Many times networking can be hard for rural folk. Most of us are trying to get away from the hustle and bustle…away from all the people. We hole up on our property with our gardens and our animals and go into town once a week to get the essentials. But the funny thing is, that farm folk are some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I’m kinda shy, so I’m not one to strike up a conversation with someone just for the heck of it, but I can say that I have spent more than one evening talking with someone at the feed store. Shimmying our carts out of the other shoppers’ way as we compare chicken photos on our phones, and only making our way to the checkout because the announcement that the store is closing has come over the loudspeaker.
But when it comes to networking for your farm business, you can’t rely on gathering all your customers as you shop at the feed store. Below are 5 ways to increase your web of like-minded people. To spread the word about your business, to learn, get inspired and make connections.
- Support and purchase from similar businesses in your area. You may see other farms as competition… and in a way that is true, but there are probably differences between their product range and yours. If you sell apples and your neighbor sells oranges buy their oranges, and they’ll probably buy your apples. What’s more…other customers will know that your area is a great place to buy fruit! I read an article a long time ago (and I can’t remember where) but it was talking about a study done where people are more likely to shop in an area where there are more than one similar business than a stand-alone. For example, we often see a CVS built across the street from a Rite Aid and scratch our heads…why? But there is marketing support that the placement of these stores works for business reasons.
- Join clubs, associations, and guilds. Don’t just go to pass out business cards, but instead, be willing to learn, share, teach and keep an open mind. You will gather inspiration from others who share in your interests. These organizations often have larger shows or events open to the public that are well advertised. It might be a great opportunity to sell your goods to a large audience specifically drawn to your type of products.
- Attend a Mother Earth News Fair! Meet people who are doing it, speak with them after their workshops, introduce yourself. Have the authors sign your book copy. There is so much to do and see at one of these conferences that it can be hard to get it all in. They are well worth the trip!
- Online groups and forums. Don’t just hit the like button of your favorite blog, Youtube channel or Facebook page. Comment, introduce yourself, compliment their work, share photos when prompted. If you have a blog you know how much you appreciate interaction on your page. Start an online homesteading relationship!
- Invite people to your farm and treat strangers like family. Good ole hospitality goes a long way. With our u-pick sunflower field, there was an older couple who stopped in. We introduced ourselves and before I knew it we had pulled up rocking chairs, I poured a tray full of glasses of lemonade and we sat together until the sunset talking. They had been farmers when they were young. The man ended up helping Zach figure out what was wrong with our tractor and I got a sense that our sunflower filed was exactly what we were supposed to be doing with our life. It just felt right
You may not be able to spend hours one-on-one with each of your customers, but blurring the lines between friendship and business can manifest a lot of positive experience in both your business world and the people who make up your customer community.