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What’s stopping you from building a lucrative customer base?

For the past few months I’ve been covering some great marketing tactics for your farm – how to blog for profit, why you need to build an email list to get more customers customers, and how to make your website work better for you.

Now I’d like to bring it all back home and refocus on the very foundation of a growing business – your mindset.

farming, csa, raw milk, sustainable, start a farm, grassfed, pasture rotation, intense rotational grazing, how to farm, hobby farmer, homesteading, joel salatin, polyface, women who farm, charlotte smith

80% of growing your customer base is mindset and only 20% is the tactics or how-to.

You could have the best website design, a huge email list, and all sorts of fancy software but if you’re coming at marketing with the wrong mindset, none of these tactics will work for you – you’ll be swimming really hard to get upstream and not making it very far at all!!

And seriously – I hear you!!! You’re overworked and too busy to do the stuff I teach here at 3CM even though you know it’s important. Maybe you lack confidence or maybe you’re not sure where to start. I want to encourage you, though, that you can do it.

An engaged list of customers who trust you and are loyal and will pay your prices would be a total dream come true!! And you can be successful at this – once you get a little mindset shift.

How do you know if you need a mindset adjustment?

Well, do you wonder where your next customers will come from, or how enough customers will find you to keep you in business? Every single day I hear from farmers all around the country that they need more customers to find them and they’re stressed it doesn’t happen.

The problem with this mindset is you’re looking for people to ‘become’ your customers. You’re thinking they need to find you. You’re putting the responsibility on them.

Instead, you have to nurture and love the customers you currently have –  even if you’re brand new, and even if it’s just 1 person.  I’m telling you – you’ll start to see a shift where and your customer base starts growing by word of mouth.

People come to you for YOU, not for what you sell.

People don’t come back to you for your products. They can find perfectly good substitutes elsewhere or do without what you sell. People come to you for YOU.

Give yourself to your customers – and I don’t mean take them out to coffee and buy them presents – I mean make these customers feel like they matter to you.

Shower them with appreciation, ask them what you can do to help them, give them recipes or informational articles. Share pictures of the newest baby on the farm, or teach them a new skill.

Your customers will love you and recommend you to all of their friends – they wouldn’t dream of going to another farmer because you make them feel so welcome and appreciated.

Now, let’s work on your mindset.

I’ve got just a few questions here that I hope you’ll spend time answering to yourself. When you do, you’ll shift from feeling frustrated and stressed to optimistic and eager motivation.

Download the worksheet so you can write your answers, or just follow along here.


What’s standing in the way of you building an email list?

Question # 1: What are you doing right now that’s more important than building an engaged customer base?

Seriously, grab a pen and write it down!!

Ok, while you’re thinking, I’ll go first.

Early on I thought all these things were more important than working on relationships with customers: milking cows, picking up feed, moving animals, driving to the butcher… not to mention picking up kids, going to school activities… I had hundreds of things standing in the way in my mindset!!

So what are your obstacles? What stops you from giving value to your customers? And then, how can you find time to work on building that engaged customer base?

My technique for overcoming these obstacles – what’s yours?

Of course, every farm is different, but I try to get all of farm work done in the morning.  Then have lunch and work on my marketing for a couple hours until I pick up kids from school.

I’ll sit at my desk and actively create things to build relationship with my current customers because I know focusing on them (instead of outside ads or events) will grow my customer base.

Every day is different, but I’ll create video how-to’s, find recipes so my customers know how to use my products, write follow-up emails thanking customers for purchasing from me, write emails asking “how can I serve you better?”, or phone calls walking through a problem my customer may have (like making butter or yogurt). I give to my customers any way I can.

It wasn’t so in the past. I’d always find things to do that I thought were more urgent than nurturing my customer base. After all – the cows had to be milked! The pigs had to be hauled to the butcher!! Right?? Yes, but that will not sustain my farm long-term- had I not shifted my mindset to prioritize nurturing that customer base I’d not be in business today.

When can you dedicate time to give to your customers?

Maybe for you it’s a Sunday afternoon when everything’s quiet in your biz and home and you can spend a few hours connecting, reaching out, writing, scheduling, and marketing. Maybe it’s evening after everyone’s asleep or early AM… you’ll figure out a rhythm when you finally decide to commit.

