Market gardening marketing Part 2 - find more customers
So you have told all your friends and acquaintances you plan to start market gardening, and signed up those interested in your fresh veggies.But you still need more customers to hit your income target. How do you get them?
In our case, it started with demographics and a little geography. We thought about our local area, and tried to determine how we could find other folks, like our friends, who might be interested in our veggies.
We knew there was a ‘bedroom community’ within 25 kilometres of us that seemed like fertile ground for prospecting. We knew the town was booming because of an out-flow of people from Ottawa; many of these were folks looking for the ‘country experience’, but still commuting into the big city. It seemed to us they probably had good incomes, liked country stuff, and many were probably too busy to garden for themselves. Sounded like good market gardening marketing territory.
So how do you get the word out to these people? I will tell you the thing that has worked best for us in building two businesses - mail-out flyers! We figured out a couple years ago that flyers were a great marketing and sales tool for local small businesses.
We had previously helped our daughter establish a cleaning business in Kemptville (she owns Royal Home Cleaning Services, a very successful start-up), and had investigated many ways of advertising her business. We decided on flyers because they give us lots of room to communicate our marketing message, we could target a particular neighbourhood or area for distribution, and flyers were relatively cheap. We figured if it worked for her service business it would work for our market gardening business as well.
Working with our local post office, we identified selected neighbourhoods for our flyer distribution. The post office folks told us how many homes, apartments, and businesses were in that area. We then printed up enough flyers to cover our target areas. This helped us focus our marketing efforts where they yield the most benefit. Printing and mailing out 1500 flyers cost us about $300; we got a response rate of better than 1% i.e. 1500 flyers netted us more than 20 customers. We signed up 16 customers (our target for that year) and put the rest on a waiting list for next year. So a $300 promotion brought in almost $10,000 in revenue! Not a bad return.
So what goes in your flyer? First, remember your flyer should be written in a personal tone, conveying your ‘voice’ and your personality (I've been accused of having an excess of personality, but in this case that is not a bad thing.) You need to convey to your prospects that an actual person is growing vegetables just for them; that's what the bootstrap model of market gardening is all about.
Remember that you are providing a service that is the opposite of industrialized agri-food; you are a small farmer providing good food directly to people who will appreciate it. This is the way the farming business used to work, and people will respond to that old-fashioned sensibility.
When we write our flyers, we keep in mind what we are really selling. Our ‘benefits’ include an old-fashioned sense of connection with the land as the source of food, convenience (home delivery), healthier eating, and the idea of eating and living responsibly, by buying local food and supporting local business.
This is a powerful message, and has always gotten us a good response. Of course the flyer should also explain how your program works and the cost. Include a little blurb about your farm, who and where you are and your philosophy as a grower. This helps to personalize you to your prospective customers.
Need to create some additional income on your small farm?
Next: Responding to customers. After you mail out your flyer and the phone starts to ring, then what? How do you respond to your prospective customers to turn them into actual customers? Be ready to respond to customer questions
more . . .