Beef Co-op’s Marketing Efforts Offer Insights for Local Food Entrepreneurs

For every business, getting marketing right is key. For food entrepreneurs selling directly to consumers at farmer’s markets, farm stands, online, in grocery stores, and via subscriptions, telling their story through marketing is vital to reaching their target customer demographic to enhance sales. But how do food entrepreneurs — especially those selling locally produced products through local supply chains –know which marketing channels to use?

The farmer-owners of Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative, a young co-op marketing locally raised beef in southwest Ohio, set out to answer that question. They wanted to know how they could maximize their marketing efforts to generate new customers and sales for their farmer-owners. In 2019, the co-op proposed and was awarded a project to the 2019 Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farmer/Rancher grant program. Their project would help the co-op develop, implement, and then measure the effectiveness of four new advertising channels: Google ads, billboards, radio advertisements, and Facebook ads. The co-op placed their ads, some of which were created in consultation with marketing professionals at the companies they purchased advertising through, and then tracked whether their efforts translated into new customer orders. What they learned can offer insights to other local food producers, particularly those selling meat.

Readers can learn more about the project, the co-op’s experiences, and the results in a presentation by a founding member of the co-op available above as a part of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences online Farm Science Review.

What Did the Co-op Learn?

  • Facebook ads and radio ads on the local public radio channel were the most effective new advertising channels the co-op tested. Facebooks ads resulted in an astounding 10900% return on the dollars invested in the channel. Also, co-op members were surprised to learn that radio ads resulted in an 85% return on their investment.
  • Some new advertising channels took a lot of time and energy to learn. The co-op relies on volunteer labor and they took a team approach to implementing the new advertising methods. Even so, learning the ins-and-outs of utilizing certain channels took a significant time investment.
  • Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing strategy for the co-op. Sales from customers who reported learning about the cooperative by word of mouth dwarfed sales generated from customers who reported finding out about the co-op through one of the new advertising channels. This reinforces the idea that food entrepreneurs should ensure they are paying close attention to customer experiences and creating ways for their customers to share their excitement about their products.

About Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative

Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative was formed in 2016 by southwest Ohio farmers who wanted to expand their markets for locally raised beef and to increase their farmer incomes. The co-op markets beef to retailers and directly to consumers. You can learn more about the cooperative via the video, Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative: Our Story  The co-op’s farmer members were supported by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives in their start-up and the development of their SARE proposal.

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