Make Money Mondays: Marketing Lessons for Solos & Smalls from the Farmers’ Market

One of my favorite Sunday morning activities during summer is taking my plump little pup Sadie to the weekly Farmer’s Market in my town.  It’s a win-win for both of us: Sadie has a chance to consort with other dogs and leave with a juicy bone, while I can pick up fresh ingredients for a few meals and a couple of  real  life marketing lessons for you, dear readers. Here’s what I came away with today:

Personal Contact Isn’t Dead Yet  In today’s digital era, consumers can buy anything they want online – including organic produce and meats from Whole Foods  in the wake of its acquisition by Amazon. And yet Farmers’ Markets abound in my area and throughout the country.

So why do people bother with Farmers’ Markets when you can buy fresh produce anywhere? From what I’ve observed, shoppers enjoy the atmosphere and the personal connection with vendors and other shoppers. The Farmers’ Market is a source of information too since shoppers can ask vendors for recipes and best practices on food storage.

Now let’s face it – a trip to a lawyer’s office will never be as pleasant as a trip to a Farmers’ Market. But there are times when an in-person meeting or conversation with a client can result in discovering new facts that a client may not have thought to include on a form.  Likewise, it’s often useful to meet with a lawyer or other potential referral recipient in person before sending a client their way.

Don’t get me wrong – just as folks don’t rely on Farmers’ Markets as an exclusive source of groceries, lawyers needn’t limit themselves to in-person meetings only.  At the same time, we shouldn’t forget that even in a digital world, there’s a place for face-to-face.

Unit Costs Are Meaningless

On today’s visit, I was also accompanied by my daughter who decided to purchase some cheese after sampling a few different varieties.  She asked the cost, and the vendor quoted a price of $46/pound. At which point, my daughter turned to me and asked “What’s a pound of cheese? A block or a slice?” Though I didn’t know the answer either, I told her to ask for a ten-dollar chunk so that at least, she’d know how much she’d be on the hook for.

Quoting clients a billable rate of $125/hour or $500/hour is meaningless when they have no idea how much time will be required to complete a task.  So provide clients will an estimate of cost.  And if clients claim that the cost is out of their price range, ask what they can afford and if it’s an amount worth your time, put together a narrower scope of work that you can reasonably accomplish in a $500 or $1500 chunk of time.  As I’ve written before, don’t negotiate, but do accommodate.

Accept Credit Cards  When I first started frequenting the Farmers’ Market several years back, only a handful of  vendors accepted plastic. Not surprisingly, today, every stand is equipped with an iPhone, a machine to run credit cards or an extension to run a credit card by phone. Seriously, any lawyer who doesn’t accept credit cards in today’s world will find it tough to attract and retain clients.

Come Back Next Time  Most of the vendors at the Farmers’ Market rely on customers returning on a regular basis so they adopt various strategies to make themselves sticky. Some of the vendors – particularly for meat and eggs – take orders for customers to pick up the following week. Others remind customers to return for a certain type of pickle or homemade sauce that wasn’t available that week.  Many of the vendors also greet customers as they meander through the market – just to stay on their radar.

By contrast, most lawyers fail to take the simplest steps to encourage repeat business.  Lawyers could easily schedule a meeting with clients six or nine months down the line just to check in, or send them updates on legal issues that might impact their situation. These small steps lay the foundation for a relationship with a client that lasts longer than a one-off transaction.

Do you love Farmers’ Markets as much as Sadie and I do? What lessons have you picked up from your visits? Please share in the comments below.