Craig M Dick

My slanted perspective on agricultural marketing

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Trust is Reciprocal

I have talked about the importance for developing trust. From Jeff Beals’ 5 steps  to Margie Warrell’s 3 core domains of Trust .


In one of those article I mentioned that trust is reciprocal. What I mean by that is, you have to trust others first for them to trust you.

Or another way of looking at it is, if you don’t trust me, I won’t trust you.

We have all met at least one person that says “I never trust anyone”. Maybe they are risk averse or maybe they have been really burned trusting the wrong person. People are selfish, they don’t care about your reasons, what they think is, “this person really just wants the best deal for themselves and wouldn’t think twice about taking advantage of me”.

So If you don’t trust me, I defiantly wont trust you. Since there is no trust, everything we both say will be misinterpreted. Once that starts, then everything we both say is guarded to reduce what is used against us. Every word is hedged to make sure we don’t get caught. We can’t be open.  With lots of unclear communication, we don’t really know what each other wants. And that’s what we each end up with, something we don’t really want.

By trusting someone from the start, you are saying, I approve of you, I like you. People love approval, to know they are ok, to know they are understood, to be liked. When people know you like them, they like you in return. This reciprocal approval is the foundation for all successful relationships. You cannot build trust without a relationship. You cannot do good deals without trust.

Robert Chen shares the benefits of trust:

  • More influential
  • Clients share more valuable information
  • You avoid big problems, people will share problems earlier
  • You are more effective at solving problems with good information
  • More effective in negotiations.

I have found these to be spot on. In that article, Robert also gives 101 practical ways to build trust these which I highly recommend. I see some on the list I need to work on.

But Craig, it’s risky to trust others. I might get burned!

Yes you might.  And if the first impression you give someone is, “I don’t trust people”, then they won’t trust you and you have just increased the likelihood that you will get burned.

Trust is so hard to establish, why wouldn’t you start there? Why hold people at arm’s length? Why make things harder on yourself? Why make it harder to do business, to reach your goals?

Trust is essential for social and economic transactions. You need people to trust you if you want to sell your products or service. Building that trust starts by first trusting others. You can’t harvest without first planting. Sow trust with every interaction.


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Emerge  –  Expand  –  Evolve

This is the rhythm of agriculture, the cycle of innovation, the journey of a great brand.



Like plants, ideas emerge

Every great product starts as idea, a seed

Like a seed, much unseen work is done for ideas to reach the light of day



You must expand to survive

New ideas, like freshly emerged plants are fragile

You must grow



Through growth you evolve your thinking

New thinking leads to innovation

New ideas emerge


The cycle starts again.


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The Most Disruptable Sector of Agriculture

The Most Disruptable Sector of Agriculture

Disruption may be the overused word of 2016. Until there is a better word to describe something that interrupts activity, I will join the disruption band wagon and make this prediction: Humans will be the most disrupted sector of agriculture in the next decade.

Why do I predict this?     $7 corn.

With $7 corn, tech companies sprouted like weeds throughout agriculture. Farming needs this influx of ingenuity. To a large extent, farming is still an art. There is too much data to crunch all the variables. The influx of tech will better help farmers and agronomists take the guess work out (human error) of decision making through better data.

During the $7 era, there was lots of talk of improving agriculture’s’ environmental foot print. When economics are favorable and risk is low everyone is more open to new ideas. Even as farmers struggle to make a profit, their customers still want a cleaner environment.  To ensure farmer profitability (increased production) while sustaining or improving the environment will take a lot more sensors and automation.

Ag labor issues. Even at $7 corn it was difficult to find qualified candidates to do most of agriculture’s jobs. Now that we are back to more realistic prices, labor shortages abound. Trying to find workers for the most labor intensive jobs, picking crops, weeding, and operating equipment is tough. In the next decade, all these operations will be automated.

Once you remove the most expensive, least repeatable process from farming (humans), cost will drop and profits will increase.

You can expect the following jobs to disappear from ag:

  • Truck and equipment drivers
  • Field agronomists, scouts and samplers
  • Fertilizer and grain plant operators
  • Laborers, pickers, pruners, etc.

Essentially, there are 2 jobs on the farm of the future. The owner of the farm and the technician to fix the automated equipment. The rest of us may be left to complain about how food is no longer raised by humans.


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Perfection is For Losers

Yes, if you are a perfectionist you are a loser!Perfection is For Losers

You are the very thing you are trying to avoid: loss.

Perfectionism is rooted in fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of appearing incompetent. Fear that everything will be lost.

In the back of their minds, perfectionists believe that the only way to make sure they don’t lose it all is to control everything: to make sure it’s perfect.

