Marketing for Alpaca Breeders: Think About Your Target Market
By Carla Paton
A spectrum of buyers
One of the first rules of marketing is to think about and to get to know your target audience or market. For alpaca breeders, our audience is usually somewhere along a continuum, with buyers who are totally new to alpacas to established breeders with years of experience. And with each marketing effort, we need to consider which group or groups we are targeting.
Match the campaign to your buyer type
For example, if appealing to people who are interested but who know little about alpacas, it makes more sense to do broad local advertising, like Craig’s List, as opposed to working only through known alpaca websites or Facebook. Those new to the industry may not know about the Alpaca Owners Association, OpenHerd, or which alpaca Facebook groups to join.
The marketing challenge
Once breeders are established, the tendency is to work mostly through social media. It is challenging enough to register and list new animals, blog regularly and to post daily on Facebook, when there are animals to care for, shows to prepare and go to, shearing, and breedings to see to. Marketing of any kind ends up at the bottom of the list, and so posting pictures from smartphones to Facebook is sometimes the most that we can manage, on a good day.
Marketing for Alpaca Breeders
Current marketing trends
Since our default tendency is to market mostly to our established “followers,” it is important to create a marketing plan that instead covers the spectrum of potential customers. This will not only move us out of our comfort zone, it will force us to stay in step with current marketing trends. For example, as breeders, how often do we consider search engines with our posts? Do you understand how to determine good keywords, and do you use them? Do you understand the shifting Google or other search engine algorithms that currently favor YouTube? Yes, you may work diligently on your Facebook fan page, but you may be missing out on tons of traffic by not setting up a YouTube channel for all those cute videos you have posted.
A long-term marketing plan
For alpaca breeders in today’s competitive online market, your long-term marketing plan should include:
• Keyword research
• Membership in AOA and other local breeder associations
• Facebook and Facebook Ads
• Building and using a mailing list
• Direct ads (at least local)
• Print marketing
• Bringing it all together with a website (perhaps optional if using OpenHerd tools)
Because of the above can be overwhelming when starting out (and afterward), a short-term marketing plan is critical. For example, if you know you are mostly interested in working locally with those who are completely new to alpacas focus your initial efforts on placing local ads (like Craig’s List, or small papers), and to going to local events, like fiber and craft shows. Also, work with local schools, Girl or Boy Scouts to get farm visits. This is a good way to build a mailing list and to build a network of loyal followers who will follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and other social media as you create those marketing pieces over time.
What is your main advertising or marketing method?
• Local events or shows
• Alpaca Owner's Associations (National or Local)
• Email list and emails
Building a paid following
Others, who may be more technically savvy, may wish to work their initial efforts in reverse. However, be aware that the adage of, “if you build it, they will come” is not true in social media. This may have happened at the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, but there is just too much competition, even in the alpaca breeding space, to build your social media empire and expect people to flock to you—no matter how photogenic you think your alpaca are. If you do decide to build your social media infrastructure before you have “organic” followers, be prepared to learn about creating ads, and be willing to pay for at least Facebook ads to gain a critical mass of fan page followers. You will also need to post regularly to keep your paid following.
The Golden Rule: Be Likeable
Having a “paid” following that you gained from ads, is not as bad as it might sound. If you target your ads correctly, you will be gaining fans that “like” alpacas to begin with. If your fan page is professional looking and has helpful, and/or likeable fun content, those that like it, genuinely do so. Here, the Golden Rule is essential. Treat your fans and potential fans to content that you would like. Always remember what social media is about. People do not surf Facebook, Pinterest, or YouTube, to view sales and marketing spam. No one wants to be pitched or sold to over and over. No, like you, they have come to these sites to have some mindless entertainment, or at most, to learn something. Think of it as a relationship. You will lose friends quickly if all you talk about is your awesome new male herd sire. Sure, he may be awesome, but if you only use your social media as a sales platform, you are missing the point of why people use these sites. Remember what you like on Facebook (funny cat videos?) and keep at least an 80/20 balance: 80 percent entertainment, 20 percent marketing (although 90/10 might be the optimal ratio).
Perhaps you do not wish to entertain with your social media, but do want to educate. This is acceptable and effective too if you are helpful to your fan base. The number one maxim in social media is “be likeable,” but yes, a very close second is, “be helpful.” If you have knowledge or expertise in one area of alpaca breeding or a related subject, like fleece or animal husbandry, by all means focus on this helpful, educational aspect and you will gain and keep a loyal audience. Then when you do mention your new amazing cria or alpaca addition, your sales effort will not fall on sales-deaf-oversaturated ears. In fact, with the respect that you have gained in your area of expertise, your fans will all the more trust your ability to know a prize alpaca and that you have their best interest at heart.
Whether you wish to market to new potential alpaca owners, seasoned breeders or the entire spectrum, be sure to give your marketing some thorough thought and planning. Understanding your target market will direct how and where you should begin marketing and will in turn, increase your return on your investment of time and money, and result in eventual successful sales and long-term client relationships.
Author: By Carla Paton