Interesting and informative blog posts on farmers and ranchers from US Farm Data.

In today’s agricultural environment it is becoming more and more difficult to find a farm that is not specialized. Therefore, if you are an Ag-marketer it is important to understand how to approach specialized farmers.

American agriculture and rural life has seen a significant transformation in the past 100. In the early 1900s agriculture was labor intensive and there were a large number of small, diversified farms in rural areas. These farms employed close to half of the U.S. workforce and produced an average of five different commodities. Times have changed, however, and today, there is a small number of large, specialized farms in rural areas where less than a fourth of the U.S. population lives.

Many modern farmers are drawn to the idea of specialized farming for a variety of reasons. Specialized farms are more efficient because unlike a diversified operation there is a focus on a single product so no time is lost while workers switch from one process to another. There is less overhead since fewer products mean fewer supplies and less equipment. There also is less waste. Farmers also are able to obtain an in-depth knowledge of a particular product which allows them to become a specialist in that product. Finally, the operation’s financial records can be more easily maintained.

Of course, there are drawbacks to specialized farming as well. When a farmer only has one product to sell they have nothing to fall back on if market conditions are unfavorable. If a farm specializes in a particular crop there also is a danger of nutrients in the soil being depleted. These nutrients will then need to be reintroduced through chemicals or crops that aren’t part of the farm’s normal operation. Another significant risk of specialized farming is that a single infection or parasite could wipe out the entire operation. Many times specialized farming operations are subject to an irregular income stream, as well, since the farm’s particular crop or product may only be in demand during certain times of the year.

If you are an Ag-marketer, specialized farming requires a unique approach. Unlike diversified farms which consist of a large number of crop or non-crop enterprises, specialized farms makes it easier for you to define your customer’s particular problems and offers solutions to those problems.

When developing a marketing strategy for specialized farms, segmentation is essential. It is essential that identify a prospect’s demographics, geographical location, revenue and product. Since specialized farms are so narrowly focused it is also crucial that you understand what makes them different and capitalize on those differences.

Using video to market to farmers and ranchers? Chances are that a majority of those farmers and ranchers will be viewing these videos on their mobile device.
If your marketing videos don’t translate well to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, you are going to have a tough time going up against your competitors. This is especially true when you are marketing to farmers and ranchers who have little time to waste trying to get a video to work on their mobile device.
The best practices for mobile video continue to evolve at a staggering rate. Here are some things to keep in mind right now when it comes to getting farmers and ranchers to view your videos on their mobile devices.

  1. Don’t repeat yourself. For example, if you are running a 30-second television ad do you really think a farmer or rancher (or any consumer) is going to click on it so they can watch it again on their mobile device? Short videos made specifically for mobile devices are a must. Recycling broadcast ads won’t work.
  2. Frequency is a thing of the past. Users tap videos because they are interested in what that video promises. Once they find out, don’t expect them to keep watching it over and over. You need to continually create new videos.
  3. People must be able to hear your message (even if there’s no sound). Many times ads on mobile pages use a preview loop with no sound. You will need to caption your video or make it so visually compelling that sound is not necessary.
  4. Timing is everything. Many of the most successful digital marketing videos are less than five seconds long. This is in part due to the fact that views can skip an ad after five seconds. Sure, you can make a longer video but it must be of tremendous value if you realistically expect people to watch the whole thing. In other words say what you have to say in as short a time as possible.
  5. Keep things in perspective. Your video is going to be viewed on a small screen so plan accordingly. Long rows of crops are beautiful to behold but on a small screen they will be difficult to decipher.

Finally, according to Google, 61 percent of mobile users say they won’t return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40 percent say they would visit a competitor’s site instead. That’s why your videos must be specifically designed to look great on mobile devices

If there is one thing farmers value above all else, it is the knowledge that the people they do business with are trustworthy and understand the challenges they face. If a farmer believes that he or she is not valued and appreciated by a business, chances are great that they will find another business that will.

Savvy Ag business owners understand the importance of connecting with their clients and do all they can to keep lines of communication open. Unfortunately, this can be difficult with so many demands on their time, including marketing their business so they can secure new customers.

So what’s a business to do? If you want to sustain and grow your client relationships but feel as if there is never enough time to do it all, we have some suggestions that may help to make things a little easier on you. In other words, some steps you can take to strengthen your client relationships while acknowledging the ever-increasing demands on your time.

  1. Know thy customers. While it may take a little more time at the beginning of a relationship, getting to know your customers well will allow you to interact with them in a more meaningful way down the road. It also will ensure that you aren’t wasting your time guessing what they need all of the time. You will already know.
  2. Spend more time connecting. While this may seem like the wrong way to save time, the opposite is true. When you check in on a regular basis—even if only for a few minutes—you will be aware of any issues that may come up. This prevents a minor issue from ballooning into a major one that takes a great deal of time to manage.
  3. Focus on trust. Good customer service always involves doing what you say you will do. This also builds trust. Customers that don’t trust you will inevitably call you more often to make sure you are on top of their order, for example. When they trust you, however, they won’t feel the need to micromanage and you won’t have to spend time reassuring them that everything is on track.

