Who is the target market for a farm? (Part 2)

When building your farm marketing plan, the first question you need to answer is: 

Who is the target market for a farm? 

Of course it would be impossible to answer this question in an article. That's because there are many different kinds of farms and an almost endless combination of products, price points and places to promote your message (see the farm Marketing Mix in phase 3).

Who is the target market for a farm?

The target market for a farm is the group(s) of people that place the most value on the products or services your farm provides. You can identify your farm target market through market research and recognize who is currently buying a closely competing product or service that your farm produces.  

In phase 1 of our 3-part article series, we discussed “How Do You Market a Farm” by implementing the basics as a foundation for the farm marketing plan. Go here to read: How do you market a farm?

In this 2nd article of our 3-part article on farm marketing, you will gain the tools and strategies used by marketing professionals to help you identify the target market for a farm, and learn how to do it yourself.

After this strategy on farm target markets, In phase 3, we will build our farm marketing plan via the Marketing Mix.

Let’s get started.

How to find the target market for your farm

As we get started, let’s quickly define what a farm is, and then we will teach you how to identify the target market for any type of farm. 

In fact, when done right, you will find that a farm probably has many target markets, not just one. 

But before we get there, here’s what the USDA says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service defines a “farm” as:

"Any place that produced and sold—or normally would have produced and sold—at least $1,000 of agricultural products during a given year."

This definition is a very low bar; $1,000 in sales in a given year.  The purpose of setting the bar at just $1,000 in sales is most likely to keep strict rules and regulations on the standards used for creating and selling food products. 

And as you develop your marketing plan to sell any food products as a result of a farm, it is of utmost importance to strictly follow all local, county, state and federal rules and regulations. Do your research, network with other farmers and consult legal counsel as needed.

Also, here is a helpful article on abiding by some marketing and advertising regulations.

Ok, some types of farms include:

  • Flower farms
  • Potato farms
  • Pumpkin farms
  • Dairy farms
  • Bee farms
  • Fish farms
  • Commercial farm
  • Cooperative farm (co-op)
  • Apple farm
  • Poultry farm
  • Cow or sheep ranch
  • Vineyard

Now you can see that no one could ever accurately suggest who your ideal target market is without knowing what kind of farm you have and what you plan on producing and therefore selling.

But you are going to learn how to do this now.

Identifying your target market is core to any successful farm marketing plan, whether you are selling pumpkins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin seeds, Jack-O-lanterns, Halloween hay rides, pumpkin protein powder or pumpkin earrings.

There are some very simple methods to identify your target market.

It's called market research.

In its basic form, market research starts with asking yourself some high level questions in order to find a starting point. Questions such as:

  • Who is currently buying what I am selling?
  • Do businesses buy this (B2B)? Can you sell direct to consumer (DTC)? Both?
  • Do people buy this in bulk or in small packages?
  • What are the basic demographics of these buyers? Age? Income? Where do they live? 
  • How do people buy this product? Credit card? Online? What are the terms?
  • Why are people buying this product? I.e., to resell, organic, non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, dietary preference, ketosis-friendly, immune system, protein supplement, etc
  • How much are they spending? 
  • What are they getting for this price?
  • What does the customer experience when they receive this product?
  • Where are they buying this product now?

Some more advanced questions to ask yourself, are:

  • What if I sold this item at a different price? Lower? Higher?
  • What does the packaging look like?
  • What if I made my packaging twice as big as what the market is getting now? Or twice as small? 
  • What if my packaging was different?
  • What if the customer experience was different? 
  • What if we made this farm experience different with a Western theme? Alien? Seasonal? For kids? Year round? 
  • Could we use video to enhance the experience? Or for other monetization opportunities?
  • Could this product serve a specific niche of people? 

You can see there are many questions to ask as you start your market research. 

In fact, it's these questions that are your market research.

Each question builds on itself and will ultimately help you to determine who your ideal customer is, what they like, what they don’t like and some ideas for price points and product development.

These are questions you and your team should be asking regularly. Questions like these keep you continually learning and in search of finding breakthroughs, which can literally become game-changers for you and your farm.

Now, if you already have customers, whether 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000+ customers, you have an edge in the market because you can simply ask your customers to help you find more customers who are just like them (you just need to communicate this properly). 

