On the SheepThings Podcast, marketing emails and questions are becoming more prevalent. How do I market my sheep? That is such a broad question and I usually start with, “That depends ….” That is the easy part. When you first started in the sheep business, determining who your market is should have been the first step. Once you determine the market you want to be in, then you can set your sights on how to reach them.
One of the first things you need to do for your operation is to raise something people want to buy. Doesn’t matter how many ads you run or where you put your promotional efforts, if you are not raising what people want then it will not matter. Keep great records and be very diligent on what you choose to sell as breeding stock. Not every lamb is going to be breeding quality even if they’re out of that high priced ram or ewe you purchased. Remember those sheep represent you.
So, now let us assume you are raising a high-quality animal that others might want, now what? Be honest. As a breeding stock producer, integrity is everything. It is a small world and words travel faster than the speed of sound. Rarely do people talk about the good stuff, but boy they sure do talk loud about all the issues. Be a responsible seller and be willing to open your farm to prospective buyers. Stand behind your sales and make lifelong friends with your customers.
Social Media: man has that changed the way we do business. So many people only utilize social media for marketing. Don’t fall into that trap. Sure, it is easy, and it gets a lot of views. However, Facebook can change their rules or deem your page as bad and block it or remove it without notice! Don’t post more than once per day. I am sure it feels good to post on Facebook and share with 30 other groups, but in all honesty, it deters people more than promotes. As an admin on a couple groups, I get tons of messages asking me to block or delete people who post the same posts over and over. It is a tight community and more than likely the same audience in each of those groups. So, pick one group and share in that group. If people are constantly seeing posts from you that are not relevant to what they want to see, they will get “numb” so to speak on seeing your post and quit looking at them. Also realize that when you post something in a group that has 10,000 people and gets 10-20 posts a day, your post will get lost in the comments by day 3-4 more than likely and nobody will see it. Use your Facebook farm page to drive traffic to your website.
Websites: don’t underestimate the old faithful of internet marketing. People still use a browser to search for things they are looking for. I highly recommend using social media platforms to drive traffic to your website. You have total control over your own domain. Be very detailed in your operation and your sheep. You should make regular updates to your website so that Google and other search engines view the site as up to date and active. Search Engine Optimization is your friend. If your content tells a great story and answers questions people are looking for, your page will rank higher. The higher the page’s link appears in the search results, the more likely it will be seen, leading to increased traffic and visibility.
Join your breed and regional sheep associations, as well as state associations. Being active in those circles will build credibility and respect as well as help develop your skills as a shepherd. Support for the associations who are almost solely volunteers who work tirelessly to educate and promote is the cheapest investment you can make. Most of them host annual events that may include an auction. That is a great way to promote your stock within a group of like people. Another huge benefit is to take advantage of their promotional efforts and having your farm information listed on their website! And don’t overlook the educational opportunities most of these groups provide. There’s always something new to learn and learning is good!
Online sales have become very popular over the last few years and could be an option that expands your reach. Online buyers from across the country have access to your auction and will have the opportunity to purchase from you. Use an online sale to show off your best animals, not as your only market. Putting too many animals in too many sales, especially if those animals aren’t top quality, won’t help your reputation. Several online auction companies do a great job of working with you to determine what your goals are and what actions you should take to reach those goals. Before choosing one, be sure to speak to 3-4 of them to make sure you find the best fit.
That should give you a head start on thinking about which way you want to choose to market your livestock. Remember, first identify your market, then choose the marketing strategy that fits your goals. Maybe one or all the above options can help you.
By: Robert Walker, West Fork Farms, EAPK Member