Why a database is essential to keep people haunting your farmers’ market stall

 Email marketing, Farm Diversification, farm retail, Marketing  Comments Off on Why a database is essential to keep people haunting your farmers’ market stall
Feb 292012

How can you get customers haunting your stall?

You go inside an old, deserted house on the edge of town. Standing in the hall you hear a creaking sound. Back and forward. To and fro. It’s coming from the front room. Nervously you push open the door. What will you find? Is the house haunted?

There in the corner is a wooden rocking chair. It’s rocking. Back and forward. To and fro. As you watch, a warm, gentle feeling creeps over you. You’re no longer scared. The agent tells you later that a lovely little old lady used to own the house. Every evening she would sit in the old rocking chair beside the fire.

It seems she still returns to sit in her favourite place.

Getting customers to return over and over is every stall holder’s dream. It’s the ones who haunt your stall that you really want!

How can you get customers to return again and again?

Just like the little old lady in her rocking chair, customers come back again and again to a stall or shop because they enjoy the experience. It makes them feel good. But if you are only at the market once a week or worse once a month, then all sorts of things may prevent your customers from returning. They may make another arrangement or simply forget to come. This is where a gentle reminder from you can make all the difference.

But to give that little nudge, you need to be able to contact your customers.

How can you get in touch with customers?

The answer lies in email.

Email is the easiest and cheapest way to keep in regular contact with your customers. Post is a bit more reliable but the costs make it less desirable. Collecting and storing your customers’ email addresses is best done in a customer database.

What on earth is a customer database?

This is simply the name given to the place where you store email addresses and other important contact details about your customers, such as name, postal address and telephone number. You can get fancy customer databases that store a whole lot more information such as purchase history, birthdays, ghost beliefs (just joking) and other information about their buying habits but you don’t necessarily need all that information at the start.

If you use a billing system like Sage or Quick books you already have a customer database. However most businesses selling through shops or farmers’ markets don’t tend to invoice customers and so they don’t tend to collect and store customer details. This is a missed opportunity.

Why do you need to store customer details?

A customer database gives you the opportunity to create much more targeted, personal marketing campaigns. A campaign is just a fancy word for an organized course of action. The success of your campaigns relies on putting a targeted message in front of the right audience. Without a database, you rely on your website and or the evening newspaper, or a leaflet drop to get your message across to customers and potential customers.

Details of potential customers, known as prospects, are even more valuable. If a prospect has given your their email address they have given you permission to get in touch with information about your products and services they may find relevant and useful.

Once you have a customer (and prospect) database you can communicate directly with your customers through e.g. email marketing or direct mail letter. The advantage of this type of communication is that it is personal and can be very targeted. For instance if you have collected all the email addresses from the farmers’ market then you know that everyone on the list goes to farmers markets. You can’t say the same about everyone who reads the evening newspaper. In comparison an advert in the newspaper is far more hit and miss. What about keeping it legal?

Are there any legal issues around data collection?

Before you begin collecting contact details from customers or prospects, you need to sign up for the Data Protection Act. The link takes you to the UK government page which tells you all about the rules regarding keeping people’s data. If you are outside the UK, search for “data protection” in Google or another search engine, to find the equivalent legislation where you are. Once you’re legal, then you can get started collecting data. What’s the best tool to use?

How do you create a customer database?

There are a number of tools to choose. Which you choose will depend on what you want sort of communications you want to carry out. For direct mail, a simple Excel spreadsheet with a column for each piece of information e.g. Title, First name, Surname is ideal for starters.

There are all singing, all dancing customer relationship management (CRM) programmes which enable you to track every interaction with each customer. This is probably unnecessary for most businesses doing Farmers’ Markets but you may require such a programme in due course.

Email marketing software such as Mail Chimp www.mailchimp.com/ offers free entry level packages and allows you to store email addresses and other customer data in a list which help you quickly and easily create email campaigns. Mail Chimp and similar programmes have the added advantage that you can create a sign up form for your website, blog and Facebook page where people can sign up to your list. You can also, still collect details at the market stall and enter information manually.

How do you collect contact details at the stall?

Why would customers give you their contact details? You might well ask. You need to give them a good reason, after all they are giving you something of value. What can you offer in return that is valuable or useful to your customers?

Recipes, special offers or simply reminders about the market can all be helpful for your customers and prospects. This is slow but sure and many farmers’ market businesses such as Sussexway Meat have successfully built up a database of over 1000 farmers market customers using this method. Remember these are people who shop in the farmers markets you attend. How much more targeted can you get?

