For some, goat marketing is a necessary evil but if you raise goats, marketing is a necessity. Your ability to get your goats in front of the right people is a major part of determining how successful your goat operation will be.
The following tips and pointers are designed to help you streamline the process of goat marketing and identify how and when to focus your efforts so you can not only find buyers for your goats but also establish the foundation of a solid, thriving brand – your goat farm.
Goat Marketing 101: Be Willing to Spend the Time
I often read comments online from goat breeders saying things like, “I don’t have time to take pictures,” or “I’m too busy to answer a million questions about my goats.” While I think it’s true, it’s also a matter of priorities. Additionally, if you’re pricing your goats properly, that time spent marketing goats is paid time.
The folks who can get away with little to no pictures or communication are the ones spending their time building up show wins and accolades that do the selling for them. One way or another, you need to commit yourself to spending the time to market your goats, whether directly through talking with buyers or indirectly through participating in shows and performance programs.
With that said, marketing doesn’t have to be a tedious, time consuming process that sucks the joy out of goat ownership. During kidding season, my time spent on goat marketing breaks down roughly like this:
- photographing kids multiple times until weaning, 10 minutes per kid
- formatting photos and listing kids on website, 10 minutes per kid
- posting to social media using previously formatted photo, 2 minutes per kid
- answering emails and social media inquiries, 5 minutes per kid
The area where time can really add up is when buyers and potential buyers come to check out the kids. Being happy to talk goats all day, spending 1-2 hours with customers doesn’t bother me, but if you have a tight schedule, you might want to consider setting appointments in specific time blocks and be clear with buyers up front about the amount of time you can spend with them.
Think of the Problem You Can Solve for Your Customer Base
I was talking with a successful online business owner friend the other day and she told me how she’d worked out an entire persona for her prospective customer type, fleshing out her entire theoretical life, likes, dislikes, needs and wants. She said it really helped her successfully market to that target market.
Figure out who you are marketing to, especially the typical barriers to goat ownership they might have, and then figure out a way to solve it.
One breeder I know of emphasizes her willingness and ability to line up all the transportation, so her buyer ends up putting forth little effort or stress in the process.
What are some common problems for your breed or your particular local market? Some I can think of might include:
- Lack of registered animals
- High prevalence of disease in local herds
- No performance herds participating in linear appraisal or milk test
- No mentorship program or support after the sale
- Inability to find a buck to breed to
- No herds with similar management styles (natural/conventional)
- Past bad experiences with breeders
- Kids born at the wrong time of year for specific markets/goals
Get to know what people in your area are saying about buying goats and figure out how you can position yourself to solve their problems. One of our areas of success is in the time of year we choose to kid. We’re typically weaning about the time other herds are beginning kidding, so we have an early market advantage.
Offer Good Customer Service
A lot of building a loyal customer base is centered around the experience you provide. Top notch customer service will help you stand out, while poor customer service is a sure way to put off repeat sales. I personally will not buy again from a herd whose owner has terrible customer service, regardless of how high quality or in demand their genetics might be. There are plenty of high end herds with high end customer service as well.
While there can be a lot of frustrating experiences in dealing with the public when it comes to selling goats, you will likely never regret putting your best effort into every interaction. In practical terms, this means things like:
- Courteous, prompt replies to messages and emails
- Sufficient pictures for buyers to see the animal in question
- Finding ways to make the process easier for your buyer’s particular needs
- Offering a professional process from start to finish
- Creating a pleasant environment for your buyers to be in when they come to your farm
If you look at the most successful businesses, you can find a pattern generally of quality customer service. In the age of “Press 2348593, hold for 18 minutes and do a hula dance to get customer service,” being human and treating your customers the same can go a long way.
Build a Relationship
Relationship is the way you engage with your customers and potential customers, building familiarity and a sense of camaraderie. This can be as simple as interacting with followers on a Facebook page to as involved as taking the time to send a Christmas card to your customers.
Relationship is what creates the foundation for years of repeat business. We have buyers coming back year after year to purchase from us. Relationship is making your buyers feel like they’re part of who you are, which is the truth. Bring them into your goat family, treat them like the important people they are, and they’ll repay you tenfold with referrals and repeat purchases.
Invest in a Good Camera
I can definitively say that our sales increased the year we decided to invest in a higher quality camera. Professional looking photos in the age of Internet sales can be the factor that swings a sale in your favor over your competition. This is especially true in the case of pet sales, but even in the case of breeding stock.
