Why you should put more farm into your farm shop

 Direct selling farm produce, farm retail  Comments Off on Why you should put more farm into your farm shop
Nov 222012

Recently I visited Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop and Tea Room just on the edge of Cumbria, home of the English Lakes. I enjoyed my cream tea while watching the cows being milked in the parlour below. At the next table were a mother and small son who happily played with the toy tractor and sheep, supplied by the tea room.

You couldn’t get a more graphic illustration of the connection between the cream on my scone and the cow in the parlour.

This farm shop has gone the whole hog and put their farm shop literally over the farm. Next to the dairy, the herd were housed in straw barns, ensuring that you couldn’t fail to notice that you were on a farm.

Being on a farm is what makes your shop different from retailers on the high street & supermarkets.

Exploit that difference.

You’ll never compete on price, so don’t even try, instead offer a slice of life on the farm.

How do you put more farm into your farm shop?

Be creative. No milking parlour? Here are some quick ideas to get you thinking:

• Set up a lamb feeding station next door to the shop

• Provide point of sale information about every farm product with pictures of e.g. Cabbage in the field

• Rig up a webcam in the dairy, lambing shed (lambing live), veg packing area, or cheese making area (make sure you ask staff first!)

• Set up a heated seed growing area in your shop with information on what’s growing and when it’ll be ready

• Set up monthly spinning demonstrations

• Try occasional cooking demonstrations (entice local chefs, or cooks to come and show off their expertise)

• Cheese making video running on a monitor

• Hay making video running on a monitor

• Wall size farm map with trails marked

• Pictures of farm & farm workers

• Nature table – encourage children to collect conkers, leaves etc to put on the nature table (needs supervision!)

• Renewable energy control panel (show for instance, how much rain water you’ve harvested)

Some activities will require supervision and some investment but others can be created once, like the videos, and then used over and over again in your shop and online.

Why does it matter?

We know that people perceive that food is cheaper in supermarkets (even when it isn’t) and so you have to give them a different reason to make the trip out to your place. In the end how you make people feel is important. For many a taste of farm life feels good. Increasingly people are looking for a connection with the land and soil. As a farm shop you can provide that access through creatively bringing your farm into the farm shop.

That will bring them back to spend more money with you.

Where can you get more ideas?

Think about every aspect of your farm shop in terms of the customer experience of being on a farm. Visit other shops and get ideas. Engage all the senses, touch, sight, smell (the good ones). Unlike a supermarket, you don’t have to manufacture the scent of baking bread to trick customers into buying, all you have to do is find ways to bring more of the farm into your farm shop.

What about health & hygiene regulations?

Yes these can be challenging but generally you can find creative ways to accommodate them and still bring in more of the farm

Like Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop and Tea Room, use your farm to create a unique atmosphere that attracts people to eat, buy and shop with you precisely because you offer something they can’t find on the high street or at the out of town superstores.

If you’d like on site marketing advice for marketing produce from your small holding or small farm,

Email me for quote for a farm visit

Cool apps from MailChimp for mobile email marketing

 Direct selling farm produce, Email marketing, farm retail  Comments Off on Cool apps from MailChimp for mobile email marketing
Sep 262012

I found an excellent list of apps from MailChimp to improve subscribers’ experience when receiving your email marketing campaigns on their mobile phones.

Of particular interest for farm retailers and farm entrepreneurs are:

Pyow for iPhones

A free app to generate and manage QR based coupons in MailChimp email campaigns via mobiles. You create a coupon in your campaign. Then when your customer shows up at the stall with the coupon showing on their phone, you simply scan the QR card with Pyow and verify the coupon. You can set how many times the coupon can be redeemed. This makes using email marketing to bring customers to your markets even more useful for you and your customers.

Find Pyow in the Apple App store.

Chimpadeedoo for iPad

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get people to sign up to your list on the spot? If you have an iPad, now you can! Chimpadeedo is a sign up app for iPad. You don’t even need to be connected to the internet. The app will collect subscriptions and store them until the next time you’re connected, then it pushes the contacts to your main MailChimp account.

This would be perfect at festivals, shows and events. If people are engaged and interested, ask if they’d like to subscribe there and then. Even at permanent retails outlets, like Farm Shops, you could have the iPad secured near the counter and if people are queuing encourage them to sign up. Restaurants and cafes too, could make it oh so easy for people to subscribe. If you do box scheme deliveries and people stop you at the van, you could ask them to sign up to find out more.

But remember, you don’t have a right to email people. They are doing you a favour when they give you their email address. And all the fancy apps in the world won’t persuade them to part with their personal information unless you are offering something of value.

So be clear and specific about what you offer. For example. Sign up here to get monthly updates of our new products/special themed nights/food tasting events/reminders about our next markets. It is easier to be clear and specific if you segment your lists and allow subscribers to choose the information they want.

