Retail and marketing advice from idiots

We don’t have the slightest clue what we are doing. This whole farm store thing is a lemonade stand that has grown out of hand. Yes we’ve grown it on purpose but not according to any plan as I would recognize it. There were no pro formas, no budgets, no market studies. We’ve not done an ROI on our investments and we do not have a 10 year plan for capital expenditures.

That’s all the stuff I did in my past. Now we are just winging it. You see, I’ve never done retail. I don’t like advertising, either consuming it, or purchasing it. All my previous customer experience was business to business. Selling $500,000 worth of something one time to someone has a different sales cycle than selling them a chocolate milk for their kid to consume on the spot. And frankly, that is part of the appeal for me.

Plus there is the whole “kids learning a trade/skill” and giving people like Miguel, Vicente, and Hilliary a job. Plus the kids having a job is important. And then there is the Mrs. and her shopping habits and our diets, etc. All in all, we have a myriad of reasons for WHY we are doing what we do. None of which mean we know WHAT we are doing. That’s a big difference!

So a few weekends ago, we had an Open Barn Day. It was a combination of an amazing success and a failure. Through a combination of social media, word of mouth, and plain old posters around town, we had over 2000 people to our farm. That is simply amazing. Staggering actually. With those 2000 people however, we only had 207 transactions in the store. Now a normal Saturday has 30-40 transactions so that’s roughly 6x a normal Saturday. Amazing! But we only had 10% of the people who attended come through the store. That’s bad. Also of the 2000+ people, we only captured contact information on a few. There were no sign-up sheets, no newsletter sign-ups, etc. That means that the next time we have an event, they won’t know about it. That’s bad. We did great at marketing the event, but terrible at capturing that success either in revenue or future marketing abilities.

This past Saturday, we did a different kind of event. We offered free tours but with our normal scheduling system and our normal one on one tours. We also had SWMBO here doing samples (our vendor got sick last minute). Spork and I were booked from 8am to 5pm solid. That’s 15 bookings. We had three no shows (grr!) so we ended up with 13 tours we conducted. Of those 13 tours, plus our normal Saturday walk-in traffic, we did 40 transactions. That’s on the top end of what a normal Saturday would be like. BUT, it was a holiday weekend. Many of our regulars were not in town. So that’s actually a good Saturday when it would have otherwise been a bust. So that’s good.

We also had 31 items sold that I can directly attribute to SWMBO’s samples, or nearly one item per transaction. We sold out of a few items that she was sampling so that’s about as good as it gets. Samples work.

So, we are looking at this past weekend as a manageable success. Nothing dramatic, not crazy busy, but very steady throughout the day. We did have some folks who wanted to come for a tour who couldn’t get in this past weekend. That’s bad. But of the folks who came, we captured their information and showed them a good time. That’s good. We also left enough capacity in the store that our regulars could get in and out without any trouble. That’s good. BUT we need to do more business than we did. So there is more to do.

So this Saturday, we are going to try this again. We are going to do the free tours thing again, which will be announced with more fanfare later. We are also going to have a vendor here cooking samples of our meats with his awesome sauce. I’m going to market our weekend exactly like I did this past weekend. Same budget, same source. That will give us a good comparison from last weekend to this weekend.

We are also going to try multiple tour availability in one time slot. By that I mean we are going to book more than one family per tour with one tour group leader, something we’ve not done before. We experimented with that late in the day yesterday and nobody seemed to mind at all. In fact, the seemed to expect it. This will allow some more folks through the system with the same amount of manpower. And with it not being a holiday weekend, we should have a good comparison this weekend to last weekend.

If we can get our regulars back in town from the beach, plus new folks coming for tours, maybe we can break the 50 transaction barrier. That would make us 25% better than last weekend. And with multiple slots per tour, maybe we can get a little better still. We’ll see. I’m making this up as I go along.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

3 Replies to “Retail and marketing advice from idiots”

  1. Hi Dan! We enjoyed the tour yesterday. My kid loved to feed the cows and he keeps asking me about pig mama (if you can make an update about it on your blog, would be great). I’ve been visiting the store almost weekly since the Open Barn Day. Always looking to support farming doing it the right way, and your products reflects that quality. It’s worth it. Hope you a big success!!!

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