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NDSU Extension Service, Published August 09 2012

NDSU offers program on marketing specialty foods online

FARGO - Do you produce a specialty food product? Are you interested in expanding your sales to consumers through online marketing?

The North Dakota State University Extension Service and University of Nebraska- Lincoln Extension Service have released a new program, "Direct Marketing of Specialty Food Products Online," at http://go.unl.edu/directmarketingfood. The program is designed to provide business owners with strategies and tools to help them sell directly to consumers.

The self-directed program allows business owners to:

* Evaluate the role of technology in the business

* Examine how to weigh the costs and benefits of technology

* Understand online marketing tools

* Learn how to build an online presence

* Understand how online marketing fits into an overall marketing plan

The program includes video clips of food entrepreneurs who are using online tools to sell their product.

The program exposes business owners to developing a website, the core of online marketing. It also discusses other social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

"The goal is to help the business owners make wise decisions in developing an integrated marketing program that capitalizes on the new social media tools," says Glenn Muske, NDSU Extension's rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist. "The online world changes rapidly and we need to be flexible to take advantage of the tools available to us."

To help the curriculum's users or anyone interested in this topic, the program has a weekly newsletter, "Direct Marketing." The newsletter keeps business owners up to date on changes in online marketing and is available on the program's website.

"Adding value to agricultural products is of great interest to many farmers, and it supports local economic growth and development," Muske says. "Yet the old adage 'build it and they will come' regretfully often brings only a few customers to the door. Businesses today must establish a brand, and they must keep that brand in front of the consumer. 'Direct Marketing of Specialty Food Products Online' is designed to help the business owner in that effort."

The program was made possible through the support of NDSU and University of Nebraska -Lincoln, and grants from the Southern Rural Development Center's National eCommerce Initiative and the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education program.

For more ideas and assistance on marketing for your small business, contact your local Extension Service office or go to NDSU's small-business support website at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/smallbusiness.