The Farm Bill dominated conversations in ag in 2018 – and its effects are still a hot topic. But it wasn’t the only thing ag companies were discussing. There are other issues among the top agribusiness topics of 2018.
Regardless of legislation, trade, or other policy discussions, agribusinesses’ goals stay the same: growing revenue by increasing their footprint, market share or wallet share – and doing so through effective marketing and sales efforts. This past year, thousands of agribusiness professionals came to us for our expertise in use of data in strategy, marketing and sales – either through our blog or by downloading a resource.
If you want to better market to farmers in 2019, here are some of the topic agribusiness topics of 2018 that you should take a look at.
10. How Can I Have Better Sales Conversations with Farmers?
Prepare yourself ahead of time by studying the operation, learning about the farmer’s problems and sharing potential solutions with the farmer.
Both you and the farmers you’re trying to reach are busy people. You want to make the most of every conversation.
Instead of spending time asking the farmer to tell you about their farm, prepare ahead of time by reviewing the information about the operation you have at your disposal. That way, you can devote your time to offering solutions to the problems they have, making the most out of the time available.
Here are some of the pieces of information you should look up:
- Whether your contact is an operator or owner, or both
- Number of acres owned and operated
- Crop mix & rotation pattern
- Related growers
- Accurate, up-to-date contact information
This doesn’t mean you don’t ask the farmer about their operation, but instead of asking surface-level questions, you can get specific and dive into the core of the problems they’re facing. Provide guidance and help the farmer.
9. How Can I Provide Solutions to My Farmers’ Challenges?
Understand farmers’ challenges through data and information, and then map your specific products and services to meet those needs. Avoid a “one size fits all” approach to sales.
The more you know about those challenges before going into the conversation, the more meaningful the conversation will be. You’ll be more likely to close the deal not because you were “sales-y”, but because you helped the farmer solve a problem through your product or service.
For example, many farmers are looking to increase the number of acres they farm. More acres means more dollars earned. That means that farmers who currently own or operate small farms are possibly interested in increasing the amount of land they operate.
If you have a relationship with a farmer already, you can use your knowledge of farm data to help them. First, find out how much farmland they operate (and own). Then, you can use geospatial data combined with grower data to find out who owns the farms nearby and whether they may be looking to sell the land or outsource the operation to someone else.
This is just one example. Read more about how you can identify and respond to farmers’ pain points through data.
8. How Do I Connect with the Millennial Farmer?
Understand that while Millennials farm differently, and they’re going to buck some of the traditional ways the industry has worked, they share the same goals as any other farmer: to improve their operation and, ultimately, help feed the world’s population.
The Millennial generation has been a top agribusiness topic of 2018 and will continue to be in coming years. As Millennials take over more of America’s farmers, it’s important for agribusinesses to understand how their farming practices compare to previous generations.
From automation to mobile, Millennial farmers are integrating new technology with traditional practices to improve their operations. They’re not just about sowing, planting and harvesting – it’s about building a farm operation that’s automated and precise.
Additionally, Millennial farmers are moving into the city. Farms aren’t just located in the heartland, but in the middle of the city. As the population moves more and more into the city and away from the country, farms are moving with them. Millennial farmers may start to spend more time in climate controlled, indoor hydroponic farmers that grow and sell food year-round, rather than the open fields.
7. How is Technology – One of 2018’s Top Agribusiness Topics – Impacting How Farmers Operate?
Farmers are becoming more efficient and precise with their planting, harvesting and distribution, all thanks to the technologies that are disrupting the industry.
From equipment to feed, supply sales to farm operations, to wholesale and retail produce management, agribusiness technology advancements are changing the industry.
One great example is machine learning. It can save farmers' time, resources, and perform certain tasks with incredible precision. In some situations, tasks that took 10 days with traditional methods can be accomplished in just 15 minutes.
Automated irrigation systems can reduce the cost of vegetables, help maintain or increase average vegetable yields, and minimize environmental impacts. Crop health monitoring through remote sensing saves farmers time and provides a more precise analysis than what humans can provide. Facial recognition of livestock helps farmers identify, based on certain features, what cows are willing to eat or not, and can predict lameness early on so they can proactively solve the issue.
