Disrupting the Traditional Food Truck Scene

By Jennifer Anthony and Rob Duboff

Hired to infuse a strategic perspective into her marketing role at Off the Grid, former HawkPartner Allison Yarborough reflects on her learnings.

Off the Grid has found its niche in the food truck scene, differentiating itself in a crowded landscape. The startup activates spaces by setting up markets, providing experiences by connecting third-party food trucks with consumers and businesses. As the B2B Product Marketing Manager at Off the Grid, Allison’s role involves growing the company’s event catering services and corporate dining solutions.

The startup has rapidly expanded across the Bay Area since 2010, building from the success of its flagship market in San Francisco. Despite the name Off the Grid, raising awareness is one of Allison’s top priorities. She’s shared some B2B marketing tips that all marketing managers can apply—industry agnostic.

What has Off the Grid done successfully in the area of marketing?

Allison Yarborough, B2B Product Marketing Manager at Off the Grid.
Allison Yarborough, B2B Product Marketing Manager at Off the Grid

“We’ve built this incredible brand equity from the community markets. If you go anywhere in San Francisco, everyone knows Off the Grid markets. They know us because we have great food, a fun environment, and this really strong sense of community and authenticity.

Off the Grid uses those markets as its brand base and leverages that brand equity into the B2B space. It’s a challenge to get B2B decisionmakers to associate emotions with a B2B product, but because there’s this consumer base with an emotional connection to Off the Grid markets, we’re able to leverage that into a differentiated product on the B2B side.

Off the Grid has positioned itself in what I would almost call white space, where there aren’t very many players. I think being able to provide a catering and events service that’s a little bit funky, fun and informal, and feels differentiated is something that companies are really interested in. So, emphasizing that and the community ties that we build, whether it’s on the consumer side or at a B2B event, has been really powerful.”

So it sounds like everything started with the consumer side before the B2B side. How do you balance both aspects of the business?

“We call our markets our flywheel. Those are extremely important to us. In terms of how we think about Off the Grid, I’d say the bulk of our business actually is more on the B2B side because there’s this integration there. Juggling the prioritization of those is always something that we face, because they’re both important, and we can’t really have one without the other. But because we’re growing so fast, it’s constantly a question of, “OK, where are we going to focus our resources now? And what’s more important in this moment?”

Tying back to how we refer to our markets as the flywheel—we’ve set up this Emperor Norton’s market. It has two bars, and we have some retail and food vendors as well. It’s a fun place to go, have a few drinks, and maybe buy a Christmas present for someone. And what’s really cool, and I think shows why we refer to our markets as our flywheel, is that at this market we were able to have a special event for some of our B2B clients and bring them in. It’s a really good way to showcase what we can do with temporary spaces.”

What’s one piece of marketing advice that you’d give to B2B marketing managers looking to expand?

“I think a lot of B2B companies tend to be very transactional and utilitarian in how they communicate about the products they’re trying to sell. And, ultimately, the decisionmakers on the other end are also humans with emotions and consumer-oriented thinking. They might need to have a business case to make a purchasing decision, but they also have emotional ties.

I think if you can tap into some of those emotional ties, whether it’s how your product can make their life easier, how your product can help them feel more rewarded, more valued at work…Whatever the emotional need is, if you can rise and meet that—and communicate that—you’ll be far more effective than if you make a business case and think of it as a purely logically-driven purchasing decision.”

For more information about Off the Grid, please visit offthegrid.com.

Reach out to Jennifer Anthony, or Rob Duboff to learn more.