There is one thing for sure, there are no guarantees in the agritourism business. Because despite how much you plan and how hard you work, there will always be the elements of this business that we can’t control. For some of us, these “elements” seemed to only show up when we were scheduled to be open! When we have a short season to be open, every day and every minute counts. I know from talking to several people that last year’s weather was one of those unpredictable things that has driven them to the edge. Right now, there may be many of you that are trying to decide whether you will even open for business this year. So, let’s take a few minutes to talk about one element that we can control.
There are hundreds of ways to market our business. From high tech digital billboards to the always important word of mouth. Some of them will require us to budget very carefully as they will be expensive, but some will require very little investment at all. There is one thing, however, that is certain. If we do not invest the time and money to get the word out, it will be reflected in attendance. This is particularly true with a new business or one that has not yet developed a reputation and a following. But even the most established businesses need some level of marketing to remain competitive. There are countless stories of the “build it and they will come” mentality. The problem being, no one knows we have even built it! (Unless you just want to attract the 1919 White Sox!)
It is the time of year when we are looking ahead and beginning to plan if you are a seasonal business. And it is also the time of year when we must figure how to get the word out about our new business, our new event, our new food items, our new farmer’s market, our new maze etc. Even if you are year-round, there will always be the need to keep your name fresh in people’s minds. So, what can we do now to make a difference later?
There are hundreds of things that qualify as marketing, but let’s touch on a few basics to get you thinking. Again, think outside of the box.
1. Blitz emails to the right connections. Mailing lists can be purchased for a doable amount for what is usually a one-time use. Use these to target those who could benefit your business. (Teachers, churches, boy scouts, etc.) Not only will this get your info into the hands of the potential customers, but it will get your info into the hands of those who connect to other potential customers. Teachers and church youth leaders are directly involved with families. They can generate the word of mouth you are looking for. Now is the time to get your information into the hands of teachers. It won’t be long, and they will be planning next year’s field trips. And with youth leaders, they will be planning their big events.
2. Parades. Most local parades want to add as many participants as they can. Memorial Day and Labor Day offer parade opportunities in many local areas and would welcome a float from your business. Highlight something attractive and relevant that parade goers would love to see. Haunted props? Live animals? A cool float with real corn growing? Be ready with a flyer or a coupon to hand out that directs them to your website with more information.
3. Mobile advertising. Sometimes the best advertising is one that moves around. A billboard is seen by a lot of people, but a vehicle wrap is seen by many more! Or perhaps just some kind of mobile advertisement that’s a little cheaper than a whole wrap. We used an old pick up and built a flat bed on the back. On the flat bed we built a replica of the barn on the property and the barn that appeared in our logo for our “haunted harvest”. That pick up was used as a sign that moved to where we needed it to be. High School football games, college campuses and other places where we knew we could get the word out to potential guests.
4. Coupon blitzes on college campuses. Print up some coupons geared to students and deliver them to the post office of local college campuses. Most of them will be willing to make sure the students all receive them in their mailbox. They love free stuff! Just make sure you design it to fit in a small square space and make it something that captures their attention!
5. T Shirt giveaways! Print up your t shirts and give them out to organizations and churches to give out when they can. Just another way to get your name out.
6. Set up a booth at the local fair. Talk to lots of locals and get your name out. Bring a duck race or something they can interact with. Photo Ops maybe? Sell some of your products. Have some drawings? Hand out coupons. Just another marketing tool.
We could go on and on, but I encourage you to think outside the box. Use a variety of methods and techniques and make your business name something that people remember. Set a budget and pick some methods that get you a lot of bang for your buck!
Here we go again. Let the planning begin!