Don’t try to tell Kentucky hay grower Clayton Geralds that building an advertising/marketing program around word of mouth is an outdated concept. He knows better.

In recent years, Geralds, of Munfordville, has sold around 75,000 small square bales of alfalfa, alfalfa-grass and timothy hay annually to horse owners in Kentucky, Atlanta and Ocala, FL. He doesn’t have a Web site, utilize Facebook and Twitter or even run many traditional print ads in magazines and newspapers. Last year, sales were so good he had to buy 3,500 bales from other growers to fill orders.

Producing a quality hay product is at the cornerstone of his marketing program. He strives to put up “good, green, soft hay” that will test 160 RFV or better. “A good friend of mine hit it on the head,” says Geralds. “He told me that, if your customers are buying from you because you produce quality, they will buy from you year after year. On the other hand, if they’re buying from you because your hay is the cheapest, they’ll be out there shopping year after year.”

Accurately representing his product to customers is another key. “Neighbors talk to one another,” he says. “When we tell someone we’re going to ship them a certain kind of hay, we make sure that every bale going on the trailer looks like it’s supposed to look.”

In addition, he backs up all sales with an unconditional guarantee. “If someone isn’t happy with a bale, we exchange it bale for bale, even if we think there isn’t anything wrong with that bale. It’s all about keeping that customer satisfied.”

The goal is to keep customers coming back year after year. Geralds figures about 95% of the hay he sells goes to the same people every year. Some customers have been with him for more than 15 years. “Dealing with repeat customers is more efficient,” he says. “If I had to spend time going out and calling on new customers every year, I’d have less time for making quality hay.”

He’ll be among the speakers at this year’s National Hay Association Convention, scheduled for Sept. 1-4 at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa in Lexington, KY. Learn more about NHA.

To contact Geralds, call 270-531-2275 or email cgeralds@hotmail.com.