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Who Are Your Customers-Really
The Need to Gather Information

By Jane Eckert - Eckert AgriMarketing

One of the most important questions I ask farmers is “Who are your customers?” Too frequently, the answer is something like:

“Well, I think they are mostly city folks.”

“Probably most of them are driving down from Cleveland.”

“I guess we get a lot of folks that are coming down to the beaches.”

If you really don’t know who your customers are, there’s a good chance that you can increase your farm income significantly by finding out.

Every farm business needs to be collecting names, addresses and email addresses of your customers. Now I know some farmers are hesitant to get too nosey; it’s not in our nature to go poking around in other folks business. However, if you use the information in the right way, you will be helping your customer, and helping yourself. So if you haven’t been doing it, start now collecting a database of information about your customers.

Targeting Your Audience
Ever wonder why the big box stores ask for your zip code when you are checking out? Its called “targeting” your audience. Instead of scattering your advertising message to the four winds, the database tells you who likes your business so you know how to contact them again and how to contact more people like them. The database lets you focus your efforts on the people most likely to come and spend on your farm- that’s your “target audience”.

Knowing your target audience helps you know where to invest your time and money. Now you can select only newspapers, TV, or radio in the same geographic region of your customers. The same is true when you purchase a flyer in the large coupon packets, advertise at specific movie theatres, or purchase door hangars in the target neighborhoods.

Here are just a few reasons why you should know where your customers are coming from, and how to contact them:

1. Have a better idea of what your customers want to see, do, and buy.

Knowing where they are from (which you learn from the city or zip code) helps you anticipate what they want. If most of your guests are from out-of-state, they aren’t likely to have a way to refrigerate your delicious, dairy-fresh, hand packed ice cream. Switch to bags of fresh fruit, homemade bakery goods, farm toys, and other things that travel well.

2. Know where to invest your advertising efforts.

Knowing where your customers are from will help you better target your advertising dollar, as well as your efforts in promotion and publicity. Most urban areas have weekly papers that go to different communities within the city. Matching the zip codes of your customers with the right papers will let you sew your advertising dollars in the most fertile fields.

Likewise, if your database shows that most of your visitors come in off the interstate, they likely will never see your advertisement in the local newspaper. The out-of-town zip codes would indicate that you might better invest your advertising dollar in a website that will be seen when the customers are planning their trip.

3. Communicate more frequently with your best customers.

It has been proven time and time again that the cost to acquire a new customer is very expensive, but the cost to lose one is even higher. In marketing, we speak of the “lifetime value” of a customer. A happy, informed customer will keep coming back, bringing her kids, and her grandkids, and so on, so the lifetime value of one good customer can be measured in terms of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Customers need to be reminded who you are, when you are open, what fun they can have at the farm, what you sell, when is your fruit or vegetable ready to harvest, and so on. You want to be their friend, and find effective ways to say “Hi friend, we’re having a lot fun this week. Come on out and join us!”

Here are just a few ideas of how to contact your customers:

  • Send them postcards when a crop is ripe

  • Send coupons/loyalty pass

  • Send an announcement about the opening of your season, or a new attraction

  • Mail or hand out “loyalty cards” for the season

  • Send a letter, card, or email t tell them about a special event

  • Send an announcement about a Special VIP shopping time or activity

  • Send a seasonal or quarterly newsletter, either a mailed, printed piece, or many businesses are now finding that electronic newsletters are more timely and economical.

How to Collect the Information

Guest Table-It still works quite well to gather the information the old fashioned way- the guest table. Set up a table in a convenient location(s) with a sign up slip. A nice sign on or above the table offers to send them occasional information about what’s happening on at the farm, if they would like to sign up now. Provide pencils or pens, and a box so that they can deposit their information. Be sure your staff at the check out asks them if they’d like to sign up.

If you have multiple enterprises you might even ask them to sign up about exactly what they’d like to know more about. That way you can often tailor your message/content to what they want to hear about and just mail them what you request. For example:

  • Picking calendar

  • Calendar of events

  • Country market

  • Coupons

  • Fall Season

  • Haunted Hayrides etc.

If you’d like to see a sample sign up, click here. http://www.eckertagrimarketing.com/articles/samplesignup.doc. You can download this slip for easy customization with your own name and logo.

Subscribe Buttons- If you’ve got a website, be sure you put a SUBSCRIBE button on your website now. One click, and your customer can quickly send you the information you need, in the convenience of their own home. In your print advertising, you can also suggest that customers might want to subscribe on line to your newsletter.
If you go to farmers markets, community events etc. always take your sign up slips with you. Whenever you are talking with your public about your farm, ask if they’d like to subscribe so that you keep them informed

It’s a new season. If you are not collecting names, addresses, and email addresses, it’s time to start. Even if you don’t have email, you should begin collecting this information. Remember, your best customers are those who visit you more frequently. Let’s build their loyalty by regular communications.

Next, we recommend you read about using these names to create an e-newsletter; using email in the right way to benefit your customers. Click here to learn more about electronic newsletters.

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.