Marketing for Profit: Tools for Success
The success of a farm rests on the farmer being skilled in a wide number of areas; production, state and federal regulations, strategic business planning, human resource management, machine maintenance and repair, food safety and marketing. For a successful farm business, whether it is fruits and vegetables or livestock, a farmer must possess expertise in each of these areas. But the marketing side is often the least skilled areas for farmers. Their focus is most often on the production side, with less attention to where they will market their products, nor how they will create the relationships with consumers necessary to be successful at whatever marketing channels they choose.
Farmers rely on support from Cooperative Extension and other farm service organizations to help them on their journey to a successful farm business. They seek advice, attend workshops, and read manuals to learn the skills needed. While production and business management workshops abound during the winter months, few marketing workshops are held. We find that Cooperative Extension Educators and farm service organizations are often lacking in a broad-based, up-to-date knowledge of marketing concepts and techniques that will help farmers with this component of farm success. Extension Educators, in a recent survey, indicate that most of the farmers they work with lack appropriate marketing skills to reach their farm’s earnings potential. In addition, the majority of Extension Educators also indicated a need to sharpen their own marketing skills and would welcome marketing workshops and transfer the knowledge to the farmers in their county/region.
Using a “Marketing University” concept, this project will develop and implement a comprehensive marketing training program for Cooperative Extension Educators, farm service organization leaders, farmers market managers and farmers. “Marketing 101” will begin with an analysis of various marketing channels; such as wholesale to supermarkets and institutions, farmers markets, CSA, direct to restaurants, farm stands and agri-entertainment. Educators will learn the skill sets and requirements of participation for each marketing channel. As a result, Educators will be able to help farmers understand each marketing channel and make farm-appropriate choices of marketing venues.
The second step, “Marketing 201” will train educators in basic marketing skills; such as understanding the customer, identifying the competition, pricing, and merchandising and display techniques. These techniques are important to every marketing channel and will help guide farmers to initial success in whatever marketing channels chosen. Finally, “Marketing 301” will delve into more advanced marketing concepts such as customer database management, online marketing, and effective communications.
Each session, delivered in a webinar format, will build the marketing knowledge and skills of each participant. An Educators Toolkit and a “Marketing for Profit: Tools for Success Guidebook will assist Cooperative Extension Educators and other farm service organizations to transfer this knowledge to the farmers. Ultimately, 150 farmers will use the training received to enter at least one new marketing venue and/or employ new marketing techniques and strategies within their direct marketing venues, achieving revenue increases averaging $10,000 per farm.
150 farmers will use the training received to enter at least one new marketing venue and/or employ new marketing techniques and strategies within their direct marketing venues, achieving revenue increases averaging $10,000 per farm.
1) 300 Cooperative Extension Educators, farm service leaders and farmers will learn the dynamics, skills sets and requirements for participation in a range of marketing channels, such as farmers markets, on-farm stands, agri-tourism, wholesale to supermarkets, wholesale to institutions, restaurant marketing, and CSA’s.
The first phase of the marketing training was completed in 2012. Three sessions were presented: Assessing Your Identity where farmers were given the tools to analyze their own farm and personal goals, as well as their skills. An understanding of these concepts will help farmers to make appropriate choices and decisions as they move through their business planning and marketing. The second session was Exploring Marketing Channels. This webinar presented basic direct marketing information, a review of various direct marketing channels and what is required for success in each venue. The connection between farm and personal goals, as well as skills, and direct marketing venues choices demonstrated the need for a thorough self analysis before appropriate market venue decisions could be made. Finally, the final presentation was Where are we and Where do we want to be. This session looked at various innovative direct marketing options, such as online marketing, cooperative marketing, direct delivery and other distribution options. The point was to show that direct marketing is not static. It is evolving and knowing where you are, who you are and where you need to be to achieve your goals will help you to see your marketing options and make the choices that help to achieve those goals.
This webinar series reached 94 people, falling short of the goal for 300. (However, the webinars were recorded and are available at http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/work-shop-programs/webinars/program.html, to allow additional farmers, Extension Educators, etc. to view the presentations at their leisure. As of December 17, 2012, an additional 130 people have accessed these webinars online.) While registrations for these webinars showed the promise of achieving the goal, technical difficulties with the first webinar resulted in many dropping out of the final 2 sessions. The project team used a conference call to connect participants with the audio portion of the webinar. Unfortunately, it resulted in many audio difficulties. Presenters using a cell phone to connect with the conference call experienced significant audio distortion, making the audio unintelligible. By the time it was rectified, many attendees had dropped off the call and dropped the webinar training. In addition, using a conference call line required participants to voluntarily mute their phones. Many participants would not do so and the background noise through their phone lines; crying babies, barking dogs, external conversations; resulted in difficulty for other participants to hear the speaker, as well as causing the speaker to lose concentration. Other attendees complained that they did not want to tie up their phone line for the length of each webinar, 90 minutes. They preferred to get audio through their computer.
