Announcing LFM’s Newest Release, including new features to improve your cash flow!

We are excited to announce a brand new release, featuring an all new Order Log for complete order traceability, customizable Payment Terms, several new features to improve cash flow, plus a new invoice template option, and more!

Order Log – all New!

We are so excited to offer an all new Order Log and several enhancements to the Order Item Log to help you see the history of changes made to an order.  In the Order Log, the following changes including the user that made the change, are captured:

  • Order Status – including Pre-Order, Submitted, and Canceled
  • Order Date, Order Period, Sub-period changes
  • Order Item Deletions, Additions
  • Order Item Quantity, Price, or Weight Adjustments
  • Sending of Invoices and Order Confirmations

The Order Item Log has also been enhanced to more easily see previous and revised quantity, price, and weight.  In addition, we’ve added a quick link to your Mandrill email log so you can easily see if customers have received or opened order confirmations, invoices, and other order communication.

 

order-log

 

Customizable Payment Terms and Integration with Accounts Receivable Aging

Take charge of your cash flow with customizable Payment Terms – such as Net 30, Net 15, and Due Upon Receipt.  Each customer is set with default Payment Terms that automatically apply to new orders, but an individual order can be marked with different payment terms.  All unpaid orders not yet due will appear in the new  “Current” column of the Accounts Receivable Aging Report.


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We’ve also added an updated, integrated view of all unpaid orders.

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Improved Payment Application

We’ve further streamlined the application of payment to multiple orders so you have full visibility of Total Outstanding, Unapplied Payments and Unused Credits while entering payments.

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We are already deep in development of our next major release, which will feature a brand new (mobile first!) Producer Interface.  Stay tuned for more details in early winter.

Reflecting

Every once in a while, something you read stops you in your tracks and makes you reflect and really think. Does this happen to you?

A long time customer, Idaho’s Bounty Cooperative, recently wrote a letter to their stakeholders that illustrates so much of what our movement is wrestling with as we try to take steps toward long term financial sustainability. I found the letter very refreshing to read, as it very honestly communicates the need to continually evolve and the sometimes painful, unpopular decisions required to grow and become profitable.

Undoubtedly, the conversations and decisions that preceded the letter were very difficult for staff, board, and producers. Big changes are often unpleasant in the short term. Adjusting your business model and streamlining supply are hard decisions when you know your customers and producers personally. Finding the right mix of having a diversity of sales channels while not spreading your resources too thin is a very difficult balance to find in local food. Although I certainly wish that Idaho’s Bounty (and others facing similar situations) weren’t forced to make these decisions, I find it incredibly hopeful that the conversations and decisions are happening. By moving beyond the exciting, charged startup phase of local food, we can find success.

We consider it a huge honor to support our customers on their journey from startup to mature business. As LFM has evolved the last 7+ years, we have continually shifted more of our resources to providing technology that helps our customers cultivate and maintain long term, profitable relationships with their customers and producers. Since releasing our brand new shopping interface with loads of new features this spring, we have turned our energy to improving the order process, invoices, payment collection, and cash flow. We’ve had several minor releases over the summer and look for another, more substantial one in the next couple of weeks.

Want to learn more? Contact us to setup a web meeting!

Leveraging promo codes in your marketing plan

We are excited to add promo codes as one of the sales and marketing features newly available on our platform.* We’ve put together a guide for best practices for using these codes so that our customers can maximize their sales and profitability.  Before implementing promo codes, you will need to spend some time analyzing your customers, email list, and sales history to determine where promo codes will be most effective. Here are some common ways markets can use promo codes:

