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As farmers and ranchers we are groomed to be self sufficient, especially when you live miles from your nearest neighbor and 90 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. 

When you’re trying to live a full, productive and effective life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it all yourself. Whether this means micro-managing, or dealing with every little thing at home, it can initially seem like a way to make sure things are done properly and your mantra soon becomes one of - "if you want a job done well, do it yourself." 

Before long, of course, you end up feeling frazzled. You’re spending a lot of time on low-level tasks, you’re overworked, and you don’t ever seem to get a chance to pursue activities that you really enjoy. 

The “I-can-do-it-myself” approach typically leads to an enormous amount of unnecessary pressure, stress, and procrastination that could have been avoided by building in the right support structure early on. 

Asking for Help 
It's okay to ask for help.  One of the most absurd things we do to ourselves is not asking for it when we need it.  We don't have to struggle through life alone, whether what we need is information, encouragement, a helping hand, a hug, a ride or someone to just listen we can always ask. 

It is self-defeating to not ask for help when we need it, keeping us stuck in martyrdom or as a victim waiting helplessly to be rescued. 

Like most businesses, farmers and ranchers can't afford to hire in-house for every task that must be accomplished, there are simply jobs that must be outsourced.  Marketing is one of those jobs which can be overwhelming with so many different options – e-mail, print, online, trade shows, social media, websites and blogs.  Therefore it makes sense to hire someone to help you develop and implement an effective marketing plan that drives results and increases profits.  It can help you save time and money while driving your ideal clients to your website. 


Online Marketing 
Far too many business owners neglect how important online marketing is for their business success. For many businesses the reasons this seems to be true is time.  There's not enough time in the day to "do it all."  The reality is your customers are online.  My husband spends hours online researching farm equipment, seed varieties and cattle bloodlines. While my 81 year-old father-in-law still spends time pouring over the latest farm journals, he now has a touch screen computer that he daily looks up all the livestock sales market reports in a two state area.  

Your customers have a lot of choices online and it's important to constantly and consistently remind them you exist.  In order to be relevant in today's crowded marketplace being online is a must.  Your customers are online looking up what to do, where to go, who to buy things from and more.  Being online leverages multiple avenues for your business to gain visibility and is a must when connecting with customers. 

When most people think about SEO or online marketing, they might immediately think about ads on social media sites or Google ads but don't really know what it's all about. The fact that getting your business listed on the first page for a selected term can dramatically change a business for the better and should not be taken lightly.  


Content Production 
Keeping a website and blog maintained with consistent quality content is something that every business should do. The difficult part is that this can be a full-time job for someone who isn’t gifted in writing.  Maintaining a website and blog can be one of your best businesses marketing tools, therefore hiring a qualified professional is imperative to its success.   

If a business could save money and money hiring a plethora of experience, why wouldn’t they do it? Here at Agri-Marketing Solutions we already have built the relationships in the agriculture industry to leverage your marketing or advertising campaign.  Winging your marketing can be a waste of time and money when professionals can do a much more efficient and quality job.  Knowing where to outsource can help a company reduce wasted costs by attempting "to do all by yourself." Allowing you to focus on what your business does well and let others take care of the headaches. 

 
 
Working day in and day out with family can at times be challenging!  Here at our farm, ranch and feedlot my husband and I work with his 81 year-old father, his two brothers, and our employees.  Most of the time this is a blessing as we work together through droughts, blizzards, fires or other problems to overcome them as a family.  But it's not always that simple!  

Have you ever disagreed about a position you had with another person and you simply couldn’t figure out why he or she just could not agree with you? To you it seems so obvious and you know you are so right. “What is the matter with you? Why can't you hear or see what I'm saying?” 

I have been working on upgrading our ranch website and it's beginning to feel like an exercise in futility! Nobody can seem to agree on what should be said or how to present it and others just don't see a need for it at all or the importance of social media accounts because they don't use the internet. It’s amazing just how divided everybody can be on certain issues when we've spent years working together as a family.  

It's often easy to get caught up in the ceaseless dramas of life and to avoid pulling my hair out I had to take a step back and look at the situation from a different perspective to see what really matters. In every situation, we always have a choice, even if the only choice we have is to change our perspectives.  

This change of perspective didn't happen overnight, as I have been known to have a self defeating stubborn streak.   It took me some time, self reflection and a lot of gratitude to give up my smallness and narrowmindness that was making me crazy. 

