Finding the Right Customers
Why is it so important to identify your customers? A thriving business relies on customers. As more farmers are striving to connect directly with customers, our businesses will have to find ways to stand out because in a crowded market place, customers will gravitate toward products that align more with their values. Marketing is about communicating the information that sets our business apart.
Understanding your customers means understanding their reasons for buying the product/service. It is critical to identify the group of people with
1. The greatest need for the product/service AND
2. The willingness to purchase the product/service.
Who Are Your Customers
As a beginning exercise, we want to create a representation of your ideal customer—the type of person you want to purchase your products or services. This is called an avatar.
To start you will look at demographic variables such as age, income, education, gender, occupation and family size.
Then you’ll want to look at geographic variables such as urban, suburban, rural, regional population distribution and city size.
Next, you’ll look at personality variables such as social class, values and life-styles. And finally, you’ll consider behavior variables such as benefits desired from the product, usage rate and the level of brand loyalty expressed toward similar products/services.
The Special Dieter (Paleo, Keto, Carnivore etc)
Special Dieters care most about products with certain wellness attributes (grass fed, antibiotic free, etc). Some of them are on the diet to lose weight or because they are passionate about fitness and personal health and believe this is the best option for them. Alternatively, some “special dieters” have autoimmune diseases or other health issues, and wellness is their main concern. Those two subgroups are going to have different “pain points” (more on that later) that you have to appeal to.
Moms also care about certain health attributes (grass fed, antibiotic free, whatever), BUT she cares about it for different reasons. She wants the health attributes not to heal a disease or to lose weight, but to feed her kids healthy foods. Moms might read mommy blogs that warn about GMOs, herbicides, and she might’ve done enough research to make her uneasy about where she gets her food. She wants to be reassured that she’s getting products from a source she can trust. Education and Convenience are important parts of marketing to moms.
Connoisseur are looking for only the best flavor, and presentation. They might care about other attributes, but those are all secondary to quality and presentation.
Similar to the special dieters, the retiree might have some health challenges. Or maybe they have medical recommendations to follow certain guidelines. They also want quality and flavor. Some of them really care about the environment and want to know that you do too. Their access to technology might not be as convenient, so they might want to be able to call you on the phone or they want to be reassured that ordering is going to be really easy for them.
Why Do They Value Your Product?
Local produce has so many benefits, but the key is to understand your customer and their pain points. Pain points are the underlying fears and worries or the concerns that your customer might have.
Marketing comes down to showing a customer how you’re going to relieve their pain.
For instance, for a busy mom that has a million things going on but still wants to provide fresh, healthy meals for her kids.
She might struggle with not having enough time to cook complicated recipes. If she is your ideal customer, then provide simple recipes on a recipe card or on your website, through Facebook, is a good way to connect with her and address that pain point.
Moms might also struggle with making it to the farmers market or picking up a CSA, so making delivery an option is a great way to connect with this avatar.
Define your Attributes
Additionally, in able to best connect to your customer, we have to identify your customers values toward your specific product. Examples of these defining attributes include:
If you’re close to your customer, you can offer same- or next-day availability. This means peak freshness and nutrition of produce.
Clean and Safe
Not only are your greens free of pesticides, herbicides, and waxes, but they’re also safe from disease. Local farms that use safe growing practices are less likely to face foodborne illnesses like E. Coli
When you harvest and deliver the same day, you’re cutting out the 1–2 weeks that produce typically spends in transit. You bring customers produce at its peak, so it can stay fresher, longer — in the fridge. It’s also at the peak of it’s nutrients.
The fresh produce lasts so long, so there’s less waste — of food, and of money. Grocery stores and customers won’t have to throw out produce that becomes limp and slimy after only a few days on the shelf.
Consistently high-quality produce regardless of the season.
There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato or an heirloom watermelon. Small farms have the control over what varieties they grow, so another selling point could flavor profiles and varieties that customers can’t find anywhere else.
Beyond the value, you should also remember that many people are unfamiliar with hydroponics, vertical farming, or heirlooms, etc. Being prepared with materials that explain how your produce is grown and why it’s special will help convey the value of your produce to potential customers.
Talk to Your Customers
Once you start to identify your customers, the sooner you can learn what their pain points are and how to better serve them. You’ll learn what crops are in high demand, how much you need to grow, how much their willing to buy and more. You can add this information to your business plan and make the proper adjustments.
Diversify Your Markets
Once you identify your customers, there are four main sales channels that your farm might fit. They are separated into two categories: direct to customer and Business to Business. Direct to customer channels include: CSAs (Community Support Agriculture) and Farmers Markets. The business to business models include Restaurants and Grocery Stores. Each channel will have access to different types of customers. Diversifying your sales approach will make sure you sell all your produce each week and have a consistent customer base, even if one falls through. Each channel will require different necessary resources such as time spend packaging, driving, delivering and finding customers. You will also have to consider financial resources such as packaging, printing materials, and fees.
These steps will help you identify your customers and create an avatar to help you focus your efforts on the best strategies to reach your ideal customers.
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