Carrot Cashflow: Melissa Ballard – Telling Your Farm Story to Create a Deep Relationship with Customers (CC08)

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Episode Summary

In recent years, more and more consumers have been purchasing online as opposed to buying things in person—and that’s been especially true when COVID hit. With the bigger online shopping companies making the move into selling produce and other food items, why shouldn’t small growers do the same?

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow, we’re talking to Melissa Ballard of Bluegrass Beef in Kentucky to walk us through her initial reservations about opening an online store, why she made the move to sell online, and what the experience has been like for her and their business.

Today’s Guest: Melissa Ballard

Melissa and her husband Josh started Bluegrass Beef in 2011 when they finished their first grass-finished steer, initially selling it to their family and friends. Today, Bluegrass Beef sells grass-fed, grass-finished beef all year round, with Melissa handling all aspects of sales and marketing in the business while Josh manages the herd while also practicing full-time as a veterinarian.

Relevant Links

Bluegrass Beef – Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bluegrass Beef Shop

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow:

  • Diego introduces the episode’s guest, Melissa Ballard (00:39)
  • Higher sales after opening an online farm store (02:21)
  • Melissa Ballard’s initial sales outlet for grass-fed beef (03:31)
  • The experience of selling beef at farmer’s markets (04:34)
  • Percentage of farmer’s market sales (06:31)
  • Farmer’s markets are a big time commitment (07:00)
  • Melissa’s initial reservations about moving online (09:00)
  • Successful product listing on Local Line (10:46)
    • Creating a product experience without pictures (11:48)
    • Making transactions easier with package pricing (13:45)
  • Intentionally putting up the stock level on the online store (15:40)
  • The adjustment of staying on top of online store inventories (17:58)
  • What Melissa and Bluegrass Beef do to help customers stick around (21:23)
    • Sharing the good, the bad, but not the ugly (23:26)
  • Recognizable product marketing and story marketing (24:11)
  • The gamechanger: the Show Now Button (26:43)
  • The role a webpage plays for an online store (28:02)
  • Being crystal clear with the purpose of the website (29:54)
  • Adding the farmer’s faces to the website (31:14)  
  • How much of the sales pie are online sales? (32:44)
  • Melissa’s thoughts on selling online (34:12)
  • Offering potentially more convenient shopping options (35:05)
  • Offering incentives to customers to shop online (37:01)
  • Melissa’s advice for the farmer who’s hesitant to go online (39:09)
  • The increase in sales after selling online (41:39)
  • Higher sales with less exhausting work (42:54)

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CC08 - Melissa Ballard

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Carrot Cashflow. Profitable farm businesses start here. Today, we're talking to a farmer who deepened her connection to her customers through her weekly emails, and that resulted in a very loyal and happy customer base.

[00:00:32] Welcome to Carrot Cashflow. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today, I'm talking to farmer Melissa Ballard of blue grass beef in Kentucky, Melissa and her husband raised beef in a way that's healthy for the land, healthy for their cattle, and healthy for their customers. And these three pillars are what they've built their business around.

[00:00:55] It's what their customers resonate with. Through social media and email campaigns, Melissa talks about how they raise their animals. She brings the customer onto the farm virtually, so they get to know their farmer and build a relationship with them, which in turn increases sales and customer loyalty.

[00:01:15] Today, Melissa is going to talk about how she tells her farm story. There's a lot of good tips and tricks in this one that you can use to deepen your relationship with your customers. Melissa's also one of the featured farmers in my brand new book, Ready Farmer One, the farmer's guide to create, design, and market an online farm store.

[00:01:37] In the book we cover how to choose and design an online farm store, how to handle orders and fulfillment and how to market your farm products. Once that farm store is set up, whether you sell vegetables, cheese, or beef, this book will help you get started selling online. The future of local food is online.

[00:01:57] And if you don't have an online farm store, you're going to miss out on a lot of business as the industry shifts that way, so stay ahead of the curve and start selling online now. Get the book, Ready Farmer One, on Amazon. And now let's jump right into it with Melissa Ballard of Bluegrass Beef.

