4 Strategies That Will Make You A ‘Natural’ Winner
The popularity of specialized diets rolls through consumers with regularity. They hit a high point and then settle down to a steady level of demand. (Have you been on the scene long enough to remember when macrobiotic was the new next big thing?)
Growers, retailers, restaurants, and food trucks dedicated to these trends can find themselves out of luck pretty quickly. However, the general growth of consumer preferences for natural and organic foods has been continual for decades, shows no sign of waning, and therefore provides a good foundation for a wide variety of businesses.
But with that said, those businesses catering to these segments often find themselves battling small margins and less-than-ideal economy of scale, so they need to implement complementary avenues of revenue generation. If we were talking corporate businesses here, we might say that they need horizontal integration and diversification.
By the way, do those challenges – tight margins and little economy of scale – sound familiar? As you review these four strategies, I think you’ll see that many have applications beyond the local organic food industry.
Become a micro-influencer
You don’t have to be a member of the Kardashian family tree to establish yourself as a social media influencer today. Micro-influencers – and even nano-influencers – are gaining traction in the marketing world.
Whether you’re a local organic farmer, retailer, restauranteur, or food truck operator, you can leverage your social media clout in a variety of ways. First, you know that developing a strong, loyal, and location-appropriate following will boost your core business.
Let me emphasize the “location” point just a bit because it strongly impacts the way you develop your following on your chosen social media channels. It probably doesn’t do an organic heritage tomato grower in Portland – Oregon or Maine, you choose – a lot of good to have followers located half way around the country. This means that your campaigns to grow your following need to be very well targeted; you don’t want to “dilute” your power.
Micro-influencers can also get reimbursed for promoting related businesses. You need to be honest and upfront when you’re being paid to mention a brand, but if you’ve developed a strong reputation with your followers for providing solid information, they will appreciate what you have to say about your sponsors.
Tip your hat to trends
I mentioned the danger in chasing the latest food trend at the top of this, but I’m not saying you should ignore the trends. They can generate good sales for a period of time. My point is that you shouldn’t build your business entirely around the latest trend.
Including products in your catalog that align with the latest big food or dietary trend can enhance your business and help you reach prospects that you might otherwise miss. It also gives you fresh advertising and marketing strategies. An organic bakery, for example, might publicize that it has added new Keto-friendly items to its menu…but starting The Main Street Keto Bakery would probably run into sales and marketing problems rather quickly.
Nurture local relationships
The same principle is generally true in the local organic food industry between growers, retailers, and serving establishments. As businesses strengthen their ties to one another, the entire local industry becomes stronger. Sometimes, by the way, you can even develop ties to larger, national chains as part of this effort. Growers can sell to Whole Foods and local chefs might be able to present cooking demonstrations.
During the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
One problem specific to local organic commerce is establishing enough growers to support demand from both consumers and local restaurateurs. Obtaining certified organic status is a three-year process for a producer and during those years of limbo, growers are hit with the extra time and expense of growing organically, but are unable to enjoy the premium pricing that comes with selling organic produce.
Profits lost during the transition period are a discouragement and is one of the major challenges to new organic growers. But this is another place where the right data can make all the difference in the organic world. Some large national buyers, like Chipotle and General Mills, are paying farmers premium prices during their transition period and communicating this transitional status to their consumers.
Local publicity and support for growers working toward achieving the “certified organic” rating could play a major role in growing the local organic sector of an area’s economy.
Becoming known for fine dining using local organic ingredients can boost or even create a tourism industry in virtually any city, town, or village. Again, it requires nurturing local connections and organizing campaigns.
Further, tourism can be the bonus that pushes a small local grower into profitability and might be the way to get through a transition period for new growers. Building small cabins or a guest house on the “farm” and coupling them with cooking demonstrations, gardening classes, or sustainable farming courses can open up important new sources of revenue. Add the power of being a micro-influencer and these “extras” can be financially rewarding.
While some of the problems facing the local organic industry are specific to that sector, many of the solutions to their problems have wider applications, like networking, establishing yourself as an influencer, supporting related businesses, and growing industry-focused tourism. Find what will work for your business from this menu and bon appetit!