3 Marketing Lessons from the Farmer’s Market

by Diana Ecker on February 18, 2014

3 Marketing Lessons from the Farmer's MarketThere’s more to find at the farmer’s market than fruits and vegetables. Here are 3 lessons from the farmer’s market — some food for thought as you market your own business.

Lesson 1: Specialize to be remembered

For a few months every year, I’m only thinking about one thing on the way to the farmer’s market: blueberries!

If you’ve only had blueberries from the supermarket, believe me, the fresh-picked ones will amaze you.

Part of what helps focus my thinking is that in my mind I have a clear mental picture of where I would be buying them: a stand at the market that only sells blueberries.

This means that when I’m putting together a shopping list before I head out, remembering to add blueberries is easy — partly because I know exactly where to find them, and I know the interaction will be simple.

The local markets can be overwhelming here in the San Francisco Bay Area — at peak hours they’re packed with people, and in peak growing seasons the stands are overflowing with fruits and vegetables. There are about a million tempting distractions!

Amidst the crowds, the blueberry stand is an oasis. They sell one thing. There are two container sizes to choose from. That’s it. It earns a spot on my list and a purchase on every visit — and not just because I love blueberries.

Lesson 2: Make it easy

At one of the local weekend markets, you can stand near the entrance and see two rows of stands — one on your left, one on your right.

When green beans are in season, on your left you can see a table with a giant mountain of green beans, with customers standing and sorting through them one by one. On your right, you can see another stand with greens beans packed into pre-weighed plastic bags.

By the time the market closes, the stand on the right always seems to have sold all their bags of green beans. There are lots of people who don’t want to sort through each bean, especially when it’s so much easier to pick up a bag of equally fresh ones. The price is the same for every bag, so paying goes faster too, helping them keep lines manageable and serve more customers.

It takes time for the vendors at that stand to pack up the green beans each week. And originally, someone had to make some decisions: which bags should we use? How much should each bag weigh after it’s filled? What should we charge?

But it pays off when people snap them up.

Lesson 3: Don’t keep the best part a secret

After loading up on fruit and vegetables, I always make sure to stop by a particular stand with amazing baked goods at the end of every visit.

From the beginning, I knew they used wholesome ingredients. Even so, their prices felt a little bit high — not too high for a special once-a-week treat, but close.

Then on one visit, I asked about the ingredients in one of their popular cupcakes. Turned out they weren’t just using soy milk — they were using locally produced premium soy milk, purchased from a high-end vendor at the same market.

On another visit, I noticed flats of beautiful fresh fruit stacked in the back of the stand, purchased from another vendor. Fresh local fruit, artisan soy milk — well, that made the prices easier to understand!

Yet they don’t mention any of it unless you ask. No signs explain that they’re using these high-end ingredients.

In a time when people prize knowing the origin of their food and will often pay more based on that, this vendor’s baked goods have something special that would help justify their prices.

Their cupcakes are terrific. But there’s a lot of untapped marketing potential in sharing the secret of these added-value ingredients.

Unpacking it all

No strategy is a fit for every business. But maybe there are ways that you could specialize within your business or your field or package a product or service so it’s easier to purchase.

Maybe there’s something remarkable about what you offer that you’ve been keeping a secret. Or maybe it’s just time to enjoy a locally baked cupcake.

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Photo by Diana Ecker.

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