As summer fades into fall, it can be easy to be tempted just coast through the remaining weeks of CSA deliveries and farmer’s markets. We can fall into the trap of thinking we are too tired to think about his kind of thing, that the die are cast for this year, that we just need to keep our head down and focus on the fall harvest…
With the rush of summer behind us, fall is actually a fantastic time to focus more of your energy how to better serve you customers and build a solid marketing strategy for the next year. Herein lies one of the key shifts I propose to you: to see your marketing efforts as a means of being of service to your clients. So often I meet small scale organic farmers who fundamentally see marketing as something dirty, sleazy, or ‘sales-y’. Alternately, there is this discourse called ‘they owe us… we work our ass off growing amazing food and saving the planet… food prices are artificially low due to the influence of agri business not having to pay for the ecological and social hidden costs of industrial food production’.
I’m not here to have a philosophical discussing around these issues…
My question for you is: are either of these mindsets useful for you in building a sustainable organic vegetable farm that fully supports the quality of life you would love to live?
Seeing marketing and sales as a means of being of service to our clients empowers us to play full out towards our goals! The fact of the matter is that your farm produces amazing delicious organic vegetables and that there are people out there who would would love to eat them! Whatever marketing efforts you do are fundamentally an act of service in connecting people with your farm.
Marketing is everywhere, it is everything we do, it is how we communicate about what we love, and about the change we seek to bring into this world.
Here are three things to keep in mind this fall so be of maximum service in your marketing.
The empathetic marketer
The key to being an illuminated marketer is to put yourself in your customers shoes and really understand getting to know them. This is actually one of the greatest strengths of small scale organic farmers, we actually have the opportunity to personally know our customers, and we actually care about them…. So let’s make the most of this!
Often we have a sense of what we think our clients are experiencing, but there’s nothing like actually talking with them about it. Over the course of the next weeks between now and the end of markets, get in the habit of discussing the following questions with your clients… and keep note of your observations!
Who are they? Do they have children? What is their income level?
What ‘problem’ are you solving for them? What stories do they tell themselves about buying their vegetables from you? What do they value about your farm? What do they care about in the world? What are their hopes? What are their fears?
Take notes on your conversations, including the specific words that they use to talk about why they love your farm. What you learn from these conversations will be invaluable this winter as you plan out your marketing activities for next year.
A great side effect of these types of conversations is getting to know some really wonderful people even better and building relationships.
Go out with a bang!
This is simple, the way you end the season will influence how people remember you and how likely they are to want to be your customer next year. Of course fall doesn’t have as full a diversity of crops as summer, but this is a time to really pay attention to displaying and presenting your products in a way that highlights the abundance the fall harvests.
What else could you be doing to provide maximal value to your customers from now till then end of your market or CSA season? Potlucks, community activities, recipes? Use what you are hearing in your conversations with customers see how to wrap up the season in a manner that leave a great impression on your customers.
Enroll people for next year, right away!
There’s no reason to wait till next winter to get people to sign up for next year’s CSA program. Starting 4 weeks before the end of the season, offer a means for members to sign up right away!
This same principle applies to your farmer’s market customers too. Find ways to get their email addresses so you can touch base with them next spring to let them know when you’ll be starting market. This is the time to be doing this… not in the middle of winter.
Another approach for market customers is to offer a market subscription program… essentially a hybrid between CSA and farmers market. In its simplest form, People pre-purchase a certain dollar value that they can then use at market in exchange for a certain % discount. Even if the amount they commit to is minimal, it serves to help get them in the habit next summer of shopping at your stand.
The key here is to get your clients to engage in some act that will increase the likelihood of seeing them next summer!
As you put these principles into action, constantly be asking yourself: How can I provide the greatest value possible to this person right now!?
Go make a ruckus!