[00:02:21] Melissa Ballard: Sales are up when I analyze the number of sales that people have made online versus just in-person at the farmer's market. That number has got is significantly higher, and it continues to increase. Way less, way less work. I mean, think about it in this way. What, what would be more work starting, selling at a new farmer's market or consistently writing an email that goes out to your email list with a shop now button?

[00:02:54] I mean, what is more work there? And then those sales. They roll in. I mean, I open my email every day, and I see notifications of sales that came in over the last, whatever period that I wasn�t� I mean, they're, they're appearing there. I didn't have to go to a farmer�s market and sell that beef. Hey, my name's Melissa Ballard.

[00:03:19] I am from Shelbyville, Kentucky, where my husband and I raise beef cattle and then market that as grass fed grass finished beef.

[00:03:31] Diego Footer: You know, when it goes to selling grassfed beef, there's a few different routes you could go, you can go direct to consumer. And that can be just through an email list that you accumulate locally.

[00:03:41] You can sell it through an online store. You can go to farmer's markets. If we go back to not now, but when you first started out, what was your plan to market the beef for the herd that you were starting up?

[00:03:53] Melissa Ballard: Oh, man. So we started about 10 years ago. Well, I guess it was in oh nine when we marketed our first steer, so it's been a little longer than that

[00:04:04]. and to be honest RV, I did not have a good plan. We were finishing one steer and we thought we'll just, this was kind of a trial for us, and we'll sell it to our friends and family and just see how it goes. And I don't recommend that. It's sold well, but I would not recommend going in without a plan.

[00:04:34] Diego Footer: At some point you engaged in farmer's markets. What's been your experience selling with them?

[00:04:41] Melissa Ballard: Our town has a small farmers market and I thought, well, this will be a good place to kind of just get started. It was a very low, like, fee, of farmer's market fee. so there wasn't a lot of risk involved other than just my time and the energy that it took to do that every Saturday.

[00:05:02] And it was, it was successful for us. It was a great way for us to not only move some beef, but to just get our name out in the community. Started that market, and then I had the opportunity to move into another market that would, as we grew our, what we were able to process, another opportunity for a larger farmer's market came available.

[00:05:30] And I was able to jump on that. Eventually that first market that we started selling at kind of went I don't know that downhill is the right word, but it no longer became profitable for me to sit up there and sell beef. And that's kind of the risk you take with farmer's markets. If they're not well marketed or just really well promoted, they have a tendency to ebb and flow.

[00:05:56] The new market that we moved into has been super successful. We still sell there and then we sell it an additional two markets, so I'm doing three farmer's markets right now. Currently one of them is just an every other week market and the other two are every Saturday.

[00:06:15] So we've definitely grown our farmer's market business, and it's been a great way for us to move product. And like I said before, just to get our name out and make contacts for people that might want to buy larger shares.

[00:06:31] Diego Footer: So, if you look at farmer's markets as just one slice of the pie, what percentage of sales would you say are through farmer's markets now?

[00:06:40] Melissa Ballard: I would say 40 to 50% of my sales are through farmer's markets. And I would say 90% 80% of my work goes like farmer�the downside of farmer's markets is they are hugely labor intensive.

[00:07:00] So getting ready for the markets, promoting myself at the market, spending those hours at the market. It's a, it's a big time commitment. For me, the more I realize it's harder on my body. I am up late the night before I'm up early in the morning. And our kids are getting older, they're more involved in activities on the weekends that I would like to be part of.

[00:07:31] My daughter actually comes to the market with me, or she'll go with an employee, she's 10. She could basically basically run a booth herself, but�and that, and it is great. It's teaching her work ethic. She makes change like a boss, but I also want our kids to have balance in their lives. And there's sometimes she has soccer games on Saturdays and that's okay.

[00:07:55] But I want to be able to be there for those, too. So I'm really struggling to be honest right now, we would like to back away from farmer's markets and really amp up our other sales channels. I think that farmer's markets are good. They are important for communities. There's always going to be a segment of the population that will shop at a farmer's market.