Question #2: What shortcuts are you taking (you may not even realize it’s a shortcut) that are actually derailing your efforts to focus on relationship building with your customers?

I used to say yes to all kinds of interviews and radio shows and commercials and requests for farm tours or events from people I thought would be good connections. So I had little time to focus on relationship building with my current customers, which is the key to growing.

These interviews were feeding my ego for sure but not building any sort of foundation of paying customers for me. People calling wanting to interview me??? Surely that would result in hundreds (or even 10!) new customers! Not. Don’t succumb.

Farming is very popular and trendy right now so you’ll get all sorts of tempting offers from people. Know that very few interviews or tours for fancy people actually end up as money to pay the bills.

As tempting as it is, you and I both need to work on putting our egos aside and focus on building deeper connections with those we already serve.

I don’t randomly do interviews now – only if they are in service to my customer and will help pay the bills.

Saying yes to talks or interviews may make me feel special for about a minute – but is not serving my current customers which in turns bring more customers and ultimately feeds my family. If we let them, our egos will suck the life out of us!!

Question #3: What excuses are creeping in and taking you away from building trust and loyalty with those customers you already have?

Take just a moment to really think – what’s stopping you today from spending time writing that perfect engaging email, sending your customer base a great informative or inspirational article, or reaching out to a current customer and asking them how you can better serve them – what’s standing in your way of this?

Do you think it’s your day job, or working out on the farm, lack of confidence, or re-designing your layout on your website?

I can tell you from experience, and know the truth is, building a great customer base that’s loyal and engaged by focusing on your current customers will eliminate the need to do the other busywork.

You will instead find more opportunities to make money show up in front of you when you focus on your customers, no matter if it’s 1, 5, 10, 100 or hundreds of people.

Feelin’ the shift

Alrighty then – did you feel that? That slight shift in how you approach marketing? I hope so!!

I hope you’re feelin’ it, cuz I am! After all this it makes me want to reach out to my current customers even more to let them know I’m here to serve them, find out how to serve them better, and then invite them to share the love!

Please – write me back and tell me how this helped you. What shift did you feel? What will you do differently?

Put it in the comments below so we call can be inspired! I’m telling you, you’re more like all the others in this 3 Cow Marketing community then you think. We all have the same struggles and your small success just might be the inspiration another needs to try showing up differently with their marketing.

And if you found value in this please forward on to your friend who needs it most! You’ll be practicing the art of giving that is crucial to your business.

Love and hugs,


PS I’ve got another super training coming up in a few weeks. The pre-requisite for that training that will help grow your customer base by leaps and bounds is our FREE email course right here.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Stacy June 22, 2016, 10:28 pm

    I have been farming for 28 years, the last 11 years being full time. Farming is my sole income- it pays, or does not pay as the case may be, for everything- mortgage, vehicles, emergencies, daily operating expenses etc. I have lived an extremely frugal life so that I could farm but I am so tired of struggling for every penny and wondering where the next one will come from. I have more customers then I can grow for, that is not the problem. The problem is I cannot begin to charge enough to make a profit margin that will provide a living wage. My prices are as high and in many cases higher then other farms in the area. I am competing with farms who have sprung up as tax write offs for wealthy Realtors and bankers in the area who are charging as much as $2 less a pound for their meat. I have lost all of my restaurants to these “hobby” farmers. The Chefs apologize, but the owners are going to go with the cheaper meat at that big a price difference. I am considering closing up shop. Every day is just more and more depressing.

    • Charlotte June 27, 2016, 2:33 pm

      Hi Stacy, I waited a few days contemplating my response to you.

      At first I the compassionate woman in me wanted to say I’m so sorry you have to live like this, how unfair that this has and is happening to you, and that you’re not alone, so many farmers are in the same boat.

      But that would not be fair to you at all – that would reinforce that you’re the victim of something you have no control over and it would not offer you any hope, just confirmation that you need to consider closing up shop.

      Instead, I really want to encourage you to read my posts about mindset. This one in particular, and I have several others. When I see farmers who just can’t succeed it always comes back to their mindset, exactly what I talk about in this post. I really want you to be successful, and know you can!!

