Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 5 ~ Tips to Improve your Brand and Market Value


Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on how to think about your brand strategy. We’ll walk you through the basic process of creating a brand by identifying your audience and the messages you want them to receive about your farm business.

Whether you’re new or experienced with the idea of branding, it’s incredibly valuable to create a brand for your farm that stands out in the marketplace and to periodically assess the appeal of your brand with your customers. These tips will also help you think about your big picture marketing strategy and how to eloquently talk with your customers about what you do and how you do it.

This feature was excerpted from the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s (CISA) Marketing 101 Manual. Since 1993, CISA has been working to strengthen the connections between farms and the community, by creating and running programs that link farmers, community members, and markets. 

What is a Brand?

The most basic component of a marketing effort is a brand. Your brand is the story that you tell about your farm, the values that you communicate, and the sense that customers have of your business. And this is refined over time, so even if you have a branded farm now, there are always ways to improve the look and feel of your product.

Ask yourself: “When someone thinks of my farm, what comes to mind?” The answer defines your current brand: your brand is what your customers think of your farm business. If your current brand does not align with your self-perception, your values, or your goals, then it is not as strong a brand as it could be.

Solidify your values and vision

Use these tips to help create a story behind your brand that translates well to your customers. Engage your customers so they can picture how you produce their food. This will draw them in and invest them in you and your product.

  • Think about your business and why you run the farm that you do. What about your farm is most exciting to you? What values drive your decision-making the most? What makes you different from your competitors?


    Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt Tam Cheese label

  • Write down the adjectives and descriptive phrases that come to mind. They don’t have to be clever or form a coherent tagline necessarily – a brainstorm is fine. However, if you choose to create a tagline, think about what distinguishes your farm from every other farm in your region. Try to write this phrase in ten words or less.
  • Elements to consider in your brand vision:
    • Backstory – What is the history of the farm? Has it been in your family for generations? Is there a colorful anecdote about the families who lived there before?
    • Cast of Characters – Is this one person’s dream or an entire family’s? If needed, choose someone to be featured as the face of the farm. Maybe the farm’s traditions have been carried on for generations, or maybe this farm is a new endeavor of this generation. Make sure to tell a story that customers can connect to.
    • Setting – Think about the environment, the crops, the climate, and the wildlife. What’s happening on the farm? Create a very tangible image in your customer’s mind. Many consumers are in urban areas and love to think about a bucolic farm scene.
    • The Plot – Tell your customer what you do and why you do it. If you have a business plan that includes the vision, values, and goals of your farm enterprise, you can include them as part of the story. But, weave those elements in with the story of what life is like on the farm.
  • Write down your “elevator pitch,” the 20-second story you would give if you have only had a moment to introduce yourself and your business to someone new (like in an elevator!). Think carefully about the core identity that you want to communicate; this shouldn’t just be a laundry list of what you grow.

Identify your audience

Talk with your current customers about how effective your brand is. They understand your product and support what you do, and will be useful in helping you to refine your brand vision.

  • Begin to identify your core customers. These are the top ten customers who, if you work to understand and target them better, will help you refine your brand identity. Think about the people who show up as soon as you open for the season, the people who call to ask when their favorite crop is coming into season, or the people who respond to any communications you release.


    Chatting with customers at the Union Square Farmers Market, Somerville, MA

  • Talk to your core customers one-on-one about what they like about your business. Why do they choose to purchase your products? These customers have identified something that appeals to them in your existing self-presentation, so they can offer great insight into your strengths. They may also offer insight into the reasons why your current brand may not align with your goals and help you to identify other services, products, or markets that might be more appropriate for you.
  • Identify your target audience. Once you have a sense of what drives your core customers and what they think about your business, you can tailor your product to your main audience. This is the larger group of people whose attention you want to catch through your branding. Identifying the people you want to reach and beginning to strategize about how to reach them is how you begin to develop a marketing strategy.

Look at the big picture

Now that you know how you want to be perceived and how well you’re conveying that message to your core customers, take a step back to begin thinking about how your brand will fit into in the marketplace.

Ask yourself:

  • What are your customers buying? What are the most popular products?

Don’t lose sight of your product – keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in. Word of mouth is often a farm’s greatest lead generator, so having products that stand out is a critical part of your brand and why you’re in business. Even the most outgoing and charming farm business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back unless the product they sell is of the best quality.

  • Who are your competitors? What other businesses are attracting your target customers?


    The many products at Seward Coop, Minneapolis, MN

Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. What is going to make your farm stand out? What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers – it could be your great product quality, your friendliness, the accessibility of your products, or any combination of these.

  • What are you offering customers?

Think broadly about this question: not only the particular products you sell, but any additional benefits you offer, such as convenience, cooking tips, great deals, access to your farm, etc.

Again, this relates to differentiating your farm. Can customers visit your farm and get an inside look at how you bring them their delicious produce? Do you have a CSA, where members get exclusive discounts on bulk orders? Do you provide recipes that help your customers cook with the new crops you introduce? All of these elements help to enhance the relationship between you and your customers, and set you apart from others in the marketplace.

A short exercise to recap:

These questions focus on honing the image that you want to consistently project through all the ways that you communicate with existing and potential customers. This is based on your values and the values of your target audience.

1. Brainstorm the adjectives and descriptive phrases that you want to communicate about your business (for example, sophisticated and luxurious, or homegrown and family-oriented).

2. Write down your “elevator pitch,” the 20-second introduction you would give a new person about your business.

3. Take notes on your conversations with your core customers. What phrases and words are they consistently using to describe your business? Why do they choose you?

4. Review: Compare your own list and elevator pitch with the feedback from your core customers. How can you fine-tune your messaging so that it resonates more successfully with shoppers?

Thank you CISA for this valuable information! For more details see the entire Marketing 101 Manual. If you have other questions about developing a brand or CISA’s many programs, contact them!

To view more resources on marketing and sales, visit our Marketing & Sales Toolkit. There, you’ll find easy-to-use info sheets, checklists, worksheets, and recommended resources. 

We’re continuing to expand the Marketing & Sales Toolkit, so stay tuned for more resources.

If you happened to miss them, check out our other features in the Marketing & Sales series:

If you have questions or words of wisdom about branding strategy, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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