Regardless of how the rest of the country is doing, the ag economy has been down for the past few years. And agribusinesses are learning how to survive and even thrive in the midst of all this change – selling and marketing in a down economy.
Our industry is known for being traditional – and we get that from the way that farmers have been operating for decades. And while the tradition of ag has many benefits, it hurts us when things change and we have to adapt.
Here are some of our tips for marketing in a down economy.
Market to Your Current Customers
Marketing when the economy is down rests on getting all the low-hanging fruit that you can. That means making your current customers a priority in your marketing efforts.
Here are some reasons why marketing to current customers is going to be incredibly helpful for you:
- You already have a relationship with them. A lot of time in the marketing-sales process is spent initiating relationships and spending time talking to people. However, this isn’t the case with your current customers. So take advantage of it and reach out to them.
- They’re already familiar with your brand and some of your products. Current customers already know who you are. And they know some of your products – at least the ones they’re using. You only need to help them discover the ones they aren’t using and how they’ll benefit them.
- Ultimately, you know your customers are a good fit. Regardless of whether there’s an opportunity to upsell, you know that your customers are a good fit for your business. It’s a ripe opportunity for you to engage and try and get them to engage with you.
But deciding to market to current customers is only the first step. The next – and most impactful – step is to identify which of your customers has the greatest potential for upselling and growth. That’s where wallet share analysis can help.
Also, knowing the details about your customers’ farm operations – whether through data or first-hand observation – is going to help you better identify those products that are going to help them improve their farm operation, even when the market is down.
Find Ideal Pockets in the Market to Penetrate
Once you’ve nailed down your current customers, it’s time to start expanding your business. And just because it’s a down market doesn’t mean that finding new business is optional.
In fact, going after new business is going to set you apart from the competition.
But marketing and prospecting are expensive endeavors. That’s why a lot of ag companies give up on them once the market takes a downturn.
The key isn’t to give up on prospecting. It’s to look for more strategic and focused ways of doing so.
When you’re marketing in an economy that’s more competitive and cutthroat than usual, you need to make sure that each farmer you’re connecting with – whether it’s through an ad, email or phone call – has a good chance of doing business with you. It’s the only way you’ll be able to justify the investment you’re putting in.
Plus, reaching out to markets that aren’t a good fit is just a waste of time – yours and the farmers’.
Your ideal market may be corn-soy growers in the Midwest. Or it could be farmers with a certain level of gross farm income on the West Coast. Or it could be all farmers in the U.S. who farm 500+ acres of cotton.
Regardless of what that market is – and only you can figure out what’s the best option for your business – the key to good marketing is to engage in marketing efforts that are going after that specific market, and not wasting time and dollars on anything else.
And once you’ve identified these pockets of the market, go forth and market – focusing your messaging and channels on the segment you’re trying to reach.
Try New Things
When uncertainty hits the market, a common reaction in ag is to double down on channels they’re familiar with and not experiment with new things. While this is a completely natural reaction, when the market is down is the perfect time to try investing in new marketing channels.
One obvious reason for this is that it’s another way to outmaneuver your competition. If everyone else is doubling down on familiar channels like direct mail and direct placement ads, then the market is wide open in other channels, like targeted programmatic ads and Facebook ads.
But there’s another reason to try new things in the down market. While you may have had success and generated revenue from familiar channels, you have no idea of knowing if you’re maximizing your potential revenue.
Direct mail may have a positive ROI, but is it a higher ROI than, say, email marketing?
That doesn’t mean you dump your entire marketing budget into a new channel. But it does mean that you should see if one of these new channels is going to be a good investment for your business.
Start with a $50 investment in targeted Facebook Ads. If you generate business from it, then up the price, and then consider making even bigger investments in other kinds of direct ads – like targeted programmatic.
Since you’re competitors aren’t investing in these kinds of ads, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to do so.
Focus on Moving the Needle
As marketers, there’s a lot of pressure to invest in every possible channel available. While that makes total sense for companies with a big marketing team and in an economy that’s booming, for companies trying to stay afloat in this economy, that’s not a viable option.
It comes down to the reality that you only have so many hours in the day. And there’s only so much energy you can invest in marketing efforts.
So instead of spending time on things that may be good but not great, focus your time on high-impact areas that are actually going to get you closer to your goal. Find those three to four measurable indicators that you want to drive, and then focus only on the actions that lead you toward those. And cut out the stuff that doesn’t.
The goal is to achieve results, not to stay busy. So focus on doing that, and let everything else fall by the wayside.
View Marketing as an Investment
Marketing can be expensive. And companies tend to view marketing expenses as simply expenses, without realizing that there is a return on the dollars spent – whether that be positive or negative.
Some companies believe that to make a return they need to invest in salespeople – as they should. But salespeople have a limit to what they can do. They’re focused on building relationships and making the sale, and not on building a large enough audience to generate long-term engagement for the business.
Marketing can build an audience. And it’s from that audience that sales pulls its top prospects. Don’t view marketing just as an expense, but as an investment.