On June 28th, 2020, a now-deleted Facebook post stated that the local community attraction, the Sussex Farmers Market, no longer exists. The reasoning? No one knows. The group behind the market? Disappeared. Any evidence of the previous market taking place? Deleted by past management… Quite a strange combination of events, which lead our Agency Director, Johnathan Martin to bring these events up at our daily staff meeting the next morning.
Our staff meeting agenda was to discuss our internal marketing strategy, with the majority of our events being canceled we needed to find a replacement outreach and it was unanimously agreed that the farmers market would be the right summer project for us to continue in our ultraistic values along with gain media attention and community awareness for ourselves.
This case study shares the journey of our involvement in taking over the Sussex Farmers Market, along with how our marketing expertise and talented team was able to boost both attendance by customers and vendors.
The past market was quite dry – ran by a group of volunteers that lacked the professional marketing experience. You do what you can with what you have, and in this case, that wasn’t a lot. There was next to no advertising for the previous market, little to no media attention, a lack of an online presence and at the end of the day a lack of vendors, along with a lack of customers.
This is where we knew we could make a difference. Cited in our proposal to the Village of Sussex:
Being a marketing agency, our greatest strength here will be the advertising and marketing side. We will develop a website for the farmers market that allows for seamless vendor registration, along with providing the public information on attending. We will use social media – which we have already gained quite a community following and support, along with reaching out to our vast connection of media contacts.
We had no doubt that we’d be the perfect fit to take over operations of the market. However, the 1st part was getting Village of Sussex approval. After submitting revised proposals we were able to get ourselves on the agenda at a Village of Sussex board meeting. Our assigned market team of four FitTech Hosting employees attended the board meeting and were able to compel the Village of Sussex to support our market. The terms offered weren’t as gracious as we were hoping but none the less we got approval to continue.
If you’ve never attended a municipal board meeting before, especially one with an emphasis on Parks & Recreation, you might want to consider yourself lucky. The Farmer’s Market was towards the end of the agenda, so the four of us sat back and listened in on the other items. Our favorite item, general comments from the public. Watching Parks & Rec a few times, I’ve always laughed at how “silly” their board meetings are – up until the day I attended this form, and heard quite a few heated complaints from the public, quite similar to the one I previously considered comedic one below.
Working with the Village of Sussex throughout the market has felt like one of the biggest, never-ending battles we’ve had to fight – issues with billing, building access, etc. We don’t blame the village, however. We blame bureaucracy as a whole. However, the Village of Sussex’s continued support greatly contributed to the success of the market as well.
Our Marketing Efforts:
We had a matter of weeks to get vendors for the market, from when we announced the market dates to the public – we welcomed and embraced the challenge.
Valerie started compiling data of those that attended other farmers market, making sure to reach out only to those that don’t currently attend a Sunday Market along with compiling lists of farmers in the area.
Zach started pounding the phones and reaching out to those individuals, sharing how successful the market will be and that it truly is in the vendors best interest to join us.
Johnathan started hitting the pavement, visiting farms, dropping off flyers and having as many conversations as we could.
Working in the media industry for a while has allowed us to make a few connections with local press.
Valerie and Johnathan, armed with a high-vis vest, plenty of water, and unwavering ambition, started hitting the town, distributing door hangers and flyers promoting the market which was taking place that weekend.
By the end of the day, we had 500 outreaches completed, and a handful of positive conversations about the upcoming market.
A few of the people that we’ve spoke with have already heard of the new market through various means.
Throughout the summer market we ran a total of 12 campaigns, with a total individual reach of 61,436 people, and with the impressions totaling 173,331. At the end of this campaign, we generated 2,100 RSVP’s to our market and were quickly able to grow the amount of page likes to organically continue to reach our audience and generate hubbub.
One of the market weekends, we offered hot pancakes and an orange juice breakfast to encourage people to come on down and break the morning lull. Not only did this increase market attendees, but also quickly grew the organic following of our Facebook page as we requested that the attendees Like/React to the post so we have a rough headcount of who to serve. Once they react, we’re able to invite them to like the page, which has about a 39% success rate.
In addition to paid advertising, we also used local community groups to the fullest extent – using the heat of the Sussex Villagers who were upset about the market cancelation.
There’s an old saying in show business: The show must go wrong. Everything always goes wrong, and you just have to deal with it.
Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation
Right at the first market, we realized that our marketing efforts paid off and that the revamped Sussex Farmers Market is going to be a successful venture. Vendors started filling in, customers started filling in by the dozens – probably nearly 1,000 in and out throughout the day and from what I’ve been told by vendors who have been at past markets was that it was an extremely significant increase in both customers and sales. The market truly and surprisingly went off without a hitch. We received positive feedback from each vendor and many customers that attended throughout the next few weeks. Attendance did start to drop off as the months get colder, but that’s to be expected for an outdoor market.
The summer market was a trial for us – dipping our toes in the water and seeing if our marketing knowledge could really turn a previously dull and dying makers fair into a vibrant and thriving fresh community market. Our marketing efforts for the Winter market are the same as we previously listed with a much heavier emphasis on paid Facebook advertising along with detailed analytic tracking.
With the winter market, we made sure to keep track of detailed analytics – such as how many customers attended the market, the amount of vendor revenue generated, along with the busiest times of the market. Being in an enclosed environment with limited entrances allows us to track these metrics much easier than before.
We also selected market attendees at random to fill out a 6-question digital survey that measured the following criteria:
- Where did you hear about the market?
- Did you attend our previous outdoor market?
- Did you attend the previous farmers market – pre 2020 outdoor summer market?
- Have you attended this Winter Market before today?
- What was your overall satisfaction of Today’s market? (5-point scale)
- Additional Feedback
Main summary of the survey data
- 74% of the randomly polled attendees heard about our market through our Facebook advertising efforts
- Facebook advertising seems to be quite effective
- 58% of those surveyed have not attended the market in past seasons prior to our involvement
- People were unaware of the market or uninterested in the market under past management
- 42% of those surveyed have not attended our outdoor market in the summer season
- Our advertising efforts have greatly improved since running the summer market
We had a very successful summer & winter season market and I’m truly proud of our team at FitTech Hosting for the donation of staff, funding, and resources.
However, FitTech’s intention was never to permanently run the market but more so to provide the resources to get it off the ground and ensure community connectivity when we needed it the most.
FitTech will continue to focus its efforts on providing affordable web design and marketing services for small businesses. As such, we welcome anyone who wishes to take over The Sussex Fresh Market & the Sussex Farmers Market the opportunity to do so.
Thank you to all of our staff, vendors, volunteers, and most importantly our customers that made this happen!