While direct-to-consumer marketing can promise substantial value-added potential, it also brings with it many new challenges and barriers to overcome. In this thought provoking presentation, Blaine of Seven Sons identifies the #1 barrier that they and other farmers must overcome in order to have viable and scalable marketing enterprises. Blaine share's how their farm is utilizing internet marketing concepts such as Email and Social Media to connect with consumers and how these mediums are beginning to shape the future of direct marketing.
HOW DO WE BECOME MORE CONVENIENT?
We have always found that convenience is the biggest barrier that stands between our farm and our customers. If farmers are going to be successful marketers we must realize that we are competing in the economy of convenience. Think about it, our customers are used to simply walking into a grocery store and we're trying to make them purchase freezer beef by the hanging weight, but only with a wapping down payment first, then we ask them to fill-out a confusing cut-sheet and finally we require them to take time out of their day to pick up at the processor. If we are going to succeed in an increasingly competitive market, we have to build sales models around the customer’s convenience rather than what is most convenient for the farmer.
1.) Create Visibility:
The first challenge we inherit with direct marketing is the fact that we are not easy to find. Farms aren't located close to cities or major populations, so we have to compensate with new strategies. A major factor to our farm's success has been our ability to leverage internet marketing to build awareness and visibility of our farm. The internet and social media are now an everyday part of your customer’s lives. And the good news is that people who are looking for pasture-based foods are most likely turning to the internet first. Your job is to position your farm to be found by consumers already looking for what you offer. Every month our website receives 30,000 visitors and nearly half of these visitors originate from Google searches and link referrals from local directories like EatWild.com, Agrilicious.org, and others. When we ask our customers how they found out about us, the answer is almost always an online source. What I love about online marketing is that it's so high leverage. To build awareness by traditional means, you either have to spend a significant portion of your life and farmer's markets or make financial investments in costly advertising.
2.) Create Accessibility:
Creating visibility alone will not make the significant difference you're looking for. After all, visibility does not make your farm any more accessible to potential customers if once they've found you, they still need to drive 2 hours to buy from you. This is where some form of distribution comes in. If your customer isn't willing to come to you, you're going to have to go to them. Our farm first created accessibility by creating an online store and delivering orders to remote pickup locations in metropolitan cities. This model is commonly referred to as a buying club program it gave our business wings. Eventually we took it a step further and began offering home delivery as an option as well by partnering with city couriers and FedEx for the final mile delivery. This has been the holy grail of convenience for our customers. Orders are packed in insulated boxes with dry-ice or gel packs, and they arrive the next day right at their doorstep.
3.) Create Availability:
So, you've positioned yourself to be found and easy to buy from, but it all breaks down if half the year I go to your website only to find you're out of stock! Increasing the window of availability your customers have to buy from you is the 3rd most important factor when it comes to overcoming the barrier of inconvenience. When you're out of stock for an extended period it requires your customer to find another source for your product and when that happens, it's a coin-toss whether or not they'll come back to you. Now, the strategy required to extend your window of availability will be different depending on the enterprise. For grass-fed beef, we found that investing in long-term freezer storage to be much more economical than attempting to finish cattle out of season on expensive hay. There's no doubt that extending your window of availability will require some creativity and a little upfront investment, but until it's achieved you will continue to encounter the barrier of inconvenience.