Top 5 ways to find more customers : an overview of local food marketing guides

Have you ever wondered ‘how & where will I get more customers?’

 

We’ve been asked the question a fair bit recently by people & organisations around the world who are distributing food locally.  What with tough harvests in the UK, the supermarket price wars in Australia, the food stores the size of small towns in the US, austerity measures in Europe, and the gradual rising awareness of the benefits of local food in New Zealand – it can be tough to find new customers.

 

We decided to pull together our own e-book on this topic, but in the meantime, here’s a couple of sites which could be useful to get you started.

  1. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) – as part of the ‘Be A Local Hero’ program, have developed a Marketing 101 for farmers and local food distributors. You’ll find a link to a PDF download – it’s a fairly in-depth guide to everything from establishing a brand, to working out new channels for your business.
  2. Making Local Food Work – a series of guides & toolkits for a wide variety of local food distribution models, developed to help you get started & get ahead.
  3. National Good Food Network – a database of research into business & finance behind local food distribution & farming.
  4. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture – a solid guide for small farmers and distributors as to why & how to market locally.
  5. Lean Marketing – taking a somewhat different approach to marketing, this blog post advocates lean marketing – staying away from heavyweight strategic planning, testing ideas in small batches, and learning quickly.

 

Social Enterprise London (SEL) – many local food distributors are looking for triple-bottom line impact, and could benefit from the great resources that SEL create. Whilst not specifically focused on local food, they do have some good guides to smaller, more impactful business.

 

If you’re particularly interested in the USDA Marketing Manual – we’ve also uploaded here: USDA Marketing Manual 2012

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback on what’s worked and what’s not, to help build a guide for local food to build the movement around the world.  You can tweet us at @buckybox, or get in touch through Facebook.

5 Tips for Local Food Delivery

Image courtesy of The Ecologist

We realised that as of late we’ve been chatting with a lot of local food delivery enterprises from all over the world, which puts us in a privileged place to spot some of what’s working for different organisations, wherever they may be.  We thought in the spirit of open source, we’d share our musings;

 

Get Social!

The landscape of finding & engaging with customers has changed with the emergence of social media. With social media has come an unprecedented opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with your customers & stakeholders, and tell your own story like never before.  One of the best things? With over 835 million people worldwide using Facebook & Twitter, many of your customers are likely to already be there and 100’s more potential customers in your area too.

Whilst most social media sites (such as Facebook & Twitter) are free to use, you should factor your time into the equation – like any conversation, listening as well as talking takes time.  Consider super-targeted adverts on Facebook/Twitter/Google Ad Words.  We also heartily suggest telling your story through a blog (like ours!) on Tumblr or WordPress, and for the more aesthetically inclined – share your story, your passion & your vision through sites like Pinterest or Vimeo.

Remember; make your dialogue about Quality not Quantity.

 

Call on existing resources & support

In several countries around the world, there’s now NGO’s & Government programs which are set up to help local food distributors get started, or iron out any problems.  They vary from downloadable action packs to full immersive social enterprise courses!

 

So our suggestion? Research, and make use of anything out there which could help you – you’ll be surprised what’s available!

Just some of our favourite resource hubs include; Soil Association (UK), Making Local Food Work (UK), Wallace Centre (US), Sustain (UK), Eaterprises (Australia), Transition Network (Worldwide).

 

Get creative with Funding

There are plenty of ways to fund a local food enterprise beyond mortgaging your house with the bank.  Our run down from the National Good Food Network webinar on funding local food tells you how!

Teaser for the NGFN blog: Co-operative model, LION networks, Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Micro/e-Lending platforms like Kiva, Slow Munis, Local Community Pre-Sales, Local Stock Exchanges, Investment Clubs like Slow Money.

See more here: Cutting-edge ways to Fund your Local Food business

 

Leverage free & low cost tools

Let the explosion of innovation & applications that resulted from mobile technology play into your hands!  The great news about the Mac App Store, Google Play & Chrome Store is that there are more applications than ever which can help you run your business more efficiently, and many of them are free.

 

Whether you need to manage your to-do list [Wunderlist], collaborative project management [Trello], communicate with your customers for nix [Skype], manage your social media marketing [Hootsuite], or simply use collaborative document sharing & calendars [Google Apps] – there’s a host of free apps out there.

 

We also would heartily suggest you check out some of the emerging technology, specifically around local food distribution.  This is where we get to play.  There’s several options out there now, which can manage customer accounts, help you manage packing & delivery logistics, and deal with the burden of payment reconciliation. Taking away the admin burden of local food distribution is one of the main barriers to growth we can see & are doing something about!

 

Be Authentic, Tell Your Story & be about More Than Profit

We keep coming back to this as a really important part of local food distribution.  We all loathe greenwashing don’t we? So don’t do it – be authentic with the story of where you came from, where your food is produced, and how you play nice with others.  We see local food distribution as being about values, and we constantly ask people to think about business in terms of ‘more than profit’.

 

Importantly, don’t ruin it for everyone. Local delivery, organics, farm-to-fork… it’s a tiny fraction of food distribution around the world. Don’t go stomping on it by picking fights with other people trying to do something similar in your area!  Try thinking about converting other people away from mainstream supermarket shopping, and growing the local food economy?

 

Use your blog and social media to tell the story of your business. Make it about more than just ‘units’ and ‘weights of food’, and aim for something more aspirational – your Values.  Use photography, words, infographics, videos & the great testimonials from your customers to show that you’re about supporting local farmers, delivering affordable organics, or whatever else it is that got you interested in local food delivery in the first place.  But be authentic!

Here’s some of our favourite use of Creativity in Local Food to get you started.

 

Do you have any more top tips to share?

 

You can now see the expanded version of this blog here:

Bucky Box goes to the Farm

Visiting CSA Farm for Bucky Box ResearchHere at Bucky Box, we sometimes need to remind ourselves why we’re getting involved in this project to build the tools for a better food system, so on Monday we decided to take a trip out to our local CSA, and spend some time with the farmers who’re getting their hands dirty to keep us fed, and look after the land.

We’re based in Wellington, New Zealand, so we took a trip about an hour and a half out of town to one of the premier growing regions close to us – the Wairarapa.

Luckily we have some good friends who run a CSA here in Wellington, so we took them along with us to meet Frank & Josje who made us really welcome at Wairarapa Eco Farm – a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm supporting the Wellington region.

Discussing ups and downs of Community Supported AgricultureWe had some quality conversations about the ups and downs of CSA’s, which are being felt all over the world as the movement spreads, but it was great to see the passion Josje had to make it work, and to involve people in the growing of food and education around sustainable organic practices.

We really see some huge benefits for CSA’s to be one of the many solutions to a more people & planet friendly food system – one which provides more resiliency, closer connections, and lower food miles.  There’s some great resources on CSA’s here if you’re interested (courtesy of Making Local Food Work in the UK).

A big thanks to Frank & Josje for spending some time with us which will help us to continue to build the best software possible for the local food movements around the world – for making us welcome at your beautiful farm, sharing stories and your passion for reconnecting our communities with the food we eat.

Check out Simply Good Food – the Wellington CSA site here (now also operating in Palmerston North!).

Take a glimpse at our full album of CSA Wellington photos here.

Growing the greens for vege box delivery