To move the profitability needle of your business, you’ve got to have a master plan: defined goals, beginnings and endings, and knowing how to measure success.
Through my own experience and education, here is a step-by-step ladder for planning and executing what an operation must do to step-up their marketing efforts. In the end the effects of not taking proper action now, may reflect poorly on your bank account later, especially when you’re wondering where all your customers went.
Fuel your Marketing Engine
Marketing is often the single system that holds back business growth. Perhaps one of the most vital areas of marketing is knowing where your customers are coming from and what their favorite method of communication is. Each potential customer responds differently to marketing methods. Are they on Facebook, Instagram, email, website, etc? Unfortunately, as we pour more of our resources to be on as many media outlets and print platforms as possible, it may be best to select the top, most effective media accounts. Dedicate your precious time to creating an effective, year-round strategy to stay active with your customers. Determine which magazines, newspapers, social media accounts, etc. to be worth your time and money.
Market to your current and past customers
These folks are your first priority. It takes much more effort to attract a new customer than it does to retain a current customer. Tips I have found to be effective:
- With current customers, treat them well and always stay in communication.
- Send out holiday greetings. A practice that does not require much effort, yet still shows every customer you are thankful and continuously think of them.
- Communicate exciting news around your operation. Customers become invested in an operation and look forward to hearing success stories. This could be in form of a Facebook post, an Email blast or even a mailed Postcard.
- Capture the image of your operation and share it with good visual material - photography. Quality photos, which can also be turned into video, goes a long way and reaches a mass audience.
- Customers should receive at least two physical mail pieces from you within a single year. As much as we love technology, physical mail targets the emotional side of marketing than any other form. Research proves this method to be the most successful.
Create the “WOW” feeling
It’s the extra-effort step. When a customer feels “Wowed,” they are likely to relay on positive message to their friends and colleagues. Positive word-of-mouth communication is highly effective and reaps huge benefits, but can only be accomplished when a customer has been once again, “Wowed.”
- Focus on personal engagement with one another.
- Spend the extra dollar to ensure it is done right.
- Properly execute the process of a sale.
- Create a problem recovery plan. Situations are never be perfect.
- Out-of-the-Box thinking never hurts.
If nothing else, educate.
Educate customers about what you bring to the table for your business. Educate on sources of information backing up your claims. And most importantly, educate your audience about your operation’s history, values, and beliefs.
This is perhaps the most important way to gain trust. Every business must start from the ground up, and by building the strongest foundation you can, it will create a stable structure for the duration of your business and ultimately lead to future growth and profitability.
Safety - the number one priority in agriculture.
If a producer isn't safe then how shall one tend to their 'stock and crops?
National Farm Safety and Health week will be featured during September 18th - 24th, 2016. How can we prevent an accident occurring while working on the farm or with cattle? #FromTheField offers a different take on advice other than the common "wear your seat belt," quote. (which you should by all means.)
COMMUNICATION - Communicate your worries, concerns, schedules, etc. to each other. Never assume other workers know your thoughts. Keep talking and expressing thoughts. By doing so, this will make intense situations much less stressful.
Common sense – Look in your mirrors while driving, brake at a blind corner and always check your surroundings before taking off in any type of vehicle. It's amazing what a three-second pause can prevent.
Listen – Not just to young folks, but to the folks in charge - listen to what your children are trying to tell you. Be open to suggestions, often a new idea or a different method of doing typical routines on the farm or ranch could lead to faster results and greater efficiency.
Learn – Learn from everyone. Mom, Dad, and especially grandparents, (they won’t be in your presence forever) they do have a tid-bit of advice to share. Sometimes your iPhone can’t help you find your way home when you're stuck in a winter blizzard or perhaps in the middle of a pasture (trust me).
When working in agriculture, fall time is known for preparing for fall harvest, or gathering calves for weaning. Always ensure safety is your number one priority. Once again, if you aren’t safe who will your stock or crops be dependent on?
"For the labor of love..."
Any agricultural profession requires labor to be done 365 days out of the year. Producers spend their Labor Day working cattle with an extra hand or additional help in prep of fall harvest.
