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Ever wondered how you could own your own alpacas, but you live in the city and don’t own acreage? You can enjoy all the benefits (and there are many) of these amazing creatures without changing your lifestyle by agisting (boarding) them at an established alpaca farm. In this blog, I hope to help open the door to others like me who, for whatever reason, are living in the city but would otherwise love to have their own alpaca farm.
May 9th, 2009 | Tags: alpaca | Category: post | Comments are closed
My first female cria, Amaya, gave birth to a rose gray male sometime during the night, so they share the same birthdate (May 5th). This was also the night of the so-called super moon, or lunar perigee, when the moon appears extra large due to being at it’s closest in it’s orbit to the earth. What a wonderful feeling to see the third generation from alpacas you have raised and bred. Later this year, I am looking forward to seeing the first offspring of one of the male alpacas I raised, Cuppajoe (now owned by Big Rock Candy Mountain Alpacas in Fall City, WA).
Alpacas were recently featured on the Martha Stewart Show. I really appreciate that Leda and Steve Blumberg of Far Away Farm mention that they are breeding their alpacas to maintain their fineness as they age.
I think it is fair to say that one of the most important things to consider when getting into the alpaca business is what kind of support is available for you draw on. Of course, we need to learn all the different aspects of caring for the alpacas themselves, but many of us have little to no experience as business owners and have much to learn regarding the successful operation of the business side of things. Many people soon find out that while they thought they were going to be spending most of their time dealing with alpacas, they soon find out that they spend far more time doing bookkeeping, marketing, advertising, web site updates, tracking sales leads, planning open farm days, yada, yada, yada. Soon you are thinking: wow, nobody told me that I’d be doing all this stuff. Although I find many sources for information on marketing, one of the aspects of operating a successful small business that I don’t see addressed very often is Customer Service.
One sure way to go out of business is to forget that customers are the lifeblood of your business. A good product or service – combined with a strong customer service focus – will ensure that your customers keep coming back for more, and be your best advertising by word-of-mouth. Now more than ever, with everyone using online social media such as Twitter and Facebook, every satisfied customer is now a booster for your company and every dissatisfied customer potentially can hurt your business.
In general, what does good customer support look like?
Be a good listener to identify and anticipate needs. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions – thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.
Appreciate the power of “Yes”. Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterward. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
Give more than expected.Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?
What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?
Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve.
When you sell somebody an alpaca, you are hopefully contributing to the success of your customer’s alpaca business. Focus on finding out how you can help them to succeed in their alpaca business, and when you achieve that you will be helping your own alpaca business to be successful. It seems that so many people see themselves in competition with other alpaca breeders, that they overlook potential opportunities, forgetting that if other alpaca breeders fail, it hurts the industry as a whole.
Some suggestions on how to provide excellent customer service to alpaca customers include:
Bend over backwards to be available to answer their questions. And remember: there is no such thing as a stupid question. Never make the mistake of making your customer feel embarrassed for asking a sincere question.
Where possible and appropriate, invite your customers to participate in your farm events, including herd health chores if they are still learning to take care of alpacas themselves. Sure it may take you longer to get those chores done, and you may have to be flexible in your schedule, but few things are more important — and valued — by new alpaca owners. The goodwill you will create is priceless.
Plan co-marketing opportunities with your customers. Show them with actions that you are invested in their future success and that customer support does not end when the sale is complete.
Raising alpacas has an emotional aspect to it because they are so endearing and people become emotionally attached to them. Our alpacas become like members of our family. Your customer’s alpaca, Fluffy, may not be one of yours, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be as sensitive to Fluffy’s well-being as if it were one of your own. One of the secrets of giving good customer service is that people may not always remember what words you use, but they do remember the way they felt when you said them.
View the results of our alpaca customer service survey.
I hope that this information, both the good and the bad, will be instructive.
July 23rd, 2010 | Category: post | Comments are closed
Alpacadero Alpacas is excited to now be a co-owner of Silver Peruvian Master Piece with Cedar Spring Alpacas and Alpacas of Tualatin Valley.
Master Piece exemplifies everything we had in mind for in a superior grey herdsire. An excellent family tree comes with this male: his sire is Silvio, one of Magical Farms signature grey herdsires, maternal grandsire is Silvino, another Magical Farms prestigious grey, and his paternal half brother is FIRE N ICE! He is a proven herdsire with nine cria on the ground. And most importantly, His fineness is holding very well for a nearly five year old breeding male.
Master Piece took FIRST in halter and RESERVE COLOR CHAMPION his first time in the ring at AlpacaPalooza 2007. Diana Timmerman was very impressed with his correct conformation, brightness and buttery fine fleece character.
Chickory is expecting a Master Piece cria at the end of May 2010 and we can’t wait to see what they produce.
April 4th, 2010 | Category: post | Comments are closed
The International Alpaca Odyssey (IAO) is the only alpaca show in North America where American alpacas are judged using the strict standards of the International Show Rules, competing in a format in which it is possible that no first place ribbons are awarded. By showing under the International Rules, utilizing a three judge panel and under either the 60/40 or 70/30 (Fleece/Conformation) criteria rather than the 50/50 used by most AOBA certified halter shows, breeders both small and large can see where their breeding program stands from a global perspective.
