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Agrimarketing : May 2009
52 Quarry Communications:32 Feature Story 5/13/09 12:23 PM Page 53 why theymake them. Using a process to gather and incorporate nuanced and current customer insight into an integrated communications programcan help connect product and service offeringswith unmet needs.And the importance of customer insight in agriculturewill only increase as producers embrace digital technology and their needs becomemore sophisticated. “IntegratedMarketing Commu- nications begins by first gaining a rich appreciation forwho your customers really are,where your competitive opportunities and constraints lie andwhat distinctive assets you have to leverage,” says Maurice Allin, Vice President for Customer Insightwith Quarry. “The next step is to apply a process for updating and clarifying your brand positioning, and for projecting that positioning in an integrated communications program. Our Demand Builder methodology, for example, follows a four-step collaborative process to survey the situation, architect the best strategy, engineer a plan and craft the right solution to meet brand-building needs. The challenge is to close the gap between brand strategy and the customer experience.We have a lot of tools at our disposal, includingWeb sites and the Internet, but there’s a gap betweenwhat these tools can do to enhance the customer experience and howthey’re actually being used. “Power in themarketplace has shifted to the customer,”Allin adds. “Control of themarketing process has been transferred fromthe seller to the buyer. Identification ofUnique Buying Propositions can help us to better understand how,where and when customerswant do to business.” CUSTOMER INSIGHT Robert F. Lauterborn is the James L. Knight Professor ofAdvertising at the University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill and co-author of the best-selling book “Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together AndMaking ItWork.” Lauterborn states that the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is a superior understanding of the customer. “Companieswith superior lab facilities and lots ofmoney to hire scientists and engineers used to think they could sustain a technological advantage, but noweveryone has access to prettymuch the same technology and any product can be knocked offwith a fewminor changes to avoid patent issues,” Lauterborn says. “The same can be said for compa- nieswith sophisticatedmarketing approaches and lots of talent to execute. Today, any clever promotion scheme you think up can be copied by competitors and implemented almost before you get your bait back. However, if you understand the customer better than your competitors, theywill always lag you. They can copywhat you do, but they don’t knowwhy what you do is successful.” Lauterborn adds that the first step is to understand that customers don’t buy products or services, they buy the anticipation of an experience. “Successfulmarketers understand exactlywhat thatmeans for each customer,” he adds. “They use everything they do, from nudging the customer into realizing he has a need, all theway through the process, tomaking sure that he gets the experience he anticipated. That’swhat IntegratedMarketing Communications is truly about.” BRANDINGMORE, NOT LESS, IMPORTANT According to Lauterborn, because customers today are able to gather an almost infinite amount of information froma greatlywidened circle of sources they’remore knowledgable— and demanding—than they have ever been able to be before. Herein lies the challenge, and the opportunity. “People don’t just buy some thing, they buy fromsomebody— a person or company or brand they like and trust,” he adds. “Branding today ismore important than ever in both consumer and B2Bmarketing. Yes, there’s a lot of information out there, but nobody reallywants to wade through it all. The short cut is the ability to rely on someone (person or brand) to help youmake the right decisions.” “Whatmarketers need is amore nuanced understanding of howtheir customers use information technology, howtheir customers usemedia, and howthat shifts and changes through the buying process. Knowingwhere they go forwhich kinds of information—andwhen—tells you where andwhen, and inwhat form, you need to be connectingwith those customers.” OPPORTUNITIES According toQuarry’sAllin, the opportunity for agri-marketers is to help producers filter through a sea of information to find outwhat is useful to themin a specific, local context. “Purdue University research indicates that relatively fewproducers find agriculturalWeb sites really useful,” he says. “Because they are often used as amassmarketing tool, their overall rating is low,with a high proportionwho ‘never’ find themuseful. Overall, the list of information sources available to producers is quite lengthy, and the spread in ratings in the 2008 Purdue Large Scale Farmer Study is surprisingly small.No vehicles are universally rated highly, or poorly. Thismeans we should never concentrate exclusively on a singlemedia vehicle.” Formany producers today, the digital divide, either generational or geographic, combinedwith the sheer volume of information available, as well as the lack of a readily apparent context inwhichmuch of the data is generated,makes theWeb a still largely untapped tool. “Digital technologywill ‘arrive’ when it provides farmers and rancherswith the capability to integrate information fromaround theworld into a local context (including farmer-generated data) and plug directly into individual farmoperating systems,”Allin says. “Virtually all of the individual tools exist today, but not in an integrated fashion.” Since the farmer is currently doing the heavy lifting of “integration,” he adds,we need to harness insight to understandwhat patterns shape his knowledge gathering and decisionmaking. “Application of this insight in an integratedwaywill help us break through the clutter withmessages that aremore timely and relevant to the specific producerswe are trying to reach—and the buying decisionswe are seeking to influence.” AM May 2009 s Agri Marketing 53
May 2009 Supplement