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Manage your brand
In the business world, companies spend enormous resources managing their brands. A brand is often a company’s most valuable asset -- more important than inventory, real estate, and even products — and a solid brand can make a business worth more than its paper assets. The brand is a company’s identity and personality; the brand experience is how customers feel about and interact with the business or product. Branding is not limited to big companies with a lot of money to spend on advertising; even the smallest business has a brand that can be managed to increase profits. Although farmers don’t usually think of themselves as having a brand, many of the concepts used in brand management in other sectors can be applied to agricultural businesses. Here are some ways to think about developing and managing your brand:
Articulate the identity you want to convey to the world. Describe yourself and your mission. Are you a young, urban farmer dedicated to organic growing? A family with deep roots in the farming community and long experience growing vegetables? A couple trying to create a healthy place to raise a family? A philanthropic organization helping people with disabilities? Let your personality become part of your business image.
Develop a brand name, logo, and colors that will become a consistent theme running through all your marketing. Choose carefully and get professional assistance if you feel your own efforts are not creating the identity you want. For example, a homemade logo might be a perfect fit for a rural community, but a grower catering to upscale urban restaurants might want something a bit more sophisticated. Pick something you can live with for a long time, because there’s no point in developing a brand if you’re going to keep changing it.
Choose the media you’ll use to extend your brand. These can include printed materials such as signs, brochures, and newspaper ads as well as websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs. You don’t have to be a marketing genius to employ some or all of these media. Farm-friendly web businesses such as Small Farm Central (www.smallfarmcentral.com) can create a website with as few or as many features as you have time to manage. At the very least, get your farm listed in local, state, and national directories (www.localharvest.org is the best-known). If you don’t have time yourself, hire a teenager to create a Facebook page for you and update it once a week with information about what you’ll be selling at market the next day.
Apply your name, logo, and colors to all your marketing efforts, from the hats your employees wear to the banner on your website. The goal is for you to become instantly recognizable to your customers. When they walk into your crowded farmers market, you want them to be able to find you. When they search for you on the web, you want them to know it’s you the instant they click on your website.
Finally, be sure that all your interactions with the public are conveying the right message. Be pleasant, upbeat, and professional in all your dealings and be consistent with quality so that your brand becomes synonymous with great local produce.
Reprinted from JSS Advantage July 2010.