Successful market gardening needs successful marketing

First, lets define what we’re talking about. What is the difference between marketing and selling? Marketing is actually a 'pre-selling' process. This means, before you try to sell anything, you give your potential customers information about who you are and what you do and why that is important and relevant to them.

Making a Living on Your Small Farm

Why do this? Because people buy from those they know and like! Your main job as Director of Marketing for your small farm business is to help people to get to know and like you.

This is not as hard as it may sound. You want to tell the story of your farm business in a way that is appealing to the people you want as customers. Another way of saying this is, you are identifying a ‘niche’ for your farm.

You tell the story of your farm by figuring out what you are really selling. The old marketing saw says ‘people buy benefits, not features’. So you are educating your customers about the benefits of the way you conduct your business.

For example, our communications with customers (see more about that later) explains what Community Supported Agriculture is, and why it is a good deal for consumers and farmers.

Our web site talks about pasture-raised meats and why that is good for animals, consumers, and the environment. We try to position ourselves as environmentally responsible, concerned about animal welfare, and (by implication) someone good to do business with (all true points, by the way). Then, when we have ‘pre-sold’ these ideas, we give the details in a selling message - the ‘features’ - for our products.

Get started with your warm market

So you have figured out some things you would like to grow, and the marketing messages about them - i.e. your farm ‘story’. How do you find people your products will appeal to? In other words, how do you find the groups of people already pre-disposed to like the way you do things?

We suggest you start with people you already know. Talk to your friends, co-workers, team members, church members, anybody you come into contact with on a regular basis; this is your ‘warm market’. Get some business cards made up for your new farm business and give them out.

While you’re at it, register a company name for your farm, and set up a business chequing account; I think people have more confidence in writing a cheque to ‘ABC Farm’ rather than ‘Joe Schmoe’, especially if they are paying you in advance for a season’s worth of vegetables.

This is how we started our first year. We got some customers this way; just as important, we got some assurance that our business could work. You don't have to do the 'hard sell' to these folks; they already know you. Just bring up in conversation that you are starting a home delivery service for fresh naturally grown veggies. Since these folks already know and like you, if they have any interest at all they will respond.

If they are interested, briefly explain your program to them, and arrange a time to meet to give them more details and sign them up. And when you meet with them, ask if they think a neighbour, friend or family member might be interested as well. By the way, when we get referrals this way we usually give the referrer a little ‘thank you’ gift from the farm.

Finding more customers. So you have signed up all your friends and acquaintances that are interested in your fresh veggies, but you still need more customers to hit your income target. How do you get them? The best method we have found more . . .

New! Read about the marketing mistake that cost this grower $5,000! (and get a free Market Gardening Guide, too.)

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