany the drop. This will include creating a pressroom on the site and creating a speakers bureau to identify opportunities where FoodBuy.com representatives can speak.


"The direct marketing and public relations give more depth than if we just relied on a print ad," said See.


Trade show appearances at industry conventions such as FS-Tech 2000 are also in the plans.


According to See, these efforts all part of the natural evolution of the BTB market, which is expected to max out at $7.3 trillion in 2004, according to the Gartner Group, Inc., a research firm based in San Jose, CA.


Since much of the target audience isn't online for business purposes yet, plans for a significant online advertising push are coming later in the year. Abovo is compiling lists for an e-mail newsletter and is unsure what role banner ads will play at this point.


FoodBuy.com received $10.5 million in second round funding led by @Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of CMGI on Jan. 13.
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