Marketing Action Plan
If you are planning to make a profit from your farm, a marketing action plan is essential. Remember the pet rock from 1975? Gary Dahl, an advertising executive, came up with the idea while in a bar. He heard people complaining about taking care of their pets. What’s easier than caring for a rock?
This collectible toy had to be something inexpensive so that he could make a profit. Rocks were cheap, so he put them in a cardboard box complete with air holes and straw. Pet rocks sold for $4 and each came with a cleverly written training manual. Dahl sold over a million pet rocks during the Christmas season.
Who would have thought a plain old rock would sell? The marketing made it happen. Dahl had a plan and executed it. That is what you must do in order to be successful.
- Marketing Action Plan
- What is a Marketing Action Plan?
- Why is a USP Important?
- Getting Started
- Determining Your Market
- Pricing Strategy
- Target Market
- Your Competitors
- At the Beginning of Business
- Where are you selling your product?
- Promotional Ideas to Add to Your Marketing Action Plan
- Customer Service
- Setting a Budget and a Calendar
- Track Results
- Want More Info?
What is a Marketing Action Plan?
Your marketing action plan is laying out your strategy on how you plan to sell your product or service. As with a small farm business plan, it is important to put your plan in writing, then regularly review and revise it according to market conditions.
The first thing you must determine is what is missing from the market you are planning to enter. Your product or service must fill a need. Explore a variety of ideas that appeal to you and complement your talents. Maybe no one is selling homemade jams at the local farmer’s market and making jam is your talent. There’s an opportunity.
Maybe the area you live in has some great tourist sites and no one around you is doing agritourism. Put up a few fancy tents (glamping) or yurts or even remodel an old outbuilding into a comfortable room, advertise, and you have solved a market problem uniquely.
Why is a USP Important?
What is the unique selling proposition (USP) that you can offer to the public? USP’s profitability has been proven time and time again. If something is unique and fills a need, that is a USP. It can be those homemade jams with unusual berry combinations or your fancy farm tourism sites. If you can determine a USP and then carry through with the marketing, you have a very good chance to succeed. Fill the need. Solve the problem.
No matter what course you choose, you need to check the legal requirements of your community and state. You may need permits to operate or sell, including tax permits. Check all of this out before you spend a cent on anything for your new business. Worst case scenario, you won’t be allowed to do what you are proposing. Best case scenario, you get your permits and move on to execute your idea.
Determining Your Market
Now that you have an idea of what you want to sell, you need to do some research. There are several areas to explore to determine if you can make a profit:
- What is the potential market size? How many people are actually interested in buying your product or service? Will they be return customers or is this just a one-time purchase?
- What are the market trends? Are farmers’ markets seeing fewer customers? Are popup stores more popular?
- Is there a seasonality to your product? Can you sell Christmas items in the spring? Can you sell Valentine items in September?
When setting your price for an item, consider the total cost of manufacturing plus labor. That is your net cost. Then add 3-10% on top of that to get your retail price. If you plan to sell to wholesalers, you need to be able to sell to them at least at 50% discount, so adjust your retail price accordingly.
If you are offering a service, you need to research the local rates. Where do you fit in? Are you experienced or just starting out? If you are just starting a business, you need to set your prices a little lower so that you can begin to develop a reputation and build the business. Don’t give your skill away for free, however. No one will appreciate you if you do.
To sell, you need to hone in on your target market–those are the people who are most likely to buy your product. Take a realistic look at your audience and determine their age, gender, location, income, interests, and even employment. If your product is a premade dinner, your target market is probably going to be a working mom, middle-age, in your locality, with children. That mom will appreciate a good quick meal for her family.
Do that analysis for your product. The more detailed you define your target audience, the greater the chance of sales. Zoe Hansen, in Investopedia, said, “Knowing who you want to sell to and why is an extremely critical component of any business plan.”
Who is selling the same product you are planning to sell? What are they doing differently? Where are they failing? If you can figure out what they aren’t doing but should be doing, you will have an advantage over them.
Know your competitors, and better still, keep an eye on them. If you are successful, they will begin to copy you.
At the Beginning of Business
If you start branding your farm business at the beginning, you have a head start on any competition. When you brand your farm, you are creating a distinct, unique business in the eyes of your consumer. Think golden arches: you immediately visualize McDonalds. That’s branding. Over the years, McDonalds has done an excellent job throughout the world getting people to recognize their company.
What Do You Need to Get for Brand Recognition?
Start with a logo, something that you can put on every product and every business card. Choose colors you can live with for you don’t want to change things after you get started. It is hard to design a logo, so if you are not a graphic design artist or have access to one, I am going to recommend that you go looking for one, either locally or try an online business. Personally, I have used Fiverr.com for a large number of projects and have been pleased with the results, so I recommend them. Reasonably priced and produce good work.
What are you planning to do for your customers? Your mission statement should say, succinctly, how you are going to do business. For example,
I am going to sell the best homemade jam that I can at a reasonable price at the local farmer’s market.
We will provide comfortable and safe lodging on our farm.
A mission statement gives you direction, a place to start with your marketing. Just keep it simple and to the point.
You may think you don’t need a website, but this website can give you customers well beyond your local area. Websites don’t need to be expensive, and if you have already established what you plan to do, building a website becomes doable.
Websites are discussed in more detail in another blog, but here is a simple list of what you need to do.
