If you operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, think of your shareholders as your most delicate commodity — one in need of constant nurturing and care. Consider that, according to one study, CSAs must replace up to 55% of their shareholders each year.
Here are some ways to help keep your shareholders on board. Focus on quality first Even if your farm or drop-off point is located near where your members live, they’re making a special trip in their busy lives to get there. Products that resemble what they can find at the local supermarket might lessen buyers’ incentives to go out of their way. Though there’s a strong financial incentive to sell as much as possible of what you harvest, differentiating yourself from the competition and building shareholder loyalty means ensuring they get the absolute best.
Beyond the quality of your products, think about ways to enhance the overall experience — whether by sprucing up your location, educating shareholders about the products or sharing recipes and samples.
A good website should tell the story of you and your CSA, as well as offer basic information (membership, hours, pickup schedules, directions, etc.) and updates or changes based on weather or other contingencies. But don’t stop with your site. Consider using social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to reach out to current and potential shareholders.
There’s a reason referrals are among the oldest marketing tactics: They work. Even a modest incentive (some extra items at pick-up time, a credit for goods at your store or stand) can prod shareholders to spread the word on your CSA. When new members sign up, be sure to make a point of asking if someone referred them.
Involve your shareholders
As the name implies, shareholders are more than just customers; they have an inherent interest in your success. Take advantage of their interest and knowledge by seeking their opinions and suggestions on how to make the experience better. You might create an informal advisory board comprising your best and longest-standing customers. Ask them about their diets, items they would like to see added, what they love about your operation and how you could serve them better. Solicit opinions from other shareholders, too, when they pick up their produce, or survey them via email or your website. Use the off-season to adjust your practices according to the best suggestions. Taking the time to understand what’s most important to shareholders may help you build a loyal following, lower your annual turnover and add new members.
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