Direct marketing beef or other livestock can be a great way to increase profits while providing consumers with a local, healthy and safe food supply.
During a recent beef workshop in Juneau, Amanda Young, UW-Extension dairy and livestock agent in Dodge County, discussed the basics of getting started with direct marketing.
First, she pointed to the importance of market research.
“You will need to consider the demographics and identify your market,” Young said. “You can’t please everyone or be everything to everyone.”
She pointed out that if a farm is near an upscale residential area, price may not be an issue, but in a small town or rural area, price can be a big thing.
“Look at what it is that motivates people in your marketing area to buy direct from the farmer,” Young said. “Are they looking for fresh meat, lean meat or special cuts?”
A good marketing plan looks at the “four Ps” of product, price, placement and promotion, Young said.
“Marketing is much more than just advertising a product,” she said. “What sets your product apart from others’? What is your product’s main attribute? Use those things in your promotions.”
Considering price, she added, “How much value does your product offer? How will you determine the cost beyond just the cost of production?”
Young stressed the importance of planning where the product will be sold. Consider where those in the target market shop. Do they shop at farmers markets, grocery stores, meat markets or on the farm? Consider logistical issues such as transportation and storage of the product.
“The final P of promotion will depend on the audience you are trying to reach,” she said. “Consider where your best value will be, and then figure out how you will determine whether your promotional effort is working.”
When promoting a product, Young suggested focusing on the attributes of the business, including features such as family farm, sustainable, lean, grass fed.
Young recommended branding the business, using a symbol or name that sets the business apart from others.
“A brand is an expectation and a promise,” she said. “When people see it, they know what to expect.”
Promotional materials should be simple, easy to read, consistent and include a business logo and contact information on all material.
“Your relationship with consumers is very important,“ she said. “Pick a person in your business that is most knowledgeable and friendly. Customers remember little things.”
Young also pointed to the importance of establishing a good relationship with the processor who will prepare the meat for the customer.
“Ask the number of animals they can handle, how long they will be willing to hang an animal, whether they have their own smoking facilities if that is an important factor and whether they will be able to handle your meat during deer processing season,” she suggested.
“Also find out their labeling capabilities,” Young said. “Will they be able to label meat in a manner that you need to deliver it?”
Several participants in the meeting pointed to the need to establish a method of getting paid for the meat. They also talked about ways to deal with customers who are not satisfied with the end product.
While all participants agreed it is important to remember “the customer is always right,” they said returning money weeks after a product is sold can be difficult and taking product back can be an issue because it cannot be resold.
The direct marketers agreed that customers are not as concerned about whether a product is “organic” as they are about knowing where it is raised and the methods that are used.
When selling lean meats such as “grass fed,” it is also important to educate buyers on how to cook the meat; often complaints are because they cooked it too long and the meat dried out.
The direct marketing beef meeting began with a tour of Cedar Road Meats, where the beef producers heard the processor’s perspective on handling and marketing directly to the consumer. Barb and Marv Malterer, operators of this on-farm meat processing plant, have shared a great deal of information with growers and have offered assistance as beef producers move toward direct marketing.