Showing posts with label promotion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label promotion. Show all posts

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brags and Blunders!

Often the conversation amongst direct-to-consumer farm marketers can turn to “So, what are you doing that’s new and exciting?” I was fortunate to be able to hear some new and exciting ideas recently.
As part of our recent Are You Crazy? bus tour we had a brief session titled “brags and blunders.” The purpose of this session is for everyone to have an opportunity for describing the very best and/or the very worst marketing idea they ever implemented. This session was a great way to learn from each other and get conversations going. I relate here what I heard.

Invisible Fence Maze

Yes, they buried that invisible pet fence in a maze pattern and turned the kids loose. They did replace the buzzer with flashing lights before they started. This project was discontinued after two years. The kids had to crawl along the ground for the collars to sense the buried wire. Blunder!

Burning Fire Truck

Who doesn’t like a fire truck? Well these folks wore a big floppy foam fireperson hat and were driving around when the truck started burning. Of course, the fire extinguisher had been removed recently, so every one at the farm watched as the fire smoldered. Blunder!

Pumpkin Cannon

Have you heard about Punkin’ Chunkin’ celebrations? The one I am familiar with is in Delaware the week after Halloween. A bunch of clever folks tinker up some mechanical devices for flinging pumpkins way down the field. This marketer did the same thing, except after the season was over they decided to see how far they could send a pumpkin. After fanfare and the launch - they never did find the 1st piece of that flying fruit. Blunder!

Ground Hog Pumpkins

I don’t know about your fields, but ours can be full of ground hog living quarters. One year it seemed like most every pumpkin in this one field had ground hog damage. A few bites here and a few bites there. These folks told the touring elementary students to hunt up some of the “pumpkins with the ground hog autographs”. Well, the teachers later heard from the parents that if they were going to a farm could they at least find one that had decent pumpkins. Blunder!

Peach Smoothies

Many multi-generational farms experience family conflicts from time to time. At this roadside stand the elders did not think much at all about the new generation suggesting they start a peach smoothie enterprise. “Too much trouble!” “Who would buy that?” You might imagine the conversations. However, the younger folks persisted and today they can hardly keep up with demand for their simple and healthful recipe. Brag!

Zucchini Storm

Couple years ago when hail hit this farm they found themselves with what seemed like thousands of hail damaged zucchini. They were quite concerned if they would recover any of their production costs. Well, they advertised “zucchini storm” in all sorts of variations and sold every last fruit. Funny, but today they find it as difficult as you do to market perfectly good zucchini. Brag!

All my kitchen knives went to New York city

Many years back people were just beginning to build the NY Green Market. This country family saw the market potential but had no experience of actually being in the city. They had heard all the terrible news on how dangerous NY could be. On their very first market day at a brand new site they took every kitchen knife they owned as protection from whatever it was they might find. Today, over 20 years later they can laugh at themselves. They not only helped start the NY Green Markets movement – they continue to enjoy the experience and benefit from their efforts. Brag!

Selling butterflies

Wouldn’t you know it! Just as the potted plants in the greenhouse are ready to market an infestation of eats all the leaves and makes the remaining sticks very unattractive. Not one to let an opportunity pass, these folks decided to market the potted sticks as “buy a butterfly”. They quickly sold every last plant they had, and to this day still hear from customers what a wonderful time their families had raising their own butterflies. Brag!

“When’s the baby due?”

‘nough said. Blunder!

It goes to show – an excellent opportunity might be right around the corner, or maybe not.

For a photo series on this year's Tour, visit Are You Crazy Tour 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Marketing "Sustainable Farming" to Consumers: A Research Review

A recent journal article by Hillary Sackett, Robert Shupp, and Glynn Tonsor includes results that may benefit some readers who are marketing products with a "sustainable" label.  I'll provide the short version here but you may be able to obtain a copy of the work from one of the authors.

Research Motivation & Background
Sustainable agriculture is often described as a farmer working to not only be profitable but also do no harm to the environment and the broader society.  This so-called "triple bottom line" is sometimes referred to as "Profit, People, Planet."  While many in the agriculture industry debate the term, sometimes strongly, it's clear that a segment of consumers make purchases based on their perceptions of sustainability and the practices that make a farm sustainable.  Food marketers need to understand these consumers in order to target promotional efforts accurately.

