When a dairy farm sells their milk through a cooperative, they are handing the marketing reins over to that organization and entrusting them with taking the time and effort to find a home for their milk. For dairy farmers that process their own milk, however, they must take on their own marketing in addition to the work that goes into producing quality milk.
“Marketing is not an easy thing, but it’s absolutely essential,” noted Mark Stephenson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the May 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
Not just selling
In quoting a former Cornell University professor who quite literally wrote the book on marketing, Stephenson explained that selling is not the same as marketing. “To sell means to get rid of, to transfer ownership, and anyone can do that. On the other hand, to market means to create value, to perform service for which someone is willing to pay, and to perform a service on which a profit can be made,” he said. “Much of the value of any product lies not in the product itself, but rather in the invisible bundle of services wrapped around it.”
Having a market is not a given right simply because of the work that went into the product, the economist continued. It takes further work to create and expand your markets while also protecting them from others. That work is what adds value to a product.
As an example, Stephenson pointed out that cooperative leaders provide a service to milk by recognizing that time and place are services in themselves. A co-op gets milk to plants that need and want it at the time they need it.
Products and people
So how might a dairy that is processing their own milk add value to market their products? Two farmers who do just that shared insight from their operations.
Audie Wall says that handling the sales and marketing at Marcoot Jersey Creamery in southern Illinois is like having another business in itself on top of the dairy farm and the processing facility. “It does take a special skill set to be able to do all that,” she said.
In addition to Wall and the two other owners of the creamery, they hire a marketing firm to help with their efforts and outsource some of their social media management. That work has greatly paid off as they have gained market traction in a number of stores and restaurants in the St. Louis area.
The company has also expanded its product base to reach more customers. “We’ve been trying to stay innovative and keep hitting some key markets that other companies are not hitting right now,” Wall described. Besides fresh and aged cheeses, the creamery combines the sweet cream whey left from the cheesemaking process with crushed fruit to create a sorbet-type product that packs 20 grams of protein into a 5-ounce container and is especially geared toward athletes. They have also been experimenting with dehydrating cheese to form into dog treats.
Jen Glover of Mountain Fresh Creamery in northern Georgia stressed the importance of having a person passionate about marketing on your team. Her family’s creamery processes the farm’s milk into whole, low-fat, chocolate, and buttermilk, and also makes butter and many different flavors of ice cream. The two operations host thousands of people each year who come to see how the products are made. All of those people touring the farm and visiting the creamery means there’s a lot of eyes and ears interested in what is going on.
“You’re going to need to make sure you have somebody in your circle that loves people more than they love cows because they’re going to want to ask you a lot of questions and they’re going to want to be in your space,” Glover said. “So if that person is not you, find somebody that can be that person.”
To watch the recording of the May 19 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program archive is also now available as an audio-only podcast. Click here to listen or download.
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, June 2 at 11 a.m. CDT. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here. Registering once registers you for all future events.