Continued from Part 7 (or start at Part 1)…

So you have a good product, a fair price, and know where you want to advertise, so it’s time for the next step.

  • How do you effectively advertise?

Knowing how to advertise is just as important as advertising through the right venues. You can have the most luxurious bar of soap around, or the best goat in the country, and you choose the most public venues to advertise it, but if you are unable to get people’s attention, or unable to convince them that the product is worth further investigation, then it won’t help you sell it.  This is where good marketing technique comes in.  Mind you, I’m not a professional or expert, but I like to think I have a bit of common sense, and my experiences and training certainly help.

Next time you buy something new, take note of what inspired you to buy.  Was it a picture or logo on the package that initially got your attention?  How was the product described in the teaser?  How were the words written when you flipped it over and read the back?  Or, if you purchased something off the internet, what convinced you to buy that particular item over similiar ones?  Was it a link to a website?  A photo?  Were you looking for a particular color or type of animal or a specific bloodline?  For what purpose did you buy the item?  Was it a cosmetic to help you feel better, a luxury to make your day easier, or an animal for breeding, companionship, or showing?

This is the point where you need to advertise to your target market.  I have to laugh when I read advertisements for horses.  Most hobbyists or horse-traders will advertise their horses using terms like “potential for any discipline,” “totally bomb-proof,” and so on.  If I ever found a horse that actually met that criteria, I would clone it!  The fact is, this type of wording tells me that either the person is trying to sell the horse to anyone that will buy, or they are well-meaning, but very uneducated.  First off, there is no such thing as a horse that can successfully perform well in absolutely any discipline.  Sure, you can train for it, but the fact of nature is that a horse with shorter legs and back will likely be more successful at cutting, while a leaner, long-legged, more balanced horse will be better at jumping.  A slower horse is better at western pleasure or equitation, while a more high-strung, higher-withered horse would likely do better in dressage.  Just as people have different skills, so do animals.  I have also seen the closest thing to a bomb-proof horse.  She was a 20-something year old belgian draft mare, who had been a police horse for about 15 years.  She had been there, seen it, done it, and nothing ever got to her.  She was slow and uncaring about her surroundings, making her ideal for patrolling crowded situations.  Then, one day on patrol at the county fair, she spooked at a roller coaster, and started to plow through a crowd.  Thank God, no one got hurt, and the rider was able to calm her down.  Still. 

In order to sound professional, you must use terms that demonstrate you know what you are talking about.  Focus on the good points of the product, and write your ad to the people that are looking for that.  If I have a goat that would do best at a production dairy, I am going to mention the pounds of milk she produces, the butterfat content, her genetic milking history, her age, her success with kidding, how good she is on the stand, whether she does best hand or machine milking, and so forth.  Production dairies don’t generally care as much for color and looks as they do for specific breed, age,  health, prodcution, and milkability.  On the other hand, if I think my doeling would excel in as a 4-H show goat, then I will write my ad accordingly, focusing on the breed standard characteristics, her bloodline and genetic show history, the points of her conformation that give her the potential to excel, her health and the methods used to raise her, and so on.  You absolutely cannot cater your ad to every person.  Don’t even try.  Rather than sounding like a completely uneducated or desperate person, be easy on yourself and write your ad for the person your product best suits. 

I once had a horse that was purchased as a 2-year-old from a backyard-breeder, for a few hundred dollars.  The filly had never been away from her dam, was high-strung, and never was good for a beginner rider outside of an arena.  She was mixed-breed, grade, average-sized, nothing particularly special horse.  When I tried to sell her as an 11 year old, I had done almost everything with her, including her training.  We had been on mounted patrol teams, done drill performances, ridden parades, instructed clinics, ponied other horses-in-training, and ridden hundreds of miles of trails all over the country.  She was dependable, pretty, had a great attitude, and everyone who met her loved her.  I had taught many lessons on her, and she proved to be an very patient lesson horse–as long as she was in a secure arena.  Outside the arena, however, she had to have a knowledgeable rider, as her only thrill in life was to run.  As fast and as far as she could.  I had her evaluated by several other trainers to get other, unbiased, opinions, and they offered their thoughts on her good and bad attributes to me.  When I finally had to offer her for sale, I chose to market her on, as the customers that used that site were the type I was interested in dealing with.  I pointed out the good qualities, training, and work experience she had, mentioned that she needed an intermediate to experienced rider, and asked $5500, knowing that most people want to haggle a bit.  I got $5000 for her. 

