Ten Low Cost Ways to Connect with Your Customers

Ideas for Direct Marketers

  1. Tell your story. Get the word out about your family, your farm, your operation and your product. Keep telling your story again and again.
  2. Samples sell. If you are a vendor at farmers markets, set out samples, because every vendor knows that folks like to try what they are buying before they hand over the greenbacks.
  3. Free or nearly free advertising. Try inexpensive posters, get your farm events listed on free calendars in newspapers, local TV stations, websites and radio. If you are a food marketer, be sure to get listed with organizations like Food Routes etc. Newsreleases about your operation work great.
  4. Have business cards, posters or brochures available with all of your contact information, including available operating hours, where folks can find your products, phone, email, address, directions to the farm, or even pricing information.
  5. Signage. If you have an on-farm store or if you vend at farmers markets, having a recognizable logo or a clean, easy-to-read sign showcasing your booth or farm is essential. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive, just neat and readable.
  6. Create a media event. Have a food tasting festival, farm tour or open house and publicize it with a newsrelease in the local paper. Purchase a small ad in the paper and invite the local editor to visit the farm for a pre-event story. Give samples to the local editor or journalist.
  7. Encourage word of mouth. Be sure everyone who comes to your place has a good experience. If they love you and your products, they will tell three people, but if they hate it, they will tell everyone.
  8. Be assertive, even if it goes against your nature. Don't be afraid to sell yourself, your experience, and your products. Speak kindly to folks, be friendly, without being aggressive. "Down to earth" is what people want.
  9. Don't let peer pressure get you down. Many direct marketers feel like they are unappreciated in their own backyard. This is a typical experience. Don't worry about it. Your customers are your customers, wherever they may come from. Keep them happy and more will come. Don't be discouraged that folks travel an hour for your products, even if the neighbor next door would not step foot on your place. Their loss.
  10. Tell your story. Tell it through news stories, TV, radio, online, posters, festivals, on-farm events and by word of mouth. Repeat your message.

Farm to Family Connection is a project funded in part by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and administered by Northeast Nebraska RC&D, aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of locally raised food. The project hosts a weekly radio show each Thursday on KKYA, 93.1 FM based in Yankton, SD and a companion website - - with audio clips, transcripts, local food directory, local food recipes and much more. In 2008, the radio show portion of the project will extend coverage to 1450 AM, KYNT.

  1. Don't expect immediate results from any advertising campaign. Consumers need to read or hear something at least seven times to retain it and probably even more times before they act on the new information.
  2. Repeat advertising or a multi-faceted approach works best. Perhaps you send out a customer newsletter around the same time you do an ad campaign in your local newspaper and run radio ads or participate in other media.
  3. Pick your season. If you're going to have a product ready in a month or so, start early and push often so it is sold before its even ready to go.
  4. For radio, consider participating in an ad campaign during various seasons, maybe quarterly or bimonthly, to keep your name out in front of your customers and to garner new folks.
  5. Don't forget free advertising like homemade posters around town or listings on free websites like or for instance. And don't underestimate the power of word of mouth. But that works both ways. If a customer has a good experience, they might share it with four or five other folks. But if they have a bad experience with you or your products, they will tell everyone.
  6. Be prepared for restaurants or caterers or other institutions that might contact you. Have a volume discount rate ready if they order 100 pork chops for instance. Even a very small discount might seal the deal. Realize that most retailers take at least 35-50 percent, so set your wholesale rates at a place where you are making enough profit, but the retailer still has room to make their money as well for doing the marketing for you.
  7. School your family and employees on customer relations, about things ranging from answering the phone - "Hello, Fred's Farm, Fred speaking. Can I help you?" - to preparing invoices and receipts, shipping or loading out.
  8. Hold an event that is newsworthy. A quick way to get free publicity is to hold an event that captures media attention. A farm music festival, educational program or farm tour. Invite newsmakers to your event like local state senators, farm or food organization staff or local celebrities.
  9. Help your local media know you by inviting them out to the farm or into the business, not necessarily for a story, but just to familiarize them with what you're doing. Purchase an inexpensive ad in the local newspaper once in awhile to show the local editor how much you appreciate them.
  10. Tell your story. No matter where you go or what you do, tell folks about your farm and family every chance you get. Write up your story for your product labels or pricetags. Tell your story in your brochure. Make signs around the farm or business, telling folks what is important to you and why. Let your customers know who you are and why you care about them.
  11. Know your customers. Know their interests, their ages, their likes and dislikes, their taste for music and the events they like the most. Know your customers and you'll know how best to get your message to them.
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