The Digital Age of Agrimarketing: Is Your Brand Ready?
Agriculture brands have been quick to bring technology to the forefront of production practices, embracing connected devices and artificial intelligence to help farmers meet the increasing demand for food. However, they’ve been slower to implement digital marketing, data collection, and customer-relationship management (CRM) practices than other similar industries.
A 2019 report from Salesforce explored digital implementation in agriculture, oil and gas, and manufacturing in Canada. It found that 83% of agriculture companies had not significantly digitized. When asked to rank digital technologies in order of importance, agriculture companies ranked digital marketing tools and CRMs in eighth, ninth and tenth place out of ten.
If anything accelerated agribusiness’ casual stroll into digital marketing, it was Covid-19. With large trade shows and in-person sales opportunities suddenly halted, many brands scrambled to digitize these pieces, or to fill the gap with increased digital spending.
But Do Farmers Want to Go Digital?
With any transformation or shift in strategic thinking, it’s important to put the audience at the heart of the decision. Do farmers even want to engage with agribusiness brands online, or do they prefer traditional touchpoints that lead to in-person engagements with reps or retailers?
The answer? It depends.
A 2019 McKinsey survey of 700 farmers in the United States found that preference for digital versus human interaction was dependent on where they were in the buying journey. While most conduct their research, evaluation and consideration online, 78% preferred human interaction when they had questions about the product or after-sales service, and 67% reached out to a sales rep or retailer in the initial purchase stage.
In that same survey, 25% indicated they had purchased agricultural products online. This number is sure to continue to rise as companies work to catch up to the shifting tide. Not many large scale brands are ready to fully digitize the buying process but that doesn’t mean that farmers aren’t ready to buy online.
This means that your marketing plan should ideally include traditional channels, digital channels, and a well-considered plan for a data-enabled sales team that can interact both digitally and in person with your buyers. It’s rare that any of these channels function on their own, either – each step feeds and supports the next tactic. When that machine works well, it serves as a scalable, automated, lead generating system that arms reps, retailers, and your customers with everything they need for successful purchase experiences.
Connecting Digital & Traditional Tactics
If you’ve ever visited an IKEA store, you know that they lead you on a very specific journey. This journey is designed to encourage increased spending, with a maze-like layout that discourages deviation from the path, and a long stroll through the upper showrooms filled with small impulse items and catalogue worthy setups. They’ve considered the impact of seeing that fuzzy throw blanket laid over the arm of a couch in a perfectly curated staged “living room” and ensured that the display of packaged fuzzy throw blankets is standing ready nearby.
Similarly, connections between tactics must be considered, and this is especially true when connecting traditional and digital tactics.
As part of our Front-End Planning process, we build outcome maps for every goal and tactic. These maps are a visual representation of the movement of customers through the marcom plan, highlighting where we’ll measure various KPIs, and clearly demonstrating which touchpoints will feed others – indicating where connections need to be made.
A connection between two tactics can be as simple as matching your banner ad call to action to your landing page copy, or it can be more complex, such as building an SEM campaign around keywords that will appear in your radio ads. What’s most important is considering what that connection is, and how it will serve to continue moving the customer forward in the journey.
Creating connection between tactics is also where a strong creative platform comes in. Eye-catching, unique, and highly-recognizable creative pieces help to build a narrative that tells the story of the brand and product, ensuring that every impression, no matter the tactic, supports overall awareness.
Enabling Human Interaction With Data
The power of digital lies within the data it brings, allowing brands to provide exceptional experiences both online and off.
Farmers in the McKinsey study indicated that they found it frustrating when sales reps and retailers didn’t appear to know (or remember) details about their operation, or even more broadly, details about the region they farm in. They also mentioned frustration with salespeople who didn’t have product information on hand, such as pricing and inventory.
Though we’re specifically focused on the digital transformation of agrimarketing, this same transformation will need to take place throughout agribusiness organizations in order to realize its full potential. It’s important to connect marketing data, behavioural analytics, and customer insights into your CRM and create support materials for retailers and sales reps to empower their sales process. It’s also important to build an environment where the use of data, collateral, and other tools is the norm.
No data we collect will ever replace the relationships built by sales teams and retailers with customers, but we can enrich those relationships with customer profiles that help guide conversations, address challenges, and find solutions to make and keep loyal customers.
Moving Forward Into the Future
While agriculture brands explore new tools, technologies and tactics for reaching their customers, data practices must also be refined. Increasingly restrictive data collection rules, as well as individual desire for more control over who has access to their personal data will continue to be at the forefront of the conversation, especially when addressing digital marketing, personalization, and CRM tools.
In addition, organizations must take a leadership role in increasing digital literacy, both internally, and in the industry as a whole. A commitment to nurturing the digital skills of your workforce will translate into a workforce that goes out into the community and increases digital literacy well beyond the workplace. Those skills will also drive higher rates of adoption of tools and processes implemented within your business, and a deeper understanding of how technology is applied in departments outside of their own.