Connoisseur Time

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?

Is it time for a 'Connoisseur Club'?

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.

Chestnuts in the husk 920

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?

Yes.

Did it work?

Yes.

--> 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?

Is it right for you?

There has to be some good reasons to start a club based around a farm retail experience.

How about:

  • You can attract connoisseurs during your quiet trading periods as they do not want to be on your farm, during your crowded periods;
  • They expect to pay more for the experience than anyone else, but also to have a premium experience they can talk about;
  • They want the "bragging" rights of being a member and getting a different experience to the rest of your customers. The various airline clubs have built on this approach very successfully;
  • They will become one of your critics, hopefully in a positive way.They tend to be bloggers and heavy users of social media;
  • You can offer unique promotions to them. I am not a believer in using your own product as the promotion.

    I have never understood loyalty schemes where regular customers get a discount EVERY time they shop with you as long as they show a loyalty card which, in reality, has become a discount card.

    Unique genuine promotions could include:

    Cooking books that recommend what you sell and are signed by the author, especially if they are locally written.

    Cooking classes based on them paying for the core ingredients. These work even better when you use a local celebrity chef as the presenter.

    Products associated with your “core” product, for example this could be an apple peeler, a special cooking utensil or other associated products.
  • You can build in offers from other retailers into your club. This could include a local kitchenware supplier or restaurant that uses your produce. The important thing is that these businesses must have the same business and customer engagement values as yours in the customer's mind;
  • You can build in promotions that are exclusive to them in your marketing campaigns. This could include exclusive farm tours to your farm or other venues that they cannot normally get access to;
  • You can produce a membership platform (or a similar) for them that is unique to them.

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?

Cheese and wine

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.

Networking Opportunity

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.

How do you Start

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.

Herbs

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.

Comments

John Stanley

John Stanley

Contributor

www.johnstanley.com.au

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'

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