Over the past year, we’ve sent almost 300,000 text messages in support of farmers market sales. Here’s what I’ve learned, distilled into 12 tips.
We had a situation where a farm had their time zone set incorrectly and sent a text message to customers at 4am. Multiple customers reported being woken up by the text message. First off, don’t do this. But more importantly, this illustrates the power of text messaging: even while sleeping your customers may engage with a text message!
Text messages are read very quickly after delivery, usually within 5 minutes, so send your text message at the exact moment when a customer is deciding to come to the market or not. I recommend about 1 to 2 hours before the market.
For Saturday morning markets, you may need to be more careful because of tip #1. You should choose between sending the message at 8am (no earlier!) or the night before — ask your customers or test it both ways and see what works better.
If you operate or sell at multiple markets, you must have different text message lists for each market so you can be confident in your timing and that you are providing relevant information for each customer. If a customer starts getting messages about markets they do not attend, they will quickly unsubscribe.
With the great power of text message marketing, comes great responsibility. Text messages interrupt your customer which is great for getting them to come out to the market, but if you send messages too often, customers will get annoyed and unsubscribe. I recommend one text message per week (and in fact, FarmFan only allows the sending of one message per week, per market).
The first part of your text message should remind customers who the message is from (for example, “Hi from Smith Farms! …”) because customers new to your text messages may not have your number programmed into their phone. It’s confusing if they don’t see a greeting.
What’s the hot product this week? Is there a special event at the market? Give customers a reason to come to the market by featuring something interesting.
Photos immediately connect customers to what is going on at the farm or market, so don’t miss the chance to attach a photo with your text message.
Think about how customers sign up but just as importantly, make it easy for customers to unsubscribe. For example, with FarmFan, customers simply respond STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE to remove themselves from the list.
Your customers will start to depend on your message coming at the same time each week, so don’t forget to send it! With FarmFan, we send a reminder text message 2 hours before the market if a message has not been scheduled ahead of time — then you simply reply with your message and we’ll schedule it to go out.
Give your text message list a name and make it an exclusive club. For markets and farms using FarmFan, we encourage the use of the term “FarmFan” to refer to customers who sign up for text messages.
Who isn’t a FarmFan? It just makes it fun.
If it makes sense, consider offering a special deal within your text message. For example, “Hi from Smith Farm! Mention you are a FarmFan and get $1 off blueberries!” This moves product and also gives customers another added benefit to join your text message list.
This may change in the next 5-10 years, but for now text messaging is a personal and intimate form of communication because we are only used to sharing our mobile phone number with friends and family. In my experience, customers welcome farms and a markets into this area of their lives due to the special nature of the relationship that they have with “my farmer” or “my market”
Text messaging does not replace the other marketing you are doing like social media and email. It is the last mile to getting someone down to the market. It is the last step in making sure customers carve out time in their day and make coming to the market a priority.