Free Printable Farmers Market Vendor Contract Template
If you’ve read my article titled “Home Food Selling Businesses” you now have a step by step plan to start your home-based food-producing business. Most folks who start a business in the food production niche are passionate about what they are doing. They either love to cook certain items, or have found a unique set of items that they believe will fill a void in the marketplace. Unfortunately, the best chefs often lack the necessary marketing skills to make the business work. This is why over 90% of entrepreneurs in the home based food industry fail, so I have written this second article for my cooking friends. This article will lay out a sales plan that will help you build a market for your tasty merchandise.
Marketing Your Products Successfully In Three Areas
It is important that you strive to build a market in different marketing arenas. Too many small businesses go under because they did not diversify their client base. By building a comprehensive marketing strategy you are selling through several different venues. Often business owners have told me they were surprised because what they were most excited about failed, but what they figured would be a few sales were many in another area of the market.
Establish Yourself in the Marketplace
There are traditional ways to establish your business in the general market place. Use business cards, fliers, pamphlets, direct mailings, door hangings, newspaper ads, signs, radio ads, and word of mouth to spread the news of your new business. There are also associations you can join. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade is a great way to network and connect with customers and vendors.
Market to Local Stores and Restaurants (five basic steps)
Build a list of local independent food retail stores and independent restaurants in your area. Try to find ones within a reasonable distance that might be interested in your products; especially ones that state that they sometimes use or carry local products. Find out who owns that business and if possible who does the purchasing for them.
Write up a bulk wholesale price list for your products. Consider giving way free or reduced priced samples. In general you want this bulk wholesale price to be as low as you can possible make it. Of course, you don’t want to lose money or end up working for free, but getting some of your products at local venues will likely mean the success or failure of your business. Make a profession brochure, or catalog with your wholesale pricing on it. This will be something you can give out to potential buyers.
Make contact by phone or if possible in person. Ask to speak with someone who handles the purchases. If appropriate the owner is usually best. Tell them that you have reason to believe that your products would be a good fit for them. If possible offer to use their name on some of your advertising. This will help brand both of you and add value to the relationship. Ask if you can set up an appointment to discuss your product list and drop off some samples. If they are willing to set some time aside you now have your foot in the door.
When you go to the appointment go over all your marketing materials and pricing. You will need to convince the person making the decision that your product is good fit for their restaurant or store. You must present yourself as an expert in the niche you are marketing in. Let them know how you are going to brand your products and the success you expect to see. When you go to the appointment bring lots of samples. Also lots of business cards and pamphlets- even if you don’t make the sale you will likely get some referrals if you ask for them.
Depending on the size of the client they will usually take some time to make a decision. Be confident, but not pushy. Most established businesses will have a contract for you, or you can make one to present to them. For many small businesses it only takes a few ongoing contracts to keep the business up and running.
Market at Public Venues
Growing your client base is going to be your main marketing goal. Once you have a few established customers you will want to do a few different things to keep your business moving. Most home based food business sell at a variety of places. Bring all your promotional material as well as your “personal story” these will brand you and your products. Common places to market are farmers markets, crafts fairs, flea markets, city or county festivals, county and state fairs, and anywhere else that you can get a booth and talk with people.
Very few small businesses survive now days without some kind of reasonable web presence. That being said, there is unlimited opportunity to market any product online if it is done correctly. You would likely be very surprised at how easy it actually is to build a simple website listing your products and promote it online. Some folks are intimidated by the prospect of learning to do this, but paying someone else thousands of dollars to build website is usually not in the budget.
By building an online presence you will be opening doors up literally anywhere in the country. Especially if you put a simple opt in form on your site to gather a list of possible folks who may be interested in your products. You can give away samples, gift cards, or get your promotional materials in the hands of countless potential customers.
Some folks find a lot of success using online auctions like eBay to sell products. There are also popular sites dedicated to food marketing. Two of the largest are Foodzie and Etsy. Using several different outlets for your products will increase your likelihood of success.
Free Printable Farmers Market Vendor Agreement Form – download