According to the dictionary, a "Connoisseur" is an expert judge in matters of taste. Surely, this sounds like some of your customers? If you have connoisseurs then why not create a 'Connoisseur Club' and build on the opportunity to grow advocates for your business as well as extra sales?
The good news is, Connoisseurs are not looking for cheap produce; they are looking for an experience where they can learn more about what they eat and are looking for produce that is not necessary available in their local supermarket.
If you have unique produce then you have an opportunity to develop a unique niche with this target group.
A few months ago, Linda and I had a food connoisseurs' club contact us and ask if we would show them around our sweet chestnut farm and if would we provide lunch.
They had 15 members who wanted to discover the journey around sweet chestnuts. We jumped at the chance!
We invited them to the farm along with a local vineyard owner to talk about his wine and provided a four course meal revolving around sweet chestnuts.
We introduced them to chestnut ale, chestnut ice cream and chestnut fed pork, all of which they had never tasted before.
All paid for with a premium price to every guest .
Was it stressful?
Did it work?
--> We made a handsome profit on the day and obtained 15 new farm advocates who are now promoting us to their friends and followers via social media, plus they are regularly buying product from us directly from the farm.
For a moment... forget price, forget promotions and ask yourself... Is a 'Connoisseur Club' a niche you should be looking at as part of your marketing strategy for the future?
There has to be some good reasons to start a club based around a farm retail experience.
Probably one of the main reasons to look at a connoisseur club is that the idea is is "trending" at present.
Plus, food is the main driver of these clubs.
Suppliers to the food industry such as Miele and Weber have found that these clubs are an excellent way to promote their brands, why not promote the farm in the same way?
The wine industry around the world has used this concept for number of years to sell wine by the case to connoisseur members while non members can only buy by the bottle.
On my travels, it has become clear to me that the new "wine" is "cheese" with Connoisseur Cheese Clubs appearing around the world.
One of the big opportunities is creating a networking opportunity between a group of farmers in a specific catchment area. This allows the connoisseur to "make a day of it" rather than just come to one opportunity.
This promotes the tourism aspect and gives you the opportunity to network with local, regional, national and international tourism organisations .
One of the big marketing advantages that a Connoisseur Club gives you is differentiation from the rest of the crowd. It allows you to own the "high" ground with a select group of food advocates who by nature are promoters of businesses such as yours.
Will such a club work for you?
What networks are already available to "foodies" in your catchment area and can you connect with them? You could offer an extra layer to what is being offered. In my experience they enjoy having farm connection as it provides a "back to roots" aspect to their club.
If you develop a club, I would recommend that you communicate with the club members at least one a month and organise an event every three months on the farm.
These events do not have to be always specific to what you do, for example our next meeting on our farm is with a guest workshop leader presenting a workshop entitled "Grow Your Own Drugs". This workshop will focus on how to use herbs as natures first aid kit.
So give it some thought. Consider starting a Connoisseur Club and give your customers yet another reason to positively engage with your brand.
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John Stanley is a retail consultant specialising in the farm retail sector. Based in West Australia, he is a sweet chestnut and pig farmer as well as consultant and conference speaker with clients in 35 countries. He is the author of several books in this subject, including the book 'Food Tourism... A Practical Marketing Guide'