Thanks to Fred Ahrens (Richards Maple Products), Ohio’s representative to the International Maple Syrup Institute, for forwarding a memo from IMSI regarding Sales and Marketing Strategies. The following are highlights from that document.
As everyone is keenly aware, COVID-19’s disruption of “life as we knew it” spared nothing – including your maple businesses. Sales and marketing of maple syrup and value-added maple products were deeply impacted; however, eCommerce has emerged as a viable path forward for those brave enough to wade into the deep waters of online business, sales, and marketing.
The memo sent out by IMSI focused on sales and marketing best practices for direct to consumer, retail, and bulk/wholesale producers and distributors. As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with the old normal, I’ll do my best to highlight a few points that can aid in how each of you continue to refine and recast your business strategy.
1) Make sure your prices are optimized. What producers usually think of is making sure price points are balanced between the forces of supply and demand. While this is important, there is more to ensuring your pricing structure is optimized. Chances are that COVID-19 has you shipping more product than in previous years. Shipping has costs: someone’s time to package, the label, the box, the tape, the bubble wrap or other packing materials. Spec out every last cent and make sure you are a) being efficient in terms of your time dedicated to shipping, b) purchasing materials at appropriate bulk rates to minimize costs but not overload your capacity to store supplies, and c) adjusting product prices or shipping rates at competitive levels which cover your costs and keep you operation profitable.
2) Consider a roadside “honor system” farm stand! Target people in your local area and make it convenient and safe for people to buy your product. Through social media, networks of friends and family, bulletin boards at your churches, restaurants, and hardware stores, and more – advertise your location, highlight your product through well-crafted and simple visuals, and drive customers to your doorstep. If you have an online sales presence, add an additional option for order pick-up at your roadside stand.
3) Reinforce your operation’s personal story. 2020 has amplified people’s attraction to local economy and supporting neighbors and communities. Now more than ever before, sharing your operation’s personal story and connecting with individuals will pay dividends. Make sure your customer base knows how to reach you to ask questions, send personalized comments after orders, and thank patrons for supporting local business and eating local. These points resonate today more than ever before – leverage them!
4) Get creative and partner. Everyone is in the COVID-19 struggle together. Others are being forced to think creatively about business solutions. Those who succeed will hopefully emerge from the pandemic stronger for it, those who don’t may not. TEAM UP! Here are just a few ideas. One, partner with a local blogger or print news outlet to do a promotional review and sales advertisement! Make it a win-win and share the spotlight. Two, share profit margins with local food and non-food stores who are willing to put your product in front of potential customers. Three, collaborate with other members of the local food service industry to feature your maple syrup in their products – glaze the local bakery’s doughnuts, drizzle over a food truck’s ice cream sundae, or flavor a drink at the local coffee shop. Make sure your ingredient and its story is not lost in the collaboration. Leave customers with clear and simple instructions for how they can purchase and enjoy your product.
Sales and marketing is a big category and creativity is limited only to one’s imagination and willingness to explore new options. Know when to dip your toe in the water and when to jump in and fully commit. Talk with others who have successfully adapted to 2020 and benefit from their experience. The COVID-19 reality is full of challenges, but challenges re-framed are just another name for opportunities.