Online Marketing Tips from the Farmer’s Market

by Adam Helweh |

My wife and I have been attempting to hit the local farmer’s market every Sunday. Our intention is to eat healthier and support some local businesses. This last Sunday marked our second trip and being quite the “people watcher” I had a few observations that struck me as having similarities to how marketing on the web works. For instance, compare the throngs of people browsing the stands of fresh produce to the eb and flow of the world wide web. Many of the stands sold the same items as their competitors who were only feet (read: clicks) away. Vendors with more easily accessible product layouts, a wider variety of items and better prices were seconds away from any of the patrons.

I saw some interesting parallels to the world of online marketing. Here my tips based on my observations during my visit to the farmer’s market:

Show your wares & give them a taste
It was surprising to see just how many vendors at the market did not have samples to share with customers. Those who did had sliced up fruit and samples of their best baked goods on hand and within reach. Customers who might have been reluctant to snag a bag of peaches two stands down seemed persuaded to finally shell out some dough after tasting a succulent sample available at a more generous vendor.

Circle Back:
How could you do the same to attract potential customers who are riding the thin line between consideration and purchase? Do your competitors display their “wares” or do they hide them behind sign up forms other other “hoops”? Try listing out some of your products that your customers might be able to “taste” and lower (or remove) the barrier to do so.

Display your credentials
While there were quite a few vendors that had big banners hanging from their stands displaying which farm they were from and where it was located seized the opportunity to take it a step further. I’m not sure what it takes to be “certified organic“, but those who had earned the title had their certificates visibly mounted where customers could see it. Same for those who received an award for their cupcakes or fresh flowers. Either printed next to their name or displayed on a sign nearby and in view. It added an extra level of confidence in these folks and I had a feeling that they were serious about their work.

Circle Back:
Does your business have any awards, certifications, or industry recognitions it could put front and center on the homepage of your website? How much added confidence would this give your customers? Try finding a spot on your homepage, above the fold, where you can proudly display at least 3 of your credentials. Social proof is a powerful influencer. Do you have testimonials from customers or trusted experts in your industry that you can add to your website or social media profiles?

Engage with your customers and be remembered
There was one produce stand in particular that stuck in my mind. My wife was nabbing some plums and one of the guys working the stand walked up and asked me “How’s it going there sir?.” I replied “Good. Just grabbing some plums here.” He proceeded to chat with me while he helped other customers bag their items. Although our encounter was very brief, I will remember that friendly vendor each time I revisit the market (and probably grab more plums). Moments later his co-worker approached me and asked about the zombie themed design on my t-shirt. He recommended a movie that he thought I might like based on the Bruce Campbell like motif of  it. I think I might check that movie out and report back to him what I thought next time I’m there.

Circle Back:
Social media provides a variety of ways for businesses to reach out and connect with their customers. Do you engage with your customers before, after, and during the sales process? Do your conversations revolve only around your product/service or do you take the time to discuss things other than “YOU”? How can showing a genuine interest in your customer create an opportunity to be remembered when they are ready to spend money? Besides yourself, do you encourage your staff to be themselves and engage with customers whenever possible? Try to be less reactive and more proactive using your social media channels. When an opportunity arises to be helpful, friendly, and conversational … take it!

Being social takes dedication
Interestingly enough, this experience was directly related to a vendor who was using social media to market their product at the farmer’s market. One of the first things you notice when you get out of your car near my local farmer’s market is the aroma of freshly popped kettle corn. Upon arrival I checked in using the popular location base service Foursquare. I noticed that someone had left a tip at the location. “Look for the Gold Rush Popcorn stand. They sell deliciousssss kettle corn. Also, if you follow @goldrushpopcorn on Twitter, they post a password daily that will get you a free bag of popcorn!” said someone named Lee (read on to learn who Lee is).

I quickly jumped onto Twitter, found @GoldRushPopcorn and followed them only to find that not only had they not posted any secret password that day, but they also did not tweet anything since July 18th. I shot a message their way and still have not heard back from them. Since then I also discovered their somewhat inactive Facebook page and another recommendation by Lee on Yelp regarding the free popcorn password tip.

With a little investigation I was able to find out that the helpful Lee happened to be a tech savvy teen living in the area who happened to have a penchant for Gold Rush popcorn. So much so that he wanted to share it. Unfortunately the crew at Gold Rush Popcorn seemed to have given up updating their social profiles shortly after the word seemed to really start spreading about their insider offer. Even if they didn’t have the offer for free popcorn available it would be nice to see a little engagement spring up with people (like me) who had reached out and asked about the offer.

Circle Back:
Leaving your social media channels dormant for extended periods of time is akin to not being present at all on the social web. Don’t spread yourself thin by engaging in more social channels than your staff can handle at once. Better to be active in one place than to have dormant profiles in 3. Identify and reach out to people like Lee who are helping you spread the word without compensation. Especially those who seem to understand the medium. One or two of these folks might be willing to dedicate a little time posting and engaging with others on your behalf as community managers. Have you shown your special channels and company advocates some love lately?

That about wraps it up. Which tip resonated most with you? Anything you might go try today? I’d like to hear what you think.

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About the Author

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.