Advertising Your Beefalo
INTERNET: Once you have identified the special qualities of your product, you need to find your target consumers. As we all know, advertising can be expensive and will eat up a good portion of your profit in a hurry. The key is to find “free” or very low cost advertising to get your word and your farm’s name out there.
The best place to go is the internet! There are many sites that will list your direct market meat business either for free or a small annual charge under $100. And the number of people who will potentially view your information is huge! In Minnesota for example, we are listed with MNGrown.org. This is a website through the MN Dept. of Agriculture and provides listings for all types of farmers so that they can sell their products to the general public. There are well over 1,000 farmers listed on the site selling everything from meat to veggies to maple syrup and flowers. They do a great job of promoting the site and even have a printed booklet listing all of the farmers that they publish annually and distribute statewide. A large percentage of our business has come from people finding us at this site and the best part is that it only costs us $60 per year. So one of your first steps is to go to your state Dept. of Ag website to see what program is available. We will talk more about listing your product information at this type of site a little later.
There are also many national websites such as LocalHarvest.com and EatWild.com that do basically the same thing. They offer the farmer/producer a place to list their information and what they have to sell. These sites have thousands of hits per day of people looking to connect with a farmer/producer in their area. Some sites ask for donations but don’t require them. Others will ask for a small nominal fee that is well worth the investment. At about the same cost, one year on any one of these sites is a much better value than a 2” ad that appears only once in a local newspaper. Our advice would be to get listed on as many of these websites as possible to increase your exposure.
NO INTERNET ACCESS: If you don’t have access to the internet, you will need to do your advertising in different ways. Word of mouth will be your least expensive way but will take a little time. A better way to tell folks about your business is by printed material. If you don’t have a computer at home, check with your local library. Most libraries now have computers available to the public at no charge.
If you can find someone with a computer and a Publisher program, you can create a brochure that would provide information about your farm and your products and can even contain a small order form. These brochures could then given out at farmers markets, or small supplies could be left at grocery stores and other retail outlets in your area. You can also make up flyers and take them to local businesses and churches near your farm. Be sure to ask the owner or manager for permission to post them. Business cards are also a good way to tell people about your business. Make sure to use both sides of the card – the front can give your business info and the back can give info about the products that you have available. These too can be created and printed from any home computer. Keep a supply in your wallet or in your pocket and any time you meet someone, hand one out.
Look at your local newspapers. Do they run a “featured business” type of article? Do they have a sidebar that lists press releases or short news items? Contact them and ask them if they would be interested in doing a human interest story about your farm/ranch. Also inquire about submitting a short Press Release. Usually, these are printed at no charge.
When we first opened our farm store we contacted the local newspaper about doing an article on our “unique farm”, and the result was amazing. The story was printed and over the next 6 months, people came to our store holding onto our newspaper article. One person had actually kept it in her car the entire time and finally when she had the chance, came out to see us.
WEBSITES: If you are at all computer competent, a simple 5-10 page website is also extremely helpful, but you need to know how to get your site so that it comes up on the first few pages of a search. Do-it-yourself website services are out there. Register.com and Godaddy.com are just two and for a cost of about $200 per year, you could create a nice website that would also help bring in customers. We have had our own website for the past 8 years. If you type in “beefalo” in a Google search, we consistently are on the first or second page and our site gets about 200 hits per day. But it did take a little time to get to this point and we are updating our site on a monthly basis to keep it informative. It is also linked to MNGrown.org and LocalHarvest.com as well as a few other sites. I would recommend that you start with existing sites and as your business develops, consider adding your own website to the worldwideweb.
ADVERTISING ON THE WEB: When signing up and entering your farm’s information on any of the “foodie” websites (such as localharvest.com), take a little time to look at what other farmers have done. Look closely at the wording that they use. It should be informative and inviting. You will want to give at least a few reasons why your meat product should be considered. What are the benefits of your beefalo meat? Lean, low fat, low cholesterol, high protein, pasture-raised, humanely raised, etc. If you are willing to have them come to your farm to view the animals, you can include that as well. Include info on how you sell your meat; by quarters, halves, individual packages. Make sure you include all the different ways that you can be contacted; address, phone, email. Avoid putting any pricing on these sites as sometimes these sites can only be updated once per year and then you would be locked into a price that you may not want to be locked in to. If possible, include a picture of your farm or some of your animals. If doing this, be sure you provide a good quality photo or “jpg” file and use pictures of healthy, clean animals. It would be best not to take pictures of them during the muddiest part of the spring season when they are shedding their winter coats and may be a bit muddy looking. Animals out on green pasture are so much more attractive than ones standing in mud.
MORE ADVERTISING: Word of mouth is going to be your next best bet as advertising goes. As you develop your customer base, ask your customers to spread the word. A satisfied customer will be the best free advertising you can get! If someone buys a quarter of a beefalo from you and just loves the taste and quality of the meat, they may serve it to their friends or family at their next party. If those guests like it, the conversation will come around to where and from whom they got the meat from and you just might end up with a new customer or two.