[00:08:24] But I think, and especially with COVID and just the onset of companies like Amazon and all the things, whether we like to admit it or not, they have reconditioned to us and trained our brains to shop online. And so, there's really no reason that farmers should not move into that space as well. In fact, there's every reason to move into that space.

[00:09:00] Diego Footer: And you say that now, and you said initially you fought it and fought it and fought it. What were some of the reservations you had back then?

[00:09:07] Melissa Ballard: Yes. So one was I think that it was necessary. Like I'm doing fine the way that I am without these online sales, but when I really thought hard about growth and wanting to grow, that was the next logical step.

[00:09:24] I was also a little worried about losing some customer connection just by moving to an online sales platform. But in all honesty, it's made connecting with my customers easier. I don't know if that makes sense, but I'm able to, because the online sales is handling all of the stuff that would take my time.

[00:09:58] So the ordering, the back and forth of the, okay, you want how many rib eyes and okay. There, this price, just all the back and forth there, the customer can do that and handle that themselves, along with Local Line that takes that part out.

[00:10:18] So I have more time now, actually, to communicate to my customers, to send them a thank you email, to post on social media or write that marketing newsletter because I'm not spending so much time on the ordering back and forth and the inventory piece and just taking care of all of those little pieces that take up a lot of time.

[00:10:46] Diego Footer: When you've gone over now to Local Line to list your store, or you have all your product listed on Local Line, what have you found his made it successful in terms of listing products?

[00:11:02] Melissa Ballard: Well, I'll tell you one thing that I'm not doing a good job on enlisting my products. I'm not doing a good job of product photos. That is one area that I, and that's on my list of things to do this summer is to make sure I'm getting some really good photographs of my products and getting them on the site.

[00:11:25] Because I think that can make a huge difference when people are shopping online. Even if it's just, even if it's just a photo snapped with a phone and just set up kind of nice, I just think those product photos are super important, and I'm failing in that area.

[00:11:48] Diego Footer: But I'll say this, you you've created that experience. I think in a different way, because if I look beef bratwurst links, cheddar jalapeno flavor.

[00:11:58] Cheddar jalapeno links are hands down our family's favorite brought. Are they spicy? Yes, they have jalapenos in them, but if you can handle some moderate heat, you'll love these on the grill. Beef bratwurst regular, perfect on the grill or cooked with beer, a summer staple for our family.

[00:12:14] So you might not have pictures, but you're, I think you're doing a great job with your descriptions, creating that picture in somebody's mind. And again, I think this is different than with meat than vegetables, but I think that even veggie farmers could benefit from this. Like your descriptions are not just for pack grass fed, like we know they're grass fed because everything on here is grass fed and it's not just it's details. It sucks you in.

[00:12:44] Melissa Ballard: Good. Cause I would try, I worked really hard on those. �Cause I do want people to under, I want someone to be able to read that not only want one, I want them to read that and then be like, I want those cheddar jalapeno brats, but I also don't want them to have a lot of questions because view it from this standpoint.

[00:13:06] If someone reads that and then they have questions, that's one more email, one more barrier to a sale, one more thing that is going to take my time that I don't have time for. I mean, I don't mind communicating with customers on the questions, but I want them to read that description, not have any questions and pull that trigger to buy it.

[00:13:31] That's that. And, and I do, I think those product descriptions are very important. another thing that we have found works really well for us with Local Line. Initially, when we started selling online, we wanted to sell by the weight. So the exact weight of every single product that our customers were doing.

[00:13:58] It's a lot of back and forth. So it's a lot of them making the purchase. You correcting the invoice when they�when you actually fill the order and then you messaging that back to them.

[00:14:13] We switched to packaged pricing, and it's been life-changing I'm exaggerating, but it has made a huge difference in the time that I'm spending on the back and forth and customer�I was hugely hesitant to package pricing cause I'm like, I'm either going to be cheating someone on this end or I'm going to be like overcharging on this end or undercharging on this end.

