Posts Tagged: Marketing
70% of all purchases are made with plastic!
Did you know that cash is used at only 25% of point of sale purchases? Predictions are that cash will be used even less as more alternative payment methods become available. Debit and credit cards are used for over 70% of purchases. Customers enjoy the flexibility and ease of using plastic to pay for purchases. And research shows that consumers spend differently with credit cards than they do with cash! "Mental accounting” is the idea that people treat money differently based on a number of factors: where the money came from (salary vs. gift), the size of a transaction, and the form the money is in when a purchase is made. That last one is important – people tend to spend more money paying by card than paying with cash; i.e. when they don't actually see those dollars and cents leaving their hands. You should not use a credit card reader because it is a stealthy way to dupe your customers into purchasing more of your gorgeous veggies. But it is undeniable that accepting cash only sales severely limits the number of potential customers you may have at a farmers' market.
But what about the fees?!
All credit card processing companies do charge a service fee, usually around 2.75%. It may be a good idea to set a minimum for card purchases – $10. You can also feel comfortable passing the processing fee to customers by charging a convenience fee per swipe (consumers do this all of the time- think about the fees for pumping gas or withdrawing money from an ATM.) In my personal experience as a farmers' market vendor, customers often forget to grab their cash or hit the bank before a market and are relieved that they don't have to limit their market purchases. They enthusiastically whip out their plastic and are tickled by the user-friendly technology they get to use. Writing a signature across the screen of a smartphone is fun! Remember: you can always let people know that you prefer cash but having your credit card reader will help you build your customer base and make shopping at your market booth more convenient. It will probably also increase your sales.
How do I get started?
It is very simple to set up and use a smartphone credit card reader. You must have a smartphone that has a data plan (i.e. access to the Internet through a network.) Next step- set up an account with a smartphone credit card reading company. Square Up is the most used card reader available currently, though Intuit and Paypal both have similar products. I recommend Square. It is free, simple, used at many retail locations and customers are familiar with it. Once you have an account set up, you will receive a free credit card reader in the mail.It plugs into the headphone jack of your phone. You will also need to download the free app that accompanies the card reader. If you are feeling intimidated, ask a fellow market vendor for a quick tutorial.
Great sales tracking!
Once you have an account with Square, you can customize your account to track your sales. You can create “items” with specific prices or leave prices blank to fill in at check-out (in the case of items that you sell by weight.) A few quick taps of the finger and instead of a $30 payment without any details, you can record transaction details: 1 bouquet, 3 baskets of berries, and 2 pounds of tomatoes.
Another great tracking and management tool is the ability to set up employee profiles. Your employees can access your square account using a password that you assign. You are able to specify what each employee is able to do; ie accept payments, access sales records, etc.
A few tips
- You will need to update your card reader every year or so to keep up with the changing technology and improvements that Square makes. This is free to do and you will receive a reminder email. You can have as many card readers as you like- always good to have a back-up on hand.
- Square will save the personal information a customer enters to receive a receipt (either as a text message or email.) You can skip the receipt- I remind people that they will see the charge on their credit card or bank statement.
- The money you accept through Square is deposited to your specified bank account the next business day. For weekend farmers markets, this means you won't see the money until Monday. Don't forget to include these sales in your farmers' market accounting.
- Be sure to make a big sign for the farmers' market letting customers know that you accept plastic! Square will provide you with a small window decal, but you need a sign that catches the eye from across the market!
Using this technology is simple and many of you already possess the tools needed (i.e. a smartphone) to offer this simple service to your customers. Get started today!
Winter, my friends, is upon us. Does it always come so quickly? Though my mind spins with the ‘what ifs?’ of this closing season, I love the optimism and potential that December and January seem to always bring. With more hours of darkness in the evening, not only am I getting more sleep, I am also finding more time to dream of my “next year” farm. Oh, the “next year” farm, that beautiful beacon of financial stability and production perfection. There is not a weed in the field, the market tables are piled high with a huge selection of quality products, the animals are behind their fences, I am rested and look beautiful, and the bank account is busting at the seams. I always say (or heard said once and now repeat often), “To be a farmer you must be an optimist.” We learn from our mistakes and build upon failure, year after year after hopeful year.
How, exactly, do you learn from your mistakes? The qualitative data often seems undeniable. I remember not selling those bunches of X at market. I remember how long it took to harvest and process Y. But what of the real numbers? Perhaps the crop that in my mind seems a waste of time is actually making money due to low production costs and high sticker price. Maybe my market stand-by, the crop I always sell out of, is actually losing money because of the cost of labor at harvest. As farm business owners, we need to capture this data in order to make truly informed decisions about what we should produce. You, of course, have to grow what you love, but you also need to grow what makes you money if you want to continue farming as a profession. For those of us that sell at Farmers’ Markets, the market load list is an important tool that we should all be taking advantage of.
