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Excerpt from Part 4: Managing the Transition of the Farm Business

13 Marketing


Word-of-mouth advertising is slow, but is infinitely more effective than all other kinds of advertising or marketing. When developing a direct or value-added business, the most attention needs to be given to the appearance of your business, your image and your most loyal customers. Invest in your good will; that is, the respect you have earned inside your market and community.

An advertisement needs to be kept simple and smart – a five-word marketing claim. In writing the ad, simplify the message or it gets lost. Use repetition and consistency, great writing and visuals to attract attention; use creativity plus a big idea and hook, so people will remember what you are promoting.

Never mention the competition. If you’re good, they shouldn’t matter. It’s in bad taste to pull down the competition. The ad must arouse interest, create desire and motivate action.

  • Business cards and information cards are the most cost-effective, high impact tools for marketing. A good marketer always carries a supply with them. They can be double-sided, have memorable quotes on them, be used as frequent-customer discount cards or price lists. The quality and design should never be skimped on.
  • Brochures should only be used for a focused market, otherwise they are a waste of money and effort.
  • Radio reaches more potential customers than any other medium. It will be most effective if the station’s listeners match the farmer’s target market. Airtime doesn’t have to be expensive. Stations sell unpurchased ‘remnant space’ cheaply as filler.
  • Outdoor advertising, like signs and billboards, informs distant passers-by and travelers of a local business. They need a bold simple image, and a five-word message (seven, if the last two are ‘Next Exit’). The lettering must be big enough to read quickly - eight units of width to five units of height.

A lasting image or an entertaining hook will hold readers’ interest, as the same people will see the ad regularly. Location is very important, and illumination will be necessary if there is substantial night-time traffic.

  • PR for media: Journalists are eager for food stories with good hooks for which farmers can provide lots of information. The hook must be tied to the marketing information.

Press releases to local newspapers are a good idea, too, when the farm or related business has a new product, hires a new employee, or creates a new job.

  • Sponsor an event. Sponsoring local events provides exposure and demonstrates a commitment to the community.
  • Demonstrations - in-store, mall and consumer shows: Presentations must have entertainment value and action, or offer prizes for taste testers. To be effective, they require a lot of energy in their preparation and presentation. They should be offered with conviction by the friendliest and most enthusiastic employee, or even by a client that is a local celebrity. Despite their entertainment value, they should be used sparingly.

Adapted from Marketing on a Shoestring, CFBMC


For more from Part 4: Managing the Tranistion of the Farm Business and more information about marketing organic and transitional crops, order Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming from the Publications page.

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