Do you understand your customer? Do you know your product inside and out? These are questions that Dan Burak, managing director at Sterling-Rice Group, asks in the NEXT Accelerator webinar How to be a successful brand. We’re including some key takeaways here, but watch the webinar on demand to really help your brand excel.

Jenna Fitch, Community & Conference Content Director

January 8, 2015

3 Min Read
3 steps for building a successful natural products brand

What do your customers want? How is your natural product helping them? And who exactly are these customers? Before delving into marketing, branding expert Dan Burak suggests entrepreneurs assess their brand and understand core customers. Here are three steps from the managing director at Boulder, Colorado-based Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) that every brand needs to take on the road to success.

Know your target.

Do you really know your brand inside and out? To gain true customer insight and understand expectations, answer questions such as:

  • Who are my customers? How big is the target audience?

  • How does the offering fit into customers’ lives?

  • What does this product do for users? Does it solve a problem? Does it improve lives?

From the field: Burak worked with Kashi to determine if it should launch a frozen food line. Originally, Kashi execs didn’t think  healthy eaters would buy frozen food products, so SRG helped them visit customers to test this hypothesis. The researchers were surprised by what they found in kitchen freezers: lots of frozen food. The insight they gained: Even healthy eaters need fast, easy food options. Because Kashi reps spent time with customers and really got to know them, the company successfully launched healthy, frozen, food options.

Have you inspected your customers’ kitchens recently?

Understand the uniqueness of your offering.

Gain a deep understanding of what differentiates your product. If there’s nothing special, why would consumers spend money on it? To develop and understand your unique value proposition, do these exercises:

  • Create a real point of difference between your product and existing goods in the market. Give your customers a reason to choose the item over another.

  • Imagine what customers’ lives would be like with your product.

  • Ensure that it’s insulated from a competitive response.

From the field: SRG worked with Dave’s Killer Bread to understand how unique and safe the company is from competition. The answer: pretty darn secure. What Dave’s Killer Bread has is a great story, with an edge. Dave is an ex-convict and the entire brand is built around second chances (1 in 3 employees has a criminal background). Even when Dave had a recent run-in with the law, the Killer Bread community rallied around him and the company.

What’s your brand story and differentiator?

Make a sufficient, focused marketing investment.

Once you’ve assessed your product and the reasons it’s amazing, you might think that everyone, everywhere should know about it. Ground yourself and focus marketing efforts on a core target audience. As Burak explains, don’t spread messaging too thin by “whispering to a broad audience instead of shouting to a single, very targeted group.” Focus geographically, demographically or even psychographically.

From the field: SO Delicious Dairy Free excels at targeted marketing. The well-known dairy-free food and beverage company caters to a passionate community and makes it its business to know what websites dairy-free customers visit and which blogs they read. This knowledge allows the company to effectively target its marketing effort by focusing communication to core consumers.

Are you whispering or shouting to your customers?


To learn more from Dan Burak about branding, online surveys, strategic distribution and budgets, log in to the NEXT Accelerator to watch the whole on-demand webinar. When you do, you’ll also gain free access to the entire suite of NEXT Accelerator educational tools and resources.

About the Author(s)

Jenna Fitch

Community & Conference Content Director, New Hope Network

Jenna is the Community and Conference Content Director at New Hope Network. In this role she is passionate about using education and relationship building to connect and empower stakeholders in the natural and organic products industry. Prior to serving in this role at New Hope, Jenna led digital content production for the NEXT Accelerator, an educational platform for entrepreneurs, as well as supported exhibitors and attendees as customer and exhibitor service representative for shows such as NBJ Summit and Natural Products Expos East and West.

An avid outdoorsperson, environmentalist and conscious leadership aficionado, Jenna committed her time before New Hope to working with organizations such as the Outdoor Industry Association, Restorative Leadership Institute, CU Leeds Professional Mentorship Program and the Lake Champlain Committee.  She earned an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Leeds School of Business, as well as an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies with a certificate from the Program in Community Action and Public Policy from Connecticut College.  

When not obsessing about climate change, sustainable packaging, politics, or regenerative agriculture, you’ll likely find her hiking in Colorado with Oscar the Black Lab, playing beach volleyball or laughing out loud to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell me!  

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