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Agrimarketing : February 2009
Sales and Marketing Insights from Purdue University BALANCENEEDS,VALUESAND INNOVATIONTOMAKESALES by Joseph Suttles and Dr.Allan Gray I t used to be pretty easy for agri- marketers to describe customers based on their distinct buying preferences. Somewere price buyers. Others justwanted convenience. And, a fewmade decisions based only on performance or service. But, now,agri-marketers are faced with a large group of balance buyers —farmerswhomake purchases based on a combination of customer service, convenience and support ser- vices. Plus, they still expect high per- formance at a fair price. The 2008 Large Commercial Pro- ducer Survey,conducted by Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business, found that more than half of the 2,500 farmers surveyed are balance buyerswhen making seed and crop protection chemical purchases (see Figures 1 and 2). This segment (69%and 59% respectively) has grown significantly Fig. 1 price, product and support services). This change presents both challenges and opportunities for agri- marketers. Toproperly position themselves in this newmarket land- scape, agri-marketers must think beyond only a farmer’s needs and, instead, discoverwhat values drive those needs. Then, theymust take what they discover and find innova- tiveways to serve their customers in these uncertain, volatile times. Since producers fit into specific buying segments, it’s not surprising that their values differ, aswell.How- ever, Purdue researchers have identi- fied common values across the seg- ments that agri-marketers can use to their advantage. Fig. 2 LOCAL HAS LEVERAGE Farmers value their local commu- nity.They like the idea of supporting peoplewho live andwork in their area, and that oftenmeans they have some level of loyalty to their local input suppliers. It doesn’tmean they will accept lower standards from those in their local community,but with all else equal, they prefer to do business locally. GET TO KNOWTHEM Producers also place high value on relationships.Agri-marketers gain business by bringing value to a farmer,but it is through strong, posi- tive relationships that they can help extend the length of time that they keep a farmer’s business. fromfive years agowhen the same survey results indicated only 34%of farmers desired a balance of the five decision influencers (conve- nience/location, customer service, 48 AgriMarketing s January/February 2009 HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY Above all, farmers value honesty. Theywant toworkwith sincere, honest peoplewho are always dependable and looking out for their best interest. Agri-marketers are facing the challenge of meeting their customer’sneeds and values in newand innovativeways. STAND OUT THROUGH INNOVATION Even after agri-marketers haveman- aged to alignwith their customers’ values and havemet all of their needs, the job is not finished. To stand out fromcompetitors, agri- marketersmust deliver their prod- ucts and services in newand innova- tiveways. They need to properly position their people, bring novel ideas and approaches to theway they do business, listen carefully to customers, and respond quickly to changes inmarket conditions. They must also effectively and efficiently communicatewith their customers inwaysmost convenient to the cus- tomer, not themselves. It’s clear that today’s producers want it allwhenmaking buying deci- sions. The challenge for agri-marketers is howto give it to themand remain profitable. By satisfying their cus- tomer’s needs and values in innova- tiveways, agri-marketers can position themselves to be the provider of choice in today’s volatile agricultural marketplace. AM Joseph Suttles is amaster’sstudent in agricultural economics at Purdue University. Dr.Allan Gray is the Interim Director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business and a Professor of agricultural economics.
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