Julie Garlikov2
Julie Garlikov, Recent VP of Marketing at Torani (Current VP of Marketing at Nuvesse Skin Therapies)

Founded in 1925 and still going strong, Torani started as a family business and continues building on the homegrown tradition of big flavor and big ideas. It’s the kind of company where experimentation is possible — such as the Chicken ‘N Waffles syrup that started out as a joke but can now actually be purchased in all its brunch-y glory. The reason why such a quirky product landed in the Torani online stores at all? Because the customers wanted it!

Julie Garlikov helped drive this customer centric approach during her 6 years at Torani overcoming one of the fundamental challenges—how do you connect with end users when restaurant and food distributors act as middlemen?  Part of the solution was using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. “Between our retail partners and our foodservice distributors, we can be one step removed,” Garlikov says. “So, we have to create opportunities to engage regularly and we do a lot of research like ethnographies to really understand what our consumer wants and needs.”

Add to the challenge, engaging with a variety of customer types, establishing metrics to track marketing effectiveness and a comparatively small budget. “For such simple products, we have a very complex business with many channels and differing needs,” Garlikov says. “When you add all the new ways to market, it is complicated, and that’s what makes it interesting.”  (Author’s note: Garlikov’s accomplishments at Torani remain instructive though since the time of our interview, she’s changed jobs.)

Stocking the Pantry

As a growing company, Torani continually innovates and launches new products. From traditional flavored syrups such as amaretto and blood orange, they also launch seasonal syrups and more playful flavors such as chocolate chip cookie dough and toasted marshmallow. “We’ve launched a lot of new products this year,” Garlikov says. “What’s surprising is how long it has taken to get some of them off the ground, especially when you’re educating a market on a new behavior.”

In launching new products, Garlikov says that mobile sales were on the rise, marking the online space as crucial to Torani’s game plan in the future. Mobile sales are now nearly 30 percent of their online traffic, leading them to overhaul their online store to be more mobile-friendly and accessible.

“I focused on growing our consumer business and improving household penetration,” Garlikov says. “This includes some significant product innovation, as well as educating and engaging our consumer in new ways.”

Taste-Testing the Recipe

Because of a tight budget, Garlikov and her team took a more grass roots approach to generating buzz on social media and getting the word out about their products. “We can’t do a lot of mass tactics,” Garlikov says, “so we look to build really high loyalty with our business and consumer users, turning them into uber fans.”

Just as Torani engages with its customers and encourages them to join the fan following, they also search for like-minded business partners who won’t stretch the budget too much and will stay on message. ”We have to find the right partners to work with us who believe in our brand and who want to work with a great, local, family-owned business.

Garlikov advises caution when approaching campaigns. “I use a lot of test/invest methodology, trying things out small scale, proving that they deliver and then expanding,” she says. “It’s the only way to make ensure the best ROI on limited budgets.”

Flavor of the Month

As mentioned before, Torani is a very customer-focused company. Almost by necessity this means that they’re constantly online and looking for where the customers are living. “We get a great sense from social media and listening of what’s important to our user,” Garlikov says. “We’ve also been doing a lot of event marketing and mobile tours the past two years so we can hear more directly what our users like.”

In addition to the usual social media listening and engagement, Torani is also deeply involved with content marketing. Garlikov lists just a few of the types of content they’ve developed to add value for customers: “We’ve developed videos and will be producing even more as the year wraps up. Everything from how-to videos to funny content. We also continue to create enticing inspirational photos and editorial, almost like what you see in a food magazine.” She notes that seasonal recipes in particular seem to correspond with increased sales, which shows that customers are reacting to their personal approach.

This article originally appeared on Social Media Today

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