Marketing to Farmers 2019-06-12T22:27:37+00:00

Marketing to Farmers: A Comprehensive Guide

Marketing to Farmers: A Comprehensive Guide

Leverage Big Data highly specific and targeted ways to improve your efforts in marketing to farmers

What you’ll learn…

How Big Data and data analytics can help your business improve your marketing.

How to select data and information that’s accurate, comprehensive, detailed and current.

How to bring your entire team from top to bottom on board with data analysis tools.

Specific tactics for implementing these strategies among the right audience.

Who this is for…

Marketers who want to get started with digital marketing but need help and want to justify the upfront investment.

Agribusiness executives and leadership looking for more effective and measurable marketing techniques to improve revenue and ROI.

Ag marketers looking to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns in terms of conversions and overall revenue.

Marketing and salespeople struggling to understand their market and the unique needs of growers they serve.

About Farm Market iD

Who’s behind this…

Farm Market iD is the leading provider of farm and grower data to inform and improve agribusiness strategy, marketing and sales efforts. Our database covers over 2.4 million active operations – including $311 billion spent on seed, equipment, financial services and other products – and is the only source of field-level data connected to owners and operators. This data powers agribusiness web applications, end-to-end marketing services, licensing and list rental, and custom data solutions.

Click here to learn more about our database.

Chapter 1: How Data Improves Your Marketing

Chapter 1: How Data Improves Your Marketing

While many agribusinesses base their strategic decisions on instinct and intuition, there’s always the risk that your instincts may be wrong. That’s potential revenue and market share that you can’t afford to lose.

Reliable data can be the difference between a decent marketing strategy and one that knocks it out of the park. Here are a few ways that farm data can help improve your messaging as you’re marketing to farmers.

Stay relevant amidst shifting industry trends

Your agriculture industry experience is invaluable in making strategic marketing decisions. However, as farmers and the industry as a whole evolve, those “gut feelings” are becoming less reliable and must be augmented by data and research.

Much of the current conversation around data and technology in agriculture relates to precision ag. Precision ag is certainly important, but it’s only one part of the conversation. Another important application of data and technology is in informing agribusinesses where to invest their time and money in go-to-market and connecting with growers.

See how small startups overtook their much larger competitors:

  • How did Amazon beat Borders and Barnes and Noble and later Walmart?
  • How did Google top the mighty search firms of the time like Alta Vista, Yahoo and Excite?
  • How is your next customer going to choose your firm versus your competitor?

The answer: these companies all knew their customers. And knowing your customer begins and ends with data:

Use available market data to make strategic decisions. Third-party data providers can provide a massive amount of data on farmers, their operations, their financial ability, contact information and more. Use this data analysis to identify your ideal market, and then focus your marketing and sales efforts on that specific group of farmers.

Customize your marketing efforts for your audience. Instead of just taking out an ad on an agriculture media site or magazine, focus your efforts on reaching your specific audience where they are. These channels, among others, provide insights as to how your audience is behaving so you can respond in a way that’s tailored to them.

Engage in meaningful and productive sales conversations that solve for farmers’ needs. Instead of wasting time having the farmer fill you in on their operation, let your sales team use their data intelligence to anticipate and respond to farmers’ needs, becoming trusted advisors and building long-term relationships.

If your messaging isn’t tailored to your customer, then you won’t be providing them with anything of relevance. And if you don’t provide relevant information, you may lose their business or, worse, see them turn to one of your competitors.

A complete and accurate data picture will help you objectively understand your prospects, customers, demand and market(s), helping you make profit-maximizing decisions.

  • Know “who” to communicate (e.g. customers where you are getting less than 10% of their business)
  • Know “what” to sell (e.g. a drought-resistant corn hybrid seed)
  • know “when” to offer (e.g. customers or prospects who just acquired new farmland in an area of the corn belt that is experiencing drought conditions)
  • Know “where” to market (e.g. an email or targeted ad)

Data is the key to understanding your customers and the market as a whole. Watch the video below to illustrate one possible way to access that data.

Schedule a Demo

Modernize your tactics for marketing to farmers

When it comes to marketing tactics, your gut may tell you to stick to tried and true. But what if your tried and true methods aren’t helping you reach your full marketing potential?

Technology, data and information give agribusinesses a competitive edge in a stagnant and consolidating market.  If you want to keep up and outmaneuver your competitors, modern technology is going to be your greatest asset. Here are a few examples of the technologies you need.

Customer Record Management (CRM) System

A lot of ag companies we talk to haven’t started using a CRM yet. That means that if you have one, you’re already a step ahead of the pack.

When you have thousands, hundreds or even just dozens of records, organizing and maintaining them becomes time-consuming. But not managing these records just isn’t an option. If two members of your team, through miscommunication, both contact the same customer or, worse, someone falls through the cracks, then that could turn into hurt relationships and lost dollars.

A CRM helps you avoid all of that:

  • All your records are in one location, so you never have to hunt when you’re trying to review a customer’s history.
  • Each team member can have access to your CRM (even if it’s “view-only”), so everyone can see the same data and be informed about contacts they’re going after.
  • If you want to know a customer or prospect’s history at-a-glance, a CRM puts it in one location where everyone can see it.
  • If your online activity is limited to a website and the occasional email newsletter, bringing your contacts into a CRM is an excellent first step to modernizing your business practices.

Modern Website or Content Management System (CMS)

Every business needs a website. So if you’re already going to invest in one, why not maximize its use as a brand and lead generation tool? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Host your site on an accessible and easily editable platform. As your business grows and adapts to the shifting market, your website is going to have to grow and change too. Agile web editing—being flexible to make short incremental changes over time—requires a modern web system to accommodate this.

Help the end user. People go to websites looking for information, products and services that are going to help them. While websites do serve a promotional purpose, the underlying goal is to provide value to the user. So be sure to invest in educational and informational content in addition to your standard product and company descriptions.

Always feature calls-to-action to guide the user along. When a user visits your site, you have their attention. Since you’ve already accomplished half the battle – capturing attention – then go ahead and use it as an opportunity to drive engagement, whether that’s to set up a time to talk or get them to subscribe to your email list.

Email & Marketing Automation Software

If your website is attracting and converting leads, the next step is to convert those leads into customers. And while traditional marketing methods do help convert and nurture customers, marketing automation software makes it easier and scalable.

Here are some ways marketing automation software can help you:

  • Automate emails to go out a certain amount of time from a conversion or contact – use this as an opportunity to explain more about what your business does and how you solve their specific problems.
  • Alert salespeople when a lead has engaged in activity with your business – like visiting your website, clicking on an ad or filling out a form on your website – so they are reaching out to people who already have your company on their mind.

These are just a couple of the ways you can use marketing automation software. It’ll help you better communicate with your customers and bring more prospects into the fold.

Digital Ad Technology

While direct placement ads on ag media sites can be very effective in reaching some of your audience, these ads can be expensive and there’s little to no real way to track results. Fortunately, technology makes it easier than ever not only to create and distribute ads, but to ensure they’re being displayed to the right customer.

Programmatic ads. When you combine accurate, up-to-date ag customer data with programmatic advertising, you’ll make sure that your display ads aren’t being displayed on a specific site, but to a specific farmer. Whether your farmer is on ESPN or Weather.com, your ad will follow them and make sure your message stays on the top of their minds.

