The Evolution of Agrimarketing


Table of contents Table of contents

What is Agrimarketing?

Agrimarketing is the discipline of creating, positioning, promoting, selling and fulfilling brand, product or service offerings to entities involved in the agriculture and agri-food industry.


As I approach my 25th year in agrimarketing, if there is one thing I have realized more than ever, it’s that agrimarketers are as much to blame for the lack of marketing progression within our industry as any other external factor. Our audiences have become modern consumers, and there are no excuses left for us not to be leveraging the best marketing practices the world has to offer.

As this is the fourth annual installment of our Evolution of Agrimarketing content series, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach. While this piece still captures key trends taking shape outside of and within the agrimarketing space, it will focus more than ever on those that every agrimarketer can — and should — immediately embrace.

This No Excuses Edition will include practical, feasible and immediately applicable marketing practices that are already delivering proven results in many industries, including ag.

I hope you find these trends insightful and effective, but also that their elevated accessibility will help to drive greater adoption through the industry.

Trend 1

Have an Effective PESO Strategy

No, this trend is not about investing in undervalued Latin American currencies. I’m talking about a much-needed evolution to the Paid/Earned/Owned media model.

In this new model, the primary difference is that Shared media is its own entity (previously, it lived within all three other categories). This new model dictates that marketing strategies should consciously evaluate how much effort and investment goes to:


Paid Media

Marketing efforts that require a pay-to-play investment. Traditional and digital media are common in this category, but this category also includes tradeshows, events, contests, sponsorships, paid content and influencer tactics. If you are paying for someone to speak about your brand or offerings, it fall in this category (not under Earned or Shared).


Earned Media

Media relations is the primary focus of this category. This can go beyond just news outlets and include unsolicited/unpaid influencer endorsements. Again, if you’ve paid for the influencer to promote it, it shouldn’t fall within this category.


Shared Media

Word-of-mouth and customer experience are paramount in this new category, as it is all about user-generated content. While social media and the web (e.g., forum sites like Reddit, sites with user reviews like Google Reviews etc.) are where most of the tangible output of these efforts are seen, this does not include your paid social efforts. Likewise, capturing and promoting your own customer testimonials doesn’t count as word-of-mouth.


Owned Media

This category includes all the communications channels you can use to communicate to your audiences without paying for every outreach. Your web/digital properties, email lists, content, and social channels all fall within this category.

While it’s important to understand the breakdown of this new model, what’s more important is strategically determining the ratio of investment and effort that works for you. Thankfully, we have already seen some common strategies come to light in other industries that can help agriculture determine those that may or may not be an ideal fit.

Automotive, CPG, Entertainment
To Generate Frequent/Repeat Purchases from a Large Audience
NGOs, Not-for-Profits
To Drive a Specific Audience to Awareness and Action
Lifestyle Brands, Luxury Brands
To Create a Sense of Belonging and Exclusivity
Software Brands, Government
To Preserve, Protect and Enhance a Common Audience

From my experience, the most common strategy used within agrimarketing is the Broadcast strategy, where the highest amount of marketing effort and investment go towards Paid media efforts. Unfortunately, as you can see from these strategies, this is best suited to organizations with mass audiences that need them to make frequent purchases. Brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonald’s need to drive daily use or consumption, for example. This is simply not the case for most of the agriculture industry. As such, you should consider a shift in strategy if you wish to realize better returns. My preferred strategies for ag are Educate or Support, given the realities of our audiences and their primary needs.

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Trend 2

Stop Using Campaigns as Your Primary Tactic

Of all the major sports, baseball is likely my least favorite, however, I find it to be one of the best for drawing analogies to business and marketing. There is an extremely interesting and telling statistic regarding the team that records the most home runs in any given season. What the stats show is that this team, more often than not, does not win the championship.

This may sound counter-intuitive because home runs directly equate to points, but it makes complete sense as home runs are not the only way to earn points. Likewise, home runs are a riskier means of earning points than focusing on things like hitting singles, doubles or taking walks.

