You are the next custodian of a multi-generational family farm and no doubt have realised the uncertainty and fast-paced changes now facing the agricultural community. The agricultural market has changed drastically since your parent’s generation took to the fields.
Farming has never been an easy business, nor a career chosen by those in pursuit of material riches. But in recent years the pressure for survival has become ever more apparent and harder fought. Threats ranging from global warming to political uncertainty and changing consumer behaviours has resulted in many family farms struggling to be financially sustainable. There is hope, in the form of you, as you return to your family farm, looking for ways to protect your heritage for generations to come.
Many of you will have realised that the key to survival is evolution. You have realised that continuing to sell to the mass processers simply isn’t viable. They have too much control and they don’t care about you, your family or your farm. You have likely already started to formulate ideas for new income streams and diversification opportunities for your farm. But now comes the hard bit, convincing the parents that you can turn the farm around.
You are going to need to show them that consumers will come and that the public will support you. To do that you are going to need to be able to find those consumers and tell them about your product. Maybe your farm has stunning views over the lake district, perfect for wild walkers looking for a glamping site with a difference. Or maybe that incredible native breed beef you produce, so under-appreciated by the mass market, is just what the new age of ethical conscious foodies are after. Whatever, your plan you will need customers and that means you will need to tell people about your product.
In simple terms, Agri-marketing refers to any and all marketing processes that are directed towards the promotion of an agri-business.
This could include anything from branding and packaging decisions to social media marketing and web design, and a whole lot more in between.
If like many family farms, you have been serving a large processer for some time it is unlikely you will have had to market your farm to the public. But for you to be able to take back control of your income, you will need to market to consumers directly. You may feel that you can take on some of the marketing yourself, how hard can social media marketing really be? You already use social media anyway, right?
And more than that you have to ask yourself, do you really have time to be working all day on the farm and then coming home to do more work sat in front of a computer?
I thought not. What I can do in this blog is to give you some starting points to get you going and some factors to consider when creating that rock-solid parent proof plan.
First off, marketing is all about communication, there are two big parts to this, how you communicate and what you communicate.
I will start with the ‘’HOW’’ this is arguably the easier decision. In the past print was king, everyone read at least one newspaper and a shout out in the small ads was enough to generate local interest. Now people read Facebook over breakfast rather than the Times. So, social media should form a significant part of the ‘’HOW’’.
The question then becomes which platform, that is a simple question with a long answer. But in short terms, the trick is to figure out who your customer is most likely to be and then work out which platform them hang out on.
(For more information on this we will have a new blog coming soon.)
However, for all the hype of social media what it lacks is a decent selling point. For that, you need a website. A website can seem like a big upfront cost and there is a huge variation in that cost as well. But much like buying a new ram at the auction, the key is to figure out what your business needs and then find a website provider who matches that, making sure if give them a good once over before buying. A website is where you can let your farm brand come to life, colours, graphics and wording all play a part in communicating your brand to the consumer.
Now you may be thinking that once the website is up that is job done the hoards will come flocking. But sadly, this is not entirely the case. Once you have made sure that customers will love your website you need to make sure they can find it. For this you need some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), this used to mean just getting to the top of Google. But with our strategic partners, it means so much more. To get the best possible results, and the most bang for your buck, it is important to weave the principles of SEO through your whole business, we can help you do just that.
There are plenty of other marketing options which would be beneficial to your agri-business but the ones above should form the basis of any Agri-marketing strategy.
I don’t just mean what is it in basic terms, be descriptive and specific. For example, if you produce pork, what type of pork? How are the pigs farmed? Are they a specific breed of pig? Is the farm organic?
Next up, why is your product special to the consumer? How will your product help them? What will it offer them beyond the basic product?
Try to think about the intangible benefits of the product. For example, if you have a glamping site you are not just supplying them with a place to stay the night, you are giving that person an amazing experience. An experience where they can connect with nature and soothe their soul. Now that may sound a little up in the air and emotional but the emotion is what makes the difference between a good product and a great business.
Finally, consider why the customer might choose not to buy your product. And then come up with reasons to prove them wrong. You want to remove all the possible reasons why a consumer might not go through with that final step of the purchase.
These types of questions can be applied to any agri-business or farm diversification project, simply adjust them accordingly. Answering these questions helps you to consider what your marketing strategy should be and where to make a start.