The Importance of a Farm Marketing Plan
As more farmers are striving to connect directly with customers, developing a farm marketing plan is an important part of a successful business.
Every business has a different reason for marketing, but it is essential part of any business. To sell a product, clients and customers most know about it. In a crowded market place, customers will gravitate toward products that align more with their values. Marketing is about communicating the information that sets our business apart.
Farmers may choose to use marketing techniques to differentiate their produce from similar goods on the market, or to reach new, wider, or more distant markets, all of which depend upon successful communication within the supply chain. Farmers have challenges that make a farm marketing plan especially important.
Our products are perishable, so we have to get them in front of the right products with a certain time frame. Also, customer education about differences and influences in pricing and variety is large need in marketing. This makes a proper farm marketing plan essential.
Things to Consider
What Products are You Producing?
What you are producing will dictate most of your farm marketing plan. For example, if you’re raising a commodity like grain for the local elevator, or raising poultry for an integrator, marketing from a storytelling aspect may not be that critical. In this situation, you’ll focus more on pricing, so you can make sure costs are covered. But if you’re growing a niche product, marketing becomes far more critical to generating revenue.
Describe your Products
The first step to develop a farm marketing plan is to define and describe what you’re selling. Your marketing efforts should help you build demand and distinguish your products from your competitors’. The most important thing to do is to let your customers know what’s unique about your products. Are they an unusual variety, or organic or heirloom? Many consumers are drawn to certain qualities, such as locally grown, sustainably raised or artisanal.
Think About the Customer Experience
Once you decide what you’re selling, it’ll be equally important to focus on the who. Identify your target market and learn as much as you can about the potential customers. Where do they live and work? What are their interests? Looking at their demographics, such as average age and income, so you can get a better understanding of their buying habits and limitations.
You’ll soon realize that you likely have several target groups to which you can and should market to. One group enjoys visiting the farmers market, while another drives by your roadside stand. Or, suburbanites and college students. Or, direct consumers and wholesalers. You’ll want to craft unique marketing messages for each of these target groups that speak to their preferences and habits.
If you’re selling in-person, you’re offering friendly, informed service and convenient hours. But if you’re selling to wholesalers, you’re offering flexibility and reliability in delivering your product.
Tell Your Story
If you’re new to the market space, you’ll need to do more marketing to let people know about you. Your story, including your history, farming practices, community involvement and social responsibility efforts, can be incorporated into your marketing messages so your customers can feel good about supporting you.
Look at Competition
Looking at the current supply and demand for your area will help you determine how much to invest in marketing. If there’s high demand and low supply, simply letting customers know you have what they’re looking for may be sufficient. If there’s an abundant supply or low demand, you’ll need to put more effort into your marketing. Remember the laws of supply and demand change; it’s a lot easier to sell ice cream in the summer.
The competitive landscape also impacts your marketing efforts and messages. You may be competing against other local producers, but you could also be competing with wholesalers, grocery stores, a community-supported agricultural group or even web-based companies. It’s important that your messages connect with your ideal customer and your marketing channels reflect their habits and preferences to make it easy for them to find your product. This will help set you apart from the competition.
Marketing Channels to Consider
Your product and the target market will determine the right marketing channels to use. For example, if you have a farm stand and drive-by traffic is your target market, you’ll want great signage that is easy to read from the road quickly. Other great channels include:
When determining which social media platforms to use, do your research on what the typical user is on that platform. For example, you’re more likely to reach a younger audience on Instagram, but consistency in engaging and posting is highly valued. Consistency is important, so you can’t commit to being active on the platforms, then you might not see many benefits.
A good website needs to tell your story, educate your consumer on the product itself and how to purchase your product. At bare minimum, you’ll want to include contact information, hours of operation, and anything else that will help them purchase your goods. If you have a product that requires education, like a unique vegetable, a website is a great place to host recipes on how to use it.
Signs will tell customers who you are. At a farmers market, or even farm stands, signage is extremely important. Opt for large, easy to read signage, especially if your target market is driving. Think about positioning of the sign as well – angles matter.
Flyers can help bring awareness to your brand. It’s relatively low cost, and you have a lot of flexibility about where you post. Make sure they are also easy to ready and not too cluttered with text or imagery.
A lot of marketing is simply about education and spending the time to be consistent and you will grow a customer base overtime. However, if you want to reach a broader audience in a shorter time, you can look into paid advertising through radio, TV, billboards, etc. These can be great marketing when done correctly, but do you research and ask questions. Make sure to ask your rep about the best practices to run campaigns and measure success. They should be able to give you marketing advice to help you see results and if they can’t, you need to look for a more knowledgeable rep.
Please leave a comment with your favorite marketing channels and ideas
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