[00:14:44] But I narrowed down my packages in terms of for example, we have a medium-sized bone-in ribeye, a large size bone-in ribeye, an extra large, and a cowboy cut. And so I've narrowed in those price ranges. I charge at the upper end, but I have them narrow enough to where if someone's getting something on the lower end, they're still paying a fair price for that.

[00:15:14] And it has made a huge deal in the way that we're selling and the ease in which I'm able to fill orders and all of that, it's easier for the customer, too. If I'm not, they're not like there's no question, they're getting this, it's this price it's in this size range. They know what they're getting. It's easy.

[00:15:40] Diego Footer: One thing you have listed in your online store is the stock level. Is that intentional? Like, do you find that that helps having that there?

[00:15:51] Melissa Ballard: Yes. So that was actually one thing that I had requested of Local Line. I wanted to�I wanted customers to be able to see products even when they were out of stock. So, and I wanted people to be able to see when something was getting low, you know?

[00:16:13] If there's only one more, if there are two cowboy cut ribeyes left, to me, that creates a sense of urgency. I need to go on and buy that. And then I was getting a lot of questions about, cause some growers or farmers.

[00:16:31] I understand don't really want their customers to see things that are out of stock, but I am okay with customers getting on, exploring what we have, seeing that things are out of stock, seeing what goes quickly. And so, when I do send that email or make that announcement on social media that we've restocked to me that creates that urgency of you know, I, one of those rib-eyes last time I keep using robots as an example, because it's a big seller for us.

[00:17:04] I saw those rib-eyes on there. They were out of stock. I really wanted them. I need to get on there and order those before they're gone again, so I think the stock levels are a good a good tool for me to be able to use, honestly.

[00:17:24] Diego Footer: I agree. I like that. And I think for people who think, well, maybe that adds clutter to the website. It might, but I see there's an option here. You can just check, hide out of stock. All the out-of-stock stuff goes away. If you don't want to see that.

[00:17:36] But if you think about just personal buying it, I know I do this. It's, there's something scarce. Oh, I missed out on it. Notify me when back in stock type button, and then and I'm waiting or I'm more in stock on June 12th.

[00:17:50] Okay. That I might look for if I really want it. I got to go back. Whereas if I never, if you just removed it, I never knew you had it. It's�I'm not even thinking about it in the first place. One thought for selling online, like inventory management is crucial because you have to know what quantity you're putting up there.

[00:18:09] If you're off, it's going to create all sorts of issues, where if you're selling it a farmer's market, it, you bring what you bring and you have it, or you don't, it's not as big of an issue. How has it been shifting to an inventory importance model?

[00:18:25] Melissa Ballard: It was, it was a shift. And I mess some things up early on especially when COVID hit, and we went on lockdown. People started panic buying, and I was getting a high volume of sales in a very short amount of time that inventory was crucial. And there were a couple of times that I oversold and had to say, I'm sorry, I'm out of that, we can sub something out or whatever. So I had to learn that lesson really quickly.

[00:19:08] �Cause pre that we were, if I was a little off on my inventory, it was not that big of a deal, I could go in and figure it out, things weren't flying out of the inventory anyway. So now, I try because I am selling at farmer's markets and online, so that presents a challenge.

[00:19:33] I try to err on the side of caution on the inventory that I am putting online and allow for some wiggle room. I also do things like when I pick up beef from the processor and we're going through, we're doing, we inventory it as we put it into the freezer, but there's always going to be outliers that don't fit my online categories.

[00:20:01] I immediately set those aside. Those are farmer's market cuts. Super easy way to adjust have those in a separate place, those go to the farmer's markets. And so they never even enter my online inventory and you know, it is important to go through on occasion. And just like you were saying before, we don't have a walk-in freezer.

[00:20:25] Unfortunately, that's like that's on my dream list. We do have an obscene amount of chest freezers that so I do organize things in there and it's, it's good practice to just go through from time to time recheck that inventory, make sure that things are lining up. And if I ever have a question and I think, oh, that looks a little off, Local Line�s great because you can just shut it down.

