The Urban Farmer: Sit Back and Count the Money – Observations and Advice from a Farmer’s Market (FSFS55)

Listen to more episodes of Farm Small Farm Smart

Today’s show is all about farmers markets.  And a big part of the conversation is dedicated to free samples.

Are the beneficial or are they a waste?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of free samples…

  1. It brings awareness to a product that the average customer might not know exists. Maybe there us a new flavor a new variety or simply the packaging and look has changed. Put the product on sample say look at this, when the customer might easily have not.
  2. It highlights a products quality. If you have a better quality product, like cheese and it’s wrapped up on the shelf. How do you differentiate the quality of the cheese? Price and packaging are one way, but those only get you so far. If the quality of a product is vastly superior.
  3. To show it works. When a product promises something – taste, flavor, crunch, what have you, some of these claims can test the assumptions that people have in their mind. Offering a sample of that product can get the potential customer to internalize your claims and make them from a non-believer, into a buyer. Sriracha, bacon, bubble gum chips, those can’t be good… sample away, oh they are good.
  4. To highlight your claim to fame. How are you positioning your product? Think yogurt. Maybe in a world of running liquidity yogurts, you want to show how thick your yogurt is, you can do this by having the yogurt hold the spoon or turn the container over and have the yogurt stay in the container. Give the customer a sample and they can then replicate it.
  5. To get the customer to try something that they otherwise wouldn’t try. When it comes time to trade dollars for product, if you don’t think that’s going to be a favorable trade for you aren’t going to do it. So while that artisan bacon jam might sound good, at $13 a jar, do you really want it that bad without tasting it? Maybe, maybe not. As a producer, you can use samples to tip the value trade in your favor and get the customer to buy.
  6. They are conversation starters. When sell at famers markets and street fairs you are likely one of many booths. How do you get the average customer to stop and check out your product? One way is to bribe them by offering them a free sample. They are attracted to the booth for the free sample, because it’s free, there is no risk, when they have the sample it gives you chance to go into your story and sell your product. The sample was the bait that hooked the customer to allow you to tell the story, when you wouldn’t have that chance if they didn’t stop.
  7. If gives you a chance to solicit feedback. Stated or unstated. When a potential customer tries the product what are they saying or not saying. What’s their reaction? Sampling your product to an unbiased general public might give you a chance to test your own assumptions about your product and learn something.
  8. They give you a chance to try new products. Have a product that you aren’t sure of? Offer it out as a free sample and see what customers think. When the barrier to try the product is $0, samples can be a good way to find out if the market would pay for the product. This will save you the effort of going all in on a product that might otherwise work.
  9. They offer you opportunities to get existing customers to purchase more. You already have qualified that customer as a buyer; why not get them to buy more. If you like A, then you will probably like B, here try B. Either way it’s a win. Either they say they like it, or they say they don’t. Then you follow up with a couple questions and you learned something about that particular customer and that particular product.
  10. They get a customer to stop, hear the story and stick around, and make a purchase, and maybe that purchase isn’t the free sample product. The free sample is simply the bait to get them to take a closer look. And while they may not love the sample they may see something that they do love while they were taking that look.

These are some of the benefits to free samples.

Do samples work in every case, with every product? No, but they are one way of tackling issues that every product has.

Highlighting product quality, unique product attributes, getting feedback, and telling your story are all things that you need to figure out to do somehow.

Free samples are just one of the ways to do it.

Samples aren’t without their negatives either. They cost money, they take up time, they get in the way of doing transactions, and they may require additional levels of compliance if you are handling food.

But like anything and everything, it comes down to do the positives out weight the negatives for your particular context.

If they do then free samples might be the way to do. And as you will hear today, for some farmers market vendors samples work really well and they are one of the many tools in the salesman’s toolbox to help you sit back and count the money.

Notes from this episode of The Urban Farmer:

  • Samples – Are they worth it?
    • Know your context.
    • Are you established with a following?
      • If so, then you probably don’t need it.
      • If you have a good quality product then you may not need it.
      • Is it a familiar product versus exotic?
      • If you are busy and giving away samples, then you may end up doing more transactions faster and at less cost to yourself (save product).
  • A basic understanding of body language can help you to qualify potential customers.
  • Can you tell your story outside of the market to help remove the need to educate customers at the market?
    • Tell your story outside so they can just come and buy.
  • It’s not just what you have, it’s when you have it.  If you have crops early and or late in their season that can give you a market and price advantage.
  • Be flexible to change your price on the fly to exploit the real time market.

Learn More from Curtis Stone:

Read The Urban Farmer book

Listen to The Urban Farmer audiobook

Subscribe to Farm Small Farm Smart in your favorite podcast player:

iTunes | Spotify | PlayerFM

One reply on “The Urban Farmer: Sit Back and Count the Money – Observations and Advice from a Farmer’s Market (FSFS55)

  • Mark

    Your double checking lesson at the end reminded me of something my father said in a carpenter’s context when I was young:
    “Measure twice, cut once”. I like how the episodes are getting more focused on how these farming lessons apply to general life/work problems and solutions. I think that is how permaculture is supposed to work, right?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *