Ever wonder why Ag companies are still dragging their feet on digital? From the many Ag marketers I speak to each month, there seems to be an over-riding theme: "Where do we start?" And this feeling that digital is a difficult mountain to climb seems to stem from a lack of confidence in knowing what to tackle first.
It is the intention of this article to let you know that the challenges you face are quite common, that you are not alone and that digital is a mountain worth climbing. We will explore four of the more common challenges facing Ag marketers today and the tools required to help you overcome them.
Challenge #1: Capturing and Making Use of Customer Data
Marketing today is about forging connections. And without a strong CRM... good luck!
Traditionally, Ag business has been built on belly-to-belly interactions. Whether it’s a company rep meeting with agri-retailers or a company agronomist meeting with farmers, these face-to-face interactions have been the backbone of Ag sales for generations. The problem is, you can't be everywhere all the time and it will become increasingly difficult in today’s digital world to maintain relationships that are purely built on facetime.
Just as belly-to-belly interactions have been the backbone of the past, a strong and well-organized CRM will be the backbone of the future.
Farmers today are more digital than ever before, and if you want to engage them digitally you will need an efficient system for organizing customer data. A modern CRM will enable you to effectively capture, store, organize and make use of such data, serving as the foundation for future digital engagement.
Challenge #2: Content Marketing to Drive Brand Value
Step into the shoes of your ideal customer and figure out what they are looking for.
By now, everyone knows they need to be developing and publishing content as part of their marketing strategy. Yet so many aren't. And those who are, well...aren't doing a very good job.
So what is content marketing? It's about creating brand value by providing your target customers with the content they are looking for. This will endear them to your brand while generating qualified leads you can convert into sales.
However, content marketing is not effective if you don't understand your audience. You must step into the shoes of your ideal customer and figure out what they're looking for. Once you understand this, you can develop a customer persona and use it to drive content that sits at the intersection between their needs and your expertise.
This is how you connect with customers on a deeper level.
Challenge #3: Enhancing Your "Digital Presence"
Many Ag marketers feel they need a stronger digital presence, but are often unsure what it entails. Does this mean improving your website, getting on social media, developing a digital marketing strategy or all of the above?
Think of your company’s digital presence as an ecosystem: a collection of items (your website, content, social media channels, digital ads, CRM) that interact with each other. And the purpose of these interactions is to drive traffic toward a desired outcome: conversions.
Conversions will mean different things to different organizations. It could mean capturing information from potential leads (i.e. someone who is interested in what you offer) or it could mean having someone request a quote, send you a question or download a resource.
So rather than saying, "We need to enhance our digital presence," what you really should be saying is, "We need to build a strong digital ecosystem." One that drives traffic, generates leads and achieves conversions.
Challenge #4: Marketing ROI and Measuring Success
If you’re not measuring a return on your marketing investment, you’re probably wasting budget.
Every year, Ag marketers make use of the budgets they have available to them. Often, they execute many of the same tactics as in previous years (product-focused seasonal campaigns, tradeshow presence, product catalogs, radio, print ads and so on). But how often are clear and measurable metrics put in place? And how much opportunity is there to do so with traditional tactics?
93% of marketing executives report increasing pressure to deliver measurable ROI, and 81% of marketers would shift their spend to digital if it means better ROI tracking.
We all know by now that digital marketing presents greater opportunities to track and measure ROI. It also allows you to determine which tactics were more successful than others, enabling you to make smarter budgetary decisions year over year. So why is digital marketing still such a small part of the overall mix for Ag marketers?
Again, the trepidation stems from a lack of confidence in knowing what to do first. But the point is: there's a shift that needs to take place in Ag. A shift from traditional to digital thinking. Digital not only enables you to better track your ROI, it also allows you develop more targeted communications that result in a better overall use of the available budget.
So stop convincing yourself that farmers still love their print ads, and start acknowledging that farmers love their smartphones even more.
So... where do I start?
Start by shifting the way you think. As an Ag marketer, you need to recognize that the time has come for digital to surpass traditional (in terms of your annual marketing spend). And the best way to climb “the digital mountain” is one step at a time. Start first by investing in a modern CRM. Then work to a develop a deeper understanding of your audience so you can craft clear personas to inform a content strategy that will create brand value. And finally, realign your digital ecosystem so it drives traffic toward real business results.
These foundational investments will create value for years to come. And the truth is - the longer you wait, the further behind you will remain.