[00:20:53] Super. If I think my small filet number online is not actually what it is or I've messed up in somehow I can just hide that product until I get that figured out and then bring it back up when I'm comfortable with the inventory amount, so there's lots of little, little things that you can do to save yourself trouble on the back end, but it was an adjustment.

[00:21:23] Diego Footer: What do you think you do well that helps customers stick around?

[00:21:32] Melissa Ballard: I think I share our story well with people. I've found that people are so disconnected from what farm life really is that even basic things like�we turned our bulls out with our cows just over the past couple of days, and I'm getting ready to post a thing on Instagram about that.

[00:22:00] And why we do that and the timing of it, and people have no clue about any of that stuff. And so even little things that we take for granted, I had a lamb that wasn't, that was a triplet that was not�that I was having to bottle feed. And I kinda took people through that process in my posts and in my stories, like he's not taking the bottle well, and now he is, and people just.

[00:22:31] It's like they're craving. I tell my husband all the time people are craving connection to the land, whether they realize it or not. I think that's in us all that we, there there's some craving for connection to where our food comes from the land, the outdoors, whether people acknowledge it or not.

[00:22:56] And so any of those little experiences that. Daily, whatever to me, if when I share those people respond really well to that, and they want to be a part of that. I also try to share the more real moments. you know, social media can be a place where everyone only shares their positive things. And I think it's also important to share.

[00:23:26] I heard someone say and this one. This was such good advice. It was another person that's really good at farm marketing. And she said, we like to share the good and the bad, but not really the ugly. So sharing the, the good things, but also the bad things that, that can happen on a farm without being too graphic or turning people off.

[00:23:54] I think that it makes you seem. You're just more real and authentic when you share the ups and the downs, because farming is not all rainbows and unicorns, as we all know, and people it's, it's good for people to see that, too.

[00:24:11] Diego Footer: There's a few ways to market, and one way is to pair by this, check out our new stuff, like, or straight up recognizable marketing, and then kind of another route that can run in parallel to that.

[00:24:27] Here's what we do. Here's the good, here's the bad, not the ugly, but here's our story. And then people see that, they resonate with you guys. And then they're like, oh, well we love them. We just want to buy from them without you ever having to tell them, Hey, buy from us. But it's, they become vested in the farm, in the story, and contributing maybe in a way to agriculture that they can't. What are your thoughts on that?

[00:24:58] Melissa Ballard: Yes, I�and the second approach is more my approach. I think there's a balance because you, if you share your story all the time, only share your story and there's never a call to action. Then people can just view you as entertainment and kind of forget about, oh, they actually do have a product for sale.

[00:25:20] You know, but I try to make, I'm just not a salesy person. And I think maybe customers appreciate that in some way if they're not. You know, not everyone is going to buy for me. There are going to be people that follow me on Instagram or even people that get my email marketing letters that just are tuning in for the entertainment and that's okay.

[00:25:48] And then there's going to be that percentage of people that do want to buy from us. And so. It's good to put that in front of them on a regular basis as well. But my I try to ascribe to like the 80 20 rule, 80% of the time. I'm sharing what we're doing. And 20% of the time I'm going to give some sort of call to action or talk about the farmer's markets that we're going to be at that weekend, or send an email that has a special in it with a shop now, button, things like that.

[00:26:24] So there, there's definitely a balance there. I think. With what we do, it works best for us to spend the majority of our time sharing what we do. And the sales have come from that.

[00:26:43] Diego Footer: You know, now sending emails with a shop now button, something you can't do if you're only at a farmer's market, because shop now means we'll shop on Saturday or drive there and come get it, so I'm sure that's been a game changer or has it? Like, how much is, has it changed the business to be able to put out that call to action on email in Instagram or wherever, and actually take it to somewhere where somebody can do something right now?

[00:27:13] Melissa Ballard: It's huge. It is huge. Just being able to put that call to action, that shop now button on there where where people can take action. Right. Then. Every time I send an email sales, I get sales every single time.

