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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Create Your 2006 Marketing Plan Now

By Jane Eckert

It’s time to begin planning your marketing for next year. Well, maybe not today, but you should do it just as soon as you close your doors for the season. It is important to do your thinking at the end of this year’s operation, while things are still fresh in your mind.

Please don’t wait till spring. Your marketing plan requires more than just a couple of weeks at the last minute. Take the time now to evaluate how you spent your money this year, and give some real thought as to whether you had a good plan, or whether it could have been better spent. Specifically, did you spend enough on marketing, and did you spend it in the right places?

I am frequently asked how much a farm should be spending on marketing. Recently I received a copy of the 2005 On Farm Marketing Report from Ontario, Canada. (This may be one of the first published studies on agritourism farm marketing.)

The report was commissioned by the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA). They surveyed their members, and ninety-nine farms responded, representing $116 Million in annual gross receipts. For comparison with your operation, over half of these farms reported gross receipts over $250,000 annually.

Here’s how the OFFMA members responded to the question of what percentage of gross revenue do you spend on advertising and promotion?

Percentage of Gross Revenue Spent on Advertising and Promotion
Range Percentage of Farms
Less than 5% 49% of farms spent less than 5% of gross
5-9.9% 38% of farms
10-14.9% 8%
15-20% 4%
More than 20% 1%

The amount you budget is up to you, but remember your resources are limited so it is very important to spend it wisely. You may note that the survey asked the amount spent on “advertising and promotion.” I want to remind you that there is much more to marketing than just advertising, and that you can significantly increase your revenue with a good marketing strategy that does not necessarily require a lot of advertising dollars.

Let me explain how I have categorized the various marketing strategies into what I refer to in my seminars and workshops as the Eckert Marketing Pie.™

Let me explain each piece of the pie and why it is important to integrate all of the strategies into your farm-marketing plan.

Promotions

Promotions are creative ways to excite the public about visiting your business and encouraging them to buy more while they are there. Promotions, such as contests, coupons, celebrity appearances, and charitable donations draw in visitors, and usually require more creativity than budget.

Advertising

This is what people usually think of when they think of marketing, but advertising for small businesses is usually a very small piece of the pie. Advertising requires the purchase of ad space or airtime in a newspaper, radio or TV station, billboard, or yellow pages. In order to be effective, advertising requires repetition, and with a small budget, this simply isn’t feasible.

Media Relations

Building a relationship with the media is another great way to maximize your exposure for the least amount of investment, although it does require your time and creativity.

Through inventive news releases, telephone contacts, and similar avenues, you can obtain considerable publicity from newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations. When you create an interesting new way to talk about things on the farm, the press will love you – after all, they are looking for interesting new stories. You help them, and they’ll help you.

Customer Focus

Ultimately, your marketing should all focus on one thing, your customer! Customer focus envelopes every aspect of your business, from how you staff greets your customers, to the readability of your signs, the speed of your checkout counter, and the maintenance of your property.

Customer Communications

Customer communications is a vital tool in maintaining good customer focus, using printed materials, newsletters, and your website to stay connected with your customers. When done right, customer communications is also a two-way exchange. As you gather more information about your customers, you will begin refining your services to meet their needs.

Creating a strong farm-marketing plan is important for your success. Taking the time to plan your marketing is an investment in your business and one you can’t leave to chance. I feel strongly about an integrated strategy and have now written three books covering each piece of the pie. (If you would like greater detail, just go to my website to read more about them. My newest book, Fresh Grown Customer Communications, will be available before the end of the year.)

The OFFMA report also provided some other very interesting research results that I will be sharing with you in future issues. Our farm direct marketing industry is woefully behind in the collection of meaningful research that will help producers grow their business and understand their customers. I applaud OFFMA for getting the funding to do this study. Thanks to Cathy Bartolic, the executive director, for allowing me to share this information with you.

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.