An Agri-Marketer's Guide to Digital Strategy

Think Shift

It’s no secret — when it comes to digital strategy, agri-marketers are behind the times.

Consider this: a recent study shows farmers rely on their smartphones more than the general public, yet only 76% of ag companies have a mobile-responsive website. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

If we want to close this gap, it's critical that we agri-marketers recognize and accept two things:

  1. Our farmer customers are being treated to superior digital experiences outside of agriculture.
  2. If we wish to compete for their attention and engagement moving forward, we must understand how to improve our digital offerings.

As is the case with nearly every aspect of business, the evolution of our agri-digital offerings starts with strategy.

In this guide, you will find a practical framework that informs the digital strategy you want and evaluates your current strategy.

In addition, for those interested in gaining perspective on how other industry leaders are approaching their strategic agri-digital offerings, we have applied our digital strategy guideline to a set of case studies on Wells Fargo, Dodge Ram and Cabela's.

STRATEGIC DESTINATION

As is the case with any strategy, setting direction begins with this fundamental question. "What does success look like 1, 2 and 3 years from today?"

For your digital efforts to be truly strategic, it is critical that there be a purpose behind them; an intentional end point that brings clarity to your desired future state. While it may seem obvious, without a clear understanding of your strategic digital destination, how do you set course? How do you gauge performance if you don’t know what you are performing toward? How do you know when you have achieved success if you don’t know what success looks like?

Takeaways digital strategy

One of the greatest benefits of digital is its significant measurability. Not only can you set tangible metrics for success, you can also track yourself against them as early and often as you’d like. This is why it is very important that your strategic digital destination be as measurable as possible.

That said, it’s important that you are establishing and setting the right type of metrics for your strategy.

How to pinpoint your organization's strategic destination

Step 1: Identify your strategic destination.

  • What is an appropriate timeline for your business and industry? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
  • What will be your organization’s biggest accomplishment at the end of that timeframe?
  • What does success look like?
    • Have you grown in size?
    • Have you entered a new market?
    • Have you changed in some significant and defining way?

Step 2: Identify metrics that will give you constructive feedback on your progress towards your end goal.

  • Are your metrics strategic and outcome based, rather than tactical and output based?
    • Do measure: X% of revenue attributed to digital leads, Y% of customers choosing you over others due to your digital offering, etc.
    • Don't measure: X ad impressions, Y site visits, Z blogs per year, etc.
  • Are your metrics focused on your entire digital ecosystem, rather than a single digital touchpoint?
    • Do focus on: Average use of multiple assets, cross platform conversions, etc.
    • Don't focus on: X app downloads, Y website sign-ups, etc.

Step 3: Measure progress early and often.

  • How often can/should you measure success?
  • What does/should your scorecard look like

By setting a clear picture of your desired end state, you will not only guide your current digital best practices but also focus the future decisions you will need to make on the best practices still to come.

Given the growing number options digital presents, a strategic destination provides a quick and valuable litmus test for what does and doesn’t fit with your strategy, saving you from wasting time, effort and investment on new technologies that simply won’t deliver the ROI you desire.

SEGMENTATION

Redefine market segments to suit the specific nature of digital media.

For those of you considering a simple cut-and-paste of the market segments from your marketing strategy into your digital strategy, please don’t. While the demographics and psychographics that define your market segments have most likely proven valuable at focusing your traditional sales and marketing efforts, they are likely missing the additional levels of specificity digital provides.

For example, given the inherent measurability of digital, you can now add additional detail to your segmentation, including:

  • Common behavior patterns
  • Shared pain points (professional, personal)
  • Universal goals, wishes, dreams

Determining your digital market segmentation

Digital Strategy - Know your audience

Step 1: Get inside your customer’s head by answering persona-focused questions, such as:

  • What does success look like to your customer?
  • What are their biggest challenges?
  • How do they overcome these challenges?
  • How do your customers learn about new information for their job/role?
  • What blogs do they read?
  • What associations and social networks do your customers belong to?
  • How do they prefer to interact with vendors (email, phone, in person)?
  • Do your customers use the internet to research vendors or products?
    • If yes, how do they search for information? What types of websites do they use?

Step 2: Create and rank persona-like segments for each type of customer

  • Look for common characteristics, needs, wants and challenges to group audiences into like personas.
  • Once personas are defined, rank them by:
    • Current importance to your business.
      • Which persona accounts for the majority of your revenue?
      • Which persona accounts for the majority of your profit?
      • Which persona is growing/shrinking in size/importance?
    • Future importance to your business.
      • Which persona should account for the majority of your revenue?
      • Which persona should account for the majority of your profit?
      • If you could only focus on 3 personas, which would you choose?

Step 3: Refer to your new digital market segments/personas when making decisions regarding your digital strategy.

Most importantly, ask yourself: Are you making digital decisions based on the needs and wants of your current top personas or your future top personas?