[00:27:32] And, but when I make a, an Instagram post or a Facebook post or whatever, that doesn't always result in sales. But those that, that call to action, having that shop now button where people can immediately take action, they see that picture of those ribeyes or whatever, and then they can click on a button and buy those robots. Whether it, it has been a game-changer for us, to be honest.

[00:28:02] Diego Footer: One thing that I think you guys have done really well is your webpage It's on Squarespace. It's super clean. I love just the look of it, the logo, right? When you go on, a hundred percent grass-finished beef, Kentucky-grazed, regenerativity raised last little wordplay it's, it's amazing.

[00:28:25] How important do you think�or, let me back up, what role do you feel that the website plays in the online store?

[00:28:36] Melissa Ballard: I think websites can serve several different purposes. and we, we saw ours as a place to go into a little more depth about who we are and what we do. you get snippets on social media, but if people really want to see what.

[00:29:01] philosophy is in terms of the way that we raise our cattle. I will send them to our website. I also think that the website serves as a place we who does not Google things these days, like there is a, there's a whole segment of, of people out there in our area that would, that are going to Google grass fed beef central Kentucky or Shelbyville, Kentucky.

[00:29:29] Even Louisville, Kentucky, which is our surrounding larger city. And so I know there have been people that have stumbled across our website through those channels that would not have found me on social media. Maybe wouldn't have seen me at the farmer's market and just reaches. you have the potential to reach a different group of people there that you may not be reaching and other things.

[00:29:54] And then, and I worked, thank you for all the compliments on our website. Cause I did work really hard to make it clean, to make our, what we were doing and what we were selling front and center, because I don't want someone to come to our website and have to scroll down to figure out that we're raising grass fed beef.

[00:30:15] You know, I want people to see that first and foremost. And I put that little shop now button on every page in multiple places. And so, when people are ready to make that purchase, I wanted that to be easy for them to access. And we have, I mean, it definitely drove sales for us, the website.

[00:30:45] Diego Footer: Yeah, it's super clear. I mean, right when you show up, you see the shop beef button and then you can read a little bit about beef is the best in the bluegrass and then shop our beef right there. So it, what you said about, I need to know what the purpose of my website is when I make it, I think is really key.

[00:31:05] And I think that's clearly defined. It's telling your story, but first and foremost, it's saying, Hey, we sell this. If you want to buy it, here it is.

[00:31:14] Melissa Ballard: Yes, I had one thing I really wanted to make sure that was on our website to where our faces. I did a lot of research when I was you know, trying to redo, we had an old website and I was working on redoing ours.

[00:31:34] And so I went to a lot of websites of people that are doing similar things as us. Many times, I would look on a site and I never saw the farmer's face. I saw great pictures of their product or their animals or what they were doing, but I want to know who is raising that beef. And so, I thought it was really important for people.

[00:31:59] And to me, it is an important part of sharing your story and what you're doing, whether it's on your website, whether it's on your Instagram or your Facebook, or however you're doing that, for your customers to see your face and whoever's raising the beef.

[00:32:14] Diego Footer: Yeah, I think that's a key point. I'm glad you brought that up. I think about my behavior on a lot of websites and if it's not a big website, then I'm usually checking the about page to see what's going on. It, especially if like now it consumer goods you don't know is this like some front website for some company in China, that's just sending stuff and you've, we've trained ourselves to look or who's actually behind this and there is something about seeing, okay, that's a person.

[00:32:44] When you, when you look at your online store farmer's markets where you said we're about 50% of the sales pie where's online right now?

[00:32:54] Melissa Ballard: I'd say about 40% would be from the online sales. If you take out the 10 that I do via email and phone, things like that, I'm encouraging anyone that is not contacting me through a farmer's market.

[00:33:08] I'm encouraging them to go online and make their purchases that way. When people order online, we have several options for them. They can either choose to pick up at a farmer's market. I can have that available for them there. Or we do porch pick-ups from our farm, like farm pickups. And that is the direction I'm trying to send more and more people.

