Archive for May, 2016

Direct Marketing Strategies, Part 2

Social Media Strategies

Social media is an important marketing tool that is constantly evolving and it is important to keep up with its changing opportunities. Social media provides farmers with an inexpensive direct two-way channel of communication between themselves and their customers. Social media can be a very useful marketing device if used properly. Here are some tips on using social media effectively:

  • Informative: Get to the point, and tell consumers what they need to hear.
  • Frequency: Frequent posts help to keep your business on your customers’ minds. However, try not to annoy customers to the point where they unfollow/unlike you.
  • Incentives: Offer incentives to customers in return for a follow on Twitter, or a like on a Facebook page. This may cost more money initially, but that constant connection with the customer is important and will pay off.
  • Photos: Try to add in photos where possible. This shows customers what is being sold and good looking food is often hard to resist. Putting in a photo also makes the post appear larger on the news feed, helping to draw attention to it.

Helpful Social media tool: HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows users to schedule and post updates to pages and profiles of social media sites such as Facebook. Hootsuite allows farmers to plan their online posts in advance and stay organized. Additionally, farmers can connect their different social media channels to their website, which is another way to improve organization and save time in the busy summer months.

General Business Strategies

Forming relationships with other local businesses that sell complimentary products can lead to benefits for both parties. Forming business relationships can help businesses:

  • Save costs
  • Reach more customers
  • Form a sense of community

Farmers must make certain that the products their business partners’ sell complement instead of compete with their own products and do not take away potential business.

Consumers prefer locally grown food and buy directly from farmers for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Food quality
  • Atmosphere at the point of purchase
  • Intimate shopping and interaction with farmer

It is important to provide these three listed attributes because this is what makes the direct selling experience unique and helps to ensure differentiation.

Adding value to the products being sold is another method to form a connection with consumers and to keep them coming back. Methods of adding value include:

  • Offer more than just the product (include recipes, suggested uses)
  • Add nutritional information
  • Suggest other local attractions in the area
  • Have fun events (Wagon rides)
  • Build infrastructure (Shelters)

These social media and general business strategies will help to ensure that farmers have the opportunity to meet with their customers face-to-face. Through this interaction farmers can form meaningful connections and hopefully instill brand loyalty among customers.

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While not intended to be a two-part article, Earl’s response to the outcry from industry and government in Western Canada provides a perfect moment to reflect upon the most integral piece of implementing supply chain sustainability and CSR initiatives: collaboration.

One should appreciate the wicked problems that a retailer, such as Earl’s, faces when procurement and marketing misalign. Marketing outlined that the clientele of the restaurant have ‘approved’ a preferred product for the menu: verified humane beef. This specification was clearly not on the priority list for long-term strategic procurement much before the announcement, leading to no smooth transition or hybridization of sourcing practices, but a public outcry that was heard across the supply chain. One must only look at successful and unsuccessful implementations of new market demands on a supply chain to understand why this was a problem.

Please put on your investor hat: stakeholders of a company should be thrilled when the business looks outwardly, increasing transparency with customers in order to boost marketing potential, share good news stories, and illustrate where value will be developed through improving practices, operational processes, or strategy. Stakeholders will be less thrilled when that transparency is clearly missing through the supply chain.

There are obvious benefits for undertaking approaches that increase social acceptability and marketing potential of a product. It is easy to get tunnel-vision on these benefits and industry hype, wanting to lead the pack, gain free media attention and early adopter profitability. However, the work behind such announcements is something often overlooked and typically more influential to the long-term strategy of the business: collaboration.

Collaboration has significant influence on the relevance and profitability of end products. The speed of social evaluation of product and requirements for hyper-transparency is continuing to speed up, so too is the required rate of communication and collaboration across the supply chain.