Programmatic ads. When you combine accurate, up-to-date ag customer data with programmatic advertising, you’ll make sure that your display ads aren’t being displayed on a specific site, but to a specific farmer. Whether your farmer is on ESPN or Weather.com, your ad will follow them and make sure your message stays on the top of their minds.

Digital ad technology also lets you gauge the performance of your ads in real time, so you know what’s performing well and make adjustments based on that information.

Target messaging in brand awareness campaigns, not just lead gen

Even for agribusinesses that don’t sell direct to farmers, leveraging data to grow your business’ brand will make your branding initiatives more effective in achieving your long-term goals.

A lot of branding campaigns in ag involve taking out ads in magazines or spending a lot of dollars on TV and radio ads – which are expensive to produce. Those channels may seem to be successful, but here are two reasons why you may be missing out:

  • “Success” isn’t quantifiable. You can’t know how many farmers are seeing your ads, and where they’re viewing them. Are they listening to the radio in the car or on an app? Where are they reading the magazine – and how much time do they spend looking at your ad?
  • You may be spending so much on audience marketing that you don’t have the wiggle room to invest in and experiment with other channels – even if those channels are going to be better at brand messaging and creating a positive ROI for your business.

When you take out a TV, radio or magazine ad, you’re paying for the advertising space, not the people who see it. While this is beneficial in terms of influencing the perception of the market and improving your brand recognition, it won’t guarantee new business.

Fortunately, with the rise of digital technology and marketing automation, you don’t have to choose—you can invest in targeted ads that will improve brand awareness among your ideal customers:

  • For starters, programmatic ads let you deliver your creative to your ideal audience based on target demographics. So if you want to deliver a message to Corn/Soy farmers of 500-plus acre farms, you can make sure your ads reach that audience.
  • But it extends beyond “typical” digital ads. Use email marketing to send brand messages directly into those farmers’ inboxes.
  • Since TV ad placement is incredibly expensive, create a video and upload it to Facebook and YouTube – the two top social media channels for farmers.

Plus, there’s the advantage of segmentation. With traditional marketing, the only control you have in terms of segmentation is where you place the ad. So if you want to place an ad geared toward commodity farmers in a commodity trade, then that’s a step in the right direction.

Data-powered digital marketing takes it to the next level. You can create segments based on whether farmers farm commodities or specialty crops. Your ads will then be delivered so that only commodity farmers are seeing your commodity message, and only specialty crop farmers are seeing your specialty crop message.

You can also see how many farmers are viewing your ads and where they’re seeing them. And then you can map that against your revenue, to see if there’s a correlation between increased brand spending and the revenue you generate from the farmers who engage with your content.

Chapter 2: Top Revenue-Generating Strategies

Chapter 2: Top Revenue-Generating Marketing Strategies

Now that you’ve seen how data and information technology can help your agribusiness, here are some marketing strategies that can help you generate revenue.

Focus on Moving the Needle

Instead of spending time on marketing activities that may be good but not great, focus on high-impact areas that are actually going to get you closer to your goal. Find those measurable indicators that you want to drive, focus only on the actions that lead you toward those, and cut out the stuff that doesn’t.

Successful marketing campaigns start with the following question: What’s our primary focus going to be? Here are some examples of campaign goals and how to map your marketing tactics to those goals:

Brand Authority & Awareness. A brand campaign can benefit from a combination of audience marketing and targeted digital marketing, because the ultimate goal is more awareness of your company among farmers.

Education. If the market is uneducated on your products, services or expertise, then it’s your job to educate them on the value you offer them. Blogs, eBooks, video, email and social media are all great channels for sharing educational content with your audience.

Engagement. Growing your online presence means not only that you need to generate conversions, but engagement. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all measure engagement by three metrics – likes, shares (or retweets) and comment. These campaigns require content that people are going to want to share within the social media application.

Conversion. Generating a conversion means that you need to serve ads to potential customers, so targeted marketing is going to be your best bet here. Make sure that the value and offer are clear, the call-to-action is easy to follow and that there’s an enticing reason to click.

This will provide a foundation for you to track and measure your campaign after you’ve deployed it. So choose your primary goal and map your tactics to that goal.

Market to Your Current Customers

Start by going after the low-hanging fruit. There are plenty of advantages to going after your current customers. You already have a relationship with them, they’re already familiar with your brand, and you know they’re a good fit. And while you shouldn’t focus only on your current customers as a source of business, they’re a great place to start.

There’s data out there to help you analyze your share of wallet among those customers, and see where there’s opportunity to improve.

Knowing the details about your customers’ farm operations is going to help you better identify additional products that can help them—and improve your revenue at the same time.

Find Ideal Pockets in the Market to Penetrate

Marketing and prospecting are expensive endeavors, but that doesn’t mean you should completely give them up. Instead, look for strategic and focused ways to expand your footprint in a way that reduces upfront investment and increases the potential payoff.

You should focus on the farmers that have a good chance of doing business with you to maximize every dollar you’re investing in marketing. That means you should find your ideal market and focus on marketing to those farmers.  Your ideal market may be Corn/Soy growers in the Midwest. Or it could be farmers with a certain level of gross farm income on the West Coast. Or it could be all farmers in the U.S. who farm 500+ acres of cotton.

Instead on focusing on “The Market” in the abstract, dig deep into your ideal customer through use of the data and information available to you. Use it to determine what your target market is; that is, the traits and demographics of your ideal customers.

There are many ways to segment your target market. Here are just a few:

  • Geographic territory (region, division, state or county)
  • Size of the operation (Gross Farm Income or number of acres farmed)
  • Type of operation (commodity vs. specialty, organic vs. non-organic, etc.)
  • Demographics of the farmer (age, gender, etc.)
  • Prospect vs. current customer

Using this data, you can create segments within your target market to customize and target your marketing messages.

Try New Things

When uncertainty hits the market, it’s natural to double down on channels you’re familiar with. But consider the counter-intuitive alternative: uncertainty in the market makes it the perfect time to try new things.

One reason for this is that it’s another way to outmaneuver your competition. If everyone else is doubling down on familiar channels like direct mail and direct placement ads, then the market is wide open in other channels, like targeted programmatic ads and Facebook ads. Also, while you may have had success and generated revenue from familiar channels, there may be other channels that can bring you to your revenue goal even faster.

That doesn’t mean you dump your entire marketing budget into a new channel. Start with a $50 investment in targeted Facebook Ads, for example. If you generate business from it, then up the price, and then consider making even bigger investments in other kinds of direct ads.

Experiment with new channels—especially different channels integrated with a consistent message—to see what can positively influence your business revenue.

Be Deliberate in the Frequency and Timing of Your Messages

You should also be intentional about how and when you deploy your ads.  You could have the best ad with the best message, but delivered at the wrong time it could be ineffective, or worse, detrimental to your marketing efforts.

Look at the frequency of your messages. You don’t want to send too many messages so as to overwhelm them. On the other hand, sending too few communications means that you’ll lose their attention over time and become less and less interesting to them.

Here are some factors that could influence how frequent you communicate with a farmer:

  • Size of the purchase. Larger purchases require longer sales cycles, and your marketing communications will need to keep those customers engaged over that longer period.
  • Industry news and events. The other factor to consider is timing relative to what’s happening in the news and the industry. You want your marketing messages to be relevant to what your farmers are experiencing.
  • Events impacting the farm. There are times of the year where the farmer is interested in your product or service and there are times when they aren’t. Timing your communications accordingly can keep you from getting off on the wrong foot.

