Keeping your finances organized is an important component to running your business. This week, we took a big step helping our customers do just that with the launch of our QuickBooks Sync Tool. This allows our customers to leverage Local Line’s best-in-class order management tools and seamlessly sync order data into QuickBooks without manual entry.
Here what you need-to-know:
Two systems, one customer
When a customer places an order on your Local Line store, we’ll automatically pass the order information to QuickBooks under the same customer. This allows you to keep track of key metrics like Revenue Per Customer, Average Order and Outstanding Invoices.
Invoices in an instant
No more missed invoices. Once an order comes through Local Line, an invoice can be sent to your customer right away directly from QuickBooks.
The price is right
Making sure your customers get the right product and price on their invoice is important. Our integration ensures that your Catalog prices and any changes you make are always accurately reflected in QuickBooks.
Getting new customers takes a lot of time and money, however we have a solution for you:
One way to expedite this process and get customers faster and cheaper is through referrals. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to grow your business, and the customers you already have are your “low-hanging fruit.” It doesn’t matter how many five-star ratings your products might have online because the most trusted reviews are those that come from a friend. You should be tapping into your existing customer network to generate new leads. So how do you ensure that customers will refer you to friends on your behalf? Here are a couple of tips to creating your own referral program:
1. Set your goals.
Determine what you want to get out of your referral program. Are you looking to increase your customer base by a certain percentage? Maybe your goal is to have each customer refer at least one other potential customer you can go talk to. Setting your sights on a goal will help to map out your program.
2. Choose your referrals.
Who do you want to advocate for your business? Should your program target your biggest and most reliable customers, or should it incentivize your newest and perhaps smaller customers? Maybe you want the program to be inclusive to everyone. Consider several options in order to assure which makes the most sense for you.
3. Define the program.
There are couple of features to think about. First, now that you’ve chosen who the program is available to, consider what kind of deal would incentivize them the most. Should the discount go towards select, higher end products, or should it apply to everything? Secondly, determine how the program will work. Ideally, the discount should only be activated once the referred friend has made their first purchase. Other aspects to consider is timing, such as when to implement the program and how long it should last.
4. Alert your customers.
Once you’ve created your referral program, it’s time to spread the news. Emails and social media are one of the fastest ways to inform your customers of the special discount. Other strategies could be including flyers with your deliveries or adding a link to the referral program in your email signature. With any marketing plan, it’s best to be persistent and consistent throughout the program’s entire existence to ensure it becomes known to your customers.
5. Track the program.
Monitoring your program is necessary to see if it’s working. You should be tracking who and when someone was referred, who referred them, and if the new referral made a purchase. Tracking these metrics can be helpful to improve the program if you plan on launching it again in the future.
6. Say thank you!
At this stage in the game, it’s time for some recognition. Follow up with your existing customers thanking them for their referral, and then thank your new customers for joining. Asking for customer feedback can be a nice touch, too. A little recognition goes a long way in keeping customers happy.
The end result of implementing a referral program means you’ll have established credibility and trust with potential customers much faster. When you can get them to order faster, it’s less time you’ll spend on the research, samples, and follow-ups.
Referring a friend is a win-win for everyone. Your existing customer is rewarded for their loyalty by receiving a discounted price. Your new customer is learning about your business from the most trusted source of marketing: word of mouth. And, most importantly, your business just earned a new customer from an existing one!
Local Line provides big-impact business tools for small-scale food producers
If you’re a farmer, baker, butcher or any other kind of small-scale food producer, Cole Jones understands the challenges you face. Making your product is a full-time job, but you still have to squeeze in time for attracting customers, taking orders, making deliveries and a host of other business management tasks.
As a food supplier you know there are lots of things you can’t control. One of those things is order volumes. You never know exactly how many units of product your customer is going to buy, and as a result, your earnings are at their mercy. How can you take agency of this situation to have more control over your business and your profits? Start by setting a Minimum Order Value.
