The following column will appear in the May 2017 issue of Vegetable Growers News and Fruit Growers News.
If you have ever sold at farmers markets, you know it is a hard way to make a living. There is the time investment of packing up for market, driving to market, setting up your stand, selling for 3-5 hours, tearing down the stand, repacking the truck, and then driving home.
Then a bad weather day happens or a few of your best customers don’t show up and you are taking home almost as much product as you brought to market. Depending on what you are selling and the weather conditions, much of this product is going on the compost pile. That product cost your farm business money!
To make sure you get the most out of farmers market sales, you must develop a communication strategy that gets your best customers to come to the market week in and week out. You are already posting to Facebook and sending a weekly email, but there is one even more direct communication method that you likely have not tried yet: text messages.
Text messages are ideal for farmers market sales because of the time dependent nature of a market: it is only open a few hours each week and it is easy for even your best customer to forget to come! Text messages have average open rates reported above 90% (versus 20% average for email open rates) and they are opened within minutes.
Think about being able to send all of your regular customers a text message right as the market starts with details about what is going to be at the market! It is an extremely powerful marketing technique. We did some surveys last year on farmers market customers who received text messages and 88% of respondents said the text messages were important in getting them to visit the market through the season.
There are a variety of ways to run a text message marketing program. You try it out by simply sending a group text through your phone, but note that this does not scale beyond a small number of contacts. To get phone numbers, just ask your regular customers in person if they want a market text message and write down the number on a sheet of paper.
In 2014, my company developed a text messaging platform called FarmFan to drive farmers market sales. We also have the option to build in a rewards program where customers get “points” each time they shop and get rewards for visiting the market throughout the season. More information about that program is available at http://about.farmfanapp.com
FarmFan is not the only option! There are a plethora of bulk text messaging platforms like slicktext.com or eztexting.com.
In summary, if you feel like your social media and other marketing channels are not actually delivering paying customers to the market, text messaging marketing can get people to take action and get down to the market today. I have more tips for using text message marketing at http://bit.ly/12texttips
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