Sign up for our Email Newsletter

My Focus...

"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Your Business Skills, and How They Impact Your Marketing

By Jane Eckert

As published in the Fruit Grower News & Vegetable Grower News, January 2007

Many farms that I’ve talked with the past few months say they had a good season and that sales were up. Good double-digit annual increases are something to be proud of and certainly satisfying as we settle in for the winter. But frankly, I’m often surprised when I ask the next question, and so many are unable to answer. The next question, one you should always be asking yourself, is “Where were your increases?

This article is about your business skills, and how they impact your marketing. As your agritourism business matures, you need to study the numbers and know how to interpret them. For most of us, winter is the time to look at our record keeping to see if we can develop a better method.

A key component of good record keeping is the ability to record and track your sales by week and by month, and to be able to make annual comparisons to both last year and to your budget. If your record keeping does not track these figures, then there is a good chance that you won’t be aware of a sales problem until it’s too late. An “end of the season” review will do nothing to help you improve your bottom line for the year. By then, it’s just history.

For your record keeping to be an effective marketing tool, you want to keep your eye on two key indicators: the number of customer sales transactions and the average sale percustomer.

All of the cash registers today track the number of transactions to sales, and this information should be kept and recorded daily. A good manager will want to review these numbers frequently in order to ensure that they are both going up. If they are not both going up, it’s time to make adjustments to your marketing program and to review your product mix and sales floor.

More Transactions – Means More New Customers

The more customers we can bring through the front door generally means the more we will increase sales. If your customer counts have become level and stagnant, then you need to examine and refresh your marketing and promotion.

No business can survive on the same loyal customers year after year. Customers may move, change their shopping habits or die, so we must consciously always be trying to attract new customers.

We’ve just finished the Christmas shopping season. Think back to all of the marketing methods used to get you to shop at a specific store: direct mail, e-newsletters, special coupons online and in the paper, radio and tv advertising, billboards, and more.

New (and prospective) customers need to be sold on the fact that they want to come shop and experience the farm. They can certainly learn about us through a good website, exciting promotions, special events on and off the farm and a well-positioned article about us in the local newspaper.

The key here is that the entire marketing mix needs to be reviewed; analyze what you are doing or can do differently to attract new customers. We can never take for granted that new customers will just appear at our doors without a bit of prodding and marketing encouragement from us.

Higher Average Sales – Means A Bigger Bottom Line

If you have heard me speak before, you know what great emphasis I place on getting more dollars out of every customer that comes to the farm. This is just not about raising the price of admission, but about offering more products, displaying them attractively, and training employees to be proactive in the sales process.

Increasing the average sale can easily occur through product sampling, impulse displays at the cash register, expanded product offerings in the bakery, special pricing for multiple purchases, couponing etc.

Some farms now set weekly sales goals by department, and post them so their employees are part of the process of increasing the sales. These employees feel like they are more part of the team and are often rewarded by management for meeting these sales goals.

If you are not happy with your numbers, there are many marketing strategies specific to increasing the average sale. But it truly begins with setting up a solid bookkeeping system that allows you to track the critical information:

  • Number of Transactions
  • Average Sale Per Customer
  • Track both numbers by day, week, month and year, and set up your books so that you can compare with the same records from the year before.

Whether you are open this time of year or not, it’s typically the slower season for everyone. Make a resolution right now that you are going to do a better job of recording your sales, and of using this information to regularly monitor and tweak your marketing efforts. Good business skills improve good marketing, and they work together to yield good profits.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.