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

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Have You Heard About the Farm?
Word-of-Mouth Marketing

By Jane Eckert

In a recent study of customers visiting farms, over 45% of the respondents indicated that they had learned about the farm through “word-of-mouth.”

Wow, that’s a great percentage. So what is it, and how do we get this “word-of-mouth” marketing working for our farms?

Spread the Word

Let’s make this easy to understand. Ever have a friend call you to tell you about a great new restaurant or a new store in town. By the end of the phone conversation, you were ready to make reservations for dinner, or pack up the family to go shopping.

These simple conversations with our friends and co-workers will direct us to good doctors, fine dining or the best family movie out this season. Of course, conversely, how many of us have told our friends never to go that restaurant – the food was cold and the service is poor. These are the conversations that “spread the word.” The word of a friend or an associate is accepted as trustworthy, and influences our decisions much more than any known form of advertising.

How much more? Let’s go back to that study, conducted by the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA). As part of the Ontario farm study, thirteen farms were used to conduct consumer surveys during the course of a selling season from June through October. The customers were asked, “How did you learn about the farm?” The results show that 45% of them said “word-of-mouth.” The next highest rating was “road signs” at 14%.

Just when we thought our brand new logo and jazzy radio commercials were sure to bring people to our farms – it may not be that at all.

Okay, most of us understanding what is meant by “word-of-mouth”, and how important it is to our business. But how do we get it? This is an aspect of marketing that is often talked about; there have actually been many books written on the subject. How do we get people to talk about our business, and to share their good remarks with others?

Delivering the Exceptional

Positive “word-of-mouth” does not need to happen just by accident. I believe that we do have some ability to influence what people say about our farms and markets. But we must be vigilant and constantly wanting to deliver to our customers the best experience possible.

First – We must be absolutely exceptional in what we offer. I’ve never heard a farm market say they that they sell “off-quality” products, but take a look sometime at your summer produce display at the end of the day. See if it looks the same as it did first thing in the morning when you opened to the first eager customer. Delivering top quality in our products during ALL the hours we are open is absolutely essential to get customers spreading good words about you.

Second – We need to have employees that are friendly and go out of their way to make our customers feel wanted. Our employees can either make us look great or they can be the weak link in the entire farm market experience. Is your customer greeted with a sincere smile and a friendly word, or a blank glance of indifference? Can you honestly say that your employees are well trained, happy to be working, and sincerely giving their best to every customer?

Third – Look at your products, your offerings. Can you truly say that they are unique or special? Or, can your customer find the same things and maybe even better at the local supermarket.

The bottom line to getting a people talking about you is not just to be good – you need to be great. Take time to talk with your family and your employees and ask them:

“What can we do to be great? How do we make a visit to this farm be above and beyond any customer’s expectations? Okay, let’s do it!”

We Can Shine!

It’s going to take some extra care, and some extra work. It’s going to take discipline and determination. And it’s going to take creativity. But I am convinced that with the world of mass merchandising, and the explosion in the number of franchise chains, we can not only compete with them – we can really shine!

And when your shining, and a customer comes up to you and tells you what a pleasant experience they have had at your farm, or how very sweet the peaches are – say:

“Thank you. We are so glad you came.”

“ I really appreciate you telling me –and I do hope you’ll tell your friends and neighbors.”

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.