Find Chimpadeedoo in the Apple App store.

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Why good signage for your farm gate sales (or farm shop) is essential

 Direct selling farm produce, Farm Diversification, farm retail, Marketing  Comments Off on Why good signage for your farm gate sales (or farm shop) is essential
Apr 262012

In Britain during World War II road signs were taken down because of fears of a German invasion. The thinking was that it would slow down an advancing army. No signs, no directions. Travel for just a few miles in the British countryside and you soon see how confusing it would be without signs.

Signs are really helpful! Especially if you want to direct people to your farm gate or farm shop to buy produce. Help people out. Put up a sign and make it easy to find your outlet.

What kinds of signs can you use?

Signs come in a variety of materials and sizes. For your farm entrance you can choose from wooden, metal or plastic signs. There are a variety of recycled plastic signs available which are cheaper than metal and easier to maintain than wooden signs. If you are part of a farm accreditation scheme or registered with a body like the Soil Association, there are often subsidised signs available.

A hand painted wooden sign can be very appealing, just make sure the painting is weather proof so that the sign looks good for years to come.

Let’s say you only sell produce in the summer months, then you want temporary signage. PVC banners can be strung up on your fence line when you’re open for business. What about road signs?

 Are there any regulations about signs?

On public roads in the UK, you may be able to get brown ‘tourist attraction’ signs but there are criteria to be met. The brown signs are regulated by the “Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002”. It is your local highways authority that authorises brown signs on local roads. Read more about brown signs in this article.

 Where should you put signs?

If you were travelling from London to Penzance, just think how many signs you’d pass. So don’t think one sign will do the job. You need to direct people in from the nearest main road right to your farm. And it doesn’t stop there.

Just because they’ve turned down the farm track doesn’t mean they’ll end up knocking on the right door. Don’t forget signs to guide people from your entrance right up to the farm house or farm shop door. Why do you need so many?

Remember what it feels like when you’re in unfamiliar territory. You start to doubt your self. If there is no sign, you wonder which way to turn and strangely many people ignore the obvious way and go off down side turnings.

Plenty of signs reassure people that they are heading the right way. It also avoids them ending up in your slurry pit or hay barn. So what information should go on your signs?

 What should you put on your farm signs?

Roadside signs need to be simple. The name of your farm shop with an appropriate symbol is enough for signs several miles from your farm. Look out for those brown signs that indicate tourist attractions and you’ll get the idea. Once you get to the entrance you can add more details, your farm name, logo and any symbols you can use such as organic certification symbol.

Next to the door of the farmhouse or farm shop, put up a sign with even more information such as the opening hours of the shop, a contact number and website if you have one.

What if you don’t want customers in the winter?

You can simply have a sign below your farm name, which says ‘open’ on one side and ‘closed’ on the other. Bed & Breakfast places do a similar thing with ‘vacancies’ and ‘no vacancies’. If you want to make it extra clear, you could have the opening times at the farm entrance. For example,

Open June to September only, Mon – Sat, 8-6pm.

Don’t make people work to find your farm, use signs to guide them in

With no current threat of invasion you don’t need to skimp on signs. Even with sat navs, people like the reassurance that they are on the right track. Invest in clear, good quality signage and guide people right to the door of your farmhouse or shop.


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Why taking a Perample Sample into butchers gives you twice the chance of getting a regular order

 Farm Diversification, farm retail  Comments Off on Why taking a Perample Sample into butchers gives you twice the chance of getting a regular order
Apr 052012

In the days before websites, I turned to the Yellow Pages to find butchers’ shops in the nearest city. Once I had a list, I set off, without any samples, hoping to interest them in our organic chickens. At each shop I gave my spiel about our wonderful chickens, and smiled hopefully.

What happened?

All but one said no. That one butcher took a chance on me and asked me to deliver 10 chickens the following week. He took a big risk because I had nothing to show him.

Imagine how much more compelling my spiel would have been, if I’d offered a sample. Imagine if it hadn’t been any old sample but a Perample Sample.

What is a Perample sample?

A Perample Sample is the sample that creates the best, but true, first impression. It is a perfect example of the quality product you can deliver to the butcher’s shop week after week. Let’ say it is a fresh, oven- ready chicken, plucked to perfection and dressed with an inconspicuous poultry tie. The skin is firm and taut with perhaps a golden tinge from an outdoor life pastured on grass. It looks ready to be basted and popped in the oven.

It comes in a pristine, cardboard poultry box where it sits on crisp, clean grease proof paper. Because you know how to process birds properly the chicken has set properly and there isn’t the hint of a blemish anywhere on the bird.

