Can Agrimarketers Succeed at Digital?

Think Shift

This AgriMarketing Expert Tells All

We asked Eric Postma, Think Shift's Digital and Inbound Marketing Lead, and David Lazarenko, President and resident agrimarketing expert, for their perspective.

Over the years, agrimarketing has fallen behind the curve, due to the widely held belief that farmers simply aren’t there yet when it comes to using social media, email, mobile apps and other digital tools.

But the truth is, farmers do want and use digital tools — agribusiness simply needs to give them the opportunity.

So how can agrimarketers catch up and improve? By simply trying something new. There are so many things you can do in digital agrimarketing today, and many agribusinesses are missing out on these untapped opportunities. So, the first step is to put yourself out there. Take a look at other industries who market to your grower customers, and take note of what they're doing right. Because it's not about being the best in agribusiness, it's about being the best in marketing.

For more actionable digital marketing tips, check out the full-length interview below.

For a more detailed look at best practices in digital marketing, download our eBook on Growing Digital: 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing for Agribusiness in 2019.



Eric: Hey, everyone, I'm Eric Postma. I'm the Digital and Inbound Lead at Think Shift. I'm here with Dave Lazarenko, the President of Think Shift, and we're here today to talk about digital marketing in agriculture. So, Dave, maybe you can tell me a bit about how you got your start in agriculture?

Dave: I remember this so vividly. It was in 2000. I was working on some non-ag business, and I went on a holiday and came back, and the main account manager for Cargill left. And so it was all of a sudden, "Here, David, this is now yours. Run with it." And while there was some farming in my family's background, I was not an agriculturally, you know, focused individual. But I fell in love with it. I found the industry amazing. And being in Winnipeg, there was so much of it that there's just always an opportunity around the corner.

Eric: So, you've seen the industry through probably a lot of change and a lot of new things over the last number of years. I'm just wondering what your perspective is on the current state of marketing in agriculture?

Dave: It's a good question. I see it at the precipice of change, at a major turning point. I think that, you know, as I've kinda maybe mentioned in some of my materials in the past, that agrimarketing fell behind the curve pretty significantly in terms of progressive marketing practices. And I think, you know, we're still behind the curve when you look at what some of the practices are that major consumer brand marketers are doing. But I think that there is starting to be an openness to really trying and really pushing the envelope with what is fundamentally very different ways of marketing, very different ways of approaching communications in marketing and agriculture.

Eric: So what was something that kinda made you realize that agriculture was behind, and when did that happen?

Dave: You know what? It's funny. I think that the very first time I noticed it was probably 2007 or 2008. I was at a conference for major agencies in the U.S., and we were talking about new marketing trends and digital trends. And I was blown away at how progressive they were in comparison to what was being done in agrimarketing. And at that moment I knew there was a gap, and I started following it much more closely from that time forward, and remember the media vendors coming in with their research reports, you know, talking about whether farmers had online, whether they had computers, whether they used digital technologies. And everyone just saying, "Well, they're not there yet. They're not there yet." And I think that's essentially, really, what continued to drive this lag, that everyone was waiting for this perfect moment.

For me, this is like one of the best stories I have that I share that really, kind of, captured it. And I wasn't there, but we were doing a large plot tour event with one of our clients. And there was an agronomist who was doing a presentation to a group of farmers about...I think it was a canola field or different canola varieties. And during the entire presentation, an individual, one of the farmers, an older farmer, probably 70-something, had his smartphone, his cell phone, I think it might have been an iPhone in his hand. And he wasn't paying attention to the agronomist in the least. He just was on his phone the whole time.

And one of my counterparts, you know, approached him after and said, "Listen, you know, I just...I have to ask you, like,why were you on your phone? And don't worry, I don't work with the company, so you're not gonna get in trouble here." And the farmer said, "You know, I feel kind of embarrassed, but I was updating my fantasy baseball picks." And to me that was just this aha moment that these guys and gals, they want digital. They just haven't been given great digital in agriculture, but were being serviced by many others who weren't providing it.

Eric: Yeah, and for some reason, you know, maybe we've, kind of, told the story to ourselves that farmers are unique in the way they consume media or the way they access the internet. But, you know, they're the same as everybody else, right? I mean, farmers are digital.

Dave: Yeah, absolutely. Like, I think maybe there may be pockets where they're not as progressive in digital, but that's, like, general society as well. And to cater to that lowest common denominator makes no sense. You know, I would say that 9 times out of 10, that's not the audience you want to be connecting with anyways, and so you're missing out on a tremendous opportunity by simply waiting for everybody to be on the boat.

Eric: So what do marketers have to do to be the best in agriculture, then?

Dave: Oh, you know, it's funny. Maybe before I get into what they can do, I've been pushing our clients and talking a lot about striving to be not the best in the agriculture industry, but to be the best in marketing. That it's to set a higher benchmark for ourselves, to say, "What are the P&Gs;? What are the other consumer brands? What are the really progressive firms doing?" and start to emulate that, versus simply trying to do a little bit more than your closest competitor.

In terms of what they can do, it is a tremendous time right now, especially in digital and AgriDigital because there's so many different things you can do. The first thing I would say is just try something. Launch and learn. Just give something a shot, whether it's really, you know, using programmatic advertising, display advertising, whether it's using social for lookalike audience profiling, whether it's really converting your marketing efforts to lead generation versus awareness generation. Like, those are some of those primary areas where I see there's still such untapped opportunity and huge potential for almost any ag company to really dig into more.

Eric: Yeah, I mean, in my experience, I've seen it. That's the nature of digital, right, is that it allows you to be agile, to try something from what works and what doesn't work, and then make adjustments as you need it.

Dave: You know, we have had such phenomenal clients who have given us the freedom to try, who've let us lead them. And in those trials, some stuff worked, some stuff definitely didn't. But we learned every step of the way, and we were able to tweak it and refine it and try something new. And, you know, when I look at our client base, I love to see that. They are definitely the more progressive marketers in AgriDigital right now, and I think it is because they started trying early.

Eric: All right, thanks for your time, Dave.

Dave: Thank you.?


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