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Farmers deserve better from marketers

#Agriculture, #BuyerInsight, #CustomerExperience

Part 1 of 7 in our Ag Challenger series.

If there’s one thing we know from experience, it’s that farmers don’t fit comfortably into conventional marketing models. And because marketers tend to embrace these marketing models, agrimarketing isn’t what it could be. Nowhere near. It’s time to look at how agrimarketing needs to change, and in six upcoming posts in the Ag Challenger series, we’ll look at specific barriers that we need to address to make that change.

As an introduction to the series, let’s look at where we want to be and where we’re currently at. In agriculture, as in most sectors, we as companies and as marketers want to be customer-centric—helping farmers solve the real-world problems they face—yet we remain decidedly product-centric. Even when we try to be customer-centric, too many of us reverse engineer the process. We try to discover a problem that our customers didn’t know they had, until lo and behold, our product comes along to solve it. Let’s be honest with ourselves—in many cases, we’re not making the earnest effort to identify a problem the farmer already has and finding a way to solve that problem, even in situations where we have the know-how to do just that.

B2B, B2C or something new?

Part of this is a hangover from old B2B models of agricultural customers that assume that business purchase decisions are made in a perfectly rational manner. Granted, most full-time farms would qualify as significant businesses with annual cash flow in the millions of dollars. But unlike most business managers, farmers don’t have checklists of required product specifications (let alone RFPs). Yet our B2B approach takes a very rational approach to product marketing, where quantifiably better technical products should always succeed. Farmers have to be smart to survive, but their decisions aren’t exclusively rational either—at least not according to OUR definition.

What’s missing is the realization that farming, even at a very large scale, is both a lifestyle and a business venture.

What’s missing is the realization that farming, even at a very large scale, is both a lifestyle and a business venture. Farmers produce more than an agricultural commodity and their ambitions aren’t those shared by most CEOs. At the same time, the two aspects of business and lifestyle are intertwined in a way that means that adopting a B2C customer model isn’t a better solution. What we have is a customer who is a hybrid—and, because of the added layers of complexity and constraints, something distinctly new.

What we’re proposing is a model that recognizes the unique aspects of farmers. We call this a business-to-farmer or B2F model. It’s a model that is still customer-centric, but one that’s built to service this uniqueness. As agrimarketers, most of us care deeply about our customers, what they do and the adversities they face. But that sense of caring is only the start to being customer-centric. Our businesses must overcome organizational barriers to achieve an authentic sense of customer-centricity.

In the coming entries in the Ag Challenger series, we’d like to talk about some of those barriers and how we need to shift our perspective on farmers, farming and farms. And if you’re interested in discussing these ideas further, please contact me at or via LinkedIn.