  1. Encourage customers to place their first order. Many food hubs have thousands of customers on their weekly email list, but receive orders from just a fraction of them. Help customers get over their first order jitters with a promo code to try your products. Consider creating an email with an included promo code to newly registered customers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis specifically aimed at encouraging them to place their first order.
  2. Better yet, encourage customers to place regular orders. Providing a promo code after the customer places 10 orders encourages repeat business and a long term relationship.
  3. Bring customers back that used to order regularly. Do you have customers that have mysteriously stopped placing orders after ordering every week? Reach out to them to see why and offer a promo code in exchange for their feedback.
  4. Encourage customers to place larger orders or try new products. The most efficient way to increase sales is to sell more to customers that are already ordering from you.  Experiment with offering codes such as $5 off for orders over a certain size or a free product for orders over a certain size.
  5. Encourage customers to tell their friends and business associates. Almost universally, the most effective way to get more customers is through your current customers. Offer referral codes after their referred customers place their first order.

Here are some best practices to help you implement promo codes successfully:

  • Be careful that you don’t overuse promo codes as you may train customers to wait for a deal before placing an order.
  • Make promo codes urgent and scarce to encourage immediate action. Be sure to make them valid for a limited time and consider allowing a code to be used a specific number of times (e.g. for the first 50 orders).
  • Get the word out! Use partner organizations and producers to help you let customers know about your offer. Some companies offer an incentive to partner organizations based on the sales that result from their network.
  • Use different codes in different marketing channels and events as a way to measure their effectiveness. For example, if you table at an event, create a specific code for that event. The promo codes will help you determine whether you want to table at the event in the future. We also recommend using different codes for various social media channels. This will help you determine where to focus your social media efforts.
  • Promo codes aren’t just for selling to consumers. If your market sells to wholesale buyers, you can use it to encourage chefs to place their first order, to encourage them to try a new product, or to help them buy more product.
  • Measure, measure, measure. Measure your sales, marketing, and profitability results before and after the promo.
    • Do you have new, “regular“ customers that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise?
    • How has average order size changed? And how does that impact profitability?
    • Has demand for a featured product increased?
    • How has the open rate changed on your weekly emails? How about engagement on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter?

Not quite sure how to get started? We have a moderated discussion on Promo Codes on our Customer Forum.

* Please note this feature is available for Standard, Premium, or Enterprise packages using LFM’s new shopping template. If you use the Starter Package, you may purchase an add-on that will include this feature. Please contact us if you wish to update your site template to take advantage of Promo codes and the other new features available on the new shopping template.

Version 4.0 – a completely updated customer shopping experience!

LFM turns 7 and releases a completely updated customer shopping experience!

As we celebrate turning 7, we are excited that LFM customer sites can implement our brand new customer shopping experience.  Here are some of the features:

  • Customer Weekly overview to see all available delivery days and all orders they have placed each week
  • Manage and edit their order throughout the ordering period
  • Edit their order from the mobile app or the web storefront
  • Promo codes
  • Single step order confirmation
  • Improved navigation with new filtering options

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

ShoppingHome

Announcing LFM’s Newest Release, Version 3.4!

Customers love LFM’s new release, Version 3.4.

We recently released the newest version of Local Food Marketplace to all of our customers with some impressive improvements to different parts of the admin interface. This release includes admin order entry, increased flexibility for managing customer order windows and distribution days, and a brand new Report engine.

Here is what a few of our customers have had to say about the newest release:

“We are grateful that LFM continues to accept feedback and make user experience and logistical improvements to the software. Seems like it’s always getting better and the new accounting reports are a great example of that!”
–Karlin Lamberto, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

“The bulk order system is great (for our sales team), and is helpful on orders of any size, actually. Also, with multiple ordering days, the new search functions allow us to more easily see what is available, when, and from which producers. The best new feature, however, is probably Product Availability, filterable and editable with a single click – very helpful!”
–Mike Seaman, Idaho’s Bounty

New Reporting Improvements

We are excited to offer all of our reports with brand new filters, all exportable to Excel, CSV, or PDF.  Our updated Financial Reports allow you to see your key revenue and cost metrics with multiple summary levels. What locations and delivery routes are most profitable?  What customer types (or customers) drive sales volume and profit?  Our financial reports provide this information at the click of a button.

