What's fresh in your marketplace?

Farmers Market in Northampton, MA  |  June 2009

I cannot resist a farmers market for all of the obvious reasons. They’re full of fresh and colorful plants and vegetables, the people are friendly and there is an intriguing sense of activity about them. When I see all that garden splendor I feel the need to get in there and see what is available. I may not need a plant, or even plan to cook anything, but I am still compelled to walk through and take a look.

The market format offers a welcome opportunity to meet the person(s) that actually grew, made, and/or harvested the items for sale. I can ask them questions about the best way to use their product, how to cook it, why they grew it. They may share a story about themselves that gives me some insight into what it took to bring those beets to market that day. Knowing more about those beets adds value to them, perhaps causes me to cook them with a little extra care, even adds pleasure when I eat them. The entire experience makes them something special.

So I am thinking about how those attributes, all of which make for a very positive shopping experience and high customer satisfaction, can be applied in other marketing and sales situations. So here are some ideas.

1. I know what to expect, but anticipate some surprises.
I am comfortable enough to take the time to venture into the market because I know what the category is: plants, vegetables, perhaps homemade jam or bread. But there is also an aspect of the unknown that adds some extra appeal. I know the vegetables are super fresh, but I am not sure what is being harvested right now, so while I expect vegetables, there may be some surprises. There may be a unique baked good or other homemade product I have not seen lately. The combination of known and unknown is just right at a farmer’s market. How can you use that same balance to keep your customers coming in day after day?

2. Time is of the essence.
The products available at the farmers market today are at their best right now. I have this one opportunity to purchase these items at their peak. I know that next week, some of the items will be gone forever (or at least gone until next year). Can you create that sense of urgency about your product or service, something that makes you customer feel “I don’t want to miss this.” And can you think of a way to do that other than a cost reduction sale event?

3. Things are going on!
There is that great sense of activity at a farmer’s market, there are a lot of people and they are interacting. Most farmers market are open for a limited period of time and that condensed shopping time adds to the buzz. Not only do the customers talk to the vendors, they are also talking to each other. Can you create an event that invites people with similar interests to come together and share with you, as well as each other?

4. It all looks tempting.
The very freshness of the produce at a farmers market makes for a wonderful display of color, texture, and fragrance. It just invites you in and entices you to walk around. What is going on in your store that is comparably fresh?

5. Real people to talk to, learn from.
You know that the vendors at the farmers market are the real deal. This is their product and it is a straight line from creator to consumer. You can talk with them and pick up on their  enthusiasm for what they do and the effort they put into it. They will share their knowledge with you and their real life experience. So, can you bring that enthusiasm and excitement to your product? If not, you need to regroup and figure out why. Because if you are not excited about your product or service, no one else is going to be.

6. I feel good about what I bought.
When I leave the farmers market with my items (I almost always buy something) I am happy with my purchase. I think the personal touch, the quality of the products, knowing that my money went directly into the hands of the creator, make for a very satisfying buying experience. How can you make your customers feel that good about giving you money?

Let’s all look at our products and services and see what we can do to add something fresh and compelling.

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