6 ways to credibly empathize with farmers in marketing

by Jeff Walter
June 22, 2018

6 ways to credibly empathize with farmers in marketing

Build credibility and farmer trust with empathy.

Empathy is at the core of content development. And we know that empathy in marketing plays a crucial role in establishing brand credibility and building relationships with customers. Some brands do it better than others when marketing to farmers. Some completely fail, because they don’t seem sincere, don’t understand the problem their brand can solve for farmers, and/or don’t understand the needs and mindsets of farmers.

Well-executed empathy respects the intelligence of farmers and the lives they lead. It also talks to farmers in their language as peers, never patronizing or alienating them. There are six simple ways for brands to effectively empathize and credibly connect with farmers.

1. Know your brand’s limitations. Use appropriate cause-and-effect language to convey the proper message between the farmer and the brand. For example, farmers can achieve a strong ROI by controlling profit-robbing weeds with a herbicide, but a herbicide doesn’t make the farmer more profitable, smarter or more competitive.

2. Try not to state the obvious. Sentences like “you can’t control the weather” or “you work hard” are unproductive. Farmers know these things and farm work is more than back-breaking work; there’s a lot of brain-work, too. By the way, most farmers don’t mind working hard – they like the work and the tangible and intangible rewards that come with it.

3. Avoid the implication that farming is gambling. Yes, there are uncontrollable variables like the weather and markets, but farmers believe part of their job is to manage the risk through good decisions – which may or may not include your brand.

4. Provide all aspects of your brand benefit. Substantiate superior and superlative statements. How does a new technology make farmers more efficient and compared to what? Farmers are skeptical and need to know why your brand is the best or the most.

5. No need to remind farmers that their industry is tough or their margins are tight. They know it; they live it. And don’t think for a minute that they don’t see your brands’ costs as part of the problem.

6. Portray and speak to farmers in contemporary, relevant terms. While faded red barns and vintage pickup trucks are comforting images to the ag-naïve, they annoy farmers and destroy your brand’s credibility. Language and images should be a balance of the earthy lifestyle of farming and the sophistication and technology of agriculture.

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch taught Scout about the importance of empathy when he told her, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” It’s as true today as when Harper Lee wrote the line in 1960.

Empathy is the single most important trait for getting along with people. It is perhaps one of the most important sales and marketing tools, too, if done right. When executed well – with deep knowledge of farmer audiences and objectivity about their brands – ag marketers earn credibility and the trust of farmers.

Jeff Walter
About the Author – Jeff Walter

President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.


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Since 1978, the ag-marketing experts at Rhea + Kaiser have been helping brands connect with the farmer customer.

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