WARNING: This will not be your typical article about small farm marketing. In fact, I'm going to turn the typical advice on it's head and show you the reality of competing for market share as a small operator.
Let's start by establishing a few fundamental facts about small farm marketing. This will set the stage for everything that follows.
Fundamental Fact #1. You can ONLY compete on PRICE or QUALITY. My experience over the last couple decades has been that 'Quality' is the better choice for the small operator.
It's tough for the small-scale grower to compete in a commodity market; there is almost always someone willing to sell for a few cents less than you charge. So you can match their price and lose profit, or don't match their price and lose sales. Competing on 'Price' is a mug's game.
Fundamental Fact #2. 'Quality' is decided by your customers. Quality is in fact a perception in the mind of your target market. You can influence that perception with appropriate messaging.
Fundamental Fact #3. 'Buying' is an emotional response, NOT a logical one. Which is why the vast multi-billion dollar advertising industry targets 'wants' not 'needs. Nobody NEEDS an iPhone.
With these facts established, let's look at how to build your small farm marketing plan.
In "First Things First" Stephen Covey wrote about the 'Passion of Vision'.
'When you have a vision that is based in principles, addresses your human needs, uses your human endowments, and envelopes all roles and aspects of your life, it sparks a passion inside you that is a powerful motivating force'.
Why is this important to your small farm marketing plan? Because people buy passion (Fundamental Fact #3) not just products; and to successfully compete on quality and value, (not price - Fundamental Fact #1) you need to communicate the passion you have for your business and your products (and by extension, your life).
So, how does that translate into the marketing messages you need to reach your preferred customers?
You have probably seen small farm marketing articles that start out talking about advertising, or building a website or creating an email list.
But that's not where you start; (I told you I was going to turn this thing on it's head!) Those are media; what's important is crafting a powerful, consistent message that conveys who you are and what you do, and why that makes you a good person to do business with.
That messaging starts with your Mission Statement.
So at this point you might be asking, 'Is all this really necessary just to sell some stuff from my farm'?
Here's the bottom line: people buy from people they know and like (hence the huge 'celebrity endorsement' industry).
If you successfully translate your Vision into a Mission Statement that conveys your passion, your ethos, your values and your belief in your products... that message will resonate with the customers you want to have.
And the customers you want to have don't care about price.
See how many messages you can pick out of our Mission Statement:
"From our family farm to your family's door. New Terra Farm raises a variety of meats and vegetables following natural, sustainable agricultural practices. We believe this results in good food that’s also good for you. Not everyone is lucky enough to live on a farm, so we bring the farm to you"!
Right away this short paragraph tells our potential customers what we believe in, what we do, and why we do it. Those are the explicit messages.
The implicit message - i.e. the emotional appeal - is that we LOVE operating a wholesome, local, sustainable business, sharing great food with appreciative customers. We are communicating our values and our PASSION.
You can believe you are doing a GOOD THING in supporting our mission by buying our farm-raised goodies.
That's a lot of powerful messaging packed into four sentences!
Just having a Vision and a Mission and some powerful messages is not the end of the story of course. You will need to do market research to find that pool of potential customers and yes, you will have to decide on the media you use to get the message out.
And (as Consultant Scott would say) since nothing happens without a plan, a budget and assigned resources, you need to figure out the Who, How and How Often of your marketing messages. And, How Much will this cost?
If you want a quick guide to those things, download my Simple Smart Small Farm Marketing Cheat Sheet. It's free, just enter your email.
Your Simple, Smart Small Farm Marketing Cheat Sheet. If you are writing a business plan for your small farm operation, or if you just want to make sure the time and money you invest in marketing will pay you back, the Cheat Sheet is a good starting point.
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