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What I learned at NAFDMA 2020 – Part 1 of 3

Bus two at the angle tree on the NAFDMA BUs Tour 2020 in Charleston, SC.

Lessons from NAFDMA, the International Association for Agritourism convention in three parts.

  1. Your marketing image is entrapping you
  2. Wine, beer & food veto the “Parent Veto”
  3. Menus, food costs & quality drive profitability

I never miss this convention, OK I missed ONE, but it was due to the birth of my daughter back in 2002. The reason is that this gathering of movers and shakers is the place to get inspired, find new ideas, and, lately, the place for critical tweaks to an ever-changing experience economy.

Part 1 – Your marketing image is entrapping you. 

Randy White’s presentation on Mega-Trends offered a look from 30,000ft into the trends driving leisure time and spending. (I was in the Sunflower Panel discussion, but got to listen through my NAFDMA member benefits page later. Did you know you could do that?)

As a marketing-focused person, the first point he makes that hit me was that your marketing image, and the images you use in marketing, might be entrapping you to a shrinking market. 

We all know that families with kids, mainly focusing on the moms, are a prime demographic for Fall Harvest events. Randy’s point is that that market is, at best, not growing, by some predictions, it is shrinking as a demographic.

This focus on the shrinking ‘mom demographic’ means that as an agritourism industry, we are going to be pouring more money into attracting a bigger slice of a shrinking pie if we continue to focus exclusively on families with kids as our only market. 

Your image could be holding back growth available in another marketing segment. Take an inventory of your website, Instagram, brochures, radio ads, and other media and see what images you have been choosing. 

Are you showing little kids in every shot? Tots on slides? Moms eating packed lunches with kids at picnic tables?

If you are, Randy suggests that you are sending a clear message that adult leisure visitors might not be welcome or at least might not have much to do at your business.

That’s the kiss of death. If your image says, “Nothing for your demographic here,” then likely you have closed your access to those potential visitors. 

The Fix

Randy has some suggestions, and I’ll add a few as well based on our past marketing history.

Change up your marketing images.

Purposely feature guests from all ethnicities, age groups, and backgrounds in your marketing. This task can be as simple as digging through your photos to find pictures of different people.

 My buddy Amir once said, “The people are all purple, and the money’s all green.” Feature African, Jewish, heavily tattooed, gay, straight, Hispanic, and EVERYBODY ELSE! 

Who cares? Be the most welcoming place, and you’ll likely welcome the most people. (P.S. Please don’t claim “religious beliefs” prevent you from welcoming certain people to your business. At least in my religion, we’re to welcome everyone, then love and care for each person as if they were a brother or sister.)

Consider how adults will interact with your next attraction.

Our indoor playground is for kids. Our corn box is for kids. Our next big attraction is for EVERYONE.

We are installing the Super Mega Ride-N-Slide, a first in the agritourism space, and it is for everyone. We’d recommend that any new attractions, particularly capital projects, be not only usable by adults & kids, but FUN for adults and kids. We are going to charge extra for this attraction, so it must be available to the broadest swath of visitors possible – not just kids. (You can find out more about the Super Mega Ride-N-Slide attraction – CLICK HERE.)

Shift marketing resources.

We discovered quite by accident years ago that a Hispanic Church group drove our biggest pick-your-own days in the apple orchard. It was always a mystery until 40 to 50 cars plus two church vans would start streaming into the farm market parking lot. 

After being completely overrun two years in a row, we realized that we needed to shift some resources. We connected with the pastor who organized the trips, and now they call ahead to let us know the church’s arrival dates so we can prepare. 

Look around at your attendance. Review some video footage. Sift through some previous season pictures and find the demographic groups who are already visiting your business, then target them specifically. 

If you have a sizeable Jewish population close by, plan special hours for Sukkot. If you see African-American attendance increasing, Plan social marketing campaigns specifically to welcome more. If immigrant Russians are picking large quantities of berries, consider hiring a translator to make your advertising relevant. If you see Millienial-aged women snapping pictures in your sunflower field but no children in sight, use images of ‘girl day out’ in your marketing.

With the tools at your disposal, targeting specific groups is easier than ever. Maybe the growth in attendance you need will come from a group of people who just need a little encouragement from your marketing, from your images, to feel at home visiting your business.

More soon in Part 2.

Have a great week,


PS Posting to your feeds every single day is a HUGE headache! Get our Agritourism Social Content Calendar, import it into your phone, and you’ll get reminders with ideas to post every single day for a YEAR! The NAFDMA special runs through March 1, 2020. CLICK HERE

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