Marketing #3: Vehicles and Media

Understanding how your customer learns about your business.

You know what your business is. You know who your customers are. Now, how do you reach them? In other words, you need to discover how your potential customers get information, especially information about the types of products or services you sell. This is where a “Use Case” comes in handy.

A use case is an example of how a customer might react to your marketing campaign and engage your services. It gives you some idea of probable outcomes. Let’s look at an example:

A young couple has their first child and want the very best for that child. This means the best nutrition, the best childhood experiences and the best chance at a good start in life. They have to go somewhere to find information and that’s where you want to be. What do they read? Where do they go for local information? Is it online or in print? Do they attend classes? You need to think like they would. Once you have some idea of how parents are learning about local foods, you can start to put together a marketing plan.

So, go back to the list of what you discovered about your customers. Create some use cases using the types of customers you are trying to reach. Think about how you can reach them. Do that first and then come back for this second part.

Vehicles: What do you use to reach people?

Let’s explore some common tools you can use to market your business. Some are free, others will cost you a bit.

  • Web sites – These are a great place to showcase your static information, such as your company mission, basic photography, address and other contact information, etc. Web sites can be expensive, depending on your comfort level in administering one. Sites, such as Wix.com, Godaddy.com, or Squarespace.com can give you low prices and good templates that you can populate. It takes a bit of time to do it, though.
  • Social media – This is where you can place your dynamic, quickly-changing information. It’s free, but requires constant monitoring, just like an ongoing conversation. I use Twitter to share links to sites or articles or to make quick announcements. I use Facebook for longer postings. They each also can reach different audiences. Other platforms have different purposes, such as Pinterest for sharing pictures.
  • Print media – Look for local media that is distributed for free. It’s amazing how effective these can be. They usually are inexpensive to advertise in.
  • Don’t forget networking! Working alongside other small businesses can lead to opportunities for cross-marketing. A tack shop can promote your stable while you promote their products, or a group of businesses can promote themselves cooperatively, reaching a wider audience.

Don’t let online marketing scare you if you haven’t done it before. We all started exactly the same, needing to learn how it works. There’s not really a wrong way to do it.

Okay, on to the next step.

Marketing Your Farm #2: Customers

Now that you’ve had ample time to consider why you do what you do, we are going to take a look at the type of customer you need to attract in order to continue doing what you do. You want your customers to not only return, but to become enthusiastic proponents of your business.

If you haven’t already, watch Seth Godin’s TED Talk on The Tribes We Lead. Yes, go ahead. I’ll wait…

There are a group of people out there who believe just as you do, that locally-grown food can change the world, or that horses can teach kids great skills, or that your business will provide the best customer service. But traditional marketing methods really won’t work to reach them and will cost you entirely too much. Let’s explore how to find that group and interact with them.

Start with your current customers, if you have them. Why and how did they start buying from you? Do you know? What keeps them coming back? Ask them and see how they answer.

If you are trying to start a business, you won’t have current customers to rely on. Start instead with some deductive reasoning. Let’s take the example of a specific rural business – a horse stable. Stables have a number of possible services available for horse owners and those who wish to learn more about horses. If I were the owner of this establishment, and wished to increase the number of young people taking horseback riding lessons, how would I do this?

  1. Make sure you engage with the real customer. Where kids are concerned, the true customers are the parents.
  2. Put yourself in the parents’ shoes. Why should they let their child sit on top of a potentially dangerous, thousand-pound animal? Children who learn horsemanship are better able to creatively solve problems, they become better with communication, they gain confidence, and, in many circumstances, become more outgoing. (Okay, maybe that’s just what it did for me, but I digress…)
  3. Find parents who are concerned about teaching their kids to be more self-reliant. They are going to be the ones who are active with their kids in sports, scouting, music, etc.
  4. This is where you get to do some detective work. You’ll need to discover where these potential customers get their information. What drives them? What do they feel is most important? This is going to be the toughest step, especially if you’re more of an introvert. It’s something you just have to do.

Armed with this information, you can start to put a marketing plan together. So, the next step is determining how to reach people. What method do you use? How can you be sure people will see your marketing materials? Will they be effective?

 

Marketing Your Farm #1: Why?

Welcome to the first installment of Marketing Your Farm. Just to reiterate, here is the agenda I’m following:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who are your customers?
  3. How can you reach them?
  4. What do you want say?
  5. How do you know that what you’ve said is working?

Today, I’m going to talk about you. Who are you and, most importantly, why are you doing what you do? Knowing “why” will bring you to “what” and “how” in later installments of this series. First, make sure you’ve watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on leadership.

Go ahead. I’ll wait…

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”  Essentially, your communication plan needs to be based on your purpose for what you do. What drove you to start farming? Why do you raise livestock? Try to remember the first time you grew something. What was that feeling?

I remember the first time I ever rode a horse. I had been begging my mother for years to let me take lessons, since I’d seen horses and riders on television and I knew people who had horses. She finally agreed and one Saturday, I was standing in an arena holding the reins of a big dabbled palomino mare named Sun. I learned only the very basics that day, but spent the best hour of my 10-year-old life. When I had to leave, I cried all the way home. Knowing that I was going to have another lesson in just a week was no consolation. I wanted to be around horses all the time.

And now I have two. They make me very happy. Horses have been one of the main drivers of my life. I bought this little farm because of my horses.

Think about why. What’s the main thing that drives you? Is it the tastes of well-produced foods? Is it the healthy soil? Is it the community? Is it the health these foods provide? What caused you to start? Was it growing the perfect carrot? Take some time to consider this and write down the reasons. Usually, it’s much more of a feeling than it is a specific idea, so I know this can be difficult to capture. Just remember, it’s the one thing about your business that makes you happy. It’s unique to you.

Here are some examples:

  • Adalyn Farm – a CSA farm in Stanwood WA: “Building community through food.”
  • Apple – For Apple, it’s all about the design and usability. There’s not a saying that encapsulates it, but one of my friends suggested, “It just works.”
  • TED Talks – “Ideas worth spreading.”
  • Aspire Foundation – “Empowering women and girls.”

For next time, capture some of these ideas about why you do what you do on paper (computer program, post-it note, blackboard or whatever works for you). Don’t be detailed. Instead, capture your instinctive feelings. My favorite way of doing this is to think about it and then either go do something completely different or sleep on it. Capture your thoughts in writing (or, for those more artistic, try a drawing). We will revisit these ideas each time we work on the next steps. “The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

Also, watch Seth Godin’s TED Talk on The Tribes We Lead. Next time, we’ll talk about our customers and who they are.