So what’s your farm’s story? As it turns out, your ability to tell your farm’s story can help your farm become more profitable. Kristin Davis, Extension agent with North Carolina University, presented “The Power of Your Story: Storytelling as Marketing” as part of “The Business of Food and Farming” webinar series recently. Davis represents the College of Agriculture and Life Science at North Carolina University.
“This is very basic understanding of how you can use story telling as a marketing tool,” Davis said. “There’s so much work that goes into running a business and so many beautiful stories that go into running a business.”
She said that the first step is to cultivate a brand purpose.
“Brand purpose helps to drive the stories you’re going to tell,” Davis said. “It tells why the business exists.”
She added that the vision tells what the business aims to achieve and the mission is how it will do that. Values represent for what the business stands. Positioning is about how the company will differentiate from competition.
“I assume you have some things in place, a business purpose that defines your vision, mission and core values and you have values for your business,” Davis said. “If you don’t have these things available, it’s important to establish these.”
These elements are part of an overall business plan. While creating these statements can be daunting, “It’s a great place to start,” Davis said.
She recommends reviewing the simple, one-page business plan at bit.ly/ScorePlan as a good example.
Of course, a business that needs a loan needs much more documentation than this business plan; however, creating the plan can help a farm business better direct its marketing efforts.
“Unlike a mission or vision statement, the positioning statement isn’t a public facing tagline but how you want your brand to be perceived,” she said.
The brand purpose is the reason that brand exists other than profit.
The “Golden Circle” of brand purpose includes “what,” “how,” and “why,” as Davis explained it.
What is simply what the company does.
“Every organization on the planet knows what they do,” Davis said. “These are products they sell or the services they offer. Some organizations know how they do it. These are the things that make them special or set them apart from their competition.
“Very few organizations know why they do what they do. Why is not about making money. That’s a result. It’s a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organization exists. The brand purpose is the why. Why is the product necessary?”
She offered several examples of the five types of brand purpose. Brands like Lindt chocolate, Coca-Cola and Zappos shoes and apparel are about joy, delighting people with experiences that bring wonder and limitless possibility.
“Think about their commercials where there’s visions of people dancing and enjoying their product,” she said of Coca-Cola. “That’s the brand identity: to elicit joy.”
Another brand purpose is to connect consumers with the world and each other, like Starbucks and FedEx.
“One of the things Starbucks has done very well is take down the barriers through getting something you want, like using the app to order drinks,” Davis said. “They want you to connect with the world and each other. They do a good job of telling how they serve philanthropic missions and support sustainability.”
Exploring new horizons represents yet another brand purpose. Companies like Discovery, Pampers and AirBnB are brands that exemplify this.
“They open up new opportunities,” Davis said.
Evoking pride is what companies like Mercedez-Benz do.
“They exist to epitomize a lifetime of achievement,” Davis said. “They have stellar qualities and show you’ve arrived.”
Companies such as IBM broadly affect the status quo and redefine categories. Many other technology companies fall into this category, but other companies like Dove do the same by celebrating unique characteristics of a population.
“They say on their website that they exist to celebrate every woman’s unique beauty,” Davis said.
This breaks the status quo of only a certain type of woman being considered beautiful.
She said that successful companies combine what the world needs, what you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about as the brand purpose.
The next step is to learn how to creatively communicate the farm’s brand purpose using storytelling.
“Some of the struggle of telling the company story is especially true for small businesses,” Davis said. “They feel they need to tell the story at the same level as multi-million dollar companies. That’s not necessarily true.”
Davis said that storytelling is important for more reasons than many people give it credit.
“By communicating the brand through stories, Subaru has helped them connect with specific audiences who want to keep their children safe,” she said. That isn’t mean they don’t have other qualities to their product but that’s how they want to connect with their customers.”
Consumers want both different experiences and different delivery of their goods and services.
“Storytelling isn’t just a creative approach to marketing, but it gives consumers a totally different entry into your brand,” Davis said.
The company should tell on its website who it is and what it does. Don’t assume the public understands this.
In addition to avoiding misunderstandings, “being clear about the product or service will help attract the ideal client,” Davis said. When you created your business and the service or product you’re offering, you probably had a person in mind you were creating this for. Getting clear about what you do can help you attract that ideal client — that makes what you do much more pleasurable because you’re not meeting the needs of everyone, but one client.”
The company should also tell for whom they do what they do — the target audience. Not that a company would turn others away, but by being very specific about the target market, the business stays focused.
The website should also share why the company does what it does, not just create the best product or service, “but the larger goal,” Davis said. “How it benefits your customers.”
Other ways to tell your story include customer reviews, live customer experiences, employee spotlights, fun company facts, philanthropic efforts and personal posts. Davis also listed methods, including live streams, Instagram stories and articles linked to a post.
Davis likes Canva, a free resource “which is like a graphic designer in your pocket,” she said. “You can use your phone or desktop to create beautiful and polished content that can be posted across various media.”
She also thinks that social media can be an important piece of a marketing plan, but said that selecting one to two platforms at first can help business owners streamline the process. The social media posts should direct users to the website. Using post schedulers like Hootsuite can make it easy to plan ahead for busier times.
“When you post video, your hits will go up,” Davis said. “People like video. It means they won’t have to read a long post and they can get the message.”
She likes apps like Filmora, Biteable and Animaker.
“You can take a longer video, splice it into smaller bits that can be posted on social media,” Davis said. “You could record longer videos and use them in Instagram TV, Facebook or YouTube. Don’t over-think it. Most people think it needs to be very polished, but in reality, your customers want to engage with you in any way they can.”
Though email seems “old school” to some people, Davis said that “people still check email and email still does work.”
If any — or all — of these marketing tasks seem too difficult or time-consuming, Davis advised outsourcing to freelancers who peruse sites such as Guru.com, Fiverr.com or Upwork.com. This can help obtain assistance at reasonable costs and with no long-term commitment.