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26-03-2010, 00:06   #1
BlackEdelweiss
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Cold calling/Door to Door Fresh Food Business

My business idea is to sell a single type of good quality, affordably priced, freshly made food product. I believe the idea is good but I am struggling to think of an effective point of transaction.
Farmers markets are part of the plan but I dont think they will be enough. I also want to avoid the hassle of selling to shops etc although if the situation arises I will not refuse.
I was thinking about selling my product door to door during the day, cold calling at first but hopefully at some stage building up enough repeat customers to give me a semi regular income. It would basically be the ice cream van model of selling except I would be selling a quality product, backed up by a lot of local marketing and hopefully word of mouth.

I am struggling with this idea, it could work or it could be a complete disaster.
Has anybody any views on this method?
Would you buy food from someone at your door?
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26-03-2010, 00:33   #2
newfrontier
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Honestly the answer is no, but the farmers markets would be more appealing.
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26-03-2010, 00:44   #3
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Personally hate cold callers.
Went from being polite - rude - and waiting to see what the next stage is. Cannot stop the gits.

What about something along the lines of the stalls we see for the Wexford strawberries - say a different area each day - but the same area each week on that day. Advertise on notice boards in supermarkets... or flyers thru the doors in those areas. Also include on the flyers a number to call for deliveries of certain products if they miss you in the area. Web address with details of where you grow - types of pesticide, types/seasonality of product and price ranges... Even encourage repeat trade with club cards that get stamped - you know like in some coffee stores.

Make yourself noticeable - bright colours - large clear signs. Clean stall, clothes etc.

Even talk to some of the healthfood stores and see if they will buy direct or allow you to advertise in their stores?
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26-03-2010, 09:36   #4
BlackEdelweiss
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Originally Posted by Taltos View Post
Personally hate cold callers.
Went from being polite - rude - and waiting to see what the next stage is. Cannot stop the gits.

What about something along the lines of the stalls we see for the Wexford strawberries - say a different area each day - but the same area each week on that day. Advertise on notice boards in supermarkets... or flyers thru the doors in those areas. Also include on the flyers a number to call for deliveries of certain products if they miss you in the area. Web address with details of where you grow - types of pesticide, types/seasonality of product and price ranges... Even encourage repeat trade with club cards that get stamped - you know like in some coffee stores.

Make yourself noticeable - bright colours - large clear signs. Clean stall, clothes etc.

Even talk to some of the healthfood stores and see if they will buy direct or allow you to advertise in their stores?
I agree with what you are saying here, I had a previous post on this forum looking for information about becoming a roadside trader but got no replies. I have been checking out good roadside spots everytime I leave the town boundaries to see where would be a good pitch. I would put alot into marketing and getting my product visible but I think I would need more than just the roadside and the markets.
Do these roadside sellers get a lot of business, I dont know any so I cant ask them, I suppose I could stop and talk to a few but I think they might be a bit suspicious of my intentions. My plan was to set up in a spot beside one of these veg stalls/vans and when people stopped to avail of their services they might also buy my product. I would not be in any kind of direct competition with them, if anything it could benefit them if people stopped to buy my product and ended up buying something from them aswell.
I know everyone hates cold calling but I thought if I could sell 20 or 30 products a day like this I would be flying. Everybody hates them but some people do buy from them, I bought a €90 painting from an Israeli girl one night that I dident need, I'm sure I could sell a few of my product. I would be hoping that 6 months down the line that I would need very little cold calling anymore and hopefully have built up a bit of repeat custom.

I would still love to hear what others think and I'm not just looking for yes answers, just honest ones.
Thanks.
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26-03-2010, 10:20   #5
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I think the world of sales and marketing has really moved on. Uninvited callers are no longer welcome in our culture from what I can see. Direct marketing in its many forms is really where things are at now. If your item is small-ticket and low margin (i.e., you're making less than 20 or 30 euros per sale) I'd be surprised if it would have any chance of being effective. For one salesman to make 20 or 30 door-to-door sales per day would be impressive.

In the UK, the answer would be a lot easier. You would work with a company (for example a magazine) that already had customers in the particular postcodes where you operate, with demographics that are of interest to you. You can do this there on a fairly small scale. But here, the facility isn't really available, that I know of. You can do leaflet drops, but it's not great.

There are companies that do vegetable deliveries on a regular basis. It is a small, niche business, but maybe there is something to it. It is worth looking at.