From a marketing standpoint, we can learn a great deal from this. Just think about how much time, effort and investment you put toward high-risk tactics compared to those that will more consistently and incrementally generate returns.

Take, for example, a typical paid media campaign with creative and messaging running across multiple mediums such as print, radio, online, etc. Now, whether you work for a for-profit or not-for-profit entity, the desired results of this type of campaign are typically the same: to drive the audience to take some form of action (i.e., follow a certain production practice, buy a specific product, adopt a new innovation, etc.). That said, how many individuals do you think will actually take the action you desire after seeing an ad somewhere?

If you’re being honest about how often ad campaigns cause you to take action as a consumer, you’ll understand how unlikely this is.

I consider these home run efforts or Income Statement efforts. The idea is that with the right creative, copy and placements, you can achieve significant results. This doesn’t typically happen. Instead, I suggest that you do one of two things with these types of efforts:


Reduce the amount of time/investment they receive on an annual basis and commit that to more practical yet consistent efforts such as building owned channels that allow you to communicate directly and much more frequently with these audiences, knowing they may need multiple points of engagement before they take the action you desire.


Embrace them for what they are (awareness generators) and supplement them with more practical yet consistent efforts like earned media tactics, shared media efforts and direct-to-audience communications that will help nurture the audience from awareness through all the steps in the journey towards conversion.

Be very mindful of the poor probabilities associated with home run efforts like paid advertising campaigns and embrace the tools and tactics all marketers need to score more points consistently:

Direct marketing to existing customers and followers
Customer-focused (vs. sales-focused) website and social content
Content and/or contest-based lead sign-up campaigns
Customer loyalty offers and special events
Mobile-optimized digital touchpoints
Conversion-optimized website calls to action (CTAs)
Tradeshow-based prospect engagement events
Digitally automated lead nurturing content sequences
Digitally enabled sales support materials
Differentiated, high-quality promotional items
Online meeting scheduling tools
CRM-driven individualized customer marketing campaigns

Trend 3

Embrace a More Meaningful Segmentation Model

When considering all the areas in which agrimarketing lags behind other industries, the continued use of dated customer segmentation models is most perplexing. This is incredibly disheartening as new and better approaches have been proving their superiority in other industries for decades while some ag organizations continue to operate without any segmentation strategy at all.

To start, let me clarify a few things about segmenting the farmer market, as there are generally three challenges I experience when working with clients in this area:


Market Sizes Are Too Small

While the overall number of farmers in any specific geography, or by any specific crop type, may be small, it is not too small to be strategically segmented. There may only be 43,000 canola farmers in Canada, but the differences among them are too many and too significant to consider them all a single segment.


We Can’t Exclude Anyone

Market segmentation isn’t about saying no to potential sales opportunities or ignoring interested parties. Instead, it’s about focusing more of your finite time, money and effort on the specific segments that will generate a greater return.


We Already Do Segmentation (Using Demographics)

While demographics are an important part of segmentation, they are simply too basic and uninformative compared to new segmentation tools (e.g., two corn farmers of the same age with the same farm size can still possess significantly different wants and needs).

As such, I’d like to provide you with a Think Shift segmentation model to target farmers effectively. This model uses two types of segmentation criteria to create more informed and actionable segments, these are. To start, let me clarify a few things about segmenting the farmer market, as there are generally three challenges I experience when working with clients in this area:


These are binary traits to classify individuals in any given market. They are binary in that the individual will either possess the trait or not. This might include age, farm size, crop type, location and other details. While these traits are helpful for sorting individuals into smaller groupings, they tell us very little about them. For much of the 20th century, these traits were the primary means of segmenting markets and led to negative type-casting outcomes such as sexism, ageism and even racism.

40-year-old female in Iowa that owns a dog.


