By Terri Miller, Snoeshoe Farm Alpacas
Fall is a busy time of year for those of us who are in the alpaca business. It seems there are more events than there are weekends. The Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, The Big E, and National Alpaca Farm Days are over and the NE Coastal Classic, Empire Alpaca Extravaganza and Green Mountain Alpaca Fall Spectacular are following right behind. With high gas prices, as well as entry fees and costs for travel papers, many people are being selective about which events they attend and are not trying to do them all. For many breeders, shows are as much about marketing as they are about competition and education, and it can be difficult to make the decision to skip a show.
In this uncertain economy, many people are trying to find ways to continue to run their lives and their businesses on tighter budgets. In the alpaca business, it is not easy to cut back on costs for feed or veterinary care, so the marketing budget is often the first to feel the pinch. But there are ways to continue to market your farm and spend less money.
The first thing to consider is whether you can afford to spend time instead of money. Volunteering at shows or other events is a great way to meet fellow breeders and gain a reputation for being knowledgeable and reliable. Isn't that the kind of person you'd like to do business with? Hosting tours, educational workshops, or other events at your farm can be another way to get both prospective alpaca owners, and established breeders to your farm. If you are into the fiber side of things, offering workshops, knit or spin-ins, or fiber product sales can bring in new retail customers.
The internet offers us many low and no-cost ways to market and advertise. E-mail advertising can be much less expensive than print advertising. There are many online business directories, some alpaca-related and some not, that offer free listings for your business. Participating in alpaca or fiber-related online forums can be a great way to gain exposure. And one of the best and least expensive things you can do is have a website and/or blog for your business. If you can do the design work yourself or can find an affordable designer, you have 24/7 marketing for very little cost.
So don't think that tightening up your budget means no marketing. Be creative with your dollars and your time and make your farm and your alpacas stand out from the crowd.