The first step in developing your promotional plan is to identify your target audience. While the farmers’ market is a public event that will be open to everyone, you will need to think about who is the most likely to respond positively to your promotional message, which populations you can reach easily through existing channels, and which other populations are a priority for you to reach. These priority populations should be a reflection of the goals and community needs you identified early on.
When considering who is the most likely to respond to your message, it is important to think both in terms of “who” and “where.”
Who Are You Serving?
The “who” likely will include those who are already familiar with farmers’ markets, perhaps shopping at farmers’ markets that are outside of the community and less convenient for them. It may also include those for whom access to fresh fruits and vegetables is already a high priority but who are not currently farmers’ market shoppers, perhaps traveling outside of the community to shop at large grocery stores.
The “who” will often also include those who are actively engaged in their community through neighborhood or local business or community groups. They see the value of investing in their local community and supporting local community events, even if fresh fruits and vegetables are not a personal priority. Your promotional message to these groups can be simple and informational, giving them the day, time and location of the farmers’ market, highlighting the fresh produce available, and appealing to their sense of community pride.
When considering who to target, be sure to include those who may be easy to reach because they are already visiting the site of your farmers’ market to take advantage of other services. Don’t assume that just because someone is onsite the day of a farmers’ market that they will see it and give it a try. Using signage to promote the farmers’ market and asking those providing other services onsite to encourage farmers’ market shopping will help those potential shoppers to feel more welcome. Often, even if someone is a ”regular” at that site for other services, they may be uncertain that the farmers’ market is open to the public.
Defining who you include within your target audience must include those groups that you initially identified when assessing community needs. While the success of a farmers’ market from an economic viewpoint may be measured in dollars, the success of a farmers’ market from a programmatic viewpoint depends upon its ability to meet the community needs that you identified. Think about the groups that are reflected in your community needs statement — perhaps low income residents, or particular racial or ethnic groups that have been underserved — and identify those groups as part of your target audience.
Where is Your Audience?
Defining the “where” of those who are likely to respond to your promotional message requires knowledge of your community, its transportation routes, existing gathering spaces, and other food sources in the community.
Customers are more likely to consider accessibility in terms of how long it takes to travel to a farmers’ market instead of the distance to a farmers’ market. The length of time that customers are willing to travel is relative to community dynamics and how accustomed they are to traveling to access goods and services. While someone living in a dense urban environment may expect to find most goods and services within 10 minutes of their home, someone in a suburban environment may be OK with traveling 15 minutes and someone living in a rural environment may typically travel up to 30 minutes.
The mode of travel comes into play here: if your target population will likely walk to your farmers’ market, the geographic area that you are targeting will be much smaller than if your target population is likely to drive to the market. If your target population is relying on public transportation, your target area will be dependent upon local bus routes and which communities they connect to your farmers’ market.
There are a number of online mapping tools that can help you visualize your target area by driving or walking distance, including some included in Appendix A.
When considering where your target customers are, it is important to think about competing food sources and perceived neighborhood boundaries as both have the potential to impact how your target customers perceive the accessibility of your farmers’ market. When looking at competing food sources — supermarkets, other farmers’ markets, etc. — you can apply the same drive time analysis that you applied to your farmers’ market. The areas where there is crossover between the two drive times may represent a community that will be harder for you to attract if they perceive your farmers’ market to be no more convenient than the alternative food source. Neighborhood boundaries, such as major streets with limited crosswalks, rail lines, freeways or elevated bridges, may create psychological barriers for potential customers. If they perceive that areas on the other side of that boundary are outside of their community, they may feel less inclined to cross the boundary to shop.
Your knowledge of your community will help you to understand where these neighborhood boundaries may exist so you can develop specific strategies that help those from other neighborhoods to feel welcome in your farmers’ market.