US Farm Data have one of the premier Ag marketing databases of farmers and ranchers in the US with in-depth information on crops, livestock and much more.

When it comes to starting your own Ag business, there are a lot of unknowns. Perhaps the biggest unknown, however, is how you will attract customers.

Unfortunately, no matter how long you remain in business, the quest for new customer never ends. Even those lucky Ag business owners, who are so busy they have to turn away new customers, understand this may not last forever and the need to search out new clients can arise at any time.

While you may believe that your Ag product or service should “sell itself,” in most cases, it won’t. Therefore, no matter how little you can afford, you must dedicate some amount of money for marketing. The key is to make sure that you put your money to good use. In other words, set goals and continually track results to make sure you are meeting those goals.

If you do not invest in marketing, it will be almost impossible to build a client base. Here are some of the best ways to attract new customers—whether you have been in business a few weeks or a few years:

  • Watch conversions like a hawk. Every marketing campaign must be tracked to see what methods work the best. If a particular promotion works well, for example a 20 percent discount on a regular-priced item, keep it going. If you find that the response to a particular promotion is low, switch gears and reinvest those marketing dollars into another strategy.
  • Don’t skimp on content marketing. Quality content helps to establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry and attracts visitors to your website. The problem is, if the content is poor, or your posts sporadic, people will quickly move on. If you don’t have the time or ability to write compelling content, you should consider partnering with a marketing solutions firm well-versed in Ag issues to write your content for you.
  • Take a hard look at your pricing model. Sometimes you are charging too much and people just can’t afford your product or services. Conversely, if your prices are too low people may view your products as poorly made. It may take some research but you need to discover at what price point the most sales are made.
  • Use promo codes and referral programs. These types of programs can really pay off when it comes to getting customers and sales leads to make their first purchase. Once they do, however, it will be easier for you sell to them again and again.
  • Get social. Find out the names of the key thought leaders in the Ag industry and follow them on social media. Engage with these thought leaders, retweet and favorite their tweets, and share their Facebook posts. Chances are they will return the favor, garnering more attention for your business. Further, you should always encourage customers and visitors to your website to follow you on social media so you can connect and engage with them.

Finally, while it has been said over and over again, it costs much more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current one. Once you gain a new customer, offer the type of products and customer service that will keep these farmers and ranchers coming back for more.

 

 

 

Tax season is in full swing. And farmers who have updated the way they manage their farming operation’s accounting systems may be in for a wake-up call.

In her article, Management Accounting Helps Farmers Make Informed Decisions, Andrea Johnson writes about the shock many farmers experience when they realize their modest farm has blossomed into a multi-million dollar operation. Often without them even realizing it.

Quoted in the article is Norman Brown. For 32 years, Brown has provided farmers with computer financial systems. Brown says there are many farmers out there who need to make the switch to management accounting so that they can make their farming operations as efficient as possible.

Management accounting may look at the cost of feeding and raising livestock vs. selling crops. It can evaluate the cost of running a combine compared with hiring a custom harvester. Informed decisions can be made regarding hiring employees vs. the owner completing all tasks independently on the farm.

Management accounting allows farmers to make decisions using financial measurements that will optimize production and performance. This will help farmers to know if they are, in the long run, going to be able to be competitive and sustainable.

Most anyone who is farming today is a good producer, but we are looking at people that are starting to take a risk management viewpoint for marketing, for expansion, and for financing.

Farmers who are interested in converting to management accounting should work with a specialized accounting firm. They also can contact the Farm Financial Standards Council and the American Society of Agricultural Consultants for guidance.

If you ask farmers what type of businesses they want to work with, one of the first qualities they will mention is trustworthiness. So how can you make sure that farmers view your business as trustworthy?

In his article, Is Your Brand Trustworthy? Here’s How People Decide, Timothy Carter talks about how customers and prospects decide that a particular brand is worthy of their trust. More importantly, he talks about how businesses that are viewed as trustworthy are more profitable.

Trustworthiness isn’t the only consideration for a brand, but it is the most important to your bottom line, so don’t neglect it.

Carter believes that brand trust comes down to the following six factors:

  1. Even if you are a new player in the Ag world, you can talk about what in the past brought you to the point of opening your business. If your business has been around for a long time, make sure and play up that history.
  2. Hard selling comes off as false. State the advantages of your product or service and what it can do for the customer but avoid the hard sell.
  3. Make sure your marketing efforts reflect the fact that you sympathize with the issues your customers and prospects face.
  4. Accreditations and affiliations go a long way.
  5. Think guarantees, free shipping, trial offers, and price matching.
  6. Social proof. Encourage people to write online reviews of your products or service. Ask them to like you on Facebook. It is important that farmers, for example, know that other farmers trust you.

Carter says that if your brand can exhibit all of these qualities you’ll be able to establish trust with new customers—even if they’ve never heard of you before. After that, it is all up to you.

Once a lead has been converted into a customer, your trustworthiness all depends on the quality of your service — if you can over-deliver on your promises and produce a memorable experience, there’s nothing that should stop that customer for coming back for more (and maybe spreading the word about your brand).

