Farmers markets offer great opportunities for farmers and other small businesses to connect with customers and make sales. But it’s not as easy as just reserving a booth and setting some products out on a table. Here are 25 tips to help you succeed when selling at farmers markets.
Selling at Farmers Markets
Visit Markets Beforehand
One of the biggest factors in your farmers market success is the actual market. You need to find one that fits with what you want to accomplish. And the best way to make that determination is to go and see for yourself.
Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network said in an interview with Hobby Farms, “Every market has its own culture and vibe. Some markets cater to busy shoppers who want to quickly buy their week’s vegetables while others create a more social setting with music and kids activities. Talk to other growers and folks buying at the market to get a sense of what the market is like.”
Learn the Rules
Every market has its own set of rules. So you also need to check with organizers to see what types of items, tables and selling methods are allowed before you get started.
It can also be a good idea to choose a small market without a huge vendor fee or one that requires you to invest in a lot of equipment for your first market. This allows you to learn the process and make some mistakes before they’ll really have a negative impact on your business.
Find a Unique Niche
Every farmers market has tons of people selling tomatoes and lettuce. So what makes your products unique? You can niche your products by offering a unique variety or a certain type of produce. Or you could even package your products into kits or bundles to make your booth different.
Differentiate Your Products
Your actual products should also be unique in some way. Maybe they’re the most fresh tomatoes or the largest watermelons. But make sure that differentiation is clear to those walking by your booth.
Do a Dry Run
Before you head out to the actual market, set up your booth at home to make sure everything fits and see if there are any areas where you might be able to improve.
Keep Detailed Checklists
Then, make a checklist that includes everything you need to bring, from the actual products to the things you need to set up your booth and display your items.
Remember the Essentials
In addition, don’t forget things like water and snacks for yourself and your team. You’re going to be working hard all day, so you don’t want to be hungry and uncomfortable.
Display the Best Looking Foods
When setting up your booth, the foods on display can make a huge difference. Don’t set out a bunch of brown apples or wilted spinach. Choose your best products and display those front and center.
Stack Your Items High
The way you arrange your items can also make a big difference in how people perceive them.
Urban Farmer Curtis Stone shares the philosophy “Pile it high, watch it fly.” As he explains, creating the illusion of abundance can make your products seem more appealing to passersby. So stack your products rather than laying them out on the table. Or you can even hang things from the top of your booth or utilize other unique display tactics just so shoppers can see a lot of your products all at once.
Decorate Your Table
But simply putting out items isn’t enough. Add some decor like table cloths, trays and photos to add some visual interest to your booth.
Present Yourself Well
You’re also a big part of how shoppers perceive your booth. So don’t show up with messy hair and dirty jeans. Be comfortable but clean and professional so people feel good buying food items from you.
Stone also suggests that standing rather than sitting at your booth can make a big difference. This puts you at eye level with your customers and lets you interact with them more naturally.
Make Eye-Catching Signage
You can also add some signage to your booth to grab shoppers’ attention and let them know exactly what they can expect from your products.
Hire a Designer
But don’t just write a haphazard sign on a piece of cardboard. You want your signs to look professional and represent your business. So unless you’re really confident in your artistic skills, hire someone or ask a creative friend to help you put together some good looking signage.
Clearly Label Prices
Customers don’t want to have to ask you for the price of every item at your booth. So put out signs with prices that are clearly marked and easy to read.
Be Friendly and Talkative
When people approach your booth, greet them in a friendly way and make sure they know you’re available to answer any questions. Don’t be pushy, but do engage them in conversation when the opportunity presents itself.
Create a Consistent System
You should also have a set system for things like taking money and packaging sold items. Make sure bags are easily accessible and everyone working at your booth knows the process for accepting payments. That way the experience is consistent for every customer.
Create an Operations Manual
John Suscovich of Farm Marketing Solutions suggests creating an operations manual that covers every step of the process, from packing your items for transportation to how you package them when customers buy. This allows you to keep all of your employees or helpers on the same page, making it easier for you and creating a more consistent experience for customers.
Keep the Line Moving
If people walking by your booth see a huge line, they might just pass by without stopping. So try your best to move through the line quickly without pushing customers away.
Create a Flow for Your Booth
Part of limiting huge lines at your booth is setting it up in a way that still allows people to shop while others are completing purchases. This all depends on the layout of the market, of course, but if you have room, create some signage to make it clear where people should stand while waiting to complete purchases.
Answer Questions While Selling
You also need to be able to multitask. Practice accepting payments while answering questions from other customers so you can keep the line moving even while others shop.
Create a FAQ Sign
It also might be helpful for you to create a FAQ sign if lots of customers ask you the same questions over and over again. This can make the process easier for them and save you time so you can complete sales.
Display Photos from Your Farm
Lots of people shopping at farmers markets like to actually connect with the farmers they buy items from. And one way to help people feel connected to your booth is to display some photos from your farm, showing where their purchases come from.
You can also create unique displays or packaging for products that offer recipes and cool ideas for what people can make with your items.