A Minimum Order Value (MOV) is the lowest dollar value that you will ship to your customers. Setting a MOV guarantees a minimum profit per order, while also ensuring that the cost of distributing your product is not too high per order. How is this so? Because you can calculate the perfect MOV that is specific to the needs of your own business.
To help you calculate your own MOV, we’ve created a step-by-step guide, as well as a MOV calculator for you to use.
Step 1: Calculate your cost on the road
MOVs are based on your expenses. Take into account the total cost of your driver’s wage, gas, and maintenance frees. For this example, let’s assume your delivery costs are $80/hour.
Step 2: Calculate your margins and break even point
Next, determine how much product you need to deliver every hour to break even on your deliveries. Start by calculating your gross margins — or for every $100 of sales, establish your profit after expenses. Let’s say your margins are 25%.
You can now calculate your break even point by dividing your cost on the road by your margins: $80 / 25% = $320. This means you have to deliver $320 of product per hour to break even on your deliveries.
Step 3: Set your target profit
You know what it takes to break even on your deliveries, so now let’s set some profit goals. Let’s say you want to double your break even point. This means you would have to deliver $640 of product per hour.
The revenue made from this sale would be $160 ($640 x 25% = $160). After calculating for delivery costs ($160 – $80/hour = $80), your business would net $80 in profit.
Step 4: Determine how many deliveries you can make per hour
Knowing the number of deliveries you can make every hour is necessary to calculate your MOV. You’ll need to assess the travel distance for every city, as well as each city’s urban density. In other words, how long does it take to drive to a city and how long does it take to deliver to each customer in that city?
For this example, let’s say you can make 3 deliveries every hour.
Step 5: Calculate your Minimum Order Quantity
Finally, to calculate your MOQ, divide your hourly order volume by the number of deliveries you can make per hour: $640 / 3 = $213. This means, to net $80/hour, the smallest order at which a customer could purchase your product is $213.
Let’s take this last step further. If you’re planning to be on the road for 8 hours a day, then your load capacity needs to be $5,120 of product in order to net $80/hour ($640 x 8 hours = $5,120). As a result, your business would profit $640/day. Of course, $213 is the lowest you could sell your product to reach your goal, but you may want to round the price up to build in some extra margin.
If you’d like to calculate your own MOV with our MOV Calculator, enter your email address below and we’ll email you a copy immediately!
If you’re in the food & hospitality industry in Ontario, you probably know Flanagan Foodservice. Flanagan’s is Canada’s largest family-owned foodservice distributor, serving restaurants, institutions, and bakeries since 1977. Their story is one of service, quality, integrity, and hard work.
Today, Flanagan’s serves more than 6,000 customers across Ontario. They have three warehouses, more than 500 employees, a fleet of 80+ trucks, and list well over 10,000 products. Still, even with their Ontario-wide distribution, world-class team, and award-winning products, Flanagan’s needed to improve in one difficult area: local.
For mid-large foodservice distributors, supplying fresh local food is difficult. Logistics are complicated, as is vendor management and product pricing. For this reason, foodservice distributors tend to avoid local food procurement, but what happens when customers start to demand local food? Local food is more popular than ever but it’s basically impossible for foodservice distributors to list. For Flanagan’s, they knew the traditional model of foodservice distribution was not going to work, so they sought us out, and we built them the Flanagan Market.
The idea for the Flanagan Market started in early 2017 as a way to figure out how Flanagan’s could list all the local food their customers were asking them for. They were already listing more than 400 Ontario products in their Our Ontario program which was a good start, but they were still missing the unique, niche, and diverse selection of products their customers were hungry for.
We were able to help Flanagan’s in three ways:
The first thing we had to do was determine whether the products being sold by Local Line suppliers were a fit for what Flanagan’s needed, but with customers like Top Shelf Collection, Full of Beans, and Artisan Farms, it didn’t take us long to know that our suppliers and their products were a fit!
