edmonton’s good food box gets a makeover (your input welcome)

I’d love to get your honest feedback on some work I just did for a client.

Some backstory . . .

So, I’m on the board of a super cool organization in Edmonton called Live Local. It’s all about helping make it easier for Edmontonians to get what they need locally – rather than having it shipped from around the world.

The women that runs it used to work for some of the largest restaurant chains in the city (KFC, Taco Bell, Starbucks and a few others). I’m glad she’s on our side now. Not only does she run Live Local but she also runs a beautiful local restaurant called The Blue Pear.

I’m also the co-founder and c0-director of Edmontonians Supporting a Green Economy. We have a newsletter that comes out twice a month – basically an events listing of everything cool happening in the green and local scene. People really love it.

But, every once in a while, there’s a project so cool that I feel like everybody HAS to know about it.

One of those is a project of Live Local: The Good Food Box.

I wanted to send an email to the e-sage list (over 2,000 locals) focused 100% on the Good Food Box. So, I asked them to send me some words to send out. But what they sent me felt like it wasn’t a fit. Too many big words and too much jargon – all about them and not about what I’m getting as a client.

If you want to download my nine page makeover of the piece they sent me . . .


When you read it you’re going to:

  • see the before/after of what they sent me vs. what I did with that.
  • understand the ‘behind the scenes‘ inner workings of my mind on why I made some of the changes that I did
  • see some brutal honesty from me about what didn’t work in what they sent me
  • read an example of a sales letter that is – I think – at least ten times better than what they sent me
  • learn the #1, uber predictable phrase that everyone puts on the top of their sales materials that doesn’t work at all (and what you should do instead)
  • really ‘get’ the importance of making things super simple for your clients and people who are ‘checking you out’.

So, here’s where I could use your support . . .

Of course, your appreciations are welcome but . . . I’d love to get your thoughts and help in making this even better: would you have done anything differently? What’s not clear yet? Any tweaks? Any examples from your community?


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About Tad

  • Hi Tad,

    I love the makeover. the only thing i do not care for is the postal code section. I am not sure if this should be included up front instead of informing people after they have ordered. Furthermore, it might be nice to mention they are looking to service the entire local community and are willing to expand there services (beyond what they are currently doing) if a minimum numbers of boxes are ordered to a drop off point. I think this would make the company feel more all inclusive and gives you the feeling (as you mentioned) of being more about the customer instead of about the company.

    BTW, I am looking for this type of company in TORONTO. I am looking to work with a organic, local food company. As a service to the community I would like to make The Inner Garden a weekly pick up location for a local company. I would appreciate any suggestions you or someone else may have about this. Thanks.

    Warm Regards

  • rob, good call on the whole postal code thing. i wondered about that myself. hmm. and i’m sure there must be a tonne of those kinds of things in Toronto – why can’t I think of one?

  • Molly

    Hey Tad – Just from a quick read, your after example is a huge improvement. One tweak – “You’ll surprised” (paragraph near the end) should read You’ll be surprised. I write web copy for a living, my recommend is always proof, proof, proof your pieces. Printing helps (what skips by you on screen will jump out at you on paper), but if you can’t bear to waste paper, have two people besides yourself read it for clarity, spelling, grammar. Always. You’ve done a great job of trimming the rhetoric and jargon, I can see additional opportunities to trim verbiage:

    Furthermore, there is a large percentage of certified organic and
    naturally raised/grown product.
    So, every dollar you spend with them is a vote for more
    sustainable and environmentally friendly food in Alberta. So, with every purchase, you
    get to know you’re making Alberta a little greener and more sustainable.

    A large percentage of products are certified organic and/or naturally raised or grown. This means every dollar you spend is a vote for more sustainable and environmentally friendly food in Alberta. Know you’re making our province a little greener with every purchase.

    I like the friendly tone overall, but to tighten things – do look for anywhere you used two or three words to lead in or soften the real word, and just replace them all with one softer or stronger word. Like “Know” instead of “you get to know”. It’s much more powerful and more respectful of your reader’s time and intellect.

  • Molly

    p.s. I am a huge fan. We almost met the last time you were in Guelph, I popped in towards the end with my nursing nine month old. I thought it was funny that you were talking about hubs when I stopped by – because I am your hub in Elora.

