Marketing plan key to successful business

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

Marketing has a direct impact on your overall business success.
Changing buyer demands, local and global competition, and other market forces have resulted in the business of agriculture moving from being focused on production to being market-driven.
A marketing plan develops strategies for marketing your cattle. It challenges you to identify costs, develop price goals, consider production and price risks, and to review price and market outlooks.
Like a road map, it provides the details, responsibilities, and actions for marketing your cattle. This helps to minimize the guesswork and emotion when making key marketing decisions.
Market planning is a continuous task that needs to be flexible to accommodate changing market and production conditions.
A marketing plan is a farm business management tool to assist in facilitating the successful marketing of your production.
Here are the first three of seven essential elements of a marketing plan, provided by John Bancroft, Market Strategies Program lead at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA):
•Know your cattle and business
Very simply, this is tying together your production and financial situation to achieve your farm business goals. It means fitting your production plans into your cash flow to ensure financial commitments are covered in a timely fashion.
Consideration should be given to risk management tools (i.e., production practices, diversification, and insurance) that can be used to manage production risk.
Review your current financial situation and business goals to ensure your marketing plan is in line with your overall business plan. The financial health of the business provides an indication of the amount of risk the operation can bear.
Individual attitudes towards accepting and managing risk will vary. Focusing on relatively simple strategies to increase income and reduce risk could be a place to start.
A simple marketing goal could be to cover the cost of production, plus a reasonable return, as opposed to simply trying to maximize the price received.
•Cost of production
To effectively market your product, you need to know your cost of production. A budget will determine the volume to be produced, the costs involved, and establish a production flow.
One suggestion is to break out the costs into variable, and fixed costs, which will be useful when establishing price targets.
•Market information
Remember this: good market information gives the producer marketing power! Market information includes market prices, fundamentals, analysis, outlook, and strategies. 
Understanding the market fundamentals helps to make informed marketing decisions to capitalize on market pricing opportunities.
The ultimate challenge is to have a future market perspective that takes into consideration the current market conditions, the seasonal trends, and the historical market information.
To develop your outlook, there are numerous sources of market information available. These include advisors, newsletters, bulletins, websites, e-mails, seminars, and courses.
It is critical to choose reliable information resources to provide the type of market information your business needs. Market conditions change—and a marketing plan needs to be responsive.
Dates to remember
Jan. 20–Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting, 7 p.m., Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton; and
Jan. 27–Grower pesticide safety course, Stratton (call 1-800-652-8573 to register).

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