This is the first in a series of blogs written by Hayley Parker, from Flame Marketing Ltd.
Flame Marketing is a specialist agricultural marketing agency, specialising in market solutions for farming businesses. They have extensive experience of agricultural and rural industries – you’ll be in safe hands with their knowledge and expertise.
The first issue many of our clients face is the fact they had not even considered factoring in a marketing budget when setting up their farm diversification businesses. I am hoping that as you have chosen to read this blog you have already realised that to be able to sell your products to the public you will need to consider the role of marketing. You may have even begun to work out a marketing budget as part of the start-up costs of your diversification project. If so, then you are already well on the way to a successful farm diversification.
Why is it important to have a marketing budget?
When reviewing what diversification options best suit your farm business you likely considered the cost of any infrastructure or equipment you would need to set up the project. However, most farms forget to consider the less tangible costs involved such as making any relevant changes to their business structure or indeed considering the cost of marketing.
By not considering these costs early on you will put yourself at a significant disadvantage when embarking on your diversification project. If you have applied for a grant or loan to support your project, then it is hugely important to review and include a marketing budget within your cash flow forecast and overall project costs.
‘’But we were just going to set up a Facebook page, Facebook is free why do I need to spend on marketing?’’
This is a sentence I hear far too often when speaking with farmers looking to diversify. Firstly, you need to consider if a Facebook page is going to be sufficient to promote your brand-new business. Secondly is Facebook even the best platform for your business. And as for Facebook being free, yes having an account and setting up a business page is indeed free but how will you get customers to your page? You could use Facebook adverts but there is a cost to this, or you could spend hours each day working on building up your farm brand awareness on Facebook, but do you have the time to do this?
Having a sensible marketing budget will allow you to take your agri-business from start-up to providing a significant revenue far quicker. Now I am not for a second suggesting you need to invest tens of thousands of pounds into marketing. I am aware that there is a perception that marketing agencies all charge extortionate prices and that all marketing people are fire-breathing dragons who will spit jargon at you and steal all your money. I am here to tell you we are not all like that, in fact, one of the central aims for Flame Marketing is to support the rural community and economy in any way we can. But we do still have to pay the bills.
The size of the marketing budget you will need will vary depending on your choice of diversification project, the competition in your area, and the amount of time/experience you can bring to the project in terms of marketing. However, as a rule of thumb for large diversification project such as setting up a farm shop, selling direct to consumers nationwide, or creating a multi-unit glamping site you should try to set aside somewhere between £5,000-10,000 for the first 6 months, (or £1000-1500 per month). This would include start-up elements such as setting up a website alongside some budget for ongoing marketing such as social media marketing. If this is you check out our Firestarter package. Ongoing costs for this type of business would likely sit around £500-1000 per month long term. On the other hand, for small craft-based side businesses, a budget of £200-700 per month can go a long way in the right hands. If this sounds like you check out our bespoke marketing package builder.
Agri-Marketing budgets go further when you're specific
It is unlikely that your diversification project is a completely new idea. The truth is there is now growing competition in many of the common diversification sectors such as glamping. Due to this and the huge quantity of content, we are all bombarded with every day there is a huge amount of noise to cut through with your marketing messages.
In simple terms there are two choices here, compete with all the noise to shout the loudest this means spending big on trying to market at everyone. Or you can choose to market to the few who are already trying to listen to you, this requires greater market research and understanding of your customer, but it means your marketing budget can be spent far more effectively.
One of the first things we do when meeting with a new client is to ask them lots of questions about their products and their customers so we can work out who, how, and where to target their marketing spend. You may not be familiar with the idea of your ‘’ideal client’’ so this is something we take time to explain and work on. The idea of an ideal client is to focus on the person you most want to sell to rather than considering anyone who might be interested.
For example, let's imagine you sell lamb direct to the consumer, theoretically anyone who eats lamb is your customer. But they may not all be your ideal customer, some won't care where their meat comes from and will simply look for the cheapest seller, not what you want. Then some might only be interested in rare breed meat, great if you are a rare breed producer but useless if you are not.
