Farmers markets offer great experimental business lessons - what can we learn from their star performers?
When searching online for help with selling produce - theoretical musing is abundant...
..but what does good ol' experience tell us?
Lets find out.
We decided to pool together the advice of vendors - both new and experienced via forums.
By publishing a summary of their discussions, we hope to pass on the benefit of their varied vendor voyages, as you take yours.
The following are the 5 most advantageous qualities to adopt when selling at farmers markets:
#1 - Be complimentary
The www.backwoodshome.com online forum hosts a thread posted by a user, entitled: "Anyone sell at farmers markets?"
Within this fairly short but useful thread, forum users open up on the prudence of working together.
Of course you're going to market to sell, but having understanding that you are one amongst many, all there for the same goal, goes a long way to walking away with long term profit.
Customers visiting your typical farmers market are often hit with a sea of offers and distractions.
The more joined up your presentation is with neighbouring vendors, the easier you make it for your customers to make purchase decisions.
"The market master might be able to give advice: at one market she suggested that there was no jelly maker, and when I did make some she put me next to the bread baker." - Courtesy of www.backwoodshome.com
Often when you think 'joined up' with management and other vendors, they may even offer you priority pitch or other benefits.
#2 - Package up your products
If you are finding it hard to establish a genuine niche for your product at local markets - try augmenting the offer.
This post on the www.singletrackworld.com forum entitled, "Tell me about selling soup on a market stall." addresses the technical challenges with delivering soup to a market crowd.
The practical difficulties encountered in distributing a soup product to shoppers on market day requires consideration.
This thread uncovers many valuable tips and insights in this area.
Among the comments, is this one stood out which touched on the benefit of diversifying.
"...easier way to do it would be to sell a hamper with ingredients and recipe card and you can have sample for people to try." - Courtesy of Single Track World
Similarly to our point #2, market customers are more likely to make a purchase if they see clearly that your product 'goes' with other interests.
#3 - Be Profitable
It reinforces commercial messages and elicits purchase decisions from customers.
As quoted by many business consultants, the statistic supporting the notion of sales/lead conversion by repeated touch points is sometimes double figures.
When customers know that they can expect to see you at the market, they can plan ahead.
They can include you in their budgeting.
The only way you will be able to keep turning up at the stall each market day, will be if you can sustain your enterprise.
Costs and all.
Unless you are funding your attendance by other means, you'll require that sales make profit for reinvesting in future appearances.
Aside from labour and direct costs of sale, there are also additional charges and overheads which all impact the bottom line profit.
This thread found at www.cakecentral.com entitled - "Noob at the farmers market - advice please!" has a flurry of practical profit centred advice & tips.
One respondent within the aforementioned forum offered the following points:
"...if you sell all 100, you would only have $50 left over to cover insurance, gas, electric, table and tent rental, the cost of any advertising, (our farmers markets require a banner), and then your wage. I wouldn't go a penny less than $3." - Courtesy of Cake Central
Remembering to account for the full compliment of cost items in your pricing will give you a good basis for hitting actual profit targets.
#4 - Promote with offline content
Giveaways, booklets, guides & recipes are all relevant means of promoting the sale of your farm produce at farmers markets.
In the same fashion as online content marketing lighting up commercial trade conversations, so can offline content.
At your next market attendance or product launch, prepare the production of a user guide.
Ensure production is professional.
Multiple use of formatting should be adopted for optimal engagement across the board.
Plenty of illustrative skim-read material for light readers, alongside in-depth comprehensive copy for the more studious mind.
This thread from the www.alpacanation.com forum entitled "Selling Alpaca beans at farmers markets" highlights the distribution of a printed user guide as a means of gathering a customer audience.
"You might message ****** [contact removed] and maybe she can help you...She published a wonderful booklet 'When you Plant Alpaca Beans' that we still pass around to any new visitors or when I go talk to garden clubs or Chambers of Commerce. Hope it helps." - Courtesy Alpaca Nation
Note how peers in the same niche leverage the utility and value of their fellows' booklet by passing it out from their stands also.
Good content, done well once - can have far reaching ROI benefits for a long time to come.
#5 - Order or sell in advance of market day
Lining up your farmers markets order & sales in advance, makes for a far more profitable market experience...whatever the product.
The more return visitors and repeat buyers you have, the larger the foundation of projected revenue in your business.
Regular sales or orders will only be complimented with new interest ongoing, producing cumulative growth.
Repeat sales really are the underlying stabiliser anchoring all established businesses.
There's really no difference with agricultural produce.
The more repeat buyers you can retain, the greater strategic foresight you can exercise and forward planning.
Cash flow management become more predictable and reinvestment more consistent/determined.
Repeat custom is the predominate indicator for part-time business owners to consider taking the plunge to full time occupation.
The use of a eCommerce website or email/sms list will assist you in providing convenient purchase methods for customers to stay ahead with their market purchases.
This thread from www.forum.homeroasters.org entitled "Farmers market roasting" uncovers some useful advice from a part-time market vendor on growing her trade with 'retention-focused' marketing techniques:
"At the moment I am still sitting pretty steady at 60 lbs. These sales are all return customers who email or phone me a day or two before they need coffee." - Courtesy of HomeRoasters
She also shares detail on her business-to-business strategy for securing repeat contracted sales from local retail customers:
"I have also just signed a contract with a newly opened shop that was bringing their coffee in from Colorado. I agreed to provide their coffee because I was impressed with their employees level of skill with the espresso machine." - Courtesy of HomeRoasters
This balance between repeat consumer sales as well as contracted B2B sales grants her confidence to transition from part-time ownership to becoming a full-time business owner:
"So my small time startup is moving quickly to full fledged business status." - Courtesy of HomeRoasters
Slowly, but surely and seems to do it once your strategy stands up.
Products sales at farmers markets don't just happen.
It takes a deliberate approach and well thought out strategy.
To sell consistently in any serious fashion, takes building up a repeat customer base of both business and consumer customers.
Investments in commercial infrastructure to support advance orders and sales is a natural extension.
Confidence to transition into full time business ownership comes with a bedrock of predictability within your income and cash flow.
Contracted arrangements built upon value afford for more advanced business planning.
Investing in quality supporting content which augment the value added within the sale adds dimension to growth.
Complimentary partnerships with other vendors, or packaging up of 'like products' encourages more casual purchase, or fist time trial.
Make sure your efforts are not in vain, by ensuring ample net profit (after expenses and overheads) for reinvestment and funding future market attendances.
Keep consistent communications with market visitors and customers to increase dependability of your brand.
Did we miss anything?
Feel free to join the conversation below.
Are you in need of a bespoke strategy to propel sales of your produce at markets and direct?
Get in touch, we'd be happy to help you.