Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do You Know Your Customers?

by John Berry, Extension Educator, Lehigh Co.

Do you know who your customers are today; who they will be ten years from now?  Successful marketers do.  Consumers are constantly changing, from their ages and attitudes, to their incomes and ethnic mix.  In order to successfully meet consumers' wants and needs, we must anticipate and respond to them before a demand for a product or service even exists.

Plan to Keep in Touch
Email lists are one method of staying in contact
with your customers on a timely basis.
One key advantage of direct marketing is contact with customers.  People seek the personal attention that is available from most farm retailers.  The benefit to the grower/marketer is first-hand knowledge of customer wants.  Make the most of this direct customer contact.  At the very least; ask your customers to record their name, address, and email in a notebook that is kept near the check-out.  Also consider collecting other electronic media contacts customers may be utilizing.  Once a notebook is started, you now have a mailing list.  This can help maximize promotional efforts.

Customers will develop a personal connection to your market if they are kept informed.  Is opening day next week?  Is there a huge crop of melons coming ripe?  Why not send an announcement to your regular customers?  Offer a discount on quantity purchases.  This type of effort is well received.  It helps you move product and it establishes loyalty in your customers.

Try to Keep Ahead
One way to prepare for tomorrow is to study changes in consumer demographics.  What do households look like?  What do consumers like to do with their free time?  Which consumers have the highest disposable income?  What would they be willing to spend it on?  How are these factors expected to change in the future?

Planning for the future is usually a guess.  To increase the confidence in this guess, try to base it on as much fact as possible.  The amount of information already gathered and analyzed is staggering.  The local library, township authorities, the department of transportation, and your Extension office can be possible sources of trend information.

Did You Know?
Here are general statistics from the Census Bureau.  Remember, these are for the entire population.  Try to answer some of these questions with the data that is specific to your customers.  By the year 2015, households without children under 18 will outnumber those with kids by 14 million.  The projections for the types of households we can expect are as follows: Couples without children, 32%; Women living alone, 17%; Men living alone, 14%.

How might this impact your customers and their shopping behavior?  The average person spends less than 50 minutes a day preparing meals.  Those with a microwave oven spend 45 minutes, while those without a microwave spend 59 minutes.  Clean up time averaged 7.7 minutes each day.

How do you fit your product into microwave preparation and easy clean up?

Conclusion
I like doing what I know how to do, and I find adapting to change is seldom comfortable.  However, exceeding the demands of most retail consumers is a moving target.  Effective direct marketers learn to change and adapt.  The efficiency of adapting can be increased by considering the possible developments of the future before they arrive.  In the final spare moments we may have before the spring season is upon us - let's spend some time and effort developing a deeper understanding of what drives our current shoppers and developing a better guess of who our future customers might be.

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