While the product is the same, the sales environment of a farmers market is different than that of growers’ regular restaurant and distributor customers. Elizabeth Comiskey, membership and outreach coordinator for the Farmers Market Coalition, shares strategies of how you can maximize your farmers market experience to increase your produce profits.
1. Gather data.
The more information you can accumulate about your operation, the better. “Start tracking your sales, weather, average distance traveled from the farm to market, and the number of acres in ag production,” Comiskey says. “Having this information will help you to share your story with the community and establish the impacts of the farmers market, and will help you to understand the yearly trends.” To do this, she suggests keeping a log with market materials, as well as a spreadsheet, to keep your data organized.
2. Conduct outreach.
Comiskey stresses that it’s important to make yourself visible with your consumer base. “With a week between market days, customers need reminders to build the farmers market habit — everyone wants repeat customers. So, get them to sign up for a free newsletter list at the market. MailChimp is [a] free [service] until you have a large list, and it is easy to use,” she says. And don’t forget social media. “You need a Facebook page and/or an Instagram account. Posting photos and items for sale helps to build connections with customers between market days, and paying for Facebook to boost your post is proving to be a cost-effective way to reach your target shoppers,” Comiskey adds.
3. Remember marketing.
How do you get consumers engaged with your product? “Appeal to the senses: offering samples, if allowed, and making displays appealing to the eye equals more sales. Make sure the staff looks pleasant, engaged, and approachable. Customers are less likely to approach a table with a disengaged, frowning salesperson, that's sitting down staring at their phone (unless they are posting eye-candy to your Instagram),” Comiskey says. “Train your salespeople, even if they're related to you.”
4. Establish partnerships.
Integrate yourself into local causes for some mutual benefits. “Build connections with community leaders. Engaging hospitals, nonprofits, and schools in the market can draw more customers and builds community buy-in,” she says.
5. Expand your network.
Seek out people who can help you. “Connect with the managers of the markets you attend. Market managers are very cool people that don't get enough credit for the work they do behind the scenes,” Comiskey says. “They are part of your success team, so treat them well, and share your observations with them!”