Just two years into the hay business, Russell and Valerie Knapp are taking a multi-faceted, low-investment approach to marketing. They want to determine what will or won’t sell their small square bales to local horse owners.

The Knapps started off slowly, posting a hay-for-sale sign in front of their Edwardsburg, MI, property. They have been putting up alfalfa-timothy-orchardgrass-clover hay on 15 acres on shares with a neighboring farmer.

Next, they made up brochures featuring tear-off tabs carrying their contact information. Those are posted on bulletin boards at a variety of outlets – feed stores, restaurants, churches – in their area. “We’ll put them anyplace there might be people looking for hay,” says Russell Knapp.

To expand their reach this year, the couple, whose hay profits supplement retirement income, turned to the Internet. They placed an ad on Craigslist, then branched out with postings on the Internet Hay Exchange and Michigan State University’s Hay Directory.

The approaches have worked out well; they’ve been sold out of inventory by the end of August each year.

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Although their roadway sign and bulletin board announcements have produced the most sales so far, the Knapps aren’t ready to give up on the Internet. “Except for a little time, we don’t have anything invested in it,” he explains. “So why wouldn’t we continue? It all comes down to getting your name out there.”

Word-of-mouth advertising is the final piece of the Knapps’ marketing strategy. “We want to develop a reputation for putting up quality hay. Horse owners spend a lot of time talking to one another other about where they get their hay. If you can get one person to say, ‘I buy my hay from this person, and it’s pretty good stuff,’ it can be worth an awful lot. As your hay gets better and the word gets out, you’ll eventually get more business and command a better price.”

To contact the Knapps, call 269-663-2950 or email redhousemarket@comcast.net.

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