The researchers used an internet survey to gather feedback from 1,002 people in 2010.  There were two different versions of the survey; one for apples and one for beef.  For each, ten different characteristics of sustainability were defined.  These characteristics reflected 6 production practices, some of which were different between apples and beef.  (For example, one practice for beef was "prohibited use of antibiotics" and one practice for apples was "limited herbicide use.")  Using a method called "Best-Worst Scaling," the researchers repeatedly asked respondents to choose the most and least important options from a group that included six of the ten total characteristics.  By answering this type of question a number of times, with different groupings, the respondent's preferences become clear.

The researchers analyzed the data to determine the relative importance of each of these characteristics.  They did this first for the entire group of respondents and then they used a tool called "latent class cluster analysis" to group similar types of respondents.  The benefit of this type of tool is that the data naturally group themselves rather than the researchers providing their best judgment to group the respondents.  The researchers then explore the clusters to understand the factors that differentiate the clusters.  The results for both types of analysis are useful for marketers!

Primary Findings

Overall, the size of the farm was ranked significantly higher than any other characteristics for both apples and beef.  The factor related to "locally-grown" was ranked 2nd for beef and 4th for apples.  A full set of results is shown below.
Ranked preferences for measures of sustainability on apple and beef farms

The numbers in parentheses show the level of the preference among all respondents.  These can be compared against each other.  Therefore, small farms is nearly twice as important than the second option for both apples and beef.

The latent-class cluster analysis then provided four distinct groups of respondents for apples and five distinct groups for beef.  These are described below.

Apple Cluster Groups
  1. Localvores - 14% of respondents fell into a grouping that heavily valued local production.  These also valued minimal herbicide use and preventive/cultural pest control.
  2. Small Business Enthusiasts - 30% fell into a group that placed heavy value on farm size and financial stability of the farm.  These also valued several of the production practices roughly evenly.
  3. Price-Savvy Shoppers - 10% were consistently most concerned with food prices.
  4. Sustainably Indifferent - 46% placed roughly equal weight on the characteristics.  It is not possible to discern whether these respondents care little or greatly about these characteristics; only that they care roughly equally about them.

Beef Cluster Groups
  1. Animal Rights Activists - 15% place a great amount of weight on animal safety and pasture-based feed.
  2. Nutrition Buffs - 24% place a great deal of importance on limited antibiotic use, growth hormones, and pasture-based feed.
  3. Price-Savvy Shoppers - 10% indicate that price is the leading concern.
  4. Sustainably Indifferent - 41% fell into this group, as described above.
  5. Say No to GMOs - 10% placed full weight on the prohibition of genetically modified livestock.

Putting These Results to Work
The results of this work provide a bit of insight for the food marketer.  Assuming the apple-related results are applicable to other fruits, or maybe produce in general, you can see that themes of "small farms," "Integrated Pest Management," "local," and other production-oriented descriptors could be used in your marketing and promotional materials/websites/social media outlets.  The same could be done for beef (and possibly other meats) based on the beef results.

The research also does a nice job of segmenting the markets.  Based on my readings, I suspect that most of those in the "Sustainably Indifferent" groups are not actively seeking sustainably-grown products.  Of course, the "Price-Savvy Shoppers" are also not in the target market.  Therefore, the article provides some insights into why the others are in the market for sustainably-produced foods.  For apples, some consumers are most interested in buying local.  Others want to support small businesses, whether local or not.  For beef, some are most concerned about animal rights or non-GMOs while others view sustainable products as more healthy.

Use these and other related phrases on your labels as well as your promotional materials.  It should help you connect more deeply with your customers as you hone in on what concerns them the most.  Good luck!

"Consumer Perceptions of Sustainable Farming Practices: A Best-Worst Scenario." (2013) Agricultural and Resource Economics Review. 42(2) pp. 275-290.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Promo Prices--When is Enough Enough?

