By: Gabrielle Piché
An extra package of ground beef — that might play a factor in a local Albertan business’ sales boom, according to one of the owners.
Bessie Box delivers meat from Albertan farmers to Albertans’ doorsteps. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, the company has been adding an extra package of ground beef to their deliveries for customers to share with neighbours. The goal is to build community — and some positive brand recognition — during the pandemic, said Shanika Abeysinghe, one of Bessie Boxes’ founders.
“We noticed panic buying,” said Abeysinghe. “One of the ways we wanted to dissuade [this] was to move [customers’] focus to their neighbours and friends and family.”
Abeysinghe said customers have told her stories of them sharing the ground beef, even though they could keep the meat for themselves. One customer delivered the beef to their co-worker, who then passed it on to a new family in the neighbourhood that needed food, Abeysinghe said.
“It’s to remind people that they’re not alone, and their community is still there, even though it looks a little different,” she said.
The extra meat is boosting sales, she said. The company has more than tripled its sales in the past six weeks. Hundreds of people are ordering Bessie Box goods.
The company has been solely e-commerce since its inception last year. Before the pandemic, Bessie Box sent a newsletter to their email list once every two weeks.
Now, they send two newsletters weekly. One focuses on community, with updates on good things that local people and charities are doing, information on food safety and COVID-19 facts. The other highlights recipes and different ways to use Bessie Box products.
“For us, it’s just making sure that we’re positioning ourselves very well and doing what we can for our customers and meeting them where they’re at,” Abeysinghe said.
She said Bessie Box strives to be transparent and authentic when building community. In return, customers might stick around, even when the pandemic ends, she said.
“It’s hard to tell in terms of us keeping customers, but from every piece of feedback we’ve been getting, it’s that yeah, people are going to order again,” Abeysinghe said.
Taking steps to better your community during the pandemic will foster customer loyalty and positive brand recognition, said Alanna Keefe, the director of communications and client services at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.
“It can be both selfless and self-oriented,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be exclusively one or the other.”
Businesses who go the extra mile to put their customers first will keep people around when COVID-19 has gone, she said.
Poutineries have donated potatoes to local food banks. Hair salons have created “Pick Me Up Packs” with dyes and brushes for clients to use at home.
“I will absolutely tell everyone else the story of ‘Here’s one business that’s doing a really interesting thing. We should support them,’” Keefe said.
Good deeds get talked about, she said. Word of mouth spreads a company’s name, and so does media coverage.
When a company shows transparency, honesty, an authentic appreciation for clients, respect to others and consistency, customers stick around, Keefe said.
“Right now, I think [customers] are paying even more attention,” she said.
Jenifer Horvath, a business advisor with Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, said businesses who make clients feel like they matter will succeed because people in isolation are missing a sense of connection.
“If there’s a way you can make people feel like they’re not alone, like they’re part of something, I think that will actually bode really well for building your brand and bringing people together,” Horvath said.
However, businesses should make sure their community outreach matches their brand and company goals.
“First, look at your brand and what your brand promise is, and how you could really step into that and show up for your customers,” Horvath said.
She said it’s important to understand what customers are going through — and talking to existing clients over the phone is a good way to learn.
Having a loyal customer base holds many benefits, Horvath said. These customers already know and like your company, so you don’t have to invest a lot into marketing to them. You can generate income quickly, including by reaching clients through email lists. Furthermore, loyal customers will advocate for your business now and in the future.
This is an opportune time to build loyalty, Horvath said.
“If there’s any way a business could help clients feel like they matter, I think that they’ll do really well,” she said.