We built a “discover” tab in the platform so that Flanagan’s could stay up to date on which suppliers and products were available to them, and they could start conversations with anyone they wanted.
Discover local suppliers in your area
Currently, Flanagan’s has been able to find and list over 1,000 Ontario food products from three dozen Ontario suppliers, effectively more than tripling their local food offering.
Once we knew how to identify and onboard suppliers, we had to figure out how Flanagan’s customers would order. We couldn’t list the products in the traditional Flanagan’s catalog because the products weren’t being scanned, stored, and shipped from the Flanagan’s warehouse. In most cases, we thought a drop-ship approach would be the best. So, we took Local Line’s already award-winning e-commerce module, modified it, and made it usable by Flanagan’s. Now, it lists all the local products in one online store, accessible by any customer 24/7.
The main reason foodservice distributors haven’t been able to make local food work is because of distribution, so it was clear to us from the beginning that we couldn’t just warehouse products and ship them with normal Flanagan orders. Margins would be too tight, logistics would be complicated to manage, and as a result, customers would probably end up unhappy.
After conducting an analysis of customer geographies and supplier shipping options, we determined that most Local Line suppliers already ship to the major cities Flanagan’s customers are in. We also built the technology so that customers couldn’t place orders from a supplier who doesn’t deliver to them.
To make the products more accessible, over the span of two months we built out a network of third-party distributors to help ship products in hard to reach areas. Today, we work with Flanagan Market suppliers to find the right shipping partner and get them set up to ship Ontario-wide, just like Flanagan’s.
There were many other details that went into building out the Flanagan Market including invoicing, quality assurance, ensuring food safety, and commissions. All of these, however, were details in relation to the fundamental questions about how to list and distribute products. Once the model, technology, and suppliers were in place, we launched the Flanagan Market on May 29th, 2017. Today, over 400 customers are on the platform (and growing)!
Organic food is more than a 4 billion dollar industry in Canada, but it’s really only gained mainstream popularity in the last 15 years. Before that, organic food was niche and for farmers, the business case for going organic wasn’t as strong. That didn’t stop Dennis Baer, owner of Vibrant Farms from becoming certified organic more than 30 years ago. Back then, becoming organic was not a popular decision but he wanted to feed his children natural, wholesome food.
Today, more than 30 years later, Vibrant Farms continues to serve the Waterloo Region community with grass-fed, certified organic meat. After 30 years they’ve generated a big local following, and today they use social media as a way to keep in touch with customers. About 6 months ago, Vibrant Farms began searching for a more modern way to serve customers. Historically, they’d take orders via email, text, and phone calls, then they would enter invoices, accept e-transfers, and schedule pick-ups/drop-offs with customers. Their popularity was growing so quickly they needed a more sustainable process but didn’t want to lose their personal relationship with customers.
As Vibrant Farms got started with Local Line they realized it had everything that they needed; from an online store to custom price lists, from CRM to invoicing and online payments, and even inventory and email scheduling. Since launching their Local Line store, Vibrant Farms is processing 2 new orders per day and has expanded their delivery areas to serve customers in new markets.
Vibrant Farms serves hundreds of household consumers. They have multiple pick-up and drop-off locations spread across the region. Kathryn Little-McEwin, Business Manager at Vibrant Farms says,
“I like to think about where our customers are. Where are they hanging out? Where are they going? Where can I reach them in one place?”
This kind of thinking led Vibrant Farms to partner with leading naturopathic clinics and Crossfit gyms around the city, knowing that many people going there are health conscious and looking for organic meats. Today, when customers order from the Vibrant Farms online store they can select their preferred pick-up locations to accept their order. For Vibrant Farms, pick-up locations are an economical way to get products to customers, because they couldn’t deliver them all door-to-door.