Everyone loves a sale, right?  This might be your strategy for getting customers into your store, but can you have too many promotions?

In a Supermarket Guru article from earlier this year, frequent promotions and more consistent pricing strategies are explored.  Seventy-six percent of retailers are sending more price changes to stores in 2012 as compared to 2011 shows research from Retail Systems Research (RSR).  With these numerous price changes, it seems retailers are promoting a hyper-promotional environment.  

Why is this happening?  Retailers were surveyed by RSR and the findings show:

  • Increased price sensitivity of consumers (67%, up from 58% in 2011 and 46% in 2010).
  • Increased pricing aggressiveness from competitors (51%, up from 48% in 2011 and 38% in 2010).
  • Increased price transparency—the impact of comparative price shopping (47%, up from 40% in 2011 and 11% in 2010).
  • Need to protect our brand’s price image (42%, up from 38% in 2011 and 28% in 2010).
  • Need to provide consistency in price across channels (27%, down from 32% in 2011 but up from 6% in 2010).
One outcome the article describes is that " 41% of retailer executives surveyed say their companies have become more promotions-driven in 2012, up from 31% who said this in 2010; only 12% focus more on everyday low prices, the findings show...Yet among retail winners (with comp-store sales growth in excess of 3% annually, says RSR), the simple discounting of high-low pricing (38%) and Everyday Low Pricing (25%) are the primary pricing levers. Only retailers classified as losers (annual comp-store sales growth under 3%) used a hyper-promotional strategy (18%)."  The survey didn't explore beyond pricing and promotions, so a hyper-promotional strategy isn't the only reason these stores might be considered "losers".  It is also important to think about what services, assortments, convenience, and expertise your store offers.  

Learn more about the 4 P's (Pricing, Promotion, Product, and Placement) in the Resource Center of or in the Value-Added Marketing Series section of the Penn State Farm Business Management page.

As an agricultural entrepreneur, do you run promotions?  How often?  How do your customers respond to promotions?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Savvy Farm Promotion, Made Simple

On a recent farm marketing tour a group of growers were able to experience the gamut of retail farm marketing from large corporations that incorporate small market aesthetics to small markets making full use of the mobile and internet tools available to them. 

Giant Eagle's apple display signage
One large corporation, Giant Eagle Market District in Pittsburgh, is taking marketing back to its roots.  Utilizing hand-painted signage and displays that look like I could put them together in my garage, they were able to take what sounds like a rustic set-up and make it eye-catching and even beautiful. Their store displayed a large variety of national brands, local produce, and locally made value added products such as baked goods and sauces all in one convenient location for the consumer. Cues can be taken from their straightforward signage and grouped display stations that dominated the store, making it easily navigable for customers. 

Peach display at Giant Eagle. Notice the inclusion of pie-baking supplies.
On the flip side we visited a family farm, Covered Bridge Gardens, in Ohio who is utilizing cutting edge technology to get the word out to their CSA and farmers’ market customers. In addition to their slick looking website linking their Facebook page, blog, and e-commerce site, the farm is in the initial development stages of an app for smartphones.  This app will alert their CSA customers to surplus produce or changes in their pickup schedules.  It will help customers find them at area farmers markets, link to their online store on their website and make every part of their business literally available at their finger tips.  With the trend of smartphone users to utilize their devices more for social media and web surfing rather than for simple calling, transitioning to an app is a logical method for Covered Bridge Gardens to reach their customers in the way that is most convenient for both parties.

In discussion after our groups visit to Covered Bridge Gardens, a tour attendee brought up a good point.  If you are unable to be lucky enough or willing to pay the money for the development of your own farm app, a great way to replicate some of the functions is through the use of QR codes.  Many area markets are starting to add these codes to their value added product labels, door stickers and the backs of their business cards.  When incorporated correctly, meaning printed in a clear and easy to identify fashion, these codes can be used as another quick methods to direct customers to your website.  Especially useful if your site offers an e-commerce shopping section allowing customers to make purchases directly on the web. Just think if you pick up a jar of your favorite spicy gooseberry jelly at a market while traveling and was savoring the last bits at the bottom of the jar.  Wouldn’t it be nice to scan a quick code from the back of that jar with your phone as you savored your last mouthful and be instantly directed to a site where you could order more?  I think this sounds downright delightful, and delicious!

