Marketing Tips and Ideas

A friend, Nancy Wilcoxson, Royal Oak Farm, Bonnieville, KY, attended a meeting of goat producers in her area. After the meeting she lamented, "It is a shame that we all pass each other and do not know who is who." This got me to thinking of opportunities lost in our business marketing.
Many farmers spend a lot of time writing a business plan and improving their product (i.e., developing a fast-growing, meaty boer goat). How many of these same farmers spend as much time developing a method to market their product? Below are a few marketing tips that may help farmers maximize their profits.
There are a few things I recommend to all people thinking about getting into the goat business.
  • Write your business plan. Then, as you get more and more into the business, refine your business plan. It should be a work in progress - not a set-in-stone deal.
  • Develop a marketing plan. I firmly believe marketing is just as important in the planning in order to be successful in any enterprise – especially farming!
A lot of people will combine their business plan with their marketing plan, and that's fine too. But you need to have a plan. Do your market research based on local markets. Know where, and to whom, you will be selling your goats and what your target buyers want. You need to know your market before you invest the first penny. Even if you have already spent a fortune, it's never too late to get this aspect of your business (and farming is a business) right. Your local County Extension Agent should be able to assist you in developing both a business plan and marketing plan if you need a starting place. They may not know a lot about goats, but take their cattle plan and adapt it. You will probably have to do your own market research.

Everyone needs an up-to-date web presence. (Key here is up-to-date. Have many of you have gone to web pages that haven't been updated since 2001?) In 2004, after 5 years in the goat business, we made a profit on the farm; and we credit a lot of our success to the Internet. We had over 10,000 visitors to our web pages in 2003; in 2006 we had over 5,000 visitors a month; and several of the buyers of our goats and dogs found us doing a Google search (or using some other search engine). A few words of "advice" about your web site:

  • Don't use the "free" sites that have pop-ups; most people find the pop-ups annoying.
  • Make sure your pictures are of a high resolution formatted to load fast; most people have a short attention spans, and if your site loads slowly, they move on.
  • List your prices on your for sale page. (We've had many buyers, to include Tennessee State University, tell us this was one of the drawing points to our sale page. They know exactly what we want up front; they then just have to determine if they want to pay that amount.)
  • Don't have music playing automatically in the background. Nothing makes me turn off a page quicker than a loud midi file (especially if I am at work and am afraid my colleagues will overhear). We have the option to start and stop music on our index page, but it is at the discretion of the visitor.
  • Ensure your "Meta data" tags on your web page are complete and descriptive. There are several free sites on the internet you can use to evaluate your tags. Some have contradictory data about the number of bytes you should have in each of the tags. Do a little research and determine which is best for you. Then customize the tags for the pages you most expect to come up on search engines (we really pay attention to our home, for sale, web design and articles pages).
  • Link your page to other pages. The way to get presence on web search engines is to have links from other web sites to yours. Have a links page, and see if you can get other sites to link to yours. Periodically, go to those sites and click on those links to ensure the Internet "knows" that link is still active.
  • Have multiple places for people to contact you. We have a guestbook, a contact form, e-mail and telephone number. Some people are more comfortable with a contact form, some people are like to leave a note in a guestbook, and some like the more direct approach with a phone call or e-mail. If you do have a guestbook or contact form, ensure you have a method to respond quickly. Have the form or guest entry forwarded to an e-mail address you check often. We actually have ours forwarded to several addresses, to ensure that one of us makes note of it for response.
  • Get a map page so people know where your farm is located. The two initial questions most people have about purchasing goats: How much is it going to cost, and where are these people located. As a side note, make sure you have a set of directions that are easily understood, and eliminate any confusion.

Most of the goat e-mail lists on the internet allow advertising. (There are one or two that don't, and the list owner of one gets downright nasty about it.) But even the lists that don't allow advertising sometimes have, in the files section of Yahoo Groups, a "links" page. This is an excellent, free place to advertise your web site and your farm/products for sale. We have a companion article which describes the lists we belong to and some of the current rules to those lists. Click here for that article.

There are other great, inexpensive marketing tools we should all be utilizing.

Attend goat shows, seminars, programs, field days - any place other "goat people" go. But don't go empty-handed.

  • Take a stack of business cards, and hand them out to everyone you talk to. (This does not have to be a great expense. You can pick up blank cards at Wal*Mart and design your own. A package to make 250 cards costs less than $10. Or you can have them professionally done.)
  • We go to shows even if we're not hauling goats to show. We raise breeding stock and some show animals; we have an opportunity to meet other breeders at the shows, and we always learn something.
  • When we are showing, we take along a banner so everyone can see our farm name (CLEAR CREEK FARMS in big, bold, green letters).
  • We have pen signs with the farm name.
  • We set up a small table with a display that includes a small sign with the farm name, business cards, and often a tri-fold showing what we currently have for sale.
  • We have magnetic sign with the farm name for the trailer. This sign is white with bold red letters proclaiming the farm name and our web site.
  • At seminars, take along a small stack of tri-folds. Most seminars have tables set up and don't mind if you add your hand-outs to theirs.
  • At field days or youth programs, consider donating a goat. You receive recognition, a tax deduction, and a lot of good will.

