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Feeling stuck... Made 1 sale, struggling to get more (Agriculture)

FinanceStudent

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My website, AgServiceFinder.com, is a business directory and advertising agency that helps farmers connect with agricultural service providers, such as livestock transporters, custom harvesters, etc.

Ag service providers can list their business on my site for people to find through our search tool on the website homepage. They can choose between 3 "plans" (Prices: FREE, $9, and $14) when listing their business. The free plan allows you to add just basic information, such as your business description and contact information. Paid plans allow you to add more, such as images, video, business hours, etc. I also offer the option to run a Google Search ad campaign for their listing (managed by me).

I made one sale from a business who found me through social media. They purchased the $14 plan (costed $30 at the time). They didn't sign up for a subscription unfortunately, just a one-time 30 day listing. I've had one other business sign up for a free listing, but that's it.

Since then, I've been unable to make a sale or even get another business to list themselves for free.

I ran Facebooks Ads for roughly a month, but can't afford to run any more at this time. I've started sending cold emails to businesses. I've sent out roughly 100 over the past 2 weeks and also submitted 50+ entries in online contact forms. I haven't received any responses. I've also spent a lot of time engaging with people on social media. Not trying to directly sell to them, but engaging and discussing topics to put my name out there.

At this point, I'm not sure what to do. I'm not making sales; Even if I do tomorrow, the amount of work I've been putting in to get customers isn't worth it.
 

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My website, AgServiceFinder.com, is a business directory and advertising agency that helps farmers connect with agricultural service providers, such as livestock transporters, custom harvesters, etc.

Ag service providers can list their business on my site for people to find through our search tool on the website homepage. They can choose between 3 "plans" (Prices: FREE, $9, and $14) when listing their business. The free plan allows you to add just basic information, such as your business description and contact information. Paid plans allow you to add more, such as images, video, business hours, etc. I also offer the option to run a Google Search ad campaign for their listing (managed by me).

I made one sale from a business who found me through social media. They purchased the $14 plan (costed $30 at the time). They didn't sign up for a subscription unfortunately, just a one-time 30 day listing. I've had one other business sign up for a free listing, but that's it.

Since then, I've been unable to make a sale or even get another business to list themselves for free.

I ran Facebooks Ads for roughly a month, but can't afford to run any more at this time. I've started sending cold emails to businesses. I've sent out roughly 100 over the past 2 weeks and also submitted 50+ entries in online contact forms. I haven't received any responses. I've also spent a lot of time engaging with people on social media. Not trying to directly sell to them, but engaging and discussing topics to put my name out there.

At this point, I'm not sure what to do. I'm not making sales; Even if I do tomorrow, the amount of work I've been putting in to get customers isn't worth it.
Can you scrape and add all of the ag service businesses' info from other parts of the internet, without them having to enter it themselves, to give the farmers with the money a reason to hang out on your site? After the farmers with money are there, you can sell banner ads or premium placement to the service providers... you'll even already have all of their contact info right in front of you for calling/ mailing/ emails.
 
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Can you scrape and add all of the ag service businesses' info from other parts of the internet, without them having to enter it themselves, to give the farmers with the money a reason to hang out on your site? After the farmers with money are there, you can sell banner ads or premium placement to the service providers... you'll even already have all of their contact info right in front of you for calling/ mailing/ emails.
I've added close to 900 businesses by hand so far. If a business that I listed by hand wants to edit their listing, they can claim it and change/add information. They can also upgrade to a paid plan at that point.
 

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I was thinking along the same lines as @broswoodwork. Make the listings, being careful to attribute ownership of trademarks and copyright as necessary.

Redirect your selling effort towards farmers rather than the ag service businesses. Farmers don't pay subscriptions, so you need to incorporate a system that identifies your site as the origin of any emails they send to those businesses. You also need to know who has clicked to find the phone number of a business to call, or at least which business number was identified for the farmer.

This way you can use a different approach towards the ag service businesses, because you have proof that your service works.

