Make Money With Reminders
Your existing customers are like money in the bank. They know you, they trust you and are far more likely to purchase from you than someone who is not yet a customer. One of the easiest ways for a business to make money is to contact past customers with a special offer.
For example, if you have a plant nursery, send out an e-mail coupon to your customer list every month. The coupon could be for seasonal specials, like a fall sale on landscaping plants, or a non-specific offer, like 25% off any plant in the nursery.
If you have a customer list of repeat buyers, you can get even more sophisticated, such as birthday cards or personalized reminders. For some ideas, visit www.sendoutcards.com. An old-fashioned handwritten note is still an effective tool as well. Very few businesses take the time to do this, which makes it all the more effective. For example, if you have several landscapers who buy trees from you regularly, drop a thank-you note in the mail to each two or three times a year. Nothing fancy, just let them know you appreciate them and value their business.
The simple act of communicating regularly is a powerful business builder when practiced regularly and sincerely. Take a few minutes every week to stay in touch with your customers, and you’ll be well rewarded over time.
Community Service = Free Publicity For Your Business
Fighting cancer is tough, as is living with it every day. To help women with cancer, Cleaningforareason.org partners with professional house cleaners around the U.S. and Canada to provide free house cleaning for those battling cancer. Over 9,000 women have been helped so far. House cleaners that participate in the program benefit with positive publicity, new clients, and above all, a sense of purpose knowing they have helped others in their time of need.
Remember that good news spreads faster than ever in our interconnected world, and you can create your own good news by serving others with your own special contribution. Do you grow food crops? How about donating some to those in need via local organizations like food banks. Grow flowers? How about delivering a few free bouquets in season to residents at a local nursing home or a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Grow Christmas trees? Local charities and community service organizations can help you find those who can’t afford a tree, and deliver a few to them.
By now, you get the picture. Whatever you grow is valued by others, and you can provide a valuable free service to those less fortunate folks. If you want public recognition, send a simple news release to your local paper describing what you do, and it could lead to a story in the paper and some free publicity. Don’t worry about getting free publicity though, as word of mouth is almost as fast as the internet in most communities, and your service will be recognized in other ways.
Beat the Season For Premium Prices
Growers who have the first fruits or vegetables of the season can charge higher prices for their crop, as customers are willing to pay more to have “out-of-season” produce. This also applies to other non-food crops like flowers, with plants like tulips and daffodils commonly “forced” to bloom early. Their bulbs can be fooled, or forced to bloom early by giving the bulbs a cold period of 40 degrees or so for 12-14 weeks.
The best two methods for growers to get a head start on the season with their crops are selecting varieties that produce a mature plant or flower earlier and by using a greenhouse or hoop house as a “season extender” for their crops.
The next time you purchase seed for your crop, keep an eye on the “days to maturity” for each variety, and select the fastest maturing, so you can be first to market for the highest prices.
One of the most dependable and profitable methods to harvest an early crop, or even a late second crop, is to invest in a simple hoop house. They can be built for around $2-$3 per square foot, and most growers have found they can pay for themselves in a single season. A visit to Youtube.com will produce dozens of “how-to” videos for building your own hoop house. In addition, Johnnyseeds.com sells a do-it-yourself “quick-hoops” bender for either high or low tunnels for a very affordable season extender.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to be first to market for premium prices. By choosing the right varieties and getting an early start with a hoop house, you can be first in line to profits.
The Best Free Advertising? Word-of-Mouth
Satisfied customers are a small business “secret weapon,” as they are usually repeat customers and they tell their friends about your business, yet your out-of-pocket advertising cost is zero. Word-of-mouth can be your most effective advertising – if you provide a product that is so good your customers are eager to buy more, whether you are growing apples, mushrooms or Christmas trees. Here are two ways to encourage your happy customers to share their enthusiasm about your business:
1. Always give your customers more than what they expect. Zappo’s does it with free shipping and 110% customer service, bakers do it with the “baker’s dozen” of an extra roll or pastry. A local garlic grower always adds a free clove of jumbo elephant garlic when a customer purchases his Rocambole or Porcelain gourmet garlic. Think about how you might surprise your customers when they buy from you.
