Marketing to the Farmer’s Mindset
11.03.20 Kayla Jentz
If you’re reading this blog, your audience is likely farmers. Knowing their successes, challenges and what they’re up against can help your messages resonate and drive action.
Marketing that connects with a farmer’s current mindset can build your brand’s credibility and increase customer trust. Meanwhile, tactics tone-deaf to a farmer’s plight can make your brand seem out of touch and even damage customer relationships.
For example, let’s look at the 2020 swine industry. Feed costs have been high, while market prices have been at record lows. Margins are tight. If a swine farmer sees an ad telling them to invest in new, expensive equipment, they may be upset by the message. But an actionable tip about how to increase feed efficiency or make the most of tight margins can go a long way.
So, what factors influence a farmer’s mindset? At the top of the list are market and input prices.
Two Filamentarians, who are also farmers, share their views on these factors:
Wyatt Bechtel is a partner at Bechtel Ranch in Eureka, Kansas, where he and his family run 100 head of commercial Angus cows and custom graze 5,000 head of stocker cattle. Kelsi Mayer is co-owner of Mayer Homestead Farm in Monroe, Wisconsin. There, Kelsi and her family manage 100 head of registered Brown Swiss and Holsteins.
Q: As a farmer, how do market/input prices impact your mindset?
Wyatt: Markets drive our decision making for the short- and long-term. When markets are bullish, we invest in the business, making new purchases to help with productivity. During bearish times, we try to save money in case payouts are lean. In agriculture, a farmer may only get one major check for the whole year’s worth of production.
Kelsi: When input costs are higher, we watch our spending closely and take more time to analyze the numbers to figure out where we can reduce costs. When inputs are lower, it’s easier to look ahead and plan for the future. We can reinvest in our business rather than just keeping up with what has to be done.
Q: How do good prices impact your mindset?
Wyatt: We don’t tend to worry about the immediate costs of things like feed, fuel, taxes or rent. We can be optimistic and start making land purchases, paying down loans and investing in equipment or facilities. Good markets tend to increase our confidence — there’s less to worry about because we know we can cover production costs without making changes.
Kelsi: We have a more positive outlook because we can generate more revenue to invest in the farm. As farmers, we’re always looking towards the future — and it’s easier to prioritize when input costs are favorable. Can we do something to improve cow comfort? Can we add new genetics to the herd? Are we able to fix the tractor in need of an overhaul? Could we add new equipment or storage to put up higher quality feed?
Q: How do poor prices impact your mindset?
Wyatt: It feels like we’re in survival mode. We only make purchases which help with immediate profitability. We save money because it’s hard to tell if markets will improve, and it can create tension and anxiety.
Kelsi: Life becomes more stressful, and it becomes more challenging to make decisions. You spend more time evaluating the changes you can make. For example, we adjust feed input costs by scaling back on seed costs and planning for minimal tillage. At the onset of the pandemic, we switched from feeding milk replacer to feeding waste milk.
Q: What’s your mindset when prices are volatile?
Wyatt: It’s hard to know what strategies will work best. We want to be conservative for the lean times and aggressive during boom times, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes we have to hustle more during down markets and diversify — for example, offering agritourism, outfitting hunters or getting off-farm jobs — to help subsidize areas of the farm impacted by down markets.
The bottom line: Adapt marketing for market conditions
Both Wyatt and Kelsi agree, it’s essential to take markets and input prices into account when developing marketing plans and executing them. Prices are constantly in flux. What you plan now may need refinement for future in-market price conditions.