For more information on QR codes, straightforward signage and displays for your market, or technology based marketing options for your business check out the Ag Entrepreneurship Team’s past blog posts.  Here are a few of my favorites:

This post comes from the newest member of Penn State Extension's Ag Entrepreneurship Team, Carla Snyder. Carla is the Ag Entrepreneurship/Marketing educator in Adams County, PA.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cross Promotion: Partnering With Other Business to Better Serve Your Customers, Part III

In this final installment of discussing cross promoting I've suggested thinking about hosting events with complementary businesses and how this partnership might "cost" businesses involved in such a venture.

Hosting Events Together

Though one business may develop the vision for an event the responsibility of coordinating and implementing it needs to be shared. There are advantages that two or more establishments provide and gain by working together.  For example, if an event’s focus is outdoor entertaining the retailer may be interested in pairing up with a local winery or specialty food retailer. Another complementary business could be a local florist.

Allow time for a series of demonstrations, such as meal preparation using value-added processed foods, home entertaining, and flower arranging. Both businesses should also provide goods that could be included in gift baskets for sale, raffle, or door prize.
Considering Your Costs

Cross promotion cannot be implemented without certain “costs.”  Some of which include:
·    how much complementary product should be used in displays,
·    whether or not the shelf or floor space will be provided for free or if the space will be rented,
·    what discounts to apply if customers buy a combination of products offered by both businesses,
·    how advertising and promotional costs will be shared,
·    how many times during a season or year each business will agree to provide information for blogs, newsletters, etc. and the number of feature articles each business will write, and
·    how staff will be allocated for events and activities, if one business provides space for the event what the other business will offer in compensation.

Additionally, staff should be educated about the complementary products, how to use the item, benefits for customers, and related.  Staff should be able to answer basic questions about why the businesses are cross promoting each others’ product and provide customers with at least an introduction on how to use the products. 

These are just a few possibilities for cross promotion and obtaining access to new customers.  Your decision will ultimately depend on the amount of time you and your staff have available, your budget, business goals, and facilities available.  There are tradeoffs to consider; however, working together can provide benefits for your business and customers you serve. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cross Promotion: Partnering With Other Business to Better Serve Your Customers, Part II

       This posting, the second in the cross promoting series, focuses on how to join efforts with complementary businesses to communicate with your customers and theirs.

Newsletters and Blogs

How do you currently communicate with your customers?  Whatever methods you use to inform and remind customers about your business or persuade them to buy your products, there is at least one way to cross promote each others’ products and expertise.

With the number of garden centers who have a blog, newsletter, or other publication that they publish on regular basis it is highly likely that the person writing these pieces often has to find items to write about.   Short pieces can alert readers about the complementary business or a new product they are offering.  Feature articles can describe how products from both businesses could be incorporated into new gardening trends or an upcoming event that the two businesses are co-sponsoring.  Do not forget to include the complementary business’s logo, URLs or hyperlinks to their website, and contact information.

Also, invite the other business to write a newsletter item or be a guest blogger.  Suggest a topic so the guest writer has some direction as to what your readers might be interested in learning and that would meld well with other items you are including in the newsletter or blog.  

Your Website, Facebook, and Twitter

Your website is an ideal outlet for cross promotion activities.  Use space on your website to inform readers about complementary businesses you cross promote with and provide space for their advertisements.  If customers sign-up for your newsletter online provide an option that would allow them to sign up for other businesses’ newsletters or add a link that will take them to the other businesses’ online form.

When it comes to Facebook, make sure that you “like” business you cross promote with, post images of events and activities both businesses implement, include links to articles, and mention each other in postings.  Tweets you publish on Twitter should also mention your cross promotion partners.  Include these businesses in your #followfriday (#ff) tweets (a strategy used on Fridays to suggests to your Twitter followers who they should also follow) retweet (forwarding another Twitter user’s tweets to your followers) appropriate messages, publish tweets when you add their products to your displays, and similar.   Inform your customers about joint activities while reminding them about your business.

