Grow your relationships with customers
It is important to consider how to keep your customers engaged so they feel part of the success of your business. Focus on what value you add for them – why they choose to source food through you instead of a mainstream food distributor – and use every opportunity to emphasize and remind them of that value. Here are some basic tactics for engaging your customers.
Be a part of community events and local publications, as described in the Reach new customers section.
Building an email list is an important tool to help cultivate an audience. Services like Local Orbit manage email lists so that they automatically integrate with the tools you use to sell your farms’ food online. Other services like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Vertical Response and Emma offer more general email list management.
Social media is also a great outlet for building a contact base. In general, Facebook is a great tool for reaching wide audiences, and it is easy to maintain. Set a goal to publish 3-5 posts per week. Each post can be as simple as a photo and a sentence. Start early! The sooner you start building an email list and cultivating a Facebook following, the more people you’ll be able to reach when you really want to reach a broad base of current and prospective customers.
In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are two other popular social media platforms that many local food startups use to build an audience. You can also set up these services so that you can post on one, say Facebook, and the post will automatically show up on Twitter too.
Recognize your customers publicly and include them in press.
Share photos and celebrate milestones with customers. “We just moved x pints of fresh strawberries!” or “Farmer Sue just built a hoop house to grow greens all winter long”. or “Farmers sold $500,000 more food this summer thanks to you!”
Think about all of the ways that you interact with customers. Each “touchpoint” is an opportunity to further develop your relationship. Evaluate these touchpoints and identify areas where you can improve outreach efforts. For example, on the invoices a customer receives, can you include farm facts, discount codes or highlights on what will be in season next week to encourage repeat business?
Use our Customer Journey Map to document the various ways customers currently experience your business. It will help you think through where and how to focus your energy to better engage customers.
Tell your customers about the farms and community you sustain through your business. Their stories are at the core of your business and therefore should be a part of your branding strategy. Transparency is a huge selling point for local food; it helps you create a brand that people will associate with value. Empower your customers with information about local producers that is easy to access and marketing materials that will spread the word.
Provide the names of your farms and their associated growing methods. What other information can you include that will publicize and sell more of your products?
Here are some ideas:
Ask your grocery customer to place laminated photos of farmers and/or other shelf-talkers near the product display.
Ask a restaurant to execute a farm dinner featuring their favorite farmer as guest of honor.
Ask your cafeteria customer to velcro a notecard template that says “x grown here!” on the sneeze guard along the serving line.
Display a “Buy Local” logo near local items. If possible, offer these materials to your customers.