2. Ask for word-of-mouth by asking satisfied customers to refer their friends to you. You can even “bribe” them with a discount or free gift if their friend mentions their name when they buy.
Always treat your satisfied customers with loyalty, kindness and consideration ( Just like you like to be treated!) The more satisfied customers you have, the more additional satisfied customers you’ll gain. Like a snowball rolling downhill, it’s a growing circle of boosters that gets bigger every day – along with your profits.
Since 1987, Jim Long has been growing and selling herbs and herbal products from his home herb garden in Blue Eye, Missouri. His value-added products range from “dream pillows” to herbal remedies for nail fungus, leg cramps, acid reflux, headaches, warts and more. For anyone who wonders if they can succeed as a grower in a small town, Jim Long’s story, coming from a tiny Missouri town with a population of 167, should be encouraging.
For many of those years, Jim has sold his best seller, a nail fungus soak, direct to customers via mail order. A two-month supply costs just $14.95, and is sold mostly by small display ads in magazines like Grit and Mother Earth News. Unlike Coca-Cola, there is no “secret formula,” as the ingredients, shave grass, spearmint, eucalyptus and lavender are listed for all to see. To see more of his herbal products, visit www.longcreekherbs.com
Jim Long is not the only small grower with a best-seller grown and packaged at home and sold via mail-order. Of course, the term “mail-order now includes internet sales, as the products still need to be shipped by mail. Hundreds of mail order companies produce a wide range of food, herbal, decorative and nursery products. Larger companies like the well known Harry & David and Wisconsin Cheeseman have been successfully selling by mail for many years.
As more and more consumers seek natural, home-grown and crafted products, the demand will continue to grow, and anyone with a creative flair can produce and market their crop or value-added products with mail order or online. However, the cost of those magazine display ads can be expensive for small companies, so it’s important to find the magazines that will work best for your product. Visit a library or do an online search to see what magazines might be right for your product niche. You can always call the magazine and ask for a “media kit,” which has two or three back issues and a rate sheet for ads.
Many small-scale growers and craft producers have found online outlets like www.etsy.com to be a great place to sell their wares. there, the cost of marketing is very small and you can see what others with similar products are doing. To find other sites like etsy.com, visit similarsites.com.
Another option is to get your product into someone else’s catalog. It’s a very cost-effective way to sell products, as there are no up-front costs, no advertising costs and no need to have a full product line to get started. To see which catalogs might be a good fit with your product, do an internet search for “catalog directory.”
Finally, you may want to produce your own “mini-catalog,” which can be a simple as a single page folded to become a self-mailer. You’ll need a mailing list, and the best way to build one is to ask for a mailing address, from customers and prospects you meet when selling your product at retail venues like the farmer’s market. An even cheaper option is to do an e-mail flyer to promote your products, using your own “in-house” mailing list.
It helps to think “outside the box” to find new customers by mail. One creative lavender grower, for example, rented a mailing list of day spas around the United States to let them know about her lavender massage oil. They loved her massage oil, and this niche market continues to provide a steady and profitable income for her today.
Community Supported Agriculture
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, originated in Europe almost 30 years ago, and has since become a very popular way for growers in North America to sell their harvest to subscribers and get paid up front to cover their costs. In addition, a CSA gives growers a guaranteed market for their produce so they do not have to take the time out for marketing from growing food during the growing season. The concept is so successful that there have been over 4,000 CSAs created in the U.S. alone.
A CSA sells shares in the season’s harvest to local folks. The upfront payment helps cover the costs of seed, fertilizer, overhead and living costs until the harvest. Subscribers benefit because they experience the satisfaction of supporting local small farms, learning more about farming up close and personal, and enjoy fresh-picked local food and a chance to try foods they may never have tried before.
Most CSAs schedule a once-a-week distribution, either at the farm or at another central location. Most provide only fresh vegetables, but many cooperate with other local growers/producers to provide a wide range of similar items like microgreens, herbs, flowers, fruits, meat, eggs and even prepared foods such as bread, jelly or salsa.