Integrate Marketing Channels to Increase Your Impact

Marketers have an expansive set of marketing tools available to them thanks to modern technology. With all of these options, there’s no reason you should limit yourself to one channel.

Test and experiment with the right combination of ads that will give you the most value. For example, you could use targeted programmatic ads to get attention, Facebook ads to re-engage, and email to follow up and nurture leads until they’re ready to talk to sales.

One of the core principles of integrated marketing is to have a consistent message across the campaign. That way, each subsequent message builds on the previous messages and you’re building a presence in the mind of your farmers.

(Read More About Integrated Marketing Campaigns)

Measure Results and Analyze to Improve Future Campaigns

The biggest advantage that comes from modern digital marketing is the ability to measure and track results and adjust the ads over time. That way, you’re always looking at the effectiveness of your campaigns and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

This is where you go back to your campaign objective you established at the beginning. Since that’s clearly defined, measuring results should be easy:

  • Brand authority & awareness should be measured in terms of ad reach, number of views and impressions
  • Education should be measured in terms of the number of qualified leads that are going to your sales team
  • Engagement should be measured in terms of likes, comments, shares and clicks
  • Conversion should be measured in terms of number of leads generated and the conversion rates for those leads into new customers

Once you have a goal, have built a campaign, and are tracking the results of that campaign, you’ve set up an ongoing process that gives you a leg up in generating success and results for your business.

Get the Whole Team on Board

Just one person using data isn’t going to have a company-wide impact. That’s why you must work to get the whole team—executives and leadership, marketers and salespeople—engaged and on board if you want to move the needle. Getting everyone basing their decisions on the same data helps you get the whole business moving in the same direction.

This can be daunting. A lot of teams are hesitant to disrupt their marketing or sales processes. “This is the way we’ve always done it” may have worked in the past, and no one wants to rock the boat.

As a leader, there are two ways you can get people to adopt data:

  • Mandate data use from the top-down. This is probably the most efficient way to get people on board. While it may seem harsh, sometimes the best way to get everyone using data is to make it a requirement. Your team may actually adapt quickly to the new way of doing things.
  • Get buy-in from the bottom-up. Start getting buy-in from your team and focus on the people who are using data effectively and increasing their results through using it. Publicly comment on this during your team meetings. Show your marketing and sales teams how they stand to benefit if they use data in their marketing and sales processes.

These two methods aren’t mutually exclusive. You’ll likely use a combination of the two approaches. But the end goal is the same: get your people using data so you can see the impact it will have on your entire company.

Chapter 3: Investing in the Right Data

Chapter 3: Investing in the Right Data

Executing these marketing strategies requires data and information to drive targeted marketing. When push comes to shove, bad data results in lost dollars instead of a significant return on investment.

But finding that information is easier said than done. Here are some ways you can make sure you’re investing in the right agriculture data.

How to find an agriculture data partner

Even though good data is going to be more expensive in the short term, you stand to make a better return over the long haul, which means more business for you.

If you want data that’s reliable, gives you insights that you can actually execute against and that’s going to keep up with your business over time, you need someone who has a track record in managing and maintaining data. Here are some ways you’ll know that you’ve got a good data provider:

They know their stuff. When you sit and talk with someone from the company – especially if it’s someone on their data management and data science team – you can tell that they know what they’re talking about.

They show you, rather than tell you. A lot of companies talk about their product. But you want someone who’s willing to show you their product. That’s a company that’s so confident in what they do that they’ll just let the product tell the story for them.

They answer questions substantively. Probably the worst thing that could happen is if you ask a question, and the person from the company either ignores the question or gives you a trite answer. Actually, it’s worse when that person gets defensive around the subject matter when the question is asked. If they can’t respond to a little push-back, then they’re not going to be a good fit for you in the long-term.

A short-term data rental may help you close a couple deals and make a few quick bucks. But a trusted partner who’s the best source for agriculture information is going to help you grow your business and build a reputable brand over the long haul.

If a company provides data as a side piece to their main business model, then that data isn’t going to be maintained as regularly and diligently as a company whose primary source of business is through data.

For example, a publishing company may collect data on the farmers they serve over time, either through subscriptions or surveys. So they may say that they have a lot of data on farmers and then want to turn around and sell that to ag companies (ignoring the fundamental flaws that exist in survey data). That data won’t be the same quality as a company that’s completely devoted to managing and maintaining a database.

Also remember: you get what you pay for. Good farm data is going to come with a price tag. But it’s important to think about data in the long term. You may save a buck on cheap data now, but over time that data’s going to lead to bad deals and wasted sales rep time – wasted money.

But if you go ahead and invest in high quality data, then you’ll get better information, which leads to a better strategy, marketing and sales campaign, which then leads to more deals in the end.

Learn More About FMiD Data

How to determine if the data is high-quality

If you have bad data, you’ll get bad insights, which lead to bad business decisions, which lead to losses for your business. So if you’re going to invest in farm data, make sure you’re looking for high quality farm data.

High quality farm data providers are going to test their results against a number of sources. Ideally, you’ll get someone who cross references public (USDA, FSA, etc.) and private (proprietary third-party data) sources. Even if a given data provider has multiple sources for their data, it’s important to look beyond the numbers themselves and ask yourself: how did they collect this data?

For example, if a provider used surveys to collect their farm data, that would be a problem. Here’s why:

  • Surveys incentivize inaccurate reporting – both under- and over-reporting – because of the incentives associated with them
  • Surveys are subject to selection bias, where only those interested in the survey end up reporting, leading to a skewed and limited number of respondents
  • Most surveys can’t account for overlapping acres, or the distinction between land owned versus land operated

Any collection methods that involve surveys, polling or anything similar aren’t going to deliver reliable results. A good data provider is going to know this and will give you data that comes from objective sources.

Companies that provide high quality farm data know that their data is high quality, and don’t need to be mysterious about it. Transparency is a clear sign that you’ve found a high quality farm data provider.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Where did the data come from?
  • How often do you update the data?
  • What process do you use to update the data?
  • How does your data compare to other sources?

If you have a data provider that has high coverage, accuracy, and procures data from a variety of testable sources – and the data delivers strategy, marketing and sales results for your business – then you know you have a high quality farm data provider.

Case Study: Should Your Agribusiness Go After Millennial Farmers?

Let’s look at an example of how high-quality data can inform strategic marketing decisions. The Millennial Farmer is a highly sought-after demographic and there’s a lot of talk about Millennials in our industry. Instead of assuming that Millennials make up a valuable market for ag, let’s actually examine the question: should we be focused on the Millennial farmer?

Millennials make up the smallest percentage of growers (excl. GenZ)

So who is farming in America right now? Let’s put it this way: agriculture is a “booming” market, since Baby Boomers own and operate the majority of farmers. On the other hand, Millennials are a small group compared to the overall market. By small, we mean less than five percent. Take a look at the breakdown showing the percentage of growers by generation:

Growers by generation

You can see that three-quarters of all growers are ages 55 and older.  Plus, the Silent Generation – ages 74 and older – makes up a larger percentage of the market than GenX and Millennials combined.

Here’s what happens when we drill down into Corn/Soy growers:

Corn/Soy Growers by Generation

The numbers don’t shift much, but the little shifts are worth noting:

  • Baby Boomers remain the majority
  • The Silent Generation makes up a smaller share of the market by 1.5%
  • Generation X and Millennials absorb the remaining share by 1.0% and 0.3%, respectively

Let’s see what happens when we drill down even further and look at Corn/Soy growers in seven states with over 10 million planted acres of Corn and/or Soy:

Corn/Soy Growers by Generation Key States

Whether we look at the overall market, a high-value crop demographic or geographic area with high acreage, the results are the same: Millennials make up a sliver of the market compared to older generations.

