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Why the Future of Ag Will Be Marketing Driven

May 22, 2024

The Perfect Storm – 4 Reasons Why the Future of Ag Will Be Marketing Driven

Having worked as a marketer in agriculture for the vast majority of my career, I have come to embrace the reality that marketing has never been the primary driver of business in our industry. Moreover, unlike other industries such as consumer packaged goods, automotive, tech and entertainment, where EVPs of Marketing and Chief Marketing Officers are typically the heir-apparent to the CEO, marketing is most often treated as a support department/function in agriculture, similar to HR or even IT.

That said, while I can easily argue that this has made perfect sense given how critical the existing business drivers of R&D, manufacturing and sales have been throughout the history of agriculture, there is a confluence of trends taking shape that may change this, both quickly and significantly. And, for every agrimarketer out there, it’s time to take notice of these and prepare to step up to the plate.

Reason #1: Price-Driven Growth Is Coming to an End

Over the last 3 years, the revenues and margins of many ag organizations have been significantly improved by some of the largest increases to input and equipment prices the industry has ever seen. As much of this was driven by a period of massive global inflation, which is now coming to an end, ag organizations and shareholders looking to see similar business performance going forward won’t be able to use ongoing price increases to achieve it (especially given trend #2 below). As such, focus for these businesses will need to be shifted to efforts like gaining market share, increasing unit sales, penetrating new markets and cutting operating costs instead, all areas of focus in which marketing is key.

Reason #2: Customer Expectations Are on the Rise

This reason is in many ways connected to #1 as agriculture’s farmer customers have shouldered most of the burden of inflation, experiencing back-to-back years of record-breaking input and operating costs. Factor in some softening of commodity prices and the expectation that input and equipment costs will remain at peak levels, and you will have a customer group experiencing tighter margins than ever and in turn, expecting (and even demanding) more bang for their buck.

While much of these expectations will focus on product performance and ROI, they will also significantly affect agrimarketers who create and manage the day-to-day experiences these customers have with ag brands. For example, if we aren’t delivering exceptionally easy, seamless and even rewarding digital, communications and sales experiences to these customers (by over-selling, over-complicating or even over-communicating), we may risk upsetting an already uneasy audience.

Reason #3: Ag’s Talent Pool Is Getting Smaller

As agriculture continues to struggle to attract new, young and diverse talent to replace the waves of older generations moving into retirement, ag organizations of all types will be faced with productivity issues (caused by short-staffing and turnover), as well as a hyper-competitive recruitment market. In both cases, agrimarketers can and should play vital roles by helping the organizations we serve to embrace new technologies (like AI) to replace and/or enhance human effort, while also elevating recruitment efforts through improved brand, targeting and talent engagement strategies.

Reason #4: Focus is Shifting from Innovation to Adoption

While there is no denying the major strides agriculture has made in the areas of technological and biological innovation, the hard reality is that the substantial goals we have set for our industry (producing more and better food with less land and impact to the environment) will not be achieved unless these innovations are fully adopted and applied to their fullest on farm. Likewise, while we may have had the liberty of time in the past (it took up to 20 years to get farmers to fully embrace no-till and cover crop practices in Canada), major weather issues and fast approaching deadlines for climate change goals are dictating that adoption of new and better production practices need to be achieved more quickly than ever.

For agrimarketers who live at the intersection of audience communications and engagement, this task will soon fall onto our plates to effectively reach, educate and persuade growers to not only purchase these innovations but convince them that full adoption of the practices that come with them is in their best interests (even though it may not feel like it at first).

Thankfully, I’ve spent the better part of my career researching and capturing the best strategies and practices that I believe can help agrimarketers significantly elevate their efforts. For those interested in learning more, I encourage you to reach out directly as I’m always happy to chat.

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