Name recognition is extremely important. You want your farm name to be known (in a positive way) to as many buyers and potential buyers as possible. Some ways to achieve name recognition:

  • Consider hosting a field day for your local 4-H or FFA club.
  • Write articles for trade publications.
  • Teach workshops at seminars.
  • Volunteer for office in your breed associations or clubs. Volunteer to serve on committees.
  • Maintain a mailing list of past customers and/or interested persons. Use this list to send out notices of new animals you have that may be what they are looking for. Or use this list to send out holiday greetings.
  • Taking your goats to shows or other locations where potential customers gather will also increase your name recognition as well as letting people see the quality of your animals. Attendance at the shows makes you a friendly, known face and allows you to deliver animals along the route.

If you are selling meat goats off the farm, make flyers and put them in all places ethnic goat-buyers frequent (laundromats, Hispanic/Muslim/Caribbean grocery stores, chicken-processing plants, and the Wal*Mart bulletin board at the front doors are a few examples). Don’t forget to put flyers in the teacher's lounges at universities/colleges in your area; a lot of instructors are from countries who consider goat meat a staple in their diets but they don't know where to buy the meat here.

Flyers are also appropriate in your local feed stores and vet’s offices – anywhere that allows advertising. (Carry some thumb tacks with you; some of the bulletin boards may not be large enough for a flyer, but a business card works too.)

One speaker we've heard at several seminars tells of a gentleman who would take a pick-up truck of small goats to the parking lot of the chicken plant on pay day. He would sell all he took. The Hispanics who worked at the plant would pay $50 for a goat; they would not pay a penny more - didn't matter the size of the goat.

Marketing by using the sale barn can also be successful if you do your homework and do some prior planning.

  • First you need to be keeping records. You need to know how fast or slowly your kids grow off. You need to know your average birth weights. Once you know birth weights and growing time, then you can calculate approximately how long it's going to take your goats to reach the optimum sell size.
  • Next I would recommend you find out what the popular goat-eating holidays are in your area. Different areas of the country have different events that are celebrated by different groups of peoples. And where the size issue comes into play you have to know what size animals are desired for the different occasions. (Some want very young kids still nursing; some want old bucks - without blemishes; some want that 40 to 60 pound wether.) Learning what size/type animal is wanted by your buyers is as important as knowing the holidays/events. It requires a little bit of work on your part if you want to maximize your income.
  • To find out when the best time for you to sell you can go on line and research prices from sales barns near you. At Elgin Crossroads in Alabama, for example, the best month to sell wethers is February. The best month to sell older bucks is January. Based on statistical past averages, these are the two times the prices are the best. The sales prices should be readily available for you either via a computer search or through your County Extension Office.

In doing my homework we learned Easter is a great time for us to sell. We have to consult a calendar; find out when Easter is going to be; back off two weeks or to the nearest sale-barn selling date roughly two weeks before Easter; back off 3 months for a kidding date; then back off another 5 months for a breeding date.

In tracking local sales we have learned the worse possible time to take a goat to the sales barn is July or August. That is when the market seems to be flooded, and the prices are horribly low. The markets around us seem to start to improve some in September and gradually creep upward reaching their high in February - with a spike again just before Easter.

To summarize, to market to a sales barn, do your homework. Find out when the greatest demand is. Find out when the greatest supply is (because that's when the prices are going to be the lowest). Find out when, historically, their highest sales are - based on weights of the animals. Equally importantly is to know what your growing-out time is.

We have companion article (which incidently contains all of the above information) about planning for sales at various holidays. Click here for that article.

One individual near us bought a listing of member addresses from the International Boer Goat Association. She then determined which members were geographically near her farm and mailed flyers to all these addresses listing all the goats she had for sale along with their price. We bought a goat from her based on this mailing, so it was apparently effective.

Along the same line, people who are advertising their Production Sales will purchase membership lists and mail postcards to all the members announcing the date, time, and place of the sale.

If you do not want to spend the money to purchase the listing, simply go on line to the International Boer Goat Association web site; go to members; and do a search on your state. It's more work and time consuming, but the data is free.

Some traditional ways of advertising would include putting ads in local newspapers, area publications like The Exchange, The Thrifty Nickel or One Paper, or trade publications such as The Goat Rancher or Meat Goat Monthly. If your area has a newspaper that targets minorities, this would be a great place to advertise your meat goats. Another seminar speaker we heard recommends calling your local radio station "swap-and-shop" type program. Write your ad ahead of time to read on the air. The ad should say what you have (i.e., 60 to 80 pound meat goats for sale) and the price you will take. Tell if you allow slaughtering on your premise or not, and give your phone number. One lady in the Midwest placed a call one morning and had sold all her meat goats she had for sale by the next afternoon. She continued to get calls, so she went out and bought some more kids to sell.

Presentation in marketing is important. Never underestimate the value added when you present your goat for sale in its best light. Fitting out a goat that is being shown is expected, but fitting a goat being sold puts cash in your pocket.

In conclusion, we wanted to list various techniques we have used or seen for marketing meat goats. If you like this article, please make a comment in our guestbook, or fill out a contact form. If you have any additional ideas you would like to see added to this, don't hesitate to let us know. Good luck!

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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