For a young cattle producer starting out in the purebred industry, it can be hard to successfully market a small set of quality bulls. In spite of such a circumstance, Matt Stucky, a Kansas Hereford breeder, has found a market for his yearling bulls each year—through his computer screen.
"As a new person in the industry, I was looking for ways to create a platform for buyers to find me. We used solely print advertising for a while—that worked when we were selling only a few bulls. Then we had a few left over, and we weren’t getting a lot of referrals," Stucky says. He knew that he would likely be in the "new-buyer platform" category for at least the first few years and would need to find ways to broaden his market opportunities and build a reputation in the industry. Online market options grow. To find new outlets, he searched the Internet for "Hereford bull classifieds." He tried several sites, some of which were free and some of which required payment. Based on the visitors who came to the farm or called about the listings, Stucky quickly found out which avenues were best for his business.
"Beyond referrals, we sell about 50% of our bulls from print advertising and 50% from online advertising. One of those sites was Cattle-Exchange.com," he says. Of the 15 bulls that Stucky sold last year, a few were sold locally, a few were sold to repeat customers and four were sold through listings on Cattle-Exchange.com. The buyers were in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri.
"It has given us an ability to reach a larger audience," Stucky says. "The larger, higher-quality bull buyers have come from Internet sources. "I think the key to online advertising is providing just enough information to get people to call you," he adds. "You always want to be trustworthy and accurate in what you say, but sometimes a long description can be taken the wrong way. Give people just enough information and good photos so they will click on your website or give you a call."
To ensure that his customers are completely satisfied with their bull purchase, Stucky asks them specific questions about their production practices.
"Selling bulls is about giving people the most for their dollar," he says. So, along with semen checking and carcass testing, Stucky finds out what a potential customer’s vaccination programs are, so the bulls can be dropped right into a pasture if needed. While this may cost an extra $30 to $40 per bull, plus gas to deliver the animal, customer satisfaction is key to his reputation.
Stucky is doing a larger percentage of his advertising online to expand his reach and potential for sales. But there are factors that are simply hard to write down in a description box on a website and that need to be answered verbally. "You want to put things in your description that make the customer want to call you, and then you can describe some points better," he says.
"Typically, they want to know how big the bulls are, fleshing condition, what they’ve been fed and how much, vaccination programs, semen tests and if you will guarantee the bulls. When people are buying cattle, they want to have as much faith in you as possible. You have one chance to get that across to them."
Visual appeal. One of the most important parts of online sales is uploading good-quality photos. "The better the picture, the better the interest and the better likelihood of getting calls," Stucky says.
A new and now less cost-inhibiting option is to add video of animals to online profiles . "It gives the customer the ability to watch that bull walk out, because a photo may be off just a bit on the animal’s composition," Stucky says. "A video of the bull might it do more for the animal than a single picture."
Frank Loschke, manager of Cattle-Exchange.com, agrees. "We know the listings that publish photos have a higher view rate. The more views, the more likely those cattle will get sold. We’re excited to see so many producers find new markets through this site, and to watch it grow to serve cattlemen across the country."
"As a new guy, I knew I couldn’t wait around for people to come to me," Stucky says. "I wanted to be successful, so I tried to develop ways to put myself and my cattle out there as economically as possible.
"The days of people insisting on coming to the farm and looking through your cattle are dissipating. I think the future of the cattle business is in online advertising, guaranteeing satisfaction in those cattle without people having to see them, making sure your cattle are the right type and look so you drop them off to happy customers. Then standing behind those bulls once they get there."
- October 2012