Until next time when I’ll present ideas on how to cross promote with other businesses to host events and some of the costs to consider when entering into this type of relationship.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Price Competition: Shoppers Value a Bargain!

Do you know a bargain hunter? You know, the type of person that is drawn to a "SALE" sign like a moth to a flame...  Most of us know one or two, I'm sure.  I learned a little more about these people last week, thanks to a paper presented at a conference by some researchers from Washington State University (Li, McCluskey, and Mittelhammer).

The research team analyzed the responses to "permanent" price drops (that is, those that were due strictly to supply and demand conditions) versus promotional, or short-term, price drops.  They used data from supermarket scanners, so they were able to analyze real transactions under real market conditions.  They did this for several different types of vegetables.

Guess what they found...  Consumers were more responsive to short-term price decreases than they were to permanent ones.  This suggests that promotions may be a better method to generate increased sales than being viewed as having low prices all the time.  On the other hand, it also means that promotions that happen too frequently may cause customers to pull back when a promotion isn't underway.

This phenomenon doesn't really surprise me.  I may or may not be related to a bargain hunter and I have come to understand that the purchase is more than the purchase.  Getting a bargain is a badge of honor; a story to tell friends, family, and co-workers.  I get that.  But there may be other factors at play.  In a stagnant economy like this one, we see shows like TLC's "Extreme Couponing" become popular.  To get these types of bargains, it often means buying in bulk.  So hoarding, or "stocking up" is a factor that drive sales during promotions.  (For something like vegetables, this may mean freezing or canning, so be sure to offer tips on how to do that.)

There's good science and economics behind pricing strategies that include short-term promotions.  Business owners should think about using them frequently, but not so much that they become the norm.  Watch sales (in dollars and quantities) to see how effective the promotions are.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Alerting customers about a new product

I just finished reading my July issue of Produce Business, a publication that I find to be very helpful in discovering new products and learning about how supermarkets, grocery stores, and club stores merchandise new and established products, packaging, national promotional programs, etc. While flipping through the pages, I saw a picture of black garlic, something that I was able to taste at the 2009 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. On first glance, you might not find this product to be visually appealing. The bulb certainly looks like a garlic bulb you would find in a supermarket. Instead of a creamy translucent- looking bulb though, the contents are a dark black, almost charcoal-looking. Being someone who loves the flavor of garlic, I was pleasantly surprised to find, as stated in the Produce Business article, that the garlic tasted "milder and sweeter" than traditional garlic. The bold color could really add dimension to a dish.

I must admit that if not presented with the opportunity to try the garlic at the Food Show and hear about the various ways that it could be used (in place of or in addition to traditional garlic) I would have probably passed by without a second look. I'm sure that there have been instances where you have seen a new product or service and weighed the cost vs. the benefits that the item would have provided you. If you are a retailer or a wholesale grower who gets feedback about consumer response to products you sell in an outlet, perhaps you have learned about or witnessed consumers looking at or touching a new item that is offered but instead of placing it in their basket, they return it to the shelf. The consumer might not even know what the product is, how to store it, how to prepare it, and/or how to serve it. Attendees at the Food Show (most of whom are retailers, brokers, and others involved in the food industry) benefitted from some insight about the product. It is best that retailers consider the same level of promotion and education in their own stores.

What are some simple promotions that a retailer could implement whether it be at an independent grocery store, a farmers' market, on-farm market, or other?

-Signage that describes the item is one example and probably something you already implement. Do you describe the products flavor, how it could be used, and how easy it is to prepare? The idea is not to make the sign too busy with words and overload the customer, but rather pick three brief but informative points and include them on the sign.

-How about making the new product the "product of the week?" Add extra signs throughout the store to alert customers of the new addition.

-Product placement may also be something to consider. Keep the featured product near the other like items but also position smaller batches for sale near the register and other items consumers tend to purchase frequently.

Perhaps to get you started, visit a few retail outlets that appeal to your target customers and see how they are using signage and product placement. What works for them might just work for you.