Observations from a Farmers Market…

I understand that as a micro business owner, about 25 to 30 percent of my time needs to be spent marketing and selling my services. I am beginning to suspect that in a business which develops repeat customers, sometimes I can do more than I realize, just by showing up on a schedule.

Saturday morning at 4:00AM, the roads south of Charlottesville were deserted and dark. My destination was the weekly City Market at the corner of First and Water Street in downtown Charlottesville.

By the time I arrived at 4:30, rain was gusting and the prospects for selling craft work was getting dimmer by the minute. A few exhibitors waited for the police and tow trucks to clear the parking lot.

The rain slackened by the time the last car was towed at 5:30AM. A wave of exhibitor vehicles swept into the lot and a frenzy of setup activity began. The rain turned to mist by 7:00 AM when the first customers marched purposefully onto the lot with their umbrellas.

Citymktrain2For about twenty minutes the weather held off and then the rain came pouring down again. Exhibitors scrambled to put tarps over their displays. Some exhibitors put up side panels for their tents while others who were not so well-equipped took refuge in their vehicles or stood morosely under umbrellas.

This is primarily a produce market and the same people come to buy food every week rain or shine. Craft sales are more weather dependent, because most of the sales are impulse sales. Good weather encourages people to browse among the displays once they have purchased their produce. A rainy day discourages browsing and depresses sales.

The rain came and went for the next hour and we conferred with our neighbors on whether to wait it out or to call it a day. The general consensus was that if the weather did not clear by 9:30, we might as well pack it in and call it a day.

By 9;00AM, the rain stopped although the skies remained threatening. Buyers appeared in greater numbers and the craft exhibitors put out their wares again. Traffic got heavier as the hours went by and was nearly normal by noontime, when the market closed.

I had more requests for new design quotes than usual, even though impulse sales were down. I also had four existing customers drop by to discuss work in progress. This would have justified my being there even if I had generated no new business. I also noted that several new people asked if I would be there next week.

That’s when it occurred to me that appearing at the same place week after week creates a feeling of stability in the minds of prospective customers. That may account for the fact that orders for custom work have increased every week, even though impulse sales and book sales vary widely.

The bottom line appears to be that showing up regularly has a beneficial effect on long-term business, even if immediate sales are affected by bad weather. Somehow, I hadn’t expected that.

Has anyone else run into a similar phenomena?

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0 Responses to Observations from a Farmers Market…

  1. dundruf says:

    yes… people seek stability and continuity.

    -should i but xxx service in that office/clinique/shop?
    -yes, they have been there for the last 15 years
    -no, don’t, they closed and reopen evey other week.

  2. Thom Singer says:

    I write about the importance of building a network of professional contacts, regardless of your industry. Often, people don’t like to go out to networking events, cuz they don’t like to “schmooze”. But those who go out into their business community on a regular basis (even when they do not feel like it) see the rewards over time. People like to feel confident that those they buy from, and associate with, will be around for the long haul. To prove that you will be there over time….there is no short cut…. you have to show them by showing up every time.


  3. Linda says:

    Yes, it does help build your business if your customers perceive your business as being something stable and dependable.

    For example, there is a bookseller in town whose shop we love, yet as a retiree, he makes his own hours and changes them on a whim. As a result, I can’t always depend on him to be there when I want something — even if I know that he will carry it in stock. Instead, I’ll end up going to a chain store (B&N) more often than not, for they’re sure to be open when I’m out shopping.

    It’s sad, because I’d much rather support local businesses. But if a shop isn’t likely to be open when I’m free, I won’t go out of my way to check.

    In a parallel sense, coming out rain or shine to be available to your customers creates a sense of security, and will also build your customer base: if one of your clients wants a friend to see what you do, they know that you will be available on a certain day, reliably. That makes them more likely to introduce new business to you.


  4. Imady says:

    David, you should think how to handle a situation, in which you become unavailable for a short period of time.

    Things like, being ill or having sport injury or even a car trouble.

    What ever, I wish you health and to be always available to your customers, but as you know things happen all the time.

    I am currently sitting at home over a month with a foot injury. So I assume that a contingency plan is always needed.

  5. Dave Opton says:

    I have not only experienced similar phenomena, but as I reflect back over the nearly 18 years that we have been in business I believe our business was essentially built on the notion of earning the trust of our customers by doing exactly what you have done – demonstrating behavior that has been consistent and on which people feel they can depend.

    Given the level of disappointment that most of us feel when it comes to “service” and “quality” when we are finally able to identify people on whom we can rely we not only will continue to take our trade to them, we’ll tell our friends about them big time.

    I know it is a well-worn cliché, but actions do speak louder than words.

    TITLE: Show up and you are half way there…
    URL: http://workingsolo.blogs.com/clearingspace/2005/08/show_up_and_you.html
    BLOG NAME: The Clearing Space
    DATE: 08/30/2005 05:30:45 AM
    I was catching up on some blog reading tonight, and noticed a thought provoking piece by David St Lawrence over at Ripples. He says I am beginning to suspect that in a business which develops repeat customers, sometimes I can do more than I realize, ju…

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