Marketing Your Product
Finding your Niche
In technical terms this is called product differentiation. If you produce something different, the sales will follow. But if you develop the same product as everybody else does, you'll be locked into a nonproductive battle with your competition. You must give customers a reason to buy your product over any others. You have to find ways to make them as enthusiastic about the product as you are. That is why you tap into their emotions and tell them your story.
There are several ways to make your product distinctive. Common strategies are lower price, superior quality, greater convenience or faster service. What techniques you use depend on your product and where you decide to market your local foods products.
Trends play a role in this too. The "green" trend is very popular, thus local foods that are made with sustainable practices are more common than those made without. So in order to determine these trends, you may have to go to shows or conferences, talk to people, look and listen to figure out what will be "in" this year.
Promoting your Product (See the Farmer's Market Educational Module for Tips on Promotion)
Promotion involves advertising, publicity and personal contact. But keep in mind that you are not selling a product; you are selling what this product will do for people. A car company doesn't sell cars so much as it sells an image that a car will help provide its owner. Decide what your local foods produce will do for people. Then use this theme in your promotion. (See the Farmer's Market Educational Module for more tips on promotion)
Decide what forms of promotion you need. The forms you choose should project the kind of image or brand (See the Branding Page) you want your business to have. Professionally printed business cards may suggest a quality product, whereas a handwritten note tacked on a bulletin board may suggest less professional work. Choose several forms of promotion from the following list depending on their appropriateness to your business.
A professionally printed card is an asset to almost any business. Include your name, address, phone number and products and produce that you can offer. An attractive logo can also enhance the professional image you want to project. (See the Branding Page) It's ideal to have a professional designer work with you in the design of your card. If this is too expensive or not possible, at least look at a wide array and model yours after one you find appealing.
This type of promotion is particularly valuable for local foods producers because it's free. Be sure the word passed is favorable. Be professional, prompt, meet deadlines, keep appointments and do not accept more work than you can deliver. If you are selling produce to a grocery store or other retail outlet, be sure to do business with this store in return. A positive reputation= positive word-of-mouth.
A brochure can be well done and still relatively inexpensive, depending on the size, number of colors used and whether or not there are photographs. Get help from your printer and a professional designer/editor regarding layout text and lettering. You could also design your own and then go to a printing company to have them printed and cut.
Contact your local editors about the possibility of doing a news story and feature story on your local foods business. Pay attention to the types of stories carried in the newspaper. A news story would be pegged on the fact that it's a new business. A feature story on the other hand needs some kind of human interest angle. Give this some thought. This may be telling your 'story' and your trials and tribulations as a local foods producer in Nebraska. If there's something unique about your business, be sure to think of these unusual angles before talking with the editors.
Radio and TV News
Your local radio and television stations may also be interested in a news or feature angle. Also try to get yourself on any talk shows.
There are two main types -- display and classified. Display ads involve some design and artwork. Your newspaper advertising representative can help you with this. Classified ads appear in the classified section and are much cheaper. Both types can be effective depending on your product.
Displays or Farmers' Markets
This is extremely important for your business. If you are attending the local farmers' markets, it is essential that your display is nice and orderly. Only attend the shows that will bring you the type of business you want. Check out the Educational Training Module on Farmers' Markets and Display set-ups to get more visual information on marketing your products. (See the Farmers' Market Module)
You may want to advertise at a business that is complementary to yours. If you run out of sweet corn, recommend another producer and vice-versa, this will only help the local foods movement become stronger. This type of advertising can be beneficial to both businesses.