Beyond Banners - Other Marketing Options for your Farmers Market Display

Signage and other marketing materials play an important role at your farmers market display.  They communicate key information such as what the produce is, its price, as well as your farm/business name, website address and where you are from.  Marketing materials also reinforce your brand image – the ‘personality’ of your business.

Banners

First a word about banners.  (The type hung by ropes and usually from the frame of your tent.)  These are generally the most popular and practical way to promote your items at the market.  Not only are they very durable – able to survive wind and rain – they tend to be hung at eye level, or above.  This way, when the market and your stand become busy, customers can still identify who you are.

Price signs

Consider using branded price signs.  This is an excellent way to reinforce your brand image.  Just visit any national grocery or hardware store and look at the price tags for samples.  Print or create a batch that feature your logo or company name and prices can be added to them at a later date.  Try starting out with using a border on the price tags in a colour that matches your brand.  Be sure the paper stock used is heavy enough to withstand the inevitable bumping and handling plus weather it will endure.  Of course, if you have price signs or a price list make sure they are easily visible.

Signage on the table

A simple 8 ½” x 11” sign in a plastic frame can do a great job of reminding customers where they are shopping because it is right beside your products that customers are looking at.  The downside, is that it can be difficult to find space for such signs and they can get knocked around.  Make sure they have an angle to them so that when customers are in close proximity they can still see your sign.  They are also low cost.  (Check your dollar store in the picture frame section, office supply store or online.  Their description is often acrylic sign holder or plexi sign holder.)  Consider having 2 or 3 on hand, and use them as space fillers as necessary.

Floor model banners

These tend to be more sophisticated looking but are not as weather resistant especially when it comes to wind.  Their biggest downfall is that they take up floor space and can make moving around your space difficult.  As Cookie Roscoe, Market Manager for The Stop’s Green Barn in Toronto notes, “in the fall I have 12’ for each vendor and the tables are heaped high with produce.  Although it’s one of my favourite times of year, it’s madness, and I just don’t have room for these [floor model] banners.”

Another downfall of these banners is that some involve multiple poles that can prove tricky to assemble.  Occasionally the poles may walk away when you aren’t looking or packing up after a long tiring day.  Ask ahead of time how much the poles are to replace and keep this in mind when deciding if the cost of a one piece ‘pop up’ banner might be worthwhile.

Tablecloths & Skirting

Another option for reinforcing your image is to use a tablecloth or table skirting that matches one of your brand colours.  Think through the logistics of using this, and if you can keep it clean and looking good all the time.  Again, weather resistance to wind, rain and sun is an issue as well.

A frame signs

These can either have a permanent look or the chalkboard/whiteboard style where messages can be changed.  The biggest challenge is their location and that they are below eye level.  They can also become a tripping hazard when the market becomes busy.  As Cookie notes, “if I allow a vendor to have one, I need to be fair and allow everyone to have one.  This impedes traffic, when the market wants to keep traffic flowing.”

Staff dress code

It could be a t-shirt, golf shirt, apron and/or hat that your staff wear.  Consider starting out with something plain in a colour that matches your branding.  The next step up is to have your logo or company name added.  Keep the sizing issue in mind if you work with lots of different staff.  For example, a hat or apron is more one size fits all versus a shirt.

Are there restrictions?

Always check in with your market manager to see if they have any guidelines or restrictions regarding signage.  If you attend more than one market, check with all of your markets to ensure signage can be used at each location.  For example, one market may allow you to state your produce is non-certified organic, whereas another may only allow you to use the term organic if you are certified.

Be true to who you are.

Don’t turn your booth into something that resembles the Las Vegas strip.  The goal is not to be the most sophisticated, slick marketing machine at the market – or at least not obviously.  Start slowly and build on your presence.  Make sure you have a basic item such as a banner and then consider the other options as you go.  And always keep the goal in mind – that customers can remember you and recommend you to family and friends.

Farmers Market Banners 101

There is no doubt about it – just the basic fact of being a vendor at the farmers market will generate sales.  However, there is also lots of competition at the market, where many vendors may offer the same or similar types of produce.  Ideally, you want customers to remember exactly who they purchased from, to be able to tell their friends and family about you, and even become a customer outside of the market if that is an option you offer.

One of the most basic, economical and popular ways to display your name at an outdoor farmers market is a banner.  They are large, and they can withstand various weather conditions such as wind and rain.  In many cases, your banner will be one of your largest costs when it comes to your farmers market display.  Consider these factors to ensure your banner makes a great impression with your customers and is as cost effective as possible.

Check market guidelines and ask for advice.

Many markets have specific guidelines regarding signage.  Be sure to check with your market manager regarding these, and also ask their opinion on what works best.  Your market manager and fellow vendors can also be good referral sources when finding a sign company and/or graphic designer to help create your banner.

Plan ahead. 

Depending on their schedule a printer can print a banner in as little as 2 days with supplied artwork.  No supplied artwork?  “Artwork can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months or more, depending on how quickly people get back to us and provide approvals,” says Chuck Culp, President of Double Q Printing in London, Ontario.

