NCSU Vermiculture Conference Notes: Market Development, Strategies and Realities

Speaker: Ron Alexander of Alexander and Associates. Rhonda introduced him as the nation’s top vermiculture industry marketer. Here are some of the key points of his talk:

Keys to marketing in our industry:

    Create a consistent product that you can test and educate your customers about.

    Monitor processes, manage your facility and store your product carefully.

    Differentiate your product — in worm casting market there is still alot of work to do and he sees potential in this market. Worm castings dry nicely. Use existing research for ideas of how to test your particular product.

    To promote: Brand instead of commoditize — brand a line of products or individual product

    Key to promotion — look at what is actually bringing sales leads. For example trade shows are often worthwhile

    Education — working with garden writers, garden clubs and professionals is often key. Also vital to be educated about what you’re selling. In our industry Biocycle magazine is a great value.

    “Verified Vermicompost Benefits” — list will be on NCSU website. Remember with compost, claims are dependent on application rates.

    Sales and distribution — build programs based on more technical knowledge and less talk.

    Positioning product — more general means more failure. Specify how the compost will be applied — as a top dressing? Niche marketing — new ideas to raise value and generate interest.

    Basic strategies — key is that the more you produce the more diversified the market needs to be. Create a stable program where if you lose a certain client it is not a problem.

    Another important goal is to get repeat business

    Product positioning — who and for what specific application and how to diversify from other things on shelf. Dependant on geography and population.

    Market investment — 2-3 years of effort are required to develop a sustainable market. Constantly think about what is working and what is not working.

    Distribution options — with industry professionals or selling to homeowners. It often comes down to logistics. It is often better to sell to smaller users in smaller packages. Be careful about promising exclusivity in distribution.

    One great opportunity is derivative products — a lot of products now have worm castings in them. But then you can’t put the claims that have been approved for castings on the product labeling.

    He discussed regulations for soil amendments vs. fertilizers vs. manipulated manures. He suggested that eventually worm castings will be regulated as fertilizers. This would affect labeling. Note: on a label — less is more!

    Conclusion: look at what the market wants, what it needs, and what you can produce.

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