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Agrimarketing : April 2008
66 AgriMarketing April 2008 NEW BOOK FOR AGRI-MARKETERS At a winter seed meeting some time ago I learned a couple of important lessons about market- ing --- lessons no less common and costly today than they were the day I learned them some 20 years ago. That day, I found myself seated next to a fairly large grain producer named Gene. He and the other farmers in the room were working on an exercise designed to demon- strate the added profit a grower would get by switching to my client's hot new hybrid. But it was me who would learn the most from that day's exercise. A worksheet lay in front of us. On it, each farmer was asked to fill in the yield of his best hybrid from the previous year. A district manager then got up and showed an impres- sive set of performance data --- uni- versity trials, on-farm demos, and third party cooperator run test plots. As expected, the results showed a significant yield advantage for the new hybrid compared to the best of the best. But at that point, the DM did something unexpected. He asked everyone to pencil in the amount of yield increase they felt would be fair to expect on their farm. "Whatever you think is reasonable is OK," he told us. Gene finished, put down his pencil and began to speak. He told me how he first cut the yield advantage for the new hybrid by two-thirds. "That sounds like a number I'd believe," he explained. "And when I ran the numbers, that new hybrid beat my best from last year on a profit basis --- even after I discounted most of the yield bump," he chuckled. Gene went on to tell me how he liked the exercise because it let him use his own figures from his own farm. "Very credible," he concluded. Then it was my turn to speak: "So you'll be planting the new hybrid, right?" "Oh, I don't think so," he replied calmly, shoving the work- sheet aside. "I'm sticking with that good hybrid I planted last year." Dumbstruck, I blurted out, "But Gene, those are your numbers ... how come you don't believe them?" "Oh, I don't have any quarrels with the figures. They seem right, far as I can tell." Then came the kicker: "You need to understand something. There's more to this business than just the numbers." ONE FARMER, TWO LESSONS Many of you may be shocked by Gene's decision. I know I was --- at least at first. But that day, Gene took pity on a young marketing guy. In the remain- ing minutes, he told me about his background (Ag Econ major) and went on to explain factors that went into his crop decisions --- many of which I had never considered. Things like harvest timing and the landlord's opinion, letting his son try his hand at hybrid selection --- and lots of others. Only later, when I pondered what Gene had told me, did I see the error of my ways. In reflection, it occurred to me that most people --- whether in their jobs or their per- sonal lives --- rarely make decisions for purely economic reasons. Oh sure, economics nearly always play a part in any spending decision we make. But in most cases, other fac- tors carry a lot more weight. And that's how I discovered a couple of very important marketing lessons. The first lesson was a flat- out mistake: talking "needs" instead of "wants." The second came in the form of a faulty assumption: believ- ing we must sell products on the basis of economics. MISTAKES ... IN EVERY FIELD Over the next 20 years or so, I would witness a variety of other simple marketing mistakes --- mistakes I saw damage companies, careers and brands. Furthermore, I recognized these mistakes being made not just in ag marketing, but in every industry I worked in: human medicine, indus- trial chemicals, financial services, medical devices and others --- in big companies and small companies alike. Through the years, as I encoun- tered foul-ups, I tried to catalog and classify them. After some analysis, I recognized seven particularly dam- aging errors seemed to be repeated with disturbing frequency. BRAND BUSTERS: COMMON PITFALLS MARKETERS CAN EASILY AVOID by Chris Wirthwein, President, 5MetaCom (more on page 74) Fig. 1.
May 2008 Supplement