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.
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.
- We haven’t strategically prioritized it
- We don’t have a clear strategy for driving traffic and converting traffic
- 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:
- Rare breed lovers who loved that we supported heritage breeds.
- Moms for healthy kids, who wanted their kids to have nutrient-dense food and to know where it came from.
- 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.
- Retired cheerleaders were older folks who loved what we were doing, and why, and became our greatest cheerleaders.
- 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?
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.
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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