In an effort to introduce innovative show rules that could possibly benefit the North American alpaca industry as a whole, this year’s event will introduce a new classification concept that acknowledges that while it is important for continued improvement in the national herd in pursuit of a commercial fiber market, there needs to be equal recognition for the alpacas that serve the existing small processor market.
The basis for the new set of rules is the idea that the current North American Alpaca herd can be seen as two sectors. One sector is focused on breeding goals whose outcome is the best possible alpaca for large-scale fleece production to a commercial mill. The other sector is focused on our current cottage industry model where it is the value of today’s fleece to the cottage industry processor [hand spinner to the mini-mill].
What do you think about these new rules?
International Alpaca Odyssey
May 13-16 2010
Redmond, Oregon www.iaoshow.com
In a national survey conducted by The Career Guide, Small-Scale Niche Farmer was included in the top 10 best jobs/careers for women over 40. Raising alpacas certainly qualifies as niche farming, and nearly all alpaca farms in North America are small-scale. The reasons for recommending Small-Scale Niche Farmer include:
Salary: Most earn $26,800 to $76,230
Top 10% Make: $97,000+
Why Now: Small farms are growing at a rate of 10,000 a year
What You’ll Need: Nothing—training is done on the job
Entrepreneur Opportunities: 80% are self-employed
Although farming traditionally requires land and equipment, if you agist (board) your alpacas on someone else’s farm, as I do, it is still entirely possible to be a successful small-scale niche alpaca farmer without owning any land at all! Agisting expenses are deductible just like regular farm expenses.
Whether you own your own farm or agist your alpacas at someone else’s farm, raising alpacas is ideally suited for women. In fact, the vast majority of alpaca farms in North America are operated by women. Alpacas are small and easy to handle. Routine maintenance like daily poop scooping and feeding is easier than traditional livestock. Many women have found alpaca farming to be an ideal business that allows them the opportunity to stay at home to raise their children while still bringing income into the family.
January 15th, 2010 | Category: post | 2 comments - (Comments are closed)
“The idea is a simple one really: create a venue for our customers to promote their farms and breeding programs in a way that makes good economic sense for them. So many small breeders struggle with the marketing piece of their business when they first start out so it is our hope that this can give at least a small leg up to those who have been kind enough over the years put their trust (and their money) with us!”
Cas-Cad-Nac and Tripping Gnome Farm have joined together to create a pen sale and educational event that benefits not only the two host farms, but also their customers. New breeders have an uphill climb to gain name recognition and attract potential customers, but by lending a small piece of that recognition and goodwill to their clients, they give them something very precious. When was the last time you ever heard of an alpaca breeder that offered that level of support to help their clients to succeed? Or any business for that matter? It strikes me as a very enlightened belief: that if our customers succeed, then they will most likely refer more business to us and purchase from us again in the future. If our customers fail for lack of support during the usual struggles to start a new business venture, the negative fallout will most likely hurt us all.
In other words: united we stand, divided we fall. Too bad there are so few who share that philosophy.
October 5th, 2009 | Category: post | Comments are closed
According to the news release I received today from Alpaca Registry, Inc. containing the latest findings from the Alpaca Research Foundation, the secret to alpaca ovulation may be in the “sauce”, not in the orgling. It was previously thought that the sound that the males make during breeding, called “orgling”, was the key to inducing the female to ovulate. In fact, breeders speculated that a deaf female alpaca may not be able to conceive since she would be unable to hear the male orgling. The latest research has demonstrated that a factor, known as ovulation-inducing factor or OIF, in alpaca seminal plasma fluid may actually be responsible for ovulation following copulation.
Recent studies conducted at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada by Gregg P. Adams, DVM, PhD, have shown that 100% of those females administered intramuscular seminal plasma fluid were found to have ovulated, as compared to females administered other hormones and a control group with nothing administred. The results clearly indicate that an ovulation-inducing factor exists in llamas and alpacas and plays a very large role in establishing pregnancy.
Based on observation on alpaca breeding behavior, orgling does play a role in helping the female to be receptive to the males advances, but it is surely a serenade that only a hembra (female alpaca) would find romantic. Listen to orgling or download as a ringtone to your cellphone. I have successfully used the ringtone to help encourage a male alpaca get in the proper mood and get his “orgle on.” It may also be helpful for checking to see if a female is receptive or not, ie. if she is pregnant or “open.” Arturo Pena has an excellent post on how to do a behavioral pregnancy check on his blog The Alpaca Pro.
September 2nd, 2009 | Category: post | Comments are closed
It may seem surprising that an animal with such a warm fiber coat would love to lay in the sun so much, but they do. Alpacas love to bake in the sun like lizards. And apparently Chickory has discovered that her cria, Amaya, makes a nice pillow.
August 18th, 2009 | Category: post | 2 comments - (Comments are closed)