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Learning to Market from the Heart – What I Learned from Charlotte Smith

On Pasture author Jenn Colby was one of the people who participated in Charlotte Smith’s free webinar last May and then went on to take Charlotte’s 5-week farm marketing course with me and about 50 other members of the On Pasture Community. We asked her to share what she learned from “Farm Marketing From the Heart” since it might be useful to you.

Registration is open for the Spring course through March 22, 2019. So if you’re interested, don’t delay!

Here’s what I learned from Charlotte Smith’s farm marketing course for farmers.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to take Charlotte Smith’s online course, Farm Marketing From the Heart. Charlotte took us through a different topic each week using a series of video lessons, worksheets, homework, and some terrific feedback loops that I’ll talk about a bit later.

I’ve long been a pretty customer-service oriented person (I thought) after a couple of decades doing cheese demos, trade shows, waitressing, farmers markets, and working in Extension, but the class really changed my mindset about who I should be reaching out to and what my role in their life really is.

Ideal Customer

One of the easiest and hardest concepts Charlotte taught us was that every one of us has an ideal customer. We aren’t competing for the same customers even in a small geographic area, because we all have different ideal customers.

By thinking about my longest-running, most loyal customers (and asking them questions), I discovered that my ideal customers are middle-ish aged folks with no kids at home, who care about how the land and animals are treated, who like to cook but want to learn more about cooking meat.

Other people in the class discovered their ideal customers were 30-something moms who work part time, or single Christian women who drive Chevy Astro vans (OK, I made that one up, but seriously, this can get pretty specific if you do your research!).

By focusing on my ideal customer, and using the language they used to explain why my products are important to them, I can attract a lot more folks just like them who are ready to buy.

Lead Magnet

Click to  visit Jenn’s Howling Wolf Farm website to see a little of what she’s talking about with her lead magnet and blog.

A very powerful lesson has been that marketing is not about telling people to “buy my products” but instead, about giving, and that’s a lot easier for me than being a salesperson. I learned how to give something of value, that cost me nothing, and that when I do that it builds trust with my potential customers.

I learned how to set up a free gift on my website that appeals to my ideal customer, so I can attract more of them through my website.

I really liked Charlotte’s point here, and I am trying to adopt this approach…it doesn’t really help to give away a pound of ground beef or a dozen eggs. Plenty of people will take the gift and disappear without so much as a thank you.

I learned it helps build your customer base when you give of yourself – your time to talk to the local Rotary, or your expertise in cooking the burger that you so lovingly raised.  And I learned how to do it from my website, so I can attract customers in my sleep!

It’s a good reminder to me that when people ask if I can come talk about the farm, I should say “Yes!”

Website Improvements

We spent time reviewing websites and identifying the things that, generally, do and don’t work. In particular, we discussed how to distinguish ourselves from the crowd to attract our ideal customer.

I learned a great deal about how to use my website to communicate in the right ways, and how to keep a customer on my website now. A takeaway for me—once I have them on my site, don’t let them get away!

Another lesson in my personal example; my website still needs a bunch more work. We’ve adjusted some things, but we have an external web designer and he’s a busy guy. I’m learning to take the long view on the site, and pick away at the parts I can do myself more easily (like the free gift, social media, blog, and email). It’s nice to know that I can get started with some improvements and begin making progress.

Blog Posts and Email Marketing Don’t Have to Be So Hard

This is just one example of a post Jenn wrote after participating in the course. See how it helps customers learn to use parts of the pig they may not be accustomed to buying? Click on over to read more.

I have struggled for years to maintain a regular blog post presence. Largely, I was waiting for that perfect moment of inspiration and free time (hah!) to strike concurrently. That happened about twice a year, and never in the summer when I had the most product available to sell.

I’m happy to report that after running through the workbook exercises in Farm Marketing From the Heart, and looking at my products, I’ve been able to draft out 2 monthly blog posts for the next 12 months. Charlotte provided some examples of topics we could cover over the year. I’ve swapped the topics around just a little bit (looks like the pig deposits may be needed about a month earlier than planned, for example), but her suggestions provided me with a boost I needed and I have been consistent at writing a blog post every other week since June.

And, thanks also to Charlotte’s list of examples, I’ve been able to add in an email to ideal customers reminding them of who we are, what we do, and why we do it – another good practice for building a customer base that trust us and wants to buy from us.

It’s Easier With A Community

The last thing I wanted to mention about Charlotte’s class is how supportive and community-focused it is.

Charlotte sets up a private Facebook group for the class where we have been able to ask silly questions, great questions and tough questions.

Everyone has been kind and helpful. There are experienced “alumni” who have seen the results of this kind of marketing and can provide guidance from what they’ve learned. Each week’s questions were collected into a live Q&A during the 5 weeks of class, but people have continued to ask and answer in the group all summer.

This community has been a huge help in the growth of our farm. It truly is a valuable bonus that complements the coursework beautifully.

Take the Course as Many Times as You Like

Jenn Colby is available as a speaker at conferences. Learn more about her at the On Pasture Speakers Bureau page. Click!

By signing up for the course once, Charlotte allows us (actually encourages us) to take the course every time she opens it. Many of the alumni mentioned that they took the course in the past, and I admit, I’m planning to join the live class again, myself. And I can take the class over-and-over again absolutely free.

We are all busy, and there’s a lot to learn into when it comes to learning how to market from the heart, but I do feel like there’s been plenty of progress made.

And of course, marketing is just like farming, there is always so much more to do! And remember, be patient with yourself. If you choose to join Farm Marketing From the Heart, make sure you say “Hello!” in the Facebook group!

I’d love to welcome and virtually “meet” you.

Once more, the deadline to register for the Spring Session is March 22, 2019. You can register here.

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Jenn Colby
Jenn Colby
Jenn Colby has spent over 25 years helping livestock farmers find success and quality of life through non-profit, academic, Extension, and community roles. She writes, farms, consults, and hosts the Choosing to Farm podcast from her home base of Howling Wolf Farm in Vermont.

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