Marketing is all about satisfying customers’ needs, you must give customers a reason to want or need the products or services you’re offering. Through marketing of your product or service you can: advertise, promote, inform or educate. These can done through processes including marketing analysis and market research.

Market Analysis

Market feasibility can best be determined by securing a professional market analysis that analyzes the sales potential. Defining your trade area through customer and member spotting techniques, analyzing demographic characteristics, assessing the competitive environment, and rating your preferred site against a number of standard criteria are all part of a market/site analysis. The primary outcome of this analysis is to project the sales level that you could achieve. It is important that you find a qualified analyst who not only has experience and an understanding of cooperatives.

Customer and member surveys are also valuable tools in assessing the needs, behavior, and specific demographics of your customers. While a customer survey can complement or enhance a market/site analysis, it does not replace such an analysis.

(Adapted from University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives.)

Market Research

Market research is used to find information concerning markets, target markets, market trends, business competitors, customer satisfaction, etc. This helps businesses learn the steps to creating a value-added product that consumers want by meeting their needs. These methods consist of primary and secondary market research. Primary is first hand information from potential consumers, such as phone surveys, focus groups and individual interviews. Secondary is information that someone else has already gathered, such as articles, government agencies, statistics or trade associations.

Market research also consists of creating a marketing plan for you business.

Online Marketing Challenges for Food Products-Online Curriculum

Do you produce a specialty food product? Do you have fresh produce for sale? Do you attend Farmer’s Markets? Are you interested in expanding your sales to consumers through online marketing?

“Direct Marketing of Specialty Food Products” is designed to provide business owners with strategies and tools to help sell directly to consumers. This online curriculum can be utilized by business owners 24/7 by logging in at The program was made possible through the support of North Dakota State University and University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension, and grants from the Southern Rural Development Center’s National eCommerce Initiative and the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education program.

The self-directed program allows business owners to:

  • Evaluate the role of technology in the business
  • Examine how to weigh the costs and benefits of technology
  • Understand online marketing tools
  • Learn how to build an online presence
  • Understand how online marketing fits into an overall marketing plan

“Food products present a unique challenge in marketing online - you have to capture the touch and smell senses in a unique way,” indicates Jay Jenkins, Nebraska Extension Educator. The program includes video interviews of food entrepreneurs who are using social media tools to market and sell their product online. The program exposes business owners to developing a website, the core of online marketing. It also discusses other social media tools, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. According to Connie Hancock, Nebraska Extension, “The goal is to help the business owners make wise decisions in developing an integrated marketing program that capitalizes on the new social media tools. The online world changes rapidly and we need to be flexible to take advantage of the tools available to us.”

Keeping current is a challenge in today’s busy world, to help small business owners, a weekly newsletter, “Direct Marketing” curates up to date information related to online marketing. The newspaper, represents an online marketing tool and can be found at Jenny Nixon, Nebraska Extension is announcing the “Direct Marketing” newsletter. “This online newsletter comes out weekly and provides an opportunity for the value-added food product community to collaborate.” To be a curator of online marketing information, add the Twitter hashtag #foodpreneur to your tweets.

“Adding value to agricultural products is of great interest to many farmers, and it supports local economic growth and development,” says Glenn Muske, the NDSU Extension Service’s rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist. “Yet the old adage ‘build it and they will come’ regretfully often brings only a few customers to the door. Businesses today must establish a brand, and they must keep that brand in front of the consumer. Direct Marketing of Specialty Food Products Online is designed to help the business owner in that effort.”

For more ideas and assistance on marketing for your small business, contact your local Extension Service office, or go to NDSU’s Small Business Support website or Nebraska Extension Entrepreneurship website at

Owners of Farmstead First, LLC, Krista Dittman and Charuth Loth, discuss the importance and options for marketing a business.