  • The makeover version is much better, BUT proofreading is important! There are lots of typos…that erodes confidence for me eg. 2nd paragraph…”THEY HEY NO IDEA”

  • twyla

    we do have a good food box in toronto! it’s not all local at the moment, given the time of year, but it is their focus…

  • twyla

    and for completely organic companies, there is also front door organics http://www.frontdoororganics.com/ and green earth organics http://www.greenearthorganics.com/

  • Hi Tad

    The improved piece looks really good. It’s the end of a long day for me so I just skimmed through the first three “good reasons” because there were too many lines for me to read. I really like the opening lines. Very true to my experience at the grocery store. The opening lines were good enough for me that I was already sold so I didn’t really feel that reading the “good reasons” was necessary.

    I’ve used Wanigan a company that services Toronto and I really appreciate that with a simple email they give you a credit if any of the food is past its prime or infested with bugs. It would be ideal to have the food be super fresh and bug-free in the first place but it’s part of the package. If your company offers the same it might be a point worth mentioning.

    Rob – as for Toronto organizations, there’s Food Share (they have their own Good Food Box), and Wanigan.

    Keep up the great work!

  • the new version is quite excellent – I could only think of little tweaks, and none of them is important

    1. perhaps a feel-good beginning line such as “your friendly neighbours would like to meet you”… something that speaks to growing relationships and the security that comes with that. WHY do people want to buy local, other than the guilt factor?

    2. typo: “here are a five good reasons…”

    3. in good reason #2 “you’ll be surprised at how much shopping you can do from your home computer” is enough by itself – adding the “possibly-maybe” bit after that weakens this… if I’m shopping for groceries from my home computer, I expect to really save time!

    4.in good reason #2, remove “furthermore” and other phrases that lead this to look like an argument. remove at least one of the uses of the word “so,” and consider using the word “food” instead of “product.” customers don’t think of what they’re buying as products; they see it as wonderful, living goodness from people they’d like to get to know. angle this as “this is YOUR province, and you have the right to make it a green/sustainable system” – altruism is a lousy motivator

    5. check out = two words

    that postal code information is a little bit ugly – is it possible to remove the dates? better yet, would it be a problem for people to find out these details on the website instead? Could there be a step before shopping for groceries that involves checking your postal code and delivery date?

    Like I said – all I could do was a bit of tweaking… great job, Tad. (and Edmonton Good Food Box)

  • Local Food Box Suggestion #1:
    Food Share!
    There are a bizillion other food boxes, but Food Share does so many awesome projects, and they are non profit.

    You can be a drop off point and in your building it should be a snap to get enough people.

    Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

  • Your makeovers are always SUCH a healthy reminder to take a fresh look at my own stuff. I really get what you’re saying about making it about their experience.

    Thanks so much for sharing, Tad, and I’m so pleased to hear the Good Food Box is working hard to make this happen in Edmonton. A HUGE big pat on the back to them.


  • hey pamela, thank you! my mother the letter would love you already :-)

  • molly! what brilliant wisdom! thank you for catching the typo and I love the ‘get rid of the lead in words’. very nice!

  • thanks alex! yes. the more i do this work the more the whole ‘speak to their experience’ means to me.

  • tracey! thanks for the hot tip!

  • LISHUI – thank you for your tweaks. those would totally make it a bit better. yes.

  • NANA – isn’t is funny, if the offer is good enough and clear enough – we often don’t need to read the whole sales letter. and it’s interesting too how some people are so methodical and want to have more info always while others are more ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ and impulse buyers. but yes – i’ve found that if the concept is on point – people don’t always need the whole sales letter.

  • Rob – I second Tracey’s vote for Foodshare. I’ve volunteered there. GREAT organization. All about food issues and education. And they DO have an organic box that’s mostly local: http://www.foodshare.net/goodfoodbox05.htm

    Tad – Love the makeover. Good copywriting, in my opinion, is always generous. Putting the benefits first is a way of being generous, of being thoughtful. yay, you! (And yay! good food box!)

    Since you invited a critical review, I’ll be a whiny whiner and say – and this has nothing to do with what you wrote or asked us for feedback on – that PDFs posted online are one of my least favourite things. Really? You’re going to make me wait for it to download? whiny whine…

  • Hi, Tad!

