July 25, 2022

4 Key Insights for Ag Marketers From Our Annual Retreat

What do you get when you gather a fully remote team, distributed across Canada, for three days in the mountains? In the case of our team, you get three days of new ag marketing insights, refreshed perspectives, and plenty of laughter. 

Though we’ve always worked remotely with our clients, who are located throughout North America, we only recently became one of many companies who shifted their teams permanently to their home offices. And while we love the very short commutes, the four-legged office mates, and the ability to work from anywhere in the world, there’s nothing like getting together in person. 

Last month, our team headed to Alberta via planes, trains, and automobiles (okay maybe not trains – it just sounded nice) for a long-anticipated and overdue in-person meetup. The weather was less than cooperative, but it didn’t matter. All were excited for what the next few days would hold. 

In between moments built for team building, including a very intense Jenga competition, late night walks to the fire pit, and plenty of amazing food, we were joined by a roster of some of the smartest folks in the agriculture industry. Here are just a few of our key takeaways:

Data-Informed Insights Are King

Our keynote speaker was Chris Nowlan, Marketing Portfolio Manager at UPL Canada. Though some of our team works regularly with Chris and his colleagues, we were all eager to hear his thoughts on how marketing practices can better serve agriculture brands. 

Chris shared that one of the most important things agriculture brands need from their marketing teams, internal or external, is a deep knowledge and understanding of the farm customers they trying to reach. This knowledge must be driven by data and must go beyond grouping farmers into large swaths based simply on demographics. 

As we all know, agriculture customer data is hard to come by, which means that marketers must be willing to research and gather that data to inform their marketing strategies. 

Hard Conversations Are Key

David Dzisiak, Chief Operating Office at Botaneco, Inc, joined us via a prerecorded video, as he was abroad at the time of the retreat. 

In his insightful talk, he brought up something that is key to the process of building successful marketing campaigns: dialogue. 

Whether building strategy, planning tactics, or brainstorming executions, the entire team must be able to engage in frank discussions. The best ideas and campaigns come out of frank discussions, where hard questions were asked and ideas were examined objectively.  

We Aren’t Only Talking To Farmers

Steve Larocque of Beyond Agronomy was the focus of our fireside chat (moved indoors due to the uncooperative weather, but no less cozy thanks to the large fireplace in the room). As an agronomist, Steve has generously shared his insights with our team on many occasions, and this discussion was no different. 

Over the hour-plus chat, Steve gamely answered questions from our team. One of the most interesting things he shared was the way in which agronomists and their farmer clients share information.

Steve explained that a farmer might forward him a branded email, or send a text asking about a product they’d seen in a publication or heard about on the radio. This is important for ag brands that don’t have a direct line of sight to the final sale of their product – those sold by a distributor or retailer to the farmer. 

Beyond targeting communications directly at agronomists, or hosting agronomists at informational seminars, brands should keep in mind that if the information they share with farm customers is compelling enough, they will share it with their most trusted advisors to get their take on it. Providing trial results, data, and easy-to-access information means that both the farmer and those who influence their decisions can quickly evaluate your product or service. 

Canadian Ag Needs More Investment

Tech entrepreneur Alison Sunstrum (founder and CEO of CNSRV-X Inc, fellow and founding partner of Creative Destruction Lab, venture partner at Builders VC, and general partner at The 51) spoke to our team via Zoom. 

She pointed out the massive potential that exists for Canadian ag on a global scale. Though we rank fifth for the production of agricultural goods, Canada is eighth in exports. For context, the Netherlands, a country that could fit inside Banff National Park, is second. 

While Canada has the highest number of researchers per capita, we struggle to commercialize innovation. A stronger focus on investment is needed to help Canada improve its overall position in the global market. In addition, though ag financing is increasing massively year over year, female founders continue to struggle to get their share – a huge opportunity lost for highly successful innovations to find their way to the world stage. 

And So Much More

If we shared everything we learned, shared and explored, this would be a novel-length article, so we’ll close there. 

We’d like to thank everyone who made our team retreat possible, from the planning team to our client partners who worked with us to ensure that deadlines were met and the work continued smoothly even while we spent some time off the grid. 

Thank you as well to our speakers: Chris Nowlan, Shairose Lalani, David Dzisiak, Alison Sunstrum, and Steve Larocque and to our hosts at our amazing venue, The Crossing at Ghost River.