Celebrate Labor Day by doing the labor you love. Ranchers and Farmers do it 365 days out of the year.
With that being said, love what you do...
And you'll never work another day in your life.
This ranch photography shoot was a little extra special.
I secretly worked underneath the table with my client, Jessica as the shoot was a birthday surprise for her boyfriend, Brandon who is a rancher located in the heart of the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Flying down dirt roads and adventuring down washed out roads, Jessica and I soon shared a bond for the love of Kansas ranch land. It's something that can't be bought or applied for. It's a natural romance for a particular kind of lifestyle. Learning about her and Brandon's past and future together, I felt even more cherished to provide this service for her.
I spent the afternoon capturing the story of 130 Angus pairs. Brandon soon knew something was up when I received word from Jessica at night time he was wondering why she mysteriously put so many miles on the truck, not to mention the missing fuel. Hmm?
Now that the surprise is over, here are the highlighted photos from the shoot.
Like what you see? Visit my contact page for further photography inquires.
A young scholar seeks to appreciate a new world perspective countless miles away from her doormat.
A couple euros tucked away, a portable phone charger in my bag and in my hand was the key to my destination, Italy.
A small navy, leather booklet clearly states my full name (Katelyn Conner Hagans) along with my best mug shot, making up my first ever passport. I was Italy bound and nothing could stop me.
The adrenaline pumping through my veins was a natural source of energy for the next 30-hour traveling time period.
Advice – Always stock up on fruits and healthy snacks before boarding a long plane flight. When traveling for a long period of time, it’s easy to load up on junk food.
After countless hours of sitting and snoozing, we arrived in Milan, one of the largest and most historical cities in Italy. Many of the local’s eyes were on us as we stood out exactly as you would think as American tourists.
To my surprise, communication wasn’t a problem. Many Italians spoke English and signs were easy to comprehend. But immediately, my attention was taken by the Italian fashion.
From cathedrals and towers, to the endless four-course carbohydrate filled meals – including authentic pizza and pasta, I rapidly adapted to the Italian culture. Even better, the different types of Gelato (Italian ice cream) was mouthwatering.
Advice – Don’t make sleep a necessity. Keep going and going and then take an espresso shot (they’re awesome by the way). A ten-day Italian itinerary requires a lot but the sights are worth it.
Italy is notably different from the American culture. Touring the Italian countryside and historic landmarks made this fact very evident. We traveled from Milan, to Florence and the surrounding countryside and culminating the trip in Rome.
All of our visits had similar traditions, yet each city was known for their own history and architecture.
Milan – The city known for its lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures: a paradise for shopping, football (soccer), opera, and nightlife. Milan remains the marketplace for Italian fashion – fashion aficionados, supermodels and international paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs. Not to be forgotten, the city has more than 26 centuries of history and heritage.
Florence – With the city having over 80 museums, it is considered a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. Florence was also the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement that began in Italy during the 14th century and lasted until the 16th century.
Rome – This city had the most tourist locations with fanny packs and selfie sticks being overly too common. Rome is the capital and largest city of Italy, containing several districts of sightseeing, restaurants and adventures.
Walking down the narrow, cobblestone Italian streets, I felt like I had the world at my young-minded fingertips. So much had been experienced. Wine was freely offered at every meal and I had escaped from almost 10 full days of work and decent Wi-Fi, TEN days.
It was a content feeling, almost an escape from reality. Italian citizens appreciate having quality of living standards and classical items.
For example, Italians encourage having one espresso shot after a meal. They claim it helps with digestion of food. Health is a major consideration in day-to-day life for Italians.
Olive oil and vinaigrette is offered at every table instead of the common salad dressings found in the States. Red wine is a common meal accent and part of the Italian culture.
We were able to take plenty of tours exploring the value of aged cheese or the artistic process of producing wine.
Italians also presented themselves in a high state of fashion on a daily routine. While there I learned about the humorous line, “how to spot an American.” Often, the answer would always include ‘Nike Shoes’. Shoes thought comfortable and sporty in the U.S. are frowned upon as un-fashionable accessories in Italy.
