Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business (Storey, 2007) by Sarah Beth Aubrey helps you plan your small business from the start. Filled with tips, examples, ideas, form templates, and success stories, this book is a handy all-in-one guide for your homestead hustle.
Even if you don’t want to spend the money to develop and use logo items, you still need to communicate your message and your logo to prospective customers. In this section are a number of marketing ideas that can be done for free or at a low cost. I recommend using at least a few of these, or your own low-cost methods, to market your small-farm venture.
Newsletters and regular correspondence.
Many customers enjoy regular correspondence from their small-farm vendors. Always ask your customers if you may add their name to your mailing list before sending newsletters or other regular messages. Keep your mailing list handy at every selling location and ask every customer to join it. For people already interested in your business, regular correspondence will draw them closer to you and your products, building a sense of loyalty. Use an e-newsletter, for example, every month, to offer specials and thank customers for their good business.
Promotions and coupons.
Promotions of all kinds can be great incentives to buy, so use them whenever it is appropriate for your business. You can offer things like coupons or discounts as rewards for referrals, to drive year-end sales, or as gifts to customers who purchase a certain amount of product. Be certain to publish any parameters around your promotions and honor them at all times.
Contests and raffles.
These types of customer appreciation events can truly drive sales by involving many customers and possibly giving them a reward for their enthusiasm. First check with your state (a good place to start is with the Department of Revenue or the Gaming Commission if your state has one) to see if there is a law against raffles and other gambling.
Gifts and prizes.
These will especially appeal to children. You may be able to entice the parents to buy by giving things away to children with a parent’s purchase. I know someone who gives children a 1-ounce stick of honey with each jar purchased. Kids never let their parents forget his booth! You might also choose a logo gift to give away, such as a cloth shopping bag with your logo on it.
Many customers love to participate in farm work because there are so many “fun chores” that, not living on a farm, they don’t get a chance to do. Consider offering days where customers can do simple, pleasurable things like gathering eggs, shearing sheep, or helping to harvest the garden. Or, if you offer food products, consider offering a customer cookbook with recipes demonstrating how customers have used your products. You could offer to include other vendors in the cookbook for a fee, or charge your customers a small amount for the book and give some of the proceeds to support a local group such as an FFA chapter.
Giving back to the community not only feels good and is good for those who receive your gifts, but it really conveys a positive message about you. You don’t always need to contribute money; your time and some of your products can be just as appreciated.
Hosting events, clinics, and demonstrations.
Hosting customers at your home for an educational experience can be a tremendous sales-building opportunity because as people learn more about your products they’ll understand more uses for them in their own lives. You can conduct classes or bring in recognized professionals, as well. Be sure to have plenty of your products on hand for sale!
Testimonials and referrals.
One of the finest ways to ensure more business is to have happy customers who say positive things about you to their friends. Ask customers for testimonials and referrals and publicize these as often as you can. Use testimonials in places like your Web site, your newsletter, and even a brag board that you hang up at your selling locations.
Using the media to generate business for you is free and can translate into thousands of dollars in sales. I recommend that every new business owner draft a press release announcing their opening, and use a press release anytime there is a major change or update in business. For example, when I changed from distributing my own products exclusively to using a distributor, I sent out a press release to customers, potential customers, and even media. Some papers won’t be interested, but many local or specialty press will welcome the news and publish the announcement at no cost to the business owner!
Another way to use media at no cost is to be interviewed. I contacted every magazine, newspaper, and specialty publication I could think of about Aubrey’s Natural Meats when I started and asked them simply if they wanted to do a story on our new company. I’d say a strong 75 percent came out to interview us, write a story, and take photos of our operation. The swell in sales after these articles was published was always fantastic. Think of something unique about your company, or some way that your company has a positive impact on your community or a certain group of people, and pitch that angle to local and specialty media.
Flyers and posters.
A flyer is a simple marketing tool. You can make your own flyers on your home computer and print them off for just a few cents a sheet. Hang announcements about your business everywhere your target audience might be, but check to see if you need permission first. Use flyers to promote upcoming events, sales, new locations, or anything other important events.
Toot your own horn, but do it tastefully. If you’re a member of a group, announce to your peers that you’ve started a new company and are open for business. Have brochures, business cards, and flyers with you so that interested persons can speak with you about it at their leisure. Also announce yourself to anyone you think might be interested, such as parents and teachers at your child’s school, your neighbors, people at your fitness club, and members of your church group.
Excerpted from Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business © by Sarah Beth Aubrey. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.