Don’t like asking for email addresses?

A small well targeted list is worth far more than a huge random list. In fact one accountant has put a nominal value of £10 on every email address on a business list. You can see why because, if you don’t keep in touch with your customers you may find they start haunting other outlets, where they’re made to feel more at home. Places where the business keeps in regular contact. If you offer something of value, such as special promotions, recipes or just reminder nudges for markets and food events, most of your customers will be happy to give you their email addresses. However if you don’t ask, they almost certainly won’t offer an email address to you.

Make sure your customers return again and again to your stall by building and using a customer database. You can take the hard work out of getting sign ups at the stall by using QR codes. To find out how, read the article on How to use QR codes to get sign ups to your email list at farmers markets.

How QR codes make it easy for farmers’ market customers to subscribe to your list

 Electronic media, Email marketing, Farm Diversification, farm retail, Food producers, Marketing  Comments Off on How QR codes make it easy for farmers’ market customers to subscribe to your list
Feb 242012

When Alice stepped through the looking glass, she was instantly transported to another world full of fascination and enchantment.

QR codes transport the customer in front of you, online to discover exciting goodies, offers or fun videos, competitions or information to help them pull off a gourmet dinner party. To make sure it’s not a one off visit, you can offer those goodies via your email newsletter. So people sign up to get at the goodies.

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 What is a QR code?

A Quick Response or QR code is a two-dimensional matrix bar code that is used to identify products.

They were created by Japanese Denso Wave, Inc and are used mainly to identify the URL of a company’s Web site so that mobile phone users can photograph the code and retrieve information about the organization.

 How do you get a QR code?

There are numerous QR code generators. It’s simple and quick, go and take a look. Here’s Free Nuts’ Top Ten.

 How do phones read QR codes?

Just as Alice needed a special looking glass, your customers need some special kit to photograph the code. A smart phone and a QR reader app. Plenty of these apps are free. Here’s a round up of the most popular ones.

How do people subscribe to your list via QR codes?

At your market stall or in your shop window, you simply display a QR code that takes people directly to your subscribe page for your email marketing campaign lists. Once they scan the code, they can enter their name and email address via their phone and hit subscribe.

Why would customers scan your QR code?

For some QR codes still have novelty appeal. They think it’s “neat” that they can scan barcodes with their smart phone. This will soon wear off.

You need to provide an incentive for people to scan the code and indeed sign up to your list. That incentive might be:

  • Free relevant information such as recipes, articles
  • Exclusive subscriber offers and promotions
  • Notification of special events or festivals.
  • VIP discounts on events or workshops
  • Competitions

 Alice would have loved movies

Short videos showing what goes on behind the scenes (use common sense with this) are a great way to engage with your audience. QR codes enable people to connect to that sort of content on the spot.

 Your imagination is the only limit for using QR codes

All your off line printed material could display QR codes.

  •  Business cards
  • Carrier bags
  • Bags for life
  • Leaflets
  • Brochures
  • Menus
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Workshop hand outs
  • Name badges at events
  • Promotional calendars
  • T-shirts

Meet all sorts of characters through QR codes, from farmers to footballers!

Calon Wen, a West Wales dairy co-operative has successfully used QR codes on their packaging which take consumers direct to a micro site where they can watch videos from the farms, join in on Facebook or read the Twitter feeds.

John Lewis have created a no staff shop in Brighton where products are displayed behind glass with QR codes. You simply scan the code and then buy the product via their online shop. Walk out and the product will be despatched direct to your home.

Bromley Football Club have taken it to another level by shaving QR codes onto the backs of players heads. It’s not yet clear how QR readers will cope with knobbly human heads!

Feeling lost and bewildered by all this new technology?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed but if your customers are embracing the new technology then shouldn’t you follow suit? On the upside much of this new technology is free to adopt, but it does require your time. Take it one step at a time.

Where to now?

Read more articles on email marketing.

Feb 232012

I have made a series of short video tutorials to help you use Twitter tools. This one shows you how add multiple Twitter accounts to the new Tweetdeck platform. Please share it if it helps you.

If you’re in the UK and would like to get hands on Twitter training for your staff or members, take a look at my intensive 4 week training course (including 2 live sessions).

