Engaging in rural diversification is set to play an incredibly important role post-Brexit, but it is imperative to first understand your audience before embarking on any costly projects.
Having a passion for the business, promoting your product and being realistic about business goals and budgets are some of the most important things to consider when embarking on a diversification project to generate new profitable income streams.
Savills’ Farm and Business Management Consultant, Michael Mack, came down to this year’s Farm Business Innovation show to give advice to visitors looking to embark on diversification projects.
“Without setting some simple objectives you will find it incredibly difficult to keep up momentum,” explained Mr Mack.
“Farmers often do not run farms as businesses, they run them as family groups. Put yourself in a business mindset, have monthly meetings, with objectives and measurements so you can set new goals for the months ahead.”
In regards to acquiring planning permission, he suggests to involve local residents and the council from the very beginning, and to be prepared to adjust your plans by taking their thoughts in consideration.
When looking at funding your project, it is always worth applying for the EU grants available, particularly the Rural Development Programme.
Anglia Farmers’ Programmes Manager, Dan Cox, recommends LEADER and Growth Programmes as some of the most useful grants for farm diversification projects. “There is a great deal of funding across about 80% of rural England,” said Cox.
“It is fairly easy to access if you are meeting the local and national priorities. But the funding is only around until we leave the EU in March 2019 so realistically you have a year to get your application in [given the likely six-month approval period].”
Once funding for the project is secured, the next step is to make your target audience aware you exist. Business Development Director at Geonet Solutions, Rosie Whelpton, explains that having a website is incredibly important. “One of the biggest things to think about is written content – not only for your users but also for the search engines,” she said.
“Photos, video, and good use of social media are all good ways to engage with your audience – and remember to use Google analytics to measure the impact of what you’re doing.”
Reverberate PR’s Managing Director, Philip Gibson, indicates it is imperative to first understand your audience before wasting your efforts on the wrong market.
“The traditional approach to diversification is to think of an idea, do it, and hope people will come,” he said.
“A better way is understand potential customers, develop an engaging brand, position your messages and live it. A brand is not just a logo – it can shape the way you run your whole business.”
Source: FG Insight