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Agrimarketing : July August 2008
52 AgriMarketing ¦ July/August 2008 A s a young, optimistic insurance salesman, my boss told me, “Knock on enough doors, and you’ll meet your goals.” He meant that literally. I learned from this experience that developing a smart marketing strategy is a much more efficient approach than getting doors slammed in your face. Maybe that was the lesson he intended. In many ways, my boss was right. With unlimited energy and optimism, the shear brute force of making enough calls can drive sales; however, while there may be oppor- tunities behind every door, the time and pain necessary to capitalize on them is not equal. With limited resources, a solid marketing strategy that matches the right resources (people and promotional budgets) with the right customers is more effective in determining the best potential for success. I once heard a sales manager describe his biggest challenge when developing and implementing mar- keting strategy as “pushing the right buttons to make things happen.” By pressing the right combination of six buttons, managers can generate a successful marketing strategy. THE CUSTOMER BUTTON Foremost, agri-marketers must clearly identify the customers they want to attract. Business literature is rife with stories of companies that have success with only a select group of potential customers. Most visible in recent years is Wal-Mart’s effort to attract higher-income shoppers. As strong as Wal-Mart’s marketing has been, it has struggled with appealing to customers that differ from its core. THE VALUE BUTTON Many firms invest in market research to understand customer’s needs and tailor a product’s positioning only to have people in the field emphasize something entirely different. With many similar product offerings available, it’s critical that managers help frontline staff consistently emphasize points of differentiation that matter to customers. THE PRICE BUTTON Sales staff and management often struggle over how much price should influence acquiring a cus- tomer’s business. To add to this buy- ing power is concentrating in the hands of fewer farmers, giving them more leverage to negotiate. This but- ton can be a powerful tool, and the discipline to use it wisely requires a well-educated manager with knowl- edge of specific customers, margins and overall company direction. THE DISTRIBUTION BUTTON At one time, distribution decisions only impacted farmers through a fairly regimented hierarchy of manu- facturers and retailers. But today, farmers have limitless outlets for purchasing equal or similar prod- ucts. It’s not uncommon for competi- tors to be customers, customers to be competitors or suppliers to be cus- tomers. Convenience factors, such as hours of operation, shipping or delivery, may be the most important distribution factors today because they immediately affect customers. THE PROMOTION BUTTON At a time when the volume of mes- sages to farmers is at its highest, the means through which farmers gather information has expanded to include various forms of technology. Messages sent by text, e-mail, Web sites and other promotional programs need to be coordinated. Because of this, man- agers who bridge farm gate to board- room need to be vocal if they observe contradicting messages. Messages tai- lored to a specific farmer’s goals and interests are the most powerful, but custom messages require resources — time to create them and knowledge of the customer. Managers who invest in promotion must carefully consider stored customer preferences and coordination between all levels of the company. THE PEOPLE BUTTON This may be the most important, resource-intensive button. Managers can only realize the market advan- tages from using this button when their people recognize opportunities and invest wisely in them at every level. For example, a bookkeeper must know that when a farmer talks about changing his payment date, something may have changed inside his organization. Using the people button means hiring right and investing in training. Knowing which buttons to push, in which direction, in which circum- stance requires knowledge, experi- ence and an understanding of how these buttons interact to drive sales. With these skills, managers can be far more effective than those who approach the market by knocking on every door. As agribusiness firms prepare to take advantage of today’s opportunities, they should not only invest in sales and technical compe- tencies, but also in helping managers push the right buttons. AM STRATEGIES FOR OPPORTUNITY by Dr. Scott Downey Sales and Marketing Insights from Purdue University SEMINARS Upcoming Agribusiness Precision Selling: Building Relationships with Large Farmers August 21-22, 2008 (second offering) Strategic Agrimarketing October 27-31, 2008 National Conference for Agribusiness November 18-19, 2008 www.agecon.purdue.edu/cab Center for Food and Agricultural Business Dr. Scott Downey (downeyws@ purdue.edu) is an associate professor at Purdue University and teaches in the center’s conferences and seminars.
CAMA 2008 Canada