You will need patience and have to spend a lot of time on this if you want it to work.

Walter
 

broswoodwork

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I've added close to 900 businesses by hand so far. If a business that I listed by hand wants to edit their listing, they can claim it and change/add information. They can also upgrade to a paid plan at that point.
Can you have the guys over at m-turk (I'm assuming that still exists... i haven't used it in years) scrape and sort the data for a few hundred more per day?
 
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Can you have the guys over at m-turk (I'm assuming that still exists... i haven't used it in years) scrape and sort the data for a few hundred more per day?
That was my plan from the beginning, but I'm a bit hesitant. For some of the categories, it's easy to add businesses that aren't actually useful to farmers. For example: When searching online for a butcher, you'll find lots of meat markets (where meat is sold), but not custom butchers (who process meat for farmers).

Although, I'm definitely going to put more thought into this option. I'll have to be very specific and clear in my directions to the workers. Another issue is money... I don't have a ton of it to spare, so I'll have to see how much data I'll get for the price.
 

broswoodwork

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That was my plan from the beginning, but I'm a bit hesitant. For some of the categories, it's easy to add businesses that aren't actually useful to farmers. For example: When searching online for a butcher, you'll find lots of meat markets (where meat is sold), but not custom butchers (who process meat for farmers).

Although, I'm definitely going to put more thought into this option. I'll have to be very specific and clear in my directions to the workers. Another issue is money... I don't have a ton of it to spare, so I'll have to see how much data I'll get for the price.
I can't pretend to understand the mechanics of it all, and I'm sure you've thought of and bumped into a lot of the pitfalls.

I'm just thinking in terms of Craigslist or the stackexchange model, where all of content was just dumped there until they became an indispensable resource; then, they started charging for advertising.

If a farmer doesn't think twice about where to go when he needs an oil change on his combine or to find a horse shoe dude, you'll be able to set up self service add on services for the service providers to get premium placement, geo targeted banner ads, or whatever.
 

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Are you getting farmers coming to the site?

Have you spoken to many farmers about using the site and what they really need service wise?

Even more than getting businesses to sign up is to get farmers to the site regularly. And facebook ads is not really the right avenue to me, this isn't a fun store or product, it's a boring but very necessary and needed service.

Until there's a decent amount of traffic I'd keep adding businesses and offer to make it as easy as possible for businesses and offer to list them yourself. I'm not so sure about the value add of the plans, those seem like things that should be free and perhaps they can pay for other things like sponsored results and what not.

Like having to pay to list business hours? That's just weird, and as a farmer I'd be annoyed to have to go spend more time to find this info.


Your site is clean and pretty but I'm not loving the copy.

For example, "Find Agricultural Services Near You".

That's what they literally do on the site, but not why they come to the site. They come to the site to solve a problem they have or get something done.

"Butchering, hauling, hiring vets - We'll help you get it done" as a quick example of what I mean.

The "What is AgServiceFinder.com?" section kinda dances around the benefit that is actually received, but there's too much other information. And it's speaking to two audiences which makes it less focused too. I'd break this up into two sections, one for farmers, and another for businesses. Directly say what problems are being solved by finding the services they'd look for. The business oriented copy is more to the point.

I also notice the copy in general seems to be much more focused on the businesses than the farmers that are to be using the site. For the homepage this should probably be the other way around, and instead you'll want a blurb for businesses on the home page with a link to another page devoted to the benefits businesses receive by joining the site and signing up for premium services.

Just my 3 cents!
 
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I was thinking along the same lines as @broswoodwork. Make the listings, being careful to attribute ownership of trademarks and copyright as necessary.

Redirect your selling effort towards farmers rather than the ag service businesses. Farmers don't pay subscriptions, so you need to incorporate a system that identifies your site as the origin of any emails they send to those businesses. You also need to know who has clicked to find the phone number of a business to call, or at least which business number was identified for the farmer.

This way you can use a different approach towards the ag service businesses, because you have proof that your service works.