What does this mean for you? It confirms what we all know – that the ag market is an older market. That means that the Millennial demographic is likely not where you’re going to find the most opportunity.

Reaching Your Addressable Market: Channel Counts for Each Generation

This high-level analysis is only helpful if you can execute against it. So after we examine the aggregate data, eventually you’ll have to push this down from strategy to marketing and sales.

Here’s some data on the coverage from four marketing and sales channels – mailing address, landline, mobile phones and email (which can be used for both email marketing and social media):

Channel Coverage by Age

Addresses are covered at nearly 100% regardless of age. But looking at the trends for the other three channels yields interesting results:

  1. Landline matches increase overall with growers’ age – although there’s an interesting uptick of landlines among young Millennials and GenZ
  2. Mobile phone matches decrease as growers’ age increases
  3. The highest email address coverage comes from older Generation X and younger Baby Boomer farmers

Not only do Millennials not dominate the market overall, but they really don’t dominate any one particular marketing channel. The bottom line here: while you shouldn’t completely ignore the Millennial farmer, neither should you put an undue focus on them.

The industry mostly consists of older farmers and while we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, today your best shot at increasing revenue is to go after older farmers and earn their business – with the long-term goal of staying in business with them when the farm changes hands.

Segmenting and Going After Your Target Audience

Modern technology puts more power in the marketer’s hands. Instead of blasting your message out and hoping the right person will stumble across it, you can build and market to the perfect audience for your own business.

If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Building the perfect audience for your business and marketing to them is something that’s within your reach. Here is a step-by-step guide.

Start with your value proposition – and work backwards

The ultimate goal for your agribusiness has been, is and always will be revenue. Every step you take in strategy, marketing and sales should get you closer to your revenue number.

Take a look at the products and services you offer. Then take a look at your number. And then ask yourself:

  • Who’s the best audience to get me to that number by purchasing my products and services?
  • Who’s going to benefit the most from what you’re offering?

Either way, building your perfect audience means starting with your value proposition and working backwards.

Talk to your current customers, analyze internal customer data, and remember that your current customer may not be your ideal customer, so consider other potential use cases from your customers.

Identify the 6-10 demographics of your ideal audience

After you have an idea of the kind of people who comprise your ideal audience, then you can start quantifying that to guide your research. The key is to look at your ideal audience that you determined in the previous section and make it more concrete by assigning specific demographics to it:

  • Crop type / rotation pattern
  • Gross Farm Income
  • Number of acres farmed
  • Specialty vs. commodity
  • Geographic location
  • Number of individual farm fields operated
  • Amount of land owned, not just operated

These are just a few examples – the Farm Market iD database has over 200 demographics to choose from, so you can see how detailed and granular you can get with your audience. Then repeat this process for as many segments as you have.

Build your prospect lists based on those demographics

Then take those demographics and use them to guide and focus your prospect research efforts. A third-party data source is going to be your best bet if you want to maximize your investment and minimize lost opportunities. It will allow you to find new farmers so you can focus your spend and resources on farmers who will be responsive.

This isn’t some abstract concept that involves guesswork. Here are some of the tangible benefits you get from this kind of data-targeted marketing:

  • When you segment growers based on objective criteria for who is the best fit for your business, your audience size goes down but the percentage of likely customers goes up.
  • By using data to understand the context around the grower’s operation, you can communicate directly to their needs and offer the solution that helps them improve their day-to-day.
  • Using reliable, up-to-date information, you can segment growers into groups where you can deliver targeted communications – email, direct mail, digital ads and social media – directly to them.

Fine tune your segments to get as detailed as possible

If you want to communicate with your audience with as personalized a message as possible, then you need to develop your communications specific to key market segments. Let’s use an example using real-life ag data. In this example, you work for a hypothetical agribusiness that does business primarily in Midwest states with Corn/Soy growers.

Right off the bat, you can start to narrow in on that audience by limiting it to your addressable market. There are nearly 950,000 Corn/Soy growers in the Midwest and while these make up the largest segment of growers in the country, it eliminates a significant chunk of the market.

Here’s a breakdown of the Midwest Corn/Soy growers by state so you can see where they’re located:

State Growers
Illinois 120,390
Indiana 82,819
Michigan 107,015
Ohio 79,726
Wisconsin 77,922
Iowa 113,209
Kansas 73,628
Minnesota 93,359
Missouri 62,455
Nebraska 68,003
North Dakota 28,828
South Dakota 40,583

With the right data, you could go on a more detailed county-by-county analysis. Using the data at your disposal, you can segment and select the operations with the largest number of operations farming 500+ acres of Corn/Soy:

County 500+ 1000+
Cass, ND 634 405
Mc Lean, IL 518 220
Champaign, IL 495 204
Brown, SD 484 284
Livingston, IL 437 169
Renville, MN 436 241
Minnehaha, SD 397 144
La Salle, IL 390 162
Iroquois, IL 389 171
Richland, ND 387 247
Lancaster, NE 377 130
Kossuth, IA 364 144
Plymouth, IA 348 129
Grand Forks, ND 347 187
Spink, SD 347 241
Sangamon, IL 343 163
Redwood, MN 341 112
Stutsman, ND 329 203
Platte, NE 326 122
Sioux, IA 325 97

You can continue drilling down into these segments which, while small, ensure that you can target the farmers who are most likely to do business with you. By targeting an audience of likely customers, your marketing and sales efforts will go farther.

But this kind of segmentation isn’t just for prospects. Examine customers and prospects to better align your resources to available market opportunity.

It may be more effective to focus on sub-markets where you have low market share then say markets where your share is above 80%. Customer marketing should develop into wallet share, lifetime value, frequency, engagement, etc. to maximize your efforts there.

For a more detailed view on how you can segment market data to enhance your targeted marketing efforts, watch the video below. 

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Chapter 4: Implementing Data Tools Among Your Team

Chapter 4: Implementing Data Tools Among Your Team

When deciding whether to invest in data for your marketing team, there’s a lot to consider. Budget and finances certainly factor in. You may also be considering the impact on your most valuable resource: time.

Think of all the hours you spend in meetings discussing and theorizing about where the market is going and how farmers are responding to your marketing efforts. What if you could circumvent all those meetings by having the answer – and answer based on cold, hard facts – at your disposal?

Here are some examples where data contradicts the conventional wisdom in the industry:

  • The Millennial Farmer. There’s a lot of talk about the Millennial Farmer and how they’re taking over the industry. However, our data shows that the average age of the farmer is going up, not down.
  • Social media. Instinct and intuition tells people that ag media sites and direct mail pieces, but the numbers show that at least 46 percent of farmers are active on social media, especially channels like Facebook and YouTube.

Additionally, beware the trap of saying “we know all our customers.” While you certainly know the people you’re doing business with, there’s no way you know all the potential customers out there in the market. Let’s take a look at the number of active growers there are and the acreages they farm: 

Farm Size
(acres)
Growers
25+ 997,802
50+ 794,119
100+ 589,809
250+ 341,971
500+ 198,863
750+ 134,244
1000+ 96,715

Even if you focus only on 1000+ acre farms, that’s still a large market that’s difficult to address in its entirety. There are more growers out there than you realize, so be open-minded to where you can hunt and find new customers for your agribusiness.

