When we think of adding value to our farm business, we tend to think of turning something we grow into something else: Pork becomes sausage, tomatoes become salsa, berries become jam. That is the definition of value adding, but there’s also a lot of value in providing a service to your customers.
Services are not products you create but rather conveniences you provide. Taxis provide a service. Parcel delivery is a service. Mechanics, pet groomers, personal shoppers, car washers—these are services. Of course, many businesses who provide value-added products also provide services—they are not mutually exclusive. A chef cooks a meal, and that’s a product, but having a server deliver it to your table, that’s a service. You pay for the meal, and then tip for the convenience.
All that to say, we farmers should consider this latter option of providing a service to compliment to any product we may already provide. How do you know what kind of service to provide? Let’s start in the obvious place: convenience.
People love convenience. It’s huge if they can accomplish a task or errand from their phone and have it brought directly to them, and people will pay for it. There is a reason Amazon is working toward drone deliveries—that will decrease the amount of time between order and delivery, which customers like.
I know drones are out of the picture for farmers for now, but can you deliver directly to your customers at their home or work? That can be a great service, and better yet, you can charge for it. Whether it’s their work or their home, it’s attractive to busy customers to be able to scratch an errand off the list. This is especially true in the summer. Where some customers may love the farmers market ritual, others may not be able to commit to being there every Saturday morning. Opening up that option could bring more money to you by giving the customer what they want. But it could also just bring in new customers.
Sometimes value adding isn’t necessarily about the short-term profit, but the long-term gain. Online ordering may be an example of this. If a customer can get in the habit of ordering from your site regularly, you may not or may not charge them much for that service, but it will help create a loyal customer. There’s certainly value in that.
There is also value in providing recipes with your CSA or market booth to accompany food. People want to eat locally, but giving them some idea of how to prepare the food you grow may enhance that experience and keep them coming back. And there are no rules that say you can’t turn your farm into a high-end product—a delivery CSA that comes with recipes and links to videos, packaged nicely? There are certainly people who would pay for that level of service.
Anyone who hopes to succeed in any business must know their customer. And if farmers can get in the habit of always thinking about how to make the experience better for the customer, then they can assure themselves more longevity as a business. Don’t overlook the value of adding a service, it may be the only value adding you ever have to do.