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Selling directly to consumers: How to find customers and market your beef

Ready to start selling? Here’s a primer to get you going.

In my last blog, I discussed how to find a plant to process your beef. In this edition, we’ll look at using social media to find customers and setting up a website.

Of course, word-of-mouth advertising is the cheapest way to advertise, but you may live in a small town or have already exhausted your possibilities through your existing network. One rancher friend of mine noted recently, “Many of my neighbors are also trying to sell directly to consumers and my small town is saturated with supply. What I need is more prospects.” 

There are plenty of prospects out there, but how to best find them affordably?

Many ranchers have been successful in the past with simply having an order form that they email prospective customers when asked. To find prospects, one of the simplest ways is to make a Facebook page for your ranch. This will cost you nothing but time.

Once you are active with Facebook, then add in Instagram posts that are connected to your Facebook account. This will help you build a following and you will get inquiries for your order form, which will include pricing for quarters and halves, lead times and other information. 

You’ll need to actively put up at least one new post per week on your Facebook account. Two or three posts per week is best. Balance your posts by rotating some that are just for fun (like pictures of your kids with your cattle), some that are informational (like what your cattle are eating), and other posts where you are advertising and asking for their business (e.g., buy great beef direct from my ranch.) 

A common mistake some make is just always posting ads for beef cuts and folks get tired of this real fast. Share your lifestyle with them. Have some fun.

The next step would be to set up an e-commerce website. But before you go through this process, you need to set up some realistic goals and determine how many head of cattle you want to sell each month. 

If you only have a few head of cattle to sell, you can most likely get the customers you need just with word-of-mouth advertising, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and an order form that you email.  

If you have more than five head a month available to sell on an on-going basis, then I’d suggest you put up a website and drive traffic to it via Facebook and Instagram. You can get a domain name for less than $15 per year at Bluehost.com. Bluehost also offers a free, easy-to-use website builder called Webley, which will cost you nothing to use and to set up.

If you’re ready for full-on e-commerce platform that will take your business to the next level and give you a professional website, I recommend Shopify. Shopify’s basic level will cost you $30 per month but give you all the tools you need to manage your growing e-commerce business. 

Bloom is owner of U.S. Protein, an international distributor of premium meats. Contact him at greg@usprotein.com. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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