Steps to Successful Farm Marketing
6. Join farm associations.
Association membership can also be a cost-effective way to market your farm and its products. Membership fees are generally modest, and benefits include newsletter subscriptions and a printed and/or web-based listing in the association’s membership directory. For Jarvis, association membership is important because it reaches his target demographic: beginning breeders.
“Association membership is definitely a part of our marketing plan for alpacas and Cormo sheep,” he explains. “Since both of these are rare and it is difficult to buy good quality breeding stock, being a member in the society puts our farm out there in front of all of the other breeders, particularly the new members who are likely just starting to build their foundation herd,” says Jarvis.
7. Attend farm-related events
Be it festivals, farmers’ markets, seminars, demonstrations or farm open houses, events provide you with an excellent opportunity to market your products in a hands-on environment. Just as some buyers aren’t comfortable buying from catalogs, some of your customers are likely to want one-on-one contact with you and your products or animals before making a purchase decision.
“Many people buy on impulse. If something appeals to them, they will buy it. They see it, really like it, buy it, and later decide what they will do with it,” says Leslie Orndorff, owner of Tintagel Farm in Glenville, Penn.
Orndorff markets most of her goat and sheep farm’s products at festivals and shows and chooses which events to attend carefully.
“Because my fiber business is geared to roving and yarn I try to go to shows that will have spinners, knitters and weavers as customers. Shows that offer classes usually generate the highest sales for me. I also like to do goat/sheep shows specifically, so that I may be able to show and sell my animals,” she says.
Having a wide variety of products and presenting them well is important, too. “I try to set up my booth so that my products are visible from the front opening,” Orndorff says. “I put like products together, always within eye and hand reach, since fiber is a visual and tactile product. Also, setting up the booth to offer a flow of traffic, not a dead end, really helps!”
Other events, like open farm days or demonstrations at the local fair can also drum up business for you. Contact your local paper and see if they’d be interested in covering what you’re doing to further increase your exposure.
8. Begin advertising.
Display advertising in a glossy magazine might not be within your budget, but perhaps a small classified ad is. Show programs and newsletters can also provide cost-effective advertising opportunities. Keep in mind that you only have a limited amount of time to catch readers’ attention, so your headline should pique their interest and make them want to read on. Always be sure to include your farm name, your phone number and your website address in any advertising you do. If you have room, also include your logo and tagline.
9. Provide good customer service.
Many times the best marketing practice is also the cheapest to implement. This is never truer than in the marketing benefit of good customer service. Good customer service doesn’t cost any more to deliver than bad customer service, but bad customer service can literally cost you your business. Whether it is standing behind a sale, answering voicemail and email promptly, or handwriting a thank-you note to put in with an order, small efforts can make a big difference!
10. Establish a marketing budget and calendar.
In your startup years, your farm marketing budget might be 5 to 10 percent of your gross sales figure, but as time goes on and word-of-mouth begins to work for you, your marketing budget might drop to 2 to 3 percent of gross sales. Creating a marketing budget and calendar for your marketing year is a good way to set goals and keep yourself on track.
If your farm business has a natural downtime (as many farms do), this is a great time to plan your marketing. You’ll have fewer distractions, less stress and will be able to come up with more creative ideas than when you’re in the height of your busy season. Marketing isn’t hard to do, it’s just easy to put off doing when it seems like a million tasks are more pressing.
If your farm business has a natural downtime (as many farms do),