Spring has sprung! What have my customers brung?
Posted: May 30, 2013
Spring Has Sprung!
As our soils warm and degree days accumulate, the pace of production increases. It can be easy to put the concerns of our customers on a back burner as we get busier actually growing our crops and animals. This could be a barrier to enhancing our long term sustainability. Without a nearly constant vigil on the needs of our current and potential buyers - we may be foregoing significant opportunities for profits.
Let's review what a customer is doing when they consider a business transaction with us.
Social cues inform customers what their peer groups are doing. When we create a picture of our first-best customer where is it this group of customers looks for their social input on what to buy? Printed, broadcast and social media outlets may be providing some strong farm product buying signals. Let's keep a close eye and ear on what is being promoted to our target audience through social cue channels.
Physical signals also inform our buyers of needed actions. These cues are more personal. For example - "I haven't had a decent tomato for months. Let's get a tomato!" These cues are more standard and do not necessarily closely reflect any given market segment. For farmers - these are more of the seasonal availability type cues to buyers. When it is the typical time in my community for fresh vegetables - I best have a wide selection of fresh vegetables ready to market.
Commercial inputs can confound many buyers. I see these as opportunities for customer education and a as a chance to differentiate ourselves from other marketers. A recent example might be the recall of bagged greens due to a health concern. Events such as this give rise to uncertainty in the minds of buyers. These are considered "teachable moments" and are a great chance to spend a little educational time with our buyers. These efforts can be spent telling our story and reinforcing a message of the value and uniqueness of shopping with us.
Once the customer is aware of the problem identified through the above cues, they begin an information search. "What product or service will solve the problem?" This gets the customer closer to identifying the actual product or service they will purchase. "Where should I consider shopping for the solution?" This gets the customer closer to the final decision on where they will buy the identified product or service. The information search ends in the decision to purchase.
The customer's concern does not end with the decision to purchase. They almost immediately begin to reevaluate the product or service. "Did it perform as I expected?" "Was I treated as a valued customer?" If the customer is satisfied with the reevaluated purchase, we are well on the way to having a loyal customer. More purchases can more easily follow. If they were not satisfied, we likely will not see the customer again. As consumers, we have an almost unlimited number of places to buy the things we need. There are few reasons to try an unsatisfactory vendor a second time.
Each time a purchase is made, your customer is going through this process. At any step, if the necessary information is not available, the process stops. Each time a purchase is made, your business, your products and your employees are being evaluated. Only quality products, objective, meaningful information and courteous service every time will be effective in keeping your customers coming back.
So, even though the farming demands of spring, summer and fall can be enormous let's try to remember the buyers we depend on to make some income. I firmly believe the more time we spend on marketing the better off our business can be.