You will need patience and have to spend a lot of time on this if you want it to work.

Walter
I agree with your points, but some of this will be difficult to implement because my website isn't custom coded. It runs on Wordpress and uses a theme to operate. It's obviously not the best way to do this type of site, but it's what I could afford to do. If money starts coming in I should be able to hire a developer to make those adjustments (and many more).

Regardless, this is still useful information and I can change the way I think about the way I do things.
Should I still try to reach out to ag service providers?
 
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Are you getting farmers coming to the site?
Currently roughly 10-20 per day, primarily from social media. Clearly, it's not much.

Have you spoken to many farmers about using the site and what they really need service wise?
Yes, I've gotten a lot of input recently from farmers. They really like the idea. They were able to point me in a better direction as to what types of businesses to add to the site.

Your site is clean and pretty but I'm not loving the copy.

For example, "Find Agricultural Services Near You".

That's what they literally do on the site, but not why they come to the site. They come to the site to solve a problem they have or get something done.

"Butchering, hauling, hiring vets - We'll help you get it done" as a quick example of what I mean.

The "What is AgServiceFinder.com?" section kinda dances around the benefit that is actually received, but there's too much other information. And it's speaking to two audiences which makes it less focused too. I'd break this up into two sections, one for farmers, and another for businesses. Directly say what problems are being solved by finding the services they'd look for. The business oriented copy is more to the point.

I also notice the copy in general seems to be much more focused on the businesses than the farmers that are to be using the site. For the homepage this should probably be the other way around, and instead you'll want a blurb for businesses on the home page with a link to another page devoted to the benefits businesses receive by joining the site and signing up for premium services.
Thanks for input! I'll definitely be working on this as a top priority. I can see what you mean.
 
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I can't pretend to understand the mechanics of it all, and I'm sure you've thought of and bumped into a lot of the pitfalls.

I'm just thinking in terms of Craigslist or the stackexchange model, where all of content was just dumped there until they became an indispensable resource; then, they started charging for advertising.

If a farmer doesn't think twice about where to go when he needs an oil change on his combine or to find a horse shoe dude, you'll be able to set up self service add on services for the service providers to get premium placement, geo targeted banner ads, or whatever.
I see what you mean. So would you say it would be best to add businesses by hand, then follow up with them by sending an email letting them know their business what listed on the site? Then they'll know the site exists.

The site has the ability to let businesses promote their listing at the top of the results, although I haven't tested the feature out. But this is definitely something I can implement.
 

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I see what you mean. So would you say it would be best to add businesses by hand, then follow up with them by sending an email letting them know their business what listed on the site? Then they'll know the site exists.

The site has the ability to let businesses promote their listing at the top of the results, although I haven't tested the feature out. But this is definitely something I can implement.
Personally, I'd hold off on monetizing it at all up front, or at least pushing the monetization on providers in a visible way. As more farmers show up looking for providers, and more providers discover they're getting business by being listed in your directory, they'll probably start reaching out to you asking you to take their money.

This isn't my thing though. I've never done something like this. So, hopefully someone shows up with some inside info to give you a hand.

I'm really just trying to keep your thread bumped with spitball ideas until the cavalry arrives. :)
 
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You've got some great advice concerning what to do on the site already so I'm going to switch focus a little. I noticed you used Facebook ads and that most of your traffic is from social media. It's great you're getting this traffic, however organic and paid social media are both examples of interruption marketing. People go to those platforms to look at cat videos and memes, not to find the answers to issues they may have. This means they're a much harder audience to convert to sales.

In opposition, search engines are where people go with an intent to actually find a solution to something. If you still have some budget I'd suggest investing some there. Google ads are a great option, but can be pricey so if your budget is tight I'd suggest going with Bing ads (now Microsoft Advertising). Use tools like Answer The Public, UberSuggest and even Google Keyword Planner (or whatever it's calling itself today) and find all of the keyword phrases and questions that people are using in relation to the service you're providing. Throw those into a Bing or Google ad campaign and let them run for a week and come back and see what people are actually clicking on. You might think one angle is the big selling point, but find actually people are clicking through on something completely different.

@Andy Black is the real genius when it comes to Google Ads so it might also be worth having a look through his awesome threads for extra ideas if you decided to take this route.
 

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Are you getting farmers coming to the site?

Have you spoken to many farmers about using the site and what they really need service wise?

Even more than getting businesses to sign up is to get farmers to the site regularly. And facebook ads is not really the right avenue to me, this isn't a fun store or product, it's a boring but very necessary and needed service.

Until there's a decent amount of traffic I'd keep adding businesses and offer to make it as easy as possible for businesses and offer to list them yourself. I'm not so sure about the value add of the plans, those seem like things that should be free and perhaps they can pay for other things like sponsored results and what not.

Like having to pay to list business hours? That's just weird, and as a farmer I'd be annoyed to have to go spend more time to find this info.


Your site is clean and pretty but I'm not loving the copy.

For example, "Find Agricultural Services Near You".

That's what they literally do on the site, but not why they come to the site. They come to the site to solve a problem they have or get something done.

"Butchering, hauling, hiring vets - We'll help you get it done" as a quick example of what I mean.

The "What is AgServiceFinder.com?" section kinda dances around the benefit that is actually received, but there's too much other information. And it's speaking to two audiences which makes it less focused too. I'd break this up into two sections, one for farmers, and another for businesses. Directly say what problems are being solved by finding the services they'd look for. The business oriented copy is more to the point.

I also notice the copy in general seems to be much more focused on the businesses than the farmers that are to be using the site. For the homepage this should probably be the other way around, and instead you'll want a blurb for businesses on the home page with a link to another page devoted to the benefits businesses receive by joining the site and signing up for premium services.

Just my 3 cents!
Your post is excellent, and should help the OP considerably.

Like you I saw too much concentration on the businesses instead of the farmers. Also I was disappointed at the headline on the home page: "Find Agricultural Services Near You". It is bland and doesn't offer much benefit.

I hope others might also help with a better headline, but for now, my suggestion is: "The quick and easy way to find the ag services you need."

I know the businesses will provide your revenue, but @FinanceStudent you need to concentrate on the farmers at this stage. Getting them to use the site will make it easier to sell listings.

Walter
 
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Personally, I'd hold off on monetizing it at all up front, or at least pushing the monetization on providers in a visible way. As more farmers show up looking for providers, and more providers discover they're getting business by being listed in your directory, they'll probably start reaching out to you asking you to take their money.

This isn't my thing though. I've never done something like this. So, hopefully someone shows up with some inside info to give you a hand.

I'm really just trying to keep your thread bumped with spitball ideas until the cavalry arrives. :)
Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I don't believe that sending emails to businesses that I list manually would be pushing monetization. The email would simply let them know that their businesses was added to the directory and nothing more. Maybe that isn't worth my time, what do you think?

I really appreciate your help and insight!
 
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You've got some great advice concerning what to do on the site already so I'm going to switch focus a little. I noticed you used Facebook ads and that most of your traffic is from social media. It's great you're getting this traffic, however organic and paid social media are both examples of interruption marketing. People go to those platforms to look at cat videos and memes, not to find the answers to issues they may have. This means they're a much harder audience to convert to sales.

In opposition, search engines are where people go with an intent to actually find a solution to something. If you still have some budget I'd suggest investing some there. Google ads are a great option, but can be pricey so if your budget is tight I'd suggest going with Bing ads (now Microsoft Advertising). Use tools like Answer The Public, UberSuggest and even Google Keyword Planner (or whatever it's calling itself today) and find all of the keyword phrases and questions that people are using in relation to the service you're providing. Throw those into a Bing or Google ad campaign and let them run for a week and come back and see what people are actually clicking on. You might think one angle is the big selling point, but find actually people are clicking through on something completely different.

