The best marketing is, of course, word-of-mouth. It is free and respected by consumers more than anything you write on your website. Have a great product, get people talking about it, maybe have a website for more information, and you are on your way to a great marketing plan.
There is a way that you can cross your website copy with word-of-mouth advertising: the testimonial.
Kehrer writes: "Testimonials are the missing link for prospects considering a commitment to your product or service. Reading what others have to say gives them instant comfort. It helps them connect the dots, put a real face on your business and see the satisfaction others have garnered from working with you."
Create a page on your site where you can collect the nice things customers say about your farm and build it slowly over time as positive comments are made. Small Farm Central farmers say lots of nice things, that's why we created the What Our Farmers Say page.
Once you have created a repository on your site of testimonials, you can sprinkle the comments throughout your site in places where the specific comment augments the point you are making. Strawberries are going strong across the country right now, so let's say you have created a page about your strawberries with information about "U-Pick", varietals, growing practices, and more. A comment from a customer about how different the strawberries are than store-bought is perfect for the strawberry page!
When someone sends you an email with a quotable line, send them a message back and ask them if you can use their words on your testimonial page. You don't want that customer to visit your site a few weeks later to find their email pasted all over your site without permission -- that is a good way to turn a happy customer into an disgruntled customer!
Specific testimonials are better than the general. What sounds better?
"I like to eat your produce because it is so fresh!
"We're so excited for the strawberries. The kids and us ate them as our bedtime snack, and like last week, my husband and I had to "fight" to get more than one! The kids love them, and we all love all the greens, too. Tonight before bed, my four year old said, "I'm thankful for the farmers who grow us healthy food." Thanks for feeding our family!"
Village Acres Farm Weekly Survey
Village Acres Farm has compiled a very impressive list of customer quotes this year which you can see on their website in the "recent comments" area in the right-hand column. In fact, the specific testimonial above was taken from their site.
I asked Patrick at Village Acres Farm what they were doing to generate such an impressive amount of positive comments.
Patrick writes:This season, I started a weekly "foodback" survey using www.surveymonkey.com. It's only three questions. The idea came to me from Sharing the Harvest by Elizabeth Henderson, who talks about a farmer including a paper survey in each box each week. About 15 to 20 members, per week, have been leaving very positive comments. Of those, I pick a few with names included (optional) and ask them if I can post their comments on our website. Every single person, so far, has said yes. Even adding additional comments (in their email) they'd like posted. After their comments are posted, I send a link to them. Some of the other comments left on the website (on specific recipes, especially) are completely unsolicited and sometimes even from non-CSA members. One more item on the "foodback" survey - a few members have used it to tell me about problems with their produce. Fortunately, most of them have left their name and I've been able to call them (much better than email for such issues) to find out more detail. Both (has only happened twice) have expressed appreciaton for me taking the time to call them and interestingly enough, the following week have posted glowing reviews in the survey. I'm glad for the opportunity to talk to these members while the situation is fresh, instead of at the end of the season.
Here's a new development from the Bay Area: community canning events.
The organizers are hosting an event once a month that brings hundreds of pounds of produce to a local community kitchen. Attendees help with chopping, cooking, and canning at the kitchen and then receive a share of the results at a "pick-up party" a few days later. The group that is putting these on is called Yes, We Can.
They are processing Apricots in June, Cucumbers in July, and Tomatoes in September. Patricipants have the opportunity to buy a "work-share" where they help out with the canning or a more expensive share that does not require work. Not surprisingly, the work shares are sold out and there are still the normal shares for sale. This kind of canning is more valuable as an experience than the canned products gained from participating.
It is intimidating to start preservation from a food safety point of view and I am sure the attendees will get a jump-start on the canning process and have the confidence to continue on their own for the rest of the season. I have seen these types of events in individual homes, but this is the first time I have seen it on a more organized scale.
Maybe your farm can connect with a determined local food advocate to get your produce used in an event like this? I think this is an interesting concept to emulate around the country. It is canning as weekend entertainment; participants attain new skills and a great story to tell as they eat the fruits of their labor this winter.
We've posted about canning in the past:
Nine practical solutions for the consumption of home canned food
Canning is ideology in a jar
Added a number of good-looking Small Farm Central sites to the View Samples page.
Landisdale Farm. Jonestown, PA
Longacre Farm. Newport, PA
Eye Dazzler Alpacas. Westcliffe, CO.
Youngblood Grassfed. Grannis, AK.
