Lori Maude is a Senior PR Content Specialist with marketing services agency Bader-Rutter.
Lori Maude is a Senior PR Content Specialist with marketing services agency Bader-Rutter.

By Codi Vallery-Mills

The scenario: A small-size, locally-owned business provides a great product that is useful to the ag industry but wants to grow sales and doesn’t know exactly where its time and money is best spent. 

Sound familiar?

The agricultural industry is plump with small businesses that have created products or services of great merit but the execution of marketing and promotion is often lacking to get those products to a wider audience which in turn generates bigger revenues.

Lori Maude, a Senior PR Content Specialist with marketing services agency Bader-Rutter, has 25 years of experience in the field as well as a ranching background. She gives marketing tips on what has served her clients well over the years. 

Maude says any business should first determine the geographical area that they wish to focus their sales on. Will they sell within 100 miles of location or be regional? “This decision is important because it will impact the types of marketing tools you use,” Maude says.

Second, understand your customers within that designated geographical area. What type of people are they? How do they consume their information? What’s the area’s average age? 

“People often skip this part and they shouldn’t because knowing how people take in info – whether they are tech savvy or older, traditional print and radio types, is valuable information,” she says.

The third step Maude says to consider before jumping into your marketing plan is to set your business goals, i.e. how many dollars in sales you want to make quarterly, annually, etc. This will help you determine what level of paid advertising and public relation efforts you can target.

What Medium

 Do I Use?

Print is not dead and radio is still viable, according to Maude. “Especially in rural areas of the country where our ag communities and industry are. The internet has gotten better but there are still spots that don’t have great access and can’t consume digital information that well.”

Podcasts were a hot trend for a while but are cooling somewhat and video still seems to be a go-to for those who want to promote products or services on Facebook, says Maude.

“With podcasts and videos, I think it is best if the business can deliver info in an educational but entertaining way. Videos need to be 90 seconds or less and podcasts 5 to 15 minutes. Otherwise, you start to see a drop off in users,” Maude says.

In regards to the various social media platforms, Maude advises to pick one and do it well. She says men tend to gravitate towards Twitter for its brevity and women like Facebook because they get more of a “story” there.

“What’s most important to remember though, whichever social media you pick, you have to have a really strong website to drive them to. It needs to be a well thought-out, easy to maintain website that can be refreshed periodically. And if you plan on having an e-commerce portion where people can buy on your website make sure it leaves them with a positive experience.”

The Trade Show(s)

The agricultural industry is known for its trade shows as it seems there is a convention every week of the year for some commodity or producer group. How then does a small business optimize the time and money it puts into those trade shows?

“Engagement,” Maude says.

“You have to have something for people to do at your trade show booth. Be it a game, raffle drawing or ‘guess the number’ you want to engage people so they will stop and ideally learn more from you.”

The benefit of trade shows are the people (aka potential customers) are right there, and you can ask questions and gain insight from them. “Turn trade shows into a learning experience for yourself,” Maude offers.

Company branded gifts that businesses give out at trade shows need to be useful. Calculators, sorting flags, flashlights, and gloves are all commonly done, but Maude says truly farmers and ranchers can’t get enough of them. And there are higher end gifts like cell phone battery packs that are always well-liked.

Business No-Nos

Maude says there are a few things she wishes businesses wouldn’t do. Like trying to do too many things themselves without hiring professional help in some areas. “Think about smart ways you can spend your money,” Maude says.

She can’t stress enough the power of a professional, well-functioning website. In the ag industry, people tend to sell face-to-face but they do their research online first if they can. “A strong web presence makes it easier for customers to find you and the information they are looking for,” Maude advises.

And don’t be afraid to talk to other business owners about what is working for them. “Use other businesses to ask them what they are doing for marketing. Pick their brain. Some will be helpful and others won’t, but you don’t know until you ask,” she says.