This is a late edition to the Farmer’s Market Marketing Series.
A few weeks ago, I was invited out to Fort Saskatchewan to speak to some good folks who sold their goods via the Farmer’s Market.
I’d done a presentation of this type a few months back and, in the last fifteen minutes, I realized that the main conversation that seemed to be landing was that of Hub Marketing.
Too many entrepreneurs are solopreneurs.
They try to do everything themselves. But partnership is where it’s at.
I’ve written a lot about Hub Marketing before and you can read that here.
But I thought it would be fun for you to see some of what we came up with.
The Set Up:
I asked each of them to reflect on who their hubs might be for their business.
Stated another way: I asked them to think about the kinds of people who would buy their products and then to ask themselves, “Where else might these people spend their time, their money and their attention?”
Stated another way still: “Where else can we find the people who buy your stuff?”
Three brave souls were willing to come up to the front of the room and share what they’d come up with and let us do some more brainstorming for them. I share these not as an authoritative strategy but to get your mind thinking about some of the ways that hubs and partnerships can look and work.
Case Study #1: Gloria’s Edible Flowers
Gloria had a few businesses on the go, but we decided to focus on her cut flowers business.
The hubs we came up with for her were:
- vegetarians: maybe they’re tired of their friends condemning their penchant for boring salads? Wanting to make a vegetarian meal to impress the family and mix it up a bit. There are lots of vegetarian groups, newsletters, blogs etc. in local areas.
- wedding planners & caterers: you’d better believe that catering companies would love to have a local provider of edible flowers on file just in case someone asks for them.
- flower shops: if I were to want to find edible flowers in town, where would I go? I’d think it would have to be a local flower shop. Now they may not want to stock them, but they’d likely be glad to have her contact info so they could refer out to her.
- lounges & cocktail bars: maybe some of those fancy hipster cocktail bars might enjoy knowing where to get some flowers for their drinks!
- herbalists: I’m sure the questions must be asked to herbalists about medicinal uses of flowers. Perhaps she could co-host a workshop with a local herbalist or hire them to write some informative articles or blog posts about the benefits of the top five flowers they sell.
- chefs at fancy hotels and restaurants: again, a solid contact for such a niche product might be just the kind of thing a chef would like to have in their back pocket.
- extreme eating clubs: maybe flowers aren’t super extreme but their are clubs in most cities of people who like to eat adventurously, why not reach out?
- culinary schools: could she go in and do a presentation for them? Could she host a competition for students to find who can come up with the best use of her flowers?
- cake decorators: sure! Why not?
Case Study #2: Gord’s Beef Jerky
The hubs we came up with for him were:
- Agriculture Fairs and Tradeshows: this seemed to have worked well in the past. Just showing up and having a booth at these things might end up being his bread and butter. Just because it’s a hub doesn’t mean it needs to be out of left field and ‘never done before’. Most hubs are hiding in plain sight. Some of the best hubs are ‘old reliable’.
- ATV Clubs: this makes a tonne of sense to me. If there’s an ATV event, he could show up and sell it from the back of his truck, or set up a table. It doesn’t need to be fancy and formal to work.
- aboriginal groups: there’s certainly possibility here. I don’t know the politics of who is allowed to vend at Pow Wows and aboriginal conferences and events but it’s an option.
- convenience stores: sure! Why not approach a local corner store, especially if it’s independently owned, and invite them to support a local beef jerky provider rather than the factory farmed
crapversion they’re currently selling.
- school cafeterias: I’m not as sure about this one or how it would work, but maybe?
- food groups (e.g. celiac, paleo): right! There are certain groups who’d be biased to eating beef jerky as a snack over fruit, sandwiches or other things. If he could find them, go to their events and sell some merch but then, importantly, make sure they know which farmers’ market he’ll be at and to invite them to come and visit his booth… well, this is how it’s done in one on one sales. They come to say ‘hi’ and become regulars and now you’re the place they get their jerky from.