    This is a huge improvement. I remember being intrigued by this initiative some time ago, taking a quick look at it, and being discouraged because I found it confusing and complicated. This way is much better. As for input – I’m not experienced in marketing, but as a consumer, here are a few doubts that remain in my mind:

    – Is it possible to address seasonality and variety per box in here somewhere? Personally, I have shied away from local food box programs because I have a perception that I will end up with tonnes of whatever’s in season, and spend all my time figuring out how to use it up. It looks like that perception is wrong in relation to the Good Food box, but it may also be widespread.
    – The 5 reasons should, I think, be a little bit more about the reader. As another commenter mentioned, altruism is a rotten motivator. Does local food taste better? Is it healthier? Fewer chemicals? Comparable price-wise once real costs of buying at the supermarket are factored in? More WIIFM, please!
    – One thing that kind of turned me off of the old version was that it seems hard to contact the organizers to ask questions or discuss the project. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but an email form on the website is not good enough for me. If we are local, if we are about relationships and community, I should be able to call someone – there should at least be a name of a person in the letter and/or on the homepage, really easy to find. I guess this is not about the letter per se, but it does affect my willingness to get involved.

    Hope this is helpful – keep up the great work!


  • NADINE! – you’re a marketing genius! brilliant feedback. thank you!

  • CARRIE – hmm. what do you suggest besides downloadable PDFs? I’m open to suggestions!

  • Yum! I wanted to click on the Order box right away! You are training us well; I noticed some other people suggesting removal of furthermore and “So” in reason #2. I’d change it to:
    “GOOD REASON #2: Furthermore, Most of the food is certified organic and naturally raised or grown. Every dollar you spend with them is a vote for more environmentally friendly food in Alberta. So, with every purchase, you get to know you’re making Alberta a little greener and more sustainable.” (I don’t think you need to say “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” in the same sentence, esp. when the next sentence has the word “sustainable” anyway.
    Also, at the end of #3, I’d add to “a fair price” the words “for them and for you” or something – you’ve already made the point that it’s fair for the farmers, now I want to know that it’s fair for me, too (if not the cheapest).
    I liked the fact that you answered my unanswered question from the first draft: “coffee? tea? chocolate? locally grown in Edmonton??” by saying something about “not-local but very cool”.
    It was a valuable trade of 10 or 15 minutes of my time to see your thought process.
    Oh, a total aside – let’s not think of KFC, Starbucks, Taco Bell etc as “the other side” but rather as fellow humans needing a little education & enlightenment. One of our Iowa Buy Fresh/Buy Local people got a Taco John’s to buy almost 100% of its lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc, virtually ALL their food from local growers – even in our Iowa winters!
    – fondly from SE Iowa…

  • oops, I forgot to remove “furthermore” from the sentence I was recommending you remove it from, although I capitalized the next word. You get the jist though.

  • JOAN – I love your tweaks! thank you for taking the time. and that’s amazing about the Taco Bell! That’s . . . kind of incredible. Did Laurie have his hands all over that one?

  • hi tad,

    i think the makeover is great. ive been working and reworking my “elevator speech” lately and made a couple of corrections that came to me while reading.

    annik xx

  • Theresa Thomas

    Dear Tad,
    1. ageism??? tiny printing requires squinting even with my reading glasses on. :-)

    2. logo and pics are good, although the ‘blue cooler’ doesn’t really ‘read’ to me anyway as the Good Food Box – closer view without so much porch….does this arrive on your porch – are there two boxes so one is taken away??? maybe a detail, but stopped me from going further with the idea

    3. btw – the opening 1/2 page pulled me in – YES!

    4. 5 good reasons – great, but still L…O….N…..G My eyes were going fuzzy in #1 and I was gone by the middle of #2…gone back twice and still can’t get through it – more space, less words… maybe the details can be on the site?

    and the last para in #1 is a 6th reason and could be expanded upon. for example, I wouldn’t have to go to the regular store as often – maybe once/mo if I was getting my fresh products delivered to my door – saving gas as well.

