Friday, June 25, 2010

Can new packaging get customers excited about your product?

Pizza boxes are pretty much the same no matter what restaurant you go to. A new design though may change people's view of the "standard pizza container". A company called Environmentally Conscious Organization, Inc (ECO Inc) has developed a pizza box that can be broken into 4 plates and a leftovers box. The video below shows how this box, better known as the GreenBox, is used.

The GreenBox hasn't yet hit the market, but it has already gotten many people excited. In April 2009, posted an article about the GreenBox. According to (a social networking site that allows users to bookmark websites and send them to friends), the GreenBox article has been Dugg (or shared) more than any other article in the history of the site.

As an agricultural entrepreneur, have you changed (or thought about changing) your packaging recently? How has this affected sales? Have customers asked for more eco-friendly packaging? If there was a great social media buzz about a new type of packaging available for a product you produce, would this affect your decision-making in packaging choices?

As a consumer, do you think the GreenBox is an innovative design? Would you like to see more packaging designed like this? Would you choose a restaurant specifically because they use GreenBoxes?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Selling your product/service online, part 2

Continuation from last week's post...

By selling through your own website, you can forgo the sales commissions, but you will need to set up the actual online store. You can do this by using free, open source e-commerce software like Zen Cart or Pretashop or you can hire a web developer to do this for you. Setting up an e-commerce system does take some technical skill, so if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, hire a professional (keeping in mind that a web developer may charge $50-$100+ per hour).

If you currently accept credit cards at your brick and mortar store, your credit card processor can most likely also process your online sales. If you don't have a credit card processor, look into services like Google Checkout and Paypal. These services are very easy to use and implement on your site, but also be sure to compare their transaction costs with traditional credit card processors.

Once you have considered the costs of processing payments, you will also need to consider shipping costs. Rates can vary significantly between shipping carriers. Be sure to research prices and services including shipping insurance. Also, ask each shipping carrier if they provide free shipping materials. By using a free box provided by the shipping carrier instead of buying boxes yourself, you may save $1 or more per shipment.

Since you (or an employee) will be spending a good deal of time at your computer once you start selling online, there are some equipment issues to consider. Is your computer able to handle your ordering system? Having a slow, outdated computer can lead to ordering system crashes and lost orders. When choosing a new computer, be sure to also buy a large monitor since you will be looking at it for long periods of time. When packaging your products, you will need a laser printer to quickly and professionally print packing slips (as well as sales reports for your own records), a scale for weighing packages, and a label printer for printing postage.

As an agricultural entrepreneur, have you started selling your products online? If yes, how has selling online changed your connection to customers? Have online sales affected brick and mortar sales? If you have not considered selling online, what has stopped you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Selling your product/service online, part 1

Last week, Sarah blogged about mobile marketing and the role smartphones have in purchasing decisions. If you have explored or are already using mobile marketing, you are probably also interested in selling your product or service online. In a February article on, author Gregory Go ("8 Financial Considerations of e-Commerce") discusses what you, the entrepreneur, will need to think about if you want to start selling online.

Your selling price is very is important in your online marketplace. Customers can comparison shop within seconds, especially with retail giants like Amazon. If you are unable to compete price-wise with other retailers, you aren't necessarily out of luck. Become a niche seller that specializes in one product category. Provide excellent customer service and customers will come back to your online store for your specialty. For example, a honey producer who sells her honey for $10/jar can't compete with Amazon who sells a 12 jar case for $30, but she can market her online store as a gourmet honey specialty shop. She can provide her customers with photos of the honey being harvested, and offer unique flavors like lavender and key lime. If you are able to compete with the prices of the retail giants and want to be selling in a large marketplace (Amazon and Ebay for example), you will need to budget for sales commissions which may be 10% or more.

I'll continue blogging about selling online next week!

Supermarkets & Farmers Markets - An Opportunity to Work Together?

The following note from The Lempert Report was shared by a colleague after a recent discussion that several of us had while discussing opportunities for farmers selling their products locally. The text of The Lempert Report follows.

Do Farmers' Markets Grow On You?

Supermarkets ought to stop looking at
farmers' markets as quaint gatherings of like-minded growers that appeal to a
segment of buyers who want their produce fresh, fast and local. They should also
stop looking at them as competition to their own showpiece departements.

Rather, by hosting farmer's markets in
their parking lots or other adjacent spaces, they could project a fairly
unassailable image of wholesomeness, of having high regard for local food
sources, and respect for their shoppers - who might just become more prone to
buying more dressings, accompaniments and center-plate foods inside the store to
accompany their earthy scores of fruits and vegetables.

Better still, we believe at The Lempert Report,
if a supermarket with the right physical setup were to schedule these as regular
branded events, they'd draw increasing traffic and motivate farmers to become
regulars too. Imagine all that face time for growers to cultivate customers, and
with no need to open their own physical store or give up a percentage to a
distributor. They do need to pay something, and they do. According to the Los
Angeles Times, vendors at a popular Hollywood farmers' market pay 6.5 percent of
their sales as rent to the market, and "many of the 100 produce stands take in
about $400 on Sundays, while a few make as much as $2,500."

Should supermarkets shun their potential to build
buzz and a rental revenue stream with such events? We think not, since consumers
are looking to eat healthier, and they often like to support local
grower-entreprenerurs. Moreover, celebrity farmers bring co-branding
opportunities, as do restaurateurs who might be inclined to organize themselves
to ensure their supply of quality produce, such as the Batali-Bastinanich
Farmers' Market in Las Vegas.

Think about Ralphs, Bruno's, Stew Leonard's and Balducci's, and realize
these stores attained celebrity status because their namesakes knew food well
and were credible to their customers. The Lempert Report believes it is
absolutely possible that with nurturing branded or co-branded farmers' markets
could experience similar local and regional successes.

If you're a farmer or food entrepreneur, is there an opportunity for you or the farmers' market you participate in to approach a local grocer about partnering in a fashion similar to that described above? They may already be considering such possibilities and this would be a perfect opportunity to demonstrate willingness to work together, demonstrating shared values to local consumers. If groceries in your area haven't thought about partnering, this note provides several points that can be used to illustrate the advantages for both them and you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mobile Marketing?

Food Systems Insider today had an interesting commentary regarding the role smartphones play in consumer purchasing behavior. Smartphones, such as Blackberries and iPhones, allow users instant access to all sorts of information.

Many social networking sites also have applications allowing people to access their accounts through their phones. A consumer with a smartphone can let their friends know where they are through foursquare, send a tweet and post a status update about their experience, and post pictures of a product they purchase to Facebook and Twitter.

With the continuing rise in the use of smartphones and the possibilities they offer for connecting with consumers, mobile marketing is yet another facet that ag entrepreneurs should consider as part of their marketing and PR strategies.

Check out the article via the link below.