7 tips for the successful implementation of direct marketing strategies by small farmers

Direct marketing is a form of marketing that is drastically different than commodity selling. Where commodity selling is based on a market-determined price and generally focused on standardized, large-scale sales that are impersonal in nature, direct marketing involves 1:1 selling between an individual/group and the seller. In doing so, trust is established and alternative forms of value are created. The value created in this respect enables small farmers to remain competitive against agribusiness as they are able to provide alternative benefits, like novelty or flavor, for consumers.

Accordingly, the expansion of direct marketing strategies is grounded in the trend towards embracing consumer preference. Examples of prevalent consumers demands include:

  • Authenticity: consumers are interested in the simpler things in life
  • Community: consumers want to support local businesses
  • Family: consumers want activities that the whole household can enjoy together
  • Security: consumers desire to have food that is safe for consumption
  • Convenience: consumers seek out food that tastes good and is readily available
  • Balance: consumers want a balance between work and recreation

When deciding to implement a direct marketing strategy, there are 7 basic keys to success:

  1. Involve all ‘players’: develop a strong and diverse network in order to enjoy the benefits of different skills and talents
  2. Start small: Smaller operations are easier to manage and can more easily adapt to any challenges and opportunities that may present themselves. 
  3. Grow naturally: Once a plan has been proven successful, it can be expanded at a healthy rate.
  4. Keep (good) records: Quality information is required in order to evaluate progress and determine whether goals are being met. Records are needed not only for financials but also for product interests and on-farm productivity. 
  5. Make decisions based on recorded success: The information gathered through record keeping allows for more informed and intelligent decisions to be reached. 
  6. Find and develop the niche market: Sellers should think like consumers in order to determine what products and services consumers desire. Once consumer preferences have been determined and/or a loyal consumer base has been developed, it is essential to continue to interact with customers and offer incentives, e.g. tastings, to maintain loyalty.
  7. Develop a toolset for information: Information is a key to success. Being prepared can aid in the development of new customers and help to maintain the loyalty of existing ones. 
    • Examples: Business cards, price lists, product information sheet, recipes/prep tips, website


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