7 Habits of Successful Farm Marketers

Reading Time: 6 minutes

So what’s the secret to marketing farm and local food products? Today, I’ll tell you, and set you on a solid foundation for marketing your farm and/or food products.

Now, I know you started your business because you’re passionate about food and farming. But, listen, if we produce great food and farm products and there’s no one to buy it, what’s the point?

And this is what I’m all about at Small Farm Nation and in the Small Farm Nation Academy, helping you become not only a master farmer or craftsperson, but a master marketer as well.  That way, you’ll attract customers, help build a local food community and become financially sustainable.

So let’s get you on the road to you becoming a marketing wiz.

And let’s start this episode with what marketing is not because I know that many people are inherently uncomfortable with marketing and selling.

Perhaps you are as well, but you don’t need to be.

Let me tell you why.

You see, marketing isn’t….

  • Aggressive (used-car) sales tactics
  • Convincing someone to buy something they don’t want or need
  • Advertising, brochures or email
  • A website
  • Creative/graphic design

Marketing is something YOU can do, and my goal is to help you do it much more effectively.

Now, what marketing is…is the continual process for you to attract and retain loyal customers.

And I want to emphasize the word “attract”, because when a lot of people think of marketing they think “I want to find some customers,” “how do I find customers.”

And I want you to rethink that.

I want you to start with the notion that you build a business where you become a MAGNET for customers.

A magnet for the media, a magnet for the community, a magnet for followers.

You attract people to you, and you achieve that through building a brand, producing content and converting people from strangers into brand advocates.

As I’ve said many times, without customers you have no farm business, right?

You have a hobby…or a compost pile.

Therefore, marketing has to be your most important job. Period. In building your farm, your restaurant, your winery, your cheese or soap business.

This truth applies equally to landscaping, carpentry, professional services or  WHATEVER small business you have.

Marketing is job 1 for the simple reason, no customers, no business.

I mean, don’t get me wrong…weeding, seeding, feeding, breeding…if you’re a baker, kneading, are all important… but marketing is more important to the success of your farm business.

And this is a business, right? We’re not talking about a hobby.

So, since it’s a business it’s about getting and keeping customers.

And listen… YOU CAN DO THIS!

Marketing isn’t the exclusive domain of people who have an MBA in marketing or have a lifetime of experience, I mean, sure, that helps you to understand and be comfortable with what works best, but this is something you can learn yourself.

In fact, you can get your own farm MBA in marketing in my Small Farm Nation Academy, both through lessons I share and from the knowledge sharing that happens in the forums.

Now, one reason I know you can grasp all this is because, food and farm marketing, particularly on the scale we all practice, is ALL about building relationships.

It’s not at all about hard-core sales tactics.

It’s about being yourself and building relationships. But how do you do that?

Well, it starts, believe it or not, with just being yourself. By talking WITH the customer, not AT them. By being conversational.

That will allow you to share your mission…your story, in a way that resonates. And this is where great farm and local food marketing starts. By being open, conversational and sharing your story and mission with PASSION.

It is definitely NOT preaching or talking down to people or telling them why what they’re eating is bad, but inspiring them with WHY you are doing what YOU are doing.

Now, we also need to make it easy for customers to find us. In this day and age it means two things, it means being physically easy to find but also digitally easy to find.

That’s the world of social media and search engine optimization, and you’ll learn all about that in the module on farm web design and elsewhere here on Small Farm Nation.

But we also need to make it easy for customers to buy from us.

That could be anything from having an online store, or accepting credit cards at your farm store or farmers market, or delivering via a CSA or metropolitan buying club.

It could be selling retail cuts of meat versus having to buy a half or whole animal. Just whatever you can to remove the barriers to buying from you.

Remember, while what you’re producing is, I’m sure, far and away better from any industrial alternative, the fact is that the industrial alternatives are far more convenient to buy.

So the more we can do to knock down that barrier, the more attractive you will be to your target customer.

All of these points add up to you being able to attract customers and build relationships.

But, remember, marketing is NOT the goal.

The goal is for…you to achieve customer loyalty and brand preference.

We want customers to seek you out, to ask for you at restaurants and in stores. That’s the goal.

Now, you may be thinking that marketing is complicated and constantly changing, I mean, there’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube there’s SnapChat,

I mean, do I have to do ALL these things?

Do I have to do a Facebook Live session?

Look…Tactics and technology change constantly. Heck, I hate to admit it but I remember when fax marketing was a big deal.

And people were doing fax marketing.

Imagine that, getting a promotional fax! Now, who has a fax machine, other than a lawyer or doctor, I guess. Maybe.

So, these tactics and technologies change all the time, and they will continue to do so.

There will be new ways to reach people five years from now that we can’t conceive today.

Now to help you think about this more clearly, I’d like to share what I believe are the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farm Businesses. I thought about the characteristics I’ve observed, so let’s see if this can help you.

The first habit I recognize is that customers feel like they personally know the chef, the farmer, the cheese or soap maker, the wine maker.

In fact, they may not know them…PROBABLY don’t know them.

But they feel like they do. That could be because they’ve heard them on podcasts or they’ve read their blog or they’ve seen interviews about them, so they feel like they know them.

I don’t think WholeFoods, CrowdCow or Blue Apron will ever be able to match your ability to do that.

The second habit is that customers share their values and have a vested interest in their success.

That vested interest could be the consumer’s desire to foster a local food community, or a chef’s desire to establish a sense of terroir, or an organization’s mission to abolish GMO food production, or whatever it may be.

But they have a vested interest in that farm’s success. Therefore, they become cheerleaders, which is habit #3. These loyal customers promote the farm business to their friends, co-workers and family.

These loyal customers also help the farms marketing efforts, by actively defending the farm and its values. The fact that customers stand up for the farm is habit # 4.

If someone critiques the farm’s approach on social media, the cheerleaders are there to offer their insightful perspective.

Of course, great food marketers also deliver very professional service, because they know that’s what their customers are used to. That’s habit #5.

They don’t hide behind excuses like, “we’re just farmers” to set low expectations. No…they’re on time for deliveries, they arrive in clean vehicles, they have orders neatly packaged, they’re dressed professionally and not in dirty muck boots.

In short, every experience the customer has is consistent with the image the farm portrays.

And it goes without saying that the business produces excellent quality, whether it’s the appearance and taste of the heirloom tomato or heritage chicken, or the food on the plate at the farm dinner. Superior quality is habit #6.

All this combines to make the customer feel PROUD…very PROUD of their relationship with the farm business.

Would you like to grab a free copy of my the Guide: 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms, Learn how profitable farms attract customers, get publicity and command high prices! It’s yours at smallfarmnation.com/habits

When you add up these 7 habits…these traits, these are the traits of great brands.

And I want to close here because I want you to turn your attention, and your concentration, to building a great brand yourself. 

And, listen, you don’t have to be a big company, at all, to build a great local brand.

Sure, you’re building a farm business a food business or whatever, but I want you to focus on building a recognized great brand in your market.

So I’ll be back next week and tell you why it’s so important to build your farm’s brand.

Thanks for Listening!

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Thanks for listening. Until next time!

Small Farm Nation creates beautiful farm websites and offers online farm marketing courses that help farmers grow profitable farm businesses.