They also serve wholesale customers like local restaurants. One of the reasons they love Local Line is because they can simply create a new price list and delivery schedule for their restaurants, but still track one inventory set. This eliminates manual entry time and helps process orders faster.
We asked Kathryn how farmers should go about getting new customers. Her response:
“You have to think outside of the box. Who should I be partnering with? Who should I be marketing our products to, and thinking about different ways to reach those people”
Getting Distribution Right
A couple of months ago, Vibrant Farms wanted to break into the Toronto market. They had served a small number of customers there in the past but logistical challenges prevented it from taking off. Thankfully, Vibrant Farms was able to partner up with Arrowhead Meats, another Local Line supplier who delivers beef into Toronto each week. Vibrant Farms and Arrowhead, along with a third Local Line customer, 5 Chicks and a Farmer, were able to organize a collaborative delivery system that enables Vibrant Farms to leverage pick-up locations in Toronto and serve new customers. In their first week alone, Vibrant Farms got three new customers! Without the Local Line network, Vibrant Farms wouldn’t have been able to access the Toronto market and process new orders.
Let’s get Social!
When it comes to social media, being active and integrating yourself into the online community has also proven to be a major aspect of Vibrant Farms’ success. Sharing the link to their Local Line store, offering Black Friday specials and doing pop-up shops are a few examples of how Vibrant Farms has used social media to leverage new sales and find new customers. You want your products to be as accessible as possible. Currently, there are more channels than ever where you can promote your business, all of which have a relatively low (if any) barrier to entry. So what are you waiting for? Create that twitter account, share that link on Facebook, post photos of your products and farming operations! You don’t have to share your entire life, but share aspects of it that consumers these days want to see. Pictures of you feeding the animals, finished products, your beautiful property, etc. If you need assistance with this, we can help!
The Bottom Line
As we move into 2018, Vibrant Farms now has a sustainable method of growth. They’re serving customers while serving themselves. Life is easier for customers and for them, and they’ve found a way to increase their distribution to start scaling their business.
We all want new customers, so what can we do to increase the likelihood that we close the deal?
Sales, ultimately, is about providing a product that your customer values and will pay for. In order to find out what they value, you first have to understand their needs. When you’re starting off a new relationship with a customer, the first conversation shouldn’t just be “here’s my pitch”. It needs to be about asking the customer questions that help you understand if your product fits their needs. As you know, this isn’t a one time sale. It’s a real relationship, so it’s in your best interest to ensure you’re taking on the right customers for your business.
For example, if sitting down with a potential customer ask them, “what interested you enough to give me your time today?” Try to understand if there’s anything specific they’re looking for. Ask what they don’t like about their current supplier, and what they absolutely love about their current supplier. Ask them, “In a perfect world, what would your relationship with your supplier be like?” It may seem a bit forward, but the customer should actually appreciate this level of diligence. It shows you know your business, and it tells them that if you know the right questions to ask, you’ll also likely know how to service them well. Ultimately, here are some of the things you’re looking for:
What are their product needs?
How many times will they be ordering per week or month?
What will their approximate average order be? Is that amount meaningful?
Do they agree to your payment terms?
What objections are they most likely to raise?
How do you overcome those objections and close the sale?
Who has to approve the decision before they start buying from you?
Of course, one of the first things you might want to ask is, “Do I want this customer?” Given what you’ve learned in your early conversation with them, it’s possible that they’re not a good fit for your business, and that’s ok. You can’t be all things to all people- nor should you want to. If you do want the customer, proceed to make sure you know the answers to the above questions prior to kicking off your relationship.
At the Greenbelt Fund Local Food Symposium on November 8, Flanagan Foodservice and Local Line received the Local Food Champion Award in recognition of their partnership to increase local food offerings to Flanagan Foodservice customers using Local Line’s online ordering platform. The award was presented by Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal.
