May 2018
The Business of Farming

The Four P's of Marketing

Recently, we held marketing workshops across the state to help fruit and vegetable growers gain information on selling their products. Hopefully, we’ve already met at one of them, but, if not, I will highlight some of the information from these workshops.

There is a lot of thought, time and effort put into growing our products; that is great, and we do a great job with production. Sometimes, but not always, there is the same amount of time and effort put into marketing our products.

At the workshops, there was a lot of discussion about marketing. By no means could it all be covered in one article; we’ll highlight some of the information and, maybe in future articles, cover other aspects and spotlight real-world producers and examples.

For this article, we are going to look at two concepts frequently mentioned about marketing: The four P’s of marketing, and the differences between sales marketing and relationship marketing. Even if you are familiar with these concepts, maybe we’ll discuss them in a way that brings new ideas to you.

The 4 P’s state: All marketing activities fall into a "P" category – product, price, placement and promotion – and everything in these categories comprises marketing.

Product asks, "What have I developed or what am I trying to sell?"

There’s potentially a lot of time and energy spent on this category alone. Everyone wants to determine the perfect offering everyone is going to love and that will sell consistently and quickly.

The truth is … it doesn’t just happen. If someone has developed a great product, you can bet they’ve done some research to determine their customers, what they like, why it’s going to sell, etc. etc.; determining our product is a big component.

Price asks, "How much am I going to charge?"

There are a number of ways to reference prices. You can look at comparable businesses, comparable products, customer surveys of how much they’re willing to pay, and, last but maybe most importantly, the amount of money invested in the product.

If it takes $10 to develop something and it is sold for $5, it’s hard to make that equation work in your favor.

Placement asks, "Where can I place my product for potential customers to see and sell it to them?"

When we’re talking about farms, it somewhat depends on the commodity. In this article, we’ll highlight fruits and vegetables.

In this case, generally there are a number of options. You can sell to grocery stores or restaurants, be a wholesaler or be your own storefront at farmers markets or roadside stands. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The determination may be where you can get the best and most consistent returns for your products. It’s likely there will be several placements for your product, i.e., several farmers markets, several restaurants, etc.

The last category, promotion, asks, "How am I going to get the word out and let people know about XX Farms and my product?"

You can create advertisements, rely on word-of-mouth, show up at farmers markets and hope people will notice. If no one knows you have this product, you can’t expect to sell very many.

There is no magic in the 4 P’s, but the idea is that you are thinking through a marketing plan and end up with the right product, right place, right time and right price.

The second component compares sales marketing and relationship marketing.

A lot of times when we think about marketing, it’s of big advertisements and billboards letting us know about a sale. This is sales marketing. The whole objective is to sell a particular item or in a particular time frame. Think "ONE DAY SALE: EVERYTHING 25% OFF"-type of billboards. These types of promotions can be effective in the right scenarios. If a business just wants to sell something quickly and is willing to offer a discount, it probably will make additional sales of those items for that day.

On the opposite end, and something frequently found in agriculture, is what’s referred to as relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is a lot like it sounds; you have some kind of connection to your customers and to marketing efforts. Relationship implies a longer-term focus and you are somehow invested in the transaction.

Instead of focusing on making a one-time sale or on one particular weekend, you are focused on customers – getting to know and making a connection with them.

There are several benefits to this. You get to know their likes and dislikes (i.e., what makes them buy from you), they can tell people about you and your product, and it doesn’t cost anything to say, "Hey, how’s it going?" to someone at the market instead of putting up numerous billboards or advertisements.

There are situations for both types of marketing, but relationships can help greatly in developing your business.

In future articles, we’ll talk to producers or highlight other pieces on marketing. In the meantime, thinking through the 4 P’s is a continual process you can use to focus on strategic sales – and developing relationships can go a long way in helping your marketing efforts.


Kevin Burkett is a Regional Farm and Agribusiness Management Agent with ACES.