 

Reporting

We are already deep in development of our next release, Version 4.0, which enhance your customers shopping experience. We will be hosting a customer only webinar on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 10am pacific to cover what you will need to do to take advantage of these newest improvements. Stay tuned for more details!

Customer Profile: Central Mass Locavore

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Photo Courtesy Central Mass Locavore

If you ask Jacki Hildreth about the genesis of her thriving business, she made the obvious analogy to a common kitchen staple. “It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion”. Jacki’s lifelong love of local food began working in her parent’s backyard garden and enjoying the bounty. In the early days of her relationship with her husband Tim, they often dreamt of one day owning their own food truck. Her husband’s two-time battle with cancer, now fully in remission, required that they put the best possible food on their family’s table. Their pursuit of healthy local food had them traveling all across Massachusetts just to pick up the best CSA box they could find. They also got plenty of encouragement from her brother in law, fresh off a once in a lifetime experience playing hockey in Switzerland, whom suggested they adopt some of the food practices he saw across Europe.

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Photo Courtesy Laura Theis-Local Food Marketplace

All of these “ingredients” combined to push Jacki and Tim towards planning and opening Central Mass Locavore; a local food home delivery service based in Westminster, Mass. They focus as much as possible on organic, local products, but also include some made with non-certified, sustainable methods. Keeping true to her roots, the storefront prominently features a weekly CSA style box, full of local, seasonal items. After speaking with a local developer who quoted them a hefty price tag to set up a shopping page, Jacki and Tim worked with our team at Local Food Marketplace to get their website and market up and running and have been working with us ever since. After beginning with nothing more than weekly boxes, they have since expanded to offer a la carte items such as eggs, prepared foods, cheeses, and meats. They offer home delivery to nearly all of their customers for the added personal touch.

When Jacki and Tim decided to jump into this venture Jacki explains that it was a “little like the blind leading the blind”. They had little to no business experience and her knowledge was based on her online research. She quickly found that between her busy family life, her career as a nurse, and the new business there wasn’t enough hours in the day to make everything happen. “Trying to get everything done in time and learning that you can’t fit 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag was one of our first revelations”. Their biggest hurdles were finding out and working through the legal paperwork and as with most small startups, capital. There were the usual setbacks, and sometimes it felt like two steps forward and then one step back. Jacki is self admittedly the risk taker in her family, and while sometimes that can be cause for alarm, she says that in this instance it was a great thing that helped them take the leap of faith. If she could pass along one piece of advice for a home business she recommends checking zoning requirements.

After operating for a few months, the team was feeling as though they were getting busier and busier, but not working smoothly. They had already run into the small bumps in the road that any new business working with small local producers encounters. “Tim would get to the farm to pick up product only to find that it wasn’t available. This gave me sometimes a 1-2 hour window to find a replacement. We quickly learned which producers would be our core suppliers that could be counted on and who were the farmers flying by the seat of their pants.” They quickly learned that local agriculture is constantly shifting, and thinking on your feet to find supply solutions is a critical part of their operation. “Nobody is dying” quickly became a mantra that their team embraced. Even their packing team of retired Corrections Officers were learning on the fly. “These guys knew what a carrot and potato was, but everything else was complete guesswork for them. You should have seen the situation with the Broccoli Romanesco.”

Central Mass 2

Photo Courtesy Central Mass Locavore

Jacki and Tim took time to re-evaluate what they were doing and at that time realized that they needed to not only add and expand their business, but use their time wiser. “You aren’t going to get more hours in the day, so you need to work smarter, not harder”. They took time to evaluate the parts of the business that were taking up a disproportionate amount of time and restructure the weeks workflow to fit them better. “We had a few customers in the beginning who were really excited, but because of our limitations, we were delivering their orders as late as 9pm. Those customers left and haven’t come back.” They reorganized their work week, added some new modules to their LFM set up, and asked for and received a lot of support from family and friends. Jacki is quick to point out that without this needed support she would have a hard time doing what they do. Today Central Mass Locavore is as busy as they have ever been and they are gearing up for a wild holiday season.

