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Unit 7: Marketing Specialty Forest Crops
Assessing Markets and Consumer Behavior
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Customer Analysis

Who is Your Consumer?

The aim of marketing is to understand consumer needs, desires and motivations. In order to meet the needs of the customer, producers should conduct customer analyses.

There are two primary groups of customers; direct consumers and retailers.

Although documentation of consumer behavior in the NTFC market is not available, it is possible for the producer to conduct his or her own consumer research in order to gain a better understanding of the potential market. First, the producer may gain insight into the buying decision process of his/her customers through the following exercises:

[Consumers Image]
Consumers: radio.weblogs.com/
  1. Watch and listen as people shop
    - Observe the demographics of purchasing behavior and how they react to different products.
  2. Talk to customers
    - Developing a rapport not only creates a relationship, but it also gives you an opportunity to understand where your customer is coming from and get an idea about what kind of products they would be most interested in. Talking with your customers is also a good way to educate them about the benefits of your product.
  3. Listen to your customer
    - Rather than overwhelming your customer with information about your product, listening to your customer is a valuable tool as it provides insight into what is important to them, what they think of your product, and how it could be improved.
  4. Study your competitors products and marketing strategies
    - Observing your competitors products and marketing approach can give you valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t. Some things to pay attention to include their primary target market, product lines, product quality, packaging, service to middlemen and service to consumers.
  5. Check with trade associations and industry publications
    - While there is limited data available for NTFC markets, there are other products that fill a similar niche such as organic and gourmet products. Keeping an eye on the market trends in these niches may provide valuable marketing information.

Other methods

Understanding customer behavior can also be simplified by breaking down behavior into four basic segments:

  • demographic,
  • psychographics,
  • behavioral,
  • and geographic.

Demographic behavior involves observing the natural divisions in society created by age, gender, income, family characteristics, education, social class and occupation.

Psychographics is the observation of how customers think and react to various products. This observation is made primarily through the observation of lifestyles and personality. This is a fairly complex process and may require the assistance of a marketing professional. The behavioral segment analyzes the customers usage rate, overall knowledge, and attitude towards the product. The geographic segment concerns customer location and population density. Exploring these four segments of customer behavior will provide a clearer picture of how best to meet the demand of your customers and ultimately improve the success of your business.


Green, Sarah H, A.L. Hammett, and Shashi Kant. 2000. Non-Timber Products Marketing Systems and Market Players in Southwest Virginia: Crafts, Medicinal and Herbal, and Specialty Wood Products. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, Volume 11(3) 2000.

Kays, Jonathan and Joy Drohan. 2004. Forest Landowner’s Guide to Evaluating and Choosing a Natural Resource-Based Enterprise. Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service. Ithaca, New York.

Ochterski, Jim. 2005. Marketing Special Forest Products in New York State: A Practical Manual for Forest-Based Enterprises. Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Ithaca, New York.

Phi. Le Thi. 2005. Better Business: Market Chain Workshops. International Institute for Environment and Development Vollmers, Clyde and Stacey Vollmers. 1999. Designing Marketing Plans for Specialty Forest Products, Proceedings of the conference, North American Conference in Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry: Farming The Forest For Specialty Products. The Center For Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 175 pp.