Know Your Customer

Welcome back!  For Part Two of our Marketing at the Market series I have compiled some interesting notes about Farmer’s Market shoppers.

How well do you know your customers?  Now that you’ve decided on your brand image and the added value that you bring to your products–is it the kind of value that your audience is looking for?  If you have a firm grasp of what you bring to the table and what your customers want, most of your work is done!  From there, it is just a matter of communication: showing your customers how your offerings and their desires match up.

One of the great benefits of Farmer’s Markets is that they are direct-to-consumer sales.  If you are already taking your goods to a market, you have a wonderful opportunity to just talk–right to your customers!  Other companies have to pay big bucks on focus groups, surveys and studies for this chance that you have right in front of you.  Even better, talking to your customers is itself a marketing technique.

Chat with your customers.  Pay attention to the types of questions that they ask you.  Do your customers want to know about your farm?  Do they ask about the nutritional value of your products, or how to cook and prepare them?  Feel free to ask your customers about their experience at the market, or about the types of foods they are trying to find.  People don’t tend to be offended by someone showing an interest in them, and generally don’t object too much to talking about themselves!  You will encourage your audience to purchase, all the while you are gathering a wealth of information to fine-tune your marketing approach.

However, if you are just starting out selling at Farmer’s Markets, or interested in some of the information that other people have discovered, here is the general overview of facts and numbers about Farmer’s Market shoppers.

Several surveys of Farmer’s Market attendees have found that shoppers most often cite a desire for:
Freshness (82%) / Food qualitySupport for local economy (75%)Knowing the source of the product (58%) / Safety from food borne illnessYou might think of these consumers as falling into two groups:  people concerned with health & wellness and people concerned with local economies and supporting small businesses. 

The health and wellness folks are willing to pay a premium for organic or specially raised products.  They are concerned with nutrition and food safety.  They will respond well to a focus on your products, such as detailed information about their nutritional value, how to store or prepare you products, organic or other specialties and food safety precautions.

The local economies folks, on the other hand, are more interested in you as a farmer.  They may want to know where you are located,  or what your farm looks like.  They would be interested in knowing how long your farm has been around.  Consider how you would describe your place in the community.  Local economy supporters are often less willing to pay a premium for product specialties, but are very brand loyal and are buying in part the narrative of who you are.

There is a third group of market attendees that consists of people who enjoy participating in social & community events.  It is often difficult for farmers to generate sales from this group.  They are out at the market to socialize, and tend to be less willing to pay premium prices for food.  Samples, demonstrations and tastings of your products will encourage an event atmosphere for these folks, though–while allowing you to showcase the benefits of your products directly to their stomachs!

Of all the consumers surveyed who do NOT buy local food, the reasons most commonly cited included a lack of convenience, aesthetics, and price.  Have you considered how you might address these concerns?

Other interesting responses to note:
One survey found shoppers strongly agreed that they would buy more local foods if they were easier to identify.In the same survey, those who claimed to lack knowledge about local foods or skill in preparing them were actually more likely to purchase. Are these your types of customers?  How well do their needs and desires match up with the image that you would like to project of yourself and your products?  In the coming posts, we will be focusing in on some specific ideas and tips for using this information to appeal to everyone at the Farmer’s Market.