The eight farmer-owners of Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative pride themselves on their all-Ohio model; their animals are born, raised, and processed completely in southwest Ohio. This kind of supply chain is part of an estimated $12 billion per-year local food market in the United States. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, almost 30,000 U.S. producers sell directly to retailers, institutions, and food hubs. Like Buckeye Valley Beef, more 130,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers.
But how do local food producers and entrepreneurs draw attention to their products when there’s so much competition for people’s attention? Advertising can help. With $25,530 support from a SARE Farmer Rancher grant, the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative set out to gain insight on the return on investment (ROI) of four advertising channels of interest: billboard displays, radio ads, Facebook ads, and Google AdWords.
“Marketing research can be just as important as determining best soil or manure management practices,” said Lori Nethero of Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative. “If you can’t sell your product, ultimately those other practices fall to the wayside. In a world where there are so many ways to reach out to consumers, and now in a world where several of the traditional in-person methods have been stripped away, it is important to study what works and doesn’t work.”
For their project, their cooperative members divided responsibilities as they gathered baseline data, studied up on how to use the various marketing channels, consulted with advertising companies, and set up their marketing schemes. They allowed three months per method and then looked at the sales impact of each strategy.
Overall, the team determined that of the four methods Facebook ads was most effective, followed by radio ads, Google Ads, and billboards.
- Success with Facebook: Their Facebook campaign was a resounding success. Nethero said it was the easiest, simplest, and quickest of the four advertising methods to implement. “We were told by marketing experts through the year that they were moving into different directions away from social media,” said Nethero. “So we weren’t expecting much out of it and yet, it was incredibly successful. A 10,900% ROI speaks volumes. We spent $600 and made $66,000 in sales.”
- Time investment: Researching advertising ROI was a lot of work. The 8-person project team each devoted significant time and energy to figuring out which strategy made the most sense.
- WOMM wins: Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) was more effective than any of the new advertising strategies they tested.
Nethero shared more marketing insights in this video from Ohio State University.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant:
- Comparing the Effectiveness of Four Advertising Channels: The Case Study of a Young Rural Beef Cooperative (FNC19-1186)