Why market research is essential before you begin your poultry marketing enterprise

 Farm Diversification, Farm entrepreneur, farm retail, Food producers, Marketing  Comments Off on Why market research is essential before you begin your poultry marketing enterprise
Mar 072012

When you learn to drive everything about a car is new and unknown. To drive the car well you need to know what the instrument dials are showing, what the pedals do and which stalks turn on which equipment, so too you need to thoroughly understand all the many components of your market if you want to create a successful business from selling poultry.

What does it really mean to understand your market?

The market was literally where people gathered to buy and sell provisions. Today “your market” refers to where you sell (the place, real or virtual) and who you sell to. How much do you know about your market?

A thorough understanding of your market gives you a wide range of valuable information which helps you decide what products to offer, where to sell them and how to sell them i.e. online, home delivery or at markets. Isn’t poultry just an every daycommodity?

You might think poultry is an everyday meat but it is more subtle than that. Even within the poultry market, customers differ in their expectations and habits. Those habits are important.

Isn’t one poultry customer pretty much like another? 

Are the people who like to buy in farmers’ markets the same ones that shop online? What about the people who buy free-range poultry? Are they also tempted by organic chicken? Do the people who buy chicken liver also buy whole oven-ready chickens? These are just some of the questions you can ask to form a picture of your typical customer. You’ve get the idea of investigating who buys from you. What else can you research?

How market research can help you find the right words for your leaflet or website?

By turning detective and getting to know your market in depth, you can find out, not just what products your typical customer might want, but also what words to write in your promotional leaflets, web pages and blog posts. Really?

What do I mean by that? 

Part of understanding your market, means actually talking to your potential customers. It is from the very words they use that you can begin to create compelling sales messages for your leaflets and website. All the information you need is in that typical customer’s mind.

Let’s take an example: when I wanted to write a web page promoting my services as a trainer for hire, I went and spoke to a project officer who had procured my services for a project called Creativity and Innovation in Micro-Enterprises. From the interview, I learnt what she was looking for in a presenter, someone “vibrant and go getting”. You’ll find the words”vibrant and go getting” on my web page.

Who is that typical customer? 

You look for someone who goes out of their way to buy direct from producers like you. Then ask them not just about chicken but about food, cooking, eating, food shopping, markets and what they like to do on the weekends. What you are doing here is fleshing out the stories behind your ideal customer.

Customers are great, we like customers but have you thought about the competition?  have you thought about the competition?

Don’t forget to check out the competition? 

If you haven’t already, you need to check out any other poultry producers selling in your area. They may have an online presence or you might just have to visit markets and local independent stores looking for any locally produced product.

Find out as much as you can about them. What they sell, what price they sell at, where they sell and who buys from them. This is another crucial aspect of market research. Too much competition and you may struggle to get a foothold in the marketplace, too little and you may be looking at blazing a trail which can be a tough and unprofitable place to be. Do the research.

Okay but does it really matter, whether I do market research or not?

You can go ahead and try to sell without this information. In fact that’s exactly what many people in business do. But you will be shooting blindly in the dark. You might get lucky and sell some poultry but for long term sustainability for your business you need to find, cultivate and keep loyal customers.

That means understanding who they are, empathising with their aspirations, dreams and concerns. Knowing where they shop and crucially why exaclty they love to buy from producers like you. That will also help you spot emerging trends. Just like the first merchants used to.

You’ve got to think like a merchant.

The early merchants sussed out which towns brought the most business and which products sold better. They made a beeline for the best spots. Haven’t things become more sophisticated nowadays? What about surveys and market data?

You can commission in depth market research to give you detailed information on volumes of product sold and the demographics and attitudes of the kind of people who buy poultry in general.

But it’s going to cost you.

Yes, it’s expensive to carry out that sort of market research

And usually way beyond your budget when you’re starting out. The good news is that government funded bodies often carry out this kind of top level research and make the results publicly available. You can get market data such as the value of sales for different sectors as well as consumer attitude surveys and actual grocery shopping data.

Trade associations and similar bodies like Farma [add link] in the UK have detailed market reports giving you an overview of national trends. Although you have to pay a membership to access the information, there are other benefits such as subsidised credit card schemes which can make the fee worthwhile.

This is all very well, but in the end the only way to get in depth knowledge of your local market is to get out and pound some pavements.

So you’re going to need some good boots?

Yep! Get your walking boots on, it’s time to do your own research. All you need are eyes, ears and a means of recording what you find. A simple notebook or voice recorder will do and a camera is a good idea too. Start at your local farmers’ market. Observe how people shop, what they buy, what they talk about, and how they behave when they are in the market. What draws them to the stalls?

Look at the produce on the stalls. Notice how it is packaged and priced. Listen to the stall holders as they sell. What do they say? How do they talk about the products? You’re looking for what works.

When you find it, note it and imitate it (not the logos but the manner, the type of displays, the product packaging and so on). As for a stall, so for a farm shop.

Go and pay some incognito visits to farm shops (maybe travel outside the county, you don’t want to upset your competitors). In every business there is lots of trial and error.

Learn from those that have gone before 

You’ll find most people in the industry are happy to share their experiences, as long as you’re not setting up on their doorstep. [example] You can learn so much from those who have gone before. They won’t know everything about your local market but they can give you ideas that you can test out and most importantly flag up the pitfalls to avoid.

Yeah yeah, let me get on with it.

But what if you just can’t wait to get started?

Of course now you’re in the car, even though it’s your first time, part of you wants to rev up that engine and screech away with an impressive tyre spin, but it won’t get you very far.

Launching into selling poultry with no knowledge of, or empathy for, your market will only take you so far. Time spent understanding the changing needs and conditions in your market will create a stronger business in the long run especially if you hit icy conditions at any point!

Coming soon, How to use social media for market research.