@Andy Black is the real genius when it comes to Google Ads so it might also be worth having a look through his awesome threads for extra ideas if you decided to take this route.
I've never thought of it like that, so thanks for your input! Is organic social media even worth my time? I post 1-2 times per day on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (FB and Insta I schedule 3-5 days at a time; Twitter is manual). Would it be better to devote this time to working on adding listings and making the site better?

I ran some Google Ads when I first started and didn't see great results, but I didn't put enough effort into it. I have roughly $100 in budget left... Even that is tight, might be more around $85-90. Will this be enough to get me started?

If I was able to get some sales going, I could throw all that money into search ads. I think this is why I'm feeling stuck.
 
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Your post is excellent, and should help the OP considerably.

Like you I saw too much concentration on the businesses instead of the farmers. Also I was disappointed at the headline on the home page: "Find Agricultural Services Near You". It is bland and doesn't offer much benefit.

I hope others might also help with a better headline, but for now, my suggestion is: "The quick and easy way to find the ag services you need."

I know the businesses will provide your revenue, but @FinanceStudent you need to concentrate on the farmers at this stage. Getting them to use the site will make it easier to sell listings.

Walter
I can see what's wrong with the headline now. It's interesting, because I would have never noticed this because I've been staring at it since I've started working on this.

Thank you!!!
 

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This is kind of a progress thread.

Also, MJ just commented on this thread here with some insight: The hen and egg problem - on becoming a middleman when there are no participants.

There seems to be a few guys working on these types of projects right now.
I found that comment by MJ pretty interesting, thanks! It'll definitely be a challenge, but it definitely sounds like I'll need to keep working hard on adding businesses to the site.
 

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I found that comment by MJ pretty interesting, thanks! It'll definitely be a challenge, but it definitely sounds like I'll need to keep working hard on adding businesses to the site.
I know very little about the farming community, or its services, but when I need some off the beaten track woodworking service, I'm basically out of luck. It's just manta and woodweb (which is virtually unusable).

My instinct is: you're on to something here. Hang in there bro!
 

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Should I make a progress/execution thread for this?
Yes.

I’ll put in my $.02...

I think you’re trying to “Web 2.0” this thing too much. Can’t imagine farms and ag services providers are the most tech savvy bunch.

Social media for this is a fools game. Your customers aren’t on Instagram, they’re working. They’re using products, services, going to trade shows, talking to other farmers, joining farmers associations, etc...

You’re trying to systematize a business that doesn’t exist yet.

Look up how Angie started Angies List. Good old fashion ingenuity, sweat, and a telephone. She built the website AFTER she couldn’t handle it herself.
 
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Yes.

I’ll put in my $.02...

I think you’re trying to “Web 2.0” this thing too much. Can’t imagine farms and ag services providers are the most tech savvy bunch.

Social media for this is a fools game. Your customers aren’t on Instagram, they’re working. They’re using products, services, going to trade shows, talking to other farmers, joining farmers associations, etc...

You’re trying to systematize a business that doesn’t exist yet.

Look up how Angie started Angies List. Good old fashion ingenuity, sweat, and a telephone. She built the website AFTER she couldn’t handle it herself.
Thanks for your input.

The farming community online is actually pretty substantial. Tractorhouse.com and livestocknetwork.com are an example of two big agricultural sites, and there are more. Additionally with social media, there are a ton of popular farming Facebook groups and Twitter is also very popular with farmers (this surprised me). There are also many farmers that are becoming popular on YouTube.
 

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Yes.

I’ll put in my $.02...

I think you’re trying to “Web 2.0” this thing too much. Can’t imagine farms and ag services providers are the most tech savvy bunch.

Social media for this is a fools game. Your customers aren’t on Instagram, they’re working. They’re using products, services, going to trade shows, talking to other farmers, joining farmers associations, etc...

You’re trying to systematize a business that doesn’t exist yet.