In addition to general, strategic decisions around who the target market is and where you should be focusing your efforts, data analysis helps the marketer make decisions in executing against those segments. Here are some of the questions data helps you answer:

Who is the right audience? Your current audience may not be the right audience. Analyze data to understand who the best fit for your business is – whether that’s a grower that farms a particular crop or a specific size of operation – and build your marketing lists from there.

What are they responding to? Different messages are going to resonate with different segments of your audience. The more specific and contextual you are in your messaging, the more likely your audience is to engage with your content. Use the data at your disposal to see what content is performing among your audience and adjust your messaging accordingly.

When is the best time to communicate with your audience? Timing is everything, especially in a seasonal industry like ag. The ability to respond to key events in real time and offer a contextual offer that helps the farmer – that’s going to set your marketing efforts apart from the competition.

Where and on what channels are they more likely to engage with your content? The farmer is going to be active on multiple channels. You have to identify where the best places are to communicate with them.

When time and money are tight, nothing should be sacred. Everything you invest in should be under a microscope for you to see what needs to continue and what needs to be cut. Your marketing activities should be no different.

But how do you decide what marketing activities should continue on? That’s another reason why engaging in targeted marketing can be to your benefit. There are many marketing activities that don’t maximize your return on investment. Data analysis can show you where you’re falling short.

There may be benefits to investing in traditional audience marketing like radio and TV ads, but it’s difficult to track the ROI unless you’re using a dedicated email, phone number and landing page in your call-to-action.

But if you want to gain leads through your marketing efforts, you have to double down on the channels that work and eliminate the ones that don’t.

Here are some questions you can start asking and metrics you can start measuring today:

  • Can I clearly tie revenue to this particular marketing activity? If not, how am I measuring the value/success of this channel? If so, what’s the revenue generated compared to the overall spend (i.e. ROI)?
  • Can I clearly see who is viewing the content I’m sharing on this channel? Can I gather detailed demographics on the audience and/or ensure that I’m only targeting the segments that work for my agribusiness?
  • Am I able to adapt/adjust the content/creative when circumstances change?
  • Can I contextualize the message to the particular segment? Say, I want to say something different to Corn/Soy growers versus specialty crops? Or to larger operations versus smaller?

If the answer to those questions is “no”, then start asking some tougher questions:

  • What benefit are we receiving from this channel? Is it “moving the needle” in terms of the business?
  • Are we focusing on “vanity metrics” rather than driving actual engagement with customers and potential customers?
  • Is there a way we can do what this channel does, but better? For instance, investing in a TV ad may be something you do, but can you broadcast that content as a pre-roll targeting your customers so you know you’re reaching the right audience?

By answering all these questions, you can find the best places, times and content to engage your audience and drive them to do business with you:

  • You can identify the channels that are easily measurable
  • You can identify the audiences that engage/resonate with your marketing communications
  • You can identify the specific ads/messages/content that’s performing well among your audience
  • You can identify the products/services that these audiences are more likely to engage with

By reducing costs and increasing spend on activities that generate a better return, you can see faster growth for your agribusiness.

Building Buy-In from Other Stakeholders

Unless you’re a small company, you probably aren’t the only stakeholder who needs to be involved in the decision to invest in ag data. Whether it’s your leadership or other departments, part of your job is to build buy-in so that everyone who needs to sees the value that data offers. Here are a few ways to help make that happen:

Tie everything back to revenue    

Revenue is the ultimate goal you work toward in terms of marketing and sales. Show how you can bring in more revenue in the long haul by making an investment in farm data. Here are some ways you can help make that case:

  • Farm income & spend potential. It costs money to acquire a new customer. By knowing the size of the farm operations in a particular segment of the market, you can focus on those customers that are going to get you closer to your revenue goal, and not those that aren’t going to purchase your product or service.
  • Acreage & farm size. Depending on the specific products and services you offer to farmers, you may be looking for smaller versus larger farmers (or vice versa). Focus on the farmers who can benefit from what you offer.
  • Crop type & rotation pattern. Whether you want farmers with row crops or looking for a specific specialty crop, being able to sort out what farmers are growing can help you avoid wasting time on customers who don’t align with what you have to offer.
  • Owner vs. Operator. To make the most of your sales conversation, it’s important to know not only who owns the farm, but who operates it. That way, you ensure that you’re talking to the person who’s going to make the buying decision.

You don’t just want to show that the data will pay for itself – you want to demonstrate that the data can maximize your marketing and sales spend and bring in significant new revenues for your agribusiness.

Demonstrate how this will open new opportunities to market and sell

As your business grows overall footprint and your market share, knowing where those prime opportunities for growth can help you focus marketing and sales in a direction that’s going to help you achieve real results. With 2.4 million growers in the market, it’s unlikely that you know every single grower in your target market (here’s an analysis where we break that down).

Plus, some companies make the mistake that their current customer is their ideal customer. While there’s a lot to learn from current customers – clearly, since they’re the people who have actually purchased from you – there may be segments of the market out there that are also a good fit for your business that you aren’t considering. For example, look at oat growers in a handful of states:

Oats growers in FarmFocus

You can see where various growers are and the size of their farming operations. Knowing this can help you decide where to target your marketing and sales efforts. This shows that you’re not only increasing revenue but the business’ overall impact on the ag market.

Learn more about your current customers

Not only can good ag data help you learn about new market opportunities, but also your current customers. Even if you’ve done business with your customers for a long time, the circumstances impacting their operations is bound to change the products or services they’re interested in – or whether they’re in a position to continue doing business with you.

But knowing the impact of external and internal factors on your current customers extends far beyond those things. You should understand the history of the operation and what they’ve been farming and how much acreage is allocated to each crop type. You should look at the relationships your customers have with other growers to see if there are other opportunities to grow there. You should see which of your customers have more spend potential than you’re taking advantage of so you can go after them and increase your share of wallet.

GrowerProfile screenshot

Show stakeholders how this detailed farm data can help improve those already existing relationships and further solidify the foundation on which your business rests.

Show how this will make your whole company more efficient

Not only does data help you make strategic decisions, but when you “push it to the edge” and properly implement it among all the members of your team, it helps align everyone around the right customers and toward your revenue goal.

This increases efficiency by arming everyone with the information to reach that goal, so everyone can spend their time on decision-making and execution:

  • Strategic leaders make decisions based on market data
  • Marketing leaders deploy communications and start conversations with specific segments
  • Sales leaders go after individual farmers and move the conversation to a close

That means that marketing is being strategic, sales is selling to who marketing is communicating with, and strategists are listening to salespeople and the data at their disposal to adjust the overall strategy.

No IT Team? No Problem!

Some agribusinesses may feel that they need an IT team in order to process and interpret the data analysis. If you have someone in your company who can own the data analysis side of things, that’s great. However, if you don’t, you can still take advantage of the information that good data has to offer you.

Although it may be tempting to write off data and information insights as something you can’t do without an IT team, the reality is that without these insights, you’re going to have a hard time staying on top of the market. Even if you think you know your growers, chances are you’re missing some and your competitors are certainly researching and finding ways to grow their market and wallet share.

Thankfully, with the rise of new technologies to help non-IT people analyze and interpret data, it’s easier to gain these insights than before. Here are some tips to get started.

Start with what you know

When you don’t have an IT team to help you get started, it’s probably a good idea to dip a toe into the water first. There’s a lot of data and information out there, and if you want it to be helpful to you, it’s best to start with what you know.