These traits tend to live on a continuum and speak to certain behavioural, psychological or emotional elements. This is typically where psychographic information lives, including personality type (introversion vs. extroversion), values (conservative vs. liberal), social class (upper, middle, lower), etc. That said, qualifiers can go beyond basic psychographics to include shared beliefs, behaviors and norms that exist within a certain group of people.

An independently wealthy 40-year-old female in suburban Iowa who treats her dog like a family member.

As you can already tell by the two examples above, the second provides significantly more helpful and actionable information about the market segment that can inform targeting and messaging strategies. This is why, in this model, it is suggested you use a combination of both Classifiers and Qualifiers to segment your audience and that even if you use as little as two (with at least one being a Qualifier), you can end up with more effective segments such as:

Get the most out of this segmentation model by practicing prioritization and exclusion. Adding too many criteria can easily lead to overly complex segments that can be too difficult to target effectively. As such, I suggest you start with something like the above, using what you believe to be the most informative criteria upon which you can meaningfully build strategies and take action.

Trend 4

Get Better Traction Out of Your Calls to Action

When working with clients on optimizing their digital properties, one of the most common errors I see is the improper use of calls to action (CTAs) on their customer-facing websites. This typically manifests itself in the use of CTAs, such as:

  • Using “Contact Us” as the only CTA throughout the site.
  • Placing CTAs below the fold or too deep into the content.
  • Using “Sign Up” forms without providing additional user context.
  • Including “Book a Meeting” CTAs with awareness-stage content.

Before I get into some strategies you can use to optimize the effectiveness of your CTAs, it helps to remember two critical realities:


User traffic coming to your website will come in at all stages of the customer journey (or the stakeholder journey for not-for-profit organizations and associations). This means that the action you want them to take will differ depending on the stage in which they reside, so including CTAs that fit and address all stages is critical.


Using CTAs is not just about getting someone to provide their email or book a meeting. While these may be two of the conversions you desire, CTAs also allow you to monitor and score your contacts’ engagement by giving them multiple measurable ways to engage with you. Knowing how many and which specific CTAs a contact has engaged with will tell you a lot about that contact’s level of interest in you and your offering(s).

CTA strategies are really about practicing empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of your customers or stakeholders and asking yourself what engages them at the different stages of their journey. It is also about user experience and ensuring that these CTAs are received where, when and how the user can best engage with them.

Here are my top 5 tips to immediately improve your CTA performance:


Use broader CTAs at the top of the funnel and narrower CTAs at the bottom. Prompting email sign-ups and downloads can serve as good top or mid-funnel CTAs, whereas CTAs like “Book a Meeting” or “Contact a Rep” are better for bottom-of-funnel use.


Include multiple CTAs within your content. On pages that include content, try to appeal to users in all stages of the journey. Don’t limit yourself to only one CTA per page.


Place CTAs in prominent locations that don’t negatively affect the user experience. Floating “sign up” forms that are always available above, below or to the side of content are very popular for this reason.


Provide the user with context about what to expect. Generic “Sign Up” forms don’t work as well as forms that define what the user can expect once they sign-up, for example: “Sign Up for New Product Alerts.”


Use progressive profiling if you’d like to gather more information about the user. Including overly long and detailed initial sign-up forms will scare off users, so use marketing automation software that can ask users who have already signed-up additional questions over time instead.

Better CTAs can significantly improve your online conversion rates and will help provide you with more telling and actionable information on your contacts. To manage them properly, keep in mind that not all users will be looking for the same thing. Use your own user experiences to create the best CTAs to fit their differing needs.

Trend 5

Don’t Pay for Paid if You Can Go Direct

This trend has connections to many of the others in this piece but requires its own consideration, given its importance and possible impact on your budget. Let me get straight to the point: I believe that most agrimarketers spend too much of their budget on paid media. For many agrimarketers, this is still the largest part of their overall marketing spend.