Farmer's markets? Sure, if you are trying to reach the sort of people who go to farmer's markets. Getting repeat, direct business out of farmer's markets? I don't know of companies that have succeeded at this, but I suppose it is possible.

You do have to have a hard look at all the legal issues, separately from marketing and sales. For instance, it is basically illegal to sell goods on the roadside, without a lot of permits. Also, we're assuming you've got all the right hygiene facilities for a food business. It's a substantial investment, for sure. If you want to do something small-scale and informal maybe a different approach will work, but you will really need to build the thing up through family and friends and contacts.

Could you get someone else to sell your product on their stall at a farmer's market and see how that goes?
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26-03-2010, 12:08   #6
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Like taltos below I believe you should establish a web presence. IMHO this should be established first and then become part of your branding and included on flyers/business cards etc. Lots of people claim to have a quality products and consumers have no way of telling whether the product is quality or not without purchasing. A web presence would ease some of the fears as like taltos said you can state where you grow - types of pesticide, types/seasonality of product and price ranges, basically selling the idea of your product.

Now onto your question I guess. Farmers markets are agiven, but there are other areas which should be given consideration such as actual markets, notably cattle marts . I dont know where you live, but in my local area you can set up at these marts for a fee per day, not extortionate, maybe €20 per stall (you might need some license to sell food etc, I don't know enough about it and am not involved so this is only my opinion really). Over the course of a week you could have your product displayed/sold in maybe 5 different areas of your locality. Word of mouth helps enormously here, build a good rep and sales should increase!

The other question is whether the goods are perishable? It might be giving too much away but what type of food is it? Healthy? Wholesome? I ask because you could do the lunchtime run. Advertise your product at any campus, technology park, cluster of work spaces and provide samples if necessary. Again like taltos said club cards that get stamped would be ideal here, repeat business. First one free, take a club card too, next 3 20% off etc. Make sure your web domain is on your club card mind.

Linked to the above would be the school run, depending on whether your product is applicable of course, you could run offers, family packs etc, 3 for 2, 5 for 4, or my fave 2 for price of 3 lol.

To answer your question re cold calling, no I personally hate them. Drop an insert in the post maybe, do not call to my house uninvited offering something I have no interest in. I would love to see the stats for cold calling to actual sustained sales ratio?

Hope any of this helps and I hope I have not missed the point completely
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26-03-2010, 12:50   #7
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Door to Door

Hi OP,

A couple of years ago , we used to buy par cooked frozen "gourmet" seafood and chickenproducts from a sales person who called each month . You bought the product in bulk for your freezer and a box might contain 24 serivngs. The quality was ecellent and it was good value but unfortuanetly they stopped calling (might have been unsuccessful) . To answer your question I think done in the right manner with the right product it could work. yes have an online presence , yes use the farmers market but don't rule it out as a potential revenue stream just yet , do some market research .
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26-03-2010, 14:22   #8
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I know what you mean about the cold callers, I usually dont give them much time as they usually call during dinner time or kids bed time. I was hoping to call during the day when things are often less stressfull in the home. Dont get me wrong, I know being at home minding kids all day can be even more stressful than working, I have done it myself for long periods of time but I think aswell I would have had more time for someone calling to my door selling something, even if it were only to engage in a bit of adult conversation for a few minutes. There are also a lot of people on the dole now who would be at home during the day.
The cold calling would only take place perhaps once a month, if even and only after a good leaflet drop and some newspaper advertising to get the product name in peoples heads already. The cold calling would be a useful way of informing interested people about the product, the ingredients etc, if people were not interested that is all they have to say and I never need to call again. If they do show interest then we can work from there. I think it would be a good way to develop a rapport with my customers.
I would expect my product to cost no more than €5 so it is no big sell, and good value at that.
I remember somebody selling frozen seafood years ago, my mother bought a big bag of king prawns or something like that, great if you had a box freezer.
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26-03-2010, 14:30   #9
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There's a couple of issues with door to door sales. During the day a lot of houses are empty so a lot of your time will be wasted at locked doors, very disheartening.

