Embrace these 4 challenges head-on and the (ag) world is your oyster!

A few weekends ago, I was chatting with a new acquaintance at a neighborhood barbecue about spending the last 17 years of my professional career in marketing. When he asked what industry I enjoyed the most, without a moment’s hesitation, I answered, “Agriculture.” My new friend was surprised by this answer and asked me why it was such a clear favorite. I pondered for a moment and responded, “No other category presents the same set of unique challenges. It forces you to dig deeper, think more critically and embrace your inner ingenuity.”

Now that I’ve had the benefit of some time to marinate on his question, I think there are four critically important challenges that any ag marketer comes to accept after several years in this space. Understand and embrace these challenges and you have the sure footing required for a successful career in ag marketing.

1. Agricultural products often have very rapid lifecycles.

The good news is that this rapid lifecycle is driven by new technology and improved solutions. The bad news is that we often find our products hitting peak market share after only 4 or 5 years. We need to ensure that we are working closely with our clients to understand the expected lifecycle and the business objectives throughout (i.e., expected trajectory). Great marketers understand this and work to consider ways to carry equity forward. For example, brand extensions or elevating corporate/parent brand importance.

2. Limited number of purchasing opportunities.

Many agricultural input decisions are made infrequently. While consumers make decisions on consumables daily or weekly, our farmers are making crop production decisions once a year (seed, herbicide, fungicide, etc.). Miss that window and you must wait 12 months before you get another shot. And while that may sound scary, large inputs such as tractors are assessed once every several years. Maybe once or twice in a lifetime, a decision is made about grain bins and milking parlors. Even items used on a daily basis, like feed rations or nutraceuticals, are often only evaluated and changed once or twice a year.

3. Ag is technical and nuanced.

Like any specialized industry, ag has its own language and you must speak it fluently to carry any credibility. Pre-harvest intervals, somatic cell count, PTO horsepower, glufosinate vs. glyphosate, wet clutch vs. dry clutch. Looking back, I’m glad I got a degree in Ag Communications. I just wish I would have known to minor in chemistry, biology, soils, ag engineering and ag econ. This industry rewards those who are insatiably curious and willing to invest the time to become an expert in their client’s products and solutions.

4. Farmers may be the most complex mindset to try and pin down.

I think this is what keeps many of us in this industry. It is such a unique blend of business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing. After all, farmers are often running multi-million-dollar business enterprises and multi-generational family businesses. And did I mention they view it simultaneously as a business and a way of life? Don’t forget, they are also raising their families and supporting their communities with their operations. There is so much right brain/left brain opportunity, it can be hard to find the balance of rational and emotional messaging. But that is the true art of ag marketing.

I am guessing many of you are nodding along in agreement to all of this. If you are newer to our space, you might find that this helps to bring some of the challenges into better focus. Either way, I do believe it’s these challenges that keep us interested and coming back for more.

But enough of my rambling. What challenges do you think we face as ag marketers? Are there additional ag marketing truths that you would like to share? Please submit your comments below. I’m always interested in hearing new perspectives.