Over the past several years, Dan Frobose, Ohio State University Extension marketing educator, has worked with livestock producers in developing a "Story Market" (branding) program to add value to their farm businesses.

“Story marketing works backward from consumer to conception instead of the traditional methods we are used to in production agriculture. What we try to identify are the characteristics in a product or service that the customer will pay a premium for, vs. the norm of what the competition has to offer,” Frobose says.

Once those value characteristics are identified, he says a producer must determine whether he or she can produce that product, and produce it in a sustainable way. He suggests these brainstorming steps:

What's your story? Crafting a marketing story isn’t as easy as it sounds, and you may need to let go of some outdated thinking in order to bring it to life. Doing your homework ahead of time is the key. Obtaining a professionally conducted survey that explores the characteristics of your market will be your initial focus. Let the market you wish to serve create your story.

Do you know who you really are? A farm business that knows who they are and what they can do can go on to deliver their message, knowing well that some people are just not going to buy into what the business has to say. But those that do get it, really get it and are the potential customer.

How will your product or service change your customer? All stories or marketing messages have to do with change. A health-based product provides change from poor health to good health. The customer wants a change. People who are satisfied with the way things exist are not motivated to be customers. If your potential customer isn't motivated to change, and if your product or service can’t deliver it, you're wasting your time and money.

Is your message different? Your product or service must offer something different. Your message to the customer is that you’re a leader, not a follower. Most likely your competition has focused on specific product characteristics and features and ignored the emotional marketing value that greatly influences why people choose one product over another.

Can you tell your story? You must have more than a story to tell or a message to deliver. You must know how to tell it. Your story needs to create a unique identity in the mind of your clientele. Try to position your product or service as a lifestyle choice.

Who is your customer? After conducting your market research, you should have a pretty good idea of who your customer is. Discover what motivates them and design your sales approach to trigger what stimulates them. Your approach must have direction. It must be focused and it must deliver a clear identity of your purpose.

Can you handle criticism? People engaged in production ag trend toward traditionalism. Can you take pressure from your peers who subscribe to "It can't work" thinking? Too often, we lose good ideas because we worry too much about what other people think. Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and separate yourself from the crowd?
-- Dan Frobose beef.osu.edu/