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31-Mar-2015

Marketing to the Ag sector

Calvin Rupe discusses the upcoming growing season with a client.

When I began my career with the Aurora Cooperative in late 2000, I was a livestock specialist for the first 10 years. My days were spent working directly with farmers and ranchers, helping them with nutrition and management of their livestock, primarily cattle. For the past four years, I have held the role of Corporate Communications Manager. I promote and manage th e brand of the Aurora Cooperative.

Perspective

I may have a different perspective than someone formally educated in advertising or promotional communications. I was raised on a farm in South Central Nebraska and continue to farm and ranch today. My degree from UNL is in animal science. Since I have worked so closely with farmers and ranchers and was raised and still live in an agricultural setting, I have a clear understanding of their perception of advertising and marketing. There is a fine balance when you work for a cooperative. Essentially, you are using their money to market to them. You must carefully choose your marketing!

 

Expectations

Farmers and ranchers in this region are very professional, very progressive and most importantly, care about the well being of others. I work for good-hearted people and they expect those around them to be true to their word. Customers in central Nebraska expect you to earn their trust and their business. They also expect you to care about their communities.

For those of us in production agriculture, it is a small world. Farmers and ranchers are  bottom-line oriented, yet they appreciate a great working relationship with the companies they do business with.


Approach

We use a number of methods to reach target customers. First and foremost, we have boots on the ground. Our sales force is out in the country, sitting at kitchen tables, standing over pickup hoods, walking fields and even pulling bunk samples. We reinforce the relationships with messaging through radio, local print media, social media and trade shows.

Agriculture is a way of life and it involves families. We are very supportive of youth activities and make a concerted effort to support 4-H and FFA not only financially, but also with time. Our staff serves as judges and presenters and helps with specific projects. We also have an internship program, which we continually work to improve. We work hard to pair the students with a mentor who will give them a great internship experience.

Our logo is visible in places where people appreciate our sponsorship. And, our sales people are continually building strong relationships.

Even though the target audience for our messaging is the farmer and rancher, the general public sees and hears what we put out there. Though we understand and trust the different technologies available in farming today, the average consumer may not. We must, in all of our messaging, be sensitive to the perception of people who are generations-removed from farming.


Measurement

We continually gauge social media as well as “listen” to the market space. When we learn directly from farmers and ranchers that they are hearing our ads and seeing us at various places, we know we are targeting the right events and places at the right time. Our customers are comfortable with us and communicate with us. They respond when we ask and they let us know when we don’t.


Innovative Marketing

One challenge with agriculture is that we have great diversity of audience in one business sector. There are young people involved in farming and ranching who utilize social media and digital opportunities to their fullest. We also have many farmer-owners who are part of an older generation and prefer print material.

We try to utilize partnerships with some of our vendors, such as promotions at Husker Harvest Days. In the grain department, we have a team of originators who work very hard to speak directly to many growers every day.

One thing we have moved away from is the traditional newsletter. We distribute high-end statement stuffers. Everyone has to open their monthly statement.


About the Author

Dawn Caldwell
Communications Manager, Aurora Cooperative

Dawn was raised on a farm near Guide Rock, Nebraska and has lived her life working in the field of agriculture. She has a degree in animal science from UNL and has worked with Aurora Coop for the last 15 years.


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