Niche Marketing Alpacas
Niche marketing your animals is a great way to distinguish your farm.
Don't assume that alpaca breeders of 10 or so years, those who got in on the ground floor, have
sewn up the market, leaving no room for newcomers. With a little creative energy and some analysis
of the alpaca market in your area, you can create a
successful niche in even the toughest of markets. Specialization and excellent customer service are the keys!
Do Your Own Market Research
As with launching any product or service, you must first perform some market research. Begin by checking out
your local competition by actually visiting those ranches. What types of animals are they selling and
on what terms? What services and guarantees do they provide? Please don't confuse this research with
trying to out-compete the competition. Rather, you are looking to provide something that buyers want
and can't get anywhere else. Do prospective buyers have some unmet needs? If so, perhaps there is
an opportunity for you to fill those needs.
How close are your competing ranches? If you have not yet bought your ranch property, then don't buy
property that is within 30 miles of another alpaca ranch. However if you already own property and
discover that a large-herd breeder is close by, don't get discouraged. By creating your own market
niche, you can successfully compete with anyone. It will be as though you had a cute dress boutique right next to
Neiman Marcus. You'll get lots of foot traffic just by being in close proximity to a large-gerd breeder.
But no matter who your neighboring ranchers are, make them into friends. You will need to help each other
out from time-to-time. And never-ever say anything negative about your competition! The alpaca breeder
community is very small, and you don't want to get a reputation for bad-mouthing your competition.
Large Versus Small Herd Benefits
When you select an aspect of alpaca ranching to focus on, look for something that provides a benefit
to buyers. Large alpaca ranches can use size to build a niche. If you search the net, you'll probably
find several ranches claiming to have the largest herd. A big herd enables you to you offer a wide choice
available to the buyer, as in "choose from over fifty females" and "20 outstanding herdsires available."
In addition, large ranches have the ability to specialize in several areas, such as suris and huacayas,
blacks and grays, whites and all colors simultaneously.
However if you are a small rancher, don't be discouraged. Small size confers some benefits,
so focus on what you can offer. For example, if you have only two alpacas you can easily spend
quality time working with each of them daily. This is hard to do with two hundred alpacas! As a
result, perhaps your alpacas are friendlier, better socialized, or better trained, and your niche
is that you have the "friendliest" alpacas around. Moreover, as a small breeder, you can spend quality
time with agisted animals for your clients, get them halter trained, and even train them for obstacle
and performance competition.
Offering Excellent Customer Service
Another way can succeed is through exceptional customer service. Alpacas are a high-ticket sale, and
people spending big bucks for alpacas expect good service. For example, you can provide extra
service for your buyers, such as health care visits to help them clip toenails and do vaccinations
on the animals you have sold. Then your niche is "full support after the sale". Lots of businesses
everywhere claim to have great customer service, but few actually go the extra mile to provide it.
Identifying Unique Advantages
You can also create a niche that has nothing at all to do with the size of your ranch. For example,
you can raise the only suris in the region. Or you can specialize in one of the rarer fleece colors,
such as true black, rose gray, mahogany, etc. If everyone else has "entry level" alpacas, maybe you
offer show quality. You can emphasize low micron count - "all our animals are under 22 microns",
for example. Again, the goal is to stand out from your competitors in a positive way.
A further strategy for creating your niche is to focus on alpaca-related products and services
rather than on the alpacas themselves. If you have a talent that is useful to alpaca breeders,
make it the focus of your program. Examples include spinning, weaving, shearing, hauling,
agisting, or training alpacas. Attract customers to your ranch by offering educational classes or
providing hard-to-get alpaca products for sale. Many breeders have a fiber farm store and sell alpaca
products at craft fairs, both of which activities may engender interest in the animals and can lead to
Key Marketing Tools
The most important marketing tool is a Web site. Most prospective buyers do lots of research on the Web.
And if you don't have a Web site, how will they know you exist? You'll also need to publicize your Web
site by joining a regional Alpaca Affiliate Club and getting listed on the Affiliate's Web site.
The AOBA and AlpacaNation Web sites are also good to join and get listed on.
You'll need to always carry some business cards, and perhaps have a simple 3-fold brochure to
give to prospective buyers.
This page was last updated on June 10, 2009.