Influencer audiences are an important marketing channel.
The buying decision for a consumer product is a very different experience than that for a business, specifically in agriculture. In agriculture, decisions about products, equipment and seed are complicated decisions that can take a lot of time, research and energy. And, unlike consumer marketing, you are not always marketing directly to the purchaser when trying to sell them your product.
Researchers and Consultants are Key Influencers
Sometimes ag marketers rely heavily on an indirect route to the farmers’ decision-making process: influencers.
Influencers are all around us and are certainly not a new concept for marketing. Whether it’s a corn and soybean farmer in the northern plains, a vegetable grower in California or a rancher in Oklahoma, influencers play an ever-increasing part in the buying decisions of farmers, because they offer scientific and unbiased expertise to help determine which products will perform best. Influencers are often privy to and have been participants in the trials used to test many of the products that farmers use on a regular basis.
In agriculture, it starts with appealing to the human element, but always paying off with the science and data that rationalize the emotional connection with the product. Consider the following agricultural components and the influencers that assist in buying decisions for their operations:
- Corn and soybeans: Farmers rely on their retailer, commodity groups and university agronomists to do the up-front homework and provide research and experience with everything from seed to encapsulated nitrogen fertilizer. Farmers may continue with their own research, but not without that influencer’s stamp of approval first.
- Crop protection in California: This market almost completely relies on influencers. The state of California requires each grower work with a Pest Control Advisor (PCA), who scouts fields, monitors crop health and recommends products. As a result, growers generally have little, if any, input in the marketplace.
- Livestock: Producers look to the combined expertise of their veterinarians, consulting nutritionists and reproduction specialists to recommend the best options for their herds. These experts do their own research, but also rely on industry opinion leaders for guidance.
The Three R’s of Marketing to Ag Influencers
When engaging influencers to ultimately influence farmers’ buying decisions, there are three guiding principles, or the three R’s of influence, to keep in mind.
- Reviews still matter. Online reviews, as we see in consumer decision making, have significant impact in the agricultural buying decision. We’ve seen first-hand how much content, ratings and reviews influence farmers’ decisions. The online role of influencers is where buyers might seek out written reviews and product ratings from those using these products and services every day, be they from farmers, retailers, consultants or even manufacturers.
- Relationships still matter. Whether it’s with a local family business or a large corporation, buying situations and decisions can be negotiable. It’s always to your advantage to maintain positive, respectful relationships with those customers. It impacts your relationship today and in the future.
- Risk still matters. Virtually every purchasing decision on the farm involves risk and can have tremendous impact across the board. That risk is absorbed by the farmers, regardless of who gives them the advice. It’s integral to ensure that all farmers’ decisions are made without pressure and that risk is always fully understood.
When developing your ag marketing plan, make sure to engage and include the influencer audience, because they just might be your most important marketing channel.
Independent Consultant. Before starting her freelance career, Diane worked at Rhea + Kaiser for more than 25 years. During her tenure she put her strong critical thinking and creative problem solving skills to work across a variety of clients.