I say all that to say, choose your words carefully.  Never, ever lie or exaggerate, but there is nothing wrong with focusing on the good points.  I recently read on ad for a horse that made the horse sound absolutely incredible–slow, easy going, well-trained under saddle, and so forth.  Just about the time I was convinced, the last 2/3 of the description was about all the problems the horse had–wouldn’t load in a trailer, wouldn’t let the farrier pick up his feet, required shoes to be sound, etc.  Granted, those are important issues, but instead of focusing the majority of the description on the negative qualities, the seller could have simply mentioned that the horse needed some work in certain areas.  This would open the door for a more personal discussion about the issues when an interested buyer contacted the seller.  It is much more effective.  I help determine what is worht mentioning by how correctable the problem is.  If the animal has a chronic problem (ie lameness,etc) that will require lots of effort to repair or maintain, then briefly mention it in all fairness.  If, however, the problem is more training related and easily fixable by someone with more experience or time, then perhaps just briefly mention that the animal could benefit from some additional hands-on training.  That keeps it honest, but simple and properly focused.

In your description, which should not be too long–preferably just a few sentences–try to mention any of those uniquely good qualities you figured out in the first couple posts.  If your item is organic, mention it; if an animal has been blood-tested for diseases, mention it; if you have paperwork of any type, describe it briefly; if you use a unique or secret natural ingredient for you handmade sauce, mention that.  These are things that set your item apart and peaks a buyers interest.  Describing the natural methods we use to raise our goats is why I could sell an unproven, grade doeling for 4 times the price as the average hobbyist. 

Just remember that your ad is a customer’s first impression of you and your product.  If it is poorly written, the buyer will be turned off unless they are desperate.  There is nothing wrong with being a backyard breeder or hobbyist, certainly, but if you are proud of what you produce, do your best, and really enjoy your job, then there is no reason you have to make yourself sound uneducated, lazy, or untrustworthy.  Because of one well-written Craigslist ad with a good photo, I recently paid the same price for an unproven, registered doeling that had characteristics I wanted, but was from a backyard breeder, as I paid for a far more proven goat from a much more experienced and trustworthy breeder.  Always give your best.  Sure, writing up a good ad takes a little more work, but when you realize that, not just your business, but also your reputation as a seller, is on the line with every ad you produce, it becomes easier to see why a well-written, professional ad is so important. 

After you have written your ad or designed your website, go through and make sure it answers most questions that a buyer is likely to have.  Most customers are most interested in first, how the product will benefit them, and second, how much it costs.  Of course, this is not always the case.  I recently had a customer call me over the phone after reading that I had a certain type of doe.  She put down a deposit for 2 kids just because she was so interested.  It was several days later she contacted me again and said, “Oh, by the way, how much are the kids?”  There is the occasional customer that knows what they want, and they will pay what it takes to get it.  But most people want to know the price.  I HATE having to go out of my way to research a price before I make a purchase.  Even in a real store, I have put unlabled things back on the shelf simply because I did not feel like going to the effort to track down how much it costs.  Mind you, as a seller, you may not always know the price.  However, at the very least, give a price range.  For example, on my “Goats For Sale” section of my website, I list a price range for purebred goats.  It depends on the goat and the bloodline, but at least the customer has a ball-bark figure to go on.   

It’s a bit off-topic, but I want to take this opportunity to mention something that is part of several if these posts, rather than just one specific one….the idea of advertising sales and discounted prices.  Be careful.  Unfortunately, when you start a business, close friends and family automatically assume that they should get a discount.  A lot of newbies also think that having lots of “specials” will be good for business.  The problem is, if you want to stay in business, you MUST cover all your costs.  You should make an additional profit to make it worthwhile for you in the long run.  As a home-based business consultant, I used to counsel new people starting a home-based business to choose who they could afford to give discounted prices to, and that’s it.  For the most part, there are no exceptions.  However, even with those special few, there is nothing wrong with asking a price that will cover your costs at minimum.  It isn’t fair of them to expect you go in the hole for their discount.  Of course, you have every right to give them the occasional gifts at no cost.  You can at least take the tax deduction that way, and giving the item as an occasional free gift tends to create less expectation, whereas offering a discount tends to create expectation of future discounts.  Another thing is to be careful offering sales in general.  Putting an item on sale implies that the item may be overpriced to begin with.  We bought blinds for our home one time when the store happened to be running an annual 50% off sale.  I found out that the retail, non-sale price of the blinds was so incredibly expensive, that, now that I need more, I am waiting for the next annual 50% off sale.  If it hadn’t been for that first sale, they would have gotten twice the money from me.  Now, I will never buy those blinds at retail.  Rather than have sales, a better idea is to offer a “Buy1, get 1,” or extra incentives such as “Buy a goat, get a free goat-keeping class.”  These incentives are often more attractive to a serious buyer, more profitable to you, and helps encourage return customers.  Obviously, these are general rules, and there are exceptions.

 Now that you have everything else figured out, it’s time to sit down and write out your ad.  If you have trouble, look at other people’s websites and advertisements for similiar products, and see how they do it to get some ideas.  Just go for it.  Before you make it public, ask a few friends or family members to proof it for you.  Ask them how you can make it better.  Then, go from there.