If you are shifting a fair amount of lowish priced product you will most likely be dealing in cash only. You have a serious security/personal safety issue there and you may find insurance non-existant.
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26-03-2010, 14:50   #10
BlackEdelweiss
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If you are shifting a fair amount of lowish priced product you will most likely be dealing in cash only. You have a serious security/personal safety issue there and you may find insurance non-existant.
Most food suppliers to restaurants are working on COD only these days, very few are working on credit anymore so they would be under the same pressure.Also, veg stalls outside supermarkets and fish vans would also be cash only and they must have some kind of insurance.
A taxi would probably carry more cash than I would ever have on me at any one time.
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26-03-2010, 16:11   #11
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I personally buy my fruit and veg from a guy that calls round weekly and am more than happy to support him. I think its going back a little to where we were 20 years ago when things like this were commonplace. The idea of being able in some small way to support a local business and buy local produce whilst getting a decent service appeals. If your product is nice, good value then yes go door to door and build up a regular clientele. If you can get a few people in each area then it makes calling worthwhile and you build up a regular weekly round.

However one major thing you may have to consider if you are selling "freshly made foodstuffs" is the whole area of Safety and Hygiene.

I wouldn't waste 5 cents building a website presence-spend that money on diesel instead and see if people actually want your product or not.
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26-03-2010, 16:24   #12
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I think everyone is going off topic a little here maybe.

The original question was whether one would buy at the door.

In general yes people would buy at the door but not enough people will buy to make door to door viable imo. Other avenues would be more sustainable first, get product awareness through word of mouth etc, and then try door to door.

Off topic a little but I could not disagree with D.W. anymore in relation to use of a website. I think it a necessity for a venture like this.
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26-03-2010, 16:49   #13
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Off topic a little but I could not disagree with D.W. anymore in relation to use of a website. I think it a necessity for a venture like this.
Nellyshark for the life of me I can't possibly see how a website could add one iota of business to someone selling a door to door or side of the road perishable product. The OP is not talking about an E commerce venture-he is talking about door to door sales. Nobody would order a pot of homemade jam or whatever he intends selling online IMO so his time and money would be far better spent at ground level so to speak. Don't get me wrong I am all for people having a website presence, utilising the internet to generate leads, sales etc.. BUT only if its worthwhile and in this case from the information given its just not worthwhile at all.
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26-03-2010, 17:28   #14
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BUT only if its worthwhile and in this case from the information given its just not worthwhile at all.
I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this aspect.

The ratio of sales to the number of doors knocked on is going to be very small. Without statistics I cant argue an actual amount. I will give an example. Say you take a housing estate of 100 houses. We will say two hours to cover all 100 houses. How many of these houses are going to a) be occupied b)answer the door at any one time? 100%? 75%? 50%? 25? 0%? Obviously this is going to be dependent on the time of day that the OP calls, but I would imagine somewhere just over 50% would be the max (I don't have stats, don't abuse me). That means that the remainder have never heard of the OP's product. Unless the OP returns and contacts those house then a potential lead is lost. Now instead of ignoring these houses that the OP simply placed an insert/flyer directly through the of these houses and indeed the houses OP has had direct contact with. Product awareness!

Info on the product, business, other aspects and of course contact details. On the website the OP should have delivery routes and dates. The user is aware of the product and the delivery service and had contact details of the OP to place an order. Nothing about online sales, just cold hard information. Of course the OP could have a booking system but thats above and beyond the scope of the argument. Maybe 90% of inserts will be binned but 10% will have been made aware of the product.

D.W. You mention roadside selling of perishable goods. Again I would love to see statistics of this, I imagine 20% of road traffic stopping would be a generous amount. Take a national road, without statistics I cannot comment but opinionate, but image 100 road users per hour, 20 stop, 80 drive by. Now, what if the OP has a very clear sign with the myjam.ie domain. Similar to the door to door suggestion above, it is generating awareness. Again the website has all the info mentioned above. Possible sales which would have otherwise been lost.

No mention of any eCom site and all the above can be done relatively cheaply. Im baffled if you still think it is unnecessary and more importantly if the OP thinks it is unnecessary. Its vital as far as I am concerned
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26-03-2010, 17:32   #15
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Hi,
Thanks for all the replies so far, this kind of discussion is giving me alot to think about, none of it off topic at all. I appreciate every bit of advice or every different take on my idea.
I would probably go for a website mainly because I used to do a bit of web design so i can knock up my own web site for nothing. As for food hygiene, I am a qualified chef and have done the HACCP Management course, I would be working out of an existing restaurant kitchen so I am covered there.
Thanks again everybody, any further comments are welcome, this discussion is invaluable to me at the stage I am at now.
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