Marketing Tips for an Ever Changing Marketplace: increase sales, foot traffic and repeat customers

By: April Jones, Market Manager, Pinehurst Farmers Market       Posted On: July 12, 2021

Summer is now upon us, and we’re in the full swing of the farmers market season. All of the happy and excited faces of customers are walking from booth to booth to pick their favorite, fresh local produce, eggs and meats. It is an amazing time to be in the food movement and so vital for the health of our communities. During COVID-19 we all had to make a major shift in our shopping behaviors, and customers appreciated having access to high quality, nutrient dense foods at their local farmers market even more. Another boon for farmers markets is that they are for the most part an outdoor event, which is great when we are  concerned about having fresh air circulating at events. 

Now is the time for farmers markets to seize upon this unique opportunity, and to help our customers to have access to high quality local produce. Customers are looking for high quality, local food that will support the local economy. It is a good time to brainstorm about your community and its assets and values and create a new summer slogan that aligns with those values. At the Pinehurst Farmers Market we are promoting our “Seed to Table” concept, which highlights the beauty and array of diverse seeds in South Carolina that are a part of our culture. Seed to Table allows for our Pinehurst Farmers Market customers to connect to their roots and the long wonderful tradition of growing in South Carolina. It piques their interest about seed diversity, and the different types of crops that do particularly well in the South Carolina soil, and gives them an opportunity to taste the local flavor difference when they cook these crops. Cow peas are a historic crop in South Carolina and the people here have been flavoring their cowpeas with pork lard and cow bones for centuries, and it is part of the growing tradition in the South. Cowpeas are a huge seller at the Pinehurst Farmers Market and there is a direct connection to our Seed to Table slogan and the uptick in sales. 

Along with the Seed to Table slogan it is also important to be able to upsell customers, and encourage them to purchase a variety of items that are all complementary. One way to do that is to create a unique product package for your market. For example you could sell cowpeas, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and pork leaf fat together for a simple easy purchase for the customer. You could also add a recipe to the package. This allows for your customer to have a simple easy buying process, without any fuss and gives them confidence in cooking the dish. Think about the different types of ways that you could package items that you sell at your market. Thinking about how it will make the buying process easier for the customer and increase sales at your market. Themes, holidays and cultural traditions are important to think about when creating your farmers market package. This package can be created once a year, a couple times a year, on a monthly basis, or every week! It is vital that you do some deep thinking about how often a special package will work for you and your market.  

Finally, adding video content is always an effective marketing strategy. Thinking about the Pinehurst Farmers Market cowpea package: allowing the customers to create a vision of what the dish should look like through video is an effective marketing strategy. During the video you can discuss the varieties of cowpeas being used and the vibrant history of the cowpeas. There are many types of onions available and you can talk about the type of variety that has been chosen in the packet and why the vendor decided to grow that variety. Tomatoes are as varied as the colors on Earth, so this is a great opportunity to talk about the variety that has been chosen, the history of the variety and how this particular variety does well in your soil and climate. Providing an opportunity for the  customers to see the different types of cooking techniques is very important especially when using a unique and potentially unfamiliar ingredient, like pork leaf fat. Many people do not have a history of cooking with leaf fat so the video is a great opportunity to share cooking techniques and the many different ways people can cook with something they may be unsure about using. Giving the customer a window into the world of local eating and cooking is an opportunity not to be missed!

Using these multi-tiered marketing strategies will give your customer confidence as a home chef, and will give them the knowledge they need to be successful in the kitchen and in life. You are building a deeper and more abiding relationship and showing solidarity with each and every customer. The local slogan piques customer’s interest, and the farmers market package deal allows the customers to experience new dishes and crops that they may have passed by in the past. It also gives them an unique experience, and something that they will cherish and will tell their friends about. Giving your customers the tools for success allows for repeat and engaged customers that will grow your market. 

April Jones is the Market Manager of the Pinehurst Farmers Market in Columbia, South Carolina. April is also a member of the Anti-Racist Toolkit for Farmers Markets Working Group. This blog post is part of a series from April sharing her market management expertise. April has contributed content to many platforms, including national magazines such as Mother Earth News. Read more about April here.