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What’s In An Address?
Applying Demographics to Farm Marketing

By Jane Eckert

When you study a seed catalog, you learn to look for the specific characteristics or traits of the plants you need- short growing season, rust resistant, good pollination, or whatever. We use this same strategy when we are trying to learn more about our customers. We look for the characteristics or traits in people that prove to be good customers for our farm or ranch.

For example, an apple orchard is generally marketed as a daytime family outing. A winery, on the other hand, is looking for more specific characteristics- usually middle class couples, age 21-38, and they typically do not have children with them when they visit the winery.

In marketing, we match the characteristics and traits of our customers with the geographic area where they live, and this lets us develop a “demographic profile” of our customers.

A what? Relax. There’s no big magic to demographics. It simply means that people that have similar likes and needs tend to live near people who share these characteristics. For example, newly wed couples tend to live in apartments, tend to live in the city, and tend to spend more on entertainment, food, and refreshment that their counterparts with children. People with children want to migrate to the suburbs, want to own a home near a nice school, and look for entertainment that they can do together as a family. Matching the characteristics of the people with their neighborhood is called “demographics.”

Putting Demographics to Work For You

Let’s see how to use this information in providing better service to your guests.

Using your database of names, addresses and zipcodes, the demographics assist you in logically making some important assumptions about your typical guests. For example, you can fairly accurately predict the age, income, and family characteristics of your guests based on their zip code! And the more you know about your guests, the more you can target your customer communications to their interests and needs.

Lets look at an example to see how basic demographic information might influence your marketing and customer communications. Assume that you offer a fall season farm, with a pumpkin patch, corn maze, some foods at the snack stand, and a small gift shop. Your data shows that the majority of your guests come from Medford, Massachusetts.

There are numerous resources to obtain demographic information, but lets just use the free website provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here’s all you need to do to find out more about your typical guest coming from Medford, Massachusetts:

1. Go to http://www.census.gov

2. Select “Massachusetts” in “Find an area profile.”

3. Select “Medford” in the “select a city” box

Here’s some of what we find:

Medford, Massachusetts Census Data

What the Data Shows

How this Might Impact Your Business

There are 55,700 people in Medford

Potential new customers

4.9% are under age 5

Do you have playgrounds, petting zoos?

17.9% are under age 18

Do you have a cornmaze, flashlight maze?

17.3% are over age 65

Is the gift shop accesssible? Chairs and benches?

13.5% are non-caucasian

Do you advertise in minority papers?

21.2% do not speak English at home

Do you target direct mail in second languages?

58.6% are homeowners

Do you have fall decorations? Small items for apts?

2.43 persons per household

Do you promote family outings

6,851 persons per square mile

Promote the wide open, great outdoors!

In this example, the U.S. Census bureau shows that there are 6,851 people per square mile living in Medford, Massachusetts! If there ever was a clear-cut example of why farms should promote the experience of the great outdoors, this is it! Can you imagine how spacious your farm will seem to these city folks!

Using Demographics to Find New Markets

In addition to using the demographics to find out more about your typical guests, you can also turn this information around to discover new potential markets. Now, you can use the profile of your typical customer to help you find more people like them: The data has shown you the demographics, or characteristics of your typical guests. For example, let’s say that the data shows that most people coming to your winery are couples, age 25-38, middle to upper income, and live in apartments in the city. If you want more guests, it makes sense then to find more couples, age 25-38 with middle to upper incomes that live in other areas of town or in other towns nearby. That’s the multiplication power of demographics.

Invest Your Time and Money in Fertile Fields

In marketing, we focus the power of our customer communications on specific groups of people who we know to be present or previous customers, or they have similar demographic characteristics to our customers. These people are the “target audience”, and everything we write, and the photographs we choose, are targeted to appeal to this audience and their interests.

Communicate With Your Target Audience Using the Media They Prefer

For example, you may not like to use the Internet, but if most of your winery guests are modern, urban couples, they may prefer to receive an email or look at your website for upcoming events. The point is, spend your advertising and marketing dollars where they live, and in their lifestyle. Use local newspapers. Use movie theatre advertising. Use direct mail to the right zip codes. Don’t waste dollars advertising or marketing in demographic areas where you don’t have a target audience.

Use the Demographics to Refine Your Services

Knowing more about your guests helps you anticipate what they may want. For example, if most of your guests are from out-of-state or arrive in motor coaches, they are not likely to have a way to refrigerate your delicious, dairy-fresh, hand packed ice cream. Switch to bags of fresh fruit, homemade bakery goods, farm toys, and other things that travel well.

Communicate more frequently with your best customers

Use your data and demographics to do everything you can to build customer loyalty. It has been proven time and time again that the cost to acquire a new customer is very expensive, but the cost to lose one is even higher. In marketing, we speak of the “lifetime value” of a customer. A happy, informed customer will keep coming back, bringing her kids, and her grandkids, and so on, so the lifetime value of one good customer can be measured in terms of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.