Direct mailings are a great tool for finding new horse-hay customers, says Will Hatcher, Allendale Farm, Cumberland, VA. "We've done radio ads and full-page newspaper ads that didn't seem to work well, but getting that postcard directly into our customer's mailbox has led to a tremendous response," he reports. "If you can send your information directly to the customers, then they will see it."

Allendale Farm sells horse hay to stables within a 50-mile radius of the farm. Hatcher bought mailing lists from sources such as magazines to get the names of stable owners within the target market area. Mailings consist of 4 x 6" postcards sent out approximately every three to four months. "The cards serve as reminders that it's time to buy hay," Hatcher explains. "Our cards are very simple. We merely tell the customer we have hay, we deliver, and it's guaranteed quality." He says small ads in newspapers that serve the target audience can also work well if they run in the right place at the right time.

Allendale Farm sells between 1,000 and 1,500 tons of hay and straw per year. Will and his father, Roger, grow around 200 acres of hay. They also buy large square bales from growers in the Shenandoah Valley, which is within a two-hour drive of their farm, in addition to buying hay from throughout the Mid-Atlantic area. The Hatchers rebale the big bales into small square bales for sale to the stables. "We have found it's more economical to buy the hay by the ton and then sell it by the bale," Will says.

Roger and Will Hatcher will discuss their hay operation and marketing experiences during the Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo, March 13-14 at the KCI Expo Center in Kansas City, MO. Roger will be part of the conference's Innovative Hay Grower Panel, while Will plans to share more marketing tips as part of the Effective Marketing and Promotion Panel. Biotech traits in alfalfa, financial planning, producing organic hay, marketing to horse owners and alfalfa production solutions are among the other scheduled topics. Sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower, the conference will feature a hay-industry-specific trade show, giving growers opportunities to see the latest in forage equipment and technology.

If you haven't registered for the conference, you can still attend. Just come to the conference site and register at the door. To take advantage of the special $100 rate, which saves you $50, call Cindy Kramer at 800-722-5334, ext. 14698, or email her at cindy.kramer@penton.com by March 12. For details on the program, go to www.hayconference.com. To reserve a hotel room at the special $89 rate, call Holiday Inn KCI (816-801-8400), 11728 North Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, MO.