Smallholders who want to start a business will need to learn about marketing produce and services.

Now you need to tell your potential customers what you are offering, in order to convince them to buy your goods or services. Marketing needs a plan of action designed to promote and sell your wares.

The definition of marketing that we love was published in The New York Times: marketing is “the art of telling stories so enthralling that people lose track of their wallets.”

Why do you need to market your produce? If your business consists of agricultural products, many of these are perishable, so a failure to sell on time results in wasted harvest. You will still have had the cost of land, water, labour, storage ~ but no income to show for it.

Agricultural prices can be quite variable, impacted by changes in weather and harvests so your marketing strategy must ensure that consumers become aware of your products at just the right time.

Marketing materials

Marketing materials will include business cards, paper-based and digital flyers and brochures, as well as your website.

Technology has replaced many things, but the business card is still relevant and an important way of making a good first impression. They are a valuable networking tool and still the quickest way to trade contact information.

A flyer or leaflet is usually a single sheet of paper, usually A5 and sometimes only printed on one side. A flyer gives the information that the reader needs here and now. It tells what are you offering, why does anyone need it, how much does it cost, special offer if relevant and where is it available. A brochure may be more detailed, an A4 sheet folded or more than one sheet stapled to form a booklet.

Business cards can help generate leads and sales.

Of all sales efforts, direct door-to-door or telephone selling is the most effective when used correctly. However, it is also the most expensive and the deals you make are limited to a proportion of the number of sales calls your staff or you can make.

Advertising

Advertising is part of marketing and you should try to make your expenditure as effective as possible. Keep your message straightforward and simple. Often good intentions become lost when the designer of your ad becomes too creative. Avoid humour, because one man’s joke might be another man’s insult. Bad advertising will not sell a product, however good it is. Don’t be dishonest in your claims or exaggerate what your product or service can do for the customer.

Highlight the benefits of your product, rather than the features. Rather than state that your compost is weed-free, mention that because it is weed-free the customer will not waste time having to weed the bed.

Advertising will only work if the message reaches the target audience. Consider where your potential market is and how you can reach them.

In advertising, size, frequency and the use of colour do count, but have to be balanced with your budget.

Using social media

The method of advertising is also important: do you need to advertise in local newspapers or specific magazines appropriate for your product? Or will your product/service be well served by exploiting social media such as Facebook, Twitter or websites?

Your website needs to be simple, clear, informative and fast.

Social media are important for constant reminders of your product. A regular blog can be challenging to maintain, but it does not have to be more than about 300 words and is worth the effort if it brings customers to your website. If you don’t have help, it is probably better to decide on a couple of other platforms and stick to them.

Other marketing options

Stickers and decals on your vehicles help to establish your brand. Some entrepreneurs use guerrilla marketing by placing their stickers on the windows of empty shops or on lampposts and electricity substations. However you run the risk of annoying possible clients with this habit.

Take every opportunity to build up a database of potential and existing clients. A regular newsletter gives you reason to contact by email.

Readers often enjoy an infographic. This is a collection of imagery, charts and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic. You might experiment with free software which enables you to create your own infographic.

When you can afford it, you can offer prizes in competitions, host an event or run workshops.

Most marketing is about creating awareness of your business, but once you have people’s attention, focus on building relationships of trust and loyalty.

The National Agricultural Marketing Council offers information and research documents that might be of use to you.

This is part of a series on marketing your produce and services.

Part Two: Marketing Your Produce At Farmer’s Market Stalls

Part Three: Selling Your Produce? Start A REKO Ring

Part Four: How To Work With A Market Agent

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