Steps to Successful Farm Marketing
1. Identify your farm’s market.
If asked the question, “Who are you marketing your farm product to?” your first instinct might be to say “Anyone who will buy.” But if you put some thought into it you’ll realize the answer is much more complex. Do women or men buy more frequently from you? Are your customers young, middle-aged or retired? Do they belong to a certain ethnic group? Do your buyers tend to be of a certain income level? Do they live in a particular area or are they geographically dispersed?
If your farm already has customers, think of your best ones. Who are they and how would you describe them? If you’re just starting out and don’t have customers yet, observe your potential competitors and their customer base. By knowing who your customers or prospects are, you can increase the likelihood they will buy from you by tailoring your marketing message to their needs and desires.
Keep in mind that your target demographic might be different for the different products and services you offer. If you have a sheep farm, for instance, your breeding stock buyers may be local 4-Hers, while buyers of your organic, pasture-raised lamb might be located in a large city a few hours away, and the middle-aged female hand spinners who buy your fleeces might be spread all across the country.
2. Set your farm apart.
It’s important for any business to establish its unique selling proposition, or USP. A USP is the answer to the question, “Why should someone do business with me instead of my competition?” What unique benefits does your farm offer? Freshness, quality, personal service, rarity … these can all be part of your USP.
A good USP is a clear, simple and concise statement of the benefits you offer. Along with your product line and target demographic, your USP becomes your North Star, always guiding you even when things seem foggy and the future uncertain.
Spend some time creating your USP and write it down in a prominent spot, be it in the gardening shed, barn or office. Your USP should be kept front and center as a constant reminder of your farm’s purpose and direction.
Now that you’ve established what you’re selling, whom you’re selling it to and what makes it different, you’re ready to get down to the nitty-gritty aspects of implementing a marketing plan. Most marketing plans incorporate a variety of components. Among those you will need to consider include a logo, tagline, website, association membership, advertising, events, customer service, timing and budget.
3. Create a farm logo.
Your farm’s logo can be something as simple as your farm name in a distinctive font, or it can be more intricate and include illustrated elements that pertain to your product or farm name. A logo should project a business image based on your goals and objectives, and elicit a general feeling for your brand. For example, if you have a wildflower farm that caters to a female clientele, you may want your logo to evoke romance, using soft, natural colors (grass green, sunflower yellow, sky blue or pastels) and a more feminine font to achieve this. However, if your farm raises Percheron horses, strength and majesty represented in darker, bold colors (browns, reds, bright blue, purple, black) and a more masculine font might be more appropriate.
While you can create a farm logo on your computer that is suitable for desktop printing, if you plan on expanding your marketing efforts into packaging, professionally printed materials and signage, you might want to enlist the help of a professional graphic designer. Sign makers, embroiderers and commercial printers all have specific requirements for file format and quality that is difficult to achieve with most home or small-business software. A graphic designer can help you achieve a more polished look and will be able to provide you with the specific file formats you’ll need later on.
If you decide to have your logo professionally designed, finding the right designer is important. Do they know your business or businesses similar to yours? Do they have a style you find appealing? If you want illustrated elements in your logo, can they design these for you or are they limited to using readily available clip art?
The designer should provide you with a few versions of your logo including a high-resolution file for print use (300 dpi), a low-resolution file for web use (72 dpi) and some type of vector file format for embroidery use.
4. Write a tagline.
Ideally, your tagline should be tailored so closely to your brand that competitors can’t substitute their names in it. John Deere’s “Nothing runs like a Deere” is an excellent example of a tagline that communicates both brand and benefit.
When Gretta MacIntyre, who markets llamas, White Dorper sheep and colored Angora goats from her Firethorn Farm in western Pennsylvania, was looking for the right tagline she knew it needed to include something about her farm’s superior customer service. The winner? “Expect the Best!”
“We try very hard to do a good job with our animals,” MacIntyre explains. “That includes nutrition, veterinary care, genetics, record keeping … the whole picture. We also do a lot of customer support. We work hard so people can expect the best.”
Start your tagline brainstorming process by noticing those you see every day on TV, in magazine ads and on the radio. Think about what you want your farm brand to communicate with its tagline. Start putting ideas on paper. Don’t worry about how silly some of the ideas might seem at first, just get them on paper and the right choice will emerge.
5. Launch a website.
There’s no denying it—today’s farmer needs to be technologically savvy, and for most of us, an effective farm marketing plan includes having a website. A website is cost effective and reaches a wide number of customers. Whether you use your site as a static farm brochure to get your name out or actually sell products online, a website can help take your marketing to the next level without a huge investment.
The cost effectiveness is part of what drew Wayne Jarvis to create a website for Sixth Day Farm, his family’s diversified hobby farm in Holley, N.Y.
“We wanted a website to advertise our farm and all of the things we do here, and the Internet is such a potentially ‘big bang for the buck’ that when we had an opportunity to get a high-quality professional site at such a low price it was too good to pass up,” Jarvis says.
For Jarvis, a simple brochure-type site that introduces prospects to the farm and its animals, without getting into specifics about what is available for sale at any given time, has been enough to generate a good response.
“We have gotten many customers from our site already and if we had more animals to sell I would make a real sales list page, but we can’t keep up with the demand for animals as it is, particularly the French Angora rabbits and the Saanen dairy goats,” he says “We have already decided to be much more aggressive in our breeding program next year so that we will have more animals to sell.”
If you have patience for software and a desire to learn, there are a number of free online website platforms, such as WordPress, available that can help you develop your own website using pre-made templates. Or if you’re after a high-quality professional web presence, rather than a do-it-yourself endeavor, you can engage the services of a website designer.
Armed with the photos, text and guidance you provide, a web designer will work to incorporate these elements, along with your logo and tagline, to create a unified site that is consistent with the rest of your farm marketing efforts. Costs will vary depending on the complexity of your needs, whether you are selling products online, the completeness of the information you provide and subsequent revisions.