By talking through your products, your farm, and the customers you most like selling to we can create a specific list of characteristics that identify your ideal customer. Then we can make sure we are marketing directly to these customers. Not only does this mean you are now targeting a smaller group with less competition it also means we can write content to which this specific customer is more likely to respond. We can focus on the problems this customer is facing and how you solve those problems, for example, maybe they worry about food miles and want to buy food within a given area, we can tap into this by creating content about food miles and then highlighting local lamb as the answer.
By choosing one target customer we can focus all marketing on this one person, from website content to SEO, and from which social media platform we use to promote you to what words we use to resonate with that ideal customer. So instead of trying to shout into a huge void, you are instead calling into a small room of eager listeners.
Making that Agri-marketing budget go as far as possible.
Once you have ensured your marketing is targeted and that your marketing messages are clearly focused on the one ideal customer, the next biggest thing you can do to stretch your marketing budget is engagement.
I expect when you have heard someone talk about ‘’engagement’’ in marketing previously, it has been focused on how to increase engagement with your brand. How do you get those extra likes or the elusive comments and so on? But today I am going to focus on engaging with others, how can you expect others to want to comment on your posts if you don’t engage on their posts.
People often forget that social media marketing relies on one key element, it is right there in the name, SOCIAL. The big difference between traditional marketing and social media marketing is that consumers can now dictate the conversation rather than businesses. Consumers are no longer passive observers instead they are active participants in the marketing process.
Therefore, the small businesses which are particularly successful online are the ones that engage with their audience. Don’t wait for them to come to you, don’t wait for them to comment on your posts seek them out, and engage with them on their posts. If you sell children’s country wear, for example, go find some countryside-loving mums on Instagram follow them and then engage with them on topics they care about. Not only are you getting in front of the account holder you are also getting in front of all their followers who are likely to also be your ideal customer. If you have started an equestrian livery yard as a farm diversification, engage with riders from your area on Facebook or Instagram. But don’t sell to them on their posts this is not door to door salesmen style engagement it is real value-adding engagement.
By choosing to use a marketing company like us you can free up your time to do the engagement bit where your knowledge of your product and your customer can shine through. Also, the more you engage with them the better they get to know you and you are more likely to create customers who are not simply one-time buyers they are far more likely to become brand advocates who talk about your business to others.
Cheapest now could mean additional costs later.
It is easy when setting up a new business to choose cheap options to help reduce the start-up costs. But much like going cheap on your farm machinery by only considering the cheapest option, you could be setting yourself up for higher costs in the long run.
For example, by the time new agri-businesses get in touch with us they have often gone ahead and set up their social media accounts and have spent money on getting a website. The problem is more often than not on investigation we find out the website is not up to scratch or doesn’t effectively target their ideal customer or doesn’t have any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Here we have two options try to work with the site as best as we can knowing it won’t be perfect but will be better than the current version. Or take down the website and start from scratch. Understandably, clients are often very reluctant to do the latter option having already spent money on the website. We hate having to tell customers that they have wasted money on a ‘’cheap’’ option only for us to have to start over. But the truth is if only they had thoroughly investigated all the options originally and got some expert advice, we could have saved them money in the long run.
This issue isn’t limited to building websites either it happens in almost all areas of marketing, from product design to choosing your social media platforms. This issue is exactly the reason why we offer our initial consultations for free, we know if we can use these consultations to educate and advise farmers we can save them money. Even if they don’t decide to take up a package with us at the time.
Marketing agencies: the time-money paradox
It is likely that you use an accountant to do the tax returns for your farm each year, you do this because they are likely to save you money by saving you more tax than they cost. You also use them because completing accounts, particularly VAT returns are complex and time-consuming and you neither have the time or expertise to do them as efficiently as your accountant.
Marketing agencies should be seen in the same light. We save you money by ensuring your marketing budget is used in a targeted and effective way. We should long term make you more money than we cost you by increasing your revenue. We save you time and energy trying to do your own marketing without the time, skills, or expertise.
Much like accountants, you can get good marketing agencies and bad ones. But just because you had a poor experience with one accountant doesn’t mean that you give up on using any accountant. It should be the same for marketing. At Flame Marketing we also try to give you as much flexibility as possible. Most of our services are based on rolling contracts where you can cancel at any time. We offer free consultations so you can suss us out before you commit and offer a bespoke package option where you only pay for the services you need.
To find out more about how we can help you to get the best out of your marketing budget, book a free consultation with us here.