“Local Food Marketplace has been an invaluable tool for our business. We literally could not do what we do without it.” Jacki is quick to point out that LFM is not only a technology that helps her business operate, but acts as a mentor for her to ask questions and bounce ideas off of. “Working with LFM is a whole package, not just software. It is straightforward and easy to use, the personal support is there for me when I need it, no matter how small an issue is to them, they understand that it may be a big deal to us and offer help accordingly.” Jacki found the technology by looking at one of her flagship producers, Caroline Pam at the Kitchen Garden Farm, and loved how clean it looked and its ease of use from the customer side. “The price point is there, the support and tools are there, and the customer service can’t be beat.”

Jacki and Tim hope to continue to grow and add more delivery areas. They have explored wholesale sales, however it isn’t a priority right now as Jacki reiterates that their main mission is to “Bring healthy food to the people” and home delivery is where their heart is. They plan to add on to their work space over the next few months roughly doubling their storage and adding a walk in cooler. If all goes as planned, they hope to someday open a storefront and add the kitchen that they dreamt about when they were cooking together on their first few dates.

We asked Jacki for any advice she might offer to anyone who is currently planning or starting their own food business. At first she said “Remember, even when you have your doubts, keep going. Don’t give up” and then she remembered a phrase often uttered by superiors in her days as a nurse. “If you do the right thing by the customer, you can never be wrong”.

Announcing LFM’s Free Whitepaper: Avoiding Sales Around the Hub

White Paper-Selling Around the Hub

As the season winds down, are you reviewing how this year has gone for your hub and where improvements can be made? Did you experience trouble this season with a producer circumventing your hub and making sales around it? We hear on almost a daily basis the struggle that hubs face in maintaining a working relationship with their producers and avoiding the dreaded, “Sale around the hub”.

Our marketing team of Amy McCann and Ryan Crum have researched, analyzed, and written this report using input from the many hubs we work with across North America as well as their personal experience. We look at why producers may sell around the hub, what food hubs can do to avoid it, and key aspects of a producer agreement.

LFM's Guide to Avoiding Sales Around the Hub

For more information on how LFM can help your hub make the most of your sales, and grow them, contact us!

3.3_Mandrill

Announcing our newest release, Version 3.3!

We recently released our third update of 2015, Version 3.3. We are very excited to add new features to help our customers streamline processes during what is the typically the busiest time of the year. Here is a preview of the nearly three dozen feature updates:

Email Dashboard Integration

Our customers are now able to access all of their market email message history within LFM. Customers can easily see message sent status as well as whether the email has been opened for all emails sent through LFM.

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Push Message Dashboard

For our customers that use our white label mobile app, they are now able to search their push message history with information on date, number of targeted devices, and success rate.

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For current customers, if you have not received the release notes for version 3.3, check your dashboard or contact us.

Announcing LFM’s Free Whitepaper: Food Hub’s Guide on Selling to Restaurants

Photo courtesy of Three Rivers Farm Alliance and Chef Jake from The Black Birch

Photo courtesy of Three Rivers Farm Alliance and Chef Jake from The Black Birch

Does your food hub sell to restaurants, catering companies, or corporate kitchens or are you thinking about it?  Restaurants are often the first step for a food hub that is aiming for the wholesale market and they are often a key piece of a food hub reaching financial sustainability. Approaching restaurants, and chefs in particular, requires nuance and flexibility.

Our Sales & Marketing Coordinator (and former chef) Ryan Crum breaks down best practices for whom to approach, developing a marketing plan, planning for growth, and a convenient list of Do’s and Don’ts in our recently published white paper, “Food Hub’s Guide on Selling to Restaurants”.

LFM's Guide to Selling to Restaurants

For more information on how LFM can help you and your food hub service restaurants better, please contact us.