Lately I’ve been doing something that I have wanted to do for years but never prioritized. Making Marketing Plans. I haven’t prioritized doing this before because I am so familiar and comfortable with ‘winging it’ that it hasn’t seem necessary. But the more I learn about planning and being a leader of my farm business (rather than a passive recipient), the more I understand a Marketing Plan’s value.

For example, you might look at the demographics of your shoppers and recognize that there is a holiday with a certain flower accompaniment, like orange marigolds for the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. Or, you recognize that you always have a hard time selling sunflowers in June because no one wants to be reminded of autumn yet. You find them an easy thing to grow, so you aren’t willing to axe them from your crop plan. You decide to run a ‘Thank-A-Teacher Sunflower Sale’ in June, with signage like: “Teachers are the sunshine of our future”, “Students who shine have teachers that shine”, etc. Sure enough, everyone knows a teacher that needs a sunflower, and you have no trouble moving those June sunflowers!

A sure benefit of a Marketing Plan is that you will have a plan to follow when you are totally absorbed in the routine of  growing and harvest and prep and delivery! You don’t have to try to concoct creative marketing ideas when you are already busy enough. Look at your plan, and follow through with it. My friend Laura tipped me off on that idea. She comes up with the whole year’s fun and exciting marketing slogans and writes them in on her calendar. Then she hits the cruise control and sails through the season, creative all the while.

Here’s the layout that I used for each farmers’ market and each of my larger wholesale accounts, including one that will be new this year. I didn’t write a book for each plan, but even the quick notes jotted down and the props that are now ready to use are a huge positive leap from my wing-it style of the past. This list is modified from several business plan templates, and I have adapted it to the key vantage points for growers. I hope this helps jump start anyone who, like me, has procrastinated from creating a Marketing Plan for their flowers. It’s an ace up your sleeve, as long as you put it there!

Marketing Plan

Market/Account: Name, location, year.
General Analysis: Brief description of this sales environment, what the competition is, the general vibe of success or decline and thoughts on why.
Customer Analysis: Description of the type(s) of customers at this location, including demographics, lifestyle, psychographics, and their expectations and uses of their purchases; describe your products, your display, your stand, your rack, your business (everything!) from a customer-centric view point.
Competitor Analysis: List major business competitors at this location and what makes them strong, as well as where they lack; description of how the physical location or set-up is successful or limiting; description of your business’s unique aspects or advantages.

Trade Area: List geographical area for customer base, why this area is important to sell to (why you choose to sell to/at this place).
Market Size and Trends:  Current size of customer base and thoughts on potential customer base; describe the trend for this sales environment and why.
Market Potential: Use income data from years past, or estimate sales if it is a new venue; describe any assumptions you used to come up with this year’s goal income.
Product Potential: List any advantages or disadvantages you may have with your production or ability to sell. This is a real check point, since it will validate (or negate) your ability to meet your Market Potential. This may also help generate creative ideas as to how to change certain things to better meet your Market Potential.
Market Strategies: Strategies relating to the venue. Is there anything about the location or type of venue to amplify, or are there any dates that should be planned for? Refer back to your descriptions above to target your customer groups, amplify your advantages, and areas/times you want to sell more.
Product Strategies: Strategies relating to the product itself. You might want to group your items, or pick out your key products here. For example, I used Pre-Made Bouquets, By-The-Stems, and Custom Bouquets as my product groups for my farmers’ market stands, but you might want to pick out a few key varieties that have their own crop-specific marketing strategy. List marketing slogans, packaging specifics, or other branding ideas. Order any specific labels, create signs, etc.
Price/Quality Relationship: Describe relationship between the product and the price at this venue, and customer perception or feedback. How does your pricing and your quality compare to your competitors? Describe how this can be explained to customers, perhaps in signage or advertising, if you think it will be advantageous.
Promotion/Advertising Strategies:
List specific advertising plan: what to target and when. List each month and the marketing focus, or each week if you are really ambitious! Transfer this to your calendar for easy reminding. Plan how to measure/check effectiveness.
Public Relations/Social Media/Social Networking/Miscellaneous Promo:
Describe how, what will be done, how often, and who will do it. This could be direct-to-customer connections and/or be something that creates advertising for you. List a few ideas that are planned and a few that could be used spontaneously. For example, inviting a newspaper reporter to photograph a bed of sunflowers when you have a glut of them, and have the caption be your farm name and hours of your farm stand. Get the reporter’s name and phone number now, so you have it handy when you need it.

Please plan on attending the Grower’s Business School in Rhode Island this November.

Not only will it be a fantastic opportunity to see ASCFG President Polly Hutchison’s farm (Robin Hollow Farm), but it will be a great mix of hands-on growing tutorials, networking, and business workshops. Business workshops sound really un-glamorous, but au contraire, mon ami. These will be exciting, engaging, and will send you home with several practical tools to use for your farm’s success. Give your business a chance to grow! Call the ASCFG office a.s.a.p. to sign up for the November Grower’s School!

Cheers to Ace-ing your growing and marketing season!

Missy Bahret

Old Friends Farm

Missy Bahret Old Friends Farm Amherst, Massachusetts
[email protected]