Rapid Market Assessment (RMA) is a simple tool that markets can use to take a snapshot of a given market day. To be most effective, it is best to plan regular RMAs throughout the market season; however, even just conducting the assessment once will collect a lot of information about customer habits and perceptions, market successes and challenges, and areas of the market that can be improved.
The full RMA consists of three components, which can be done together or individually:
- Customer Counts — All incoming customers are counted for 10 minutes every hour. This number is then multiplied by 6 (to give an estimate of total customers in an hour) and then by the number of hours of the market (to give an estimate of total customers over the course of the market)
- Dot Survey — The Dot Survey is a tactile, interactive way of collecting information about perceptions, preferences, and habits from market customers. Four survey questions are displayed on large easel paper, and customers are given dot stickers to place on their answers to the questions. Unlike many surveys, Dot Surveys tend to be very popular, with customers asking, “Can I do the dots?” Download 'Did You Do the Dots?' signs to be printed and posted around the market.
Market Evaluation — One of the best parts of the RMA is partnering with another market. Partner markets can help count customers and make general market observations from and educated but neutral point of view. Typically, partner markets will exchange 3-5 market representatives (including managers, board members, and vendors) who take time to walk through the market and make observations about customer activity, market infrastructure and flow, vendor booths, management techniques, etc. Download the Market Evaluation Template. Finally, the information from the Customer Counts, Dot Surveys, and Market Evaluations are compiled into a report that can be shared with the manager, board, and market membership. The report provides critical information about the current status of the market and opportunities for improving market feel, vendor sales, and customer engagements. Download RMA Report Template.
General Rapid Market Assessment Documents
These documents provide an overview and best practices for conducting RMA.
- How to Gather Market Information – by Zachary Lyons for Growing for Market (Feb 2007)
- A Learning Approach to Strengthening Farmers’ Markets – by Larry Lev and Gary Stephenson for Oregon Small Farms Report (Aug 2002)
- Tools for Rapid Market Assessments – by Larry Lev, Linda Brewer, and Gary Stephenson for Oregon Small Farms Report (Dec 2004); (Includes best practices and sample Dot Survey questions)
NOFA-VT has other tools and resources (including tally counters) that are available to your market. For more information about these resources, contact the farmers’ market program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-434-4122.