We invested about $500 in an entry level DSLR camera and the results were instant. We hadn’t even started listing kids for sale yet, I merely went out and took updated pictures of the kid crop with the new camera and we had more than half of them sold the first week.
Previously, I’d spent $300 on a point and click camera that could not compare to this only slightly more expensive camera. My only regret is that I waited so long in my breeding career to get a camera worthy of the job.
Get a Website, GET A WEBSITE
So here’s the deal. Over the past year or so, Facebook has been drastically cracking down on all animal sales. I’ve noticed an increasing frequency of removed posts and banned users over this past spring season. Where the giant leads, the small fries will follow and we can expect to see increasing censorship directed at breeders of any kind of animals. The only thing you have a reasonable measure of control over is the website you own, and even then it’s a good idea to create backups of it regularly.
No matter what advertising and sales channel is hot at the moment, your website will remain a constant that you can use in all of your goat marketing materials. The rest, places like Facebook, Craigslist, MeWe, local papers and other avenues should all be tools you use to get people to the big deal – your website. There is no prohibition whatsoever on marketing your website, just your animals. So market your website and let it do the selling.
Websites are not that expensive. You will need to buy the domain for about $15 and secure hosting for it, which costs about $40-$60. Your yearly cost for total control over your own content comes to $55-$75. That’s a small price to pay for knowing the content you post will stay online and in your control.
But Weebly and Wix are free!
No, not really. They use your website to market their services, telling you it’s free but not that you have to pay for actual features to get your presence out there. I’m not particularly familiar with Weebly, but I do know Wix will not allow your website to be found in search engines on the free plan. That means if someone searches for your farm name on Google, they will never find your own website. You are also limited to only the features they offer, whereas the options are endless when you have your own website and the publishing options for a self-hosted website are just as easy to use as any of the free ones.
If you make no other “marketing” investment in your business, let this be the one. Your own website is crucial to your long term goat marketing success.
Be Available to Answer Questions, but Try to Avoid Them in the First Place
This is best placed earlier in this discussion, but it is relevant particularly for websites, so I’m putting it here. If you find yourself frustrated with answering questions, make more effort to answer them in your ad copy and website information. You’ll still get plenty of folks who don’t read what you write and want a personal answer, and that’s okay. Be accessible. When possible though, give as much information up front as you can. This helps weed out people who are looking for something specific and it saves you time in the long run.
All info should be listed on your website, as in-depth as you can make it. If you’re selling a kid, you should have easily available to your buyer his pedigree, photos of his parents, including udders on both sides, and any performance program info such as linear scores or milk tests and show wins of parents, if applicable. Include relevant disease testing and of course, the price. Date of birth and weaning date are both important for kids in particular.
For any marketing outside your website that will bring buyers to your sales page, pedigree, date of birth and accolades should be included. This year I’ve switched to a single page for each year and I display the kids’ photos, tattoo number and links to parents’ info. I have plenty of informational pages about our policies, our philosophies and our goats, trying to convey a real sense of who we are and what our buyers will get if they choose our farm. Transparency is generally a good trait when it comes to a business such as this, especially as confidence in farms falls.
Make Use of Multiple Goat Marketing Channels
There are many ways to advertise your website and your goats. Take some time to research each and pick two or three to really focus on; trying to target them all will cause you to be spread too thin. The top channels we focus on are our mailing list, Facebook, Craigslist and Instagram. I am directing more of my own efforts into local marketing by becoming more involved in community events where goats might be represented. Here are some other ways you can advertise:
- (2023 update) If your herd leans toward natural or holistic management, check out my free resource, The Holistic Breeder, where you can list your farm and link back to your own website
- Ads in local newspapers and classifieds
- Industry targeted ads in relevant magazines and print publications, such as farm magazines, goat newsletters, etc.
- MeWe, an up and coming alternative to Facebook, so far without the censorship
- Google ads
- Animal swaps
- Sponsoring local events
- Participating in online groups where you can offer an expert opinion and develop connections
- A goat specific marketing channel, such as Goatzz, a site that has brought me several leads late this goat season
Determine a Realistic Price
This is important. Before you even begin to come up with a price, you need to honestly determine your costs to raise your goats. I do this every year, factoring in the costs of hay, minerals, grain, disease testing, medicines and veterinary care, supplies and equipment, registrations, fencing, website, farm insurance, our own labor cost (about $5,000 per year) and linear appraisal costs. The total for 2020 is $465 per doe in costs.
