Saturday, March 14, 2015

Goats: Promotion and marketing - the keys to success for breeders

To be successful in today's world means being competitive. Small and large businesses fail if they cannot market their products. Rural enterprises are no different and farmers must learn to approach their business in a professional manner.  Few can afford the luxury of failure.

The key to success in marketing is promotion and publicity and the steps to achieving positive results are not difficult or necessarily expensive.
Firstly you must believe in your product, and secondly you must promote it and yourself, in as many ways as possible. A lot can be achieved at no cost whatsoever.
Here are a few suggestions for promoting your livestock enterprise.

1.  Know your product.
Improve your knowledge about the industry through reading and networking. Know your product inside out so you can answer the 1001 question people might ask.

There are lots of books available that are easily accessed from Amazon or your local bookshop. Read all you can, not only in journals and rural magazines but read other breeders' advertisements so you know what the competition is.
Visit on-line groups that post regularly on Facebook. Know the current sales prices for stud stock and fibre (mohiar growers), frozen meat prices and the market trends and latest developments at home and overseas.

2.  Present a professional image.
You are your farm’s best promotional tool. Word of mouth is the cheapest form of promotion.
Get to know the people involved in your industry. Find out where they are located and what they are achieving. Take time to talk on the phone, on email or pay a visit. This is networking. Have your own website or blog on the internet. Avoid being negative. Be honest and positive.
Make sure you animals also look happy and healthy.

Suggest new buyers visit other enterprises to compare stock. Customers appreciate an open minded approach.
Be professional. Join a breed society, club or organization and become an active member. If you are a good public speaker, put together an interesting talk about your farm and livestock. Support this with pics or a video.

Some producers hold seminars or run courses on farm. This allows them to promote the industry but, at the same time display and market their own stock. Others offer their professional expertise as tutors at colleges and evening classes.
If you prefer writing to speaking, send an article to your local paper. They are always looking for fresh and interesting pieces about local people and events.

b)  Print material
Letter-headed paper is easy to print at home. Business cards can be produced very cheaply these days. They are a prerequisite for any small business.
Design an eye-catching logo, or use your association’s logo (with permission). It will become synonymous with your farm business. Use this on all signs, adverts and stationery.

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Have an annual budget for promotional expenses. Stay within your budget. If you can afford novelty promotional items such as calendars, postcards or fridge magnets, always make them attractive so people will keep them. Have your logo and stud name embroidered on your T-shirts and caps.

Have glossy advertising leaflets printed to hand out at events or, if that is too expensive, print out information on an A4 sheet on your home computer. Provide details of your stock with prices if possible (some people are embarrassed to ask). Also make up a sheet of basic husbandry information to hand to new breeders. Provide a book list of recommended reading material.
Besides your primary produce, always promote any bi-products from your animals such as fur, feathers, oils, hair, milk or meat, even goat knickknacks that you might sell on the farm. Advertise these items at shows.

Breed societies
Most livestock types are represented by breed societies. By becoming a member you will have access to up-to-date information and meet more people. By being an active member of the society you will gain respect from fellow breeders, but do not expect the society to market your animals for you.
Some people enter new and alternate livestock enterprises believing that once they have the animals it will all happen.
When they find that they cannot sell their stock they ask, "What is the society doing for me?"
These are the types of people who do not last long in any business. They sell up and leave giving that industry a bad name. Only through positive participation and enthusiasm will any single venture or group grow.

Promotion at shows
Agricultural shows and local events are an inexpensive way of promoting yourself and your animals to the public. If your breed society is participating at a show then get involved and take your livestock along. Enter competitions.  Winning an award or prize is effective promotion.
When you show you animals ensure that, not only are they well groomed, but that you present yourself in a smart and professional manner.  You are on show too.Likewise, the animal pens and holding areas should be neat and tidy.Display a professionally made sign bearing your logo.
At agricultural shows prospective breeders want information. 

Provide an eye-catching display board of photographs (preferably enlargements) and a table for your business cards and literature. Be on hand to talk to people and always observe professional courtesy.
Don’t forget to record the names and addresses of anyone interested in entering the business and, more importantly, follow these up with a phone call or email when you have more stock available for sale.

If you have not reached the stage of entering animals in the larger shows, try the local events. These often welcome displays of animals free of charge but you may have to provide your own small stock pen. These are not difficult to construct from a few sheets of mesh.
The biggest attraction at these events is often young animals – they promote themselves but, remember, promotion starts with you.

Advertising signs
Signs on vehicles provide excellent publicity. If you are transporting stock why not promote your stud name on your vehicle or trailer.  If your do not want a permanent sign on the car door then consider a custom made spare-tyre cover or portable sign for the trailer.
Have a sign made for your vehicle. I called mine The Goatmobile.

Roadside and farm signs bring visitors onto the farm.
The costs are not high and this type of promotion is worthwhile.

Newspaper advertisements
When you have stock for sale, advertise it in the press. Small lineage ads placed regularly in appropriate papers will have better results than a single full-page spread with no follow up. Some papers offer free adverts. Adverise on the internet. Regular advertising pays dividends.

Makes ever post a winner
If you are planning an interstate or overseas holiday consider finding out before you leave if there are any breeders living near your holiday destination. Try contacting the secretary of the breed society for the state or country that you will be visiting.

On a farm visit in the UK I met this Manx Loaghtan sheep
People involved in the same venture as you are usually delighted to meet you. Always write or ring first. You can pick up new ideas from seeing how other people conduct their farms.
Networking keeps you up to date with what is going on.
If a breeder is planning an Artificial Insemination program or it’s shearing or vaccination day, why not volunteer to help. You will learn a lot.

Promotion through sponsorship
It’s not always easy to get sponsorship but it costs nothing to try. Local rural traders and feed merchants may be happy to sponsor you in a modest way.

While these are a few promotional ideas, I am sure there are many more.
Success in any rural business does not happen overnight and stock will not sell themselves. From the start you must be professional in the way you market your product. Define your objectives and work out a promotional plan. Make use of any market research data which is available.
Always stay positive and remember that promotion is an investment in your future.

Note: For the sake of convenience the writer has directed this article towards goat farming, however, the same information can equally apply to sheep or alpaca studs, aqua-culturists, vermiculturalists or plant nurserymen.
While is it some years since I wrote this article and I no longer farm goats, some facts have been revised but little has changed.

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