- the Department of National Defence: heavens. I don’t even know where to start but that could be a large order if he was able to secure it.
- bars: I’m really not as sure about how this one would work.
- surveyors: a whole profession of people just standing around and getting hungry. Maybe he could sell directly to the companies for them to give as snacks for their bored workers? Could be.
- ski resorts: again, this could be a big order if he landed even one ski lodge for repeat business.
- work camps: why not call up the local industrial work camps and ask to speak to the person in charge of feeding everyone and see if there’s not some business to be drummed up?
- forest rangers: they must have conventions. Why not go to one? I’m not as big a fan of this one because his business will likely best be built with larger orders instead of one on one. I’ve never in my life felt loyal to a particular, local brand of jerky and I don’t know if I ever will. I’ll just buy whatever’s closest to me that seems ethically raised.
- sports clubs: could be. Again, this becomes individual sales but having a booth at larger sports events and inviting people to visit at the farmers’ market? Why not.
- university Forestry Programs: Maybe. I’m not stoked about this one.
- BBQ Stores: Could be! If they’re into BBQ then they’re into meat. Could be some regular business here.
- tree planting companies: this could be big. They have workers who are out all day working hard and they need snacks. Could be worthwhile exploring.
- campers: I personally wouldn’t be trying to find individual campers but to approach camping supply stores like MEC, REI and smaller more independent ones.
- farmers: maybe? This seems obvious but it’s not as exciting to me.
- rodeos: hells yes. Go and set up a booth at one of these and watch it rain money.
- hunters: meh.
- sports stores: sure! This could be solid.
Case Study #3: John’s ‘Dandy Joe’ Roasted Dandelion Root Blend Coffee Substitute
The hubs we came up with for him were:
- coffee and tea shops: bulk orders. He approaches them and says, “hey! Here’s a unique, local coffee substitute that’s like nothing else and it’s local!” Boom.
- farmers’ markets: this is where most of his business has come from and where most of it will continue to. No reason to stop.
- Chinese stores: Joe said he’d had an order from a woman in China who loved it and thought maybe Chinese shops might dig it. Who knows! Worth exploring.
- spas: an interesting idea. “Instead of serving your clients coffee full of caffeine or the same old boring herbal teas, why not offer this local super food to them?”
- the sleep center: pitching it as something to drink late at night instead of coffee and offering them tins to offer as upsells to people who buy beds and want to sleep better. Maybe?
- yoga studios and events: all these yogi’s are trying to kick coffee and give their adrenals some peace. What if he found out the top yoga events in town each year and set up a booth there? What if he identified the top ten yogi’s in town and approached them with a free tin to try out themselves? He could win over a whole community here who is likely to be going to farmer’s markets anyway.
- tea wholesalers: this could become all of his business if it fell into place:
- thelocalgood.ca: I co-founded a local network to connect good, forward thinking Edmontonians and we could maybe feature him on our blog.
- the Organic Box: Sure! Why not get himself listed as a product people could order in a monthly, organic, grocery delivery service?
- ski lodges and restaurants: maybe some indy restaurants or ski lodges might love having a unique, hot drink like this to offer their clientele?
- dandelion root growers: I’m not sure why this is on the list…
- church groups: could be? This doesn’t feel really compelling to me.
- herbologists: they might not buy a lot but they could likely be a great source of referrals to others.
- Costco: Oh man. They’d eat him alive on margin. He’d make no money. Stay away from the bright lights!
- heath food stores: an obvious one. Yes.
- hemp producers: could he partner with a local hemp seed producer to make a local, superfood smoothie mix of dandelion, hemp and some other things? Maybe!
- holistic health practitioners: of course. Yes. The more of these who know about him and his product the better. He could have a booth at the local new age, holistic health consumer expos and spend all day working that room and make sure they know which markets to find him at and his website and, in the long term, that could be very solid for business.