Part 3 of 7 in our Ag Challenger series.
If a farm is a business, then as good marketers we need to understand the farm’s org chart.
In the last post in our Ag Challenger series, It’s about the farmer, not the farm, we discussed how customer-centric marketers need to understand who the farmer is, not simply categorize his or her farm. Yet we need to go deeper still. We need to understand the dynamics that occur on many farms, as different individuals participate in the buying process.
Consider the possible range of participants and their potential roles. You may have a “typical” Midwest farm with a father, two sons and a hired man. The father acts as the CEO, while the sons divide up the day-to-day decision making, with one looking after the inputs and the other looking after machinery, and the hired man serves primarily as a laborer. But we’ve also been on farms where a wife and husband have taken up farming in mid-career as a lifestyle decision and still maintain jobs off the farm, while the hired man effectively runs the farm operation.
As much as these examples show two extremes, they still suggest that there are clear role descriptions. But that’s rarely the case. The one brother who looks after the machinery will consult the other brother, who decides on which products will be applied with that machinery. And we all know that the father prefers a certain color!
Few farms have well-articulated policies on decision-making roles or rules.
Few farms have well-articulated policies on decision-making roles or rules. Levels of communication between the people who participate in the farm operation can be ambiguous at best.
To this ambiguity, we also need to add a layer of complexity in the form of “entity elasticity.” If you ask a farmer about his farm operation, he may reply with a question: “Which one?” This isn’t because he owns multiple farms, but because he reports on his farm in a number of different ways.
- For tax purposes, our typical Midwest farm family files once for their incorporated farm, plus each individual (including the hired man) and their spouse file their own individual returns, each potentially claiming different assets as their own.
- For census purposes, the farmer only claims the land he or she has title to. That can exclude large areas of rented land.
- The “buying entity” is the operation that the farmer describes to retailers. It covers the most acreage possible, with the hopes of leveraging the large size into the best discount possible.
- The description the farmer shares with his agronomist in the management report may be the most accurate view of the farm for marketing purposes. It tends to view the farm as an integrated whole.
Given all of the people, decision roles and entities, which one are you recording in your database?
Given all of the people, decision roles and entities, which one are you recording in your database? Or are you recording them all and not differentiating between them?
Note that I’m not for a second suggesting that the farm is synonymous with the farmer (again, see my post It’s about the farmer, not the farm), but it does provide essential context for the purchase decisions being made. We need to understand the farm, and the interactions between the people on the farm, if we’re going to start accurately envisioning the buyer’s journey and acting on that knowledge through our marketing and sales strategies.