How to Grow Your Farm’s Email List: Farm Podcast

How to Grow Your Farm’s Email List: Farm Podcast

Email marketing is a great way to sell your farm products, but how do you build a list in the first place? In this episode I walk you through the four not-so-simple steps of email list building for your farm business.

You’ve heard it many times, but an email list is your most important communication asset. It’s the best way for you to control getting a message directly to your customers.

But most farm websites do an awful job of list building.

I mean, list building comes down to four simple steps.

  1. have a place to capture emails.
  2. drive traffic to that place
  3. give people a great reason to sign-up
  4. give subscribers a way and reason to share

Of course, successful list building is much more detailed than that and requires tools and know how.

I just covered all this in an 11-video course on list building. That was released to the Small Farm Nation Academy just this month.

But what you can do now to review how you’re doing with those four steps?

The first step to building your email list is to have a place to capture emails. Of course, that means being on your website.

Do you have one? An opt-in form? If you don’t, that’s a problem. So create one, right away.

But even if you do, does it stand out? Does it have great contrast with the rest of the page?  Is it located above the fold and also at the top of the sidebar, if you have one, and at the bottom of blog posts?

That’s important, because the three rules of list building are to ask for the email, ask again and then to ask again.

Keep asking! So make sure that opt-in box is visible on your website.

But not just on your website.

Make sure there’s a “sign-up” button on your Facebook page so people are driven to the opt-in form that way.

The second step to building your email list is to drive traffic to your opt-in form.

Sounds easy, right? Just drive traffic to your website. But how do you do that? I mean, that’s probably one of your challenges, right? Getting enough people to your site.

Ok, so you’ve basically got two macro options.

You either have to 1) buy traffic or you have to 2) earn traffic

Now, buying cold traffic, or traffic from people who aren’t yet familiar with you, means advertising. That’s PPC advertising on Google, Facebook or elsewhere.

There aren’t too many scenarios I can think of where I’d recommend buying PPC traffic on Google.

And, while I am a fan of Facebook ads, you shouldn’t just throw money at that without having clearly defined goals and sales funnels set up, and automated. I have a course on how to do all that inside the Small Farm Nation Academy.

So let me give you 10 quick tips on how you can drive traffic to your site.

  1. The first is fully optimizing technical and on-page SEO. I’m not sure why so many farm sites fail to do this, but it’s hugely important to being found. And let’s face it, most people find things by Googling them. Academy members can check out my video lessons on search engine optimization, but if you’re not a member of the Small Farm Nation Academy, just research SEO and get both your site and your specific pages optimized.
  2. Tip two is to blog. Your blog posts shouldn’t be what you want to write about. Rather, they should start with the end in mind. Who are you trying to reach, and what do you want that person to do once they read your blog post? That will help you to create a catchy headline and to optimize the right keywords in the post so that your post is found, and read.
  3. Tip three is guest blogging. Now, many of you will cringe at this because you’re already struggling with what to blog about on your own site. But one of the keys to SEO is getting backlinks, and a great way to do that is to blog for another site. Maybe restaurants you’d like to target have blogs? Or maybe local natural health practitioners do? They both serve audiences who would be interested in what you have, so why not offer to write a blog post for each of them? You’ll get backlinks, reach a new audience and perhaps get a new restaurant customer at the same time. Boom!
  4. Tip four is similar to tip three, but instead of guest blogging, offer to be a guest on a podcast. This is much easier in that you just have to show up and talk. Hell, I love to talk…just ask me something 🙂 And it’s a great way to convey your passion for what you’re doing as, let’s face it, vocal emphasis is often lost on the digital screen. So look for podcasts that make sense for you. You’ll get backlinks to your site as well in the show notes. Sweet!
  5. Tip five is email marketing, but that’s the point of all this, right? I mean, you need a list to email to. But this is the reason you need a list, because most people who visit a website never return unless given a reason. And the best way to drive them back is to email them a link. So, if you have a list at all, drive people to your site, your blog posts and your special offers.
  6. Tip number six here is to promote events. Maybe you want to create Easter egg hunts on your farm, or a farm dinner, or whatever. Create the event and list it on your site, of course. But also list and promote the event on Facebook, as well as with relevant newspapers, online community sites and so on. Lots of sites have event calendars, so get yours listed. Again, you’ll get backlinks and you’ll get exposure.
  7. Okay, tip number seven here is a good one. Create a viral giveaway using tool like KingSumo.  Now, normally when you do a giveaway, when someone enters the giveaway, they have only one entry. But tools like KingSumo are different. They create an incentive for people to not only enter, but to share and promote the contest on social media. How? Because when they refer, lets say, 3 friends to enter the giveaway with their unique link, they receive 3 more entries, thus INCREASING their chances at winning. And for every new email sign up that they refer, they get 3 (or whatever number you choose) additional entries into the contest. So they dramatically increase their chances of winning by sharing it with their friends and telling them to sign up. Visualize this. Imagine that one person refers 3 new people, who each refer 3 more people, each referring 3 more people. All of the sudden, that one single email subscriber just turned into 48 email subscribers. So you can add a LOT of subscribers to your list quickly. A word of caution though, because many of these subscribers may not be qualified as likely customers for you, right? And you don’t want a big list of people who will never buy from you. So, you can qualify them by how you choose what prize to promote. For instance, if it was half a lamb that had to be picked up locally, you wouldn’t be getting entrants from the other side of the world.
  8. Tip number 8 to drive traffic to your site is to use social hash tags. You see them all the time on Facebook and Twitter…you know, #endfactoryfarming or what not. Now, don’t get your hopes up about this, but maybe you’ll come up with something catchy that will drive people to your site.
  9. Tip number 9 is to engage online in groups and blogs, or even to comment on relevant newspaper articles. There are a ton of Facebook groups that you can engage in, but carefully choose those that represent your target audience. In other words, don’t promote yourself in those farm Facebook groups, because those are your peers, not your customers. Go where you customers are.
  10. Finally, tip number 10 of how you can drive people to your site is to speak at conference or event. This can be an organic conference, a real food event or a local social club, such as Chamber of Commerce. Just take an hour or two, get out there and press the flesh.

Okay, so there are 10 great tips on how you can drive traffic to your site.

Let’s move on with the next two steps to list building.

The third step to building your email list is to give people a great reason to sign-up.

This is where so many people struggle, as they try to come up with a great idea for the illusive lead magnet.

A lead magnet is just a resource that the visitor wants and is willing to exchange an email address to get. It started out years ago as an e-book, but nowadays is more often a one or two page checklist, recipe, guide or cheat sheet.

For instance, one of my best performing lead magnets is the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms.

That lead magnet works for me because my target audience is small-scale farmers, and many of them want to know what is working, from a marketing perspective, with other farms.

The question you’ll have to answer is what does your target audience want. It could be recipes, it could be how-to guides, such as how to make salami or how to make cheese at home.

Or it could be that they just want to be first on the list when you have an opening in your CSA or whatever.

Many times you do NOT need a lead magnet. Many times people just want to be notified. I mean, you don’t see Apple offering a lead magnet on their site do you? But people sign up because they want to be notified when something’s new.

This taps into a very important marketing dynamic called the Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO. And you can tap into it as well, as I often did on my farm.

How?

heritage turkeysWell, we only raised so many heritage turkeys. We only produced so many Ossabaw pigs. 

So, if people wanted to be notified when they were offered so they’d have a chance to get them, they had to be on the list.

And that’s one of the reasons we built a list of over 5,000 subscribers. Because almost everyone has FOMO, or a fear of missing out. So create a lead magnet if you feel it’s best for you, but you don’t have to.

You can leverage the innate fear of missing out to your advantage as well to get people to sign up.

Now, I’ll tell you this.

Regardless of whether you focus on lead magnets of FOMO marketing, you’re not going to convert many visitors into subscribers if you don’t optimize your calls to action.

I’m not talking about the offer here. I’m talking about that SUBSCRIBE button.

It’s really important where it’s located, how it contrasts with the rest of the screen and what words you use on the button. Using words like subscribe or enter are generally not the best.

I cover all this in my list building course inside the Small Farm Nation Academy.

You gotta make sure that button and the entire call to action form pop on the site so that the eyes are drawn to it, and that the copy lures the visitor into becoming a subscriber.

Okay, so that’s the third step of how you get people to actually sign up.

The fourth and final step is to give people a way and a reason to share.

So how do you do that?

A big mistake almost 100% of farm sites make…and most other sites, come to think of it, is they overlook the single most important step in list building.

And that is to create a thank you page.

Here’s what I mean.

Normally when you subscribe to an email list, particularly on farm sites, you get something that says “you’ve subscribed” or “thanks for subscribing.”

Sometimes you get nothing, sometimes you’re redirected to the home page, sometimes you just get a blank screen.

I’ve seen it many times.

Here’s what should happen.

You should be redirected to a thank you page.

Again, go to https://smallfarmnation.com/habits/ and download the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful farms guide to see what I mean. Once you subscribe, you’ll be redirected to a thank you page.

Now, why is the thank you page so important?

Pay attention here because this is really important.

The Thank You page is the ONLY page that you’re guaranteed 100% of your subscribers will see. The only one.

Because, and you know this, even when people subscribe many of them don’t see the confirmation email, right?

