Agricultural marketing is an integral part of post-harvest activities. However, both small-scale and large-scale farmers encounter challenges when moving their products to the final consumer. These setbacks often result in financial losses and can occur at any level of the value chain.
The agricultural value chain encompasses activities of goods from production – harvesting – transport – processing – distribution and packaging – retail marketing. Marketing varies with regards to the agricultural chain as the target market for each activity differs, and as a result, a different approach is required. Based on this, we will categorize these activities and suggest marketing tips for:
a. Agriculture entrepreneurs (who deal with all aspects of the value chain from production to the final consumer)
b. Commercial farmers (whose activities cover the production, harvesting, and transport aspect of the value chain and whose target market is likely suppliers and vendors)
c. Suppliers/Vendors (whose activities cover processing, distribution, packaging, and retailing and whose target market are likely consumers).
Before I continue this post, here’s a general tip that is applicable for all categories: The 4 Ps of marketing. Here’s a quick rundown of that:
The first is Product which are the goods and services created to meet consumer demands. Give people a reason why they should buy your product by carving out a Unique Selling Proposition (more on this later) and putting the appropriate Price on that product.
The value of your product will affect the price and the price will affect sales. If your product has low value and a high price, no amount of Promotion can save it. All strategies and techniques adapted to inform or persuade your target market to patronize your product falls under promotion. For your promotion to be efficient, you need to go to the Place where your market is.
Agricultural marketing tips for agropreneurs. (I’ll call them the “4 Cs of marketing for agroprenuers)
1. Create a solution to a problem:
Sometimes entrepreneurs get caught up in their ideas that they forget what is most important: there is no need for the product they’re creating.
For example, Hello Tractor solved the problem of access to tractors for smallholder farmers and there are many examples like that; Farmcrowdy created an innovative way to solve the problem of funding for farmers. On the contrary, if there is no problem, your “solution” might not mean much.
In 2013, Google launched Google Glass, a smart glass with features including a touch pad, camera, and the ability to communicate with the Internet via natural language voice command. In 2015, it was discontinued. Why did that product fail? Well, according to Forbes, it was because the product wasn’t clear to the customers what problem it solved or why they needed it.
In order to create a functional product, you have to pay attention to what your target audience need and more importantly, what they’re willing to pay for. This is commonly referred to as Idea Validation.
Some steps you can take to validate your ideas include:
a. Solve a problem you encounter. As Chase Jarvis, the co-founder of CreativeLive put it, “ Scratch your own itch and solve something that is near and dear to you.”Youtube was birthed as a solution to a problem its founders were facing.
b. Read on the industry. Reading about the agricultural industry will enlighten you on some problems you didn’t even know a large number of people were facing.
c. Talk with people, ask for the money. Create a “beta version” of your product and ask people to pay for it while collecting feedback to improve the product.
d. Follow the media. Media trends could expose you to day to day issues that various people are dealing with in the agricultural sector.
e. Check for future problems and work against them. You should think ahead as an entrepreneur. You may notice a current trend that is going to pose as a future problem.
2. Create and implement a marketing strategy:
This is basically a plan for how you will establish your business.
Your marketing strategy will include:
– An Online Strategy: social media marketing, email marketing, influencer marketing
– An Offline Strategy: client management, offline media features, speaking engagements
It is important to use the appropriate marketing strategy for your business. A good product or service can get lost in the noise if a proper strategy was not used to get it across to its target market.
For instance, marketing a product to youths will not be the same way you’ll market to kids. For youths, you may have to come up with a way to make the products “cool” so they’ll spend on it.
However, when marketing to kids, your approach will be different because although the product or service is for kids, your target is to get their parents to purchase.
Nonetheless, some of the general tips to follow when creating an agricultural marketing strategy should include:
a. Define your target market.
b. Draw a marketing plan.
c. Set and follow a budget.
d. Understand the content marketing funnel (outreach-conversion-closing-retention)
e. Pay attention to trends.
f. Conduct a SWOT analysis for your business.
g. Refrain from making assumptions about what your customers want.
h. Get feedback on your strategy.
3. Connect with your customer:
When you listen to a radio programme, the presenter says “Dear listener” and not “Dear listeners” even though more than one person is listening. This is because people like to feel special. Finding a way to connect with them goes a long way in building customer loyalty.
You can do this by:
a. Sending customized birthday greetings.
b. Addressing them by their first name when sending out emails, letters and invites.
c. Fast and reliable customer service. Some company executives make their email readily available
d. Treat your employees right so they can project the same treatment to the customers.
4. Check your success from time to time:
Tracking business activities is essential to understanding what practices to discontinue and what activities to reinforce. It also helps make necessary adjustments on existing agricultural marketing activities.
Some questions that may pop up after your review may include:
a. How many leads were generated?
b. How many sales were made?
c. How fast did I sell off my products?
d. Did my profit increase?
Agricultural marketing tips for farmers (I’ll call them “the 4 Ms of marketing for farmers”)
1. Make your focus quality over quantity:
Quantity, at the detriment of quality, could scare off repeat customers. The key to a successful business is to get repeat purchase from your customer. Repeat purchase reduces your marketing spend and is a proof of brand loyalty.
On the contrary, if your product is not up to standard, your business could be ruined by word of mouth. Why take that risk when you can focus on creating quality products.
As a commercial farmer, always remember that when it comes to food, it’s not about the numbers. 50 bad apples cannot be compared to 1 good apple.
2. Make provisions for storage facilities:
Storage facilities should not be an afterthought for farming activity. They are necessary, not just for storing produce after harvesting, but also for storing feed for livestock or plant fertilizer during cultivation. If feed is not properly stored, it becomes exposed to pests, bacteria, heat and water damage. If said feed is still used, it may not serve its purpose efficiently.
