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Niche Marketing Alpacas

Niche marketing your animals is a great way to distinguish your farm.

No-Cost Alpaca Market

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.

Vertical Marketing

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 ranch visits.

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.

Able Oaks Ranch 6167 FM1857 S. Rusk TX 75785 | 903-530-1009