Women: the missed opportunity when marketing to farmers

by Diane Martin
May 7, 2019

How ag marketing can connect with influential farm women.

Decision-makers on the farm aren’t just gray-haired white guys these days. The decision-makers now include women, and those women are making some of the most important decisions. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the number of female producers increased about 27 percent, with women representing approximately 36 percent of all farm operators. However, ag marketers and ag media continue to blow-by that demographic, primarily speaking to and featuring men.

Women still fill the traditional female responsibilities on the farm. They are part runners, gardeners, cooks, housekeepers, bookkeepers, soccer moms, wives and advocates. Yet, they are also participating in the management of their family farms as partners, many as primary managers or sole-owners. In other words, women are making, or at minimum, heavily influencing decisions for the farm business and operations.

Why aren’t more ag marketers embracing this evolving “farm women” demographic?

We selected seven recent farm publications and counted a total of 206 ads. Of those ads, only eight included women. Sixty-two ads included men, and the remaining 136 were gender neutral (i.e. products, crops, livestock, or gender obscured by helmets or dark cabs). A further review of the male and neutral ads revealed several missed opportunities to include women as partners or primary decision-makers, not to mention occasions to gain consideration, close the sale and build brand loyalty.

Even if many female operators tend to represent smaller and/or specialized operations as reported by the USDA, most farm women still buy or have input into products and services for the farm. Their opinions weigh heavily on everything from spec’ing new combines, four-door 4WD pickups, ATVs and zero-turn lawnmowers to selecting agronomic consultants, herbicides, farm management software, operating loans and feed ingredients.

Four steps to engage farm women in ag marketing.

  1. Include women more frequently in your brands’ imagery. Show them using your brands, working or meeting with men and other women or opening the aluminum trailer full of 1,250-pound steers. It’s important to demonstrate that women are capable of doing work that is traditionally thought of as contrary to their gender role.
  2. Push the ag media to provide circulation and readership data by gender and collect first names of female readers. Jane Smith is more likely to be receptive to your message than Mrs. John Smith.
  3. Invite women to participate in advisory panels and market research. Armed with the right intelligence, you can confidently and boldly engage them and earn their preference.
  4. Pursue initiatives that speak to farm women as peer or primary decision-makers. It’s tempting to treat them like one of the guys, but please don’t. Learn and respect the nuances. Be relevant and respectful of women and men in agriculture.

Women have more voice and influence on the products and services used in the farm business, and as we see in business and politics today, they’re breaking barriers never seen before. By recognizing and embracing this dynamic, ag companies can more effectively market their brands, gain competitive advantage and build loyalty. Remember, it’s not about women vs. men; it’s about women and men.

Diane Martin
About the Author – Diane Martin

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.

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