More and more, big data is having a significant effect on how farmers do their jobs. And there is no shortage of ways for farmers to collect data from their farms. There also is no shortage of companies that are willing to, for the right price, help farmers use this data to make their farms run more efficiently.

Tractors and other farm machinery are outfitted with sensors that record information and then upload that information to the cloud. Once this information has been uploaded, farmers are able to use the information to decide what to plant, where to plant it, how to fertilize it, and much more.

When surveyed, farmers list positive results when they use precision technologies that collect weather data, track seed varieties, analyze nutrient applications, and map crop yields. Those farmers also report that the use of precision technology has reduced the cost of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides by approximately 15 percent, and increased crop yields by about 13 percent. More than half of the respondents who are actively farming say they plan to invest in new or additional precision and data technology in the next year or two.

While farmers are benefiting from the collection of this data, they also are concerned that they will lose control over this information after it is uploaded from their farm to the cloud. For example, some farmers have expressed concern that their information could be sold, in the form of agriculture lists, to traders or commodity brokers. They also worry that their information could be used by companies to sell them seed and fertilizers at set prices.

In light of their concerns, farmers want more assurances that their data is – and will remain – their property. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) says data collected from individual farms is a valuable commodity that belongs to the individual farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he is optimistic the increasing amount of farm data will help farmers grow more while helping the environment, but that concerns must be addressed about privacy. One step toward addressing these concerns is the “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data” document. This document is endorsed and signed by companies like DuPont and farm organizations including the National Corn Growers Association and the National Farmers Union.

Those who signed the agreement state that farmers own the data from their farms and control who gets access to that data. It also says that companies that use collected information cannot use it to speculate on commodity markets.

The AFBF says that it will continue to monitor the issue of big data and farmers. It also is planning a tool that will help farmers evaluate whether or not the contracts they sign safeguard their interests when it comes to big data.

Agriculture apps are a big business. With more and more farmers using tablets and smartphones while working in the fields, it’s no surprise that they are searching for apps that can help them do their jobs better.

Finding quality farming and agriculture apps can be a difficult task. This is unfortunate since there are so many quality apps out there that can make a farmer’s workload lighter.

One problem with finding quality farming apps is that it’s hard to know which agriculture apps are really useful. Thankfully, there are ways around this problem. For instance, AgWeb now has an app finder that allows users to search by category, such as markets, business, livestock, and crops.

What follows are some of the apps farmers list as their favorites. But remember, the most popular apps can change quickly – and new ones are popping up daily.

Ag PhD App Suite. This suite of apps includes a field guide, drainage calculator, planting population, a harvest loss calculator, and more.

AgWeb. This app features market news, weather, and other ag-related content. It also is interactive – allowing users to choose the specific content they are interested in.

Climate Basic. From The Climate Corporation, this app enables users to track up-to-the-minute, field-level information such as weather forecasts, soil conditions, and crop growth stage. Farmers also are able to add their own notes and field alerts.

Farm Futures. Farm Futures magazine’s app provides an overview of agriculture news and headlines, along with podcasts.

FarmLogs. Farmers can collect and log detailed information on a per-field basis with this app. Rainfall history, budgets, and inventory management are just some of the information farmers can track using FarmLogs.

Grower’s Edge. Offering a variety of functions, this app includes access to cash prices, market quotes and commentary, news, and weather.

Pioneer/Encirca View. Encirca View allows farmers to record field observations which are then georeferenced for their convenience. When used with the Encirca View website, users also are able to access aggregated data from other Encirca View users.

TractorHouse. A simple way to buy or sell a tractor. The TractorHouse app allows users to browse or list equipment by make, model, price, and location.

A drop in grain prices is making it tougher for grain farmers to pay rent on the land they lease. As a result, some overwhelmed grain farmers in the Midwest say that they are considering breaking their lease contracts.

Many rent payments come due on March 1. These payments can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the farm.

For more than 10 years, grain farmers have enjoyed a boom, but that appears to be coming to end. John Deere has cut its profit forecast, blaming declining sales on the fact that farm income and grain prices are both down. Lower farm income and grain prices are further aggravated by the fact that other costs associated with farming have remained high.

There is little hope of a quick turnaround since grain prices aren’t predicted to rebound anytime soon. The U.S. dollar remains strong, leading to a decline in exports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that net farm income could be reduced by almost a third – to $74 billion – from its peak in 2013.

Currently, there is no way to tell exactly how many farmers will breach their leases. What is known is that a great deal of farmland is leased and is therefore at risk. USDA statistics show that 40 percent of farmland in the Midwest is leased.

It is unlikely that landowners will decide to reduce rent prices. This is because much farmland is rented out by retired farmers who rely on the income to live. There also has been a rise in realty investors who are unlikely to lower rent prices since that would negatively affect their profit margins.

Landowners and renters aren’t the only one who are likely to feel the squeeze from falling grain prices. Whenever there is weakness in one area of the farm economy, consolidation occurs. This leads to weakness in other parts of the farm economy with fewer elevators, machinery dealers, and the like.

Farmers list few options for meeting rent payments. One option is turning to bank loans. Operating loans for farmers rose 37 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Agricultural Finance Databook.

In the end, farmers who plan to walk away from their leases will face resistance. Landowners have made no secret of the fact that they will want their money and will go to court to make sure that they get it.