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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My goal is to have nuc sales feed my kids and pay my bills by 2022. Over the past 3 years, I have sweated my way through the worst part of the beekeeping learning curve (I think). This winter, I am hitting the marketing learning curve, so I can be ready to start selling nucs in spring.

So I bought Charlotte Smith's online farm marketing course before the price went up (3cowmarketing.com) and followed her advice to set up a website with Squarespace and an email list with Mailchimp. My strategy is to have people land on the website and subscribe to the email list so that they can get notified when I have a date for nucs to be ready. Then every 2 weeks, email them something interesting that will help them succeed. Nothing sales-y. In every email, I'll invite them to reply. Then I'll answer every reply. Personal contact and my obvious desire to help them succeed (rather than just sell a box of bees) will convince subscribers to plunk down a nuc deposit when I finally tell them "x nucs will be ready three weeks from today!" Then continue to provide informational support as often as they ask after purchase. The continued assistance will help them stay happy and spread the word that here is value for money.

Speaking of which, my prices are part of my marketing. They are purposely high for my area. I am sending the message that I believe in my nucs and that they are extremely high-quality nucs that are bursting with healthy, well-fed adults and brood, with a proven queen. My prices also allow me to give refunds without getting hurt, and get paid for extra time spent providing information.

Charlotte says to define your ideal customer. My ideal customer is thoughtful, committed, and more interested in the bees than in honey and personal profit. Committed to learning, committed to long-term beekeeping, and not just satisfying a passing whim.

May I please have your thoughts on the above, as well as on the layout and content of honeydropfarm.com? Don't be afraid to offend.

PS I just introduced myself on the forum here.
 

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Good luck with your sales. I believe you may be over thinking this. My experience has been that you advertise nuc sales and jump back out of the way. One thing you will find is that a lot of purchasers are dreamers who are going to do ,"everything natural as nature intended". They make good repeat customers for the next year or two before they either give up or wise up.
 

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PS I just introduced myself on the forum here.
in witch you say
My name is Sean Govan. I've been keeping bees for 3 seasons and it's getting more and more enjoyable as I make fewer and fewer mistakes. I have a long way to go.
my best response is this picture
61262

Don't be afraid to offend.
I don't intend to offend, but I do have a confrontive teaching style so here goes :devilish:

How many years grafting experience do you have and why do you feel your product is superior? Ie are you weighing out your virgins etc to validate you methods

How many poor quality new queens did you pinch this year? last year? if the answer is none to few you have a problem. Some produces pinch upwards of 25% to insure only a quality product leaves there yard.
How many nucs did you overwinter last year? what was your survival rates? how many nuc are you overintering this year?
why do I ask? target market dates
your talking about selling a"proven" queen ... meaning her brood is emerging so at least 20+14+16 thats 50 days (emerging brood form eggs+queen emerging form cell to laying+ egg to emerging queen)
the 1st large shipment of imported nucs hit the denver metro april 4th last year(russians out of GA) .. to have a "proven" queen in a spring nuc to compete against that I would have to start grafting mid february(the 14th)... not going to happen
to even just have a laying queen with capped brood so I know she is not a drone layer thats 38 days so Feb 26... that's not happing and early spring weather can easily shift that back another week

Point was to offer what your suggesting, your going to need to be selling overwintered nucs... or have a good enuff product people are willing to wait 6-7-8 weeks longer for it compared to other sources.
beekeepers don't want to wait, and some times nucs/packages sell out so your
will convince subscribers to plunk down a nuc deposit when I finally tell them "x nucs will be ready three weeks from today!" T
may be very problematic if your saying it 3 weeks after the imports were delivered, those imports had deposits and in many cases full payment put down in dec and jan,one outfit out here started taking orders in late Oct...
Very few people are going to sit and wait on you, hoping you have enuff that you can fill their order while staring at the possibility that if they don't get nucs form you when you say you have some (do to your popularity, or spring failure) they will be left with out bees that year do to everyone elce being sold out months ago. There will be some, but you better have a darn good product with well raized and bred queens, or there will be a lot less of them next year

The flip side is also true, there will be those who waited too long, and are desprait for what ever they can get at whatever price

$250 is steep for a nuc, I get you marking position... but they better perform. Don't forget the vaule of a nuc drops as the season goes on, the demand goes down and the competition goes up as a bunch of people make a swarm control split