It goes in a SPAM or promotional folder, or they delete it by mistake. That’s why you have people in a double opt-in email system who never confirm.

But your thank you page can not only fix that for them, it can further engage them in a relationship with you. And if you set it up right, it can give them both a way and a reason to share your page with others.

Listen in as I guide you through how to grow your farm’s email list!

Thanks for Listening!

To help the show:

Thanks for listening. Until next time!

 

Random Acts of Farm Marketing

Random Acts of Farm Marketing

There’s an epidemic afflicting farm business owners and I’m here to raise awareness and put an end to it. Today I’ll shed some light on the crisis needlessly damaging all small businesses, an epidemic I’ll call  random acts of marketing.

Today I want to discuss a crisis in small business. A crisis in most businesses, actually, but particularly in farm businesses. It’s a problem that creates undue stress, panic and results in farmers not building their brands, getting enough customers and growing their farm business.

I’m talking about Random Acts of Marketing.

It’s an epidemic that’s growing worse each day, and it’s totally preventable.

For sure, marketing is on every farm business owner’s mind. But it almost always falls to the bottom of their to-do-list, somewhere behind dealing with farm chores, delivering to what customers they do have and, far too often, tending to off-farm responsibilities.

Like jobs.

Then they realize they haven’t been “doing marketing” and they panic.

They feel the need to bang out a blog post, upload a picture to Instagram and post “something…anything” on Facebook.

“Phew, that’s done,” they say, then they go about their farm chores. And they “don’t do” marketing again for a while…it’s just something they do in fits and starts.

Their business suffers and their brand has no clarity, no impact and is completely lost in a newsfeed tsunami.

So, why does this happen? Whether you have a farm, landscape or law practice, pest control or dental office, we all know marketing is important. Because marketing gets us customers and without customers, what are we all doing this for?

So why? Why do we all resort to these drive-by-marketing tactics?

I believe it happens for three reasons.

  1. We haven’t strategically prioritized it
  2. We don’t have a clear strategy for driving traffic and converting traffic
  3. As a result, we don’t know what we should be doing.

And the first reason, the fact that we haven’t prioritized it, is the most critical one. It’s also, unless you’re an experienced marketer, very understandable.

Because think about it. When you think of starting your farm business you think of the romantic stuff, right? Working with your hands on the land, with the soil and the animals.

Growing stuff. Making stuff. Being free.

All parts of farm life. All romantic notions.

And none of which pay the bills until and unless you get paying customers.

Which is what marketing is all about.

We don’t start with marketing in mind, and that’s the problem. So I’m here, today, to force this intervention with you.

You’re trapped by your bad marketing habits, and if you don’t change, someone’s gonna get hurt. That someone is your farm business.

So the first step to change is to recognize that this is you. You’re a drive-by-marketer, randomly posting things without, A) understanding why, and B) having a process in place to funnel the reader into a relationship with you.

You need to recognize that. But the good news is that I’m here to guide you. To be your farm marketing mentor.

And your road to recovery  starts with developing a clear strategy for driving traffic, and having a plan to convert that traffic. Convert people first into subscribers and then into customers and brand advocates.

To help my members make progress I’ve released two full-blown courses in the Small Farm Nation Academy that walk through this. Over 20 video lessons in the content marketing and list building courses.

But in terms of marketing disciplines, we’re really talking about two areas here.

We’re talking about having a content marketing strategy, and we’re talking about employing best practices for email list building.

Those areas will combine to help you create content that attracts potential customers and then welcomes them into a lasting relationship with you.

Let me focus on the content marketing strategy since it’s a course I just opened this month in the Small Farm Nation Academy.

And I ‘d like to help you do something that very few small business marketers do. I want to help you start with a content strategy

Now, why do we need a STRATEGY for marketing content? Well, I’ll tell you, and see if you can relate to any of this.

When it comes to blogging, most people just sit down and hammer out a blog post.  And they think of it as a chore, something like, man I’ve got to update my blog.

If you blog, have you ever felt like that? It feels that way largely because you’re not sure WHY you’re blogging.

Honestly, this is what happens to most blogs. A blogger starts off enthusiastically, posting often, but then the posts start coming few and far between as the blogger loses interest and stops posting. Because they’re unsure what to write and why. There’s no strategy, there’s no process behind where the blog fits in the overall marketing strategy.

And because there’s no strategy or goals, the blogger often has no opt-in and no lead magnet. Or, at best, a generic opt-in such as “sign up for our newsletter.” Which virtually no one will do.

And the same thing applies to all these social media channels.

Most small business marketers feel like they’re supposed to post something somewhere. On Instagram, on Facebook. Sometimes on Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube. And there are other platforms and there will be even more a year from now.

But, again, what’s the WHY?

WHY must you post, and how does that action help you accomplish a SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE goal?

Virtually all small business marketers, including 99% of farms, feel and act this way.

And they don’t have a process for moving the public from being complete strangers to advocates of their brand.

The business owner commits all of these busy-body sins because they’re not thinking BEYOND the content. Where the content fits in their overall business strategy.

So, as Apple famously said, let’s Think Different. Let’s stop these senseless random acts of marketing and focus on marketing tactics that propel our businesses forward.

To do that, let’s start with the end in mind. That means defining clear objectives for our marketing content.

That makes sense, right? I mean, you wouldn’t just go throw a bunch of seeds out in the field and hope something grows and that you’ll know what to do with it when it does.

So let’s set some clear, measurable goals. That way, any time you ask yourself questions like “what am I doing here on Facebook?” or “why am I doing this blog post again?”  you’ll know the answer.

Let’s start with a vision. What do you want your farm to be in the future? 3-5 years is a good timeline to visualize. How do you want to be seen, what do you really want to be, and how can content help you achieve that. I’ll walk you through an example of how this can work in just a minute.

For now, let’s define your target audience?

Now if you’ve been told you need to define your ideal customer, I’d like you to forget that. You’ve probably heard my reasons why on my podcast, but virtually no business, farm or otherwise, starts by looking for an ideal customer, and it’s a waste of time thinking you’re going to find all the sustainable Susies out there just waiting to buy from you.

Now, if you’re a new farm, you won’t know who is buying from you yet.

So you’ll want to create content centered on YOUR values and YOUR passion, just as I did when I built my farm, just as Joel Salatin, Will Harris, Curtis Stone, Greg Gunthorp, Jordan Green, John Suscovich or anyone else I’ve interviewed in podcasts or mastermind calls did. None of us started by looking for an ideal customer. We all started because we were passionate about what we were doing, just as you are.

Now, if you already have customers, then you can start to segment them, which is what I did with my farming business. But my customer segments were very different demographically and psychographically.  I grouped my customer groups into five segments:

  1. Rare breed lovers who loved that we supported heritage breeds.
  2. Moms for healthy kids, who wanted their kids to have nutrient-dense food and to know where it came from.
  3. Meat eating vegetarians, who as crazy as it sounds were vegans who had meat eating family members to feed, so that wanted to source humanely raised protein.
  4. Retired cheerleaders were older folks who loved what we were doing, and why, and became our greatest cheerleaders.
  5. And finally, the ethnic traditionalists were those who wanted foods they used to have “back home.” Chicken feet, organ cuts, live animals…that kind of thing.

As you can see, there was no ideal customer because they were ALL ideal customers.

But…these five groups did have some things in common.

For instance, they all craved a RELATIONSHIP with a local farmer they could TRUST.

And, they all wanted meat, dairy and eggs from pasture raised animals that were raised naturally. This was important to each segment.

Finally, THEY wanted to know what was in their food and how it was produced.

Now, the key words from these sentences are relationship and trust. And we can use those words to drive our content strategy.

Okay, so now we can create some content marketing goals. But let’s start with our vision, and for that, we’ll need an example.

Let’s suppose you’ve recently started a grassfed beef business. You may not even have product to sell yet since it takes a couple of years for most cows to finish on pasture.

But perhaps your vision is to be recognized as THE preferred brand for grassfed beef in your area. You visualize having a good size herd and selling directly to consumers either at your farm or via delivery clubs.

So, what type of content can help you achieve that?

Sure, we want to produce content that will engender trust with our farm. But first we actually have to increase awareness that there’s even a problem. Meaning, a problem with the current food system.

Because we’re really reaching out to strangers at this point…people who not only don’t know your farm, but are unaware of the benefits of grassfed beef.

Believe me, the people who are aware of the benefits will be seeking you out, and they’ll often do that with the help of Google.

This is why SEO and blogging is such an important part of your strategy, so that when they’re looking they find you.

But our goal is to produce a variety of content that creates awareness of the need for grassfed beef, then shows (not tells, but shows) them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and finally educates them on the benefits of using your grassfed beef.

Now that we have our vision, an idea of our audience or at least our values and passion if we don’t know the target segments, and we understand what type of content we want to produce and why, let’s ask ourselves this question.

How will you measure success?

This is important, and of course this is the key metric that virtually no one pays adequate attention to. Instead they focus on getting posts or pictures up and bragging on how many likes they get.

But do likes pay the feed bill or the vet bill?

Nope.

So we want to aim for success metrics that we can clearly connect to our sales funnel.

Now, remember, we’re talking about content marketing here. And content marketing is NOT about selling. It is not about sales offers and promotions.

Content marketing is about HELPING and INSPIRING our audience. The selling comes later, AFTER they trust and know you. And one of the best tools you’ll have to inform, inspire and, yes, promote to them, is via email.     

So, in this example, our primary success metric is the growth we achieve in our email list. The email list is a critically important asset that we own, so the first goal is measuring the growth of our list. And it also means producing high-value content that gets us email subscribers.

In other words, we rarely want to just put a stand-alone post on Facebook that doesn’t motivate the person to opt-in to our list.

I mean, be honest, how many times have you done that…updated Facebook and not seen ANY noticeable response. Even if you get a few like and shares, do they buy from you? Do you know?

You’ll have a much better opportunity to track success by looking at your email metrics, such as open and click rates. So the success metrics we’ll focus on are growth in opt-in email subscribers and email success metrics. 

We’ll also set goals for other metrics that impact that, such as overall site traffic. Believe me, there are tons of other things we could track as well, such as split testing headlines, various call-to-action forms and so on.

But life it complicated enough.

In this realistic farm example, let’s keep it simple by creating and distributing content that creates awareness of our product, builds trust with our farm and consistently grows our email list.            

Now, I suspect you’ve heard of marketing and sales funnels. It’s a concept that’s been around for decades and visually describes the vertical process of taking someone from having no awareness of your product to being a loyal customer.

Supposedly customers magically drip out of the funnel’s bottom.

But I’d like you to think of this more as a horizontal timeline rather than a funnel.

Something I’ll call The Customer Journey. A journey where you use marketing tactics to nurture complete strangers through a process that culminates with them beyond your most loyal supporters.          

And those marketing tactics will be producing bite-size content that’s appropriate to move them through each stage of this process. Those stages of the customer journey are attraction, conversion, closing and thrilling.     

the customer journey     

And here are the methods you will employ to achieve this.

In the stage where you attract strangers so they visit your site, your blog and your site search engine optimization will do the heavy lifting. You’ll also employ social media posts, but not so much those cute animal pics that do nothing to build your email list. Rather, you’ll create posts that drive traffic to visit your site to see the compelling content you posted about.

In other words, you gotta get ‘em off Facebook and onto your site. They won’t do that unless you have something compelling, but given the skills you learned in my copywriting course, I’m confident you can get them there.              

Once they’re there you’ll need to do an excellent job of converting them from visitors to subscribers. 

Now, I created a 13 video email list building course in the Small Farm Nation Academy. You’ll need to implement those tactics I covered in that course to excel at converting visitors into subscribers. This is critical as it’s your primary success metric.                       

And once you’ve achieved that, you can begin the process of nurturing the subscribers. First into customers, and then into raving fan advocates. And there are lots of tactics and tools we’ll cover to discuss how to do that.

But this is what you’re trying to achieve with your content marketing strategy. To develop and distribute content that will take your audience from being complete strangers to becoming advocates for your brand.

Now our content marketing strategy has to center on producing RELEVANT content. And this, of course, starts with choosing relevant topics and themes.

So rather than just pulling any old subject out of thin air, you’ll need to come up with ideas for your blog posts and other content that not only make sense for your audience, but are appropriate within the context of your farm business and for each stage of the customer journey.

Another lesson I released to members shows how to use content multipliers. These are twists and format changes to the standard blog post that can give you dramatically more reach and mileage without having to create totally new pieces of content. It’s an important tactic to help you produce tons of content without taking tons of time.      

Another important step that many miss is effectively promoting and recycling their content. This also means creating evergreen content that remains relevant regardless of when someone reads it. I covered ways to do all this in the content marketing course inside the Small Farm Nation Academy.

In the end, what content marketing is all about is serving your audience. Helping them. Inspiring them. Not selling to them.     

Now, I know that you know marketing is critical to your business. I know you know that.

You’re just not sure where to start. But when you create your content marketing strategy and combine it with best practices for building your email list, you’ll then begin to prioritize marketing. You’ll know what you should be doing and why you should be doing it.

You’ll be cured of your random acts of marketing affliction and on your way to sustainable farm business growth.

And that’s what I want for you.


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Farm Website Platform Comparison

Farm Website Platform Comparison


Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s online marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And this week we’re talking websites, or, more specifically, what website design tool you should use.

And we have plenty of options, right? There’s lots of website builders out there—you know, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress.com and open-source WordPress (wordpress.org).

I know you’re looking for what’s the best builder for you, so let’s get right to it by addressing what is the best website building tool. And in this episode, I’ll focus on Wix, Squarespace and WordPress.

Of course, there are other solutions, such as Weebly, GoDaddy and, if you need e-commerce, Shopify, Volusion and others. 

Oh…and there’s FarmPress, the FREE, hosted solution you get when you join the Small Farm Nation Academy.

But many farmers are concerned with one of these three—WordPress, Wix and Squarespace— and, honestly, I can’t think of many scenarios where one of these wouldn’t be the best choice for every farm business (other than FarmPress , of course).

So the question I often hear is, which is the best. And what do folks mean when they say the best…who decides that?

Well, of course, the market broadly decides the best solution, right? But it’s up to us…to you…to pick the solution that’s right for you.

So, what does the market have to say?

WordPress Market ShareWell, it’s no contest, is it. I mean, WordPress has about 60% market share of the CMS or content management systems out there, and pretty much all the big brands use WordPress to some degree.

That list includes the NY Times, CNN, Forbes—hell, even the Walking Dead website uses WordPress.

That said, Wix, Squarespace and Shopify have all made minor gains in the last year, owing to their huge ad spends on commercials and elsewhere. I mean, you can’t watch ANY youtube video these days without some celebrity telling you how great Wix is.

So they’re buying customers with huge ad spends, which is something WordPress can’t do, since it’s free open source software.

So, the market overwhelmingly says WordPress is the preferred choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. Let’s dive in and compare WordPress to Wix and Squarepace to help you decide what is right for you.

First, let’s start with what the fundamental differences are between WordPress, Wix and Squarespace, because, fundamentally, they can each be used to build an effective website.

The main difference is that Wix and Squarespace are online, fully-featured and self-contained tools. You don’t need a hosting account or even a domain. Just visit their sites, sign up for an account, and immediately start building your website using their visual design tools.

Of course, both Wix and Squarespace are for-profit companies, whereas the WordPress we commonly hear about is not a company at all.  It is a free, open source software package that needs to be installed on a web server before you can use it.

You’ll also need a domain, which you may get at GoDaddy or elsewhere. Then you’ll need to set up a hosting account at BlueHost, SiteGround, HostGator or elsewhere.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to install WordPress on their server before you can pick out a theme, install plugins and begin creating your site.

So there are definitely more steps involved and more moving pieces with a WordPress site than there are at Wix or Squarespace.

But let’s dive deeper and look at each in more detail.

And we’ll start with WordPress. Now, when I say WordPress, I’m referring to wordpress.org, the OPEN Source software you install at a hosting account.

I’m not referring to wordpress.com which is NOT the same thing. Basically, wordpress.com is a hosted solution similar to Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, so I’m not reviewing it in this episode.

Okay, WordPress is an all-in-one package of website software. Think of it this way; similarly to how MacOS or Windows runs your laptop, WordPress runs your website. It sits in the background and makes sure that you can easily configure your website, add plugins, edit and publish your content.

Now, WordPress can only be installed on a web server. The easiest way of getting access to a web server is buying web server space from a hosting company, such as Siteground or Bluehost. The prices for that start at around $5 a month.

Depending on the hosting company you choose, you might have to install WordPress on the server yourself, but most hosts, like Siteground, give you access to a simple 1-click WordPress install.

After installing WordPress you also need to install a WordPress theme and some plugins – this is how you obtain a custom design for your website and some additional functionality. There are thousands of themes and plugins available on the web, both free and paid.

Now, to take full advantage of what WordPress offers, some website building skills are required – since the plugin and theme setup can get a bit complicated at times.

You may have already found that out if you use WordPress. But…that’s what a lot of the Small Farm Nation Academy is about…helping you navigate this stuff.

And besides, just because site skills are helpful doesn’t mean you have to do it. With WordPress’ popularity, it’s easy to find help for CSS and other customization on Fiverr.

Depending on how much you want to adjust, you might even have to write custom code or build custom design elements – this is where hiring a designer or developer might come into the picture. But, since WordPress is far and away the most popular platform, development help on Fiverr and elsewhere is easy to find.

WordPress itself is completely free and open source. Basically, software-wise, you can get all the components you need to build your website for free. What isn’t free, though, is your domain name and web hosting. The former is usually $10 a year, and the latter, as I mentioned above, usually starts at $5 a month. 

And WordPress is definitely state-of-the-art software. It has all the website management features you might need. It’s currently being used by nearly 30% of the entire internet. That’s why technical help isn’t hard to find, and there’s a virtually endless number of plugins to really customize the site the way you want.

Now, since WordPress isn’t a company, there’s no support per se. So while you do get access to a dedicated WordPress community, there’s no single entity that provides customer support by default. Though, as I’ve said it’s easy to find WordPress developers around the globe.

So, what about cost?

Well, WordPress itself will cost you zilch. Nada.

But, you need a domain name…a URL, and that may cost you up to $15 bucks a year. But that’s a wash, really, because you’re gonna want to buy a domain whether you use WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or any other solution. Trust me—you want to own your own domain name.

Then, you need a hosting account, which will set you back at least five bucks a month, or another $60 bucks a year. So the minimum you’ll be paying for a WordPress site is about $75 a year.

Now, there are tons of free themes for WordPress, but many people go for a premium theme. Those will set you back another $50-$200.

So this gives you a sense of the minimum cost you can pay for a WordPress site.

So, why would you NOT want to use wordpress?

  • Well, WordPress can be a challenge for novices to customize the theme they choose. It’s like learning any new skill…like how to butcher a chicken or prepare a seedbed. You gotta learn the skill.
  • And WordPress requires more learning and hands on, at least at first, then other CMS alternatives.
  • Another reason to avoid WordPress is if you’re “put off” by having to set-up a hosting account. If the thought of setting up an account at a hosting provider overwhelms you, then avoid WordPress, cause that’s what you’ll have to do.
  • Finally, if you need a “pretty” website up and running today…and I mean, TODAY, then WordPress isn’t the answer unless you know what you’re doing.

These are the main reasons I’d say someone may want to avoid WordPress.

Now, why SHOULD you consider choosing WordPress?

  • Well, it is hands down the most flexible tool on this list! Way more so than Wix and Squarespace. No question about it.
  • I mean, the sole fact of it being open source means that anyone can build a plugin or a theme that will extend the platform’s native functionality. And a lot of people do just that.
  • For example, the official directory of plugins at WordPress.org lists more than 52,000 plugins as of now. 
  • What this means is if you need any feature at all, there’s a high likelihood that someone has already built a plugin that makes it available. And what’s more, that plugin is probably free because most are.
  • Remember, WordPress is the most popular tool – with nearly 30% of all websites using WordPress – which is perhaps the main evidence of its versatility. 
  • Another reason to use WordPress is if you’re on a tight budget. Even though you have to pay for the domain name and hosting, a basic WordPress site is still the most affordable solution on this list.
  • You should also choose WordPress if you want to have full control of your website – this includes not having to deal with anyone limiting the way you manage your website, the designs you use, or the features you have on your website.
  • With Squarespace and Wix—or even those custom farm website solutions on the market—you have NO control over what features they add OR take away from you.
  • Use WordPress if not having access to a dedicated customer support isn’t a problem for you. Now, you’ll get customer support with your web host, and I can tell you that SiteGround’s support is fantastic. but they may not be able to help you outside of hosting-related issues. Then again, many members rely on the forum in Small Farm Nation Academy to get help with their sites, and we’re happy to provide it. So that’s another option.
  • Now, even if you don’t sell online today, you may want to in the future. WooCommerce is a free plugin that allows you to create an online store. If you need help customizing the look and functionality, there are lots of people on Fiverr and elsewhere who can do the work for you, pretty cheaply.
  • Finally, if you want to ever add online courses to teach your farm skills, you’ll want to be on WordPress.

Ok, so that’s WordPress.

Now, let’s look at Wix.

Wix is a one-stop, fully-featured and self-contained website building tool. It lets you build a fully-operational website or e-commerce store from scratch. It not only acts as the operating system of your website – like WordPress – but also as the web server that houses the software.

Wix hosts your website, so you don’t have to set up your own hosting account. You get it all in one place – from Wix.com. If you don’t want to pay for a custom domain name, you also get a free subdomain that you can use. This is going to be something like your-username.wix.com.

Wix works out of the box and lets you start building your website right after you sign up for a Wix.com account. Though I’ve fooled around with Wix and I’m not sure it’s quite as easy and intuitive as everyone thinks. Because no matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

You’ll have that reaction with Wix just as you will with Squarespace, Shopify, and WordPress. Personally, I find WordPress builders like Divi and Thrive to be FAR more intuitive and easier than those on Wix, but that’s just me.

Wix Gives you access to more than 500 website designs. That’s probably too many, but there are some really good designs.

And there are no coding or website development skills required to use Wix.

Wix does offer a plan that’s free, but it has limitations. There are also paid plans, spanning from $5 to $25 a month.

But, Wix does offer a pretty complete package needed to launch a functional website or online store. And there’s nothing that you need to get or install on top of what you get at wix.com.

Since it’s a business, they offer solid 24/7 support. This means that whatever problem you might have, the Wix.com guys are there to solve it for you.

Now, can you get Wix for free? Yes…but don’t do it, because you’ll have a wix branded URL and Wix branding on your web pages.

If you think that’s okay you may want to watch some of the lessons in the branding module of Small Farm Nation Academy. Because growing your farm is about building YOUR brand, not Wix’s.

So you’ll want a premium plan. I recommend you go for the Unlimited plan at 14 bucks a month, unless you need the ecommerce plan. So, all in, you’re looking at about $168 a year. More than WordPress, but you may find the convenience worth it.

So, why would you want to avoid Wix?

  • Well, here’s a big one—a huge one. If you change your theme design in Wix, you lose ALL your content. I mean—what? Imagine that? Here’s what Wix says right on their support site as of November 2018: Currently, it is not possible to apply a different template to a Wix site that you already created. That is, once you create a site and add content, you cannot then apply a different template to that site.“ I mean come on! That is so 1999. But it’s the way it is…so you better get your design right the first time. Moving on.
  • Also, the online store cost is pricey compared to doing it in WordPress. But, it’s not when compared to Squarespace or Shopify, because they both cost money too. It’s just that the WordPress e-commerce solution, WooCommerce, is free. Just something to be aware of.
  • And, even though Wix gives you lots of templates to start with and makes it easy to get going quickly, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to create a good design.
  • I’ve talked about this problem before, where the DIY site builders make it easy to throw content and images up, but not necessarily create a website that’s effective. I mean, just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you can build a house. Wix gives you the hammer, but you’ll need discipline to not get seduced by all the dragging and dropping, and instead start with a clear plan, and stick to it. 
  • Finally, what happens if you do decide to move platforms. Maybe you want to move to Squarespace or WordPress. What happens to your data, designs and content?
  • With Wix – there is no way to export your data.  It’s a bit like having all your furniture bolted to your house. If you move – you can’t bring anything with you.
  • In the worst case scenario, you’d have to scrape and/or manually copy paste your data to your new site. But either way, Wix does not make it easy to leave.

So then, why choose Wix?

  • Well, go with Wix if you want to build a website for free. Because it’s the only option for that.
  • Or, use Wix if you want to build an e-commerce store easily, without having to deal with external plugins or difficult setups. Wix has an e-commerce module integrated right out the gate.
  • Use Wix if you’re not very website-savvy and you’d prefer not have to deal with servers, hosting, and domain names. It’ll save you a lot of headaches.
  • Consider using Wix if you don’t mind not being in full control of your website. You’ll be limited to whatever features Wix allows you to have, which may be enough for you. But if they’re not, you won’t be able to customize the site as you can with WordPress.
  • Finally, use Wix if you want to access to customer support that will be able to help you out in case of anything. You can even speak with someone on the phone!

Now, let’s turn our attention to Squarespace.

Similar to Wix, Squarespace is a one-stop website building tool. It’s all available online and lets you create your own functional website or e-commerce store from scratch.

No third-party web servers are needed. Everything you need you get after signing up at squarespace.com.

And no technical setup or software installation is required. Right after opening an account at Squarespace.com you can get started working on your website.

Of course, Squarespace offers you dozens of very nicely designed templates to choose from. Even though that’s a lot less than what Wix gives you, the designs at Squarespace are very attractive, and they are also all optimized for mobile and tablet viewing.

Of course, when you replace the images in the templates with your images, the template will immediately NOT look so good, unless you have access to top-notch photography and really know what you’re doing. I’ve seen lots of farmers butcher their Squarespace designs with out-of-focus, poor photography.

If you’re a technophobe, the good news is you don’t need to know how to deal with php, CSS or html to simply use Squarespace. Just like Wix, Squarespace gives you the complete package needed to launch a fully operational website with. You don’t need anything else than what’s already given to you at Squarespace.com.

You get access to 24/7 support, but that doesn’t mean the can help you with design. They’ll just help with how to use Squarespace or anything not working properly.

In terms of cost, Squarespace offers plans from $12 to $40 a month, but the personal plan is limited in number of pages, so you’ll probably opt for the Business plan at $18.

For online stores, you’ll want the $40 a month plan, unless you want your customers to check out on Squarespace’s branded site rather than yours. I think that’s a ridiculous thing they’re doing, charging you an extra $14 a month just so folks can check out on YOUR site, but…whatever.

Anyway, when you add it all up you’re looking at anywhere from $216 to $480 a year on Squarespace.

So, why would you not use Squarespace?

  • Well, for starters, it’s the most expensive of the three options we’re covering in this episode. Granted, it’s not a ton of money for a “real” business, but is it worth the extra money? Not to me. 
  • With Squarespace you can export your data…but you’ll lose the design, of course, since it’s a Squarespace theme you were renting. And that theme is only available on Squarespace hosted sites.
  • Now there are many reasons you may want to move a site. For instance, perhaps you grow displeased with Squarespace’s hosting speed. The only way to move to another host is to leave Squarespace.
  • On the other hand, if you had a WordPress site on Bluehost or HostGator and were unhappy with their hosting speed, you could easily move your entire site—data AND design—to another host, such as Siteground.
  • Another problem with Squarespace is actually the same as their main selling benefit—their beautiful designs. You see, the Squarespace template are gorgeous, but as I’ve said before, it’s really hard for most people to create a site that looks remotely as good as their templates do.
  • And while Squarespace certainly has excellent online support, you’re not gonna get someone on the phone. And, let me tell you, sometimes it really helps to talk to someone, as I’ve had to do countless times with hosting providers. It’s a relatively minor issue until you have an urgent site problem…then you’ll see how important it is to be able to reach someone. I can always get someone on the phone quickly at Siteground if I have a hosting or WordPress problem.
  • Another big problem is this. At least Wix has an app marketplace that has some free add-ons.  And WordPress….well, there’s over 50,000 plugins, almost all free.
  • But you won’t find one free plugin you can use with Squarespace, so you’re stuck with the limitations of the box they stick you in.

Okay, then, so when is Squarespace the right choice?

  • Well, mainly, the reasons to use Squarespace are exactly the same as the reasons to use Wix:
  • Use Squarespace if you want to build an e-commerce store with ease. You don’t need to deal with the technical aspects of the setup, though, if you’re main objective is an online store you should compare against Shopify.
  • Use Squarespace if you don’t have any coding or website building skills but still want to create a great-looking website on your own.
  • Turn to Squarespace if you don’t care for anything hosting- or server-related. You just want a website to work.
  • Use Squarespace if you’re not worried that you’re not in full control of your website.
  • You’re content with the design features that you’re given by Squarespace.
  • Finally, consider Squarespace if you value 24/7 access to customer support.

So, what’s the bottom line with all this? Ask yourself these questions.

Do you want to be in full control of your website and be able to add whatever you wish to it (be it themes, plugins, custom code, anything at all)? If the answer is “yes,” or “perhaps” then go with WordPress. That’s what I do and that’s what the large majority of people do.

However, if you prefer a solution that doesn’t require any coding or website building skills and simply lets you create your own website in an easy-to-grasp and beginner-friendly way, then go with either Wix or Squarespace.

As for me, I’ve created sites on Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion and on WordPress. Today, every site I develop is on WordPress. I wouldn’t consider another platform for these 10 reasons:

  1. If I move from Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or Shopify, I’d lose my design, but if I moved my WordPress to another host, I wouldn’t lose anything.
  2. My copyrighted content can be used for free on SquareSpace. You heard that right, Squarespace’s license says, and I quote, “we may use in perpetuity, free of charge, any version of your site or any portion thereof, for the purpose of Squarespace marketing and promotion activities.” No thanks.
  3. Squarespace, Wix & Weebly can pull features at any time, without notice. So you build your site using certain features and they take them away. Ouch.
  4. I control the page builder on WordPress. I can use any drag and drop tool I want—Divi, Thrive Themes, Beaver Builder, whatever. With Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and GoDaddy, I have no choice other than the tools they give me.
  5. It’s challenging to be unique in a closed system like SquareSpace. All the sites look the same.
  6. WordPress is just much more SEO friendly than the other options, and has helpful plugins such as Yoast SEO to help with search engine optimization.
  7. WordPress has a superior blogging platform, and content marketing is hugely important if you want to drive traffic to your site without paying for advertising.
  8. WordPress allows for easy ecommerce and easy CSA sign-up and management with the help of plugins such as WooCommerce and Gravity Forms.
  9. WordPress offers an easy ability to add online courses and more if you want to add that. Who knows—you might.
  10. Finally, WordPress is an open source vs the isolationist platforms of Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. This means there are FAR more ideas, innovation and support going in the direction of WordPress.

Currently, WordPress has about 60% of the market. By comparison, neither Wix, Weebly or Squarespace has even 2%. Hands down, WordPress is the preferred platform.

But, as I’ve said, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So here are my final recommendations for you.

  1. If your site will be very basic, go with Wix
  2. If you just must have that Squarespace template you like so much & have access to VERY high-resolution images, go ahead with SquareSpace
  3. If you’re serious about building your farm brand and business, go with WordPress and have it properly designed. You’ll have way more flexibility.

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One-Page Farm Business Plan

One-Page Farm Business Plan


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s strategy week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And nothing says “strategy” more than business planning, so that’s the focus this week.

Now, what do people usually say is the first thing you need before going into business?

They say a business plan, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, your brother, a banker or someone you meet in the coffee shop. They all drink the same Kool-Aid and start chanting, you need a business plan, you need a business plan.

Like lemmings. Like all the people today who chant, you need to define your ideal customer, you need to define your ideal customer. Basically people hear something, think it’s authoritative and just repeat it.

On the surface, it makes sense that we’re told to create a business plan. Because real businesses have business plans, and we want to run a real business, right? But, have you ever seen a comprehensive business plan? Have you written a business plan? And, be honest…do you have a written business plan for your farm?

I’m not saying that planning isn’t necessary, even helpful. But “traditional” business planning is overemphasized, in my view. Just as a college education often is.

And, listen, I’ve written and reviewed a ton of business plans. Many of them well over 100 pages long, full of internal and external analysis, capital allocation plans, key performance goals, market analysis, financial projections, contingency plans, human resources and marketing plans, SWOT analysis, Gantt charts and so on. And you also see a lot of emphasis on exit strategies, which not many new farmers are interested in. Which is too bad. Not because they should necessarily aspire to sell their farm businesses. But because they should build and run them as if they would. That way, they’d be much more successful.

But back to the point about business plans. Why did I create these plans, and were they useful?

Well, most of them I created because I had to. I worked in a Fortune 500 company and we had to create plans to persuade a board of directors, lenders and investors, to make capital allocations.

Later when I founded my own business, I had to create the plans to facilitate funding from venture capitalists, angel investors and banks.

But the key phrase here is “I had to”. So, I did. But what happened to the plans after I created them?

They got filed away, in the old days. Later as technology took over, they got stuck in a digital folder. But in both cases, they collected physical and digital dust.

In the corporate world, the business plans were useful for upper management to admonish me if I missed projections. They could say, “here’s what you said you’d do” and point to any gaps that existed. Fortunately, that was rarely the case for me, but that was how the plan was used.

When dealing with lenders, especially banks, with my own business, the business plan supposedly established that I was serious about my business—because I had obviously put a great deal of thought into my strategy.

Of course, my financial projections always looked exactly like everyone else’s. In other words, like a hockey stick. Hockey stick financial projections. A hockey stick financial projection is one that shows a slow or flat start, and then magically rockets up for future years just like the blade of a hockey stick.

We all do this. Entrepreneurs can’t help themselves. We’re too optimistic. We create spreadsheets, make projections of how we’re going to add customers every month, every quarter, and add new products or raise prices.

So we’ll continually sell more and earn more. Then, when we look at it and say, “that’s too good to be true,” we create additional models.

“I’ll create a conservative, a realistic and an aggressive projection,” we tell ourselves. So we do.

And then we get on to running our businesses.

And find that, almost always, our plans were flat out wrong.

These over-the-top business plan templates may be helpful if your business is raising capital. Or if you’re seeking serious lending, I’m sure your lender will require it. But, for 90% of us, at least, they are a waste of time.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through a simple planning guide that will help you answer everything that’s important, and chart your farm down a successful path. And, get this—you only need to answer eight questions! That’s it, 8 questions and you’ll have your business strategy laid out.

But before I walk you through those questions and the one-page business plan, let me go through a few reasons for why I don’t think you need to waste time on traditional business planning.

  • The first reason is that focusing on a business plan may interfere with you ever having a business. Why? Because spending too much time planning can lead to paralysis by analysis. I’ve seen LOTS of folks who wanted to start a business, farm or otherwise. So they set to writing a business plan, usually with one of countless business plan templates. Then the would-be entrepreneur writes a first pass, and edits, tweaks, tweaks, tweaks and basically falls into a loop of ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim—and they never get started. And you want to avoid anything that impedes your ability to start with your business. So, do you think I’m saying you shouldn’t plan a strategy for your business? Of course not! What do you think I am, crazy? No, you should have a plan. But it should be a very simple, actionable guide more than a plan, and I’ll walk you through exactly what you need in a moment.
  • Another reason you don’t want to waste time on a long, drawn-out business plan is that businesses NEVER go as planned. You know that.  You win, you lose—you have big advances and big setbacks. So you pivot, make adjustments and figure things out as you go. Look—businesses are dynamic and ever-changing. But business plans are static in nature and lack flexibility. So what the hell good are they unless you’re gonna go in and change them every week? And if you are, what do you need the plan for anyway? Just make the necessary changes to your business and get on with it.
  • Finally, another reason to stay away from traditional business plans is that they can lock you in, psychologically. Because once you write something down—like, maybe you’re gonna raise heritage turkeys—then you think you have to stick with it. When, otherwise, you may recognize in short order it’s a bad idea and you can make an adjustment. Let’s think of this another way. It’s October, so let’s talk football.  So imagine the absolutely despised, hated New England Patriots are playing my Pittsburgh Steelers. Bill Belichick, the evil coach of the hated, cheating Patriots creates a game plan to beat my honest, hard-working Steelers. But when his team falls far behind in the first quarter do you think he says, “well, I’ll just keep doing what we planned because I wrote it all down?” Hell no! He’ll make adjustments on the fly WAY before going into the locker room at halftime, his quarterback, Tom Brady will deflate the ball, they’ll come back and the refs will award them the game. So just as an NFL coach needs to be flexible and make adjustments in real time based on what they’re seeing, so do you. Their game plan is just that…a back of the napkin guide.

