Consider these excerpts from the latest "Smart Marketing" report by Brian Henehan, Cornell University ag marketing economist. "In agriculture, we have a tendency to focus most attention on what we produce and bring to market – the fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, milk or cheeses. The smart marketer is one who produces a high-quality product – and delivers needed services, plus builds effective relationships with customers.
Using the old journalistic outline of "who, what, where, when, why, and how", it's easier to distinguish between a customer and the consumer. Your customers may actually be consumers if you're a direct marketer.
But usually a relationship with some type of intermediary customer is required to get the farm product to the end-user. In the food system, they can be wholesalers, retail supermarket buyers, food service buyers, brokers, or processors. So think on these questions:
Who are you doing business with?
Who are they in regards to age, income, residence, family size, gender, ethnic group, etc.? How is your consumer base changing? What services will enhance your relationship with them?
What makes your product superior?
What differentiates your product from the rest of the pack? What'll make your product more attractive to your customers or consumers? What information can you provide along with your product (nutritional values, recipes, portion sizes, variety, etc.) to increase sales?
Where'll your product end up to effectively serve your customers?
How will it hold up in transit? Are there any ways to make life easier for those who buy your products in regards to scheduling or delivery? Can you better coordinate shipping with other firms shipping similar products in your area?
When does your product need to arrive?
Time is of the essence for all. How can you cut your customer's time spent handling your product? Are there ways to minimize time your consumer (convenient parking, check-out) or customer (processing invoices or payment)? Just-in-time delivery and automated inventory replenishment are becoming standard in retail and food services.
Why should your customer come to you?
What value do you bring to the business relationship? Why should you be a "preferred" supplier by your customer?
How are you ensuring that you're effectively marketing your products?
In a rapidly changing marketplace, those services and relationships constantly change. How will your services increase the productivity and profitability of your customers or simply build consumer confidence in your products?
Smart marketing is a constant "head game" where you're building effective relationships with customers. Answering some of these questions might shed some light on how to improve your marketing capacity.