My last blog post, Social Media in Action Part One: How a Farm Cultivates Fans on Facebook, looked at one significant aspect of Great Country Farms’ (GCF) successful inbound marketing program. With the help of public relations, social media, and event planning expert Christine Geno of Geno Communications, GCF grew their Facebook fan page 580% in 8 ½ months—and for 4 ½ of those months, they were closed (not much going on at a farm in northern Virginia during the winter months).
Just to recap quickly: GCF is a 200 acre working farm owned by the Zurschmeide family nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in small, historic, rural, and beautiful Bluemont, VA. They are part of the thriving tourism industry in Loudoun County, VA that is heavily promoted in and around the metro Washington, DC area and the Mid-Atlantic region. Though they have gotten promotional help from Loudoun County’s very active tourism board, the Zurschmeides have done a great deal of work themselves to promote their farm.
So what is GCF and why do they attract so many fans? Their tagline “Buy Local. Play Local. Eat Local.” pretty much describes what they are. GCF offers organic farm shares from May through October (list is full for 2010, but you can get on a wait list for 2011); rents their facilities for special events, and provides a fun farm experience for us city-folk, including picking produce, climbing and playing on old tractor and farming equipment, going on hayrides, shopping at their farm market/store, and petting and feeding farm animals.
In addition to cultivating a robust, active, and enthusiastic fan base on Facebook, GCF and Chris Geno (her company’s website is under construction) are successfully using several platforms to drive their inbound marketing strategy.
- Twitter. Kate Zurschmeide tweets what GCF is currently planting and picking, and, as mentioned in the first post, their Twitter account is linked to their Facebook account, so all GCF Facebook posts are also tweeted. Chris Geno then retweets via her own Twitter account, and her tweets are also often retweeted by others, including the local tourism board. Chris has a large media following on Twitter and has strategically positioned her Twitter account to follow media, event planners, moms groups, etc.
- Newsletter. Members of their CSA and Fans of the Farm (aka, season pass holders—yes, there is a daily admission to the farm) receive a monthly newsletter that includes special events and promotions, recipes, farm news, produce information, and more.
- Theme weeks. To boost attendance during the week, GCF decided to get creative and
“theme” each week they are open. “Future Farmers”, “Dirt Dirt Dirt!”, “Flower Power”, Berrylicious”, and “Cowabunga” are a handful of examples.
- Auction items. GCF sometimes donates gift certificates for birthday parties to local auctions/benefits for worthy causes.
- Military perks. Entrance fees are waived for anyone with a military ID, which Chris advertises on the USO’s and various moms group Facebook pages.
- Bumper stickers. Lots of cars sport black and white oval “GCF” bumper stickers in northern Virginia. Cheap, mobile advertising! Can’t beat it.
- Cross promotions. Directly across from the entrance driveway to GCF is a driveway leading to Bluemont Vineyard, which is co-owned by the Zurschmeides. Both the winery and farm cross promote each other. This is a unique situation, of course, but one they fully take advantage of. As a result, the winery is kid- and dog-friendly and full of picnicking families during weekend afternoons.
- Festivals. Who doesn’t love a festival? Starting with the Marshmallow Harvest and Egg Hunt in March and ending with the Pumpkin Chunkin Weekend in November, they are holding a total of 14 festivals this season.
- Other online channels: Chris uses LinkedIn to promote events at GCF and videos of the farm are listed on YouTube
- Advertising. GCF has moved away from traditional advertising (in local newspapers), and instead utilizes their own website, listings on tourism websites, and word-of-mouth advertising to promote the farm.
Because of their extensive marketing efforts, GCF is a known entity in northern Virginia. They have gotten a lot of coverage in the news media, on local blogs and television stations, their parking lot is packed on nice weekends from spring through fall, and rental demand for weddings, birthday parties, corporate retreats, and group events has taken off. Not bad for a family farm, huh?
All photos courtesy of Great Country Farms.Google+