Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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The seven habits of highly effective on-farm marketers

April 23, 2015  By Fruit & Vegetable


After years of running an agricultural association, patterns start to emerge in how various members interact with the organization. Upon further reflection, it becomes clearer that the more successful businesses have several habits in common. What are these habits and how do they contribute to their success?

1. Taking care of business – PROMPTLY – After a few years, it was easy to predict who would have their membership dues in within weeks of the invoices being sent out. This same group are the ones that invoice immediately when products or services have been purchased; finances are dealt with quickly and efficiently.

2. Education never ends – There’s always something new to learn and successful businesses sign-up for relevant workshops promptly. They don’t wait to see what else will be happening. They understand it’s important to attend workshops and training with clear objectives. A similar attitude holds true for any networking opportunities.

3. Persistence is part of the personality mix –  No business is totally smooth sailing all the time. There will always be bumps in the on-farm marketing road. It’s how those bumps are dealt with that matters. Sometimes, it’s dealing with bylaw officers who may not understand the ins and outs of an on-farm business. Or it could be a neighbour unhappy with the extra traffic as a result of a grand opening. The barriers may seem like mountains, but these marketers always move forward, gradually chipping away at each mountain until they’re able to have the business they envision. Many others would have thrown in the towel months before.

4. Attitude – For successful on-farm marketers, the cup is always half full. They may be dealing with crop challenges, staffing issues and customers’ complaints but when they are in the market, they wear their best smiles. They trust in the future to bring lots of positive opportunities and they focus their energies on all the good things heading their way.

5. Know the numbers – Average sale per customer, cost of production or sales per square metre are not sexy terms that business owners generally dream about. But they’re critical to every successful business. Making more sales, becoming more efficient or increasing net profits are what dreams are made of. They also need to be measured. When successful on-farm marketers don’t like working with numbers, they find someone who does. And it’s usually someone they interact with on a regular basis.

6. Hiring the best – Nobody has all the skills necessary to run a successful business. It’s virtually impossible to be a top-notch farmer, a brilliant numbers person and a whiz-bang marketer. That’s why teams work best for successful on-farm markets. Sometimes, the team is made up of a husband and wife whose skills complement each other. Between them, they can hit all the important buttons. But as a business starts to grow, inevitably, additional staff will be needed. High school and college students are great choices for many tasks but, eventually, there comes a time that the next employee needs to be someone who’s committed and willing to put in that extra mile. Successful businesses think about how much that extra couple of dollars an hour can buy and hire the best they can afford. Finally, they make sure staff is empowered to do the best job possible.

7. Review and revise – Nothing is carved in stone. Just because a plan created last year worked doesn’t mean it will work this year. Everything changes, generally at a rapid pace. Successful businesses review and revise on a constant basis as they learn more information about a product or a situation. Perhaps even more importantly, they communicate those changes to their staff and their business partners. It’s difficult to take Road B when staff thinks they’re still on Road A. Whenever possible, they also explain the reasons behind the new decision and, ideally, include the staff in the decision-making process. Having everyone singing from the same page makes for an efficient, profitable business.

A habit is an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it’s almost involuntary. Generally, it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Anyone can adapt these seven habits to help ensure their business becomes more successful. Why not start today?

Cathy Bartolic is the executive director of the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association. She also owns and operates her own farm-based business near Aurora, Ont., growing fresh-cut flowers and garlic.





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