Food and beverage brand marketing expert Tammy Katz of Katz Marketing Solutions answers questions from the specialty food trade in this recurring online feature. This month she tackles topics such as charitable donations, managing complaints on Facebook and trade promotions.

How much product should we give to local charities to support fundraising drives? We want to help but we get so many requests.

Do only what you can afford and is consistent with your philanthropic strategy. Set an annual budget and establish your support criteria (i.e., types of causes or specific charities). Add a ”How to Submit Charitable Requests” section on your website, list your support criteria and provide a donation request form for potential charities—similar to the approach of large, philanthropic corporations. List the charities that you do support to demonstrate that you are investing in your community and setting a great example but cannot say yes to everyone.

When someone complains on our Facebook page about our product, how should we engage without creating a long chain on our wall?

Address their concern quickly, directly and with empathy on your Facebook page, then redirect the conversation to a more private medium, such as direct Facebook messages, email or phone. Make sure you continue the conversation to resolve the complaint. Don’t redirect their inquiry to a new forum (e.g., ”Please contact customer service”) and make them complain again. Resolve each complaint with a true solution that delights, not just satisfies, the consumer. For example, for a product-quality complaint, give them two coupons: one to replace the product and one for their next purchase, to thank them for taking the time to contact you. Remember that every customer complaint is an opportunity to create a brand fan.

How often can I run specials without having people expect to have them all the time?

Run them only as often as you are getting a significant sales increase, your return-on-investment (incremental sales multiplied by variable contribution margin divided by trade promotion cost) remains fairly consistent, and your trade partners are meeting your performance criteria (e.g., retail price reduction and/or display activity). Specific deal frequency depends on your brand and category, but in general, less than 30 percent of your volume should be sold on deal. If you are on deal most of the time, you have effectively reduced your price, so wean yourself off of your trade promotion dependency and/or reassess your wholesale pricing. Track and evaluate your trade promotion effectiveness very carefully; it is one of the most common sources of inefficient spending, insufficient control and potential profit improvement.

Food and beverage brand marketing expert Tammy Katz is CEO of Katz Marketing Solutions http://katzmarketingsolutions.com/. She has led numerous Fortune 500 and specialty food brands and launched more than 100 new products with cumulative sales of $2 billion. Katz serves on the board of directors of several food companies and is Adjunct Instructor of Brand Management at the Fisher College of Business MBA Program at The Ohio State University.