7 Marketing Tips that can Help you Reach More Customers in 2022
All of the ongoing supply chain issues have hit home a really important principle: You can be the best in the world at making something, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t get it where it needs to go.
Similarly, the harsh reality of being a hydroponic farmer is that you can grow the most amazing, fresh, and delicious produce in the world, but if you don’t have customers, it doesn’t matter! No one will ever know, and you’re going to have a tough time staying in business!
Whether or not you’re just trying to build a customer base for the first time, or you’re trying to expand and build, these seven ideas are worth considering. It’s a mix of tried-and-true methods, as well as some that are a bit more unconventional. It’s also totally non-exhaustive, these are just a few ideas we wanted to share! Nevertheless, we hope these inspire you to take things to the next level!
1. Host pop-up dinners with a local chef.
While every chef dreams of opening their own brick and mortar restaurant, culinary pop-up experiences have become a very popular way to delight diners with a far smaller investment. Aspiring chefs host them as a chance to show off their mettle, and experienced chefs host them as an opportunity to try something new. Many cooks and chefs are eager to host these dinners, and will gladly handle most of the logistics… the thing that they usually need is space.
Offering your farm and your produce in the service of hosting a pop up is a great way to build relationships with local chefs and diners who may become customers. They’re also really fun! Facebook and Instagram are a great way to find and connect with cooks. They’re often very responsive to DM inquiries about collaboration. Also, once you get to know a few chefs in your area, they’re often very willing to introduce you to their colleagues! Here’s an article about several San Francisco area restaurants that hosted pop-up dinners outside the restaurant, including a couple at area farms!
2. Online Food Delivery Services – Produce Delivery and Meal Kits
CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions are definitely not new. Traditionally, they’re organized by a single farm or collective of farms that sells directly to consumers on a very local basis. What is relatively new is how quickly online produce delivery has grown in popularity, and has led to the rise of many internet-based produce subscription services. As these services grow, there will be a lot of opportunities to partner as they seek to keep their subscribers happy and well stocked.
Beyond simply delivering produce, there has also continued to be a huge boom in meal-kit delivery services. These services will send subscribers everything they need to cook themselves a fresh meal (or a few) – often including produce! Connecting with any of these services operating in your area can be a great opportunity.
3. Don’t be afraid to pound some pavement!
Online business is an exciting new, growing field, but if you’re looking for some action, there’s still no real substitute for walking into a business and striking up a conversation.
If your business is feeling a little stale, consider reserving an afternoon each week for a month to drive around to local grocery stores, restaurants, or farmers markets, and learn as much as you can. Investigate what the competition looks like, strike up some conversations about what vendors’ needs or desires are, and use that information to inform your efforts. Even if you’re not immediately inking some new delivery contract, the information and exposure will be invaluable.
4. Consider Refreshing your Look and Feel
Here’s the hard truth that we know you already know: Updating your logo, website, or social media will NEVER be a substitute for the necessary work of actually talking to potential customers, building trust, and having an amazing product. But here’s another hard truth: Marketing studies have shown that people consider far more factors than the product quality when making a purchase. Your “brand” is something you need to think about!
There’s a lot of implications of this, but the most obvious one is related to the look and feel of the brand you’re building. Especially if you’re involved in direct-to-consumer sales, do your own packaging, and haven’t made any changes in a while, consider bringing in a consultant or designer who can help you present your products in a contemporary, eye-catching and appealing way.
5. Get endorsements and make them prominent!
Related to the point above: We live in the age of influence. With so many options available for just about everything, most consumers know they can’t possibly try all the available choices. We’ve learned to rely on the recommendations of others, even others that we don’t know at all!
If you sell business-to-business, make sure that your website and your marketing materials lists some of your other customers. It shows that they trust you. Even better, asking for quotes. That stuff is gold!
This may be a bit harder if you sell to consumers, but, for instance, if you sell at a farmer’s market, you could use a banner to advertise some glowing reviews.
6. Don’t be afraid to try a lot of ideas, but you should try to find the niche that works for you!
Most farmers do not thrive by managing more than a couple business models simultaneously. It might be possible to sell to CSA’s, farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurants, and more at the same time, but at a certain point, the logistics and investment involved have the potential to outweigh the possible income. That being said, if you haven’t yet found your niche, it’s okay to experiment with a few revenue streams to see what works best for you based on your skills and your market.
7. You have to be nimble and willing to shift as the market demands.
When the pandemic hit and office buildings and restaurants shut down, it disrupted many of our customers who had built their business model in a particular way. It required an immediate switch to building, in some cases, an online store or, in other cases, an actual farm stand at the edge of their urban farm. Many of you were actually able to increase revenue selling directly to consumers.
Hopefully we don’t find ourselves dealing with another global pandemic anytime soon, but our markets are still shifting constantly. Opportunity is everywhere, and success is waiting for those who are able to identify it and take advantage.