Ashland Food Co-op
Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, OR is a successful food co-op in an artsy university town that also draws a lot of year-round tourists. The co-op is especially known for its outreach and popularity in the community. Recently, they faced a dilemma about this very thing. What should the co-op do when their dynamic and long-term marketing director retired? What could the co-op do to build on that success in a rapidly changing market?
When someone influential departs a business, there’s undoubtedly a period of change. Roles get shifted and often new positions get created. One of the new jobs created at the co-op was to hire a store manager. Barry Haynes had worked in produce prior to accepting the job and is now in his sixth month in the new role.
“In the last two years we’ve been sharpening our image by improving our customer service,” he said. They looked at their recruiting, customer interactions and their evaluation processes. “We wanted to hit all the areas to set ourselves apart from the competition.” He also said that they have a competitive pricing strategy, but knew they’d never be the cheapest. “We wanted to provide the highest level of customer service, the kind of experience you can’t find anywhere else. It’s our major focus.”
A result of that is more intense training and a shared vision for “being the best part of their customer’s day.” This has been reinforced through daily huddles in every department where the customer experience is always a topic of conversation. “How we can improve is what drives this initiative.”
With the marketing department’s leadership change, the Ashland Food Co-op decided to work with Rebecca Torpie, a marketing consultant who could help with the transition. “Rebecca came in and looked at our systems and operations and worked with our promotional planning team.” Haynes said that while there were people working at the co-op with lots of experience who were very knowledgeable in their jobs, bringing in an outside consultant helped bring a new perspective, and along with that fresh ideas for how to support the work of the team.
They worked on refining the systems and processes to become more efficient, to be able to have everyone on the same page and supporting one another. “It’s been very effective. We’ve made headway in merchandising with more support materials and that’s made for a more dynamic shopping experience. We’ve seen a sales lift in the areas we’ve been focusing on.”
In addition to that, Torpie helped the co-op with setting up the next marketing manager for success. “Between the former marketing manager’s retirement and the placement of a new one we faced a gap. Rebecca was very valuable in helping us set up a clear path, and she came with a toolbox chock full of ideas to refine our process and transition to a new position. We are grateful for the opportunity to do this and it helped us tremendously.”
Haynes said that anyone wondering about how to streamline and grow marketing should consider using outside expertise. “I highly recommend it. It helped us move forward.”
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