After awhile I became fascinated by just how differently everyone sees the world and how our own perspective shapes what seems to be right and wrong and the implications this had in advertising and marketing. 

The reason for the disagreements is that the other people involved have a different perspective on the website and it's purpose. It's the same principle with everything - each situation, event, conversation, means something different to all those involved.  We give different meanings, according to our belief systems, and how we are affected by the event creating our own unique realities.     

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are." - Anais Nin   

We look at situations, events, and interpret what other people say and do, according to our own set of past experiences, culture, faith, values, all of which help us form our beliefs about ourselves, about others, and about the world in general.  The meaning we give events, the way we make sense of our world, is based upon our set of core beliefs.  

But it is important to know that they are not necessarily true for other people and much can come from seeing another perspective. 

We are often afraid that seeing the others perspective could lead us to lose an argument … or worse, to being labeled as fundamentally wrong or damaged in some way. But the true value of another perspective lies in seeing the situation as a larger whole, allowing us to make a better decisions for ourselves and solve problems with true solutions that create a win-win situation for everyone involved instead of compromises.  Albert Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” This is also true with perspectives.  

It takes some courage to see the perspective of the other person, listen whole-heartedly, acknowledge it and then look for the best solution for both.  This does not mean that you have to give up your perspective. It just means that you add another viewpoint in order to get a more correct picture of the issue. 

This lead me to wonder, are your customers seeing the same things you are in your website, marketing and advertising?   

In marketing it’s very important that we are all on the same page and knowing just how differently we can all see the same things is key for understanding differences and bridging gaps between confusion and misunderstandings.  Especially in the world of agriculture where the 'ag literacy' gap widens everyday as people become further removed from where their food comes from and lack personal experience with or exposure to agriculture.   

Are we delivering the right marketing message to our clients, or are they seeing something entirely different. That’s why it’s important to get critical key feedback on every website, design or marketing campaign we at Agri-Marketing Solutions are doing. The worst thing we could do is be sending out a message that needs to be heard loud and clear and is completely misinterpreted. 

No matter how often I put my work out there, I’m still human. I’m still invested in what I do. I still want to impress people. And, what’s more impressive than doing it all on your own and getting it right the first time?  It's also unrealistic. 

It can be hard to let others judgements in and ask, “How do you think this could be better?” It can be humbling, to admit you’ve taken something as far as you can take it, or that you’re unsure of the direction you’re going.  But I am learning that sharing my work with others can help me get the best out of myself. 

We all have natural blind spots based on our unique view of the world.  I am very fortunate and grateful to have people in my life in the field of agriculture and outside of it that I can trust to be honest and balance my weaknesses.  Having these people in my life to balance out my weak points results in a stronger, more well-rounded final product, whether it's a blog post, a prime rib recipe, or a marketing strategy. 

These people also have a stake in my work.  They don't succeed unless I succeed.  Just as I don't succeed if my clients don't and the better my client looks, the better I look.  Maybe that sounds self-serving, and I suppose it is to an extent, but I prefer to look at it from another perspective. That of a true partnership when both parties are encouraged to be them best selves and produce better work it provides a win-win situation for everyone. 

So I have learned to be grateful to my family and the employees I work and live with.  Because of the disagreements the farm/ranch and feedlot as well as Agri-Marketing Solutions as a whole is all better for it. 

 
 
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It’s that time of year again,  bull sale season!  Each day the mailman delivers another stack of bull sale catalogs and it's now to the point that we can't find the top of the conference table in our office. With so many choices, how do you make your bulls stand out above the rest? 

Everyone wants a surefire way to develop customer relationships that lead to higher sales and profits. And who wouldn’t want this? The truth is that there’s no one single way to do this.  Your bulls and breeding programs are multidimensional, as are your clients. So should be your marketing plan.  The most successful marketing uses a combination of approaches which requires a strategy. 

Here are some tips to help make your marketing rise above the rest. 

The best print ads use headlines, visuals and information that spotlights the reasons why a producer should come to your sale.  Design ads that create an emotional response.  Emotions are the core element that motivates consumers to buy goods and services.  Make sure your ads are clear and easy to read because what you say matters. The most effective ads are the ones that give the producer a reason to buy, use or find out more about a bull or your breeding program and that highlights important features.  Let your customer know how choosing to buy one of your bulls will positively impact their herd for years to come.  Emphasize value added-traits for your breed and market. 

One of the best or the worst impressions can be your sale catalog. Aim to make a visual impact with good photography, a clean layout design and easy to read text.  Don't over clutter pages with too many bulls per page.  Make it easy for your readers to navigate your catalog by putting a table of contents or a bull index in your catalog, a schedule of events for the day of your sale, terms and conditions, sale order and don't forget directions to the sale location and area lodging. 

Online catalogs should also be readily available to post on your website, in social media or to be sent in e-mail.  The pages of your online catalog should fit into a standard computer screen which keeps the page from being cropped out of view. Include a zoom function so buyers can get a better look.  The catalog should include clear links or tabs so buyers can easily navigate from one section or page to the next.  Also include e-mail and forward links to encourage viewers to share your sale catalog. 

No matter what type of business you’re engaged in, social media is crucial if you want to stay ahead of the competition and generate more sales and customers.  Instead of going to search engines, a growing number of users prefer to make queries on social networks such as Facebook when searching for products or services. So make sure your farm or ranch has a Facebook page,  even your favorite bull can have his own page. 

But there’s more to using social media than setting up accounts on Twitter and Facebook and putting up posts and composing tweets. You need to be active and engaging, and offer information people are looking for. Without a definite plan, social media activities can be a waste of time.  

Therefore, in order to make an impact, you must first formulate and commit to a long-term strategy that includes an effective means for management and performance monitoring.  

The most obvious goal of using a social media strategy is to increase your business's presence and extend your reach. But there is much more you can achieve.  Including increasing traffic to your website, improving your credibility and bringing new buyers to your sale. 

What content should you post?  

The best content strategy is one that involves mixed content. There need to be posts that showcase your bulls, but others need to address the specific needs and interests of your target audience. If you’re only posting bland messages about your sale, people will likely tune out and avoid you in the future. Curate posts that are interesting, like news stories, how-to articles, videos and picture lists that are relevant to your industry and to your breeding program.   

Also talk directly to your audience and encourage people to interact with your brand continuously. After all it's all about building long term relationships with your buyers. You need to show your customers that you care about what each person has to say about your business.   

Presentation is as important in marketing cattle privately as it is in a public auction.  High quality videos and photos give you an edge up on others marketing the same type of cattle.  Make sure that videos and photos link to your website. 

Here are some ideas for social media posts. 

In addition to personal tours, video an on-site bull tour that guide potential customers through your facility and answers common questions about your bulls.  This gives potential buyers the chance to get a personal viewing and readily available data of each animal, maximizing the exposure for your cattle and creating interest in your program. 

While you can buy any genetics, you can't buy someone's management.  It is really easy to get caught up in the data, but remember these animals need to be sound and functional in the pasture. Buyers like to see cattle raised in similar conditions to their own management practices.  Show in your videos that your bulls will easily adapt to their new homes. 

Show your operations herd health protocols.  There's nothing worse than bringing a new bull home and having him not be healthy and the risk of infecting your buyers herd.  Let buyers know what you do to ensure that your bulls pass a Breeding Soundness Exam. 

Help buyers identify and understand EPD's and phenotypes and how specific traits can add value to your clients herd.  For example, while calving ease is important avoid stressing low birth weight bulls for cows because producers don't get paid for light birth weight calves.  Instead stress how the confirmation of the bull with average EPD's are better off for mature cows and greater profits for the producer.  Producers who sell calves at weaning are more interested in calving ease, heifer pregnancy, stay ability and weaning weight.  Producers who retain ownership through a feedlot and market to a packer are most interested in yearling weight and carcass traits. Help your clients produce the most profitable product without increasing cost of production by showing them how they may utilize multiple trait selection indexes. 

Show how you are increasing the accuracy of your EPD's on yearling bulls resulting in less risk, less change and more predictability in how your bulls will sire. 

Discuss how buying your bulls is beneficial to crossbreeding producers who raise commercial cattle or how your bulls are the best for different management practices. 

Show how you stand behind your bulls as a breeder.  Show how they last, will hold value, can add value to a herd for the next five years and how his daughters will impact a herd for the next twenty years.  Help your clients find everything they are looking for in a bull. 

Marketing is multifaceted and continuously ongoing. Look at it as a long term prospect with lots of contributing factors to bring attention to your cattle and get top dollar.  I hope these tips have helped and that you have great success at your upcoming sales.  


 
 
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In the world where we are so connected, we can also be so very disconnected from what truly sustains us. I recently posted this statistic from Agricultural Trends, Topics and Tomorrow to my Facebook page, "Only one percent of Americans are farmers and 85% of America is so far removed from agriculture, they do not understand what we do, even when we tell them." 

The value of agriculture cannot be taken lightly. Don’t get me wrong, business, accounting and computer sciences are important, but without agriculture fulfilling life’s most essential elements, none of these professions mean anything. In fact, no other industry can provide the necessities our population needs to survive and move forward except agriculture. Shelter, fiber for clothing, and most importantly, food for our ever growing population. 

With a declining number of farms and ranches as well as an increasing average age of farmers and ranchers this should have us all worried. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently told a group of Iowa farmers that all farmers and ranchers must highlight the positives associated with farming and rural life. 

“There’s lots of competition for these young people,” Vilsack said, "and farmers could be their own worst enemy when it comes to marketing their occupation and lifestyle to the next generation of agricultural producers. You have to make the case to young people that farming is something they ought to aspire to.” 

“There is not a more important job in the United States of America,” Vilsack said. “Why aren’t we marketing that?” 

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It’s important that the misperceptions about agriculture are stopped as soon as possible! Recent research from the University of Guelph has shown that animal welfare concerns have grown a staggering 300%. 

The simple fact is that there is a high possibility that there will be 9 billion people to feed, clothe and provide shelter for by 2050. And more than likely, this population explosion will need to be supported with fewer resources, fewer farmers and ranchers, fewer livestock, more regulations and less understanding of where our food comes from and what it takes to get it from the farm and ranch to your table. We can’t afford to have a population that doesn’t value agriculture or understand the overwhelming importance of this industry.  
 
Thankfully, many in the agriculture industry recognize the need for outreach and continue to work hard to educate and advocate for agriculture. And the good news is that your great stories exist, showing that as producers you care about animal welfare and food safety. 


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Consumers need to hear your story and about your farm practices! It is the responsibility of the entire food production sector, including farmers and ranchers to be proactive in explaining agricultural practices. Not someone else's misguided interpretation of them that becomes the consumers' reality. Agri-Marketing Solutions can help you weave your farm's story into the larger story of agriculture with openness, honesty, and transparency because we are farmers and ranchers ourselves. 

No matter what type of business activity you’re engaged in, social media is crucial if you want to stay ahead of the competition and misconceptions. There’s more to using social media than just setting up accounts on Twitter and Facebook and putting up posts and composing tweets. You need to be active and engaging and offer information people are looking for. Without a definite plan, social media activities can be a waste of time. Therefore, in order to make an impact, you must formulate a social media strategy with an effective means of management. 


Here are a few social media tips to help you tell your story. 

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  • Share photos of the livestock you raise or the crop you grow on Facebook or Twitter, discuss how and why you choose a specific crop or breed.  Tell how and why you use the seed corn you choose and the importance of fertilizing fields. 
  • Explain how hard you work to keep animals healthy and discuss the depths of knowledge needed to develop rations or treatment protocols for livestock. We actually had a guy apply for a job here in our feedlot the other day that when asked what he would use to treat Bovine Respiratory Disease responded, Brucellosis.  Even those who think they know livestock are unaware. 
  • Talk about the rich tradition of your farm or ranch and how hard your family has worked to make sure that hard earned heritage is not lost and how your story will continue with future generations. 
  • Discuss your farm practices that help keep food safe - drug withdrawal times before animals can go to slaughter and the safe storage of crops. 
  • Show consumers that you are feeding your family what is produced on your farm. 

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  • Show how your farm or ranch is a true environmental steward.  Show how your practices provide habitat for wildlife or what your water and soil conservation practices that are vital to the continuation of your operation. 

America’s farmers and ranchers are true professionals. It's about time the rest of the world knew it! 


Subscribe and stay tuned in for next weeks blog post on marketing your bull and replacement heifer sales.

 

    Author Jennifer Archibald

    Reflections of life and lessons learned in the fields of marketing and agriculture.  A place to shout from the roof tops our clients success and keep you up to date on industry trends.

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Agri-Marketing Solutions
10400 SD Hwy 75 Lodgepole, SD 57640
Phone: 605-564-4000