So, if you don’t need a traditional business plan, what do you need? In football, you need a game plan, of course. For your farm, I think you want to start with a one-page business plan. If you’re part of the Small Farm Nation Academy, you’ve no doubt seen my lesson on this and have probably created your own.

If you’re not part of the Academy you can still watch my lesson on it and get your own FREE one-page business plan template. Just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series. I’ll walk you through how to create your own plan and give you a template for you to customize.

For now, let me just describe the process. And I’ll dispense with all the gobbledey gook and business jargon. Let’s just concentrate on the EIGHT key questions that I think you need to answer.

These 8 questions make up the grid of the one-page business plan. Picture a 3X3 grid. The 8 questions fill those boxes, surrounding you in the center box in the grid and your ultimate competitive advantage.

So here are the 8 questions you want to ask yourself.

  • Why are you farming? This is your mission. You want to ask yourself, what am I passionate about? What are my goals? What do I hope to accomplish with my business? WHY is this important? Your personal answers to these questions will galvanize into your mission. When you answer them clearly and honestly, you’ll know exactly why you want to start your business.
  • Who will care and why? These are your customer segments, the folks who will buy from you and support you. Here’s what you want to answer. Are you targeting a local, regional or national market? If you’re targeting a niche, what niche are you targeting? And rather than thinking of an ideal customer, what do your target customer segments have in common? What do they each want from you? Is your customer the end user…the consumer? Or is it a wholesaler, distributor or retailer? Do your target customers need education…in other words, do they already know they have a need for what you’ll offer, or do you need to make them aware and educate them?
  • How will you go to market? As a farm business, you’ll have many options. Will you sell via farmers markets, a farm stand, online with e-commerce, via distributors, to restaurants, via a CSA or buying club, or what? Importantly, is your distribution channel aligned with your chosen competitive advantage? We’ll get to that in a moment.
  • What will you sell? These are your revenue streams; your products. So, you want to answer, what products will I sell? How will I price them? How does my pricing strategy compare to competitors and alternatives? Will I have one fixed price per product or product unit (per pound, for instance)? Or will I offer discounted prices for larger orders?
  • What is your cost structure? Here you want to ask yourself, what are the critical costs in my model? What are the most important metrics? How will I measure those metrics daily/weekly/monthly? What key resources could increase in cost that I have no control over? Feed costs, for instance. How can I respond if costs increase? What are my fixed costs that I can’t reduce or eliminate? What variable costs can I manage?
  • What alternatives are there to you? This is where you assess the competitive landscape. Ask yourself, how do I define my marketplace? Who else offers what I will offer in my marketplace? Those are your direct competitors. It could be a grocery store, even though your farm business looks nothing like a grocery store. Also ask yourself, who are the indirect competitors—the alternative choices my customers have? Who are the potential new competitors that could emerge?
  • What determines your success? These are your critical success factors. Here you’ll want to answer, how can I effectively attract customers? Will customers pay the prices I need? Can I navigate regulatory hurdles? Do I have the necessary legal structure, accounting and insurance in place to protect myself? Can I produce a product consistent with the quality I’m promoting? Do I have access to contingency and funding resources should I fail to achieve projections?
  • How is your farm business unique? This is your defensible competitive advantage. This is really important and I want you to address this before ever starting a business. Choose your desired advantage, then execute to make it a reality. Here you’ll ask, what is my defensible competitive advantage? By defensible I mean just that. What advantage can you create over competitive forces that you can DEFEND. For example, if you start a local pastured poultry business and offer fresh, pasture raised chickens, can you defend that as an advantage? I’d say, NO, you can’t. Because what’s to stop someone else from popping up and doing the same the moment they see how successful you are. You also want to ask yourself, “am I executing a value strategy (high price, differentiated offering) or a cost strategy (low price, low costs). That’s a hugely critical question because you must choose between the two. Finally, ask yourself this. Why will customers choose me over competing alternatives (other farms, supermarkets, growing their own food, etc)? Why? When you answer these questions, you’ll know your competitive advantage and why you’ll be successful, even before you start. And if you can’t answer them, you’re not likely to succeed.

So, those are the 8 questions. And you can answer each of them and all the sub-questions I just listed on a one-page business plan like the one I’ve created for you.

This plan is important…kind of like the blueprint to your house. It doesn’t mean you can’t refine it later, but I can’t think of anything more important to the success of your farm business than thinking through these key questions and arriving at how you will achieve your competitive advantage.

Again, if you’d like to watch a video of me taking you through this exercise, and get your own free one-page farm business plan template, just hop over to smallfarmnationacademy.com and sign-up for the FREE training series.

I hope you sign up and get it. This one-page business plan will simplify your business strategy and force you to focus on what’s really critical to your success.

Grab it now at smallfarmnationacademy.com, and position yourself to get growing.

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10 Reasons Farms Struggle Selling Product

10 Reasons Farms Struggle Selling Product


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. As you know I cover four categories each month, one per week. I do an episode on farm strategy, followed by an episode on branding. Last week’s episode was on online marketing and today is on marketing.

And it’s an important episode, and if you’re a farmer, this is gonna really resonate with you.

I want to talk about why small farms struggle so much to sell their products. If you’re a small, family farmer, you know what I mean.

I gave this issue a lot of thought, both from my own experiences selling farm products as well as from what I hear from so many other farmers.

And when I thought it through, I created this list of ten reasons why small farms struggle to sell their products. Listen in and see what you think.

Now, in this episode I’m going to just go through the list of ten. I’ll tell you what I think the issues are and why they exist.

Then, in the next Marketing episode, which will be in four weeks, we’ll revisit the list and I’ll share my thoughts on what we, as farmers, can do to, not only overcome those issues, but strategically position our farms for success.

Does that sound good?

Let’s get started.

Okay, so Timmy says there are 10 reasons why small farms struggle. Here they are.

Reason number one is that small farms are inconvenient to buy from. This one is obvious.

Here—let’s look at how most people buy food. They walk or drive a short distance and go into a grocery store that’s open 7 days a week and, in some cases, 24 hours a day. Then their senses are bombarded with an endless array of options. Fresh produce, packaged meats, charcuterie, wine, bread, eggs, milk, vegetables and fruit from all corners of the globe and, of course, rows and rows of processed food.

Let’s say it’s the holiday season. They realize they need more root vegetables…or another turkey. What’s easier? Driving five minutes to Kroger to grab what you need? Or doing a Google search for a farm and trying to find their phone number. When you see they don’t have a number on their farm website (most don’t), they have to fill out a contact form and wait for a response. And wait.

See what I mean? Let’s be honest here…it’s flat out far less convenient to buy from a small farm.

Reason number two is that the farm is almost ALWAYS far removed from a good market. And that’s for a good reason. I mean, there’s not a lot of land to farm in downtown Chicago—or Dallas. So the farm is out in the country. Often, it’s far out in the country. In my case we were two hours and 15 minutes (without traffic) to Atlanta.

So farmers often struggle because they’re far away from a good size market—one with a population of at least 50,000, and that’s bare minimum. So they try to sell locally in, usually, economically depressed areas, to the people who are MOST likely to want and need the cheapest chicken from Wal-Mart.

So distance to good markets is reason number two.

Reason number three is that small farms sell inconvenient products. What do I mean by this?

We used to sell all kinds of meat products. But we sold many of them whole. As in a whole chicken? Now, dealing with a whole chicken is nothing for me, and probably not for you. In fact, I’d much rather have a whole chicken so I can make stock and what not.

But I had many consumers ask me what to do with a whole chicken! That’s because they’re used to buying from a grocery store where all the bones have been removed from meat! Go see for yourself…there are almost no bones in a grocery store!

So consumers often don’t know how to cut up a whole chicken. And they certainly don’t have the room to store half a cow or pig, much less understand a “cut sheet” and how to request the meat costs they want.

But another reason small farm products are inconvenient is that we live in, increasingly, a “prepared food” society. You know—these are the “meal-kits” made popular by such firms as Blue Apron.

Now, I believe Blue Apron has a questionable business model itself, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing demand for prepared meals. Heck, even Chick-Fil-A has entered the prepared meals business, featuring recipes and pre-measured ingredients for five chicken entrees—Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Enchiladas, Dijon Chicken, Pan Roasted Chicken and Chicken Flatbread. These kits sell for $15.89, and can be ordered using the Chick-fil-A One app and/or picked up at the restaurant.

And it was only a matter of time, right, but even Amazon entered the prepared-meal game. In late 2017, amazonfresh.com and allrecipes.com announced a partnership that will allow for meal preparation delivery.

Now, the Amazon/All Recipes approach isn’t exactly the same as Blue Apron, but the point is that two things are happening. 1) there is no decline in the consumer’s demand for convenience, and 2) businesses (and venture capital) are aggressively investing to meet that demand.

So, to recap, reason number three is that small farms typically sell inconvenient products, and consumers increasingly want more convenience.

