How to Structure Your Marketing Department (the plan)
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To be successful with your farm marketing plan, you need to take the time to think through your plan and make sure that every aspect of your business — from farm operations to the way you present yourself — reflects what customers want.
This aligns tightly with what we reviewed in phase 1 of “How do you market a farm?”. and in phase two where we reviewed important strategies for “Who is the target market for a farm?”
What is a farm marketing plan?
A farm marketing plan describes how you intend to implement the actions laid out in the marketing strategy. The marketing plan is composed of the regular management of the marketing mix, a.k.a. the 4 P’s of marketing.
In this 3rd phase of our 3-part article series on how to market a farm, we will address how to build your marketing mix to build your farm marketing plan. In addition we will lay out 27 common marketing strategies used by farms (and almost all successful businesses), including some social media and email strategies used by marketing departments. Then we will finish with some direct to consumer strategies in case you want to build a database of customers and sell directly to the consumer.
It's important to remember that a successful marketing strategy involves working with others in all aspects of your operation, from production to processing and sales. Again, because marketing is not the whole picture, but a highly important part of the whole, it is important to regularly review your SWOT analysis. For a helpful resource on how to do this, go here:
What is the main purpose of SWOT analysis?
Finally, as we get started, a friendly reminder that your marketing plan is a reflection of your entire Customer Value Proposition as discussed in phase 1 of this series.
Let’s now get started and build your marketing plan.
Every marketing plan contains four key components that are combined into the overall farm sales and marketing plan:
This is your formula.
If one is off the mark, your chances for success severely decline. If more than one is off the mark, your chances for success are virtually none.
But when all four ingredients in the marketing mix are on target, sales success can be yours.
Your job as a marketing professional is to continually tweak and adjust based on data driven marketing strategies, always looking for ways to improve conversions, boost sales, get more from your advertising, generate more customers from your marketing spend, and above all: keep more customers doing more business with you longer.
For example, if you are a pumpkin farmer, the core product you provide are pumpkins. This is your product and it’s the first P in your marketing mix formula. And you provide a menu of product choices such as whole pumpkins, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin protein powder.
The second P in your marketing mix formula is promotion. This is how you will be communicating your value proposition to your ideal customer, and what you will be saying in your promotional message. Based on your ideal customer profile, you might decide to offer an introductory $100 off a 50 lb bag of pumpkin protein powder for first time customers.
The third P in your marketing mix formula is price, which is how much do you charge your customers for this product. A very important question you need to ask yourself is: As part of your value proposition, how much is my ideal customer willing to pay me for my product? This is very important because if you charge too much, customers may look elsewhere for this product. And if you charge too little, you may not be able to make enough money to cover your costs.
The fourth P in your marketing mix formula is place, which is answering the question: where have I decided to promote my product at this price in order to gain a customer? For example, knowing there is a community triathlon sponsored by the local natural foods store coming up where there are a large number of participants, you might run a pay-per-click campaign geo-targeting your ideal customers (within a 10-mile radius) offering $5 off for a 1 lb bag of pumpkin protein powder to triathletes.
The marketing mix is a simple foundation for you to build your marketing plan. Over time, as you innovate and do more campaigns the marketing mix will become second nature to you.
The marketing mix is a dynamic and constantly changing tool that needs to be regularly updated and maintained.
For best results, we aim to map out marketing strategies 90 days in advance, and really execute looking ahead in 30-day blocks. If it's a more complex marketing plan with many moving parts and overlapping campaigns we will use a Gantt chart planning tool. For more simple marketing plans, a Google doc will work just fine.
Using a simple Google doc or Word doc to communicate the marketing plan to the team, and to keep all the activities focused and organized, here is an example of how to structure your farm marketing plan:
We would usually never do a list of 26 farm marketing and farm advertising ideas, but in this case we will. That’s because you should plan on doing all these important items at some point as part of your marketing and advertising plan.
Simply regularly review this list, do the most important items first, add to your marketing calendar and start finding what works best for you.
Now, as you start to construct your marketing plan, here are some of the most common methods for farmers to get customers.
1. Focus on dominating your ideal target market with multiple impressions using these local marketing tactics.
2. Use Google My Business starting immediately and keep it current at all times. If you haven't posted new content there in a while, please do that now. Be sure to post items 7 and 8 below to your Google My Business local marketing account.
3. Make your website for mobile and make your website fast and secure while you are at it. Here’s how to boost your website conversion rates:
4. Hire a graphics design professional to help you create an extra large postcard and send it using the targeted direct mail marketing strategies found here. (HINT: 1) List, 2) copy, 3) offer - in this order of importance)
5. Print 1,000 door hangers using the professional that made your postcard and use 500 of them to blanket your target market business and residences.