Make sure it looks great. 
  • Look for other examples of what you like.
  • Take a few moments to sketch out your ideas for the banner and show these to your printer and/or graphic designer.  Ie. No more than 15 minutes.
  • Make sure your business name, or ideally your logo, are the first thing people will see.
  • Avoid covering every square inch with graphics and words.

Keep in mind that deciding what your banner will look like and printing it are two different stages.  Some sign companies can provide great graphic design assistance, in other cases you may want to hire an independent graphic designer.  Whoever helps you with the look of your banner, be sure to look at examples of their work and always ask for quotes before getting started.

Designing your own sign?  Check with your printer first. 

“Before you go doing a whole lot of artwork, talk to your printer first,” says Chuck.  He adds, “everybody makes stuff 8 ½” x 11” which won’t work.  We need artwork supplied as a vector file.”  (No idea what a vector file is?  This is why talking to your sign company first is a good idea.)

Keep it short and sweet when it comes to wording.

Only add important information such as your location and website address.  If you are active on Facebook or Twitter consider adding those images to the side, in a size that is noticeable but not overwhelming.

Consider your environment – be sure to stand out.

Farmers markets are naturally full of colour and activity.  Keeping your banner simple will help ensure it gets noticed.  Don’t be tempted to add lots of patterns or photos.  Stick to colours that are part of your branding, but be aware that certain colours such as blues, purples and greens are more likely to blend into their surroundings so use these strategically in the design if necessary.  Communicate what your environment is like to whoever is helping design and print your banner.

Think about installation.

Where will your banner go?  How will you hang it?  Is it in a position where staff will not bump into it?  Are there areas of the banner that might be covered by part of the tent infrastructure?  For example, if the top 6” will be covered – ensure you don’t have graphics in this area.

How will you transport and store your banner?

You’ve invested time and money – have a plan to keep it looking good, and lasting for a reasonable amount of time.  Did it come with a carry bag and/or protective cardboard roll?  Make sure staff know how and where you want the banner stored.

Marketing Tips For Your Farmers Market Display

You’ve nurtured your tomatoes from seed, they survived that crazy wet spring and even several hornworms…. but finally they are ready for market along with other treasures from your fields.  It can be really hard to find some time or energy to think about your farmers market display.  It’s essential to have great product and great service – but it’s also important to give some attention to your marketing presence.

If you had to move, even 2 spaces, from your current location would customers recognize this?  Cookie Roscoe, Market Manager for The Stop’s Green Barn in Toronto notes, “if I move a vendor 15 feet over, I get customer comments like – it’s too bad those guys aren’t here today or where is that lovely man?”

Farmers markets are naturally full of colour and activity and it’s unlikely you are the only one selling tomatoes.  To develop loyal customers you need to be memorable.  Keep these tips in mind when developing marketing materials to promote your farm and its products.

Set a budget.

Estimate how much you will sell over the season and use 3-5% of this as a potential budget.  For example, if you expect to sell $500, on average each week for 12 weeks, your total sales would be $6,000.  In this case, with a budget in the 3% to 5% range, this would equal $180 to $300.  If you are investing in items that will last more than one season, such as a banner, then spending slightly more is realistic.  Don’t forget that there may be taxes on items, and that some items may need replacing before the end of the season.

Consider your environment.

Farmers markets are naturally full of colour and activity.  Keeping key items such as your banner simple and impactful will help ensure it gets noticed.  Don’t be tempted to add lots of patterns or photos.  Make sure any signage can still be seen once the market becomes busy with customers.  Items placed at floor level may become hidden, and also restrict traffic flow.

Be careful with terminology.

This is a very sensitive area.  Make sure you are not over promising and be prepared to explain any claims you may make.  The key is to maintain your credibility and trust with your customers as well as market management and your fellow vendors.

Make it visible.

Whether you hired a graphic designer to create an amazing brochure, or it’s your neatly typed price list – make sure you can place it in a location where customers can see it.  One of Cookie’s examples of what not to do is to use a photocopied price list in black and white taped to the top of a freezer.  As she simply states, “It gets lost in the sea and doesn’t stand out.”

Check with your market manager.

Your market will likely have specific guidelines for signage and other marketing materials.  They may also have specific rules around the use of specific terms such as organic, natural, sustainable etc.  If you are involved in more than one market, be sure to check with each one and develop materials that can be used at all of your market locations as much as possible.

Weather – keep it in mind. 

Larger marketing expenditures should not be spent on materials that become easily damaged by wind, rain or sun.  Signs printed from a home computer or written out quickly by hand should be somewhat weather resistant so they can make it through a bad weather day but can be replaced easily and quickly before the next market date.  Produce extras and keep them handy if needed.

Think through transportation and storage.

Give some thought to how materials will be transported to and from the market and how they will be stored.  Marketing materials cost money, and take time to create so it is important to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.  Invest in a container where materials can be stored.  This could be an inexpensive plastic folder for price signs or a cardboard roll to protect your banner.