Robotic farm equipment is another area that’s advancing rapidly. Many crop sprayers are now automated through drone technology. Harvesting, weed control and autonomous tractors mean farmers can increase the amount of land they farm without having to drastically increase their manpower.
6. Should I Start an Agriculture Blog and, if so, How Can I Be Successful with it?
If you’re writing content that directly addresses farmers’ needs and can help educate them in choosing a product or service that solves that need (including your own), then absolutely!
Getting your agricultural business online is an essential step to growing your reach and getting more sales. But getting started with growing your online presence might be a bit daunting.
One easy way to grow your online presence is to launch an agriculture blog where you can share insights and opinions to attract a new audience. Follow this step-by-step guide to get your agriculture blog off the ground:
- Choose topics relevant to your farmers, and where you can provide expertise based on your business and experiences.
- Develop an editorial schedule and stick with it. Even if you’re blogging once a month, make sure you’re consistent in that schedule.
- Start writing. Block out time and just do it. It won’t happen if you don’t make it a priority.
- Promote your blog through email, social media, and even one-to-one as you talk to potential and current customers.
5. How Are Other Salespeople Succeeding in Rural Selling?
For field reps, rural selling involves relationship-building and taking the time to solve problems, rather than simply sell – it involves a lot of on-the-ground work.
Rural areas are generally more community-focused than other markets. This offers great opportunity for long-term relationship sales and marketing.
When it comes to making connections in rural territories, use your data to determine how to reach the farmers there. Do your homework ahead of time to guide your conversations on the ground.
The next step is to start engaging in the community. For example, farmers gather at the local diner early in the morning for coffee and a chat. Maybe try showing up and introducing yourself, and then listen to their conversation.
The key to building relationships with farmers in rural areas is to be honest and approachable, and show that you’re invested in them and want to help them succeed through your product or service.
4. What is Database Marketing? And Why is it Important?
Database marketing involves using your customer file – hopefully stored within a customer relationship management (CRM) system – and marketing to them. It means taking the contacts you already have and seeing whether you can gain business from them, without having to pay to acquire them again.
Database marketing allows you to use that data to reach farmers with the right message at exactly the right moment. You can achieve twice the results in half the time.
Customers expect customized messages, tailored to the channels they interact with and their particular interests. If, for example, you compile data on your farmers’ fertilizer purchases and align it with your CRM, data on fertilizer spend, farm type, size and crop type can help you gather a list of farmers to tailor your marketing message for.
You’re also likely to interact with farmers across a variety of channels. If you have a CRM that has the right integrations, you can store data from every interaction and see the whole picture of how they’ve interacted with email, social media, digital ads, and direct conversations with your team.
When you use your database to analyze past patterns, you can accurately predict which customers are likely to buy in the future and which products they’re going to be interested in. This is important in planning future marketing messages, but it’s also critical in sales forecasting by market and product segment.
3. How Do I Make Sure I’m Interpreting My Agriculture Data Correctly?
Understand that data can tell you a lot of important things, but only if you analyze it correctly. For example, correlation doesn’t automatically indicate causation.
Sourcing great data is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drawing conclusions from your research. You want to know how all your data points relate to and impact each other. That involves interpreting the data correctly.
Let’s say that you notice dairy farmers in a region feeding their cattle a certain feed mixture season after season. There are notable differences between milk outputs when the cattle are on the feed, especially when compared with feed practices of other farmers, but the farmers use it regardless.
What might contribute to the adherence to what you view as a less effective diet for dairy cattle? Are the farmers using the feed mixture of a certain age? Might they simply be doing what they’ve been doing for years? Could it be a lack of education on bovine nutrition?
Any one of these factors or a combination of factors could contribute to the feeding practices of the dairy farmers in the region you observed. Those are the intervening variables to watch out for in your research.
Intervening variables are part of the reason that it’s immensely difficult, if not impossible, to prove causation. There are just too many factors to take into account.
Determining causation is a far more complicated, and much less concrete, practice than lining up corresponding variables. When you use intervening variables to explain phenomena – like farmers of a certain age use a particular feed mixture for their dairy cattle – you may be tempted to pin the unchanging feed practices for dairy cattle to farmers within a certain age range.