It seems like your putting a big focus on marketing. If you have a good product, people will find you, especially at the start if you have a reputation of being a sold beekeeper and thats key to you customer "hand holding " strategy... problem is you don't have that rep, and your not that sold beekeeper (yet) so that realy should be goal #1 becomeing the best beekeeper you can be, some one worthy listing to..
Last year I sold a few queens, mosty people who knew me and knew I was raising for my own use..
this year I just did a simple facebook page, and as gone2seed points out i got mobbed, sold all that I had . I had been around speaking to the clubs, hosting webinars, grooming my rep and setting the stage to become seen as that "solid" beekeeper.

Next.. put pen to paper take a hard look at how many you would have to sell a year to meet you financial goals and what kinda of resources
how many new boxes, how new yards you may find the task very daunting when you see what it takes...


When you click on your website the home page has a nice picture that fills my screen, nothing comes up under the shop and I completely missed to scroll down on the homepage to see the nuc sales....

no one on the internet needs to know the street address were you and your family live a town will suffice
 

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I think msl has provided good feedback. $250 does seem steep for nucs coming from someone who is just starting to produce them. I sell mine on Craigslist and sold all that I had available this past year for $175, and thought that was on the upper end. Nuc production can be iffy. Graft too soon and a late cold snap can set you back several weeks. It is best to have a good number of overwintered nucs which you can sell in April or early May and then sell spring nucs as they build to your standards.
 

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MSL, great explanation & questions;) How many nucleus colonies are we talking about? Don’t forget about the amount of disciplined time this takes in the field, & your promise to respond/help, guarantee, etc., some people will take advantage of this = more time & money. In the end, let your product be the Marketer;)
 
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I sold nucs for about three years and could not keep them. Advertised on craigslist about two weeks before they were ready and were sold out almost immediately. That was about six years ago and still get a call every now and then for nucs. Weather plays a huge part in all of this, like was said a cold snap or even several days of rain can (and will) set you back a week or maybe more
 

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Let me add this. The thing that will hold you back is drawn comb. You will need a number of colonies devoted exclusively to drawing comb. Either that or you will need a large number of colonies from which you are cycling out older comb. Bob Binnie at Blue Ridge Honey company has a good youtube video on making nucs.
 

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I wish you all the best, and I love your enthusiasm. I also don't wish to remove the favor of God from this equation, as I fully believe much of what has materialized in my life is based on it.

That said, I would you caution to set goals and ramp up over a longer time frame. I talked with someone a few months ago who has been keeping bees (for a living) for 15-20 years. He had sold too many nucs and just as @gone2seed said, he was dreading coming into next spring because of the inevitable lack of timely drawn comb. He keeps around 120 colonies, is frugal (very frugal) and I'm satisfied his home is paid for, and he has no minor children.

I agree that you can probably sell nucs for more $ than average (regardless of any claims of quality) if timed correctly. But in quantities large enough to raise a family.?.?

In my opinion, the hardest part of farming is farming. The 3 cows site had the following testimonial:

“We will see an increase at the bottom line of $1000 a week and I think I can cut my hours of labor by 25 hours a week. It is almost to good to be true.”

I think these folks are marketing marketing, and don't care how they sell it. If anyone had a proven, verifiable method for doing the above, they could write their own ticket.

I don't disagree with much of what you said. I have a friend that made a lot of money with a web-based business and the turning point was capturing email addresses and occasionally emailing offers. I have some clients that are not really computer savvy, but have integrated this into their marketing plan (and a community/social piece) and they have sold/shipped crazy amounts of plants. However, they had generations of experience and they still had to grow/produce these plants. Just set a goal for this next year and see where you are. Don't quit your day job if you have one, until you are making enough to pay most of your household expenses and then only if your extra time can equate to the difference.... an old man's advice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This is all good food for thought, thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
my best response is this picture
View attachment 61262
OK. I guess I'll enter my pit of disillusionment next spring, then. Thank you for sharing this picture.

How many years grafting experience do you have and why do you feel your product is superior? Ie are you weighing out your virgins etc to validate you methods
Next spring will be my first time grafting. I feel the product is superior because the majority of the comb will be 1 or 2 years old, with tons of capped brood, and sub-par nucs / queens will be culled. I'll probably play it extremely safe by underbooking my first wave of nucs by 50%. Even Bob Binnie underbooks his by 20%.Also, since the queens will have been laying for 3+weeks, supercedure rates should be pretty low.