 Why does it give you twice the chance of getting the sale?

There are 3 reasons the butcher is twice as likely to want to do business with you. These are:

1. You’ve shown the quality of your product

2. You’ve made the effort to bring in the sample

3. You’ve shown enterprise in cold calling

How does the Perample sample help the butcher decide?

They always say you never see a poor butcher. Why? Successful butchers combine an uncompromising attitude to quality with a farmer’s attitude to price. To make their margin they will push for the lowest possible price. Quality is what brings their customers back. They can’t afford even one sub standard lamb chop, so woe betide any supplier that tries to get away with seconds or poor quality meat.

By bringing in your Perample Sample, you allow the butcher to weigh up the quality right in front of his eyes. If satisfied with that, all he has to do is focus on getting the right price. Without a sample he is taking a big risk by ordering with you.

When should you take in a Perample Sample?

Pick your time to deliver a Perample Sample. Avoid delivery times as you’ll be jostling with established suppliers. Avoid times when customers are queueing, the butcher won’t give you the time of day. How do you find out the best time? An hour before closing when equipment is being cleaned down, is a good time to call in.

 It takes too much time to visit butchers with samples

Taking a Perample Sample to the right butcher could get you a £100.00 worth of weekly orders, that’s over £5000 worth of business per year. If you take your Perample Sample then you’ve taken away half the risk for the butcher, making them twice as likely to place an order with you.

A carefully prepared Perample Sample will create a lasting, good impression which will increase your chances of winning new business. All you have to do is make sure every consignment maintains the same quality.


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How Twitter newbies can measure return on investment

 farm retail, Marketing, Social media, Twitter  Comments Off on How Twitter newbies can measure return on investment
Mar 112012

Bad news I’m afraid. You can’t measure return on investment if you’re drowning in the sea of random chat on Twitter. Following conversations about runaway dogs in Richmond Park and Stephen Fry’s latest perfectly formed tweet will give you hours of pleasant diversion. A return of sorts but not, I’m sure, the return you were thinking about.

If you’re using Twitter with no strategy, then you will have no objective. No objective means no idea why you are there. Naturally that gives you nothing to measure. Vague ideas about making connections will stay just that, vague ideas.

Aspiring Ernest pig

You’ll get diverted by any number of random conversations and waste time. Confirming your first impression that Twitter is full of meaningless yakety-yak and talking pigs (oh yes, check out @ErnestPig!).

Eventually you’ll leave the Twitter sphere in disgust or assign it the role of pleasant time wasting like tidying your desk when really you need to work.

On the other hand, you could get yourself a strategy, something most Twitter newbies don’t have.

What is a Twitter newbie?

A Twitter newbie is often a Twitter cynic. New to the tools and with a healthy dose of scepticism, they often come to the Twitter party full of doubt and loathing. Isn’t Twitter full of meaningless chatter and talking animals?

Okay may be not loathing but just that familiar resistance we all have when faced with getting to grips with something new. Even an update to your mobile phone can cause that irritation and frustration while you find your way round a new interface. No one wants to waste their time.

“Tell me how I can measure my return on investment,” the Twitter newbie asks, Every penny conscious rural entrepreneur, quite rightly wants to know the answer. First you need something to measure. To find out what that is, you need a strategy.

Okay, so what strategy do you need on Twitter?

A strategy for your time on Twitter is simple to conceive but harder to implement (it takes discipline). Your Twitter strategy needs to consider these areas:

What do you specifically want to achieve? What’s your objective. Let’s say you want some publicity,  you’d like to get your  rare breed pork featured in a newspaper or magazine.

In order to get there you’ll have to work through a number of steps.

First, you need to know who to connect with to achieve your objective. In our example above there are several types of publications that might feature your rare breed pork. Perhaps food magazines, the recipe section of the weekly paper, regional magazines like Carmarthenshire Life, trade magazines like farm retail, or farming publications like Farmers’ Weekly.

Each of these publications has a different audience, so you need to consider why you want publicity. If it is to get more sales enquiries, then you would focus on the consumer publications.

So you set about finding editors, journalists and writers on Twitter who contribute to such magazines.

How do you find journalists and writers like these?

You probably won’t know their names, so search for the publication names for instance, “WesternMail” and also current topics that they may be writing about for instance Spring pork recipes.

So step one is finding those writers and journalists. And how to measure that?

At every stage, record hours spent per week on Twitter and your results. In this case, how many writers did you find and follow and how many have followed you back.

Stage 2, engaging writers in your product or service

This is where it gets tougher. If you bounce on to Twitter and bombard journalists with pleading tweets asking them to feature your rare breed pork you are going to annoy them and worse damage your business reputation.