Selected by the Greenbelt Fund, Local Food Champion Awards are presented to people and organizations in the agri-food sector for demonstrating leadership and innovation to create systemic change to get more Ontario food to Ontarians’ plates. Flanagan Foodservice and Local Line were recognized for their collaborative approach to increase the choice of local food products for customers by sharing the market.
Flanagan Foodservice and Local Line seized an opportunity to work collaboratively in the competitive agri-food sector. Their partnership has enabled Flanagan Foodservice customers to increase their local food orders by making Local Line’s inventory of products available on Flanagan Foodservice’s procurement platform. At the same time, Local Line has been able to expand its operations and sell to new clients through Flanagan Foodservice’s existing network.
“Flanagan Foodservice and Local Line have taken a uniquely collaborative approach that is increasing the choice available to foodservice buyers when it comes to local products” said Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund. “The Greenbelt Fund is very pleased to recognize Local Line and Flanagan Foodservice’s outstanding leadership in this area with the Local Food Champion Award.”
“We are delighted to be a recipient of the Local Food Champion award. We recognize the importance of expanding the breadth and depth of Ontario food available to our customers and are proud to collaborate with a Local Line, a technology leader in the agri-food sector,” says Pete Bozzer, Director of Procurement for Flanagan Foodservice. “Our partnership has made it easier for Ontarians to access and enjoy local Ontario food products.”
“Flanagan Foodservice shares our values in making local Ontario food more accessible and made it a priority to offer more local niche products to their customers. We are excited to provide the technology solution to make that happen,” says Cole Jones, CEO of Local Line. “We are grateful to receive the Local Food Champion award and to work with a great partner like Flanagan’s, which provided our local food supplier network with opportunities to foster new relationships through the Flanagan Market.”
“I would like to congratulate Flanagan Foodservice and Local Line on receiving a Local Food Champion Award from the Greenbelt Fund. By working together, you are developing innovative solutions that will help increase the availability of local food within the communities you serve. I salute our Local Food Champions who have gone the extra mile to help get more local food on Ontarians’ plates,” said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
The Greenbelt Fund also recognized Mohawk College for their project to increase local food sales in Ontario colleges, as well as Dan Munshaw from the City of Thunder Bay for his work in implementing local food policies at the municipal level.
About The Greenbelt Fund:
The Greenbelt Fund changes the way we eat food in Ontario. The Fund’s innovative investments get more local food onto the plates of Ontarians. We work with business, institutions, and NGOs to make Ontario’s farmers the first choice for consumers. The Fund’s work has generated a 13-fold return on our investments, permanently changed the food value chain and improved local food awareness and education around the province. As a not-for-profit, the Greenbelt Fund is supported by public and private sources. The Local Food Investment Fund is supported by the Government of Ontario.
They say one of the hardest jobs in the world is being a full-time parent. Now try looking after 4 youngsters, holding down a full-time job, and running a successful farm. Our friends, Chantal and Dave Lewington have mastered this juggling act!
When Dalew Farms first opened for business 14 years ago, the intention was to raise and sell lamb to folks in their community. But when their customers tasted the “Dalew Difference”, demand struck and so did their product variety. Today, Dalew Farms has pasture-raised lamb, cattle, and goats, all of which are grass fed & non-GMO. To keep up with rising demand, Chantal took their branding to new heights by creating a website and focusing on customer relationships.
Managing Never Ending Tasks
Early on Chantal and Dave quickly realized that the good comes with the bad when you’re a small business owner – especially on the farm. The upside for them was obvious: starting a family farm was a great way to expose their kids to new experiences and work together to help feed their community. However, when tasks pile up, it’s not always easy to find someone you can rely on to help you with your day-to-day. This is where Local Line helps!
Easy Integration with Current Website
Previously, Chantal was using Farmigo to track her website sales but still struggled with keeping on top of her inventory and coordinating delivery dates with her customers. Chantal wanted to fix this but didn’t want to rebrand her business and create a whole new website.
Enter Local Line.
