1) Sell before you sow! Don’t plant one seed until you know who your customers will be. Match your sales volume to the market–plan ahead and anticipate what you can sell to your outlets. There’s nothing worse than producing a crop, only to find out that you can’t sell it. Join the agriculture community where you’ll meet agrimarketer and others.
2) Match the scope of the project to the risk you can handle. Start small, and test your ability to grow and market new products before you scale up. In addition to protecting yourself so that you don’t get knocked out if your experiment fails, starting small also helps assure you’ll produce a quality product. Set aside a certain percentage of your acreage or gross income each year to experiment with new products. Focus initially on producing a few selected specialties, and establish a reputation for quality specialty products.
3) Diversify your enterprises and your markets. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If weather, pests, or a collapsed market wipe out one crop, you’ve got others to rely on. Another advantage of diversity is that once you’ve established connections with buyers, increasing the variety you offer them is a good way to increase the overall volume they will accept from you. But there’s a tradeoff: you may have to learn new production technologies, buy new equipment and develop new markets.
4) Grow and market for quality. Some customers will pay the price you name for quality they can’t get elsewhere. Freshness: keep your products on the vine or tree as long as possible, then get them to the consumer as soon as possible after harvest. Variety: comb through specialty seed catalogs, searching for varieties that boast of excellence in flavor.
5) Aim for a year-round supply. Extend your harvest by successively planting different varieties with different harvest dates. Steady production stretched over a long growing season provides regular work for the labor crew, evens out the cash flow, helps capture early- and late-season prices, and provides a consistency of supply for the buyers.
6) Look for high-return marketing outlets. Many smaller growers choose direct marketing through farmers markets, roadside stands, etc., in order to increase revenue by cutting out the middlemen. If you like merchandising and dealing with people, or if you have family labor available to help, you may prefer selling direct to customers. Direct marketing is most likely to be successful for seasonal items or relatively high-value products including “value-added” or processed products,
7) Intensify. With few acres, you need to use intensive production techniques. Read John Jeavons’ book How To Grow More Vegetables, the bible on intensive production techniques.
8) Agritourism. As convenience stores and supermarkets spring up like dandelions, many roadside market owners have turned to “agritourism”–rural recreational activities–to survive and thrive. Busy urbanites are seeking places to go for a weekend family outing, where the kids can feed the goats or find out how bean plants grow. Popular themes and activities at rural attractions include farm tours, nature trails, train and hay rides, hay bales or corn stalks, pumpkin patches, antique and craft shows, food booths, apple butter cooking, country bands, “pumpkin lands,” scarecrow making, displays of antique farm equipment and contests.
9) Selling to retail outlets. Whether it’s a fancy restaurant or a grocery store known for its top-of-the-line produce department, go after the top markets in your area. Convince them that you can get them the best product they’ve seen–and then deliver what you’ve promised. Do this even if you are able to sell them only a few products–as they find that you are dependable, you can increase the order size. Once you’ve established yourself as a supplier to “the best,” use them as a reference. This gives you a real “in” when selling to other markets. If the retail buyer is reluctant to try out your product, offer a guarantee by offering to take back without cost products that don’t sell.
10) Selling produce to restaurants. Since affordable labor is a big problem faced by chefs, they are glad to buy food products in a semi-prepared form, such as pre-sliced vegetables, pre-peeled potatoes, pre-washed greens, or tomatoes and potatoes sorted according to size. The less time spent preparing produce in the kitchen the better. Chefs use big tomatoes, for example, for slicing, and little tomatoes for salads.
11) Produce packaging. Attractive packaging helps market products in high-end wholesale marketing. It may pay to spend a little extra to have your farm logo or a striking color label put on your shipping boxes. If the product looks as good as the packaging, the terminal wholesale buyers will buy! Some packaging boxes are so attractive they can double as retail display cases. You might also include extra labels for the retailers to use as in-store displays above their produce. Make sure that your pricing reflects the added cost.
12) High-value products. Another key to marketing high-value products wholesale is the personal touch. Educate buyers and consumers about your product in order to make them willing to pay a premium! If you are selling to a distant specialty broker, for example, give them product information to educate their sales staff, and flyers and point-of-purchase materials for their salespeople to take to the chefs and produce managers.
