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.
- 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 CSAs.
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 helped 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 see your marketing options and make choices that help you 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://nyfarmersmarket.com/view-marketing-for-profit-webinars/, 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 out of 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 in hearing 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 required 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 both 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 at a later date.
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 implement 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, at http://nyfarmersmarket.com/view-marketing-for-profit-webinars/, as well as to upload them on YouTube for additional viewing. The questions and answers from each webinar were documented in a Word document and uploaded to the website along with the archived recording.
The final series of webinars was completed in 2014. Business Assessment, was held over the winter 2013/2014. Viewership was not as high as we experienced the previous winter, but we still had significant interest from both farmers and farm service providers, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension. We had 128 participants with the Business Assessment webinars. Each of the webinars in this module were uploaded to the Federation website, http://nyfarmersmarket.com/view-marketing-for-profit-webinars/ and those who could not participate live, were directed there to view the presentation. This increased the viewership to 285 for the Business Assessment series.
As each webinar was concluded, the project team created Q & A documents, session assignments and quizzes for each session. The webinar and all documents were uploaded to Moodle to allow the workshops to live online permanently. The Moodle course, hosted by Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, is located at http://moodle2.cce.cornell.edu/course/index.php?categoryid=45. As of December 31, 2014, 360 people have registered to participate in the free online marketing courses.
- 100 Cooperative Extension Educators hosted meetings will educate and assist regional farmers in identifying far-appropriate marketing venues.
Once the webinars were done, the project team created a written curriculum to be used by Extension Educators and other farm trainers. Speaker notes were added to each of the powerpoint presentations. The same documents that were uploaded to Moodle: Q & A, glossaries, session assignments, and quizzes were added to the written curriculum as well. A “Curriculum Overview” for each of the 5 Assessments was created to provide Educators with the objectives of each assessment, identify the target audience and time required for each component, along with providing a lesson plan and a series of handouts and additional resources (see Sample Curriculum Overview attached).
The written curriculum was placed on the Federation website for easy access to anyone wanting to use the materials at http://nyfarmersmarket.com/marketing-for-profit-online-materials/. However, it was set up so that anyone accessing the curriculum would have to register first. This provided the project team with the name and contact information of anyone accessing the curriculum to allow for follow up and evaluation. To build awareness for the curriculum, we sent out a series of press releases in the late winter of 2014 and early Fall of 2014. The press releases included Ag publications, such as Country Folks Grower, but also a variety of list serves including the National Cooperative Extension Educators list serve. We also presented at the Cornell Cooperative Extension In-Service workshops. As a result, over 212 Extension Educators have registered for the written curriculum to date, (see press release attached).
- 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.
The project morphed from its inception. Instead of just being a series of webinars to educate Extension Educators, farm service leaders, farmers market managers and farmers to learn marketing techniques and skills, the project branched out to provide a variety of means to educate the target audience. The information could be imparted by participation in the webinars, at one’s own pace through the online course, by participating in regional workshops hosted by Extension using the program curriculum and through a written manual covering the entire curriculum. The manual is on the Federation website at http://nyfarmersmarket.com/wp-content/uploads/Marketing_Tools_For_Success_Handbook.pdf.
Extension Educators now have a variety of means to bring this information and education to their farmers. They can direct them to the Moodle program to “attend” any and all workshops; they can use the written curriculum to host workshops for the direct marketing farmers in their region, and they can direct them to the online written manual to learn on their own. We have found that Extension is using all of these methods of bringing this education to their farmers. Of the 360 online registrants for the Moodle course, 157, or 43%, have been directed to the Moodle program through Extension recommendations. Another 21% of registrants were directed to the online program through recommendations by Ag-based nonprofits.
- 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 complete and available on the Federation website at http://nyfarmersmarket.com/wp-content/uploads/Marketing_Tools_For_Success_Handbook.pdf. This has been promoted through list serves and newsletters.
- 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.
- Moodle Promotional Sell Sheet
- Self Assessment Curriculum Overview
- Marketing for Profit: Tools for Success Handbook
- Final Curriculum Press Release
- 2014 Year End Participation Tables
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The Leadership has prepared evaluation surveys for both farmers and Extension Educators. These surveys will be sent to all those who have participated in the webinars, enrolled in the Moodle courses and registered for the written curriculum. The surveys will be distributed, via surveymonkey in February. The survey forms are attached.
NY Farm Viability Institute
159 Dwight Park Circle, Suite 104
Syracuse, NY 13209
Office Phone: 3154533823