Marketing Matters: Innovate to invigorate your business

Cathy Bartolic
March 25, 2019
By Cathy Bartolic
Micki Smith, the former owner of Smith’s Apples in Port Elgin, shows off her pie crusts that she offers her customers, in addition to her completed pies.
Micki Smith, the former owner of Smith’s Apples in Port Elgin, shows off her pie crusts that she offers her customers, in addition to her completed pies. Contributed photo
Farmers are the most innovative people I know. If there is money to be made, they will consider it, try it, personalize it and sell it.

The definition in Wikipedia for innovation is the production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production and the establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome.

That is a mouthful. A simpler version would be a new idea or creative thought in the form of a device or method.

When you are selling directly to the public, you are constantly looking for innovative products and new ways to market your wares. Take, for example, Micki Smith, the former owner of Smith’s Apples in Port Elgin. Smith is a highly skilled baker who has perfected the recipe and process of her apple pies. Customers were constantly raving about the pies and also about her crusts. Smith was always looking for new products so she decided to sell the pie crusts for her customers. People loved this option because they could add their own fillings, put the crusts in their own pie plates and even pass the whole dessert off as their own if they wanted to. The complete pie was still available as well.

There was a gap that was expressed by her customers, and Smith adjusted her baking routine to create a new product in response to her customers’ comments. She filled a niche with an innovative product.

Willowtree Farm in Port Perry has developed a ‘Thursday Night Dinner Club’. Their chef prepares a hot and healthy dinner option for busy families on a weekly basis.  Home cooked meals are offered as a ‘grab and go’ option on Thursday nights. Since this is only available one night of the week it becomes something special and something to look forward to. To make it even more convenient, customers can pre-order their dinners online or by phone as long as the orders are received before 12 p.m. on Wednesday.

Thursdays are also pick up days for Willowtree’s CSA customers so they are already counting on a certain number of people coming to the market. Thursday became the strategic choice for this special offering. It is not quite the weekend but far enough along in the week that people are tired of cooking their own meals and are looking for dinner alternatives. It’s an innovative way to feature some of their ready-to-go meals and sell their homegrown products in a different format (For more on Willowtree Farms see page 16).

Davison Orchards in Vernon, B.C., has found an innovative way to kick off their spring season and share their farm with their customers during a special time of the year. They offer Mother’s Day Blossom Picnics. The public can come to the farm and pick up prepared picnics that they can take out to the orchard to enjoy.

Orchards are spectacular when they are in bloom (just take a look at this issue’s cover!) and the public doesn’t often get a chance to see this stage of apple production in an up close and personal way. The tricky part is working with Mother Nature to make sure the apple blossoms coincide with Mother’s Day. No one said that committing to innovation on the farm was going to be an easy task, but profitable ventures rarely are.

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