Ranch Marketing Plan and the 5 Steps to Success
Assume for a moment you have your production process all “figured out”. You have your production fine-tuned and firing on all cylinders but we also know that production will always be changing and we hear a lot about that. I am an advocate of and very involved in livestock production education and one thing we don’t hear much about is how to create a marketing plan for agriculture. The world of marketing is rapidly changing, especially in the last 5 years or so, as technology has exploded. Many producers, with the average age depending on which report you read ranging from 67 – 71, are too busy or uninterested in these new technologies, except when it comes to their machinery of course. So a lot of producers may be behind the curve in understanding the new marketing needs.
First, let’s take a step back and define the term, marketing. Marketing is your overall strategy for reaching your ideal customer.
What is the difference between marketing and advertising? Advertising is the specific ad that delivers your message to your ideal customer.
To look at it another way; marketing is the plan and advertising is the individual pieces that implement the plan.
To help you get started in creating a marketing plan for your operation, here are the first 5 Steps to creating an effective marketing plan for your ranch/ag business.
Determine what your product is.
Do you sell seedstock, meat, calves, eggs, dairy, some other product or a combination of products?
Be specific. This may seem like a no-brainer exercise, but many producers think they can sell any product from their ranch. However, not all products are profitable.
What do you do best? What product or products are the most profitable? You should focus your attention on the product(s) that are most profitable and not spend time on the rest.
Who is your ideal customer? Define specifically who the ideal customer is for your business. Think of the buyer that you’re always happy to hear from. Someone you would love to clone. If you have a new business, you’ll need to use a combination of imagination and market research in order to describe this person.
After thinking of this ideal customer, create a detailed description of them. Some refer to this as an avatar of your ideal customer. Name them and refer to them by name from now on. The avatar should be part of your daily marketing discussions, referring to them as a real person. In circumstances where you sell more than one product, you may have more than one ideal customer. If so, make a separate avatar for each product.
Here’s an example of an avatar:
Your ideal customer’s name is Linda Monroe.
She is 36 years old
She’s married to a successful businessman and has 3 young children.
She’s a savvy, online shopper and researcher. She never leaves home without her smart phone and is active on social media, especially Facebook. Linda stays home with her children. She enjoys cooking and does all the meal planning and shopping for her family. Linda is an active member of the PTA and her local church. Linda is a weekly customer at her local farmer’s market. She is committed to a healthy lifestyle and does CrossFit with a group at the gym three times a week.
Your reaction to the above example might be like most folks.
“Why in the world do I need to know all that?”
“How is that going to help me?”
“It seems a bit ridiculous.”
If you’re not familiar with common marketing strategies, this avatar would seem strange. However, no business can market successfully to “everyone” in the world. Every successful business markets their products to specific types of people. Just spend some time observing how large corporate companies, like Coca-Cola for example, change their strategies according to the product and what market segment they’re reaching out to.
Defining your ideal customer using specific details allows you to easily move on to the next step in your marketing plan. A good marketing plan, when implemented, will attract the customers you want. They will be your best customers who want and/or need your product. They will be fans of your product and they will spread the word about you organically/naturally.
Create the marketing plan. In today’s world of technology, the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever for small businesses to target and actually reach their ideal customer. So, now take your ideal customer avatar you created in step two, print it out and refer to it as you work on the plan.
In our example, we know Linda is active in her community (PTA, farmer’s market and church). So, you can reasonably deduce she cares about her community and what impact she has on it. She cares about her health and the health of her family, so you can reasonably deduce that she cares about healthy products. Using the avatar, you can map out the places to reach out to Linda, such as social media or a local publication. It’s important to refer back to your ideal customer avatar regularly. Using our avatar example, while planning, you should continue to ask, “Will this message communicate clearly to Linda?” “Would Linda read this?” “Would this appeal to Linda?” “Does Linda hang out here?” “Does she read this publication?”
Implement your marketing plan.
The first place to start is with a great website that is also mobile ready.
So, what is a great website?
A great website looks current and attractive. It is easy to navigate and has a specific message targeted to your ideal customer.
The goal of a great website is to begin the conversation with Linda in order to build a relationship with her. It should be compelling enough to give Linda a reason to begin trusting you.
Are you starting to see how important Linda is to creating every part of your marketing strategy?
A great website should:
- Introduce you – tells the story of why you do what you do
- Introduces your product – what it is and the story behind it
- Clearly shows how your product helps or solves a problem for Linda
- Be mobile ready - A mobile ready website is built to be viewable on a mobile device. Not sure of the difference? If a website on your phone looks the same as on a computer, but smaller, it is NOT a mobile ready site.
A mobile ready site is easy to read and navigate with your thumb on a phone or other mobile device. When people access your site on their mobile device, we know from industry research, they are looking for specific information and ease of navigation on a small screen. This is a huge topic, so for the sake of brevity in this quick list, I’ll leave it with this – A mobile site is just as mandatory as a website and cannot be overlooked when creating your business and marketing plans.
Create communication strategies.
Email has been the go-to strategy for many years now and is still a valuable and effective strategy. However, it can be more difficult to entice Linda to actually open your emails, than in years past. Read rates and response rates have dropped dramatically, according to industry numbers. That means less people read your email and even less act on its message. For example, in my business, in the past, my open rates were 55% or higher, meaning over half of my email subscribers opened my email. Now, in 2016, my open rates are 27–45%, at best.
Does that mean you need to stop sending email? No, definitely not. It does mean that your marketing plan needs to include email as one part of your entire communication strategy.
Back in step four, I mentioned that it is mandatory for you to have a mobile website. Whether we like it or not, our world is a mobile one and growing more so every day. One of my clients is a national retailer. Most of their website visits are from a mobile device. In fact, 65+% of their total web traffic comes from mobile devices thus using their mobile website.
Along with mobile websites, text (SMS) message marketing is another effective mobile strategy. While some folks tell me they don’t like to get text messages, statistically, that’s not true. The secret is creating value for your customers and delivering it to them on their phone. Then, they will love seeing what you send next. Done properly, text messages allow you to be where Linda already is (on her mobile device) and where she wants to interact with you.
Social media is another communication route. Today, most businesses should establish some sort of presence within social media. In order to decide where to start, refer back to your avatar. The answer is there. Go where Linda already hangs out.
One caveat about any type of communication strategy, including social media:
Start small and build from there.
Build your email list by creating good communication on your website and crafting good emails.
Focus on one or two social media outlets at a time.
It’s difficult to calculate your return on investment (ROI) for some forms of communication, such as social media, however the purpose in communicating is to build your relationship with Linda. Coupled with your whole plan, it’s another way to create a conversation with Linda and let her get to know, like and trust you.
There you have it. Five steps to marketing your Ag business.
These are sound strategies and effective for any business and product marketing.
Have a question or comment? Tell me in the comment section what’s on your mind.
I look forward to continuing this conversation with you and helping you succeed in marketing your Ag business.