How many poor quality new queens did you pinch this year? last year? if the answer is none to few you have a problem. Some produces pinch upwards of 25% to insure only a quality product leaves there yard.
Thanks, good to know.


How many nucs did you overwinter last year? what was your survival rates? how many nuc are you overintering this year?
why do I ask? target market dates
6 nucs, 100%, 46


your talking about selling a"proven" queen ... meaning her brood is emerging so at least 20+14+16 thats 50 days (emerging brood form eggs+queen emerging form cell to laying+ egg to emerging queen)
Yes. I suppose I should mention that on my site.


the 1st large shipment of imported nucs hit the denver metro april 4th last year(russians out of GA) .. to have a "proven" queen in a spring nuc to compete against that I would have to start grafting mid february(the 14th)... not going to happen
to even just have a laying queen with capped brood so I know she is not a drone layer thats 38 days so Feb 26... that's not happing and early spring weather can easily shift that back another week

Point was to offer what your suggesting, your going to need to be selling overwintered nucs... or have a good enuff product people are willing to wait 6-7-8 weeks longer for it compared to other sources.
beekeepers don't want to wait, and some times nucs/packages sell out so your

may be very problematic if your saying it 3 weeks after the imports were delivered, those imports had deposits and in many cases full payment put down in dec and jan,one outfit out here started taking orders in late Oct...
Very few people are going to sit and wait on you, hoping you have enuff that you can fill their order while staring at the possibility that if they don't get nucs form you when you say you have some (do to your popularity, or spring failure) they will be left with out bees that year do to everyone elce being sold out months ago. There will be some, but you better have a darn good product with well raized and bred queens, or there will be a lot less of them next year

The flip side is also true, there will be those who waited too long, and are desprait for what ever they can get at whatever price
I'll deal with that by not taking deposits or having a pickup date until 3 weeks before each set of nucs is ready. I'll pick up the people who didn't order on time from somebody else. Demand should not be a problem on my scale.


$250 is steep for a nuc, I get you marking position... but they better perform. Don't forget the vaule of a nuc drops as the season goes on, the demand goes down and the competition goes up as a bunch of people make a swarm control split
At my scale, I probably won't have to change the price. But I can.

It seems like your putting a big focus on marketing. If you have a good product, people will find you, especially at the start if you have a reputation of being a sold beekeeper and thats key to you customer "hand holding " strategy... problem is you don't have that rep, and your not that sold beekeeper (yet) so that realy should be goal #1 becomeing the best beekeeper you can be, some one worthy listing to..
Last year I sold a few queens, mosty people who knew me and knew I was raising for my own use..
this year I just did a simple facebook page, and as gone2seed points out i got mobbed, sold all that I had . I had been around speaking to the clubs, hosting webinars, grooming my rep and setting the stage to become seen as that "solid" beekeeper.
The image and rep that I want to develop is someone who (1) sells good nucs that are set to explode, and (2) educates his customers on how to never have to buy bees again. Because while I don't mind repeat customers, I do mind if I sell them bees that they are going to kill within a season and have no bees left. Teaching them how to (1) kill their mites, (2) make sure they're dead, and (3) make sure that their bees have enough food, is a valuable service that lays the foundation for the customer's success. If I can make people feel that I want their success, and gain their trust by giving them information in advance, then I should have plenty of customers. The focus on marketing is to have so many wannabe customers that I can cull the ones I don't want. Like people who have done zero research. People who want to go treatment free in their first year with 2 hives. People who are natural born complainers.

When you click on your website the home page has a nice picture that fills my screen, nothing comes up under the shop and I completely missed to scroll down on the homepage to see the nuc sales....
Are you saying that you see no text on the homepage? I figure I have plenty of time to set up nuc deposits on the shop page.