[00:33:32] Because it's more convenient for me. I don't even have to be home. We're in an area of the country where I can leave that on that porch and people, if they haven't paid online, they can leave payment for me in that cooler, after they've picked up their product. And I don't worry about it. And I really liked that model.

[00:33:57] We're also exploring some things like shipping and things like that, that we're not there yet. But again, that would be another way to use online sales. But so I think your initial question was what percentage?

[00:34:12] Diego Footer: Yeah. So given that, with somebody who initially had a lot of reservations about going online, what are your thoughts about being able to sell the product online today?

[00:34:24] Melissa Ballard: I think it has changed our business for the better by far. There are just so many positive things that I can say about selling online in terms of the customer experience, the trouble that it saves me on the back end, the inventory management Just, just all of those things. I can't at this point. Imagine going back to not selling online, I can't even imagine. And I really wish that we had done it sooner.

[00:35:05] Diego Footer: It's probably, I'm assuming, that a lot of the customers buying from you online, our customers that never would have bought from you at a farmer's market. Not because they didn't like it, a farmer's market, they just, that's not what they do. They don't go to farmer's markets.

[00:35:21] Melissa Ballard: I think we definitely get some of those. I try, I say that, but I'm also trying to convert some of those farmer's market customers into buying online, if that makes sense.

[00:35:38] So we're in a season where I am trying to back away from the farmer's markets, we're trying to move into that direction. So I've tried to tell everyone at the farmer's market, oh, we actually have an online ordering option. And because you get people that do come to the farmer's market.

[00:36:00] They're there to buy product because they need to get product, but it's not the most convenient way for them to shop and not to try to pull people away from farmer's markets, but we're offering them another option that may fit into their lives better by the, by the farm pickup and the online selling.

[00:36:21] And so I've had customers that move away from shopping at the farmer's market and have moved towards buying online. Plus when they come to my house, they get to see a cute bottle calf and some lambs, you know that, that sort of thing is a draw as well.

[00:36:42] And so I'm not sure that I am reaching customers that would never buy at farmer's markets for sure, but I'm also reaching some of those people that may be shopping at a farmer's market, but it's just not working out for them. I'm trying to capture those as well.

[00:37:01] Diego Footer: Have you ever thought about offering a discount to people who buy online and maybe it's not a discount. Maybe you just charge more at a farmer's market and say, Hey, if you buy this online, it's 10% cheaper. What are your thoughts on that of really setting an advantage to buying online over farmer's market?

[00:37:25] Melissa Ballard: That is a very interesting thing that I have honestly never thought about. And I�m kind of sad to say I didn't think about that. I don't know. I am so careful to offer discounts of any time �cause we do�of any kind, because we do value our products so much, it's very rare that I offer any sort of discount that may be a good carrot to dangle if I'm trying to get people to order.

[00:38:00] And again, you would just have to build it into your pricing to take into account that discount that you're offering them, but that's, that is definitely�

[00:38:14] Diego Footer: Well, I think you don't even have to offer. Yeah, I'm thinking you don't even have to offer a discount. It's like, you, you keep your retail price online the same, but you mark up the farmer's market.

[00:38:26] So like, you've not discounted or it's like, Hey, we have I don't know if you save them like a bunch of beef bones or some something you just can't get rid of it, but it's like, oh, with every online or you get a free thing. If you order over $50, you get $10 of something free and you know, it's something we have trouble getting rid of, anyway.

[00:38:48] Melissa Ballard: Yes. Yes. I like offering an incentive of that type, for sure. That is, you've got my wheels turning, Diego. That's something that could definitely help drive some of those online. for sure. I'm going to think on that. I'll have to get back to you on that.

[00:39:09] Diego Footer: For a livestock farmer or even a vege farmer who was in your position. They're hesitant, like, I don't know I'm doing the farmer's market. It seems to be working well. They're not thinking about, or there they're hesitant to go online. What would you tell them?

