By Lauri M. Baker
Digital marketing could increase sales for agriculture-based businesses that sell directly to consumers. However, many business owners struggle to understand where to place their online efforts and how to effectively market in the digital sphere.
The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement (CREE) conducts research to understand best practices in digital marketing for agribusinesses. Then, the CREE team provides educational opportunities on how to create, maintain and excel in digital marketing efforts. While digital marketing may seem like magic, there are strategic processes that have proven effective. This article highlights a few strategies for successful digital marketing.
STEPS FOR SUCCESS
When most people think of an agribusiness owner, they think of growing crops or raising livestock; however, much more is involved. As the agricultural industry has become more competitive over time, utilizing effective marketing strategies has become increasingly important, too. The CREE team and its partners aim to simplify the steps involved to enhance business’ ability to market effectively in a digital world. When creating a digital marketing plan, consider the following steps:
1) Set clear objectives: Every successful journey starts with a good plan. By setting objectives, you know where you are going and when you can expect to arrive.
2) Identify your competition: Winning the race isn’t determined solely by how fast you are; you must also consider the speed of your competitors. Identify what others are doing so you can compete.
3) Determine how your product/service sets you apart: Particularly in an online marketplace, you must be unique to effectively sell your product.
4) Identify your target market: You cannot create effective marketing messages without understanding who you are marketing to.
5) Determine your distribution strategy: Determine how to effectively sell, package and ship your product if needed. You may decide only a portion of your inventory will be available through online sales.
6) Choose your promotion strategy: The best promotion strategy for your business will likely include a combination of traditional and digital strategies.
7) Develop a pricing strategy: Setting the correct price for your products in the local and digital marketplace will determine your success. Prices may differ at your various selling outlets. You must complete the other steps to know your perfect price point.
8) Set a marketing budget: Budgeting for marketing is the same as budgeting for other input costs. You need to determine how much to put into both your traditional and digital marketing efforts.
9) Measuring success: If you set clear objectives in step 1, measuring will be simple. As you measure your success, reevaluate your objectives for the next sales cycle.
The online landscape is constantly changing, especially when it comes to social media. CREE has recently conducted case-study research with agriculture-based businesses located in Florida which have been successful in digital marketing. CREE examined these businesses’ social media presence and conducted interviews with the business owners to determine elements of their digital marketing that are keys to success.
This study resulted in eight best practices for marketing agribusinesses online:
1) Find a niche market.
2) Start with a small investment in social media and increase over time.
3) Integrate online strategy with traditional methods (e.g., flyers, community involvement and radio).
4) Be adventurous and try something new in online marketing to see if it works.
5) Keep good records to know what works and what doesn’t.
6) Discontinue practices that are not making a return.
7) Conduct informal market research to determine customer preferences for online sales and marketing.
8) Take time for yourself away from the digital world to refresh.
Interested in learning more about these topics? CREE offers learning experiences all year round. On CREE’s website, you can access webinars, written resources like learning manuals and educational blog posts, videos about best practices from research, and registration for educational events.
Join CREE for its next virtual learning experience. CREE has conducted research over the past two and a half years on supply-chain changes and local marketing. On April 3, an online course will be launched to share what has been learned related to: understanding supply chains, solutions for future supply-chain disruptions, and facilitating innovations within the local supply chains. The course is free of charge, but spots are limited, so registration is required.
Lauri M. Baker is an associate professor of agricultural communications with the University of Florida. Michaela Kandzer, Aly Morrison and Trent Blare also contributed to this article. The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement (CREE) is an issue-focused transdisciplinary center that serves as a generator and source of knowledge about new-media marketing. In Florida, CREE is a partner center with the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources.