Why Market research matters
Many upcoming farmers in Kenya make a mistake of planning their facility and learning to grow but neglect a major factor that defines their success; demand. As a small scale farmer, your greatest advantage could be your ability to satisfy demand in a local, personal way. You therefore need to conduct market research.
NB: If demand doesn’t exist, there goes your business feasibility! Try something else.
For you to understand demand, market research is critical. Market research is the process of attaining relevant information on the structure and needs of market to see if your product can match the market.
Conducting market research is one of the steps to starting a farm. It consists of two major parts: general market research and local market research. Once farmers have the information, they can match their markets to their production and use it in financial planning.
Starting with a big picture then honing in on your specific area helps you to gain an accurate view of the market, and aligning the market with your production allows you to make choices that will play out well in the future. Conduct demographic overview and then the small picture.
Strengthen your demographic overview with information on local markets. Canvass and conduct interviews. You will get info from two sources; people in charge of such markets (managers, farmers market e.t.c). The information you gather will help you with information like:
- How many customers does the market serve on a daily basis?
- What is the average purchase size?
- What are the most popular products?
There is no such thing as too much information here (unless it annoys the source of the information).
The second source of specific market information is the consumers themselves. The key information here is what current customers of the market want to be different. You are going for this information because as an upstart farmer you are in perfect position to meet such desires. You can offer better services than your competitors are giving.
You are going to be looking for answers such as:
- What does my ideal customer group want to see? Something local, organic, cheap?
- What is the main priority of my customers?
- What are my customers unhappy about that I can solve for them?
- What thought processes do my customers use to buy?
Is it better to target your ideal customers or your most realistic customers? Shoot for ideal consumers at first. When you are small you need an army of advocates. Build markets on a target group of customers so that all of your customers become your advocates that go out and sell your produce for you.
Take down information in a way that makes it easy for you to use. Maybe this means going out with a clipboard and a pen, or maybe it means using a tablet.
This is going to be important information not just for the present but also for the future and for other parts of your business as you decide on marketing strategies, content, and how to emphasize the benefits of your produce.
Schedule your market options with your production
After you are done with canvassing, you will probably have several good markets to choose from. One major deciding factor will be how the market will line up with your production. Before market makes you crazy you need to compare the following factors:
- Production Capabilities – Use the production estimates guide and the crop preferences of your target consumers to estimate how much produce you’ll be putting out. Leave a bit of a cushion in case of pest damage, scheduling mistakes, etc.
- Pricing and margins. Estimate the pricing your consumers will accept and how much of a margin you will need to take to stay in business. Information on pricing can be found in a few different places.
- Cost of serving the market. Some markets are more costly for you to serve than others. Note the cost of time and labor that you put into the market, including deliveries, maintenance of displays, etc.
- Supply and demand. Can you supply a signification portion of the demand for this market? And can the market absorb a significant portion of your production? If you only function in a very small portion of the market or if the market only functions in a very small portion of your operation, then it might not be worth the cost of serving.
All told, the above information will help you understand how well suited you are for the market. Even though you are already selling to a market, understanding it will help you move forward and make decisions, therefore it’s never too late to conduct market research. Start it today!!
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