Jan 31, 2011
Does your farm market have curb appeal?

Does your business have that “drive-by” appearance that draws new customers in and makes old customers want to keep coming back?

In an increasingly noisy marketing world, there is no substitute for having a front lot appearance that sets the tone for profitable business transactions. It is so easy as owner/manager to overlook faded signs, parking lot potholes, peeling paint and similar tragedies as we go about getting through long, often stressful work days. Every piece of trash that is left lying on the ground eventually becomes many, and our businesses slowly degrade into so much compost. Customers notice new landscaping, upgraded signs and well-maintained parking lots by coming back and bringing friends. Word of mouth advertising only works if there is something worth talking about.

Curb appeal today is more than the look of your store from the road or parking lot. With approximately 85 percent of all purchases made by female shoppers, knowing where they begin to make shopping decisions is critical in determining where to spend your marketing dollars. Up to 93 percent of mothers regularly or occasionally seek the advice of others before making a purchase. More than half of adults use Facebook, cruise the web, read blogs and share shopping successes and failures. These web-based communication tools are an increasingly important aspect in developing curb appeal. Your curb is no longer only your front door.

Here are some things to consider:

Road signage: Are your signs part of the image you want to create for your business? Can they be easily read at the speed of the traffic that goes past? How much information belongs on a highway sign? Is your primary road sign an asset to your marketing scheme? Are fancy fonts an image builder or just hard to read?

Parking lot appearance: Parking lots are one of those areas that always stir the emotions in business owners. After marketing presentations that include the importance of a well-maintained, paved parking area, I’ve been accosted in buffet lines by owners who are trying to avoid paving with arcane discussions on the price of blacktop. Yes, I know the price of blacktop and have even rented a paving box and roller to lay my own parking lot and pathways. A great looking and well-designed parking lot doesn’t so much add to your curb appeal as avoid bringing it down.

Nothing makes a business seem more like it is on the way out than deep potholes, parking bumpers that are rotting and scattered and poorly maintained plantings adjacent to parking. Since most shopping experiences today are at malls, big box stores, grocery stores and the like, good parking is simply an expectation.

Main entrance: There is no chance for a second first impression. Your main entrance should be inviting, tone setting, easy to navigate and adaptable to seasonal shifts in merchandise. It also should be easy to find your hours and any seasonal variations in those hours. Shopping carts and baskets need to be in easy reach, well maintained and clean.

Landscape: There are some universal rules for making your landscape work for you. One of the greatest mistakes owners make is in factoring in time (or the omission of time) for the maintenance of plantings. I’d rather see nothing but blacktop, stripes and a building than poorly maintained plantings. Landscape areas only work to sell your marketing plan if they always look like the gardener just left. If you are selling plants, this is the place to sell them first.

With today’s major emphasis on locally grown foods and plants, this is the opportunity to sell the idea that your stuff comes from your store. Have your own vegetable patch where it can be seen, keep it neat and be sure to sign it appropriately and let it do the selling for you.

Website/blog: While websites were once optional, they have become the starting point for many shoppers. With the near collapse of newspapers and expense of mail, they are the optimal method to alert customers to new products, sales and coupons. For many of your customers, your website is your front door.

While a website is necessary, a blog is just a little less so. Blogs give you the opportunity to print up-to-date information on anything on your mind, and do so quickly and easily. Most blog support services come with feedback mechanisms that are much easier to use than web-based systems.

Building appearance: I love talking to farm market owners about how they developed their building. There seems to be two distinct schools of thought: 1) This is what I have to work from, so I’m always limited but doing my best. 2) I got really tired of being limited, so went back to the drawing board to create a building that solved all of the problems of my old structure that could be solved on this lot and within my budget.

The wide variety of great-looking farm markets out there is a testament to the creativity of our industry.

Lasting impressions: What is the last thing your customers see, feel and believe about your business as they drive off? I had the opportunity to speak at a meeting several years ago, where there was this tremendous effort by the business owners to create an impressive agritainment atmosphere. The place looked great, the help was polite, the parking lot was easy to negotiate, but the exit road took you out past the back of the greenhouses. The last thing I remember about this operation was a huge pile of spent and decaying plastic nursery pots and trays.

We must learn to think and observe like our customers. Their last thought should always be about who they want to drag to your place next.
– By Steve Bogash


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