All customers, especially farmers, need to know that they are a priority. Making sure they do will allow you to do the best job possible without wasting time.

If you have never heard of the term “nurture campaign,” it might be something you want to add to your marketing vocabulary. This is especially true if you are an Ag business marketing to farmers.

The business of farming goes through periods of frenzied activity followed by relative calm. To keep in touch with Ag leads through these times, it is important to provide consistent and quality content that allows you to connect, educate and inspire-no matter what is going on with a farming operation.

It also is important that you precisely segment your farming leads so you know what type of content will be most useful and valuable to a particular farmer. Further, you need to know when it will be most valuable. It is this type of contact that will help you to build relationships that allow you to be seen as a trusted resource.

If you are still unsure whether or not you need to invest in a nurture campaign, or don’t know what such a campaign involves, here is a brief overview of what one entails: First, you make contact with a new lead. Next, you establish consistent contact moving forward being mindful not to overwhelm your lead. Finally, you use the data you have gained over time to pinpoint the more specific needs of a lead so that you can better tailor your message as time progresses.

To further illustrate the basics of a nurture campaign, here is a step-by-step guide:

Step #1: Decide on the customer segment you are going to target. Remember, for it to be effective a nurture campaign must speak specifically to one type of customer. This is no time for blanket statements or generalized messages.

Step #2: Offer something of value such as quality content or a free webinar. It is critical at this point that you don’t try to sell.

Step #3: Set up a schedule and stick to that schedule. It is important to space out your touches so they are consistent but not annoying.

Step #4: Evaluate the success of each touch to figure out what strategies work best and which calls-to-action yield the best results. This will allow your nurture campaigns to get better and better over time.

Farmers respond well to nurture campaigns because of the cyclic nature of their business. Make sure to capitalize on this fact by always putting the necessary effort into such campaigns.

Think of the people you do business with and chances are all of these people have a lot in common. When farmers choose who they will do business with, these people also are likely to have many of the same traits in common.

Understanding what traits farmers are looking for in a salesperson will allow you to better connect with your target market of farmers. If you aren’t sure what farmers are looking for in a salesperson, here are some ideas:

1. Likeability. This may seem vague but what it really means is that you let a farmer get to know you before you try to sell him or her something. By the same token, farmers also want the people they work with to like them, as well. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to really get to know them.

2. Attentiveness. Farmers have a lot of irons in the fire so it is important for them to know that the person trying to sell them something understand exactly what they need. What they really don’t want is someone who only thinks they know what they need. The lesson here is to pay attention when a farmer speaks and don’t pretend to know what they need before they tell you.

3. Straightforwardness. If you tell a farmer you can deliver something by the end of the week, it better be there by the end of the week. In the event there is a problem, don’t try to pass the buck or make excuses. Further, never overpromise just to land a sale.

4. Dependability. Don’t be so accommodating that it appears as if you have nothing else to do and no other customers. As far as possible, however, be there for the farmers you work with so they know they can depend on you.

5. An expert in their field. If you are in Ag sales you better know what you are talking about. If there is something you don’t know, however, don’t try to fake it. Farmers would rather have you admit you are unsure about something and that you plan to do your research and get back to them. Farmers don’t expect you to know everything but they do want to know you are working toward that goal!

Finally, never try to be someone you aren’t. If a particular farmer really doesn’t want to work with you, you are probably better off without that farmer.

Many businesses see email as a way to connect with prospects and gain new customers. In other words, increase sales. This is true for those in the Ag industry, as well.

Unfortunately, that is as far as many businesses will take their email marketing efforts. While no one would argue that email marketing should not be used to generate leads and drive sales, many businesses fail to understand what an important role email marketing can take in increasing brand loyalty.

Farmers are extremely loyal. Once they find a business they know and trust, it takes a lot for them to leave that business. However, that doesn’t mean you should not always continue to work to earn the continued loyalty of the farmers who make up your customer base.
So what are some ways that you can use email marketing to make sure your customers aren’t lured away by a competitor? What follows are five relatively simple ways to do this:

  1. Create outstanding content. There is no end to the struggle farmers face when it comes to maintaining a profitable operation. By delivering content that helps them tackle these issues, they will come to understand that you care about them at all times—not just when you are trying to sell them something.
  2. Offer discounts. The key here is to offer promotions or coupons on things they already buy from you. This way you are thanking them for the business they have already given you.
  3. Provide the inside scoop. If you have a big sale coming up, consider inviting email subscribers to shop a day early or receive an extra percentage off sale prices.
  4. Give stuff away. No one can resist free stuff. Offering a free gift for initial email subscribers may result in some people unsubscribing after they have received their gift, but this will not happen in all cases. Those who do stick around should be rewarded periodically with other freebies and incentives.
  5. Provide some Q & A. When you allow email subscribers to ask you questions via email and provide the answers they are looking for, you will earn their respect and appreciation. You also will be able to use these exchanges to produce relevant content for future blogs.

Email marketing provides Ag businesses a terrific way to build brand loyalty. Combined with its many other benefits, it is easy to see why it must be an important element of your overall marketing strategy.