Finding new customers is one of the hardest parts of running a community supported agriculture program—sometimes it’s even harder than the farming itself. That is why every customer you get should be cherished not just as a current client, but a prospective one as well. Welcome to the world of customer retention.
Keeping you customers coming back year after year is critical to running a successful CSA program. Customer retention is crucial, because returning customers ease a lot of pressure on marketing efforts, allowing you to concentrate more on the farming (and perhaps getting some rest in the winter when most other farmers are doing their marketing). That is why it is so important that farmers concentrate on the little things that make a CSA special for the amazing people who already support you—the details that make them feel special, and build your relationship.
I can’t emphasize enough that if you want people to continue buying into your CSA, it is critical to help them navigate it. Even experienced cooks will appreciate the extra effort of providing a simple recipe or kitchen tip every week with their share of the harvest (if not fully teaching them to cook). Not a cook yourself? The internet will help you learn. Really dedicate yourself to learning to cook, and your effort will pay back in market sales and relationship building with your CSA.
Give Storage Advice
Far and away the customer questions we have received most as CSA farmers have been less about what to do with this or that item and more about how to simply keep it from going bad. Do tomatoes go in the fridge? What about herbs? Provide some guidance in this way and your customers will enjoy your food that much more. It seems like a simple thing, but it’s a great tool in customer retention.
Ask Customers Questions
Engage with your customers whenever you can. “Did you like that new kale last week?” “How about the kohlrabi—do you think we should keep growing it?” This will make your customer a bigger part of the decision making process and help them feel they’re playing a larger role in the food they receive.
Discuss The Future Of The Farm
Allowing clients to help you shape the future of the farm is a great way to engage with CSA customers in a longer-term way and also a great tool for customer retention. If they seem like they want more fruit, tell them how you are putting it in the plans, talk about where the orchards are going, how many blueberry plants you’ve put in. I like to emphasize to our shareholders that “this is your farm,” so they can feel like they are a part of the operation, and ultimately see their choices take shape over the years. But you have to follow through, as well. Really take their opinions to heart.
Respond To Emails & Comments
Again, customer retention is about the details. As busy farmers, we don’t always succeed at this, but even when a bit of communication doesn’t absolutely require a response, sending a simple “Thank you so much,” to confirm you read a message or Facebook comment and appreciate it, will show them you care.
Create A Facebook Group
Creating a Facebook group for your CSA helps to active members interact with one another and share recipes, thus forming another means of customer retention. It’s also an excellent way for you to see how the food is being used, answer questions, share photos of the farm and directly communicate with the shareholders. If you want to engage with them more, but don’t see them often, social media in general is a great way to accomplish that.
Invite Them To The Farm
Few things help build a customers attachment to the farm like spending some time there. Have your customers visit once or twice a year to see how the farm operates and show them around. This will give you some good time to speak with them, and it will provide them some good time to grow fond of where their food comes from and the people who grow it.