Look up how Angie started Angies List. Good old fashion ingenuity, sweat, and a telephone. She built the website AFTER she couldn’t handle it herself.
Many farmers are more tech savvy than you would imagine. Google “Precision Agriculture” and some of the stuff that farmers are doing today may surprise you. I grew up on a farm and there are many misconceptions out there about agriculture and farmers so just trying to do my part.

I think agriculture is in this kind of in between phase. Twitter and YouTube are becoming very popular. There is also a forum and a few other websites. But you are also right in that farmers are at trade shows, etc. and it’s important to be “boots on the ground” so to speak. Farm shows are very popular and draw in hundreds of thousands of people every year.
 

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I know very little about the farming community, or its services, but when I need some off the beaten track woodworking service, I'm basically out of luck. It's just manta and woodweb (which is virtually unusable).

My instinct is: you're on to something here. Hang in there bro!
I have been involved in cattle breeding as a large and profitable hobby since I sold my business #1 over 30 years ago, and lived in different regional areas during that time, carting our best animals with us when we moved.

People might think that you could find all you need in your local town, but unless it is a very big town you won't. Besides, the ones that are very local might suck. There are a variety of ag services for which an easy to use search site would be a boon.

@FinanceStudent, Any time you can get to a big farm show, you should go well armed with a supply of concise sales info, or at the very least, a large business card (standard size will be lost) and after chatting for some time hand them that as you leave.

Visit the stalls of all the ag industry companies first, but also talk to any farmers exhibiting their animals. Sit next to them in the stands while you watch tractor pulls and parades etc. Talk! But don't keep on until you annoy someone.

I agree that you are onto something, but it's not going to be easy. I wish you success.

Walter
 

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Could you use a lead gen model instead? Instead of business paying to list, take the farmer as a lead and sell the lead to the businesses for $50 / whatever.

Maybe the supply businesses will pay top $$ for a hot lead, than they will to list themselves to a potential lead...
 
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Could you use a lead gen model instead? Instead of business paying to list, take the farmer as a lead and sell the lead to the businesses for $50 / whatever.

Maybe the supply businesses will pay top $$ for a hot lead, than they will to list themselves to a potential lead...
Maybe in the future, but the software I'm using to run the website does not support this. If I am doing well enough to be able to afford to custom code the site in the future, I'll be sure to implement this.
 
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There are a variety of ag services for which an easy to use search site would be a boon.
Can you give me any insight as to which services might be best to prioritize on the site? I'm getting started with 6 different categories:
- Livestock hauling
- Equipment hauling
- Equipment Sales & Service
- Large Animal Vets
- Custom butchering
- Custom farming

Also, what do you think is the best way to go upon adding businesses? Currently I add one state to the website at a time, but obviously some states are more important than others in terms of farming. I created a list of some of the most popular farming states in the USA, but should I focus on getting ALL states in the USA populated with businesses? Or just the most important 20-30 states?

Once I finishing populating states with the 6 categories mentioned above, I'm going to create a new category and add it to all those states. Then repeat the process. If I'm doing all 50 states, it will take me much longer to get more categories of businesses listed on the site. Hopefully this made sense... Any ideas?
 

NMdad

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OK, since you already know a bit about the niche & top sites, what are the gaps--the unmet needs? For either the farmers or ag companies?

An obvious need would be that the site is a lead generation platform--funneling farmer leads to ag companies, where the ag businesses pay to have access to a pipeline of leads.

It sounds like the site users are farmers, so make it super clear & easy for farmers to get value from the site.
  • What do they want, need, care about?
  • Are both older & younger farmers your target market?
  • Aging farmers struggle with estate planning (I work with law firms, and multiple estate planning firms have told me that estate planning for farmers is a problem)--especially since their kids have moved away & don't want to farm, & the farmer wants to keep the farmland as a farm. What about doing a business brokerage where you match-make between retiring farmers and younger farmers who want to acquire a farm but don't have funds?
  • What segments of farmers do you want to target? Vegetable producers, fruit growers, animal production? There's probably overlap, but each has its own challenges & needs.
 

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