Many farm businesses could benefit from better marketing. A new course from IGD, with support from the NFU, Farmers Weekly and Kent Business School aims to show you how

A farm-based home delivery business in the north-west is just one example of how businesses can benefit from access to market research information.

Northern Harvest, which supplies fresh, speciality and organic foods from local producers, used IGD information to target customers better and grow the business.

The business was set up by farmer Tod Bulmer and business partner Ed Wooley more than six years ago to sell produce, initially from his own farm. The aim was to satisfy demand from discerning consumers for a broad spectrum of locally produced foods to households throughout the north-west. The business made a successful start, but attempts in the early years to use marketing and PR to win more customers had mixed results.

The business first tried a range of marketing disciplines to drive business, including employing a local PR agency to help raise awareness through a local radio campaign, expensive direct mailing, leaflet drops, advertisements in food magazines and attending food events, all of which had limited success.

But, through market research data, which included consumer profiling and geo-demographic information accessible only through an IGD initiative, the business was able to precisely target and expand its customer base.

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Although the company’s ranges were not exclusively organic, it used market research data that profiles the behaviour and lifestyles of supermarket purchasers of the top organic lines, as they appeared to be a close fit with the typical Northern Harvest customer.

These shopper profiles showed it is mainly young, affluent, finer-food and healthy shoppers who buy these products both in-store and online, and although pensioners bought fewer organic products in-store, they are a significant on-line purchaser. The data also showed the online spend per person for organic products is significantly higher than in-store.

Postcode maps of customers also allowed the company to identify hotspots where people with similar demographic profiles lived within the delivery area, which could then be targeted more effectively to drive sales.

“The postcode maps are really valuable as it is easy to identify the areas where there is a lot of potential for our business,” said Mr Wooley. “Because we are a home-delivery business, we have much greater flexibility as to where we target our customers than a retail store has. We can concentrate our marketing efforts on areas that have the greatest potential and fit into our distribution network, working on them in a planned manner, rather than taking a scattergun approach.”

The business now delivers produce from more than 80 other local producers and a large range of organic and conventional goods. The business has won several awards, including winning Best Local Retailer at the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2006.

Introduction to marketing

  • A new course from IGD with support from the NFU, Farmers Weekly and Kent Business School
  • IGD research has shown most consumers (70%) want to buy food produced in this country and almost half (49%) want to buy more than they do
  • Today’s market offers many opportunities and success can take many forms, ranging from selling directly through to growing new varieties that offer a point of difference
  • Competitive advantage can come from understanding the market and developing products that meet consumers’ needs
  • The aim is to help people understand the principles of marketing and how a marketing plan can be developed that will help increase sales

The practical course was successfully piloted in early 2008 and has been revised and updated so participants can pursue a professional qualification in marketing – the Introductory Certificate in Marketing introduced by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in 2008.

The course will be delivered by Andrew Fearne (Kent Business School) and Peter Whitehead (IGD).

Who will benefit from attending?

  • The course is aimed at farmers from all sectors and small food producers.

What will you gain by attending?

  • A practical introduction to marketing concepts
  • Information on consumer trends for your business
  • A study guide on marketing
  • Chance to pursue a professional marketing qualification
  • Learning from the experience of others

Dates and venues

  • 14 November IGD, Letchmore Heath
  • 17 November NFU, Stoneleigh Park
  • 20 November Yorkshire Regional Food Group, Tadcaster
  • 21 November Kent Business School, Canterbury
  • All courses start at 10.30am and finish at 4pm
  • Price: £49 for NFU members and FW subscribers, £99 for non-NFU members