How to keep your consumers close as you grow

I’ve just finished reading ‘A book about innocent’ this week (inspiring stuff, I can highly recommend it!); it’s got me thinking about just how important that relationship with your consumers really is.

For those of you trading at farmer’s markets, festivals and fairs, it may seem  impossible to imagine not knowing who your customers are and what they like about your food. After all, you are seeing them face to face and hearing their thoughts week in week out.

But as your business grows, maintaining that closeness to them – especially when there is a retailer in the middle of the deal – can become a little trickier.

For some, the fear of detaching themselves from that relationship is enough to put them off taking the next step to growing their business.

But the fact is, unless you’ve invented a potion to put you in 6 places at once (please share it if you have, we could do with a dose!), stepping up to retail is the only way to really move your foodie business onto the next level.

And keeping that consumer closeness does get a little trickier. But it is far from impossible.

As innocent have proven, that relationship can continue on a very large scale; as of today, they have over 235,000 Facebook followers and hundreds of thousands of ‘family’ members receiving their newsletters, to name just a couple of examples.

Through being open and available to any visitor (literally – anyone can walk in off the street to say hi), having a dedicated ‘banana phone’ for customer calls, using their packs as a way to communicate, asking for feedback through their blog, running regular events and involving their customers in decisions about the future of the business, they have managed to achieve a closeness that few large businesses succeed in maintaining as they grow.

And the fabulous fact is, there’s nothing stopping any small foodie business from applying the same approach.

With a well thought out strategy for using every medium available to you to talk to your customers (face to face, on pack, social media, your website, your point of sale material, emails, etc) – and being consistent in the tone you use throughout – it IS possible to keep that relationship alive.

How have you coped with this dilemma?

We’d love to hear from those of you who have made the transition to retail and are keeping your consumer relationship alive! Please post a comment below…there’ll be a FREE copy of the innocent book in the post to whoever posts the best idea!