Thanks for the thorough answer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Let me add this. The thing that will hold you back is drawn comb. You will need a number of colonies devoted exclusively to drawing comb. Either that or you will need a large number of colonies from which you are cycling out older comb. Bob Binnie at Blue Ridge Honey company has a good youtube video on making nucs.
Bob Binnie is amazing. I have watched several of his videos over and over. I called him on the phone and asked for his business advice. I offered to pay him for his time, but he declined. His advice was a gold mine, and I took a lot of notes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
MSL, can you give me an opinion on the refund/return policy on my homepage?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Gone2seed, I plan to just allow extra time for them to draw comb. Each split can draw its own comb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That said, I would you caution to set goals and ramp up over a longer time frame. I talked with someone a few months ago who has been keeping bees (for a living) for 15-20 years. He had sold too many nucs and just as @gone2seed said, he was dreading coming into next spring because of the inevitable lack of timely drawn comb. He keeps around 120 colonies, is frugal (very frugal) and I'm satisfied his home is paid for, and he has no minor children.
That's about the maximum I see myself getting to. Our living expenses are low, and someday soon they will be very low.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I think these folks are marketing marketing, and don't care how they sell it. If anyone had a proven, verifiable method for doing the above, they could write their own ticket.
I'll let you know if it works. It seems to be working for other people whose products are harder to sell than nucs, so I believe it will.
 

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You should edit your refund policy to include a live queen and a substantial number of live bees upon return to remove any ambiguity. My nuc sales are BYOB, bring your own box (hive). Inspections are performed as the frames are transfered. Customer has the right to reject any nuc on the spot, once it is loaded into their box on their truck, they are their bees. No refunds if they kill them on the way home, or squish the queen on the first inspection.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
You should edit your refund policy to include a live queen and a substantial number of live bees upon return to remove any ambiguity. My nuc sales are BYOB, bring your own box (hive). Inspections are performed as the frames are transfered. Customer has the right to reject any nuc on the spot, once it is loaded into their box on their truck, they are their bees. No refunds if they kill them on the way home, or squish the queen on the first inspection.
I guess if they brought the box back with three bees to get a refund then that would be stretching it. You are right.

How often do newbies squish a queen in their first three days? I'm sure it happens, but I've never squished a queen in my first three years. I've just lost tons of them into the wild blue yonder while figuring out how to pick them up. 🤣

If I have one customer who unwittingly kills a queen, decides there wasn't one to start with, and asks for a refund, I think I'll just give them a refund. They will be back and they will probably spread the word. My margin is big enough that I can afford to make the odd one happy, I hope.

My employer sells custom sinks and showers that are "guaranteed forever." Our sinks and showers never look good forever, yet there is only a small percentage of people who request repair or replacement. Yet our guarantee continues to drive sales because people know they have the option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
JWPalmer,

I want to have one pickup day per month at the most. I want everybody to be there at a certain time to get their nucs. If someone does a no call no show, then they don't get their deposit back. There's a thirty minute window for latecomers. They show up, pay the balance, I help them load their nucs, we all go home.

I figure the three-day guarantee will make them comfortable with my no-inspection policy. If a couple people bring back their nucs, I will still have saved a tremendous amount of time by not allowing newbies to inspect before buying. If they are comfortable with the standards described on my homepage, then they will be thrilled with what I load on their truck. If they are the kind of people who are suspicious of everything and really need to inspect before buying, then I would rather let them be someone else's customer.

With my thirty-minute window, everyone who wanted to inspect would be doing it at the same time. If I let people inspect, someone might drop a frame, or roll a queen. Some foragers and new fliers coming out to orient would be lost. Some newbies might not feel comfortable with a bunch of people opening nucs all over the place, unless they have a beesuit with them. Not only that, but some people who don't feel the need to inspect might change their minds when they see other people inspecting, further dragging out the process.

The "nuc instructions" button near the top of my homepage links to this pdf, which I will print out and give to every customer on pickup day to minimize casualties.

Now that you mention it, I will add this policy to my homepage to be perfectly transparent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
When you click on your website the home page has a nice picture that fills my screen, nothing comes up under the shop
Based on this, I'm moving my shop page out of the main menu until I figure out how to get nuc deposits on there. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
MSL, you mentioned competition a couple of times. What if I have a model where competition is a non-issue? I ask because Charlotte Smith teaches that relationships built with people make you unique, so that in a sense you have no competition. I think if you do it right, people don't look at your prices and they wouldn't dream of buying from anyone else but you. I've been plowing through her free content for the past 2 years, and observing her techniques being used in other businesses, and I really think she is on to something.

Anyway, demand for nucs is high, and I'm not competing for every available customer that exists. I'm only competing for the cream of the crop.😄
 
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