Developing your Farm Marketing Strategy

It is importance to know your customer’s demographics and psychographics so that you can constantly position your products in a way that will create a positive response and lead to increased sales.  1st you need to realize that you could use more information about your customer’s needs and wants. To get that, you can design a preliminary customer survey to help you learn more about the people who buy your products.  But first you need to know what you need to find out.  Once you start, you most likely will want to continue surveying your customers over time.  You will also need to use their responses to do more research on the buying habits of people who .  After you read the surveys and do the analysis, you will need to adjust your products, promotional materials, customer service and marketing plan to respond to what you learn from the surveys.

It will be important to distinguish your farm as special in the minds of your customers.  One way that you can do that, is to communicate the story of who you are, and why your products are unique.   Appeal to the unmet psychological needs of your customers.  They seek something from the experience of dealing directly with you the farmer, otherwise they’d just buy the cheapest product at the local supermarket.  Capitalize on meeting that need for your customers.   Over time, you may want to invest in improvements to the farmstead if you sell from there, focusing on landscape design and layout that reinforces the story that you paint for your customers.  Similarly, your website and brochures as well as packaging and customer service should all reinforce the image you want to create for your customers.  The addition of some farm tourism events or offering specialized courses/workshops are opportunities to expand the farm experience, and reinforce your special story for your customers.  The uniqueness of yourselves and your products is how you distinguish your product and farm from your competitors to capture and hold customer attention and loyalty.  As a niche business, your success will largely depend on how well you hold on to customers and create loyalty.  The responses your customers  have to your questions will help you understand just what is important to them.  Use every opportunity to learn more about your customers and their choices.  You may find out that they are looking for an experience and relationship with your farm and that part of your product in their minds, is that they are helping to support an idea, the idea of a local family farm, or a healthy fresh product, beyond just buying a farm product you offer.

Investigate the local agricultural high school coop-job programs to see if you can find a student to mentor who could help with aspects of your farm or assist with other simple tasks.  You need more time, this is one way that you might be able to free up time to spend on the marketing and business growth tasks that need to be done by you, because you know your business best and have the most at stake for seeing it succeed.

Go online an review what workshops are available through agencies like your local Community Development Corporation, CISA, the Small Business Development Center, and the Franklin County Food Processing Center.  It could be helpful for you to take advantage of some of these classes on direct marketing, computer skills, internet based marketing, and using social networking sites for marketing your business.  Invest in marketing activities that will reach your customers.  You can stretch your marketing budget by investing in materials that you can do yourself.  I recommend that you listen to the whole audio book The EMyth Revisited, by Michael Gerber or read Guerilla Marketing, some of Joel Saletin’s books, or other Direct Farm Marketing books, and join farm business newsletters online.  Also review websites that will help you with your specific type of direct farm marketing strategy.  Ongoing education about running a successful farm direct marketing based business will help you understand your overall business in’s and out’s, and give you some concrete ideas on how to solve a number of common problems.  You will need new skills to continually lead your business on a path towards growth and prosperity, all businesses do.  Assign an allotted time to marketing tasks each week, it is a job that needs to get done regularly, just as critically as watering the seedlings or delivering products.

Obviously, there is still a lot of work ahead of you, but you now have more resources and a clear path to follow that will help you achieve your sales goals for the year.  If you invest time each week over the next few months in reviewing these materials, and meeting with the other resource people I recommended here, you will make significant progress on the creation of a sound marketing plan.  This plan will focus on increasing the number of customers.  You can investigate many options including starting buying clubs, getting other farms to add your unique products to their CSA memberships, and many others.  Brainstorm with others to see how many ideas you can come up with.   Then pick the most promising two to focus on for this year.  Your marketing plan will become an important tool that will help you work smarter not harder at achieving your marketing goals. Each year you will want to revisit these materials and revise your annual marketing plan. Your marketing plan should reflect changes and goals based on the previous year’s marketing experience and actual sales.  Remember to link these goals back in to your overall annual financial plan, your desired quality of life in your holistic goal, and the planned profit you have outlined for your business this year.  That will be the carrot that will keep you focused on achieving the best results that you can.