Here is a list of considerations and questions to ask before investing in new tools for your business.
Will the costs outweigh the gains/returns? Most sales platforms charge start-up fees or keep a percentage of sales.
What is the magnitude of your sales on average? For example, if you have a CSA program that has less than 150 members, a CSA-managing platform may not be worth the investment unless you are actively working towards scaling up. However, it is important to consider that manually managing CSA subscriptions (with an Excel spreadsheet for example) will end up requiring more time and labor on your part.
What features does your farm need in an online platform or website? A free (or low-cost) website may be a better option for your farm business depending on the magnitude of your sales. Also, your farm may not need as many features as the more costly platforms offer.
Time and capacity
How much time are you able to and willing to put into updating or maintaining a website, platform, or social media site? Tools for sales and marketing require different amounts of time for updates or maintenance. For instance, you may not have enough time to update an inventory list on an online storefront on a regular basis.
Are you able to set aside an appropriate amount of time to learn a new skill? Learning a new tool requires more time and attention up front. You may need several hours to build a simple website with photos compared to several days building an online store with many different products to choose from.
Do you know how much time you spend managing customer orders and payments? Some tools can help you save time and keep organized but it is important to know where you are spending your time to assess how technology can best support your needs.
What online platforms and/or social media sites are your customers more likely to use? Getting a sense of what your customer community prefers when it comes to online sales, marketing, and communication/outreach tools can be very helpful when evaluating which tools to use.
Are your customers on social media? Your customers may not be using social media at all and may prefer receiving an e-mail newsletter with updates from your farm. If your customers are not using social media, social media shouldn’t be a priority. On the flip side, your customers may not be reading your e-mail newsletters and may prefer seeing farm updates on social media. You may get a sense of their preferences by asking them directly when you see them or by administering a survey that asks about preferred communication methods.
What audience are you trying to reach with your marketing efforts? Reaching restaurants will require a different strategy than reaching individuals for direct-to-consumer sales. Do the restaurateurs you are trying to reach use social media? How would they like to receive availability lists? Through e-mail, call, or text?
Additional questions to ask yourself
Is your long-term goal to scale up production or membership for your CSA program?
How much time are you willing to spend doing computer work on a regular basis?
Do you have anyone who can help or support you in maintaining or updating your online sales platform, website, or social media sites?
Do you have a stable internet connection where you live or work?
Are you putting too much emphasis on social media in connecting with your audience? Remember you don’t control social media platforms, but you can control an email list. In almost all scenarios it is important to have an email list to be able to directly connect with customers.
Do you have any remaining questions about whether the tools you are considering are the right fit for your small farm business? The Tech Hub is here to help! Please feel free to reach out to us to receive free one-on-one technical support.