We can debate about whether or not to include those costs, but the truth of the matter is that if you intend to operate your goat farm as a business and not a hobby, you need to include all of the costs associated with it. If you weren’t goat wrangling, you might be keeping down a day job. How much per hour do you need to float your regular obligations?
With your cost info behind you, you need to figure out a general forecast based on past data. My litter sizes currently run at 2.5 kids per goat. I usually want to keep one and sell the rest. With 21 does, I should have about 52 kids next year. Based on this, I know how much I need to sell my goats for to cover costs.
One thing about running these cost analyses before you list your animals for sale is that it makes it easier to not want to back down when someone wants to haggle. My standard answer to such questions is a firm, “No.” Conveying confidence in your price, even if you don’t feel it, will often result in landing a sale. I have developed real confidence over the years; if they don’t buy at my asking price I know someone else will come along who is happy to. Pick a price and stick with it.
Goat Marketing: Develop a Clear Set of Sale Terms
It is good to have a solid idea of the terms you want to set before you get in the middle of a deal. There are many variables, but some main points to consider are:
- Whether or not you will require a deposit (yes, see below)
- If you will offer a health or genetic guarantee
- The payment methods you will accept and how/when you expect to be paid for both the deposit and the balance
- Your plan of action if they don’t pay the balance, don’t pick up the goat at the set time, etc.
- Delivery options, air flight/ground transport or pickup only
- What health treatments and vaccines you will give, if any
- Your photo policy (we recently had to say we will no longer provide individual updates)
- Whether or not you will take an animal back after the sale
There will likely be other issues you come up with on your farm. Some will warrant inclusion on the list, some will not. Try not to make a rule for every issue you encounter, but do try to make your terms broad enough to encompass some of the less common issues that may come up.
Require a Nonrefundable Deposit
If you want buyers to take your farm seriously, and if you want them to actually close the deal, you will have to require a nonrefundable deposit. That doesn’t mean you never ever refund; I give refunds more than I withhold them if a buyer backs out of the deal, but it does make sure you are dealing with committed buyers.
We initially charged $100, but I’ve been surprised to learn that there are people who will walk away from $100. Now, we charge half the purchase price up front. If something comes up that they didn’t anticipate or the animal becomes unavailable, I will refund it.
Here’s the blurb from our sale terms about deposits:
Deposits are typically half of the selling price of an animal and must be received within 24 hours of when you notify us of your intent to purchase an animal. I recommend making deposits using BTC/ETH, credit card or PayPal to ensure they are received in time.
Unless the animal you are buying becomes unavailable for any reason, deposits are not refundable, but may be transferred to another animal at our discretion.
Offer Multiple Payment Methods
Being more accessible to more buyers means offering multiple payment methods. Around here, checks are still used with relative frequency, so I accept them and deposit them immediately online. We accept only instant payments and cash at pickup of goats so there’s no chance a payment won’t clear. I try not to have hard rules about this because I want to be accommodating to my buyers. This year we even took a Facebook payment for some feed, which was a new experience and so easy.
The easier you make it for your buyer to buy, the more likely you are to complete a sale.
Create a Biosecurity Plan for On-Site Goat Marketing
For some farms, biosecurity is essential to prevent communicable diseases tracked in with visitors. I don’t actually know of a farm that has had this experience. It would be difficult to know that for sure since the communicable diseases can also be transmitted via wildlife. Because we live in a remote area with wildlife, I personally do not follow strict biosecurity protocols.
Decide up front if, when and how you will allow visitors to your farm and make plans accordingly. Some ideas include:
- Disposable foot covers
- Off-site meeting areas
- On-site designated viewing areas away from where animals are housed
I do think, as scrutiny toward small farms increases, disallowing visitors may become a deal breaker. What’s important is making your plan, acting it out and sticking to it. Be up front with your potential buyers so they know what to expect.
Every Year, Tweak and Adjust
I reflect and tweak at the end of every buying season. Innovating each year is important as well. What could you improve on in the next season?
For example, we began offering printouts with care information in a professional folder with custom printed logo stickers on the front. It’s not uncommon to get home with the goats and suddenly remember the questions you forgot to ask. I try to reiterate all the important info about care basics in an easy to see, tangible format – the folder.
We also added credit cards as a payment method this year with Square. Probably half of this year’s buyers chose to pay with credit cards.
Take what works, expand on that and adjust the rest. Year after year, your business will improve.