Most agricultural products are perishable (fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, and others) and are susceptible to spoilage if not stored properly. This could lead to deterioration in food quality which could affect sales.
Storage facilities include refrigerators, silos and cribs for grains and barns for yam.
3. Make the most of agricultural events:
There are lots of benefits of attending agricultural events such as seminars and trade fairs.
Some of them include:
a. Networking opportunity: These events are usually filled with people relevant to your field who you can make contacts with.
b. Getting advice from experts: Experience is the best teacher and it’s even better when you don’t have to experience it to learn from it. Experts can offer advice based on their own experiences and even tell you mistakes they made that you can avoid.
c. Connecting with fellow farmers: Agricultural events are a great way to be exposed to other people doing the same thing you do. You can find opportunities to work with some of them or learn a thing or two.
d. Learning about the Industry: Information, news, and recent innovations in the agricultural industry could be discussed at these events.
e. Opportunities to ask questions: Sometimes the answers are not always on Google. These events are filled with real people who can give you practical answers.
There are many events in the Nigerian Agricultural sector you can attend and some of them include:
– West Africa Agrofood – 19th – 22nd November, 2019. Accra, Ghana.
– FOODBEXT West Africa Food and NAFDAC Conference- 26th September, 2019. Lagos, Nigeria.
– Food & Hospitality Africa – 7th – 9th May, 2019. Johannesburg, South Africa.
– Palmex Africa – 19th June, 2019. Owerri, Imo.
– PALMTECH Expo – June, 2019. Enugu.
4. Make sure you reach out:
As a business serving consumers, the onus to reach out to people who might be interested in your product is on you. There are so many retailers who are trading farm produce from yams to rice, tomatoes, etc. You should reach out to them and make them aware that you offer such goods too.
However, some of these suppliers already have existing suppliers and this is where USP comes to play because if you have a unique benefit that their existing supplier doesn’t have, you might be able to gain their trust.
Some of the people and organizations you can reach out to are:
a. Retail traders: Commodity markets are looking for steady supplies for them to resell products.
b. Hotels and restaurants: These are establishments which serve food everyday so they might be open to doing business with you.
c. Brick & mortar stores: Shops which sell farm produce are looking for suppliers. If your products are fresh and healthy, you might be able to partner with them.
d. Homes & offices: You could supply your goods and services to individuals who don’t want to go to the market.
e. Online stores: Just like stores, online produce stores are dealing with fresh items so you could partner with them to deliver food items.
Agricultural marketing tips for suppliers/vendors (I’ll call it “4 As of marketing for suppliers)
1. Allow your branding and packaging speak for you:
While often inter-used, branding and packaging are two different terms. Branding is assigning a unique identity to a product (brand name, brand logo etc). Its main purpose is to differentiate the product from rival products.
Packaging is enclosing and protecting goods from damage during distribution, storage, and use. Its main purpose is to ensure protection.
Together, both branding and packaging influence purchase decision. There are many things to consider when processing goods. Some of them include:
a. Brand name should be easy to pronounce and remember.
b. Brand logo should encompass what the brand is all about.
c. Brand colors should be relevant to brand services. Colors convey emotions and this should be factored in.
d. Packaging should not be deceptive. If it’s not 100% organic, don’t say it is.
e. Packaging should not pose a health hazard.
f. Make sure your packaging is visually appealing.
g. Endeavor to protect your food from compression and bacteria.
h. Let your packaging increase shelf life while still maintaining its quality.
i. Package food in a transport friendly way.
j. Separate your products by grades.
2. Advertise before goods arrive:
Creating a hype around your product before it arrives is a good way to build demand. This is sort of a beta test to gauge people’s interest in your product.
When trying to find an audience before the product, you can:
a. Focus on its benefits to consumers and not its features.
b. Work on feedback received.
c. Take Pre-orders.
d. Attend agricultural events.
e. Refrain from misleading your market with false advertising.
When advertising a product before it arrives, it is important to make sure it comes through. Creating a demand you cannot meet will hurt business. If something happens and the farmer cannot supply it, you will be the one who will lose customers so be careful.
3. Accentuate your unique selling point:
There is nothing special about selling agricultural products except it’s a product that no one else has made before. So, to make yourself stand out, you need to think beyond proper branding and packaging.
Your USP should focus on the value you offer and the problem you solve. Some of the things you can do to enhance this are:
a. Offer free samples to your customers.
b. Free returns policy.
c. Get a business card.
d. Offer something your consumers want but no one else is offering e.g delivery services.
e. Add an extra feature to your services.
f. Find your niche and focus on it.
g. Keep hand cleaner wipes near food samples so consumers know safety is important to you.
h. Think outside the box.
i. Cater to customer satisfaction. For instance, if your refund policy is poor, you may chase away your customers.
j. Eliminate inconvenience. For instance, you can make provisions for your buyers to pay with card or pay online instead of limiting them to physical cash transactions.
When choosing a USP, make sure you’re offering services you can deliver. Doing otherwise could be bad for business and have you labelled as a fraud.
4. Acknowledge repeat customers with a loyalty programme.
The primary focus of marketing is often on getting new customers but repeat customers (as stated earlier) are just as important. It is important to build a loyalty program to encourage customers to achieve this.
Some loyalty programs you can adopt are:
a. Birthday discounts
b. Earn discounts for referral.
c. Exclusive deals for loyal customers.
d. Give points which can be converted to something tangible.
e. Free gifts after purchase such as gift bags.
These tips will help you make better decisions when you’re marketing your agricultural products. However, the market is always evolving so you should be open to new ways of moving your business forward.