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Agrimarketing : November December 2008
GROWERS’VOICEINTHEBOARDROOM T byMaurice Allin, VP/ Strategic Insight, Quarry Integrated Communications One of our observations is he term“unknown unknown,” which refers to circumstances or outcomeswemay not even be aware of at a given point in time, has long been used in planning circles to refer to the risks ofmaking decisions with limited information. It can also refer to a challenge faced today bymany agri-marketers —developingmarketing campaigns based exclusively on traditionalmar- ket researchthat delivers the datawe seek, butmay not provide the insight we need to be successful. Inmarket research, ourmission is to understand the Unique Buying Propositions for our target audi- ences. The key to success is to antici- pate customermotivations—to think and feel like the customer. Market share is gained through achieving a better understanding of the buying process and thewants and needs triggers of customers more quickly than the competition. A NEWWAY OF LISTENING Since 1995,Quarry Integrated Communications’ “Rural Roots” network, comprised ofmore than 60 growers across the Corn Belt,High Plains, Coastal and Canadianmar- kets has been bringing the grower’s voice into the boardroom. Rural Roots beganwith the premise that an ongoing dialogue with a demographically-targeted group of growerswould provide a more unbiased and actionable type of information than could be gained through focus groups, or surveys. It has evolved into an important source of customer insight and can lead to unexpected and productive findings. RuralRoots has proven useful for idea generation, concept vetting and competitive information gathering. It has helped us identify the “unknown unknowns” in themarketing equation. In addition to one-on-one con- versationswith our Rural Roots growers,we also bring them together on conference calls to dis- cuss a specific topic, or gain their perspective on broader issues related to the agriculturalmarketplace. that larger, growth-oriented growers are seeking peer rela- tionships that they can’t neces- sarily find locally. Our Rural Roots network provides these producerswith a forumto learn fromone another and share Best Practices. This value proposition is one reasonwhy our growers are eager to share informationwith other produc- ers—and us—over an extended period of time. These growers have a desire to be heard. They enjoy dis- cussing agmarketing and play- ing a role in helping to shapemarket- ing and advertising strategy. Some say it’s the part of the discussion they enjoymost. We host “Kitchen Table” focus Don Pinkerton raises 2,500 acres of soft redwinterwheat in Pendleton, OR. He is one ofmore than 60 growers across North Americawho comprise Quarry Integrated Communications’sRural Roots network. bring the grower’s voice to the table whenmarketing strategy is debated. groupswhere Rural Roots growers invite their neighbors to join the con- versation, too. This setting offers a unique forumfor sharing ideas and an opportunity to get to knowour growers in a differentway and in a different dynamic. Because themediumis often the message,we believe it is important to understand theways inwhich producers receive information seek- ing to influence their purchasing decisions. Tothat end,we ask our Rural Roots growers to batch and send us all of the direct communica- tions they receive in a givenmonth. Wealso study their usage of ag media, and have developed a database of over 5,000 animal health, crop pro- tection and seed ads and directmail pieces.We believe understanding how farmers and ranchers get information related to input selection can be as important as theymessages they receive. Today,one of thewayswe share insight fromour Rural Roots growers is viaWeb-based video fromthe field. In a searchable format,we can see and hear growers talking aboutwhich products they use andwhy. Wecan watch themmix and apply chemicals. We can hear theway they talk, and read their body language. We can RETURN ON INSIGHT One of our key recent findings has been that there is a great divide in themarketplace between growth-ori- ented growers, thosewho enthusias- tically embrace the new,higher risk- higher reward agmarketplace, and thosewho don’t—thosewho are more retailer-reliant. Both are look- ing for a trusted advisor to help themmeet the challenges of this new age in agriculture. AccordingDr.Gerald Zaltman, notedmarket research expert and author of “HowCustomers Think,” deep insights fromconsumers are essential for brands that resonate. But asking customers about their motivations is not always the best way to get clues about their future behavior. In a rapidly changing agri- culturalmarketplace, ourmethods for understanding producersmust evolve aswell. We believe understanding how growers think and feelwill become increasingly important.When you think and feel like the customer, you put yourself into someone else’s shoes to truly understand their per- spective—you understand your audience both rationally and emo- tionally.And, as experiencewith our Rural Roots growers acrossNorth America has shown, talking to the customer is an excellent place to begin. AM November/December 2008 s AgriMarketing 37
American Seed Trade Association