Direct marketing of agricultural products and services has become a billion dollar industry across the U.S., the success of which centers on making a meaningful connection between producer and consumer. For many direct marketers, planning and executing a successful advertising and promotion program remains one of the most challenging parts of their business.

Even with many different outlets to select from, producers need to channel their resources and efforts wisely to reach a competitive audience with the ability to purchase goods and services on a repeat basis. When planning outreach, you need to consider a number of factors, but three that rise to the top are geography, repetition and specificity.

When purchasing advertising or selecting promotions, what is the geographical reach you need to draw in customers for your particular venture? If you operate a U-pick operation, your geographical outreach will differ from someone selling nationally online. Both operations can use diverse outlets successfully, but within different circles of outreach. With customer feedback, you can determine where your promotional plans should be concentrated and by how much. This will also help you determine what outlets to use and how to structure your advertising to reach the most potential customers. Take into consideration all formats that relate to your target audience and not just what is trending or popular with only one group. Think about the diverse customers you serve and where and how they make the connection with you.

Geography also helps you formulate how narrowly or broadly to plan your outreach. Do you need (and can you serve) a national customer base, or is your operation geared to your local community, regional tourist base or an industry-wide sector? If you align your promotional efforts with your outreach, you have the potential for a more profitable campaign than by generalizing.

In planning outreach, also consider the repetition an outlet or service will provide. How many times will a potential customer connect with your image, name and business logo? Generally, it takes three times seeing or hearing about a business before a customer is willing to learn more about it or consider purchasing a product or service. Do you have the resources (budget) for long-term or repeat promotional strategies? What are your best options for matching resources with each outreach effort?

That leads into promotional specificity, or determining who your advertising and promotion is meant for. Some direct marketing operations have a very narrow target audience, while other businesses serve broader categories of potential buyers. A CSA operation will build promotional plans for a geographical audience while an agritourism venture may have a more far-reaching plan. Both, however, need to identify and hone in on the most likely potential customers. Promotional planning must be as specific as possible in terms of where and to whom the message is sent.

Direct marketing is a vital sector of our overall economy and is successful when owners and managers link resources to outreach. As you develop your advertising and promotion, think in terms of the geography involved, how much repetition you will need to plan for and how to be as specific as possible in selecting your target audience with the most compelling message.

The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.