Know Your Farmer Audience: Lessons Taken From NAMA Boot Camp
The phrase “you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” although cliché, is of vital importance in marketing. To create a successful marketing campaign, you not only have to know your audience—you have to understand them. As an ag-marketing professional, this means putting yourself in the shoes of the farmer. For me, this meant digging out my boots and heading to the farm.
NAMA Boot Camp, an annual conference led by the National Agri-Marketing Association, allows newcomers to the ag-marketing field to engage with farmers, learn from leading marketing professionals and study the tricks of the trade. Below are a few tips I’d give to any young ag-marketing professional looking to learn more about this industry – courtesy of my now-dirty boots.
1. Take a trip to a farm
NAMA Boot Camp began with an expansive farm tour where attendees visited and explored (and sweated at) a dairy farm, an ag-power dealership, an orchard and a corn and soybean farm. At each location, we toured the facilities and talked to farmers about the workings of their operations, how the ag industry has evolved and how they make decisions on a daily basis. Sure, I’d done my research and had a beginner’s understanding of farms, but actually experiencing (a very tiny bit of) the farm life gave me a whole new sense of awareness.
If you’re looking to further your agricultural knowledge, talk to your team to coordinate a farm trip for employees new to the industry. Even if you visit a farm that isn’t in the ag segment you work in, seeing your target audience in their own environment allows you to observe and gain key takeaways of their lifestyles. Farmers are proud of their operations and happy to share their stories with those willing to listen.
2. Talk messages with a farmer
The next day of NAMA Boot Camp started off with a producer panel, where farmers from different industries shared their experiences and opinions on marketing. Each farmer discussed how they prefer to receive messages, how they engage with brands and whom they trust when it comes to making buying decisions.
Data and research could have pointed me to the same conclusion, but actually speaking with the farmers allowed me to see their perspectives and hear directly from the source. If you have an opportunity to call or meet with a farmer, take advantage of it. I was able to see how and what messages resonate with them, what mediums to reach them through and how to be a trusted source.
3. Just talk to a farmer, no matter the topic
While getting to speak to farmers about marketing techniques was incredibly helpful, all of the conversations I had helped me gain further insight into their needs and wants. Another Boot Camp presentation took us through a year with a farmer, which allowed us to learn when farmers make important decisions, when they are incredibly busy and about the cyclical nature of their work.
Conversations with the farmers, whether regarding their media habits or other things, gave insight into their routines and interests. If you’re putting out messages at the wrong time or pushing topics farmers aren’t interested in, they aren’t going to help move your brand forward. Learning what your audience likes and cares about will help shape your brand’s message.
4. Connect socially
During another session, NAMA attendees learned that more and more farmers are turning to social media, for a variety of reasons. Some of the farmers use social media to promote their products, while others use it to get their ag news or for personal use. Facebook seemed to be the network of choice for social use, while Twitter was more likely to be used by farmers looking for agronomic news and updates.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to meet with a farmer, connecting on social media is a great way to get insight into their day-to-day lives. Observe what they are posting and how they relate with others. This information is vital when determining how to form an online marketing strategy.
If you aren’t lucky enough to attend an ag-marketing boot camp, I still recommend taking steps to engage with farmers and immerse yourself in the agricultural field. Get to know your audience, away from a computer screen, and you’ll be surprised by what you find.