Marketing Your Icelandic Sheep & Their Products on the Internet
Ten years ago my son insisted that I get a website and a domain ("URL"). He felt that my Icelandic sheep and their products were an excellent candidate for this kind of advertising. At that time I did not have a computer, didn’t want one, didn’t know how to use one and didn’t want to learn. He badgered me until I agreed to have a website produced and put on the web. I went kicking and screaming all of the way. But right away I was getting 20% of my business from this website and it grew fast from this beginning. It now it generates about 90% of my business. In reading a survey recently in a sheep magazine, the number one goal of shepherds was to make more money from their sheep. Since commodity buyers will only give you a break-even price for your product, at best, direct marketing is the only way to make a profit from your flock.
1) First of all you need high quality animals and products to sell. Work on this first. If your products are of poor quality or packaged poorly then they will not be attractive to customers. Be sure that you would want to buy the product that you are selling. Never sell a flawed product unless that flaw is fully disclosed to the buyer. ie tender wool will not be a product that a spinner would want but may be excellent for a customer that want to use it to stuff dog beds. Observe the methods and packaging of successful producers and copy these ideas. Nothing sells wool better than clean, vegetative free, well-skirted wool from a healthy sheep.
2) Then bite the bullet and pay a good website developer to create a website for you. Unless creating websites is your business, get help with this as there are a lot to know not only about the creation of a website but having the right key words that the search engines use to catalog and find your products. Submitting your website to the right search engines and getting it positioned so it comes up in the first 10 choices in a search is the most important thing and needs to be done by an expert. This will cost a lot but is worth every penny as the website will be your cheapest advertising and is working for you 24/7. Make sure that your website is easy to use. Look at the sites of others and copy the format of the one that you like. Start with a small site and expand as your business does. You may be able to barter for this work (ie lamb, yarn or knitted products)
3) Make your website informative as well as a showcase for your products. Education and support to your customers will help to sell your products. Many of your customers questions can be answered in a “frequently asked questions” section of your website.
4) Get website software like Adobe Dreamweaver and have the website developer teach you how to update your site using this program.
5) Keep your website updated. Up to date info will bring back customers, avoid confusion and let customers know that you are on the ball with your business.
6) Learn how to take good photos of your sheep and products. A good digital camera with a telephoto lens is essential, as it doesn’t distort your sheep’s image. Good Photos sell your products. A digital camera will allow you to take a photo of a sheep or product quickly for a customer.
7) Answer customers within 24 hours. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than to not receive an answer or return call. I have gotten more business from frustrated customers that told me that they had called many different breeders and no one ever answered or called them back.
8) Put your guarantee online for your sheep and products. This is professional and avoids confusion.
9) Try and get a website domain that suggests what you are selling (for example, www.icelandicsheep.com).
10) Offer not only your farm products but information on other businesses and attractions in your region on your website. This will help your community and bring more visitors to your area if they can have a wider variety of experiences on their trip.
11) Use excellent business practices and be professional in your dealings with your customers. If you run into difficult situations ask for creative and fair solutions from older more experienced breeders.
12) Offer continuing help to your customers and be available for that support. This is very important.
13) Put small ads in sheep and fiber magazines that lead folks to your website. Your website URL on your truck and trailer will lead folks to your site.
14) Listen to your customers for new ideas and feedback to improve your products and offer new ones.
15) Link to the suppliers and businesses that support your business like Premier sheep and fencing supplies, wool mills, tanners, fiber fests and breed associations. Without them you would not be able to stay in business. We need to be supportive of each other so all of us can thrive.