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Agrimarketing : September 2009
September 2009 Agri Marketing 21 University of Illinois, Larkin started his career in the advertising depart- ment at John Deere, then moved to the John Volk marketing communi- cations agency located in Chicago before joining the M45 (formerly CS&A) agency in his hometown. There, he served as managed the Precision Planting account. "I became fascinated with their exciting technology, their goals and great future, so I went to work for them 5.5 years ago." Larkin says, "Our market is corn growers. The specific demographics vary by product line, though. The Keeton Seed Firmer is a 'mass market' product with a target of more than 100 acre growers. At the other end of the spectrum, our 20/20 Airforce downforce control system is targeted toward the more than 1,000 acre grower." He says the products they target to the mass market tend to cost less than $150/planter row. The elec- tronic products have a fixed cost whether they go on a four row planter or a 24 row planter --- so in general, it takes 16 or more rows to bring the cost per row down to the $250 to $350 per row price point range which is the area they like their products to hit for quick adoption. "Print advertising is our dominant communication activity," Larkin continues. "We spend liberally on magazine advertising because we have found that consecutive page ads allow us to develop the product story in enough detail to get corn growers interested in learning more." He reports that many of the com- pany's products are solutions for problems that growers may not even know they have. So the ads need to educate and sell at the same time. "The highest impact ad we do is an insert that includes a DVD," Larkin says. "The DVD includes information on how farmers can fine-tune their planters and includes general agronomic information as well as product pitches. "We've distributed over 600,000 copies over the last three years. If we get someone to watch the more than two hour DVD, we generally get a sale." In addition to advertising, the company also actively participates in a long list of farm shows where they continue their sell through education strategy with strong visual demon- strations of the expensive problems that exist on current planters. One of its key events is to host conferences for its customers and dealers at its Tremont headquarters each summer. "This year we had over 2,800 corn growers from 24 states and Canadian provinces attend," he reports. The day-long events include demonstration plots, soil pits (to show compaction and its impact on root development) and face-to-face interaction with the Precision Planting engineers. Next year, the company plans to add more conferences located in dif- ferent locations throughout the Corn Belt. "We want to show how our products perform under local condi- tions and make it more convenient for more farmers to attend," Larkin says. In addition to having demon- stration plots, the company is designing a mobile trailer they will take from location to location, show- ing its products in action. The company also has a robust web site where viewers can watch videos, order informational material, find a dealer and engage in many other activities. See: www.precision planting.com. Another breakthrough Sauder cites is the relationship he built with Ken Ferrie, an independent crop consultant located in central Illinois, who is also oversees Farm Journal's Field Test program. Ferrie's tests help identify the most expensive planter problems and help the company prioritize which problems to attack. THE FUTURE Even if the ag economy goes through one its down cycles, he feels his com- pany will continue to thrive and grow. "Let's say we get back to $2.50 corn," Sauder explains. "That means corn producers will tighten their belt when it comes to making purchases of expensive, large machinery and concentrate, instead, on correcting the small things that will increase their operation's production. We offer that low cost solution by mak- ing what they have work better." In the meantime, seed companies will be bringing more advanced hybrids to the market including traits that make plants drought tolerant and more efficient in their nitrogen usage, just to name a few. "That will allow us to up our planting rates in the highly productive soils from the current 30,000 seeds/acre to 60,000," Sauder concludes. "I suspect the price on those hybrids will be considerably higher making accurate planting even more important than ever." That plays right into the heart of Precision Planting's already success- ful business model. AM COVER STORY/continued from page19 Precision Planting's Marketing Director John Larkin shows the company's demonstration plot in which corn has been planted at 60,000 seeds/acre, nearly double the current rate. New traits being introduced in the coming years including drought tolerant and nitrogen usage efficiency will mitigate the stress plants will be subjected to, producing significantly higher yields.
Best of CAMA 2009