To address this growing need for communication and agility across supply chain partners, the most progressive and forward-operating businesses have adopted some choice mechanisms that allow them to act as a conduit to tether consumer demands to members across the supply chain. This is a new concept. In the past, these partners have never had to know what consumer demands were, as they were “just the suppliers.” Now, however, the nature and speed of business has progressed to the point where there is an increased need for agility and flexibility across the entire supply network. This is a result of the growing nature and speed of transparency requirements for all aspects of the supply chain by consumers, leading to partners or suppliers turning into collaborators.

While this may seem as semantic, the difference between partner and collaborating is important. It is linked to the type of communication and the increase in mutual benefit associated with collaborations. David Murphy speaks to three key partnering principles: equity, because it leads to respect; transparency, because it leads to trust; and mutual benefit, because it leads to sustainability.

Mechanisms, like roundtables, have growing acceptance across various industries and sectors. These roundtables tend to have producers, processors, non-governmental bodies (i.e. activists), academics, and retailers, each providing equal voice and input to the decisions made. A word of caution: roundtables are only and example of a mechanism. Some Google research will find you many others. These mechanisms will provide strong, socially responsible outcomes, but will slow the process significantly, as consensus is usually required.

An example situation of how a roundtable may work: Retailer A brings a customer demand and to the roundtable. This constitutes an opportunity for the group. As we can observve from examples like Fair Trade coffee or Humane Certified beef, there are preferred markets and, occasionally, price markups associated with such opportunities. The group, as a roundtable, can then work collaboratively to voice concerns and challenges to meeting such demand. As a group, collaboratively, these issues are heard and solutions can be developed in a manner that is respectful of supply chain strategy and transparent to all involved. Such communication can significantly aid the long-term sustainability of businesses across the supply chain, both in terms of agility, but also market relevance and access. This communication mechanism can also aid the supply chain in times of crisis or risk management, as mitigation can be sought to reduce risk environmental, social, or economic tensions and risks, leading to greater stability and profitability long-term for all organizations. Collaboration.

Roundtables are just one example of a mechanism of collaboration. More company-specific examples are used successfully every day, particularly in the agriculture and food world. One such example is Kellogg’s work with rice farmers in Spain. Kellogg’s works directly with farmers in Spain to improve their growing practices and profitability. While Kellogg’s only sources a portion of their Rice Krispies rice from these farmers, by assisting them in decreasing their impact on the environment and improving financial profitability through developing a local cooperative and improving productivity on-farm, there are significant benefits to the cereal-maker. Kellogg’s now has contributed to a local economy, sourcing from one cooperative of farmers instead of numerous individual producers, decreasing administrative burden. The rice harvested and purchased is also of higher standard with fewer impurities and greater consistency, increasing the efficiency of the manufacturing process. These are the benefits the procurement officers are going to realize. As for the marketers, they get to put a local farmer’s face in the advertisements of the Rice Krispies coming from these Spanish farms, increasing local loyalty and branding awareness. As a result of all this, the farmer is also benefiting from increased yields, increased profitability, greater end-market acceptance and stability in their buyer. Collaboration.

Wayne Visser describes sustainability as a “values-laden umbrella, in which environment and society is managed to ensure that human needs are met without destroying the life supporting ecosystems on which we depend.

If values are understood and built throughout a supply chain, how much easier would it be to understand market opportunities, maximize productivity and continue to meet the growing, mutual needs of farmers, restaurants, and society’s demands?

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Direct Marketing and Brand Loyalty, Part 1

As the warmer months approach farmers are presented with new opportunities to better connect with their customers. These connections could help farmers to form meaningful and long lasting relationships. Some methods used to form these connections with customers include:  roadside stands, on-farm shops, pick your own produce and participation in farmers’ markets.  These types of selling methods give farmers the opportunity to personally interact with customers and to directly market themselves and their products.

If done right, these selling methods will help to ensure a strong relationship between farmers and their customers. A strong relationship will help farmers to retain customers and create brand loyalty. There are many benefits to instilling brand loyalty among customers.

On average brand loyal customers makeup approximately 80 per cent of a company’s business, so retaining these customers should be a priority. It is three to five times more expensive to replace a brand loyal customer than to retain one.

