Follow along as we set up our new homestead. Before the very first post hole is dug, we needed to do some soul searching and make sure we're on the same page. We divided our planning process into steps, from making decision, through defining values, understanding our resources, crops, animals, marketing, long-term goals, and so on. If you’ve ever wanted to start your own farm or homestead, maybe this will help you through the process, too. There is no time-line for the actual work that needs to be done, but the steps will be covered in depth. Please sign up on the homepage of our website so you don’t miss a step!
(Disclaimer: Before you sell anything from your farm, you need to do your homework. Check local regulations, look into making your farm a legal entity, look into taxes, and look into business insurance. We won't go into those things here, but you need to protect yourself and your farm.)
You can have the best farm and the best produce in the entire world, but no one will buy it unless they know it exists. You need to tell them!
By no means is the following a comprehensive list of marketing ideas, but it will give you plenty to think about and is a good place to start.
The most important thing to keep in mind is people NEVER buy anything the first time they hear about it. Just because you send out a mass email and get no sales does not mean you failed. You must put together a plan to make sure people hear your message repeatedly. Then and only then will you have a chance of gaining their business.
FIRST: Know your customer.
The first step in effectively marketing any product is to identify your customer. Who is your consumer? Chefs? Ladies at the local church? Country folk? City folk? Once you know the answer to this, marketing ideas begin to come into focus. So, who is your customer? Women? Men? Bikers? Health nuts?
How would you market differently to city folk? They need a little more sophisticated packaging. After all, they’re used to buying produce in the sterile grocery store. They’re probably buying from you because they’d like to be a little more healthy and perhaps local, so tout those facts. “Healthy!” “Local!” Put those in your advertisements. If you really don't know or understand why they're buying from you, ask them.
How do you market to children? Bright colors. Men? Masculine packaging, unless of course, you’re selling a gift for men to women, then rethink that masculine packaging.
SECOND: What do I sell and when?
As obvious as not selling Christmas wreaths in September or pumpkins in May, all things have a season. Pay attention to what other producers are doing. Don’t have your big strawberry sale the week before the local farm market is advertising “Strawberry Days: This Saturday.” Get in on “Strawberry Days.” That’s why people are going there!
This brings us to pricing...
What happens when you’re selling the exact same thing as the person next to you at the farm market? What happens when eight producers are all selling strawberries? DO NOT LOWER YOUR PRICE...EVER. You need to be different. You need to distinguish yourself from your competitors. You can do this in many ways, but the most important way is NOT through price. Never, never, never lower your price to compete. You'll end up losing money and not gaining quality customers. You'll only get those looking for a deal who probably won't become loyal shoppers and won't come back next week. Instead, offer more for your price. Offer something above and beyond. Think value! Hand out your grandmother's strawberry pie recipe with every purchase. Make some strawberry lip balm and give one away with every purchase. Put up a sign saying your strawberries are “Local” “Healthy” “Organically grown” “Full of vitamin C”, whatever it is that will make your strawberries more appealing and stand out from the crowd.
Speaking of Pricing
Before you hit the sales stand, research your pricing. Not only observe what others are selling for, but also review your own records. (You are keeping records, aren't you?) How much time and money did it take to grow those beautiful red balls of yumminess? How much profit do you need to make to spend your whole day at “Strawberry Days?” Calculated it all before deciding on a sales price. And, mark your prices clearly. You don’t want people looking at your goodies, then walking away because you're busy with another customer and they don’t want to interrupt to ask about pricing. You also don’t want anyone to think you change your prices for different people for different reasons. Be upfront and transparent. Have your pricing listed clearly on your items! I can't tell you how many times I've walked away from a table because there was no pricing listed. The vendor says hello to you and then stands there silent; nothing else. I'm not going to stand around for an hour, uncomfortably trying to chitchat, just to buy a $4 carton of blueberries. Just post clearly that they are $4 and I will walk up and say, "Give me two cartons, please," and hand you eight bucks, and we'll be done.
If you don't have a Facebook page and/or an Instagram account for your business/farm/homestead, make one TODAY! It is a fact that most consumers check out a business on FB or IG before purchasing anything from them. A local farm market may be different for the first purchase since it's face to face, but you want those customers coming back, don't you? How will you tell them your watermelons will be at the farm market this Saturday if you don't have the ability to reach them? Get business cards made with your FB address in bold. Invite every single person you meet to visit and like your FB page. Use it as an insiders look at your farm, what's happening, what's coming up, what you'll have at the market this week. Post some recipes. If you give me a good and easy pesto recipe that I can make with the basil you're bringing to market on Saturday, you're more likely to see me there, and I'm more likely to happily give you my money.
You cannot be shy when touting your social media pages. You must spend some time every single day growing your pages. You must respond to people, invite people, post things, engage your audience. Social media doesn't happen on its own. You must do the work it takes to grow your business!
If you're interested in communicating with your customers more than a Facebook post now and then, consider building a website. I know you're thinking it's hard and will cost thousands of dollars, but websites have come a long way over the last ten years, and you can easily build one yourself for little to no money. Wordpress has free sites. Wix has easy and professional tools for not a lot of money. Kajabi has a whole array of items you can use to make newsletters, emails, put courses together, sell your product online, etc. for a monthly fee. The main point of a website is to collect contact information of customers so you can communicate with them - email addresses! Especially if you're selling something you can ship, consider this great marketing tool and get those email addresses! Search for ways to monetize what you do besides simply selling locally. Can you teach what you do? Maybe creating an online course is in your future. Can you promote tangible items you use to do what you do? Sign up for an Amazon affiliate membership where you make a few cents every time someone purchases through your link. Can you join with others to create memberships or subscriptions to support what you do? Many homesteaders with sites and podcasts sell memberships which include discounts for other local vendors.
Marketing is all about relationships. Give people honesty, integrity, and information!
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