By crafting a digitally informed picture of your target markets, you will provide yourself with a deeper understanding of the what, when, where and how of your digital efforts. This practice of redefining your segmentation for the digital space is reminiscent of the persona development process at the core of inbound marketing. As such, you will be greatly served by exploring your answers to persona-based questions.

ONLINE REPRESENTATION AND PRESENCE

The days of your website defining your digital offering are over. Today, your website should be one of many touchpoints that make up your entire digital presence.

A comprehensive digital strategy is one that plans for two things:

  1. Each individual touchpoint (e.g. your websites, social channels, apps/tools, published content, ad networks, etc.)
  2. The interconnectedness of these touchpoints (i.e. the use of one touchpoint to add value to another or to drive your customer further down the path to conversion)

We call this your digital ecosystem, as, much like a living ecosystem, each component has both an individual and a shared purpose, creating value in and of itself and as part of the whole. That said, as is the case with all other aspects of your digital strategy, there is no single “right way” to build your ecosystem, as there may be many alternatives that could serve your needs equally.

The structure you decide upon should be driven by and aligned with your strategic destination and the wants, needs and behaviors of each market segment.

How to map out your digital ecosystem

Step 1: Consider your current touchpoints and how they connect.

Map out your current touchpoints like stars in a constellation. Go through each touchpoint to determine both its individual and shared purpose. Draw lines to the other touchpoints with which it connects.

Step 2: Consider purposeful modifications to your “constellation” based on its alignment with your strategic approach, strategic destination and digital segmentation.

Should your company website remain the “hub” of your ecosystem? Consider retail/ecommerce-based organizations, where nearly all touchpoints intend to either capture traffic/engagement and drive it to the transactional site or to incentivize a larger or more frequent purchase.

Should your ecosystem be made up of multiple “social hubs”? Consider lifestyle brands where each hub appeals to a different market with the intent to maintain a steady stream of two-way communications that keeps them perpetually top-of-mind.

Step 3: Note areas where your ecosystem can be simplified.

If you are struggling to define a touchpoint’s individual purpose, it may mean that it serves little value in your ecosystem and can be eliminated or replaced.

If you are having difficulty defining a touchpoint’s shared purpose or making connections between touchpoints, it may mean that you aren’t capturing much value from the “sum” of your ecosystem and need to strategize ways to build complementary interconnectedness.

By mapping out your ecosystem, you will force yourself and your strategy to consider how both the parts and the whole are delivering value to your organization.

MEDIA MIX AND BUDGETING CONSIDERATIONS

Budget constraints often play a major role in all digital strategy decisions.

Consider carefully where and when to invest your funds to maximize ROI

A hard reality for all businesses is that budget size and availability are significant determining factors in the way you define your digital strategy. This is best seen in the way you approach your mix of paid, earned and owned assets.

Step 1: Where do I invest my budget?

While you must avoid the trap of “doing a bit of everything” when it comes to digital technologies and best practices, the same does not apply to your media mix.

When it comes to paid, earned and owned digital assets, the most successful digital strategies effectively balance all three.

While paid media directs traffic to your touchpoints, the ROI dries up when your budget does. But offering valuable owned assets that directly address customer pain points, such as blog posts or mobile apps, drive new and repeat traffic organically and for years after creation. Though the price tag for creating these assets can be quite steep, they often provide an “evergreen” ROI, thanks in part to customer interest and minimal upkeep costs.

While the ratio you choose depends on what’s right for you and your organization, this strategy allows your budget to maximize ROI.

Step 2: When should I invest in new digital assets?

Unlike marketing strategies, which have fixed timelines (usually annual tied to fiscal), your digital strategy must consider the overall value you build into your digital ecosystem in perpetuity.

Put simply, digital assets are an investment, not an expense.

For many marketers, there’s a trade-off: investing in a large-price-tag touchpoint like a mobile app means less money to invest in paid media that drives customer traffic to existing touchpoints. Because many still measure success based on annual traffic and engagement numbers, the investment into new and improved owned and earned assets continually gets either pushed back or reduced.

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Key Takeaway

Earned and owned assets really are evergreen, so make sure to save some room in your budget to develop at least one owned or earned asset each year. While development can be expensive at the outset, it’s important to remember that expense line items for these on your current income statement will turn into asset line items on your future balance sheets.

Digital Strategy is not one-size-fits-all

To illustrate how digital strategy can be executed differently and with complete fidelity to your brand and audience, we’ve taken a deep dive into three companies that are actively growing in the agricultural space and succeeding in communicating with your customers online: Wells Fargo, Cabela’s and Dodge Ram.

Dodge Ram, image 1

Assuming each company devotes the average 8.1% of total revenue towards their marketing budget, we’ve guesstimated that only 10% of that marketing budget, or 0.81% of total revenue, would go toward marketing to farmers, specifically. Yet each company invested that 0.81% in unique ways, building their digital strategy in ways that that catered to their target audiences’ interests and pain points...

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