6. Start a Google Ads campaign focused on your customer’s demographics.
7. Start using YouTube #shorts videos made for mobile. Here's an example:
8. Make a video and push it out to all your social media outlets with a special offer for all new customers.
9. Use remarketing with a special offer just for those that did not purchase the first time.
10. Use local vendors that can send you customers, such as online ordering and delivery (for restaurants) or lead aggregators that can send you new business.
11. Provide assistance, or do a joint venture agreement, and build a relationship with other local synergistic businesses who have customers that fit your ideal customer profile.
12. Use the other 500 door hangers and make a deal with your local dry cleaners to hang them on outgoing coat hangers. Pay them a fair referral fee for every new customer you gain.
13. Use guerrilla marketing strategies to be fun, creative, engaging and widely known in the community.
14. Submit a press release to your local newspaper (find the contact person and build a relationship with them at the paper) about the “10 Reasons Customers Choose to Buy from You Farm” or a human interest story on “How Your Best ‘Yourtown” Customer Enjoys Your Farm”.
15. Do a community event in the name of a holiday or any special reason (your birthday) and invite your customers and tell them to bring friends and family. Do a giveaway and joint venture with other local businesses.
16. Segment your customers using a recency, frequency, money (RFM) analysis. Make 3 three new offers to these segments.
17. Send an email to your customers with a special offer … If you don't have an email list, start building it immediately.
18. Send a simple thank you letter in the mail to all your best customers identified in your RFM analysis. Start with the top 20% based on sales revenue.
19. Start a consumer's club -- Customers love being part of a club like Foodstirs (www.foodstirs.com), which allows members to purchase cooking kits that include all the ingredients needed for a recipe delivered regularly.
20. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - CSA is a relationship between a farmer and a community of people who pay the farmer upfront for their share of the harvest. In return, the farmer agrees to provide vegetables, fruit, or flowers throughout the growing season.
21. Sell at farmers markets -- The farmer's market is the most common and popular way that farmers get customers. Farmers' markets are open-air markets where farmers sell directly to consumers.
22. Sell to local grocery stores and restaurants - Another option is to contact local grocery stores and restaurants in your area. The more local produce they can get their hands on, the better their marketing can be.
23. Specialty food shops - Farmer's markets and other local stores are great places to find customers, but you're competing with other farmers or other types of vendors. If you can find a specialty food shop that will sell your product on its own merits, it can be very lucrative.
24. Use the local media and do newspaper advertising -- You may want to advertise your farm products in the local paper. This type of advertising can be very effective.
25. Choose your social media platforms wisely and get active. Not just in pushing out messages but make relationships with others, engage in conversations and deliver value. Your followers will grow and you will soon be your own social media influencer.
26. Set up Google Tag manager so you can track everything.
27. Track your marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so you know what is working and what is not.
We are going to finish off this tutorial with a brief section on how farmers can sell direct to the consumer.
Farmers can sell directly to consumers two simple ways; 1. Sell locally and 2. Sell on their website. By managing a growing database of customers and communicating frequently via phone, email and direct mail, farmers can effectively sell to consumers directly.
Commonly called DTC, selling direct to consumer is also known as business to consumer (B2C).
And the good news is that there has never been a better, easier time for the farmer to sell directly to the consumer.
In fact, farmers are doing more now than ever.
With a wide range of excellent ecommerce and digital tools, farmers can easily build a wonderful database of customers that they can communicate with and run marketing campaigns.
Butcher Box provides an excellent example for great marketing direct to the consumer. Not only are they doing most everything right with their website, ecommerce and digital marketing, but one thing they are exceptional at is the use of the word “FREE”. In fact, it’s rare that they do not offer a free bonus with one of their offers. This is a great company to model.
Here is one of their email campaigns featuring a clear offer, a free bonus and a deadline:
Here’s another example of their website copy where Butcher Box does a great job in listing out the benefits their product provides:
Here’s a few strategies and some simple tips.
Farmers can also sell directly to consumers by offering home delivery or pickup of their products. They may also sell their products at a roadside stand or on a farm tour.
Some farmers have started online stores where customers can order products online, then pick them up at the farm or have them delivered to their homes.
Farmers' markets are also good for local businesses like bakeries and cheese makers who can sell their wares alongside the produce from local farms. These businesses often set up booths at farmers' markets where they sell food items such as baked goods, jams, jellies, etc.
Some farmers choose not to have a booth at a market because it costs money to rent one. But instead, they just set up their table or tent and sell directly from there without having any overhead costs associated with renting space at a market.
Another way that some farmers sell directly to consumers is through their websites, which provide information about their farm and allow customers to order online using an ecommerce platform such as Shopify or WooCommerce.
A successful marketing strategy involves working with others in all aspects of your operation, from production to processing and sales.