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.

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.

Subscribe to Juliet's enews

 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.

Funding available to UPSKILL the Welsh Food Industry

 Funding available to UPSKILL the Welsh Food Industry  Food producers  Comments Off on Funding available to UPSKILL the Welsh Food Industry
Jan 102012

I'm always interested in resources that can help those in the sustainable food and farming sector. If you run a food business in West Wales or the Valleys you may be entitled to funding towards a foundation degree. Here's some details:

The University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) School of Heath Sciences has launched a new programme of study through its Collaborative Provision partnership which includes Bridgend College.  Employees who work in the private food sector who live and/or work in West Wales and the Valleys, could be entitled to a fully or partly-funded place on the programme – subject to conditions.

The Foundation Degree in Food Science & Technology will help employees working in the Food Sector to enhance their skills and their prospects.

The programme has been developed to engage fully with the food industry of Wales providing a unique opportunity for development of strategic staff. All the modules have been mapped against the Sector Skills Council (IMPROVE) occupational standards to ensure the needs of the food industry are met.

Read more.

Juliet Fay is a farm based enterpreneur helping micro businesses create raving fans by learning to write better sales messages.

Want to read more articles? Take a look at my site. Feedback welcome, just email me.

How one simple question can add 15% to your market takings

 Food producers, Selling  Comments Off on How one simple question can add 15% to your market takings
Jul 052010

Chickens in Turin market

Chickens in Turin Market

You're busy serving at the market stall. After you've handed the purchase over to your customer, what do you do?  Say thank you very much? Move on to the next customer?

There is a simple question that can increase your takings:

"Do you want something for later in the week?"

That's it. That's the question. I told you it was simple.

That simple question tells your customer that you can solve another problem.  Not just

"What shall we eat tonight?" but

"What shall we eat on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday?"

That simple question makes your customer look again at your display with a different question in mind.

And hey presto they find that those chicken thighs will be ideal for a casserole after Ceri has football training on Wednesday evening.

You have a responsibility to solve more problems for your customer.

Once you have sold once to a customer, if they are happy and return, then you have become a trusted 'problem solver". The customer will be happy to take your advice on future problems. You have a responsiblity to anticipate problems you can solve for that customer.

What if the customer raises a concern?

"Will they keep until Wednesday?" No problem, you are there, ready with the solution. Either

"yes you can keep them in the refrigerator", or "pop them in the freezer when you get home today and then just take them out on Tuesday morning and let them defrost in the fridge."

Happy, they make the additional purchase.

That customer's £12.00 spend just turned into a £18.00 spend.

If every third customer buys another £6.00 item you will increase your market takings by 15% just by asking one simple question.

Value versus price

 Food producers, Marketing  Comments Off on Value versus price
May 262010

Many years ago an antique dealer I met in Queensland, Australia taught me an important lesson about value.  His name was David Cameron (not the recently elected UK Prime Minister).

He would tour around the rural areas north of Brisbane looking out for hidden treasure on people's verandahs.  As soon as he spied something promising he would make an offer – a low offer. 

"You see", he told me, "I can go in with a low offer because I know they don't value it. If they valued it, they'd keep it in the house."  What these rural folk didn't realise is that in Brisbane, that neglected vase was highly desirable.

So he'd make a low offer.  The householder would be pleased to get something for what they considered to be a piece of junk.  Off he'd go with his purchase, clean it up, display it in the window of his antiques shop in Brisbane and there, where the piece was valued, he could make a tidy profit.

The value of something isn't fixed.

From this we learn that the value of something is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. In this case physically moving a product from one location to another changed it's value.  He put it in front of a different target audience and so was able to make a profit because of the different values placed on the same object.

If you have a premium product e.g. an organic product, you will be looking for a premium price.  Whether or not you can achieve that price is less to do with what's affordable and more to do with whether the marketplace you target, values that product.  Try selling a premium product to a store that piles them high and sells them cheap – you're doomed to fail.  Take that product to a store whose shoppers, for health or ethical reasons choose organic food, then your product immediately has a higher value and you stand a much better chance of making a sale.

The balance between value & price

How do you determine the value of your product? A better question is how do you find out who values your product? I was talking to La Creme Patisserie in Neath yesterday.  They produce gorgeous pastries and desserts made with fresh cream and fresh fruit. They offer a premium product.  Knowing this the hotels and restaurants who buy from them, often include La Creme Patisserie's desserts in a premium option for example in their wedding package.

Yet still as a food producer, La Creme has to negotiate and demonstrate the higher "value" of their product.  In this case, the products have a well established reputation and so hospitality establishments add to their own cudos by including them on their menus.

How can you find those who value it?

Targeting customers who already show a preference for premium products makes sense.  So if you are selling painting holidays you must target people who want to learn to paint yes but crucially, also have money to spend on their hobby. It's no good mailing the starving artist in the garret. Where do such people hang out?  Online certainly but probably also at theatres, galleries and other cultural centres.  Do some market research.

How can you increase the value of what you offer in the eyes of the customer?

Once you are broadly targeting the right audience, the best way to increase the value of what you offer, is to identify what key issue your customer has. Then look for ways you can offer even more in this area.

For example: if you sell organic eggs you need to find out why someone would spend more to buy organic rather than free range.  Both free range and organic hens technically enjoy high animal welfare, as both should have access to the range. Where are they different?  The feed. Feed given to organic layer birds should not contain pesticides, herbicides or have any GMO (genetic modified organism) content. Lack of pesticides, arguably gives organic eggs a lower carbon footprint.

Which of these really matters to your customers?  How do you find out?  Ask them.  If it's lack of pesticides, find out why specifically.  Are they buying because of health issues, ideological issues, environmental issues or just to keep up with the Jones.  If it's a health issue consider focusing on that in your sales material or packaging. You could offer an information leaflet highlighting how your eggs are different.  What's in them and what's not? What health issues are associated with various pesticides.  This way you are reinforcing their decision to buy this product. 

Are you production led or marketing led?

Many people involved with producing hand made or bespoke products often find pricing extremely difficult.  Starting with your costs and putting a price on your time is how production led businesses arrive at pricing decisions. This ignores the value of the item to the customer.  It will also lead you to a high input low output business which is ultimately unsustainable.

Businesses that are marketing led, tend to focus on researching their market place and developing their business to constantly improve customer satisfaction. This allows them to price their items based on their value to their customers.  In the case of bespoke handbags, market research might lead you to a market place that is willing to spend considerable sums on a unique item.  This audience may be more difficult to find but once you've found them you can command a decent price for something you love doing.

Value versus price.

Look at it this way. 

Take that handbag.

Lets look at the production led way of pricing:

Cost of materials      £25.00

Cost of your labour     £50.00

Subtotal                       £75.00

Say you add 30% (because someone told you that was a good mark up)

PRICE                        £97.50

PROFIT                     £22.50

Lets look at the marketing led way of pricing:

You've discovered through market research that owners of Arab horses are willing to pay up to £350.00 for a hand stitched hand bag with certain designs.

PRICE                      £350.00

PROFIT                    £275.00

You would have to sell 72 bags @ £350.00 a year to bring in £25,000.

However you would have to sell 257 bags @ £97.50 to bring in £25,000.

Here comes the really scary part.  Look at these figures if you now look at the profit rather than the takings.

To make a profit of £25,000 in your business, you will have to make and sell 90 bags a year @ £350.00.  That's about 2 per week.

On the first model @ £97.50 with just £22.50 profit you would have to sell …. wait for it

1112, in words that is one thousand, one hundred and twelve bags.

So value is also about how much you value your time, your business and yourself.