Before I get hate mail from the many media companies we regularly do business with, please don’t read this as me saying that I don’t believe there’s value in paid media! Paid media plays a critical role in marketing, and understanding that role is very important.

As I mentioned in trend #2, agrimarketers expect paid media campaigns to do too much. There seems to exist a belief that with the right media, messaging and budget, paid media campaigns can not only create awareness but also provide all the engagement and information required to drive an audience to action. Apart from exclusive offers directly tied to e-commerce, like Black Friday ads with 50% off your favorite products, this simply hasn’t been the case in advertising for decades.

Instead, paid advertising is best for driving awareness and establishing initial engagement (i.e., getting an audience to check you or your offerings out). As such, it should only be used when required.

The most frustrating thing about this trend is the fact that I have seen many ag organizations capture audience contact information so they can communicate with them directly, then still invest most of their budget and effort in paid media. It’s like taking out an ad to communicate with a colleague.

If you consider this in the context of the buyer’s or stakeholder’s journey, the effort required to take an audience from Awareness to Decision/Action increases the further you progress down the journey. This is because the level of trust and information needed to get audience members from the beginning to the end stage is much higher.

Think about how much trust and information you need to:

Read a car dealership’s ad
Checkout their website
Research products
Go to the dealership
Purchase a vehicle

Therefore, logic would state that most of your agrimarketing time, effort, and investment should go towards the later stages of the journey (where direct communications work best) versus the earlier stages (where paid media works best).

Additionally, when considering the direct communications channels you have at your disposal, don’t limit yourself to email. Email can be one of the most fundamentally critical means of communicating to your audience if used correctly, but it can and should be supplemented with social, direct message, direct mail, in-person/virtual events and tradeshows, as all these channels provide you with the ability to better build trust and deliver information than paid media.

Trend 6

Be Better at Brainstorming

Of all the trends in this piece, this one is the least specific to marketing, as it can apply to all parts of an organization. If agrimarketing is going to catch up to the marketing progressiveness of other industries, we need to generate new ideas to solve our existing challenges. Brainstorming will be one of your main tools for doing so.

To begin, I’m going to address a fallacy about brainstorming and collaboration that has existed since before the pandemic: the best brainstorming and collaboration requires a shared physical presence.

Since Think Shift decided to embrace a fully remote business model in 2022, one of the most common questions I receive is, “has it negatively affected your ability to brainstorm and collaborate?”

And while I can firmly answer this question with a no (we’ve actually seen an improvement in both areas), it’s not just because of our own experience that I believe this to be a fallacy. Global organizations have been able to successfully brainstorm and collaborate across geographies, time zones and languages for decades.

I understand why people would think the lack of a shared physical presence caused brainstorms and collaboration to degrade over the COVID-19 years. A shared physical space can help provide one of the main ingredients required for successful brainstorms (but the gathering isn’t the only way of getting it).

So, what are these main ingredients? They are three-fold:



This is the ingredient I alluded to above and the one that can make or break brainstorms in both physical and virtual environments. To have a successful brainstorm, all participants must have a sense of trust that they can say and share anything without fear of being shot down or looked upon poorly. This ingredient could also be called safety, as anyone in the brainstorm must feel free to participate without recourse.

The sense of togetherness that comes from being in a shared physical place helps provide trust and safety for non-virtual brainstorms, not necessarily the actions of those within them. For example, I have been in plenty of in-person brainstorms where trust and safety were not established because someone (generally a leader or someone senior) was too quick to dismiss the ideas being shared.

Interestingly enough, I believe that the partial disconnect a virtual meeting provides (i.e., being protected by the barrier of a screen) has increased trust and safety amongst our more junior team members to be more transparent and involved in our brainstorms.



Creative briefs are critical in the agency world because they clearly define the purpose, direction and requirements for any project when written properly. A brief is also a key tool for brainstorms as it provides all participants with the clarity they need to know what success looks like (i.e., why are we here and what are we trying to achieve).