High quality leather items were a popular product found in many of the local markets, and at a significant discount as compared to the U.S.
Another highly appreciated cultural aspect was the architecture. Marble and granite floors with extravagant pillars, many of the museums featured pieces were also tied to architecture. However, standing upon marble and granite floors for hours upon hours wears on the body.
Advice – if you’re ever able to tour the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, ensure you have the proper footwear, purchase your entry tickets ahead of time and soak in every moment spent inside. It is truly extravagant.
Motivation and Reflection
For someone like myself who hadn’t left United States soil before this adventure, I would highly recommend to travel now – while you’re young, have little worries and when you have the time.
It’s the highest quality of education money can buy; hint, you get credit hours with it too. Taking it as a college credit class makes it affordable and much less stressful compared traveling on your own.
Even if visiting another country isn’t in your foreseeable future, bite the bullet and apply for your passport. I used the excuse of not having a passport for not leaving the U.S. for the longest time.
By having my passport, it’s another right to freedom; I’m allowed to travel wherever I please. All it takes is a little effort and a nice mug shot photo.
"Keep looking up you're almost there," has been repeatedly said to a certain, nervous 22 year-old, which is soon moving into the real world.
I was recently taken aback by a small black book - a gift from my second grade teacher Mrs. Hobbick. Second grade - where you worked to earn a simple, shinny sticker on your spelling test or lived for a 15 minute recess spent outdoors. Going from 12 to 22 years-old, in a ten year growing period of maturity, I still find what I learned during part of my youth to still be true.
Keep it simple and stay true to who you are. That's at least what I can recall was learned 10 years ago.
Life - lick it in the right spot at the right time and you may just find the sweet spot.
Work to better yourself everyday, even on Sunday.
Step by step, day by day is the best way to take life.
A wise man once said nothing at all.
Don't get involved in something you shouldn't be.
You can never be overdressed or over educated.
Love the simple things in life and just keep looking up.
Thank a Consumer | Blog Series 2
It’s common to have a Christmas wish list filled out and ready to go. As children we were asked to compile a list of what we wished for Santa to bring us on Christmas morning. We appreciate the gifts we receive but first we must be thankful for the ability to give.
Ranchers and farmers have a list of what they wish to provide others. Although their actual Christmas wish list may be written on the back of gas station recipe, their giving wish list may be twice as long. If you were to find a giving wish list, these are just a few examples of what may be found on it.
1. Producers want to provide and deliver wholesome and healthy products produced from their own operation to consumers. What producers are able to deliver to the markets is a representation of their own business. The bigger the cattle, the healthier the crops, the better for both consumers and food producers.
2. To nourish and strengthen the stewardship of their own land. From being located in a drought stressed climate to fighting growing suburbs, agriculturalists work daily to maintain the health of the land. Their land is what they use to practice and produce their agricultural products. So why would they mistreat what gives back to them? “If the pastures healthy, it makes us wealthy."
3. To give their children a chance to earn an educational degree, debt free. Adults not only have the job title of farmer or rancher but also parent. As a parent, they want their children to receive a quality education, debt free before returning back to the family operation. The knowledge youth can learn and apply is invaluable.
Producers want to be able to give these items in return for a stronger American agriculture future. A strong industry will allow for a healthy economy. Thank you consumers, for supporting food producers giving wish list by using your personal dollars in grocery stores.
What’s on your Christmas giving wish list this holiday season?
Thank a Consumer | Blog Series 1
The sun falls and darkness takes over the cool sky. Dust and haze soon appear with only bright headlights left to direct the way of the harvester into the night. The farmer's eyes begin to feel heavy and weak with the dreadful thought of knowing a storm is brewing. Part of the farmer’s wheat still stands tall and full throughout the field.
A cold wind whistles and bites the cowboy's face, continues to direct all focus on each calf, from pen to pen. Looking past the fact of buying this herd of cattle at an all time high price and the current market continue to bottom out each day; the rancher can only do best – to provide a safe, sheltered and healthy environment. The rancher firmly believes in being the caretaker for each calf. The cattle too rely on a daily water and feed source.
Stacks of papers cover the desk, with a steaming cup of coffee sitting on top. What seems to appear to be a secretary with scuffed boots on sits quietly and sips the coffee. While double-checking the tax papers of the family farm recently received, shock sets in. The secretary is still in disbelief of the significant price increase of the dues the farm must match.
A woman steps out of an SUV and walks into the store with two children on each side. She is in search of the needed food items to prepare that night’s meal. Pushing her cart down the isle, she begins to fill it with basic items, bread, milk, eggs and meat. Considering the dedication and passion the woman puts into making her holiday meal, she can only think the food produced is priceless.
During this holiday season, families unite together over a wholesome feast. Farmers, ranchers and food producers work hard to supply consumers with healthy food products to choose from in stores. With out the demand of consumers, how would the sorts of food producers be able to continue to do their job they love? Agriculturists thank all consumers for choosing to spend their dollars on the food items producers have shaped their lives around – raising, growing and producing wholesome products.
About the Series
Thank a farmer, rancher, food producer - the list could go on forever. Everyone holds the consumer playing card in how they decide to spend their dollars on the food they purchase. We all thank a food producer for growing and raising their products in efforts to feed the 9.
We as agriculturists thank all consumers during holiday seasons. With out you, how could ranchers and farmers continue to do what they love and have shaped their life around?
Most farms are family-owned enterprises. These families brave exceptional risk and tight margins. For every one-dollar spent on food, farmers receive less than 12 cents for the raw products. Now process that information. Food producers require stable consumers for balanced economic returns.
Thank you consumers, for buying our product.
Stay tuned for weekly, "Thank a Consumer" blog posts on From the Field.
It was a hot July afternoon. We were let out to play with mom and dad in the nice, cool, green grass when a grumbling, black pickup I had never witnessed pulled up.
Out stepped a man who was tall and wore a black cap to cover his eyes. I was intrigued. I trudged over to him, wanting to know his scent.
Looking up, there was a sparkle in his eye that met mine. He towered over me and sat down in the grass and quickly gave me attention.
His hands were large and covered a good portion of my small body and stubby legs. Though his hands were massive and rough to the touch, he was a gentle man.
We spent an hour playing, rolling in the grass with my others. I was still with Dad and Mom, knowing they too could sense the man.
Soon time passed and the tall man with the black cap began to count out bills. Then came a hand shake.
The man walked over and picked me up. I was far from the ground, my legs no longer reaching. As nervous as I was, he was protective and comforted me.
Sitting me on the cool, air conditioned leather seats of the black pickup, we soon rolled out of the drive way. I peered out the door I came in to; there wasn’t a way out.
I couldn’t help but whimper due to no longer being with my others. The man held me close to him. I soon fell asleep in his lap during what seemed like a 2-hour drive.
The pickup then came to a slow stop and we soon got out to a cement ground. What was this?
The man held me all of the way inside to a rather large building. I soon became the spot light of attention.
The man picked me out a royal blue, what seemed like a long rope and a small hoop. Something that matched my size. He then sat me in a soft pillow of a bed and ask how I felt.
The more I was with the man, the more I experienced new, comforting things.
Holding me secure in his arms, we went back to the pickup and it slowly began to roll again.
It was getting dark outside when we reached a big white house. The man showed me around and played into the night with me.
My eyes became so heavy I couldn’t bear to pounce and bite with him anymore. Taking me into his lap, the man spent quite some time talking to soft voice. I wasn’t sure where the voice was coming from, for the man was the only one present. I wanted to meet this soft and soothing voice. The voice seemed genuinely excited.
I then found my dinner, served in a cherry-oak feed pan with a matching water pan as well.
I feasted and drank.
The man then carried me to the soft pillow bed I remembered testing out.