Thus, perfection is only an illusion. It’s a facade that perfectionists set up to keep people at arms lengths so others can’t find out that they really are. Insecure, self-loathing and afraid of loss.

When we do discover what perfectionists really are, trust is shattered, and they can no longer be a part of our evolution. At that point, all is lost.

Nature evolves and so must we. Thus, what seems perfect today, but does not evolve is a dead shitty mess tomorrow.

Be like nature, be yourself, good enough for today and evolve as needed.


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More thoughts on Trust

Last week I had the honor of speaking to Titan Pro’s dealer network on soil health. One of my fellow speakers was Jeff Beals.  WheTrustn Jeff is not speaking or consulting, he serves as executive vice president at NAI NP Dodge Commercial Real Estate Company and is co-host/producer of an award-winning business talk-show on 1110 KFAB Radio.

When I lived in the Omaha area I enjoyed listening to his radio program on the weekends, so it was a real highlight of the conference to share a stage with Jeff and then listen to his talk.

The topic Jeff spoke was How to Sell in Brutally Competitive Environments. The key to sales in a brutal environment, trust. You must develop trust to be effective.

Jeff’s 5 steps to develop trust are:

  1. Clear communication
  2. Pass a moment of truth (when you have the opportunity to be truthful, you had better be)
  3. Consistent performance
  4. Behave as a fiduciary
  5. Be responsive

These all are in alignment with Margie Warrell’s 3 core domains of Trust, which you know I am a fan of.

I couple of other tips I really liked from Jeff’s talk were:

Customer before commission

This aligns with my definition of trust, I have faith that you will do what is in my best interest. Once you truly server your customer, you will be in demand and you won’t need to worry about commissions. Worry about yourself first, then you will always be worried about your commissions.

Jeff’s deadly sin of sales – is to assume

I think many people in sales and marketing think they know what the customer wants and are fearful to ask too many questions out of fear. Fear they will look dumb. If you want to build trust, and ultimately a sale, you must know what the customer wants. The only way to do that is Jeff’s rule #1 (see above).

Over the past couple weeks though I have realized one thing is missing from Maggie, Jeff and my keys to building trust.

Trust is reciprocal. What I mean by that is, you have to trust to be trusted.  More on that in a future post.

Make sure you check out Jeff’s work, and if your group is looking for a speaker, I would recommend him for any event you are planning.


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4 Things that Prove the Future of Farming is Happening Now

As farmers age farming operations become larger, the business of farming will change. Farming is at a cross-roads. You either need to get bigger and more efficient, or more niche. More on all this 4 Things that Prove the Future of Farming is Happening Nowanother time.

Let’s look at some things that seem futuristic but are being implemented now.

Robotics / automation / Exoskeletons / sensors

Farmers have a long history of adopting technology and most are already using GPS and remote sensing. In the next 10 years’ farm automation will see huge leaps forward.

Robots are reducing the need for workers. 60,000 employees at Apple supplier Foxconn were replaced with robots this spring.  This was in China. Where labor is low and Apple margins are high. So here in the US where labor is high, hard to find, margins are low and the work is hard, robots are inevitable. Companies like Blue River Technology are betting big and already have robotic lettuce thinners.

For jobs that will still require human labor, inexpensive and lightweight exoskeletons will be utilized. Today’s prototypes can increase output by 50%. No longer will a strong back be required!

Continuous plant monitoring sensors tell you in real time how the plant responds to light, temperature and number of other measurements. We all know today’s genetic potential for Corn is off the charts. It is plant stress that kills yield. With visual deficiencies taking 2 weeks to show, yield is lost before we even know there is a problem. Utilizing continuous sensors, you will know the minute your plant is suffering and be able to immediately take corrective action to protect yield.

There are challenges to these systems being used on farms. Farmers traditionally are slow to pay enterprise level fees to adopt technology.  Farmers are older and older farmers in today’s markets are risk averse. New tech is risky.

Farmers will ultimately adopt new tech as it shows a cost savings or show a significant return.  Major adoption will come once these technologies are easy to use.

Indoor / vertical farming

Robotic use is further intensified by rethinking what a farm is all together.  Robotic indoor vertical farming can increase food out-put, reduce the environmental foot print and reduce cost all without a single person! There are acres of real estate going unused in cities. Enormous buildings that once housed armies of white collar paper pushers are empty. Malls are closing at alarming rates and even Wal-Mart is shedding stores. What better way to use the real-estate than to maximize food production.