Journalists know that businesses want free publicity so they will see you coming a mile off. However journalists and editors also want good content for stories. If you have a good story there is a strong chance of finding a publication that will want to feature that rare breed pork we used in the example above. But you have to give writers something different, something interesting that will get your story picked up. How do you do that?

Stage 2, the long game

The bad news it takes more than one tweet. To attract the attention of influencers and writers you need to build a picture of your product that shows its uniqueness and value. Then you need to engage in conversations with the writers. Just as you would if you met them at a networking meeting, you need to get to know them. Let them get to know you. Take an interest in what they do. Read their work. Be creative, give them images and words about your products and the life behind the business.

That takes time.

So during Stage 2, your hours spent on Twitter will increase. The results you are measuring may first be the number of relevant conversations you have with writers and journalists but ultimately you are after those features in publications.

Right now, you might be thinking, this sounds like an awful lot of work but ask yourself where else can you ‘chat’ with journalists from across the world writing about everything from food to farming? Twitter gives you unparalleled access to them.  What you do with that opportunity will determine how much return you get on your investment.

Making the most of the opportunities

As with all social media platforms, the key is to create, share and broadcast good content. That can be images, stories, links and yes some chat! You are showcasing yourself and your business, telling your story. Engaging with others is not only rewarding in itself, it also adds another dimension to your business image on Twitter. This in itself can attract positive attention. By being clear why you are on Twitter, you also start to tune into people and conversations that help you promote or develop your business.

The opportunities for publicity and promotion can often be totally unexpected as Wigwam holidays found.

Wigwam Holidays (follow them @wigwamholidays) promote farm wigwam sites throughout the UK where glamping (more up market camping) is becoming very popular. Through Twitter, Wigwam Holidays got the opportunity to recommend a farm wigwam site for a location for a fashion shoot. If that resulted in images of a wigwam on a beautiful farm location appearing in a fashion magazine, how much was that conversation worth?

In PR circles editorial is estimated to be worth 3 times the value of a paid advert. So if a half page advert in a magazine is worth say £1500, the value of a half page feature is nominally worth £4500. We begin to see how targeted conversations could give you a very high return on invesment. What about other returns on investment?

Reducing spend on paid advertising

For larger businesses that have advertising budgets, Twitter and other social media platforms are providing an alternative to paid advertising. Calon Wen, an organic dairy co-op in West Wales has reduced advertising spend by 50% over 12 months and seen no drop in revenues, since spending just 4 hours per week using Facebook and Twitter.

One tweet from the wife of a Welsh Government minister alerted Calon Wen (follow them on Twitter) that Tesco in Cardiff had no Calon Wen milk in stock. A quick call to Tesco, who were unaware of the problem, got the shelves re-stocked quick smart. That timely communication saved Calon Wen from making an avoidable loss of trading sales that day.  What can you expect once you’re more established on Twitter. Let’s take a look at a Twitter Pro, who is filling seats on hertraining courses.

From newbie to advanced level, leveraging the power of Twitter

Bricks and Bread Sustainable Living Centre run by Trudy Thompson is a dynamic social enterprise that has used Twitter to build an astonishing business hub in Aldershot, UK. Now Trudy is leveraging that learning by offering Twitter courses. She has over 7000 followers on Twitter. Here are the numbers.

Trudy spends 30hrs a week on Twitter. She promoted her free Twitter guide to her Twitter followers and in 4 weeks it had over 44,000 views of the pdf & ISSUU document. This was achieved because of the number of retweets she got. This was followed by promotion of her Twitter courses run every week. Trudy tweeted notifications about the courses 3 times a day for 4 weeks. She gets between 50 and 100 daily retweets. To date, the Twitter class is growing by up to 20 bookings a day. The average value of a booking is £37.50. Follow Twitter power user, Trudy @bricksandbread.

So what if you’ve only got 15 followers

You’re a newbie, you don’t have 7000 followers but you still want to measure results. Set out a clear strategy with specific objectives. Decide what you want to achieve at each stage, for example finding food journalists, then measure your progress and record hours spent per week. Do this for every stage of the process until you achieve your goals e.g. a feature in a magazine. Then work out the value of that result. The question to ask is could you achieve better results for the same time, no money investment using other types of marketing strategies. If you can, then go ahead.

Twitter is a gateway to a mind blowing number of opportunities but you can only find them if you map out a clear strategy. The fastest way to increase return on investment is to learn from those who are already using it successfully.

If you want intensive, hands on Twitter training for your staff or members, take a look at my Become a Twitter Pro (even if you don’t like small talk) courses, available throughout the UK.

For more questions answered about Twitter, follow me on Twitter and sign up for my enews giving you insights into creating engaging content that lead your customers to buy more.

Look out for Piglet Twitter Clinics coming soon to West Wales!