Reason number four is that small farms sell unfamiliar products. Remember, consumers are used to walking the aisles of the modern grocery store. While it appears there is lots of variety there, there isn’t as much as you’d think.

The reason it appears there is variety is because all grocery stores have global inventory. They only carry a couple of fruits you couldn’t possibly grow locally. But you can get mangoes, pomegranates, grapes, bananas and even oranges in January, wherever you are.

And you won’t find any of those things in your local CSA box. Your CSA box may have carrots in the cool season, but even that may be a problem for consumers. That’s because in grocery stores, carrots are orange, and only orange. And most people know—maybe—two types of lettuce. Iceberg and Romaine, perhaps.

And if people want Brussel sprouts, they usually grab them in a frozen food box. They rarely know what vegetables look like out of the ground or how to prepare them.

Supermarket apples are unblemished, and carrots are straight as an arrow. Now, compare that to typical CSA products, where far sweeter and more nutritious carrots may in fact be crooked. Ditto with local apples that were so healthy a worm didn’t mind taking a bite.

Of course, the fact that small farmers grow so many heirloom varieties can be a benefit, but it’s also confusing to many consumers. So much so that farmers create recipes and instructions on what to do with the CSA box contents.

So, reason number four is that small farms sell unfamiliar products.

Reason number five is that small farms are flat out more expensive than most supermarket alternatives. Now, I said most here, because a small farm can definitely beat premium retailers, such as Whole Foods, on price.

I used to make about 30,000 pounds of artisan cheese a year. We sold it to a distributor which then sold it to Whole Foods, Kroger, Disney and the like. When I’d go into Kroger I’d see our cheese at $28/lb. Definitely a lot more than I got paid for it. So, could I have made great profit selling directly to consumers for less than that—say, $25/lb, or even $20/lb?

Absolutely!

And the same applies to the vegetables, fruits, meats, soaps and everything else in those type of stores.

But—those high prices they charge, at least in the case of meats, is partly because of the convenience. I mean, they’re not selling a whole cow. They’re selling a filet mignon. Or a chicken breast.

And, they have a physical store close to the consumer. So that warrants a high price for premium supermarkets like Whole Foods.

But Whole Foods, even at $16 billion in annual sales, is tiny. I mean, total supermarket sales is about $700 billion in annual sales. So the overwhelming majority of Americans shop at conventional supermarkets and, increasingly, at supercenters like Wal-Mart, Costco and Sam’s Club.

There’s no way small farms can compete on price against the average supermarket or Costco. So, since the majority of Americans shop there, it’s clear that small farms are a more expensive alternative.

Now, before you start yelling at the speaker that it’s an unfair playing field because big Ag gets grants and subsidies, let me say I hear you. I get that. And I almost added that as reason #11 small farms struggle. But really, it’s not a separate reason. It belongs here under prices, because the fact is that it makes prices seem cheaper for consumers. And that’s my point with reason number five—that small farms are flat out a more expensive alternative.

Reason number six that small farms struggle to sell products is because they’re not unique as perceived by the consumer. This is related to what I said earlier—a carrot is a carrot, a chicken is a chicken and so on.

Small farms spend a lot of marketing energy talking about why pastured poultry is better than industrial chicken. Why raw milk is more nutritious than ultra-pasteurized milk. Why an organic carrot grown in fertile, local soil is more nutritionally dense than a supermarket carrot grown in sandy Florida soils. Why an orangish free-range egg yolk is so much more delicious and healthy than a cheap supermarket egg.

We all go to great lengths to educate consumers for a good reason. Most of them can’t tell the difference. A chicken looks like a chicken. A nutritionally dense carrot looks, on the outside, like a carrot devoid of nutrients.

So, while we know our products are unique and have nutritional benefits, most consumers are unaware of this. That’s reason number six.

Reason number seven that small farms struggle is that most people don’t even know they exist. Even the most famous farmer, if there is such a thing, is unknown to almost everyone. You may know Joel Salatin and Polyface, but I can promise you that the vast majority of residents of the Shenandoah Valley shop at typical grocery stores. They don’t even know of his farm.

It’s easy to see why. I mean, small farms like yours and mine don’t have money to spend on television or radio commercials, We don’t advertise on billboards, we don’t have retail store fronts, with signage, and we don’t sponsor events to “get our name out there.”

So, it’s true. Most people don’t even know that your small farm exists. But as I’ll explain next time we explore this subject, that’s a big opportunity for you.

Reason number eight that small farms struggle is that they have inconsistent production. What I mean is that they either grow seasonally, as in the case of fruits and vegetables. Or they produce a finished grassfed cow “every now and then.”

Obviously this makes it difficult to sell to those who need a steady, dependable supply. Buyers like restaurants and resorts, for instance.

So as much as many small farmers want to sell to restaurants, and chefs would like to support them, the fact is the farm’s production is not aligned with the restaurant’s needs. So it’s a force fit, at best.

Part of the reason for that relates to—

Reason number nine that small farms struggle, which is processing bottlenecks. Industrial meat producers have at their disposal huge processing plants that are increasingly automated. They can process thousands of animals a day, dispatch the bones and wrap everything in clear, plastic packages.

By comparison, a typical small meat farm has trouble finding a local processor for their grassfed beef or pork. Most of the time they’re forced to drive many hours each way for processing. Even then, they have to make their appointments months in advance. So imagine how challenging that is—forecasting when your cows will “finish” on grass and scheduling the processing date to match that.

Pastured poultry farmers can’t even find someone to process their chickens. Often no matter how far they’re willing to drive. There are just not many processing plants that process small batches of birds.

If the farmer does find a poultry processor they’re usually forced to drive long distances each way. Imagine how much extra cost this adds to the price of a chicken since the farmer can’t exactly “make it up on volume.” So this contributes to the huge pricing problem small farms face.

Of course, many farms would be happy to process on farm themselves. But various laws and regulatory bodies block this. Which leads me to my final point.

Reason number ten that small farms struggle to sell products is intense regulation hurdles.

What do I mean? Here’s a simple example. My farm was located five miles from a state line—on the South Carolina / Georgia border. I was in Georgia but much closer to Greensville or Columbia, South Carolina than I was to Atlanta.

But could I sell my raw milk or pastured poultry in South Carolina? No. Even though I was only a half hour from a good South Carolina market, I couldn’t sell there. But I could drive 6 hours to Valdosta, GA to sell there.

And I’m not alone. It’s common for farmers to live near state lines—often multiple state lines—and not be able to sell their products on the other side.

And, as I said, many farmers would like to process their red meat or poultry on farm. But you can’t do that without investing in becoming an inspected USDA facility. Some farms, such as White Oak Pastures in Georgia and Gunthorp Farms in Indiana have done this. But at a major capital expenditure that most small farms can’t, or won’t, risk taking.

So there you have it. The ten reasons that I see for why small farms struggle to sell their products. As you can see, there’s no fluff here. These are very real reasons why it’s challenging to sell small farm products.

But where there is challenge there is opportunity. Ask any entrepreneur. And in the next marketing episode, I’ll guide you through what you can do to overcome these hurdles and position your farm for sustainable success.

Thanks for Listening!

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How to Choose a Name for Your Farm

How to Choose a Name for Your Farm


Okay, so it’s Branding week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast, and we’re gonna discuss an issue all new business owners fret over. And that is what to name your business.

So, let’s talk about the importance of naming in this episode Not just the name of your farm business, but also taglines and product names.

Now you may already have your name locked up…and that’s fine. Then again, you may be considering rebranding. Or maybe you haven’t started your business yet.

This is a particularly interesting decision for farms for reasons I’ll cover in this episode. And if you’ve already named your farm, listen to what I have to say anyway, because no doubt down the line someone’s going to ask your opinion about what they should name their farm.

So let’s dive into this issue, and let’s start with a question…what is your single most important brand asset?

Is it your logo? Your colors, your clever tagline? Those cute little farm icons you have in your logo design?

NO! Of course not. It’s your name, silly. Because that’s the thing everyone repeats and remembers…your name. So it’s super important.

And what you NAME your farm is really important, right?

Now, when I say it’s important, I’m saying it’s your most important brand asset. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the “perfect” name. After all, whatever you name your farm it probably won’t have much to do with its success or failure.

In earlier episodes I’ve given the example of two very successful farms, Polyface and White Oak Pastures. And, while those are both fine names, I don’t think either farmer remotely owes their success to the name they chose.

Still, while there is no one RIGHT name, there are plenty of wrong ones that will damage your brand.

The question becomes, how to understand what works, and what doesn’t.

So, how do we tell right from wrong? Let’s start by taking a look at some “questionable” names.

  • There’s a towing company in North Carolina called Camel Tow. Their tagline? We’ll snatch you out of a tight spot. Yep. Camel Tow. If you don’t know why that’s funny…or inappropriate, you’ve lived a more sheltered life than I.
  • Then there’s Bunghole Liquors. The kind of liquor you drink to get drunk. Their tagline? We’re not #1 butt we’re right up there. They put two “t’s” in the butt. Get it? We’re not #1 BUTT we’re right up there.
  • And we’ve got Morning Wood furniture and Spermies fulfillment operation.

bad business names

Honestly, don’t know what some of these folks were thinking. Some may find these names humorous, others may find them offensive.