For example, if you know that having access to a farm’s crop rotation pattern is going to help you make decisions when selling to them, then start by accessing that data. If you know that you want to reach out to farmers that farm more than 500 acres, use that data to narrow down your audience for marketing and sales purposes.

Over time, you’ll get a hand of the kinds of data and analysis that can help you and your team gain insights. But start with what you know and build your information from there.

Invest in data you can access and analyze

As someone whose job isn’t about data analysis, the less time you spend looking at data and the more time you spend putting that data to use, the better. Thus your data shouldn’t just be accurate and comprehensive; it needs to be accessible.

For example, business intelligence tools can take massive amounts of market data and analyze and visualize key insights from them. Market share, wallet share, and opportunities to expand your footprint come through tools like these.

Of course, modern marketers also have their fingers in data, using segmentation to target smaller, focused lists of farmers in order to deliver personalized messages. The more information you have on these segments, the better your messaging is going to be.

Salespeople also are familiar with customer relationship management (CRM) technology that lets you view information on a grower by grower basis, bringing information from multiple sources together to give you a full picture.

Use the insights from this data to drive results

The end goal of an investment in data is to drive results – real, tangible results like revenue growth. This is where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak.

However, all data can do is provide information to you. The responsibility for taking that data and using it to drive success and growth for your agribusiness rests on you – the ag professional.

  • Identify opportunities for revenue growth through footprint, market share and wallet share analysis to inform and drive business strategy
  • Communicate with the best audiences for your company through targeted marketing efforts
  • Understand the details of the operation before you begin a sales conversation to position yourself to close the deal

Take the contextualized data at your disposal and use it to achieve real revenue results, helping your agribusiness remain stable in the midst of a changing and evolving market.

Aligning the Whole Team Around Data

Silos are great for grain storage. But they’re horrible for business.

It’s easy for your business to fall into the silo trap, where marketing does marketing and sales does sales – all within their own vacuums and echo chambers. Typically, silos start to form when the following happens:

  • Nonaligned priorities
  • Lack of information flow
  • Lack of coordinated decision making across silos

If one – or all – of these things are happening to you, then chances are you’ve fallen into the silo trap.

Fortunately, reversing this process is within your reach. And when you’re using data to drive your decision making, then it’s even easier for you and your whole team.

Here are a few tips for avoiding silos, moving to a 360-degree view and, ultimately, integrating your strategy, marketing and sales.

Get everyone on the same page – with facts

One of the biggest contributors to a siloed operation is different teams using different facts and data. Sales teams gather insights from decision makers, customer service from end users, and marketing from the market as a whole.

While individual insights gathered from each team are valuable, they should validate, rather than provide, the information that guides the whole team. That’s because they don’t give you the full picture.

Instead, start with data gathered from fact-based sources, and then use individual insights to augment and complement that data. Use this data as the bridge that aligns your marketing and sales efforts, making sure that both teams are going after the same people.

Make sure everyone is using the same tools

Disintegrated data is just one contributor to misalignment. Another is the use of a myriad of tools across your teams.

For example, if your sales team is using a CRM that doesn’t integrate with your marketing software, marketing doesn’t get to benefit from the insights of the sales team, and vice versa. And when it comes down to it, it’s one unified funnel.

A good first step is to give everyone access to your company’s CRM – at least to be able to read. It’s even better if the CRM integrates with your marketing automation tools. That way the entire path to purchase is tracked for everyone to see.

Collect feedback from other team members

Executives are responsible for making strategic decisions, but if those decisions aren’t informed by marketing and sales insights, then it’s possible the strategy won’t be actionable.

People in any discipline can inadvertently put blinders on and become overly focused on what they’re doing. And that’s not always a bad thing.

But when tunnel vision accompanies an already siloed organization, then no one is going to be rowing in the same direction, which, at the end of the day, is revenue.

While marketing people are best positioned to make marketing decisions and sales management are positioned to make sales decisions, it’s always a good idea to gain insights from other team to provide a more holistic perspective.

And when you share information and start from a common framework of data, it’s easier for everyone involved to be informed when offering feedback and suggestions, so you not only get varied feedback, but informed feedback.

Don’t assume

In an industry as established as agriculture, assumptions and intuition are a part of how we operate.

But in an age of disruption and evolution, assumptions are less valuable than you’d think. The market is changing, and it’s changing at breakneck speed. If your strategy, marketing and sales teams are good at what they do, they’re evolving their own practices to keep up with changing times.

Here are some assumptions you shouldn’t make:

  • Don’t assume your marketers are marketing the same way they were a decade ago. And if they, don’t assume the market is going to respond to the message the same way.
  • Don’t assume that your ideal customer is synonymous with your current customer. It’s possible that there are pockets of opportunity that you aren’t even aware of.
  • Don’t assume that your products or services still offer the same value to farmers. Technology, automation, and a down economy all mean that farmers are re-evaluating what actually offers value to them.

If you make these assumptions, it’s possible that they’ll pan out. But then again, they may not. You sure you want to take that risk?

Having fact-based data that inform your decision making and guides marketing and sales teams is the key to avoiding assumptions and making informed, actionable decisions.

Establish a true S-M-S cycle

We talk a lot about how strategy should inform marketing which, in turn, informs sales. However, this isn’t a linear process, but a cyclical one.

If your sales team is truly focused on learning about customers and gaining insights on how your business can best help them, then those insights should inform the strategy process, working with your market data to provide a 360-degree picture of who your ideal customer is.

When this is all together, you’ll build a true S-M-S cycle that involves continual planning, data, and execution to achieve business success.

Chapter 5: Specific Marketing Tactics That Work

Chapter 5: Specific Marketing Tactics That Work

Integrated Marketing

There are near countless ways to communicate your brand, products and message with the farmers you’re trying to reach. The best campaigns take your top-performing channels and bring them together in an integrated effort.

If a farmer sees a branded ad as a pre-roll video, and then receives an email in their inbox with the same information, they’re more likely to open and click the email – simply because they’re already familiar with it.

Know the farmers that you’re marketing to and the messages that they’ll respond to, and make sure to broadcast those messages across your channels, using data to make them targeted and precise. While this may sound like a hefty operation, it’s a lot simpler and more intuitive than it sounds. Here are some tips we’ve found to make you integrated marketing campaigns effective and successful.

Focus on a single objective for each campaign. An effective integrated marketing campaign is focused on a specific objective that grounds all the creative and channels. As far as choosing what that objective actually is, that’s up to you. Building brand awareness, generating leads for large purchases, selling your products online—these are all examples of objectives that you can center your campaign around.

Tie your content offer to your objective. While your integrated marketing campaign has only one objective, you can use many different types of content to reach that objective. If you’re running a lead gen campaign, don’t create ads that take people to click to a purchase page. Instead, offer some type of content that’s going to solve a problem their having.

Get inside your personas’ heads. Your buyer personas help you focus your marketing messaging by keeping top of mind the kinds of content, wording and online experience that will engage them. As a marketer, it’s important to get inside your personas’ heads so you can predict how they’ll behave when they see and interact with your marketing content. This is how you’ll bridge the gap between where your potential customers are and where your product or service is.

Identify the best channels for that persona. Not all marketing channels are creating equal. You want to select the channels used in your campaign based on where that persona is most likely to have a positive interaction with your content. For example, if you know that they’re regularly checking in and watching videos on major news sites, targeted programmatic pre-roll video will be a better solution for you.

