Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making a go of a small farm (rural business)

No one knows the frustrations of farmers better than I. Been there, got the t-shirt, and I am about to jump into farming with both feet (yet again). I know some of you began with animals for the love of the animals--then discovered the economics of livestock forced you to become more commercial. I understand that some of you were led to believe income would be automatic--and it's not! Especially when the economy tanks! I know you came to this lifestyle, almost universally, without a marketing education.

Marketing is a skill set. It's not a particularly difficult set to learn, but like any new skill, it takes knowing the steps and practicing them. Just like a math class requires you to do homework, marketing has "homework". I've talked about that homework in almost every blog--it's called practice.

I make it a point to teach principles rather than nit-picky details and one-time applications. From every workshop I've facilitated in the last 5 or 6 years, I've heard one powerful refrain at every one: "Wow, I can use this information in my husband's business (or in my day job, or in my fundraising). That's because principles apply broadly and WORK in a whole lot of situations!! If you have a good grasp of the marketing principles, you can use them in LIFE, anywhere you like. Yes, even in your personal relationships and other commercial adventures.
Principles are the bedrock of knowledge and success. Do you understand marketing's first principle (It's not about you--it's about the customer)? Do you have a clear goal with a measurable endpoint and a date? Do you have a marketing plan? If you ever get audited by the IRS, a marketing plan can make the difference between proving you have a business vs.getting nailed as a hobby. Marketing plans do not have to be difficult. Simple is good--and workable. (The simplest and most useful I ever found is in Chapter Five of Marketing Farm Products).

These marketing articles (blog/newsletter) are not the whole course. They are reminders, cues to get cracking, to stay on track. The more comprehensive course work (for small farms at least) is found in the three marketing books: 
  • Marketing Farm Products 
  • Growing Your Rural Business 
  • Economy Proofing Rural Business 
... and in the workshops (or DVD's or CD's) that lead you through the sequence of principles with a smattering of important details (like building a niche, writing a press release, how to talk to farm visitors and customers are just three). They are at my website (http://beyondthesidewalk.com) and if money is tight for you, there are e-book versions that are VERY affordable! 

There are more articles there, too, plus links and some fun. Have you looked lately? 

Some of you would benefit from an hour or two of one-on-one consulting to find your way, to help you get started, and overcome hurdles. I am often able to see what you have missed! I continue to be available for consulting. 

My direction in the last year or so has shifted somewhat to my other passion (wellness and aging issues) and it's taking a great deal of my attention. You are welcome to listen in at that blog and see what we learn about the "real story" about nutrition and health. There has been a lot of bad information disseminated by the misinformed and the vested interests. (http://mindingthemiddleagedmiddle.blogspot.com/) I no longer have the luxury of time I once had for marketing blog articles, and, of course, I also need to make my own living, just like you! So this will be my last regular blog about marketing. Expect intermittant info and perhaps announcements of workshops or things that may be of interest.

I've enjoyed getting to know some of you, I revel in your successes and I hope to see some of you at workshop!

Best wishes, and let me know if I can help!







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