The project team reviewed these issues and concerns to make adjustments for future webinars. While the leadership originally thought it was important to use a conference call line that allowed the project to pay for long distance calls, it was determined that the majority of people no longer pay long distance charges. But the webinar program will not allow a conference call line mixed with VOIP connections. A decision of one means of audio had to be made. It was decided that VOIP would be utilized on future webinars. This requires each speaker to have a headset connected to their computer, so headsets were purchased for any speakers without their own headset. Audio through headsets is crystal clear. It also meant that all participants will come into each webinar muted. This eliminates the need to call for voluntary muting and eliminates all background noise. The result is a much better audio for listeners and less distractions for speakers. Finally, it allows utilizing the recording function on the webinar program, which records both audio and visual in synch, making it easier to view and comprehend when additional farmers, Educators, etc, view the presentation online.
The second phase was completed in 2013. The remaining presentations cover marketing concepts to help farmers research their customer base, build a successful marketing plan and through implementation of that plan. 2013 sessions covered Marketing Assessment, Customer Assessment and Communications Assessment. Overall, 768 individuals participated in the 2013 webinars. The audience was a mix of farmers, Extension Educators, farmers market managers, and ag-based non-profits. The audience was from all across the US, including Hawaii, as well as many parts of Canada.
The webinars in the second phase used VOiP to broadcast the webinars. This system brought the audience into the webinar in listen-only mode. That eliminated all background noise allowing everyone to clearly hear the speakers. Questions were asked through a webinar program chat box and read to the speaker. This allowed the entire audience to hear the question and answer, but still left attendees in mute to avoid distractions. The presentation was also recorded through the webinar format that synced the presentation with the recording and allowed us to archive the webinars on the Federation website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com, as well as to upload them on Youtube for additional viewing. The Questions and Answers from each webinar was documented in a Word document and uploaded to the website along with the archived recording.
2) 100 Cooperative Extension Educators hosted meetings will educate and assist regional farmers in identifying far-appropriate marketing venues.
3) Through a series of webinars, 500 Extension Educators, farm service leaders, farmers market managers and farmers will learn techniques and skills required for successfully marketing farm products direct to consumers.
This performance target has been reached, although webinars are still ongoing. Through participation in the webinars, we have reached 529 unique individuals. The participants have been scattered throughout the US, including Hawaii, and Canada. It has been a mix of Extension educators, farmers, farmers market managers, farm educators and non-profits.
But the reach has far exceeded the 529 individuals participating live with each webinar. After each webinar was concluded, a recording of the presentation was archived on the Farmers Market Federation website, http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/work-shop-programs/webinars/view-past-webinars.html. They are also uploaded onto youtube. As of December 31, 2013, there were 2157 views of these webinars from these locations, indicating a significant interest in learning farm marketing skills by both farmers and farm educators.
See Table A in attachment below
4) Webinar participants, New York’s Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, and New York’s farmers market managers will receive a direct marketing manual, developed through the information and resource offered through the webinar series.
The manual is under development. The curriculum was divided into 5 categories of marketing: self-assessment, marketing assessment, customer assessment, communications assessment and business assessment. The manual has been completed for the first 3 assessments, which were presented in 2012 and 2013. The remaining assessments are currently underway, with the manual to be completed in the summer of 2014 with distribution to follow.
5) Using the education derived from the webinars and the direct marketing manual, 100 Cooperative Extension Educators will host regional farmer meetings to educate 750 farmers in direct marketing techniques.
Many of the Extension Educators participating in the webinars have indicated they do not plan to use the presentations at farm meetings until the full series is complete, not leaving enough time before the project ends to evaluate and assess this goal. Others have indicated that they do not feel comfortable with the topic to give the presentations, even with the powerpoint and speaker notes being provided to them. For these reasons, and to facilitate farmer requests, we have added an online learning component to the project. With a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County and Cornell University, the entire curriculum has been uploaded to an online learning program, Moodle, under the Cornell account. The Moodle program provides the full five categories of marketing – each webinar and supporting documents. The documents include:
• Glossary of terms used within the presentation
• Q & A based on the webinar presentations
• Resources to learn more information about the topic
• Online forum for topic discussion
• Homework assignment; with a goal that the completion of all homework assignments will net the participant a complete business and marketing plan
Each participant completing the full course will receive a Certificate of Achievement. In addition, we received accreditation from Farm Service Agency to provide farmers who complete the full program to earn borrower credits on loans through the Farm Service Agency.
The Moodle program was uploaded and launched in November 2013. Within two months of the initial press release, we have 116 individuals going through the course. Each individual registered for the course with a simple survey providing us with base line data:
• Current marketing channels used
• Current income level and percent of income per marketing channel
• Length of time in direct marketing farm products
• Current usage of basic tracking systems and marketing tools
We also asked where they learned about the program to allow us to track how each of the participants were sent to the Moodle, online curriculum. We learned that a high level of participants were referred to the site through Extension Educators or through other Ag-based non-profits:
See Table B in attachment below.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
None to report at this time
NY Farm Viability Institute
159 Dwight Park Circle, Suite 104
Syracuse, NY 13209
Office Phone: 3154533823