13) Farmer Co-ops. In union there is strength; yet farmer cooperatives traditionally have had a high failure rate. One reason may be that larger cooperatives with a packing operation often develop bigger, more centralized operations, with a full-time manager and other labor costs, plus expensive machinery. Ensuing debts often lead to the co-ops’ failure. Marketing associations, on the other hand, exist to help market and promote growers’ products, with no centralized site for packing. As well as promoting farm products by type of product, marketing associations can also promote farm products by growing region.
14) “Value-Added” (processed) products. Dry it, pie it, or put it in cider–“value-added” (processed) products make sense. Fruit that may be worth cents-per-pound as a fresh market product, for example, may be worth dollars-per-pound as processed jam! Value-added products create additional products for you to sell, enable you to market less-than-perfect produce as processed products, provide a source for year-round sales, and generate off-season work. Start small and build a solid local base before attempting to sell to larger or more distant markets. Test market your product at farmers markets. Supply local gift shops and small independent retail stores with specialty items that they can’t get through normal distributors.
15) Sampling. According to Guerrilla Marketing author Jay Levinson, sampling is the most effective marketing method available. Hand a customer a small paper cup of cider, and they’ll probably want to purchase a gallon–that’s inexpensive promotion! Product sampling is especially important for introducing new products, or new varieties of a product. Whether it’s with toothpick samples at your farmers market stall or roadside market, by doing “demos” at a retail store, or bringing along your cutting board when you visit produce managers or restaurant chefs, let the customers taste your great product. Once they try, they’ll buy!
16) Customer service. Whether you are marketing your products through wholesalers, retailers, or directly to consumers, your success depends on personal, “whatever-it-takes” customer service. This is something customers can’t find at the supermarkets or wholesale markets! If you have a roadside stand, for example, go the extra mile and provide information on types and varieties of produce and recipes for customer use, a picnic area, a call-in ordering service.
17) Educate the customer. The more people know about your product and what went into growing it and how to use it, the more they are willing to pay a premium price. Ways to inform customers about your products or services include point-of-purchase educational brochures and flyers, on-farm demonstrations and workshops, free recipe sheets, product information on labels and educational articles.
18) Pricing for quality. Offer a unique, high-quality product that customers can’t get elsewhere. Stress quality, freshness and uniqueness rather than “cheap food.” Here’s some more high-end pricing tips: 1) Package expensive specialty items in smaller units. Sell berries, for example, in pint rather than quart sizes-this makes it easier for the customer to buy and try out a new or expensive product.
19) The personal sales call is the oldest and most effective form of marketing communication. As the farmer who grew and intimately knows the product you’re selling, you can sell twice as much on any given day as a hired salesman! Selling skills can be gained by common sense preparation.
20) A brand name is one key to getting high prices for quality food products. In a market of mass-produced, no-name products, stamping your personal identity on your product builds trust and confidence. You don’t have to be Sunkist or Chiquita. Even the smallest farmer can utilize branding to maximize his advantage over competitors. Remember, however, that “the quality goes in before the name goes on.”
21) Free publicity. Before spending money on advertising, utilize all the free publicity and promotion available visit website that offer such service like the Agriculture community
22) Word of mouth. The best and most economical way to attract and keep customers is through personal recommendation, or “word-of-mouth.” Word-of-mouth advertising is not free, however. It is earned each time you provide your customers with outstanding service and a quality product. Word-of-mouth really takes off when you do something extraordinary.
23) News releases. Looking for ideas for news releases? Send information about something that is unique or new, and is of real interest or usefulness to readers, rather than blatantly self-promotional. Make it news, not advertising. Get in the habit of thinking “possible PR story.” Ask yourself: What is unique about your market or your products? Do you grow an unusual food item not normally obtainable in grocery stores? Recipes, tip-sheets and contests are just a few more of the hundreds of ideas for interesting news releases.
24) Personalize your product. One key to writing effective advertising copy is to personalize your product. As a small entrepreneur, don’t try to be General Foods. Tell your story! We live in a society in which everything is wrapped in plastic, and people want to hear your personal story. Put lots of personality into your copy: tell how your farm got started, your early struggles, or about your ethnic background. Tell what is unique about your product, and why it is the kind of product customers won’t find from major food manufacturers.
25) Remember to “share the bounty.” Whether this means helping the hungry by contributing food to a local soup kitchen or starting a gleaning project, joining an organization to save endangered farmland, or fighting for farmers’ rights through political-action or community groups, it’s worth your time to share the harvest with others. What goes around comes around!