The best way to interpret data is to have as much information at your disposal as possible, and think through all the ways these inter-connect. See how a farmer’s age, number of acres farmed, crop mix, or relations to other growers all interplay.
A tool like GrowerProfile brings all this data together and lets you see the whole of the operation.
And don’t just go with the easy answer. Spend some time thinking about it and really diving into how each piece impacts the whole of the operation.
2. How Do I Reach the Modern Farmer Through Digital Marketing?
Focus on creating content and ads that speak to your farmers’ needs, and engage in a variety of channels to reach farmers in different ways.
The modern farmer surfs the web, checks his email inbox, likes his favorite posts on Facebook, watches YouTube videos and more. So if you’re looking for the best way to reach the modern farmer, digital marketing is a fantastic bet. Using digital ads as part of your marketing mix will help you reach the modern farmer better. Here are a few ways to take full advantage of these channels.
Email Marketing. In the agricultural world, over 25% of people who receive an email open it, with click through rates in excess of 3.5%. For every $1 you spend on email, you can expect roughly $38 in ROI. So it’s well worth it to invest in email marketing campaigns.
Digital Display Advertising. Sure, you could get a billboard or kiosk ad, but at the end of the day, how do you know who’s really seeing your ad? Instead of spending the majority of your ad dollars on a billboard, spend your money targeting people who you know are going to be interested in your products through display ads. Digital display advertising offers powerful targeting options. Retargeting ads even let you reach out to those who have shown interest in your offerings previously - a key component when marketing high-value technology, such as farm equipment.
Online Video Ads. Instead of old-school television commercials, consider reaching out to your audience with targeted online video ads. These short ads, which play before videos on sites like YouTube, are a great way to connect with your audience visually. Click through rates can reach over 4% for this powerful medium - and soar over 11% on average on mobile devices. Personalization and increased ability to reach your target audience are key when it comes to digital marketing.
1. Are Farmers Using Social Media? And What Should I Do About it?
Yes! Farmers are active on sites like Facebook and YouTube. A presence on these channels – one that engages farmers on issues they care about – should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
The number one top agribusiness topic of 2018 was social media. This isn’t shocking. Social media is a powerful and important tool in the digital marketer’s tool belt.
If you want to take full advantage of all the marketing and sales opportunities open to you, see how farmers are actually using social media, and how you can use that to inform your business strategy. A Pew Research Center report revealed some illuminating trends:
- 58 percent of rural Americans use Facebook
- 65 percent of ages 50-64 use Facebook
- 78 percent of ages 30-49 use Facebook
- 25 percent of rural Americans use Instagram
- 17 percent of rural Americans use Twitter
Farmers and rural Americans are active on the major social media channels.
Those last two numbers may look low, but when you consider that roughly 60 million people in America live in rural areas, you’re looking at 15 million people on Instagram and over 10 million on Twitter. Those are sizable audiences.
Farmers specifically tend to gravitate toward Facebook and YouTube, with some of them using Twitter. Take a look at the following:
- 46 percent of all farmers in America – nearly 1.5 million farmers – use Facebook
- Only nine percent of farmers use Twitter, but that’s still an audience of nearly 300,000
- The most popular social media platform by far is YouTube, used by nearly 51 percent of farmers – over 1.6 million
While your agribusiness will need to perform its own ROI analysis of how much time and money should be invested in social media, these stats show that it’s clearly a good idea to give it a shot. A significant segment of farmers is using social media, and your agribusiness strategy needs to take that into account.
Here are some quick and easy ways to start realizing these advantages today:
- Start posting content today. It’s never been easier to start your agribusiness’ own content channel. Whether you’re writing your own blog or sharing a third-party content piece, go ahead and start sharing. If you’re posting interesting and helpful content, farmers will find you.
- Use Facebook ads in your marketing. For as little as five dollars a day, you can start running Facebook ads to reach your target audience. Use Facebook targeting to build audiences based on broad (farming, agriculture, etc.) or specific (irrigation, corn/soy, etc.) – or upload a list of Farm Market iD’s fact-based data to get maximum positive ID match.
- Invest in video ads and video content on platforms like YouTube. Instead of old-school TV commercials, invest in video content on YouTube. Not only are the farmers there, but you can get high click-through rates and a more direct connection through mobile devices.