The 2015 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo featured more than 450 exhibitors from across the country and Canada. The expo was held December 8-10 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For two and a half days, visitors were able to meet, talk and learn about companies ranging from seed companies to farm market products. Educational sessions were held throughout the expo as exhibitors and visitors heard topics about specific crops or farm market principles.

Jolene Brown

Jolene Brown

Jolene Brown, keynote speaker, kicked off the first day with high energy and motivation with her presentation, “Through the Eyes of the Customer”. The keynote brought in a packed hall which lended itself to a participatory audience.

Brown, an Iowa farmer and professional speaker, travels around the world to speak about the importance of customer service and business. She began the keynote session with one simple question, “What do the customers really want?”

Businesses can start with competitive products and services, quality results and attention and appreciation, she said.

Brown explained that customers want to feel welcome and respected, but not overwhelmed, and want to understand the business to meet their needs and solve their problems.

“Customers must buy you before they buy from you,” she said. “Value is in the eye of the purchaser, not the provider.”

Brown noted to the crowd that standards must be set in a business. Customers value standards, and “people reform to the lowest standards you tolerate.”

She finished off her session with the idea to be honest and upfront in your business marketing. People want transparency, she said.

Jay Wood

Jay Wood

Jay Wood, owner of Country Mercantile in Pasco, Washington, spoke about his experience from expanding his business and his style of direct marketing.

Wood, whose business started as a small produce stand, successfully built his business into what it is today, a full-blown store.

“If your customers want what they ask for, they are right,” he told the audience.

He noted that his business had tried multiple things such as hay rides, corn mazes and school field trips, but found that certain things worked and others didn’t. With just a little practice and trial and error, he has a successful business with two locations in Washington.

“We were just trying to provide what the customer wanted, how we could,” Wood said.