Organic Food

COABC - Marketing Toolkit

Marketing to Wholesalers and Retailers

“Everyone I’ve met who is a successful grower is a successful marketer, everyone from farmer’s markets to exporters.”

-comment in COABC survey of growers

If you want to expand your market from farmer’s markets to wholesalers/retailers, you have to play by the rules:

  • Nurture business relationships.
    Approaching a wholesaler or retailer is like beginning a long-term relationship. Establish a product sales cycle that benefits both parties.
  • Set a positive precedent
    Develop an account that does not allow for unreasonable business practices with prospective customers.
  • Try to anticipate the variables.
    For instance, if an order is changed, make sure you and the customer have agreed on a way to accommodate the change in payments and schedules.
  • Always be upfront about terms with customers and staff.
    Make sure the customer and everyone who works with and/or for you know your policies with respect to payment, supply of product, returns or rejections, and any special or promotional exceptions.

“You have to balance what you can/want to grow with what people want to buy.”

-comment in COABC survey of growers

  • Do your research.
    Find out how the buyer wants the product labeled, packaged and documented. A bar code in the wrong place can jeopardize your whole marketing effort.
  • Always have your documentation in order and at hand.
    Consider this comment from a processor:

I do see the quality getting better, getting a bit more organized. For example, the documentation is better, but still only one place consistently supplies us with the documentation we need (e.g. grower name, number, cert. number etc.). I would rather deal with Canadians, but it can be a tremendous hassle and time consuming. Sometimes we ask ourselves, why are we doing this? This is a nightmare!

(Source: Nancy Korva, Happy Planet)

  • Educate potential retail/wholesale customers about BC Certified Organic products.
    You may have to educate your potential customers about your products and their benefits.
  • Consider having a customer advisory panel.
    This can consist of three or four customers that you regularly check in with. By knowing your customers' wants and needs can you successfully grow your business.
  • Give your customer what they want, when they want it and how they want it.
  • Give back to your best customers.
    Ensure all your current and new customers are offered the same deals.
  • Identify the critical link between you and your business customers.
    Ask yourself, “What did the customers buy?” and use the answer as the base of your client retention program.
  • Keep track of all persons that you deal with, especially the decision-maker.
    Make personal contact with all of them, no matter how large the staff.
  • Don’t allow your competitors to finish a task for you.
    Tie up “loose ends” and make certain that a plan is made to complete all work and nothing goes unfinished.
  • Consider working with your competitors.
    If you know a potential customer wants to deal in a volume greater than you can provide, consider working with a fellow producer. Co-ops are another option.
  • Offer samplesof your products at markets and stalls.
    Tasting often translates into a desire to buy.
  • Cross-merchandise with a complementary or related business.
    Team-up and promote each other’s products to increase mutual benefits.
  • Team up with a restaurant to sell your produce.
    Offer space for advertising on your farm brochure or website in exchange for the display of a decal supporting BC Certified Organic produce.