Online business owners can apply many of the basic principles that vendors at a farmers’ market use to build their presence and impress customers. Read more to take these easy ideas from the garden to your ecommerce site.
This weekend I took my very first trip to the farmers’ market, thanks to a friend that lured me out of bed on a Saturday morning with the promise of free coffee. Once we got to the site, I was amazed at the number of farmers who turned their livelihood into a viable small business through this venue.
After wading through the mounds of fruits, vegetables, meats and breads, I realized I was experiencing commerce at its most basic level. There was no research or marketing involved – I simply saw a vegetable, wanted to eat it, and exchanged money so I could have it.
This type of organic transaction got me thinking (as always) of takeaways that could benefit your online business.
1. Leverage your inner Farmer Joe.
One of the most endearing things about a farmers’ market is that each of the vendors runs a small, self-driven business. Sound familiar? Go with it! People feel good when they support a business that isn’t full of corporate lawyers and marketers. And once you follow up on this good feeling by building relationships and making customers feel valued, your online business has a key differentiator from larger, wealthier competitors. Being small can be an advantage, so consider playing that angle on your website or other marketing materials.
2. Don’t give away the farm.
Pricing is a key component, whether it’s an online business or a fruit stand. I went to purchase a small watermelon from one vendor but couldn’t find a price tag. When I found the owner of this stand and asked for the price, he told me it was 3 dollars. “Why?” I asked. He replied, “Because that’s how much I think a watermelon should cost.” (Cringe.)
If you’re arbitrarily creating prices for your products, start putting a strategy behind it. This farmer should factor how much it costs to grow a watermelon, how much it costs to bring it to the stand, and what profit margin he wants. Performing pricing exercises for all your products will help you cover costs and provide funds for future growth.
3. Have a green thumb for service.
Where the watermelon vendor lacked in pricing strategy, he made up for in customer service. This stand was particularly popular, so the checkout line was long. The farmer overheard me tell my friend I didn’t want to wait, so he introduced himself as James and went to the cash register to ring up my order. While I felt slightly guilty for cutting in front of 45 people, I also felt very special that James made an exception for me. Because of this, I’m now loyal to James’ stand and will visit him first from now on.
Your ecommerce business can do this as well by providing prompt, friendly service. Personally reply to your emails as quickly as possible and try your best not to tell customers “no” when they have a special request. Add something extra to your service, whether it’s providing an exclusive discount or content. When customers feel that you’ve given them something more, they’ll return the favor.
4. Be organic.
My favorite thing about the farmers’ market was talking to the business owners about their products. Once they talked about how they grew the food and what makes it so special, you could see their passion shine through. This passion made me excited about their wares and gave me a much stronger appreciation for what they do on a daily basis. These people were genuine and it was appealing.
You can do this through your online business by having well-written, helpful content that educates your customers about your industry and product. This can be through a blog, social media, or effective content pages. Pouring your passion into your content is a great way to show others how much you care about your offering. Again, people are looking to interact with brands that have a face, so make yours a friendly, authentic one.
Thus ended my first of many trips to the farmers’ market. There’s something very refreshing about this place, which is a bonus for any type of business. So if you think that ecommerce is leaps and bounds more technical than a farmers’ market full of fruits, think again. Beyond all of the complex software development and online marketing tactics, business principles remain the same whether you’re selling online or from the earth.
What other similarities or tips can you think of?
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate