Consolidation in the agriculture industry is well recognized – be it manufacturers, distributors, retailers, or farm entities themselves. There is no question that North American agriculture has been steadily evolving.
As the ag industry has evolved, so has the business engagement among farmers and agribusiness. Where one time local dealers were present every 20 miles, a “local” dealer may now be 60 miles down the highway or further. So how is a manufacturer to build and maintain customer relationships when local is no longer really local?
Farm customers are relying more and more on digital tools to help them search for products and equipment. The process can be quick, or it can be exhaustive, but the truth is, farmers do their homework. Trouble is, manufacturers have not kept pace with farm customers’ quest for relevant information and farmers are left frustrated and disconnected. So the problem compounds. Local is no longer local, and farmers are struggling to find helpful, relevant information on products and equipment.
So how can a manufacturer remedy these problems and build a closer relationship with the farm customer? Bring digital to a local level. Here’s how:
1) MORE testing and trial results in MORE locations. Farmers rely on testing and trial results for data, but every farmer has different needs and they will be suspect of posted results unless it closely matches their situation. Soil type, growing season, annual rainfall, rotation, pest pressure and fertility are all highly variable. On-farm cooperative tests and trials of equipment and products in more locations will allow manufacturers to break down that “suspect” barrier.
2) Open forums for peer reviews. Farmers trust their fellow farmers. No question. Word of mouth has been and will continue to be of huge value to farmers as they seek out information on new equipment and products. Manufacturers need to create digital forums where farmers can share their experiences and encourage farmers to post their experiences.
3) Search engine friendly. Manufacturer websites are rarely designed with the customer in mind. Often company-centric, the information shared is generally corporate in nature and backed up with heavy digital brochure ware. Build your site from the ground up and address the farm customer’s needs first. Think ahead on what farmers will be searching for and search engine optimize your site so you can provide outstanding, relevant information on the first click.
4) Customize for my farm. With more testing and trial results and peer reviews and product information organized in a way the farm customer can use, take ease to the next level and allow the user to “customize for my farm.” Provide the farmer an easy option to take ALL results right down to their zip code. Comments, forums, data, testing, results, local dealers and other allied support. Bring it all home and make it easy, “For my farm.”
Agriculture continues to evolve and relationships are evolving right along with it. Farmers are adapting and making great use of new and existing digital tools. Today a farmer can stump Google in 10 seconds flat. By bringing digital to a local level manufacturers can close the widening information gap and begin building new relationships with this progressive customer base.
What manufacturers do you feel are doing a great job of using digital to help put the farmer first? Any who are faltering?
(Photo courtesy of Alyce Lee on Flickr)