Farm Marketing

If your small farm is like mine, it doesn't have the money to advertise products in the newspaper, on television or even on radio. And my local community magazine is relatively inexpensive, but I'm not sure how effective it is at reaching my potential customers. That's why I like the Internet. It provides a variety of low-cost marketing tools that I can use, test, measure and modify. The only expense, initially, is the time involved in learning and understanding how to make them work effectively and products

And you will be reaching potential customers that don't read papers, watch tv or listen to the local radio station. Today's growing consumer demographic spends their leisure time on music, the world-wide web, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and the host of other social sites to be found online. And they are interested in healthy living - which is where you come in!

Let's look at some opportunities available to you in the online world.

Your own Website

Nowadays, there is no excuse preventing anyone from having a website from which to sell their products or services. There are many services that will provide free website space with the understanding that your site will show some advertising or links to products being promoted by your site's space provider. If you are interested in free space, try or for ideas. We are not affiliated with these websites in any way and can't vouch for their quality of service, applicability to your needs or suitability of their software to do the job needed.

If you want total control over your site, and want to be sure that the site is secure, has nearly 100% uptime and totally suits your needs, a site can be built and managed for under $20 per month from a number of suppliers. Raven Hill has packages from $29 (Cdn.) per month while a number of hosting services will charge from $5 to $50 per month depending on space needs, site complexity and the services required. Do a search for low-cost web hosting to check out your options. Be advised though, that the difference between many of the hosting companies is in their service and support options. More hand-holding will cost more money. Don't be afraid to ask your teenagers for help. In many cases, they will be a wealth of information and experience that works perfectly for your needs.

Your own Facebook Page

It seems the Facebook lovers and haters will always remain in their respective camps. But for your business, Facebook is a great marketing option that provides free and paid services to help you reach your target customers. Be careful to get a Facebook Business Page and not an individual Profile. The business page provides more options and services and Facebook, if they discover you using a profile as a business, will shut you down which means all of your followers and posts will be lost. That's like losing all of your goodwill in a traditional business! Facebook updates should be relevant, interesting or entertaining and have some value for your "friends." A good rule of thumb for all social media, including Facebook, is to make 80 percent of your posts fall into the social, news, how-to and/or help categories and limit self promotion to 20 percent of the posts. Use Facebook to showcase products, introduce contests and challenges, explain your sales schedule (why you won't be at every farm market in the region) and highlight your customers and their families. If you want to be guaranteed to reach all of your followers all of the time, consider Facebook advertising. While it does come at a cost, the reach and penetration into your market is deadly accurate.

Read Forums and Blogs Regularly

One of the most effective ways to connect with potential customers is by participating in relevant forums and commenting on blogs that cover your product area or region. If you show yourself to be approachable, helpful and knowledgeable about the topic, you will be rewarded by the other readers. However, don't be blatantly promoting your products or using your branding images in the posts here. Most forums frown on blatant promotion and their members will blast you if they think you're simply there to hawk your wares. Be helpful, courteous and genuine in your interest and again, stick to the 80-20 content rule mentioned above.

Use Twitter Sparingly

Get a good Twitter handle (and use a consistent hashtag for your farm) for your business and then "follow" several others in your business area to learn the etiquette of Twitter. Remember that Twitter is a conversation, not a book so you don't have to create extensive material to be effective. With the 80-20 rule in the back of your mind, use Twitter to ask questions, find out what others are doing, tell your customers where you will be selling next and post the odd picture of your farm. Don't spend all day tweeting - simply try to connect at least a couple of times per week initially. Twitter is a perfect way to ask your customers what they thought of your produce, how they used it or what you could do to make it even better for them.

Send out an Email Newsletter

You should ask every single person you talk to if they would like to receive your periodic newsletter. Get their email address and diligently enter it into your email address database. With attention to the email spam laws, create an electronic newsletter that highlights your farm's wares, offers hints on how to use your products and makes a human connection with your readers. Include farm photos, recipes, harvest schedules and anything else that your readers may find interesting. Don't put out too many newsletters or email them too often - you don't want the people receiving a newsletter to get irritated when they see your logo in their email box.

Other Social Media?

You might also spend a little time on Pinterest, Google Plus and several of the other social media sites. These may be useful to you or they may be time better spent on some other facet of your farm's operation. Over time, some social media sites grow and become popular, others peak and drop off in terms of users. As this is written, Instagram seems to be the latest growing social media site, so include it in your review process.

What Else?

As you can see, the opportunities for marketing and promotion of your farm on the Internet are more than you have time for! However, take your time learning how to use these tools and they will pay off in increased interest and sales. And, don't be afraid to ask other farmers and small business owners how they use the Internet - you may find something that will work for you as well. Be inquisitive, ask questions and share the information that you learn along the way and your online marketing program will pay off handsomely.

Leave a comment below to share your Internet tools with other readers. Tell us how you use the Internet in your marketing program.



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