I’ll confess right up front I am biased towards direct marketing. I posted a while back as to why I don’t sell at farmer’s markets.
To me they encapsulate the retail mindset of selling farm products. You set up and essentially wait for customers to show up to buy.
I realize that farmers can do very well at these type of venues, but I see a huge amount of risk and loss of control. Take for example the farmer’s market closes up shop. Where do all the customers go? How many of them do you have a way to contact? Do you have a relationship outside the market with them? If you answered “no” to any of those questions you will take a big hit if that ever happens. Risky and not much control over what happens I say!
Contrast that with direct marketing of your farm products. You have a large diverse group of people that you actively initiated a relationship with.
Wouldn’t you rather have a large group of customers that isn’t dependent on them getting out of bed and coming down to see you at the market?
I contend that in some ways we are training the customers who want to buy off the farm to remain in the retail mindset by how we market to them.
One of the most common questions I get is customers trying to figure out the system by which I sell products! They ask about my attendance at local farmer’s markets then about coming to the farm to purchase.
They are in the common retail mindset. I understand why. It’s the most common way to buy food. Once they experience how we market, they love it!
We encourage folks to come to the farm and visit, but discourage them from thinking it how we sell products. Farm gate sales are fine, but just as with the farmer’s market you are waiting on someone to come by and spend money.
I would have never grown my sales to level that they are so quickly by waiting on someone to stop by the farm or a farmer’s market!
That’s the retail mindset.
In speaking with farmers I think the main reason they gravitate to this type of marketing is because it’s what they know to do.
Let’s face it…the question on every bodies mind is:
Where can I find customers in significant numbers without using these venues?
Since I have never sold at traditional farm venues I can only tell you how I’ve built my business. These steps are simple, but not always easy.
Figure out what your U.S.P. is. That’s your unique selling proposition. Why should people buy from you? Do this first. It helps you focus your efforts where they make the most impact.
Connect with I call “people of influence” to try your products. This was the second step I took when I started selling direct.
Create a system to glean referrals from your current customers. A high percentage of my new customers are from word of mouth advertisers – the best, least expensive, kind of advertising.
Have a system in place to get testimonies from your current customers and incorporate them in your materials.
Consistently use a system to identify and obtain new customers. I adapted a method from another business I owned that works like magic.
Find ways to make it easy for your customers to pay you. I collect payments automatically which makes it much easier for me and the customer to do business with my farm.
Develop a website and learn to drive traffic to it. This took tons of time and learning, but I now have a significant amount of internet customers. (a whole subject in itself -more on that another day.)
These are some of things I have done to build my farm business. I’ve never used a farmer’s market or had a wholesale account because I haven’t needed to! I believe farmer’s markets are a viable way to market your products and some of these techniques would work for them. For me, I like spending time with my family on Saturday morning.
Until next time…
PS- I explain exactly how to do this and more (minus the website information) in my latest ebook “The Secrets of Selling Your Farm Products Revealed.” If you’re looking for increased sales and more customers click here to get your copy today.