I soon started drifting off to sleep, exhausted from this lively day. The man then, with a twinkle in his eye lied down beside me and said, “Goodnight, Sully.”
in·no·va·tion (noun) a new method, idea, product, etc.
ag·ri·cul·ture (noun) Originally from Latin (agr “field”) + (cultura “growing, cultivation.”) = Agriculture, Late Middle English.
The main source of food production comes from land. From land, mankind shows tender stewardship when producing food, which is then turned into personal capital.
More than ever, the world is faced with the ultimatum of doubling food production. Why you may ask? Seems like there’s plenty of food to go around now a days?
Imagine if you went to your local grocery store and the fresh produce laid out, along with the beautiful golden baked goods, and not to forget the meat case full of filling protein, was all found to be empty? “What to do now, there’s no food,” you think to yourself.
Elanco has recognized that the world population will grow by 2 billion to reach 9 billion by 2050, with the most of the growth coming in the next six years.
Innovation will help increase productivity and sustainability of food production. . According to the USDA, the 93 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family owned, all of which are in the midst of generation transitions are leaning on innovation as they look into the future. The following topics are variables facing agriculture and food system.
With worldwide hunger, this may increase risk of global disease and cripple the next generation. The question “How will we feed the 9 billion?” should be extended to, “How will we feed the 9 billion, well?”
Technology is major factor that has shaped agriculture for the past 100 years. With cropland and labor decreasing, agriculture has worked around these obstacles to result in increasing the amount of food production.
Agriculture production follows climate change. The development of new agricultural practices and technology will have major impacts on how well food producers can adapt to the climate change. Another obstacle to face.
These are only a few of major topics to consider when imaging tomorrow’s version of food production. With this, there will be a great need of diversity views and input, which will be required to help attack our world food shortage. This can begin on a personal, local, regional, country, and global scale.
What can one person do to help all of this, you may be asking? Start by learning about current topics and becoming aware of issues that affect all aspects of the food industry: from plate to fork.
By recognizing what we can do to maintain sustainability along with the transformation of innovation, the future of agriculture will be promising for generations to come. Take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.
This summer my lifestyle has done a 360 spin with additional urban twist.
Meaning plenty of opportunities for adventures and learning experiences.
(Key word - “learning experiences”)
My biggest classroom is turning out to be Austin grocery stores such as, Whole Foods. Originally being located in Kansas, you have more personal experience in learning how food is produced than just in a grocery store.
Major differences of grocery stores lie in the segregation of all-natural, organic, farm raised, Grass-Fed and No-Hormone's added labeling of their products. If labels such as these were to appear in the Midwest, there would be backlash and no support for these overpriced products. Coming from a rural, agriculture background, I am one of the very few to carry food knowledge when walking down Austin’s Whole Foods grocery aisles. For readers’ knowledge, I’ve provided background facts.
About Whole Foods
- Whole Foods’ first store opened in 1980 in Austin, Texas with 19 employees.
- The Austin location is the largest flagship store with 80,000 square feet. The headquarters is located above of the store, with an ice skating rink on top.
- Whole Foods maintains an “unacceptable ingredients” list for foods products it sells.
- Whole Foods offers a micro-lending program to local farmers called “Local Produce Loan Program.”
- They stopped offering plastic grocery bags on Earth Day 2008. (BYOB – Bring your own bags)
- Whole Foods has an anti-GMO policy, adopted across all their stores.
- Whole Foods won’t sell the pain relievers aspirin and ibuprofen, because they are not “natural.”
While millennials may be concentrated on consuming organic and all-natural products, so may their paychecks as well.
Is Whole Foods a realistic part to a millennial's lifestyle? We now have years of student debt, mortgages, car payments; and these so called “savings accounts,” have retired right along with the Baby Boomer generation.
Should our generation be focusing on spending excessive amounts for food products, which are being portrayed as healthier, environmentally friendly and slimming, or should we be concerned about our financial standing?
That question is up to us, as how we choose to spend each dollar earned.
The store does a tremendous job of offering wide varieties of fresh produce, golden bake goods, and many choices of dining inside. In the eyes and hearts of Austin millennials, they truly believe Whole Food’s is the representative of agriculture.