Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marketing at the Farmer's Market

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again, jiggity jog.
To market, to market, to buy a fresh egg
Home again, home again...

Hmmm...On a peg leg?  Hop on one leg?  Rolling a keg?  I'll have to think on that some more.  But the market part works.  Farmer's Markets around the country are in full flourish these days.
Did you know? 
The USDA found that from 1997 to 2007, direct-to-consumer food marketing more than doubled, while total agricultural sales only increased by 47.6%

The number of Farmers’ Markets in the U.S. has risen proportionately: from 1,755 in 1994 to nearly 5,300 in September 2009.
As popular as these farmer's markets are, though, it is not enough to just show up with some eggs and a folding table.  You will have to be the middleman:  the marketer and salesperson.

Even in direct-to-consumer selling, all farm stands are not equal: the top 3% of farms capture more than 58% of the sales.  There are many ways to vastly improve your farmer's market sales and turn your business into one of these top-grossing farms.

We are kicking off a series of posts focusing on marketing techniques specifically geared to farmer's markets. 
We are going to look at everything from basic customer service and interaction techniques to making the most of the mobile web (Google Maps or Foursquare?  How about QR Codes?).  We will consider packaging, signage and display-stand set ups.  Do you have a favorite marketing idea you would like to share?  Or a topic you would like us to explore?  Please let us know in the comments section!

Before we begin with the detailed marketing ideas, take some time to ponder the very big picture: knowing your own product and what exactly you offer to consumers. It seems like a silly question, but you must be able to answer it--properly!--before you will be able to successfully market yourself.

"I sell eggs." 

Great.  Why on earth wouldn't I buy my eggs super-cheap from the big supermarket down the street?

What do you and your products provide that is not available from the supermarket?  You probably can't compete on price.

But you could offer personal knowledge and connections to your food's origins.  Or specialty products, such as organic, pasture raised or omega-3 eggs.  If your eggs are significantly fresher than other options, there is a value to that.  If your methods of producing and distributing eggs is more environmentally sound, or improve animal welfare, there is a value to that, too.  There are numerous ways you add value to your products.  Remember: you have more of value to offer than mere eggs!

Whether you offer your customers "nostalgia for an old-timey small farm past", "biodiversity and heritage breed preservation" or "cutting-edge green technology" and "urban production", you will need to communicate that to your customers in the image you portray.  Your clothing and attitude, your signage and packaging, brochures, website, even your display set-up all speak to customers.  Make certain that all aspects of your business showcase the same ideas. 

Think over your business and yourself.  Does your business offer something special to people?  Is there an image of yourself that you would like to project?  Decide on an image and message, the particular benefits and values of your products.  Then keep this image of your business and products in mind as you consider specific methods to convey your brand and your farm to customers. 

In our next post we will be considering the Farmer's Market shopper.  Knowing your customer is almost as important as knowing your products!

Be sure to "follow" this blog, so that you won't miss any of our Marketing at the Farmer's Market series!

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