Choose a host browser that you feel comfortable with, such as Bluehost (my personal favorite), Wix, Siteground, etc. Through them, buy your domain name, and try to get a .com. If you find a domain name you like, buy it immediately. I have seen people find the name they like, leave it, then go back to buy it, and the domain name is gone. Buy it when you find it.
Build a WordPress website. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You can just build one or two pages telling people what you are selling. Selling products online does require that you know how to ship and bill items properly, but it really opens up your target market.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is creating a website and content that the search engines can recommend to people online. It is complex, but you may be able to do some of it yourself by learning about keywords and how google and other search engines operate. You can also hire someone to help you with this.
Where are you selling your product?
You have many choices on where to promote a product in this modern-day world. You can choose a brick-and-mortar store or an online store. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Brick-and-mortar can include any place where you are face-to-face with customers. It can include a regular store, farmers’ market, local events, popup stores, and working with other non-competing vendors. Potential customers can be anywhere, so be aware of how your booth looks and how your staff engages.
Doing business online is not difficult, but you have to treat it just as if you were going to work. You must be consistent in how you deal with orders and customers online. You can sell a product online directly from your website, or join one of the websites that deal only in ecommerce businesses.
You can also place free posts or paid social media ads such as Facebook or Google ads. You can make promotional videos on the social media channels such as Instagram, Tiktok, or YouTube, directing buyers to your website. If you can produce enough product, you can become an Amazon vendor or sell in another ecommerce store.
Another good incentive to attract buyers is to offer free shipping. If you do this, be sure to set up commercial shipping with one of the big shippers; you can save some money on shipping this way.
Promotional Ideas to Add to Your Marketing Action Plan
You will have to promote differently for each type of selling venue. Mention each in your marketing action plan with what steps you intend to take.
You can do radio and TV interviews. Remember that the reporter/interviewer will want something different to talk about, a hook, a slant that will give a different or new perspective on your product.
Consider partnering with other people who have non-competing products. You can share advertising, a booth, or even a website. As with all partnerships, have a clear understanding in writing of each other’s responsibilities. Most importantly, have an easy way to end the partnership if it goes bad for some reason.
Get involved with local agricultural groups. If you raise sheep, join the woolgrower’s group, and so on. Be willing to be a spokesman or give talks about your particular interests. Become an expert in the public’s eyes. Network with people in your field.
Regardless of whether you are selling face-to-face or online, you need to do social media posts. These are free, but they do take time. You need to show a presence on social media, maybe present a new product or a new way to use your product. Social media is where everyone meets now, so if you want to be in the foremost of everyone’s minds, you need to post.
Create a customer loyalty program and give some great rewards away to those customers who keep returning.
Sometimes, you will have a product that can be placed in groceries and other outlets. This might be the time to enlist commissioned salespeople to get your placement in stores.
Often such marketing aids as flyers or paid advertising on radio, TV, and billboards will boost foot traffic.
Do special promotions for your loyal customers, such as early access to sales, or a reward for multiple nights in your agritourism venture.
Handing out samples does bring people to you, but many of them will just take them and go on. This is an expensive method of marketing.
Offering a discount often encourages buyers. You can do this seasonally, for existing customers, or for new customers. Be creative with your offering.
Online marketing is probably the cheapest and easiest method of marketing. With your website, you can develop an email list of readers, send out a regular newsletter, do guest posts on other sites, and allow guest posts on your website.
The social media platforms offer a number of ways to expose you and your product to the world. You can promote for free or you can buy ads. Videos tend to be very successful on these social media platforms, and they don’t have to be long. Have a clear message with good video and watch the results.
Serve your customers well. If your customer service is good and dependable, you will have repeat customers. You can promote a product superbly, but if you fail in answering customer issues, your business will eventually fail. Good customer service is as important as the marketing action plan to increase sales.
Set realistic goals for yourself and your business. For example:
This year, I want to sell 40 nights in my yurts. Next year, I want to sell 80 nights.
Plan what you can do, then plan what you want to do next, but be realistic about what is possible.
This is also the time to test different marketing ideas. Maybe you have yurts and they have been quite popular. Try 1 glamping tent next year and see what happens. You might see great interest in it, so you will know you can put in several tents. Or, you might see no interest in it, so you won’t spend the money to pursue this idea. Try new things, but go slowly.
Setting a Budget and a Calendar
You need to spend some money on marketing, but spend it wisely. Figure out what you expect to earn from your product or service sales, then set aside about 15% of it for marketing expenditures. If you are doing brick-and-mortar, you will probably need more money than if you are selling online. Pull up a spreadsheet, list expenses, list income, and then see what will work.
In addition, set some goals for your business. Set up a calendar and decide where you want to be, sales-wise, at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Put your sales numbers in there as well as your income. Keeping track will help you keep control of what is happening.
Your marketing action plan should set up everything that needs to be tracked: sales, income, and expenses. This is the basis of your market research. By keeping a spreadsheet on what is happening in your business, you can regularly adjust your marketing action plan based upon the results of your tracking. Find out what is working and what doesn’t. You don’t want to keep advertising on a certain platform if it never brings in any sales. By tracking, you will find that out.
Get customer feedback. How well are you really doing? Are customers happy or disgruntled? Even negative comments can help your business improve.
Remember: the cheapest customer for you to get is the one who returns to buy again and again.