With Local Line, Chantal could integrate her new online store to her existing website and gain all the inventory and delivery functionality she needed. This made it easy for her customers to place orders and for her to accept payments.
“The software is easier to use, simpler, and straightforward. It runs itself when I’m doing other things and I like the way it appears on my website; it looks very professional. To top it all off – the integration was very easy!” Chantal, Dalew Farms
Attracting New Customers
To help Chantal increase her order volumes and customer base, she’s been using Local Line’s catalog feature to reach out to new wholesalers. All she does is built a new catalog, customize it, and share it. This makes it easy for her new and existing customers to see a list of her available products with accurate pricing, inventory, and delivery info.
Saskia and Hans Sloeserwij arrived in Canada from Holland in 2008. As they adjusted to their new life in Canada, they found themselves missing the European style cheeses they grew up with. Back in Holland, Saskia and Hans created amazing cheeses using local ingredients and traditional European processes, but they couldn’t find similar products in Canada. They felt like the Canadian market lacked “authentic, traditional, European cheeses”.
In an effort to fill a gap in the market, Saskia and Hans took it upon themselves to create those cheeses that they missed so dearly, calling their new business Say Cheese.
Over the years Saskia and Hans have been getting the business off the ground. For cheese makers, this is a long, labour intensive process. They had to set up their facility, source local milk, gather proper licenses, and perfect their recipes and products. By mid-2016, Say Cheese had to figure out how to get new customers and expand the business.
“When we heard Local Line got the Premiers Award, we contacted them to tell us more about the platform. We had already heard about the concept and were convinced that the set up would work.”
Say Cheese joined Local Line in December 2016 and since then, the business has grown steadily. Today, Say Cheese is a growing brand, offering some of the best sheep’s milk Ontario has to offer. They service household, wholesale, and retail customers all across Ontario and credit Local Line as an important ingredient in their growth. Prior to starting, Say Cheese had three questions about gaining new customers:
How do I find new customers?
How do I sell new customers?
How do I service customers once I get them?
Finding New Customers
When it came to finding new customers, Local Line helped by exposing Say Cheese to a wide variety of potential customers on the Local Line marketplace. A half-day consultation helped narrow down to the niche Say Cheese was targeting. This helped identify customers with the greatest probability of placing an order. We determined that the customers most likely to purchase were independent cheese stores and independent restaurants who promote local on their menus.
Selling to New Customers
Once Say Cheese was able to identify the right customers, they had to consider what it was going to take to sell them on their cheese. We discovered that there were three important factors that influenced a customer’s decision to order:
Products: Was Say Cheese offering the right products? Did their products fit a chef’s menu? Were the products traceable and safe? Was the quality consistent?
Delivery: How often were their customers going to order the cheese? Where were the customers located? What was the minimum order?
Story: It turns out this was the most important part! Customers can market a unique story to go with high quality products, so Say Cheese had to find a way to promote her business through their story.
All of these factors are accomplished through her Local Line store. Say Cheese can inform potential customers of their products, delivery info, and share their unique story.
Servicing New Customers
Good service quickly became an important part of keeping customers. “Other than my cheese, what else do my customers need? How do I keep them happy and ordering?” Saskia learned that continuous communication is important to maintain relationships. The relationship with a customer doesn’t stop after the first meeting. It’s important to keep the customer informed of product changes, price changes, and other info that affects the relationship.
Say Cheese makes sure to send out updated product catalogs to all her customers through her Local Line store every week, effectively answering all questions her customers have about pricing, inventory, or delivery before they even need to ask. It saves her customers time and keeps them happy. Today, Say Cheese has more than 50 customers in their Local Line account!
When discussing how they use Local Line, Saskia says, “I use it as an order system; I have customers submit orders and also submit orders on behalf of them as well. This helps me track everything.” Their favourite part other than gaining new customers? The answer is simple:
“Whenever there is an issue or a question arises about how to do something on the platform, the team at Local Line is always there to take my call.”