A load list is a way to document which crops you bring to market, the quantity you bring, the unit you sell each crop by (bunches, pounds), the price per unit, and the amount leftover at the end of market. Most farmers’ markets require you to fill out a load list for their own records though they do not take price into account. A well-kept load list will help you to figure out which crops are making money and which may be losing money. It will also help you understand sales trends (beginning vs. the end of the month; seasonal fluctuations) and help you understand the most efficient quantity of product to bring to market (not too much, not too little, but just right.)
It can be a challenge to implement a load list. I suggest thinking about a system that will work for you and your farm. Is no one filling out the harvest notes making it tough to know what quantity of which crop is loaded in the market truck? Maybe a label on each box with quantity is all you need. Then, whoever sells at the farmers’ market can quickly fill-in a load list. Is the load list kept in a tucked away location in the farmers’ market supplies and always forgotten? Try keeping it in the cash box. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel- ask for two copies of the load list required by your market and take one home. And yes, if you are on top of your game, you will enter these sales numbers into your spreadsheets, etc., when you get home and count your cash, but don’t worry if you would prefer to file them away until later to look at. If you have done the latter, now is the time to pull them out and determine which crops are making and losing money. With smart decision making based on actual sales data, your “next year” dream farm might actually come true!
Here is a sample load list spreadsheet created by the USDA:
A ranch dog "friended" me on Facebook the other day. Yep, a dog on Facebook. To be specific, this is a working dog on a ranch that produces meat and sells it directly to consumers like me.
And exactly how is a ranch dog on Facebook related to food?
More and more people are interested in connecting with farmers and ranchers who produce the food we eat.
If you buy fresh produce at a farmers market, you can also ask farmers (or their employees) questions about which variety is ripest right now, how the produce was grown, how the meat was processed, and what the farm is like. Proactive eaters can sign up for CSA harvest boxes to receive seasonal produce, know exactly who is growing their food, and pledge support to a particular farm or group of farms. We can visit farms to participate in agritourism by buying from farm stands, taking ranch tours and even getting into the fields to harvest "U-pick" berries and other fruit.
"Local is hot" was on one of the opening slides of Kathleen Merrigan's presentation at UC Davis last week. The USDA's deputy secretary was visiting campuses to discuss the agency's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" campaign, which focuses on local and regional food system support.
And now we have another way to know a farmer, without even leaving the office: Anyone can like their favorite farmers on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs, sign up for their email newsletters, and more.
Hearing about Suki the ranch dog's antics, with photos of her bathing in a water trough or videos of her chasing a field's pivot sprinklers, is another way for consumers to get a glimpse of ranch life from behind the scenes. Likewise, hearing from a farmer on Facebook about how today's rain might affect the cherry harvest is another way for me to feel connected with the farmer who is raising food I will soon be eating.
Chris Kerston of Chaffin Orchards put it this way: "If I'm walking along the field and I see a weird-looking bug, I'm going to stop, take a picture of it with my phone, put it on Facebook and ask 'Anyone know what this weird bug is?' ... It's just another way for people to see what it's like out on the farm."
Don't take it just from me: National companies are taking notice too. This month the editorial board of The Packer, a newspaper that specializes in the fresh produce industry, suggested that local is also about something else:
"While some national suppliers may look skeptically at the buy local trend, a component of local is consumers’ need to connect with where their food comes from.
"Social media is often the solution."
You can connect with the farmers and ranchers who produce your food — whether you buy it at a farmers market or in a supermarket — and receive updates from the farm or ranch through social media.
You can start by asking your favorite farmers or ranchers if they're on Facebook, and here are a few other networks for finding farmers online:
- Know A California Farmer is a website that shares updates, blog posts and videos from participating farmers and ranchers.
- Find farms near you with the Local Harvest directory and see if they are online too.
- I also maintain a list of California farmers and ranchers on Twitter.
Join the discussion: So, what would you like to know from the people who grow and raise the food you eat?
Bonus video: Connecting with social media goes both ways; farmers want to connect with consumers who buy and eat their products. Staff and academics with UC Cooperative Extension and UC Davis have offered social media workshops to help farmers connect with consumers online (next one for me will be in Marin County, June 1). Here's a video after one UC workshop a few months ago: