farmer decision making for marketers

Factors to consider when developing your marketing plans.

Marketing inputs to farmers have a lot of moving parts. To do it successfully, you need to understand how farmers make decisions: the stages in the decision-making process, the timing and the resources farmers access to inform their decisions.

If you have a firm grip on the decision-making journey, then you have set your brand up for success.

The Stages in the Process

Farmers typically go through four stages in the decision-making process for inputs:

  • Stage 1 Marketing Farmers review the previous year, assess needs and look for ways to improve and gather information. This is the time when farmers are most open to marketing messages.
  • Stage 2 Sales Farmers evaluate products in this stage. They seek out feedback from other farmers, extension and sales representatives. They may even compare products on their operations.
  • Stage 3 Transaction After product price comparison, farmers move forward with their purchase decision.
  • Stage 4 Customer Service Farmers monitor product performance, reach out to product experts in-season and then determine ROI at year-end.
The Timing

Farmers make decisions throughout the calendar year that affect the current production cycle, as well as the next year. While some inputs are more of an ongoing consideration, such as animal nutrition management, many have very specific windows of time that are critical for success. Miss them, and you can be spending your budget for virtually no gain.  Let’s consider some of the decisions a corn and soybean farmer might make throughout a season, using a recent Millennium Research Study.

  • While acreage dictates final seed needs, approximately 60 percent of farmers make their corn and soybean seed decisions in November and December.
  • Soil fertility decisions come down to a farmer’s seasonal preference for applications. Approximately 50 percent make their decisions in time for fall applications, and nearly as many make this decision just prior to planting.
  • 80 percent of farmers choose their herbicide between December and March.
  • 40 percent of farmers base their fungicide and insecticide decisions on whether any pest or disease issues emerge after planting.
  • Approximately one-third make fungicide and insecticide decisions post-harvest, based on issues they encountered the previous season.
  • Nearly 80 percent of farmers make their seed treatment decisions between harvest and planting.
The Resources

Farmers still retreat to ag retailers and dealers for their decisions, and they do so throughout the entire decision-making process. According to Meredith Agrimedia’s “Farmers’ Use of Media” study, approximately 50 percent of farmers consult with their retailer or dealer during Stages 1 and 2. That climbs to more than 60 percent for Stage 3 before falling to approximately 40 percent in Stage 4.

The Meredith study also reveals that media resources – including direct, print, broadcast, digital and mobile – score higher in Stage 1 and then drop off significantly throughout the remaining stages. Along with retailers, ag publications and ag manufacturer-provided content are the other most popular resources for Stages 1 and 2.

Since the retailer/dealer remains the farmer’s go-to resource for product and service information, ag marketers must have good relationships with their retailers, provide them with updates on research and product enhancements and offer them quality incentives or marketing programs.

For experienced ag marketers, it may seem like a no-brainer. Even the most experienced benefit from the discipline of mapping out these milestones, timing and resources to ensure plans are fully synched with the farmer’s decision-making journey.