Asking your customer is a critically important form of market research.

With that, there are two main ways to do market research in order to find your target market:

  1. Qualitative research, and 
  2. Quantitative research

Both forms of market research are very different and are equally as useful. In fact, you are probably doing them already to some degree without knowing it.

  • Qualitative research is simply asking customers questions in a face to face or over the telephone format.
  • Quantitative research is sending a survey to your customers in an email.

When you do both of these methods, you’ll have plenty to go on in order to find who your ideal customer is, a.k.a your farm target market.

Here’s a simple plan.

Qualitative market research plan for identifying your farm target market

This phase is about discovering things you didn’t know about your target market. This is the most valuable part of your research. 

And, ironically, it's the part that most companies do not do because it requires effort.

Here's what you do.

First, develop a few basic, open-ended questions you want to ask customers (current buyers of your product or potential product). Questions such as:

  • Why are you buying “my product”?
  • How else are you using my product?
  • Is there another way you are using my product?
  • Have you ever told anyone about my product? What did you say?

The deeper you go, the more useful info you will get. Be sure to leave your “agenda” at home; you won’t need it and it will do you more harm than good. 

Your entire goal here is to; 1) Ask, 2) Listen, 3) Don’t talk.

Now, if you have a list of customers, go into your database and identify 10-20 of your best customers as defined as the ones that have spent the most money with you and have made the most transactions with you in the last 12 months.  

If segmenting your database is new to you, be sure to read our extremely useful resource on this exact topic (game-changer for you):

Recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) | Marketing analysis

Now simply pick up the phone and call them or if you are local, go say hi and shake some hands (this will go a long way to building a great relationship).

Take notes on the things they tell you and come back to these notes after you have “interviewed” your customers.

If you don't have a customer base yet, you could go to the grocery store or wherever you plan to sell your product and in a very polite, friendly, non-threatening way, converse with customers and ask them, “Why are you buying this product?”

Take notes, keep an open mind and you’ll discover some very interesting information.

Quantitative market research plan for identifying your farm target market

This part of your market research journey is generally about quantifying things you already know. Here you can build statistics about your customers age, demographics, likes, dislikes and preferences.  

If you don’t have a customer list yet, you will need to get to work and do some secondary research, that is, research that has already been done and is available online, in Google, in journals, magazines, etc.

While it won’t be as accurate, this research will help point you in the right direction and give you some excellent trends to work from.

Another great place to start is Google Trends and Google Keyword planner to get some basic numbers of your target market.

If you have your own list of customers, or you have the opportunity to survey someone else’s list, here is how you can easily develop a survey and encourage participation with these two helpful tutorials:

Ok, now that we know a lot more about your customers, we can start to build a target market profile.

Here’s an example of what a target market might look like for a small farm serving the local community:

Let’s stay in line with our pumpkin farm example.

Let’s say you have a 5-acre farm and you grow pumpkins. You are exploring selling your pumpkins, having seasonal halloween events for kids, and selling a variety of related products and services.

But who are you going to market this to?

Here’s two ways to look at this.

Farm target market example Group A

After your research, you have identified that there are 10,000 potential customers in your target market:

  • 10,000 residents with 1 or more children age 1+, with a
  • Household income of $40,000 a year or more, within a 
  • 5-mile radius of your farm
  • These residents are ages 25 - 45

Farm target market example Group B

But, you also notice that there is another group of potential customers that look like this:

  • 3,000 homeowners with kids ages 10+, with a
  • Household income of $80,000 a year or more, within a 
  • 5-mile radius of your farm
  • These residents are ages 35 - 65

Group A and Group B represent two different target markets that could receive different messaging.  

Group A could receive advertising messages focused on activities for very young kids, such as safe and fun hayrides and pumpkin patch activities with a small entry price. This group could also benefit from photo opportunities with a variety of price options.   

Group B could receive more expensive and more expansive products and services such as pumpkin carving activities, a heightened halloween event and everything Group A receives.

No, keep in mind that these are just example products offering ideas based on these two hypothetical target market demographic examples.

Now that the target market is identified, we can shift gears and move into developing the actual farm marketing plan and build the Marketing Mix. 

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