Regardless of how you find them, think about the impact these naming choices have on their brand identity and the emotions they conjure. And the customers they attract. So you want to think up front about what you want your brand to stand for and choose a name consistent with that positioning.

So, what about using your name or your family’s name for your farm? Well, sure…that may work. But lots of times using your name BACKFIRES…BADLY.

I mean, look at some of these examples.

funny business names

  • So, some folks had the last name of Butcher. Not bad if you go into farming, I guess. But they chose a different business. And named it Butcher Funeral Home. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the funeral home business and how much you care about your heritage…choose another name.
  • There’s a billboard in Indiana that read, “Welcome! You’ve entered Tom Raper Country” I’ve entered Raper Country?  Are you kidding?
  • Another one of my favorites is Stoner Insurance. You really think I’m gonna buy insurance from a guy named stoner?
  • I’m also NOT going to stay at the Barf Bed & Breakfast or order anything to eat from Herpes Pizza.

Come on! You gotta use common sense if you’re going to force your name on a brand. I mean, my name is Tim Young, and let’s say that I sell baby chickens. YoungPoultry has very different brand implications from YoungChicks. I mean, if you go to youngpoultry.com you’d expect to see chickens. If you went to youngchicks.com you’d expect–something else.

So, using your name has serious brand implications…now, let’s pick the right name for you.

And to help you do that, I’ve created a list of 9 criteria for choosing the best name for your farm or local food business.

  1. With all else being equal, keep your name as short as you can.
  2. And be memorable, which means being different, clever and…
  3. Easy to pronounce.
  4. And, very important, if you’re hoping that people find you online, choose an SEO descriptive name that gives a clue to where you are and/or what you do.
  5. And, because of that, avoid hyphens, which are confusing with domains.
  6. And stay away from trendy words in your name…they’ll go out of style and you’ll be stuck.
  7. Don’t choose a name that boxes you in. If I chose Tim’s Poultry but later wanted to add pigs, it would be confusing.
  8. As you heard with the questionable brand names earlier, choose a name that’s consistent with your brand values.
  9. And, of course, make sure you can use it. If you can get the domain, you’re probably in excellent shape.

Now, as I said, I realize you may already have a name for your farm. But…who knows? Maybe you don’t, or maybe you’re consider rebranding.

Let’s take a look at how we can name a new farm. I’ve got a simple tool we can use for this. A tool to help you select words or phrases that are important to you. Words that are heritage, mission or product related, or words that have geographic meaning to your farm.

If you want to download this tool, go to smallfarmnation.com/farmname and download the template.

But, for now, picture it as having four columns across the top. Column one is Family/Heritage words. Column two is Mission words. Column three is Geographic words, and Column four is Product words.

This is what that approach would look like.

We’d start with Family/Heritage words and make a list of anything you can think of. Your name, the year you settled, grandpa’s name. From there, create a column for mission words…words that describe why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then, add geographic words. These can be locales near you, landmarks, features of your property and so on.

Finally, make a list of product words…but be careful here. You don’t want to choose a narrow product word that may limit your ability to expand later.

Now, do all this in an hour…up to 15 minutes per category.

Then, and I think this is very important today, consider the search terms you want to rank for. All things being equal, it would be nice to have those in your name, if it worked well.

Here, let me tell you what we did with our farm.

It’s pretty easy to see how we came up with Nature’s Harmony Farm. That was a 100% mission inspired name. The name conveys nothing about where we are, who we are or what we produce, but it pretty well conveys our values. And it set the tone for much of our brand voice.

But what else could we have done? We could have used a geographic descriptor, and been Georgia Heritage Farm. That would have helped with SEO since people are likely to search on Georgia Pork or Georgia Farm, for instance. But Georgia Heritage Farm makes us sound like a conservation or historical place, so I wouldn’t have done that.

Then again, we could have replaced farm with pork. That would work well for SEO for sure…but it would have limited us down the road to only pork.

You’ll need to go through this yourself, but this template gives you a good way to approach naming your farm.

Of course, there are two types of names that you may need. There’s the name of your business and, perhaps, the name of your products.

Now, many farms and restaurants may not use product names, but cheesemakers, soap makers, wineries and distilleries do. And there’s no reason why farms can’t…we did.

Here’s an example of a product name.

If you’re not familiar, Label Rouge is a legal standard in France for the production of food items, such as farmed chicken.

It’s a quality guarantee that requires farmers to comply with stringent criteria, but while it’s formally governed there, there’s nothing that says you couldn’t create your own BRANDED standards. Or, perhaps, get together with other farmers in the region to agree on a set of branded standards.

When we delivered to Atlanta, we didn’t just say, “hey, we’re coming.”  We created a brand called Farm Train, announced that we’d be making schedule trips to Atlanta, and invited people to jump on the farm train.

Do you see how that approach ties directly into our brand voice and values? Our brand personality was fun, and I think that came through on podcasts and in product naming. But what we were doing was serious. Most important, our brand mission was to invite people to SHARE the journey with us, right? So, of course, we wanted them to hop on the train.

Now, most creameries name their cheeses to differentiate them, but you can do this with soaps, meats, honey, whatever.

Your raw milk doesn’t have to be just “raw milk. It can be called, oh…I don’t know…Liquid Gold by XYZ Farm, since I’m sure your grassfed cows are producing rich, creamy milk with a golden hue.

Just be sure that your product brand names connect with your farm’s values.

Let’s look at a real-life case study.

Jasper Hill Farm is a good example of what I mean by that.  Let’s start with their logo since so many people fret over logo design. Go to their website to check it out. It’s super simple, basically just a text logo with their name in a blue box. They’ve chosen a organgish color which, I’m sure is no mistake, since it resembles the color of cheese. And, speaking of cheese, there’s a wedge of it in the top left corner that points straight to their name, drawing your eye there.

It’s a simple but very effective logo.

Now, it’s not a requirement, but taglines can be very helpful if done correctly.

The tagline “A Taste of Place” with their location just beneath it speaks volumes.

  1. you know where the place is…Greensboro Vermont, and
  2. you have a sense of what they’re doing and what’s important to them. Preserving a taste from a specific area.

Their cheeses are world-class, but when you look at the product names, they may seem a bit odd. Most of these are names that are unfamiliar to us. What in the world do they mean?

Well, they’re all local landmarks or historical figures. And choosing those names ties directly into Jasper Hill’s mission and brand identity. So it makes perfect sense.

By using the naming template I just covered we can see that Jasper Hill choose a 100% geographic name for their farm. And they continued this approach using local landmarks for the naming of their products, and the approach has served them well. But not because they have great names…because they execute well and connect with customers.

So, clearly there are lots of ways you can name your farm, but here’s the wrong way.

Don’t ask someone what your name should be…it’s YOUR business…own it!

Trust me, when you start asking opinions, you’re gonna get them, and they’ll have you questioning everything you do. You know why you started this business. So give it a name and get on with it!

Okay…Let’s spend a minute on taglines and why they’re important.

Whether you call it a slogan or a tagline, it can do great things for your business. And there are tons of great examples out there.

While each of these is memorable, they’re all quite different. Some give a hint of what the business does, such as BMW’s ultimate driving machine, Wheaties “Breakfast of Champions” or Maxwell Houses’s “good to the last drop.”

Some challenge you in a fun way, such as Lay’s “betcha can’t eat just one” They’re right, by the way.

They’re all great taglines and they help greatly with the marketing of each brand. Now, here are six reasons why taglines are important.

  1. Helps in recalling your brand
  2. Sets you apart…differentiates you
  3. Defines your offering
  4. Shares your values
  5. Can tell a story
  6. Imparts positive feelings about your brand

Now, the major taglines I mentioned a moment ago were developed long before there was such a thing as SEO. Today, taglines can also be good for SEO, as well as helping to make you memorable.  Here are a few modern examples of taglines that relate to farming and local food.

As I mentioned, Jasper Hill FarmA taste of place

  • Polyface FarmThe farm of many faces
  • Good Earth Farms – Pasture-Raised Meats
  • Earthbound – Food to live by
  • Niman Ranch – Raised with care
  • Whole FoodsWorld’s Healthiest Grocery Store
  • EarthFare Healthy Food for Everyone

Now, many of these taglines do nothing to help with SEO, but you could incorporate SEO into yours if you wanted.

Niman Ranch’s Raised with care could become raised with care in your location, for instance.

If you’re stuck on coming up with a tagline, use your mission as an inspiration for a starting point. Here are a few sample taglines I came up with:

  • Your Dairy Farm – Milk Us for all we’re worth
  • Your Farm Name – Growing food that’s fit to eat.
  • Your Organic Farm Name – It’s only natural to want food this good!
  • Your Farm Name – Let’s Grow Together!
  • Your Farm Name – Vermont Poultry, Pork & Dairy.
  • Your Farm Name – Nothing Added. Everything Gained.
  • Your Farm Name – Goodness Grows.

Like one of them? Use it. It’s easy coming up with taglines and there’s no right answer.

Do I think your name and tagline are important? Yes, of course. And I’d take it seriously just as you should.

But I’d invest in a business that had a great execution plan and business model over one with a great name, logo, and tagline any day.

So give this issue of naming your business and products the attention it deserves, but only the attention it deserves and no more.

It is important, but not as important as your business model and profit strategy.

Thanks for Listening!

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