When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough

Many organizations in ag are busy in July and August preparing for and kicking off the 2021 selling and marketing season. With that in mind, this week’s blog will focus on taking your organization from being good to being great for a changing marketplace.

Think about a brand you love, a brand you buy over and over because of quality and consistency.

Some brands give us a sense of status among peers. Others represent our identity. Still others stand for things we believe in.

No matter why we buy, brands that get our money represent themselves well.

Branding is important because it demonstrates to the potential customer what they can expect. Customers are looking for various things. Maybe one customer prefers performance, another focuses on good people, yet others rely on consistent delivery.

And yet, serving quality products and communicating solid product knowledge are the minimum for your business. While those are good, they aren’t good enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Let’s talk about how to translate that kind of brand loyalty you already experience as a consumer into a brand identity for your ag business.

1. Research Your Customer

Do a little online and offline research.

  • When was the last time you checked in with your sales from last year?
  • Did someone in the operation get an award, a newspaper mention, or change positions?
  • What does that mean for approaching your customer this year?

A little sleuthing and checking your notes from last year can go a long way to making your customer feel seen and appreciated when you talk to them this year.

(If you don’t have notes, write them down this year for sure! Customer notes can be in a notebook, recorded digitally in a Word document, or made next to their sale in a Notes section in your payment system. Wherever you make your notes, keep them consistent in format and always write the date next to it.)

You may need to adapt sales practices or upgrade the way you communicate value to your customer.

2. Evaluate Your Market

Where is your best market? Refocus your effort towards the market, customer, and products that will resonate.

Keep in mind the following customer and prospect features:
•    Location
•    Comfort price-point
•    Product fit
•    Ease of doing business

The more aspects your customers fit for your ideal market, the more effort you should spend with that customer.

Not everyone can afford your product. Your business isn’t a good fit for all operations. Not every customer is a good customer to work with.

3. Be Nosy

Remember when we did the research on your customers? Find out if any changes since your last sale will have an impact on future sales.

Ask questions! Find out where your customer is comfortable, where they have concerns, and what outcome they are looking for in their business. When you ask questions beyond how much of a product they will buy, customers feel valued and heard.

Don’t delve into intrusive territory, but if it feels uncomfortable at first, ask one more question than usual.
•    “How are commodity prices changing your operation?”
•    “What is your goal for the season?”
•    “What is one on-farm role you wish you could fill?”

In this second half of 2020, growers aren’t spending freely, so be prepared to talk about your customer’s needs, then how a product can help them fulfill their need—not the other way around.

4. Represent Your Brand

To increase brand loyalty, your business needs to have a brand, or at the very least, a brand concept.

Make a list of the things you know you excel at.
•    Define your business by what you provide beyond a product.
•    Define your service by what needs you fill.
•    Define your brand by how you (and your operation) presents yourself.

Align what you say about your operation to what the customer sees when they do business with you. If you pride yourself on your efficiency, make sure all your transactions are organized and efficient. If you focus on presenting on-time, make sure you also fit the image when the product is delivered. If you promote your follow-up to ensure product satisfaction, carry that hands-on nature from the cold call through invoice closing.