Updated in April 2021 to include a link to another article about identifying your target market.
Raising and producing high-quality agricultural products can be extremely satisfying, but that’s only part of the equation to be a successful farmer. If you want to generate sales and revenue, you also must adopt a marketer’s mindset. While this may be unfamiliar territory for some beginning farmers, it’s easy to learn and apply the basics. Start thinking about the questions below to help you get started creating your own farm marketing plan.
What product are you marketing?
What you’re producing should determine how – and if you need to – advertise. 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 need to focus on your breakeven). But if you’re growing a niche product, marketing becomes far more critical to generating revenue. When defining and describing what you’re selling, it’s smart to consider:
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.
The customer experience.
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.
Yourself and your operation.
If you’re a new operator, 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.
Who’s buying your product?
Identifying your target market is another important consideration before you can start marketing. You’ll want to determine who is interested in what you’re selling and then learn as much as you can about those consumers. Where do they live and work? What are their interests? And what are their distinguishing demographics, such as average age and income? 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.
What’s the state of the local and online market?
Understanding the current supply and demand for your products can help you determine how much money and effort to invest into 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. Keep in mind that the laws of supply and demand change; it’s a lot easier to sell ice cream in the summer than during the winter!
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. The way you market your products and the marketing messages you use will likely be influenced by your competition, so take note!
What are the best marketing tactics for a farm business?
Your product and the target market will determine the right marketing tactics 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 and don’t overcommit yourself. For example, you’re more likely to reach a younger audience on Instagram, but consistency in engaging and posting is highly valued. If you can’t commit to being active on the platforms you choose, you won’t reap as many benefits as you could.
A good website needs to 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.
Opt for large, easy to read signage, especially if your target market is driving. Think about positioning of the sign as well – angles matter.
Consider posting flyers in high traffic areas to spread the word. Make sure they are also easy to ready and not too cluttered with text or imagery.
Paid advertising (radio, billboards, television)
You’ll likely be solicited by a number of advertising representatives to buy into paid advertising, which can be a great marketing avenue when done correctly. Whichever you decide to pursue, 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.
“Marketing can be as simple as a Facebook post about what vegetables are available that day at the farm stand or a photo or video of an animal being born on the farm,” says Pennsylvania loan officer, Andrew Stutzman. “With a little research and planning, any farmer can develop and execute a basic marketing plan.”
Getting started (And a FREE Farm Marketing Plan Template)
Developing a basic marketing plan is actually very simple. Here are some steps to get you moving in the right direction:
- Consider how best to reach your target market to determine your tactics.
- Write messages that differentiate your products, and encourage customers to buy from you.
- Plan when you’ll deliver your messages, keeping in mind that regular communication, especially on social media, is essential to building your brand.
- Execute your plan.
- Track your results so you can fine-tune your marketing efforts moving forward.
The great news is that marketing doesn’t have to cost much. Social media is free, and websites can be inexpensive to create. Costs rise with paid advertising like radio, of course, so you should carefully consider their expected return on investment before making an advertising outlay.
By creating your farm marketing plan, you develop a path to follow and more importantly, something to return to each year as your business grows and develops. Click here to download our free farm marketing plan template to get started on yours.
Already have a marketing plan? Great! It should fit seamlessly into your farm business plan as well. If you don’t have one of those yet, you can download our free business plan template as well.