Become a Twitter Pro (even if you don’t like small talk)

How the countryside can provide affordable seasonal branding for your rural business

 Marketing  Comments Off on How the countryside can provide affordable seasonal branding for your rural business
Feb 102012
Using images from the countryside for seasonal branding

Country sunrise

One minute you’re watching your brother or sister blow out the candles on a seventh birthday cake and then in what seems no time at all you’ve both left home and moved into adult life. Those precious growing up years were no doubt recorded by your Mum, Dad or doting grandparents, so you can look back at photos or recordings of significant events like family holidays, outings, parties and birthdays. Those milestones that marked your transition from baby to toddler, toddler to child, child to teenager and finally your arrival at adulthood.

If your parents had not recorded those events on film, you would be hard pressed to recall the subtle changes that happened year on year. In the countryside, subtle changes happen every day as the seasons unfold. If you are running a rural business, you are missing a fabulous, affordable opportunity if you don’t capture those seasonal changes and use images of them to promote your goods and services.

I was standing in the beautiful cafe at Loch Leven’s Larder listening to Robin Niven talking about the story of the farm shop and cafe during the Farm and More Fife Tour in Scotland last week. Watching the sun sink down over the stunning Loch Leven, I could only agree when he said, how the farm itself provides untapped opportunities for seasonal branding. Every week there is something new to see.

What is seasonal branding?

Companies large and small want to attract customers with eye catching displays which chime with what’s going on in the lives of their customers. Tying branding to the seasons is an obvious choice for companies selling fresh produce. So here in the UK high street retailers like Marks and Spencers or Waitrose will use autumnal, winter, spring or summer countryside scenes to promote seasonal goods such as pumpkins, asparagus, strawberries or new season lamb.

Those seasonal re-brands are carefully designed and executed. The variety keeps a company’s image fresh and prevents the customers getting bored. Every few weeks the branding changes giving the impression that this is a place that sells the freshest, most vibrant produce.

Why use seasonal branding in your business?

Seasonal branding like this gives variety, it gives consumers something different to look at, it ties in with consumers’ calendar events such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Easter. It keeps a business image, fresh, alive, relevant.

More than that though it tugs at consumers’s heartstrings.

Tap into the lure of the countryside

The idea of escaping to a quieter more authentic existence in the country, closer to nature has captivated urban dwellers for centuries. Whether for a weekend re-charge or a lock stock and barrel change of lifestyle, the countryside has a strong pull on the imagination. Bringing that closeness to nature, into people’s shopping experience helps feed that idea and connects your produce and your business in with that aspiration for a simpler, better life in the country.

If your customers are already country dwellers you reinforce their good choice of location!

This creates good positive vibes. Don’t forget people in amongst the chimney pots are dreaming about what’s on your doorstep.

Affordable images on your doorstep

For large companies re-branding like this is expensive. It requires designers, photographers, printers and a big budget.
Once the re-branding is done, it has to be rolled out across stores, shop windows, sales literature. Surely that’s way beyond a small businesses’ budget?

It would be, except that if you live on a farm or are based in the countryside you have the most fantastic source of seasonal branding imagery right on your doorstep. From a bright red robin on a snow covered twig to daffodils blooming in the hedgerows. With a half decent camera you can capture the seasonal changes as they happen. On farms, every day there are so many stunning photo opportunities. You probably don’t realise the effect those photos have on city dwellers who dream of clean air and big open spaces.

On farms, new born lambs provide the super cute factor but frozen water troughs, pigs running amok and goats being milked all add seasonal colour to your communications. If you take the photos on your own farm, you have the added advantage of uniqueness.

The big brands can do this but it takes a lot of organisation and budget. All you have to do is walk out the door with your camera.

Take a camera everywhere

If you are using online platforms like Facebook, Twitter or a blog it is easy and cheap to upload these pictures as you take them. Even for printed material and shop branding, you can substantially reduce your spend by getting in the habit of carrying around a camera or smart phone with decent camera.

Every few weeks there is a seasonal celebration of some sort on the calendar. From well known events like Christmas and Mothers Day to the less commercialised Michaelmas and Saints day feasts.

You can have fun creating albums of relevant images that can be added to your blog posts, e-news articles and of course your Facebook page.

At the end of the year you will have excellent material to produce a unique calendar for sale in your shop or market stall.

Just imagine if you had no recorded images of your childhood, how much would you retain of those changes big and small that happen as you grew up? In the same way, your surroundings change in big and small ways throughout the year. Share those changes with your customers and bring them a little slice of life in the country.

Juliet Fay.

© Juliet Fay 2011, author, speaker, trainer, marketing consultant, sales writer Wales, UK

Helping rural businesses make more from doing what they love by helping improve their sales writing, marketing campaigns and Twitter use. Email me for a quote.

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