Marketing to Farmers is all about the dance

by Jeff Walter
January 29, 2019

Put on a Garth shirt to market to farmers

Every ag marketer dreams of posting numbers like Garth Brooks posts for audio downloads, CD sales, record sales, concert attendance…. Well, everything he touches. Though his audience is bigger than ours, setting a goal of grabbing the numbers that overlap with his is a worthy endeavor. That overlap is significant, spans several generations and stretches across the entire U.S. ag geography.

Winning that audience wasn’t easy for him, either. For instance, he demanded working with a top executive from his label, which was more accustomed to pairing junior folks with country artists. He also had his own style, choosing loud shirts sans sequins; shirts that quickly became known as “Garth shirts.” Music execs came around because he made money for them.

The question is how to join Brooks in this dance and deliver similar results when marketing to farmers. It’s not a two-step; it’s a five-step.

1. Deliver. Brooks is known for putting everything into a concert, for paying as much attention to the VIP as he does to the guy in the back row. That is a little easier for him. He sings the same song to a guy in California that he sings to a girl in Georgia. We can’t. To inspire farmers across the country to sing our songs demands that we pay attention to relevance. As often as possible, version your material – whether it’s advertising or content – so you’re speaking on a local level.

2. Be humble. It’s all about tone. Brooks often refers to himself as “just a fat boy from Oklahoma.” We must remember that we’re stepping onto their land. Under promise and over deliver.

3. Show up where you’re not expected. While “retired,” Brooks showed up when needed – including a 2010 performance to support flood relief in Nashville. Before a concert in South Carolina, he visited a nearby town to hand out youth baseball trophies. Ag marketers can do the same by supporting issues important to farmers, especially when there’s no direct connection to your product. Example: supporting farmer-funded organizations devoted to food safety. It’s a priority issue for fruit and vegetable farmers.

4. Explore new access points. Know who was the first country singer to perform in Times Square? Yep, Brooks. Ag marketers often tap land-grant college programs, but is there a less-crowded venue? Standing out from the crowd sometimes means stepping away from the crowd.

5. Be passionate. Brooks is visibly tickled when the audience sings his songs – even after 30 years or so. He’s also prone to cry when George Strait, one of his heroes, shows up. Farming is a business; it’s also a generational passion. Respect that. Find ways to show that respect and honor growers for what they do.

Maintaining a strong customer base – whether we’re marketing to fans or farmers – is easier and more profitable than building a new one. Earning the kind of loyalty that pays dividends for decades is possible when you put on your Garth shirt.

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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