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AGRO SOLUTIONS: 3 steps to successful direct-to-consumer meat sales

“A lot of people underestimate the time it takes to become established and how quickly you build your business depends on using your time, investment…

“A lot of people underestimate the time it takes to become established and how quickly you build your business depends on using your time, investment and resources wisely,” says Katie Olthoff, co-founder of ChopLocal, an online farmers market that offers products from 45 farmers and butcher shops.

  1. Develop a Marketing Strategy

A marketing strategy gives you a sense of direction and purpose. It directs your marketing time and attention, increasing efficiency. “Marketing is the process of understanding what the consumer wants, developing the product, and getting it to them,” says Matt LeRoux, extension associate at Cornell University in his Marketing 101: How to Sell Your Meat Online webinar.

The first step is to identify your product and your targeted consumer. Learn what motivates them.

A marketing strategy needs to be specific, LeRoux says, “Focus on the bulls eye in the middle of the target. You will attract others from the outer rings.”

Set specific objectives that include the audience, a measurable goal, timeline, budget, and specific action required. Objectives don’t have to be sales based. They may be goals for customer contacts or social media posts.

A crucial underlying component to a marketing strategy is defining your mission. You want to differentiate your positions and your farm in a way that attracts your target customers.

You need to tell consumers what you stand for, because they care.

  1. Understand the Consumer

“The consumer of old is changing. Today’s consumer reads labels and asks questions,” says Roxi Beck with the Center for Food Integrity in Know, Like and Trust: What Today’s Consumers Want to Know About Your Farm. “They care about your ethics, your farming practices, how you treat employees, and participate in your community.”

They care about the environment, animal welfare, and sustainability with its many varying definitions.

They care about their personal health.

“Price, convenience, and taste will always be factors in purchase decision making,” says Beck. “But today’s consumers want more. Food choices are a complex monster. Today’s consumer wants you to be able to talk about who you are and why you do what you do before you talk about the facts.”

Beck cites research showing 39 per cent of consumers consider environmental sustainability when making purchases, a 12 per cent increase since 2019; 52 per cent believe their purchase will impact the environment.

That requires a level of transparency that Beck says makes some producers uncomfortable. But it is essential in gaining consumer trust – and, as she adds, “trust will get you sales.”

Market research can help identify consumers and their desires and helps you market products to those who already value them. Collecting data from the vendors in their network, ChopLocal found their most consistent and prolific customers were in the age 45-60 demographic, not the younger set they assumed.

“The goal should be to pull customers in, not push them toward your product,” says LeRoux.

He adds there is little value in attempting to educate the consumer as to why they should buy your product. “They already have thoughts on that. It’s more important to understand than to educate.”

Perhaps the best way to discover how the consumer thinks is to listen.

Conversations at the farmers market, online, or with your friends and family, are portals to invaluable feedback. When you post on social media, read the comments to glean insights.

What message resonates with them? How can you give that back to them in product and services?

When a customer’s questions seem silly or irritating, keep in mind they most likely don’t know enough to ask a more informed question. Ag vernacular may be confusing to them (like the definition of sustainability).

Try to feel them out as to what they really want to know. Are they really concerned about the use of antibiotics in animals, or are they concerned about their own health?

  1. Develop your Product

To successfully market your product to consumers, you must have a product consumers want to buy.

Familiarise yourself with the local market. Browse websites of existing online marketers to see what items are offered, and which ones appear to move.

Seek out expertise.

Then, if need be, adjust your product to what your consumers are telling you they want.

LeRoux gives the example of a producer selling freezer beef. He was hearing from customers that it was hard for a family to write one big check for a half or quarter of beef, even though it was a good price per pound. He adjusted and began selling smaller bundles.

Remember your product plan must include profit.

Source: Successful Farming

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