Brand loyal customers are a huge aspect to any business and direct marketing is a great way of retaining current loyal customers and to create brand loyalty among new customers. In order to create the opportunity for face-to-face interactions (direct marketing) customers must be aware of your product and where it is sold. Social media and other forms of marketing present farmers with an opportunity to build brand and product awareness.

How to Directly Market Your Product

Customers must be aware of when and where products are sold and social media can play a large role in giving customers constant updates on product availability. Different social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs provide an important opportunity for a two-way communication channel between farmers and customers. These social media channels allow farmers to provide instant and up-to-date information. A consistent online presence with regular product updates will help to remind customers of your business and its quality products and services. In attempts to create and maintain relationships with customers farmers should:

  • Create a customer database (Customer Information)
  • Provide frequent social media updates
  • Educate customers
  • Listen to customers
  • Create customer surveys (For feedback)

Farmers should always attempt to put their customers first by focusing on their satisfaction and forming personal connections. Farmers should interact and engage with customers, entertain them and educate them about agriculture and their business. Forming these personal connections will help build relationships and lead to brand loyalty.

Another method to improve customer satisfaction involves reviewing customer complaints. Complaints should be looked at as an opportunity to improve the brand, service or product. Complaints that are addressed and corrected on the spot have an average customer retention rate of 82 per cent. This further illustrates the importance of customer service and direct interactions with customers.

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Poultry barns provide an ideal environment for house fly populations to thrive if sufficient control methods are not in place. Controlling house fly populations is important for maintaining a healthy barn environment. Without control methods, large fly populations can:

  • damage equipment and increase biosecurity risk
  • decrease poultry production
  • affect relationships with neighbours

Turkey barn

Flies can also be carriers of food-borne diseases, carrying bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli from one location to another.

Controlling flies involves the combined use of different methods:

  • barn management
  • biological control
  • mechanical control
  • chemical control


The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ (OMAFRA) book, “House Fly Control in Poultry Barns,” describes integrated pest management practices and provides information on different control methods for effective hHouse Fly Control cover PUB 849ouse fly control. The book is a great resource that can help you tailor fly control strategies to match your unique farming situation.



Visit ontario.ca/cca2 to download a PDF version of the book. You can also order free copies from ServiceOntario at ontario.ca/publications or 1-800-668-9938.


Visit ontario.ca/livestock for links to poultry resources, such as nutrient management and biosecurity information, and ontario.ca/cbly for information about poultry housing. Contact the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca for more information on pest management, normal farm practices and poultry farming.

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Online and In-Class course offered for FREE until August 31, 2016.

Starting on August 31, 2016, successful completion of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Course for Corn and Soybeans will be required in order to purchase or plant neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed. Following successful completion of the course, farmers will receive a certificate number. Farmers will need to submit their certificate number along with their Pest Assessment Reports (Inspection of Soil or Inspection of a Crop) to a sales representative, vendor or custom seed treater to purchase neonicotinoid-treated seeds.

Farmers that choose to use untreated seed (e.g. non-neonicotinoid treated seed) or fungicide only treated seed on their operations are not required to become certified. However, the training is available to all growers who are interested in learning more about IPM.

IPM training is designed to be flexible, accessible and convenient and will be delivered free of charge until August 31, 2016.

Farmers are able to take IPM training in a classroom at various locations or online through the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus. Certification is valid for five years after the date of completion (i.e. farmers will only need to take the course once every five years).

The online course requires a commitment of four hours over two days. High speed internet, competence with a computer and being a self-directed learner are requirements for success.

The half-day classroom course is offered in a traditional classroom setting with an instructor. The classroom course is offered in various locations across Ontario. Instructors will present course material following the manual using PowerPoint, videos, handouts and will answer your questions to aid in your understanding of the topics.

Register today for the online course or find a course near you at: www.ipmcertified.ca

To learn more about the neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed regulation, visit: www.ontario.ca/neonics



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