by Cammie Barden
“Marketing should be as painless and as labor efficient as possible,” Matt LeRoux, Ag Marketing Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension stated. He proceeded to elaborate by explaining that effort put towards marketing should result in something. Furthermore, he insisted marketing shouldn’t be complicated.
Although, that fact is not an excuse to ignore the basics of marketing.
There are four categories involved in marketing that should be explored: Strategy, research, objectives and communication. Going over these categories once is not enough as, “marketing is tricky because its always happening,” LeRoux said.
Before delving into defining the categories, LeRoux had a few other points to stress. “Marketing is not the craft of misleading people to get them to buy something [and] marketing is not just advertising.” True, advertising is a part of marketing and he didn’t refute it. But the majority of marketing happens outside the view of the consumer.
A strategy, the first category, is the first step in any marketing plan. Mainly, it is the time to ask questions in regards to the consumers. What is driving the consumer to purchase what items and from where? Understanding a consumer’s choices can lead to understanding the consumer better and by doing that, you can better meet their needs, motivations and desires. Is the consumer a “foodie”, buying produce for the sake of experiencing something new? Is there a cultural or religious reason for their purchase? Is cost the focus, or perhaps there is a social motivation, such as health?
These questions must be answered prior to choosing a focus. Contrary to popular belief, it is much better to focus on one group of people instead of several. LeRoux’s example was on fiscally concerned people. Generally, consumers view farmers markets as more expensive than regional or national food stores. But in a study that he is currently involved in, LeRoux pointed out, “farmers markets prices… are very competitive now — especially in rural regions.” This means prices are similar in each market and could bring a consumer to your stand instead of aisle two in the supermarket.
The easiest way to direct your strategy is by employing the following sentence: Our farm raises (products) for (target customer) who (activity/demographic/behavior). The key to successfully using this tool is to be as specific as possible. An example of a strategy sentence would be, “our farm produces heirloom tomatoes for adult foodies who want to experience a unique tomato addition to their salads.” Even this type of sentence could be a lot more specific, which will help serve the consumer better, attract target consumers, differentiate your farm and place your farm in a position that other farms may not fill.
“Don’t worry about turning everyone else off,” LeRoux assured in regards to selecting a specific target consumer. The focus will bring in your consumers, and the word will still spread. The one thing that LeRoux had to add is that you should never run on autopilot. An effecting marketing strategy requires careful thought and planning.
The second category is research. Are consumers in your area looking to purchase your product? What is the demand? Is it likely to change? This will bring out the “push vs. pull” aspect of the market. The pull is always easier since the market is scrambling for it. The push, however, is different. You have the product and you must try to sell it. This can be difficult since you must let people know you have the item and you must contact those interested in it. LeRoux stated that honesty is always the best policy for selling products.
The third category is your objective. This is merely what you are trying to accomplish by setting specific goals. Every farmer’s goal is to sell their product, but the actions used set farms apart. Objectives will let you know where you are standing in your goals, and the more specific, the better. Knowing your positioning in the consumer’s mind is also beneficial. You want the consumer to think, “they’re the ones who…” and have it be positive. Once knowing that, you can alter the consumer’s perception of your farm by making and meeting new objectives.
The specifics are not just what you are trying to do and the time to do it in. Budgets must also be in the forefront. How much are you reasonably willing to spend to attract consumers? Where is the line that makes it too expensive? How can you cut the cost without cutting the service? This can lead you to actions to take to meet your objectives or know where you are currently standing, allowing crucial adjustments to continue moving forward.
The final category, communication, is the one most are familiar with. It’s how you reach your target consumers. It’s imperative to think of how your target consumer likes to be reached. Are they tech savvy and enjoy emails? Are they old school and prefer post? Figure out the preference and use it. There are a myriad of ways to communicate with your consumers.
Also important is the message. LeRoux suggested using claims and descriptions. But do not use any type of superlative or false/misconstrued claim. If your farm is not certified organic, but a consumer asks if it is, they are probably asking if you use pesticides. Be honest. The answer may not lose you a sale. This is also a time where you can teach your consumer about pesticide use. Keep in mind; a consumer may not know the stages of growth when pesticides may be used, and this information could make the difference in a banking account.
Overall, being specific and flexible are the necessary traits for marketing. By having a well thought out plan that highlights every detail, marketing will start to work for you instead of you working for your market. Effort expended will be profit gained and will present turning points in which to change your direction when the need arises. Since marketing is ever changing, you must adhere to consistently being ever changing as well.