Bringing Good Ideas To Market

Zeroing in on what really sells

My business is plants.

Edible plant parts, vegetables, comprise the majority of that business. My production is quite small. I mostly specialize in microgreens, and have branched out into edible wild plants, baby lettuce, and recently a lot of garlic.

I posted snapshots from my farmer’s market experiments recently, where the emphasis — on center-stage — is on my microgreens. But unexpectedly, I’ve noticed that my garlic has been consistently upstaging my microgreens in average sales.

So, today, I made yet another “continuous lean garlic improvement”, and gave the up-and-coming young star a chance to prove themselves. I moved garlic into the place of honor.

Here’s a comparison with last week’s incarnation, just as a refresher:

What I saw with this old set-up, was that people’s eyes go first to the painted words on the easel, and lingered there trying to decipher my pricing. Now, I’ve removed one of the complications (too much information) and re-focused their attention to the center of the table where my “star” product is, the garlic. Their eyes get sucked in by the letters, and then they’re trapped and have to meet my gaze, or look around at other stuff on the table.

And what is the other stuff on the table?

The garlic has its own announcement, but everything else is purposely mysterious, yet at the same time intriguing.

It gives me a conversation opener. I can just simply tell people what things are, and in the description convey my own excitement about the products, and gauge their potential interest.

So what is the other stuff on the table?

I won’t keep you in suspense anymore.

Here’s a close-up of my preparation:

Can you tell what it is yet?

It’s dried mixed herbs, both wild and cultivated, for an herbal tea or tisane. Ingredients include:

  • Mugwort
  • Catnip
  • Wild mint
  • Yarrow
  • Agastache (anise-hyssop)
  • Pineappleweed
  • Chamomile

Everything was dried on an interior drying rack inside of a dark garage. Packaged, each sachet weighs 15g and looks like this with my newly purchased bags:

The “first draft” name was something like “Tisane Sauvage Relaxation” (Wild Relaxation Tea) — and I know this formula works because we consistently use some variation of it at our house. But I thought of a better French name for it, “Détente Sauvage”. Maybe you remember this word détente from history:

After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the two superpowers agreed to install a direct hotline between Washington D.C. and Moscow (the so-called red telephone), enabling leaders of both countries to quickly interact with each other in a time of urgency, and reduce the chances that future crises could escalate into an all-out war.

This description fits very well with the soothing sensations of “Détente Sauvage” herbal tea — it helps your body (and mind) prevent “all-out war” by re-linking you with natural essences.

I sold two of these herbal blends at $5 each today in short order. In fact, my first biggest purchase happened within 2 minutes of getting set up: they bought garlic, tisane and the new microgreens packaging for $13 total.

The old microgreens you can see in the “before” picture above. Hard shell transparent PLA plastic containers, 5 oz. volume (30g by weight).

I realized by watching people’s behavior that when all the boxes are laid out side-by-side that they all look the same. They get confused.

People can’t make them out because they can’t see enough of the product below the ticket.

So I wanted to re-focus attention on the product, while simultaneously finding a cheaper packing option that will hold greater quantities.

This example is a weighty little (big) bag of microgreens totally 140g (less the weight of the bag). I’m selling these for five dollars, and a smaller quantity (approximately half) for $3.

And my presentation is still in evolution. It’s now in a bowl with water inside, to help keep them fresher longer (by lowering temperature without the need for refrigeration).

My bowl needs a little work, but I think this new presentation puts the focus back onto the product contained within, rather than the ticket, and beefs up significantly the weight of the potential purchase. My rapid first sale tells me I’m on the right track, but I will have to run this through Six Sigma a couple more times before it’s perfect…

All told tonight, between 4:30 and 6:00pm, I made $25. We are on the right track.

And this is new as of tonight. I sewed the bag myself last week as a prototype (not bad for my first real sewing attempt ever, if you ask me), and then hand-painted the logo & lettering tonight.

Needs a little work still, but it’s a good working proof-of-concept, and I will test it out tomorrow at a price tag of $15. If I can manage to sell the first one, I will make dozens more. They are a snap to make, and once I work out maybe a bit of a guide or template for the lettering, it will be possible to put them together in short order with minimal errors — all while retaining a genuine hand-made look and spirit.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I read it first, but that person was right: when you’re running a farmer’s market table, you want to increase the value of every sale you make. Instead of a bunch of $1 or $2 sales, you want to start with $5, and give people easy options to rapidly go up to $10 or $20. Because making $20 in one shot is literally ten times easier than making ten sales at $2. You only need one buyer and one interaction to make one $20 sale — but your products have to support it, of course — whereas you’d need to run through your whole song and dance ten times to make the same value of sales. It’s a no-brainer that it’s better like this, and the key is to make your products all inter-linking and supportive of one another.

If you buy a $5 bag of tea, but you’ve got a $20 bill burning a hole in your tourist pocket, aren’t you going to be tempted to put that $5 bag of tea into a $15 hand-made unbleached cotton canvas bag?

Pro-Tip: The other benefits of my tea option are that (1) it doesn’t go bad, so I can bring it to market until I sell it with no degradation in quality, and (2) tourists who aren’t able or willing to buy fresh vegetables because they’re staying in hotels and eating in restaurants now have something to buy that is more suited to their semi-nomadic temporary vacationer existence. Everybody’s happy.

And just for fun, a context shot of everything I produced today, including lacto-fermented pickles and eggs (neither of which I brought to market):

I’m proud of this. This is something real.