Got a new Facebook like? New website visitor? New email mailing list sign up? Congratulations.
Give yourself a virtual pat on the back and get to work.
You have just the started a new relationship with a potential customer. However, to contribute to the goals of your farm business, you need that potential customer to live up to their potential and come out and buy something from you. They need to visit your farm stand, come for a corn maze, buy a CSA share, or visit the farmer's market and spend money.
It's this cash or credit transaction that makes payroll each month, that buys a new tractor, or pays the electric bill.
So before you go deeper into online marketing and fill out your Twitter following and get lost in Instagram, I encourage you to focus on what is really important. Online marketing is not an end in and of itself: it needs to eventually lead to a sale.
Think about how a customer deepens their relationship with your farm after they first find you in a Google Search and click on your website. Do you want them to follow you on social media? Do you want to capture their email address and sell them through email? Make it easy on the customer to understand what you want them to do and make it easy for them to figure out how to buy from you.
I recommend to my farmers that they focus on just a few marketing channels and really optimize those. For the average farm business, a website with a blog, an email mailing list, and Facebook business page is enough.
When a potential customer visits your website, ask for their email address with a compelling offer - what should they expect to receive once they sign up for mailing list? Consider giving them a coupon to spend at your farm. No one needs to be on another email in their inbox, so make the decision easy. If they don't want to give up their email address, offer up your Facebook page as a way to further engage with your farm.
Once they have opted in to hear from you, you need a consistent schedule to keep your website, mailing list, and Facebook page updated. Commit to two hours each week for marketing content development and scheduling and then schedule your updates to go out throughout the week on Facebook and email at the times that make sense for the customer while you can keep farming and let the technology do the work.
Spending this time marketing may not be your favorite farm job, but it has to get done if you are going to succeed at direct-to-consumer sales. A farm without marketing is just a big compost pile.
Just give a little time during the off-season to optimize your website, get an email list set up, and create a schedule for yourself to follow during the busy time of year.
For more farm marketing thoughts like this, check out my book Cultivating Customers: A Farmers Guide to Online Marketing on Amazon.com.
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