    #1 another way:
    An Impressive and varied product roster includes:
    * fruits and vegetables [isn’t a mushroom a veggie? why mention it?]
    * dairy and eggs [eggs would be expected; dairy would be a plus, so first]
    * meats, poultry, seafood, including free-range and wild…..
    * etc…
    ahhhh – my eyes are relaxed – my brain can grasp it all in a flash – I SEE the thing I am most interested in quickly – not have to struggle through a list of tiny print.

    #2 another way – some of it…
    A large percentage of cert org and natural …. which means
    * your dollar directly supports sustainability
    * the environmentally aware grower’s market will strengthen and grow
    * you are supporting a healthier Alberta
    a little lame, but you get the jist

    A sure way to make sure that your dollar goes directly to the producer
    * we pride ourself in taking care of our farmers and growers
    * we pay a good, fair price
    * our producers will be around for a long time because of your support

    enough! why can’t I do this to my own web-site :-) I LOVE a distraction :-)

    Tad, your work is great; your vision inspiring; thanks for sharing this project and inspiring me even more :-)

    Love Light Peace,

  • THERESA! you’re a gem! what great ideas! i love it. thank you for taking so much time and care on this. wow! and yes – always easier on someone else’s website :-P

  • ANNIK – thanks so much! glad it was useful. elevator pitch’s can be triiiicky. especially when it’s our own :-P

  • I got the sales letter on facebook and didn’t get past the headline. As I’m freezing my butt off in Edmonton I don’t want to be lectured on “buying local” So in terms of effectiveness the original was better, because I was hooked by their story (got 1/3 of the way through), rather than turned off by a headline. In summer, however, I’m a totally different creature. I’ll walk or ride my bike to the farmer’s market every weekend I’m in town and make a point to buy something.

    For me the unique selling propositions to this service are
    #1 I don’t have to leave my house in -28 C, Someone will bring my groceries to me if I create a profile page using these steps
    #2 I have personal shoppers to save me time. They go through and pick the best fruit etc, so I don’t have to. (Though since grocery shopping online isn’t common so reassurance that these women are non-profit and have nothing to gain by misrepresenting themselves would work or some sort of guarantee for a first time shopper)
    #3 I can get items with this service that I can’t get a Safeway etc like bison meat.
    #4 As someone else mentioned I can get fruits and veggies in the dead of winter not just potatoes.
    #5 I like the idea that I can have everything ready for pick up in case they can’t deliver to my area. It’s way more efficient than standing in line at Superstore.

    Now that everything I care about has been addressed, tell me more about you… Oh that’s nice you’re a non-profit since April 2010 supporting local business.

    Side note
    On the website they need have some sort of code put in so that when I type in my postal code I can get a “Yes we deliver” or “Your order will be ready for pick up”.

    I liked the comment about community too so my preferred letter would have been.
    Need groceries? Car stuck? We can’t dig you out, but we can lend a hand.
    Did you know you can shop online at http://www.eatlocalfirst.com to buy your groceries?
    At The Good Food Box we act as your personal shoppers choosing the best vendors for the best products. Depending on your area we’ll even deliver or your order will always be available for pick up at our warehouse located at 5032 129th Ave on Thursdays from 1 pm-7 pm. Our order desk is open from Monday to Saturday for your convenience.
    The other perks of shopping with us include the knowledge you are supporting a local non-profit as well as local farmers all from your computer and we’re confident you’ll find items with us that you wouldn’t be able to find a supermarket.
    Ready to get started? Please go to our website http://www.eatlocalfirst.com to register and check out our selection.
    We look forward to bringing your local farmers’ market to you, your friends and family in the future.

  • Theresa Thomas

    ps I forgot to say I also HIGHLY PREFER arial to Times or other wiggly letters.

    Hi again Tad,
    Thanks for your uplifting comments :-)

    a friend is just telling me that if I sent something in for publication using arial, it would not even get read.

    Actually was indoctrinated into Helvetica medium in the late ’70’s but that is no longer available, as far as I can find.

    I have really dated myself now!

    Love Light Peace,

  • well. you’re bloody brilliant you are. what great thoughts! yes! the winter element! so smart! why didn’t i think of this? you’re hired!

  • Hi
    Great ad! Much improved! Need phone # and is it same day delivery? How long before I get my stuff? Any chance for COD? Your ad makes me want this service in Calgary.