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Direct Marketing Workshop Summary

Farm Business Management Update, February-March 2007

By Karen Mundy (, Rural Economic Analysis Program, Communications Specialist, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech


Direct Answers for Direct Marketing is one of several outputs of SSARE grant ES05-079, a regional project including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.  Gary Bullen from N.C. State was Principal Investigator.


Direct Answers for Direct Marketing is a resource guide to help Extension Agents and other trainers work with clients interested in marketing their farm products or services or both directly to the consumer.  The purpose of this manual is to provide agricultural professionals with a hands-on way to help their clients answer the questions that other direct marketing manuals say must be answered before entering the direct market.  While the manual focuses on fruit and vegetables, many of the principles apply to any agricultural product, whether fresh or processed.


Chapter 1 “What is ‘Direct Answers for Direct Marketing’?” provides an overview of direct marketing.  It provides keys to success and an overview of business, marketing, and financial plans.


Chapter 2 “What should you produce?” walks you through setting goals, determining resources, considering if a market exists for a product, and finding out if customers exist for that product.


Chapter 3 “Which direct marketing outlet is right for you?” covers the characteristics of different direct market outlets, criteria impacting your success, resources needed for the market, and tax, liability, and other legal issues.


Chapter 4 “Who will be your customers?” walks you through selecting a target market, obtaining demographic and lifestyle data, and how to use this information.


Chapter 5 “What do your customers want?” addresses trends in foods, food safety, packaging, convenience, quality, and so forth.


Chapter 6 “How will you reach your customers?” covers farm image, promotion, merchandising, advertising, and evaluating what you’ve done.


Chapter 7 “How do you plan for profits?” talks about fixed and variable costs, start-up costs, different types of budgets, and how to use them.


Chapter 8 “How do you set your price?” is about break-even pricing and cost plus pricing as well as a some do’s and don’ts for pricing.


Chapter 9 “Directory of marketing regulations, licenses, permits, taxes, and insurance” provides contact information, by state, for various agencies your clients will need to contact as they establish or expand their direct marketing operations.


The remaining sections of the manual include farmer profile case studies, feasibility case studies, tools, and supplemental readings.


One of the goals of the SARE project was to have 75 Extension Agents and other agricultural professionals complete a two-day training in direct marketing.  This training was held November 13-14, 2006, in Raleigh, N.C.  Those who attended the Raleigh workshop were pleased with the information they received and excited about using it with their clientele.  A second goal is to have some of those Extension Agents conduct direct marketing workshops in their counties.  Since space at the workshop was limited to 25 people from each state, the hope is that other training sessions can be held in Virginia.  As the logistics of having another training session—or more than one—are worked out, we’ll keep you informed.  If you would like a copy of the manual, contact Karen Mundy at


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