You've nurtured your tomatoes from seed, they survived that crazy wet spring and even several hornworms... but finally they are ready for market along with other treasures from your fields. It can be really hard to find some time or energy to think about your farmers market display. It's essential to have great product and great service - but it's also important to give some attention to your marketing presence.
If you had to move, even 2 spaces, from your current location would customers recognize this? Cookie Roscoe, Market Manager for The Stop's Green Barn in Toronto notes, "if I move a vendor 15 feet over, I get customer comments like - it's too bad those guys aren't here today or where is that lovely man?"
Farmers markets are naturally full of colour and activity and it's unlikely you are the only one selling tomatoes. To develop loyal customers you need to be memorable. Keep these tips in mind when developing marketing materials to promote your farm and its products.
Set a budget.
Estimate how much you will sell over the season and use 3-5% of this as a potential budget. For example, if you expect to sell $500, on average each week for 12 weeks, your total sales would be $6,000. In this case, with a budget in the 3% to 5% range, this would equal $180 to $300. If you are investing in items that will last more than one season, such as a banner, then spending slightly more is realistic. Don't forget that there may be taxes on items, and that some items may need replacing before the end of the season.
Consider your environment.
Farmers markets are naturally full of colour and activity. Keeping key items such as your banner simple and impactful will help ensure it gets noticed. Don't be tempted to add lots of patterns or photos. Make sure any signage can still be seen once the market becomes busy with customers. Items placed at floor level may become hidden, and also restrict traffic flow.
Be careful with terminology.
This is a very sensitive area. Make sure you are not over promising and be prepared to explain any claims you may make. The key is to maintain your credibility and trust with your customers as well as market management and your fellow vendors.
Make it visible.
Whether you hired a graphic designer to create an amazing brochure, or it's your neatly typed price list - make sure you can place it in a location where customers can see it. One of Cookie's examples of what not to do is to use a photocopied price list in black and white taped to the top of a freezer. As she simply states, "It gets lost in the sea and doesn't stand out."
Check with your market manager.
Your market will likely have specific guidelines for signage and other marketing materials. They may also have specific rules around the use of specific terms such as organic, natural, sustainable etc. If you are involved in more than one market, be sure to check with each one and develop materials that can be used at all of your market locations as much as possible.
Weather - keep it in mind.
Larger marketing expenditures should not be spent on materials that become easily damaged by wind, rain or sun. Signs printed from a home computer or written out quickly by hand should be somewhat weather resistant so they can make it through a bad weather day but can be replaced easily and quickly before the next market date. Produce extras and keep them handy if needed.
Think through transportation and storage.
Give some thought to how materials will be transported to and from the market and how they will be stored. Marketing materials cost money, and take time to create so it is important to keep them in good condition for as long as possible. Invest in a container where materials can be stored. This could be an inexpensive plastic folder for price signs or a cardboard roll to protect your banner.