Agriberry Farm. Studley, Virginia
Oak Ridge Farm. Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Eden View Organics. Tyrone, Pennsylvania
Willow Haven Farm. New Tripoli, Pennsylvania
West Liberty Farm. DuBois, PA
Growing Home Coop. Moorestown, New Jersey
We'll have the third premium template ready for consumption on your local website in the next 10 days or so. In the meantime, whet your appetite with this preview.
After template #2, Rustic, we decided to go more modern and polished as a contrast.
Get started with Small Farm Central to use this template.
We'd love to hear what you think! Leave a comment, send us an email,
We posted a blog entry a few weeks ago about Twitter and the ways that farmers are using it promote their farms. This is a new medium and has a lot of buzz around it, which should leave us suspicious. However, I do think that this platform has a lot of promise as an easy way to keep up with customers during the busy summertime.
More on that later, though.
We've found our way of using Twitter. This is not the "I'm eating ham and pineapple pizza and drinking a coke" variety of Twittering. We are posting updates, improvements, and new feaures of Small Farm Central which you can view in Twitter. The posts on features are being pulled into the control panel.
If you are an SFC user, you can view the Feature Feed in your control panel by going to the top-right hand corner of the control and finding the link for the "feature feed". You will see that we have been busy.
For everyone else, you can view our "Feature Feed" on Twitter. In addition, we are posting on a daily basis to highlight recipes, blog entries, and photos posted to Small Farm Central sites. Here are a few of our latest updates:
W Liberty Farm eater asks "How to eat seasonally within reason?" Dave talks of winter gardening, ferment., canning, etc: http://bit.ly/K6WmL
"What is best for the bees?" Leaf tells the story of several swarms - eventually leading the bees off his rural TN farm: http://bit.ly/RzHVa
"Bohemian" artisan breads cooling in a scrumptious pile at Twin Forks Farm Breads near Nashville, Tennessee: http://bit.ly/cB6nB
This is a fun way for us to highlight all the great work SFC farmers are doing across the country and get our farmers more exposure. If you are writing or photographing something you think we should post about, send us a note.
So find us on twitter:
or.. visit twitter and search for Small Farm Central.
Here at Small Farm Central, we love win-win situations. There are a lot of them in local and small-scale agriculture.
We often hear from satisfied customers that you would like to pass on the word to other farmers who may be interested in our services. If we printed up some "referral" cards with basic info about Small Farm Central and a unique identifier that you could pass out to other farmers who would be interested in the service, we could then give you a couple months free service for each farm that signs up.
That's the second part of the win-win situation.
Would you be interested? Let us know.
The question of "getting ranked higher in Google" comes up all the time in my initial conversations with farmers looking into getting a website. I covered this a long time ago in a blog post entitled "Getting Right with Google", but I think it is worth stressing again:
The single best thing your farm can do for your search engine rankings is to get other sites to link to your site.
These are called inbound links and they are the currency of the web. They drive search engine results as well as human visitors to your page.
It is worth your time to build these links. As a farm, you have a lot of opportunity to build links with the online farm directories that are out there.
Today, I'd like to highlight the EatWild Grassfed Directory which does have a fee associated with the listing. The fee is a one-time $50 listing fee. Eat Wild claims 8,000 visitors per day and 3 million total, which is a lot of potential customers for your farm.
Remember to list your website. As I was looking through the directory, I noticed one Small Farm Central farm that is listed in the directory, but does not have their web address linked. This means potential customers will not find the farm's website and there is no extra Google juice given.
Eat Wild now offers some nice Google Maps of the farms that are listed which helps customers find farms geographically. The screenshot above is of the Google Maps.
Does anyone have experience with EatWild? Do you get a lot of new customers coming from this site? I have heard good things in the past, but please leave your thoughts in comments if this has worked well for you.
Following the success of the Small Farm Central premium templates, our design team will soon be offering farm-friendly custom design packages. The packages will include custom promotion for your farm, such as web site template customization, logos, brochures, stationery (letterhead, business cards, and envelopes with your logo), bumper stickers, label stickers, wooden labels for CSA crates, farm stand banners, and vehicle graphics.
All from the same great designers who work on the Small Farm Central premium templates.
To test out these new farm-centered design ideas, we are looking for a few farms to join us for design make-overs. If you are looking to step up your marketing and design with some of the custom items mentioned above, you may be right for our case study.
Why should my farm become a case study?
What is required of me as a case study?
Interested? Please contact us and let us know how we can help you to best promote your farm!
We are remodeling and upgrading our ecommerce system this Spring to make it easier to manage for administrators (that's you!) and easier to buy for customers (that's sales!).
If you are currently using ecommerce and have suggestions, be sure to let us know. Or request a demo and check it out for yourself.