Don’t rely solely on an agenda and potential background information to set the stage. We even create briefs for Think Shift’s internal projects and initiatives. As a rule of thumb, when beginning a brainstorm, you should be able to ask any participant (from the senior facilitator to the junior note taker) what success for the meeting looks like and get a common answer.



While this may sound like agency nonsense, I wholeheartedly believe that fun is a critical ingredient to successful brainstorms and collaboration as there is a magical effect it has on idea generation.

Like trust and safety, fun helps get participants thinking and sharing things outside of their comfort zone. I have consistently experienced this in brainstorms where someone shares an idea so stupid or off-the-wall that it takes the discussion to a new level. Nine times out of 10, the amazing idea we were looking for came shortly after. At Think Shift, we have a Shift Disturber award for the worst idea to foster this sense of fun in our brainstorms.

In our work lives, we are all governed by a set of made-up, internal rules that tell us what is and isn’t appropriate to say and think. These rules are generally stricter than those we apply to ourselves in our non-work lives, where we are typically more open and carefree. Unfortunately, these “work rules” we apply to ourselves make it difficult to think outside the box. With a good dose of fun, you can change things and release these inhibitions, allowing bigger and better ideas to flow.

Trend 7

Improve Conversion Rates Throughout the Buyer’s Journey

Imagine that your business is a football team, and the customer journey is a football game. Just like in a game, there are different stages of the customer journey that require different strategies and messages.

First, there’s the awareness stage, where you are trying to get the attention of potential customers and build brand or product awareness. This is equivalent to the pre-game stage of a football game, where both teams are feeling each other out and trying to establish a game plan. In this stage, your messaging should focus on your audience’s challenges and introduce your business or offerings as a potential solution. Your creative should highlight the broad-based benefits of your products or services and establish your brand identity.

Awareness Stage Messaging Tips

  • Focus on the customer’s needs and challenges.
  • Help them find and define an overall solution in an educational versus sales-like manner.
  • Position your brand or offering as informative and experienced.
  • Focus on grabbing their attention versus closing a sale.

Next is the first half of the game, or the consideration stage, where potential customers are researching and evaluating their options and deciding whether to make a purchase. This is the time to provide more detailed information about your products or services and address any objections or concerns potential customers may have. Like the first half of a football game, you’re trying out different plays to see which ones might elicit the greatest rewards. Try varying your messaging during this stage, then track and elevate the messaging that performs best.

Consideration Stage Messaging Tips

  • Focus on providing customers with the information they want to fulfill their research needs.
  • Provide details on which products and services are best suited to the overall solution you’ve helped the customer identify.
  • Provide various details and try different messages to see which work best.

Once the customer has committed to making a purchase, they enter the final stage of the customer journey – the decision stage. This is like the second half of the football game, where your efforts will either result in a win (getting the customer to buy your product/service) or a loss (having the customer choose a competitor instead). This stage is about scoring points by showcasing the superiority of your offering, and favorably comparing it to whatever the customer will most likely consider it against.

Decision Stage Messaging Tips

  • Use product/service comparisons to help the customer easily weigh your offerings against others.
  • Provide testimonials from others who have realized success with your product/services.
  • Include FAQs based on questions your existing customers asked before committing to a purchase.

Success looks different for each stage of the customer journey, and your game plan should differ accordingly. By using different messaging strategies and tactics at each stage, you can better connect with potential customers and increase the chances of moving them through the funnel to a final sale.

Bonus Trend

Leverage AI to Streamline Your Marketing Effort

While this piece focuses on 7 trends for 2023 and beyond, I couldn’t help but include a bonus 8th trend as I believe this may be the most game-changing of all. Likewise, while I know that many of you may believe that AI is neither feasible nor practical for immediate inclusion in your marketing efforts, I’m here to challenge this assumption with three ways to embrace it immediately.


