Part 6 of 7 in our Ag Challenger series.
It’s a harsh dose of reality as you build a customer-centric brand, but you might not be able to influence the most influential waypoint on the buying journey, the point of sale.
This isn’t a situation unique to agriculture, but it is compounded in the agriculture sector by the reliance of many manufacturers on retailers to differentiate products and build demand. Yet the front-line sales person in the retail store is often somewhat or totally beyond our reach, motivated by corporate edicts, sales margins, internal sales competitions, a tidal wave of product information and their own personal preferences. In most situations, we need to rely on customer “pull” (or in an ideal world, customer loyalty, a notion I discussed in my previous post) rather than retail “push” to drive brand demand.
Because of the face-to-face nature of their relationship, the customer-retailer bond is often a strong one.
Because of the face-to-face nature of their relationship, the customer-retailer bond is often a strong one. And, frankly, most retailers work hard to build relationships with their customers. After all, retailers rely on customers who return year after year to make what are typically high-value, high-volume purchases in order to keep their businesses running.
A consequence of this trust-building is that retailers tend to be the product marketer’s best friend, or worst enemy. They are best friends when the retailer’s customer knowledge helps a well-designed brand experience connect to the right customer. They are worst enemies when a narrowly conceived product “position” doesn’t address the farmer’s real problem, so the retailer ignores the product entirely.
How often have we seen a crop protection company position its product as being the “only” product to control a particular weed or disease, yet it’s a problem that farmers may not have known they even had? (Compare this to a chance meeting I had with a very large-scale farmer recently who based his grass weed control decision on needing a product that “the hired man can’t screw up.”)
We need to acknowledge that we, as marketers, can enrich the buying journey even before the farmer enters the retail location.
Regardless of how we view the retailer’s role in a farmer’s decision process, we need to acknowledge that we, as marketers, can enrich the buying journey even before the farmer enters the retail location. If we can identify a problem that the farmer really wants to solve, and then address it in a credible way, we create an ideal—and very tenable—situation: farmers walking into the retail location asking for our brands specifically.
We may be slow to cotton to the idea of the buyer’s journey in agrimarketing, but there’s plenty of room to leverage it for our business advantage in the future.