Develop a consistent ad theme. An integrated campaign only works when it’s integrated. That means that across all channels, personas and verticals, your ads are pointed toward the same objective and use similar messaging. Get your prospects to connect the dots, because they’re going to have already developed a positive perception in their mind. That means that every step in the process, they’re going to be more willing to let their guard down and listen to what you have to say.

Customize your creative. Because of the power that marketing technology gives companies, personalization is pretty much expected from consumers today. Another important best practice is to use data and technology to personalize for each individual. Big Data opens up the door to more personalization options. For example, email merge tags let you personalize names, locations and more for each send. Some websites can store cookies so that when visitors return to your site, they receive a different message than the first time they visit.

Coordinate your deployments. Make sure that you time your ads based on what the right cadence for your personas is. Too quickly will overwhelm them, but too slowly means that they’re going to be less likely to respond to each one. It’s important to coordinate not just based on internal factors, but external ones as well. Make sure that you’re coordinating your deployments with what’s happening in the world, so it looks like you’re cognizant of more than just your own business.

Don’t “set it and forget it.” You’re going to collect so much data from your ad campaigns that are going to help you optimize ads throughout. It’s crucial to consistently analyze and optimize throughout the campaign, so you can ensure you’re getting the best results over the course of the entire engagement.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a well-known, proven method of communicating with customers, prospects and the market in general. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.

If you already have a customer file with email addresses, or you’ve recently acquired email addresses for those customers through data append, then that’s a great place to start. Before you send, however, validate the emails. This will maximize deliverability and inboxing by finding the records that don’t have an email. In other channels, a bad address, phone number, or errant ad delivery will certainly be ineffective, but the impact is isolated. Not so with email.

With email marketing, the ISPs (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc). evaluate you, the sender, through a number of ways; your IP Address and sending domain, your email message, and most importantly, the response of their recipient users.

Here are some signs you have bad emails in your CRM:

  • More than 10 percent of emails are undeliverable
  • Your file contains any spam traps
  • More 0.1 percent of recipients mark your email as spam

Finding new customers through email – called Acquisition Email Marketing – is the most difficult of all the email marketing types.

Most (nearly all) marketing automation software and email providers simply steer clear of this type of campaign. They prohibit sending unsolicited emails through their platforms because of the issues around deliverability and inboxing (see the first section above for a list of these issues).

As a result, navigating these challenges is going to be challenging and require an adept hand. Here are some rules to help you out.

  • Don’t use your regular CRM sending domain. Although this may help you reach your prospects’ inbox, any deliverability issues you come across will impede all of your email sends going forward.
  • Carefully monitor the ratio of positive to negative engagement. Positive engagement includes opens and clicks, and negative engagements include unopens and spam complains.
  • Optimize your emails for positive engagement. Be relevant and specific, ensure that your email meets technical specifications (download this free guide for a checklist), perform A/B tests on campaigns before sending and always learn and improve as you go along.

ISPs are continuously changing their email filter rules, audience preference changes, and the many topical considerations such as time of day/week/year, recent events.

When a farmer comes into contact with your business, they may be ready to make a purchase right then and there. But more often than not, they aren’t quite there yet.

So if they haven’t explicitly told you they’re ready to talk to sales, hold back on selling and focus instead on nurturing. A nurture campaign geared toward farmers will have three primary goals. Here are some practical ways to work toward those goals:

Capitalize on farmers’ attention. When a fills out a form on your website or has a conversation with someone on your team, your brand is front and center. Enjoy it, because that level of attention won’t last long. From the moment that conversion activity happens, you start to lose their attention. And before you know it, you’ve lost it completely. Set an automated to go out immediately after the conversion, create a retargeting campaign

Educate farmers to make the best purchasing decisions. Because of the Internet, farmers are more knowledgeable than agribusinesses. Ag companies need to adapt to the reality that they don’t control the flow of information. Use your insight to help farmers make sense of the information at their disposal. When applicable, fill in the gaps. Help them understand how their operation fits into the industry as a whole. And once your farmers are educated, that means that they’ll understand how your products and services help them best.

Show them the value your products give them. If a farmer doesn’t see the immediate, practical value your products give them in their day-to-day life and work, then they aren’t going to purchase. Talk in detail about the use cases of your product. Put together case studies or testimonials from other farmers who’ve had a good experience with the product. Get detailed feedback so farmers can understand the specific benefits it’s provided to them. Show videos and photos of the product in use when possible.

Analyze the results/reporting to see how the campaign performed across many different variables, such as time of day, receiving ISP, audience, clicks, etc. By using this data and feedback, you should be able to fine-tune your efforts and increase your ROI.

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Programmatic Ads

When you’re investing in digital ads, are you investing in the placement of the ad or the audience? With today’s marketing technology, it’s easy to serve online ads directly to farmers – and only farmers.

As the years go by, technology continues to advance, change, and aid in the completion of everyday tasks. Big Data keeps getting bigger and its applications more usable. Those that embrace and use it effectively will strengthen relationships with their customers and will create bridges to new customer relationships.

With advanced technology systems on the rise, traditional ag media is struggling to keep up, despite maintaining good relationships with farmers for many years. Along with these changes comes the opportunity for marketers to reach out to farmers with new media and ways of marketing their ag business.

Tools like programmatic advertising allow marketers to buy audiences based on demographics and consumer behaviors, which lets them understand real-time decision making of these consumers, rather than just looking at general data. In fact, programmatic is the dominant form of online ad spending, although the agriculture industry appears to be far behind in its use of AdTech, including programmatic.

In its simplest terms, programmatic is the automated buying and selling of digital ad space. Programmatic advertising to farmers or agri-marketers puts a focus on reaching the right people, not the virtual ad real estate you’ve bought.

Rather than just place an ad on a website that sells various types of farm equipment and hope that the right eyes see it, digital advertising methods give you the ability to control who sees your ad at a very specific level. When you know your ad is landing on the eyes of corn growers versus cattle ranchers, you can target your messaging to directly speak to the audience whom you want to reach with greater chance of conversion.

Know your audience. Programmatic lets you target demographic information, type of crops grown, behaviors, etc. Not only can you target your audience by demographics, you can utilize programmatic advertising to reach everyone from those who have bought particular farming equipment in the past thirty days, or who have accessed a particular website on a mobile device versus a desktop computer.

Go where the farmers are. Why pay for impressions of people who may not have any interest in you product? Marketing to farmers specifically with programmatic advertising can cause you to show up on the websites your audience is browsing at a time when they’re most inclined to see it.

Test and adjust your campaigns. It’s no longer necessary to stick with a campaign that isn’t working. Whether you want to test out the best call-to-action to reach a target demographic or change messages based on the seasons, optimize your advertising strategy and test new opportunities.

Don’t fall for false dilemmas. Today, many ag marketers are falling into the trap of choosing between a traditional ag media plan or a non-ag digital plan. In reality, you do not need to ignore one in order to create a successful marketing plan. Farmers are people too, so they are consuming more media than ever before, just like audiences in a variety of other industries.

Maintain relationships. The relationship between ag media outlets and farmers has been alive and well for years. Farmers trust the media and the media works to continue being the main source of content. As long as this relationship remains strong, farmers will continue to trust ag media to deliver content that is relevant to them and their businesses.

Modernize and create value. Marketers have to do a few things in order to keep up and stay relevant in an ever-changing, technology-based world. Taking advantage of newer tools to create content such as videos, will allow for ag professionals to remain current. Also, it’s important to ensure strong data is available to tell a farmer’s story and to be able to deliver information to the proper audience.