Customer/Trend Analysis

One of the most positive trends I have seen in agrimarketing is the adoption of CRMs such as Salesforce to compile and track customer data. This means that many ag organizations have a tool that can easily apply AI learning to specific data sets to do things such as predictive lead scoring, opportunity flagging and recommending the best next actions.

In Salesforce, this tool is called Einstein, and I have seen it work on both limited and robust datasets. The only caution is that it may take some training to get the most out of it — which is readily available through Salesforce’s Trailhead service — or you could engage a Certified Salesforce service practitioner to do the work for you.


Image Generation

Agriculture has long suffered from limited access to quality imagery and stock photography that can be used across our marketing materials. By this, I don’t mean certain crop, or proverbial “farmer in field” shots, as God only knows we have enough of those already. What I mean by this is the more obscure images and illustrations, such as a decomposing flea beetle or an herbicide jug made from flames which you would be hard-pressed to find in any photo library anywhere.

Thankfully, with the advent of image-generating AI software like Midjouney, DALL·E 2, and Stable Diffusion, these truly unique visuals can be created in a fraction of the time it would take to coordinate an actual photoshoot or design it.

Now, I know that some of you may already be thinking that these aren’t the types of images you need in your agrimarketing. And to this, I would suggest that differentiation has always been a critical component of marketing success. Any glance at an ag website, farming magazine or newspaper would suggest that field and farmer photos are already much too common to serve as differentiators.

Photos generated with DALL·E 2 using prompt “decomposing flea beetle on vegetation macro photo”


Content/Copy Generation

As I expect most of you reading this may believe that AI is not and cannot be smart enough to produce quality content and copy for marketing purposes, I wanted to ensure that I was ready for this challenge. This is why I used the AI tool, ChatGPT to craft one of the seven trends above.

That’s right, with the correct phrasing of the request, I got an AI tool to write a 500-word piece in less than 30 seconds. And it only needed minor edits that took no more than 5 minutes of my time.

I encourage you to think about what this means for the capacity of you, your team and your agency. Using a tool like ChatGPT, you can eliminate a significant amount of time, effort and even resources by allowing AI to draft copy for things like customer emails, websites, blogs, social posts, brochures, press releases, letters and more, in a fraction of the time. This is an absolute game-changer, as it allows anyone to do more with less while not sacrificing quality.

Author, David Lazarenko

About the writer

David Lazarenko has spent more than 20 years leading strategy and marketing efforts in agri-business. As Executive Vice President at Think Shift, he has led successful brand and product launches, re-branding and brand alignment initiatives, sales campaigns, and corporate responsibility campaigns for some of agriculture’s most successful corporations, including Adama, Bayer, Cargill, Monsanto, Trimble Agriculture and Westeel. Learn more about David here.

Evolution of Agrimarketing is a NAMA award winning series.

The Evolution Of Agrimarketing

Stay connected to the best agrimarketing content:

  • Have an Effective PESO Strategy
  • Stop Using Campaigns as Your Primary Tactic
  • Embrace a More Meaningful Segmentation Model
  • Get Better Traction Out of Your Calls to Action
  • Don’t Pay for Paid if You Can Go Direct
  • Be Better at Brainstorming
  • Improve Conversion Rates Throughout the Buyer’s Journey
  • Leverage AI to Streamline Your Marketing Effort

Subscribe to receive our agrimarketing content:

The Evolution Of Agrimarketing

Stay connected to the best agrimarketing content:

  • Have an Effective PESO Strategy
  • Stop Using Campaigns as Your Primary Tactic
  • Embrace a More Meaningful Segmentation Model
  • Get Better Traction Out of Your Calls to Action
  • Don’t Pay for Paid if You Can Go Direct
  • Be Better at Brainstorming
  • Improve Conversion Rates Throughout the Buyer’s Journey
  • Leverage AI to Streamline Your Marketing Effort

Subscribe to receive our agrimarketing content:

Want to see how your digital marketing stacks up?

Fill out this form to find out how to get a free audit from our Think Shift team