      I have several blog posts about building deep relationships with your customers and then they trust you and support you in charging whatever price you need to be sustainable. No matter where you live. When you have deep relationships with them – either retail or restaurants – they are unlikely to leave for a $2 price difference. When your customers feel like they “matter” to you (and you’re in control of making them feel this way) they won’t leave and they’ll support your pricing.

      There are ‘trust-fund babies’ in every industry, and certainly farming, like you mentioned. They are in most communities where someone is farming. I’m surrounded by them. But I and friends who farm also and also practice relationship centered marketing are thriving even though there are people around us undercutting us, and this is across the U.S., not just my state.

      There is a ‘tribe’ out there for you. Your ideal customers are all around you, ready to pay what you need to be sustainable. But it starts with you and your mindset, then use relationship building techniques and you can be successful.

      I am working really hard here to not offend you or come across as “it’s so easy,” because it’s not easy at all. But it is productive. It works. I have success stories – listen to the interview I have of Shawna Barr and I’ll have another coming up. If you apply everything I talk about here you can turn your business around.

      I really, truly want the best for you. Be encouraged. Be open to growth and change. When you are, then your business will grow and change and thrive. And it starts with changing your mind, which sounds so easy but I know is not. Yet, that’s the key to gaining back your customers and having a profitable farm.

      I wish you all the best!


  • Garoleen Wilson October 1, 2017, 6:59 am

    Is the email list paramount? Where does social media fit contact with emails ?
    I personally get bogged down by a full email box.
    I did attend a marketing seminar by a rep for Consant Contact that stated a 30% open rate was very good. My previous small business I had a website, email list for a monthly newsletter and Facebook page. Dealing with bouncing emails was very frustrating. Maybe it was just my website software that wasn’t user friendly.
    I really did enjoy your interview on Pastured poultry talk.

    • Charlotte October 3, 2017, 9:23 am

      Hi Garoleen, thank’s somuch for your comment and glad you liked the podcast episode!

      Social media is definitely part of a great marketing plan! But it’s important to remember it’s not “a marketing plan.” A solid marketing plan, that I not only teach but I see works for my students as well as my own farm, is made up of an email list, a basic, simple, clear website with a nice “gift” to warrant them giving you their email, and then consistent communication from you year ’round of communication they’ve told you they want to hear from you.

      So kind of like a 3-legged stool, these 3 things make up the solid marketing plan. Then you can take that content you’ve delivered by email & also post on social media. But only 6% on average of followers on social will see it. Whereas many more will see the email. So to build a business on social media without the foundation of the email marketing plan will take years and years and you’ll be out of business before it pays off.

      Thanks again!


  • Teddi October 1, 2017, 4:58 pm

    “People come to you for YOU, not for what you sell.” That quote really impacted me. It is so true, but how to put that truth into action? This week, we had customers coming to our farm store to pick up their fresh chickens.

    There would only be a few customers. I knew my husband could handle greeting them and getting their chickens by himself, but when I started thinking about our customers coming because of us, I chose to become available at pickup time and be at the store *with* my husband. He didn’t need me, but he did ;). We greeted them together and chatted with them together.

    One lady drives over 100 miles each way to get our birds. She asked about *next* year and even further out. She sees that our kids are growing up and was wanting to be sure we were still going to be around. We joked about farming until we die. We only see this gal twice a year, but she might be pretty close to my dream customer. It was great that she was talking about the future.

    I was so glad that I had made the time to be present for our customers. To build that relationship. It wasn’t convenient and I was tired from having butchered chickens the day before, but both of us being there added glue to the relationship with these customers. That was the shift.

  • Penelope November 30, 2017, 10:32 am

    We take our lifestyle for granted. One of our bigger money earners is giving farm tours of our 6 acre farm. It is the gift of our time passion and the way we are that gets us 5 star ratings. We didn’t really see this prior to taking Charlotte’s course but it’s the giving to customers that makes you stand out. Unfortunately most customers dont come back but they do recommend us. We can’t sell meat, (legal issues) so we still struggle to get customers of a regular kind but we’re working on it

  • Arlene June 13, 2019, 10:09 am

    Hi Charlotte!

    Thanks for the reminder! Your emails are always so timely!! I am going out to do that video to invite everyone to our monthly tour! Thanks for the motivation… because after all I’ve got literally millions of other things I could do… but wouldn’t be as profitable…

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