[00:39:28] Melissa Ballard: One other thing that we have not that I haven't mentioned in the conversation today is how much our sales increased when we started selling online.

[00:39:38] So this is what I would tell them. Just try this, do a good job marketing it and putting it out. You have to give it an actual try. You can't just jump online, jump onto selling online and then, and hope it all just works out, but when one huge thing that we have seen that really convinced me that this was, this was a good thing to be selling online.

[00:40:04] The amount of my orders, the amount that people were ordering online in one. Swoop was much higher than what I would be selling someone at a farmer's market or whatever. When I think something happens to our brains when we get online, and we're buying things, and we're filling up that cart and it's like, oh, I'll take four of these.

[00:40:31] Oh, these look really good too. Let's add those on. Oh you know, and I need some ground beef, so I'm going to add that and that just, it adds up and people then people pull the trigger on it. And so our sales amounts just really increased from what we were doing before just selling at a farmer's market.

[00:40:57] And I'm not having to load that meat up and take it to a farmer's market every week. So, so there's the added benefit of that. But I would say give it a. For someone that's on the fence, give it a solid try. Not just a, not just, half-hearted not just, I'll try this for a few months and see what happens.

[00:41:20] You really need to give it a good, solid try, promote it well, really lean into using the system and just see what happens. And I would guess that your sales would go up �cause ours did.

[00:41:39] Diego Footer: And just to put the sales up in context, you don't have to give numbers, but Bluegrass Beef before selling online bluegrass beef now selling online sales are up a bit, significantly, dramatically, more than we ever expected. What would you say?

[00:41:58] Melissa Ballard: Sales are up, I would say significantly. It's not, it wasn't just a little amount. Like, sales went up $10 a month or whatever. It was a significant amount that our sales increased over the year.

[00:42:15] There are some seasons that people use it more than others, so I think it's good to look at it over the context of six months or a year of a period of time and look at what, and when I analyze the number of sales that people have made online versus just in-person at the farmer's market, that number has got is significantly higher, and it continues to increase. But part of that is making sure people know that that is an option for them.

[00:42:54] Diego Footer: And tell me if I'm wrong here, but that's a significant sales increase with not that much work. Don't get me wrong. Like there's work setting it up, there's work, fulfilling and doing all that. But if you wanted to significantly increase farmer's market sales, that probably means doing a lot more farmer's markets.

[00:43:12] That's for sure a lot of work, like a lot of hours that somebody's putting in, where if you do this, like anything, there's work involved, but compared to like adding another farmer's market, it's gotta be way, way less.

[00:43:29] Melissa Ballard: Way less. Way less work. I mean, think about it in this way. What, what would be more work starting, selling at a new farmer's market or consistently writing an email that goes out to your email list with a shop now button?

[00:43:45] I mean, what is more work there? And then those sales. They roll in. I mean, I open my email every day, and I see notifications of sales that came in over the last, whatever period that I was�I mean, they're, they're appearing there. I didn't have to go to a farmer�s market and sell that beef. So there is, you're right.

[00:44:10] It's, it's a different kind of work because it does involve, I don't want people to think that it is just setting up the online store, and then the sales just automatically roll in. You have to train your customers to understand that this is an option. And then, and you have to promote it to new customers as well.

[00:44:32] And get those contacts and get, get that store in front of people. But the work after, as you're doing that, the sales increase significantly, much more significantly from that than say, starting selling at a new farmer's market would, in our experience.

[00:44:58] Diego Footer: There, you have it Melissa Ballard of Bluegrass Beef. If you want to learn more about Melissa and her farm, check it out, using the link below.

[00:45:06] And if you want to learn more about our brand new book, Ready Farmer One, the farmer's guide to create design and market and online farms. Go to ready farmer or you can get the book on Amazon. Don't get left out of the food revolution. Get started selling online today. Thanks for listening to this episode.

[00:45:27] I hope you enjoyed it, but more importantly, I hope you do something with the information in this episode to make a more profitable farm business. I'm Diego. And until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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