Agritourism brings visitors to your farm to help you diversify your farm income. Visitors interrupt your work day, but often leave some cash behind and can be a lucrative income stream to diversify your farm income. In the first article we looked at why you should consider Agritourism as a viable plan for your own farm. In the second article we talked about the essential items that need to be considered in the planning of your agritourism project.
You can beautify your farm and get it ready to WOW visitors for years and not have a significant impact on your bottom line. You need to advertise that you are open and do that in an inviting way. In this article I share some advertising strategies that we use at Joybilee Farm to draw visitors to the farm.
- Know your niche.
Can you describe your niche in words? Who is your prospective visitor? What are their needs that a visit to your farm will meet? Spend a few minutes writing down your distinctive market niche — organic veggies, apple and pies, alpaca and its fuzzy yarns, family fun — Once you have a few key phrases that describe your niche market you are ready to create the advertising that will bring them to the farm.
- Write a great farm brochure that tells people how visiting your farm will meet their needs.
Forget hiring a professional to write your farm brochure or even print it. Not only does it cost a lot of money, but it will need to be revised several times as you fine tune your niche marketing strategy. Your brochure is not about you and your farm. It is about your prospective visitor, their needs and how a visit to your farm will satisfy those needs. That’s why you need to know your niche and who your customer is before you start to write.
So forget about the phrases like “I’ve been farming for 20 years and raising sheep for 10”. Strangers who pick up your brochure for the first time don’t care how long you’ve been farming. They want to know how a visit to your farm will satisfy their hunger for real food, an adventure, or help them manage their restless kidlets for an afternoon. Make sure your brochure tells them. And tells them with great pictures, a map and driving directions.
- Print your farm brochure yourself — invest in a colour printer and learn to use your computer and your digital camera
It costs more than $1 a page to print a colour copy at the copy store. A two sided brochure costs $2 to copy at a copy store. Print it yourself. Get a colour ink-jet printer that automatically prints double sided and you will be able to print your own brochures at a fraction of the cost.
Our printer is an HP Office Jet Pro All-in-One, L7650. I love it. It has individual cartridges for each colour and will stop in mid print when ink runs out so you don’t need to replace the ink until its really empty. We print over 2000 brochures a year. It paid for itself in the first month of use and we’ve had no problems in two years of daily printing.
- Take out ads in tourism publications that are specific to your market
When you are considering which tourism publications to buy paid advertising in, be careful. Don’t just buy in because its in your region. Most of the government sponsored tourism magazines have a wide coverage and you will be lost. They are for expensive resorts with $Thousands$ to spend on advertising.
But don’t overlook publications that serve your niche. We advertise in the local artist glossy magazine “Articulate”, that serves our region. We also advertise in the local Visitors Guide. For special events we’ve taken ads out in the local paper as well, but we haven’t seen any increase in visitors because of paid advertising in the local paper.
- Network with local businesses that share your niche
Joybilee Farm is an artisan business. So we network with the art gallery, and local shops that sell artisan wares. They have our brochure and know us well. When visitors come in, they point them to our farm. We’ve made good sales from these referrals. If your niche is organic veggies, network with your local farmer’s market, the organic cheese dairy and other local organic food farms, even a local restaurant. Don’t be afraid to share your visitors with other businesses in your niche — meet the needs of your visitors and they will come back.
- Know who your visitor is and write to their needs
I’ve already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Your advertising is about your visitor, not about you. Know your visitor well. What are their needs? How can you satisfy them? Where do your visitors hang out? Make sure you are advertising in these places.
- Send out press releases with great pictures
Your local paper needs great copy and great pictures to sell papers. They also want to sell you advertising. But they’ll give you advertising for free if you give them great copy with great pictures. Every-time something interesting happens to you or your farm — write a fabulous article with great pictures and send it to your local paper.
This is a place that I am lax. I should do it more often but it takes time to write a really good article that focuses on what the reader needs. I’m working on an article for the paper about the Mother-Daughter Project and will send it in to the local paper when the jacket gets sent to New Zealand in a few weeks.
- Support your local businesses and they will support you
Buy local. And when you shop have a pocket full of business cards to hand out. Tell the local businesses who you are and what you do. Don’t be shy. You have something distinctive that will meet their needs. They should know who you are. And once they know you, they’ll tell other people about you, too.
- Get involved in tourism planning in your region
Your region will have an economic development committee and/or a chamber of commerce and/or a tourism planning committee. Get involved. Attend the meetings. Talk about your unique niche and how your farm-business satisfies the needs in that niche. There’s a stereo type out there that farmers are stupid and uneducated — the Heehaw Hick stereo type. Break it. You are educated and interested in local economics, because if the region prospers so will you. By participating in your regional tourism plans your business will stand out and you will get referrals.
- Create a Facebook page for your farm and post to it daily
Facebook is free. You are already on Facebook, right? Create a page for your farm. Keep your niche in mind and post interesting links, pictures, videos, and facts to Facebook everyday. The rule of thumb is to spend at least two hours a week on your page, updating your fans. Facebook lets you build relationships with your fans. Your fans are similar to your niche audience. Remember, Facebook is free.
Advertise your Facebook page on your blog, your website, your brochure and your business card. If you give your fans valuable content they will read it and engage with you.
Hint: You can become a fan of Joybilee Farm by clicking on the Facebook button on this page.
- Create a blog and write articles with your customer in mind
If you don’t already have a blog, create one. Its free. You can use Blogger, WordPress or another blogging site. Or you can upload WordPress to your own website and own your blog. Then write good content that your niche audience needs to read. Refer back to the first point. Write a relevant article at least once a week. Plan to spend two hours a week both uploading an article and interacting with the comments section of your blog.
If you don’t know what to write about, ask yourself, what does your niche audience need to know? Are they beginning weavers? New farmers? Hungry Tree Huggers? Young families with kidlets? If you write about their interests, they will read and remember you. You are building a long term relationship and offering them something that they need. That’s love. And its smart business practice, too.
- Rewrite your website focusing on what your visitor needs to know
I’m on the third rewrite of the Joybilee Farm website. My first website was about me and my farm. My second website was about my niche visitor, and my new website is going to look better, and be more focused, as I’ve more clearly defined my niche. I’m glad that I learned to create my own website. I don’t have to rely on other people to upload my changes or do my writing for me.
You can create your own website and fire your expensive webmaster, too. Once you can do it yourself, you don’t need to be afraid of making mistakes and having to rewrite. You can upload pictures within minutes of taking them and your website will be a great showcase of what visitors will experience when they visit your farm. If I can learn to do it, so can you. Its good agritourism practice to have a great website.
This article about advertising your Agritourism destination is the third in a series of five articles about diversifying your farm income with Agritourism. You can read the other articles by clicking on the links below.
Your turn: What advertising strategies are you currently using? What is working for you? What hasn’t paid off like you’d hoped? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.