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Direct Mail

Even in the age of digital connection, direct mail is here to stay. Sending mailers that land directly in farmers’ mailboxes is a great way to capture their attention. And among farmers in particular, it’s one of the most reliable ways to stay in touch with them.

Here are some specific advantages to consider:

  • More reliable delivery. Direct mail can have up to 95 percent delivery rate, thanks to the tried-and-true USPS. If it’s absolutely crucial that your message land in farmers’ hands, then direct mail may be a better route.
  • Less competition. Companies are giving up on direct mail, which means that you have a better opportunity to cut through the noise – something that’s becoming more and more difficult with email and even social media.
  • Drive the rest of your integrated marketing efforts. Direct mail, like any other marketing channel, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Farmers are active online just like any other consumer, so they’ll be interacting with your brand through Google searches, social media, emails, and more. Direct mail serves to complement that, not replace it. So instead of thinking of direct mail as its own channel, think of it as a driver of your other marketing efforts. When they work in tandem, you’ll see better results.

Direct mail works best when combined with other marketing channels. It boosts the effectiveness of your email, social media, messenger, display ads, and other efforts by reinforcing the messaging in those campaigns.

Here are some tips to be effective:

Test your mailers. How can you expect to succeed in direct mail if you don’t begin with a goal and then measure the results of your campaign by keeping track of the numbers? You’ll need to test your direct mail on an ongoing basis. Start by segmenting your data. One way to do this is through an A/B test. Whichever one performs the best, send that version to the remainder of the list. This could save countless dollars.

Be creative in how you market. Your direct mail campaigns that target farmers may see better results if you try an eye-catching, creative approach. No one wants to read a boring, 4-page text-only letter in 16-point Courier typeface. They want something eye-catching, engaging and, yes, entertaining. Don’t be afraid to use humor and a creative approach to capture attention.

Use multiple channels in addition to direct mail.  You want to make it as easy as possible for your recipients to respond to your direct mail pieces. Offering multiple ways to contact your company can help boost results for direct mail pieces. This multifaceted approach will also give you insight into an individual’s preference without you having to ask the question.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is a powerful and important tool in the digital marketer’s tool belt. For agricultural businesses, it’s important to understand how farmers use social media, and how that affects how you market to farmers.

Social media is no different than these other technologies. In fact, recent data has shown that social media is very popular among farmers and rural Americans. If you want to take full advantage of all the marketing and sales opportunities open to you, see how farmers are actually using social media, and how you can use that to inform your business strategy.

A recent Pew Research Center report revealed some interesting trends:

  • 58 percent of rural Americans use Facebook
  • 65 percent of ages 50-64 use Facebook
  • 78 percent of ages 30-49 use Facebook
  • 25 percent of rural Americans use Instagram
  • 17 percent of rural Americans use Twitter

Those last two numbers may look low, but when you consider that roughly 60 million people in America live in rural areas, you’re looking at 15 million people on Instagram and over 10 million on Twitter. Those are very sizable audiences.

While older rural Americans are the prime demographic for agribusiness, not all of those people are farmers. Farmers tend to gravitate toward Facebook and YouTube, with some of them using Twitter. Take a look at the following:

  • 46 percent of all farmers in America – nearly 1.5 million farmers – use Facebook
  • Only nine percent of farmers use Twitter, but that’s still an audience of nearly 300,000
  • The most popular social media platform by far is YouTube, used by nearly 51 percent of farmers – over 1.6 million

While your agribusiness will need to perform its own ROI analysis of how much time and money should be invested in social media, these stats show that it’s clearly a good idea to give it a shot.

Here are some easy ways to get started with social media:

Share content your farmers will find interesting. The goal of any social media marketing campaign is to establish yourself as an invaluable and irreplaceable resource for your audience. This could either be content you create and publish on your own blog, or it could be third-party content that you’ve curated and are sharing simply because you think it’ll be helpful. Of course, you’ll want to know whether you’re posting content that your audience wants to see. Always examine what’s generating likes, comments and clicks to gauge the level of interest among your audience.

Talk about the goings on of your company. People love “behind-the-scenes” footage. Feature some of your employees so people can get to know the “faces” of your company. Live tweet a big event or a webinar. Show footage of your team working in your offices, plants or factories. It’ll show farmers that you’re not just a brand, but you’re human: and they’ll want to do business with you even more.

Mention upcoming offers. While email lets you put a message directly in your prospects’ and customers’ inboxes, social media is even more direct, putting your message in front of people without the need for any contact info. So when it’s time to launch a new product, update or offer, consider using social media to make the announcement. Social media can help you get your message out quickly and directly. So if you need to boost those offers, be sure to get started with social media marketing.

Offer content that will drive them to convert. With social media, you no longer have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV or radio ads, getting limited ROI and little to no engagement. Instead, invest your time and dollars in a platform that helps you find new audiences, engage the audiences you have and directly place your message in front of people as they catch up with family or the news. Whether it’s through CTAs at the end of blog posts, videos that provide a URL to the “next step,” or an eBook that you’re just posting directly on your timeline, offer good, creative content that will entice your audience to download. In exchange, you get their email address, and their permission to continue sending them communications – hopefully nurturing them into a customer.

How to target ads to your ideal farmer

When you’re using Facebook to target your ideal farmer, you can control where your ads go and, thus, where your dollars are going.That’s why before you launch your ad campaign, it’s important for you to pick who’s going to see your ad.

That’s right. Facebook lets you pick the audience for each ad, not the placement. Once you pick your audience, Facebook puts the ad directly into your audience’s news feed. So while farmers are scrolling through catching up on what’s happening with family, they’ll see your ad.

The first step to determining the audience you want to target on Facebook is to start with your value proposition and work backwards. We talked about that earlier on the page (link) Whether it’s a given profit margin or gross revenue, meeting your number is your number one objective.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Start by talking to current customers. The people you’ve done business with in the past are going to be a great asset for figuring this out. While they don’t represent the entirety of the market, they do understand the pain points that your product or service responds to.
  • Analyze your internal customer data. Not only can you gather qualitative information from talking to customers, but there’s a lot of quantitative information you can get just by looking at the numbers. What’s the age range for your current customers? What crops do they grow? What size operation do you usually sell to?
  • Remember that your current customer may not be your ideal customer. While looking at your current customers is a valuable exercise, they don’t represent the entirety of your market. Always be thinking about other farmers who could benefit from your products or services –research who else could be a good fit.

Once you’ve determined your ideal audience, you can use those demographics to build the audience in Facebook. There are two steps to do this. The first is to utilize Facebook Targeting. The second is to augment that with a custom audience file of reliable ag data.

Facebook Targeting. Although it may seem a bit like George Orwell’s infamous “Big Brother” from the novel 1984, Facebook actively collects hundreds of data points on its users. You can use this data to your advantage by creating targeted audiences directly within Facebook.

Build a custom audience from Facebook demographics

While these demographics are a good start, they’re generic and can apply to a variety of industries. None of them are ag-specific. That’s why it’s important to complement them with a custom file of farmers from an ag data provider.

Upload Contacts. Facebook lets you upload a .csv file into their Ads Manager, and serve your ads directly to those people. A .csv of farmers who fit the demographics you discussed earlier can be easily acquired from Farm Market iD.

Upload custom farm data to target farmers on Facebook
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