Whether you grow lavender, potted herbs, microgreens or mushrooms, local CSAs represent a whole new niche market for what you grow or produce. Advertising is free, as the CSAs you partner with will promote your products by flyer, web site or word-of-mouth.
Take the time to visit CSAs in your area to explore areas of mutual cooperation. You may find a whole new group of eager customers if they like what you are growing. To find CSAs in your area, visit www.localharvest.org/csa
Every grower should have a printed handout or flyer to inform customers and prospects about their crops or value-added products. The flyer doesn’t have to be fancy – just focus on the facts, and if needed, add photos or illustrations of your product. Include the essentials – a company name, such as Riverside Farms, a postal and web address, email address and phone number.
This flyer can include a story about the history of your crop, for example “grown as a medicinal herb by monks in the Middle Ages.” Don’t make any direct health claims, such as cures, but you can certainly mention that it has been widely used for decades to promote health and well-being. Try to include a few recipes if appropriate to encourage customers to save the flyer. If your crop is seasonal, mention that, to encourage prospects to purchase while in season, stock up, or pre-order.
Many growers have found that a coupon on the flyer works well, such as a simple discount coupon, or a buy one, get the second at 50% off, also known as BOGO. Everyone loves a bargain, and by using coupons, you can encourage your customers to buy more to save more. They benefit, and you do also, with more sales.
You may want to design your own flyer on a computer. Basic design templates for flyers and brochures are readily available online, or even included in most word processing software, such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages.After you’ve created your flyer, email it or save it as a PDF for your local copy shop.
A flyer is one of the best “almost-free” advertising techniques available to growers, so make sure you do one to promote your growing business.
Demonstrations & Tastings
Few marketing techniques are as powerful and convincing as demonstrations. Customers tend to buy products they have sampled, usually at the same location where they just tasted it. You can see the power of demos at any Costco warehouse around North America. Visit any Costco during peak shopping hours, and you’ll find dozens of demonstrators passing out samples of foods, with a stack of product conveniently nearby.
Sample tastings are usually held during high-traffic hours for three or four hours. Consumers have an opportunity to taste your product, ask questions, listen to a brief “pitch” from the demonstrator, and purchase the product. To give shoppers a reason to buy now, a special promotional price may be offered.
Peak shopping hours are best to reach the maximum number of prospects. For food items, that’s usually late weekday afternoons and Saturdays. Growers have had success with demos at farmer’s markets, craft fairs, supermarkets, grocery store, even roadside stands.
One mushroom grower does regular demos on Fridays from 2 P.M to 6 P.M, armed only with his fresh oyster and shiitake mushrooms, an electric skillet and butter to sauté the mushrooms. He has learned that even a once-a-week demo can boost sales by as much as 50%, as many samplers had never tasted fresh gourmet mushrooms, and had no idea it was so simple and quick to prepare them.
You can also pair up with another grower who has a complimentary product to do a shared tasting or demo. Just be sure to have plenty of product on hand, as a successful demo can move a lot of product in a short time. If you have a crop or product that lends itself to demonstration or sampling, do a demo test and see what it could do for your profits.
Write a newspaper column for free publicity
Newspapers have been hit hard in recent years by the loss of ad income to free online sites like craigslist. So most newspapers are using as many free sources of news and information as possible, including local columnists. If you can put together a simple column about your plant growing specialty or even a general gardening column once a week or once a month, chances are good your local newspaper editor may be interested in publishing it.
Instead of payment, most newspapers are willing to allow a “resource box” or credit line at the end of the column mentioning the writer’s business and contact information. For example, “Carol Dalton is the owner of Carol’s Herbs, at 623 Main Street, in Cookeville.”
To qualify for publication, your column must be informative, well-written and interesting for the newspaper’s readers. Start by writing 3 or 4 sample columns, and show them to the editor. If the editor feels your column will be enjoyed by readers, you’re in.
A column establishes you as an authority or expert, and a source of valuable information about your topic. Best of all, it gives you free publicity every time a new one is published. But remember – the column must contain no promotional or sales information about your business, other than a brief mention at the end of the column.
For more proven ways to increase your sales and profits, be sure to read Sell Your Harvest, the bonus book that is included at no charge with every book order.