Food quality

The US already produces the world’s safest food.  Still consumers want more. More safety, better quality (as judged by what’s important to them). For traditional terrestrial farmers and for the new robotic indoor farms, meeting the consumer demand for quality will be their number one priority. But isn’t this post about commodity farming? Food quality isn’t just for niche growers. General Mills purchasing Annie’s Organics proves that crops once thought as specialty will become mainstream commodities.

In addition, Successful Farming made waves in the Farming community with their Meet Your New Boss cover. Here’s the thing, Successful Farming is owned by Meredith Corp. they own many magazine titles, EatingWell, Family Circle, and Martha Stewart Living among the better known. They have direct connections to the consumer and know what is wanted.

The Farmer Consumer Connection

With the amount of capital at stake, large commodity farmers will need to understand consumer trends and wants to be profitable. Large farmers of the future will need to understand what the consumer wants before they do and plan production accordingly. Especially with the long lead times in growing food and getting certified for certain types of production.

Major manufactures don’t wait to decide until the last minute what to produce based on the consumer confidence index. They develop business plans and life cycle analysis of products based on a host of research. The best companies and these 3 big food giants are guided by the wants and needs of the consumer.

General Mills is actively looking for hundreds of thousands of acres to fill their need for organic grains to meet the demand. If you haven’t been paying attention to consumer needs, by the time you can meet the requirements, the premiums will be gone.

Farming is always evolving. Where do you see the future of farming heading?


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Do You Compel or Convince Cattle?

Have you ever tried bringing cattle in from the pasture to a corral? Which do you prefer: driving them in or grabbing a bucket of grain and calling them in?Do You Compel or Convince Cattle?

For the bucket of grain to work, you must consistently spend a few minutes each day in contact with the herd. This brings the cattle to trust you and become familiar with your bucket of grain. When you walk into the pasture, they come running and will follow you into the corral because they want what you have, and in a few minutes, the entire herd is corralled.

The corralling is quick and easy; the hardest part of the work is that short, consistent, daily interaction with the herd.

If you don’t have consistent contact with the cattle, or show up looking different on corral day, the bucket of grain doesn’t work. Your only option is to get a few people on four wheelers or horses and over-power, wear-down, and chase the herd, into the corral.

It’s usually not quick and generally not easy. It takes a plan and effort. Many cows in the herd will object to the idea of being corralled. Some will change their minds once they’re in the corral and try to get out. And while you may be able to overcome all these objections and finally corral them all, it’s very hard work at the time. Some of the cattle are going to be dissatisfied with the results.

The selling game is a lot like corralling cattle.

You can get up and put your on selling boots, overcome objections and always be closing. Lots of effort and hard work at the time.

Or you can do a little work every day to build trust with the herd. Once the offer is made, the herd comes running.

Nothing is better than having people lined up who can’t wait to give you their money for your product or service. Isn’t that the dream of every business owner?

A customer that is compelled – or even driven – to purchase your product doesn’t get buyer’s remorse. They become a champion for you. They tell their friends. Their enthusiasm for the product can compel more people to join your cause. More people line up to give you their money.

So, why is being an “order-taker” considered a slur on sales people?

Why is it that most sales people think they need to go belly-to-belly and convince the prospect they must have their solution?

Marketing to build customer acceptance and desire for the product should be the number one tool for every sales person. It is more work than pulling on the sales boots and chasing down and over powering the customer.  But it creates satisfied customers who come back time and time again for your product or services, resulting long-term relationships that benefit you and your customer.


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Tradeshows are the Worst

I don’t like tradeshows!Tradeshows are the Worst

I attend a lot of them, but I don’t like them.

Tradeshows are like some kind of deranged speed dating game for business.

Most tradeshows have more exhibitors than attendees could ever hope to visit, so the attendees are in hurry. And, on the other side, there are more attendees than company representatives can talk to, so the sales reps are always looking past the possible customer in front of them to the next one waiting to talk.

This results in a short conversation with the hope of a follow up sometime in the future – which almost never happens. Most sales people don’t follow up with leads after a trade show, if they even record them at all.

So, if trade shows really are a giant waste of time, why do we keep doing them?


Tradeshows are about connecting to your prospects/attendees on neutral ground. The better shows understand this and work to facilitate that. However, if you want to get the most out of a tradeshow you can’t rely on the show management to make that happen. You must take control of building connection with attendees.

Connection is a basic emotional need. And despite the huge efforts we put into presenting research and facts, we know that almost all purchasing decisions are made emotionally.

People buy from people they like. People they trust. People who get them.

This is why it is so important to find common interest with the show attendees. But to do this you have to get them to stop by the booth.

Attendees/prospects who don’t know what you do, why you do it, or are confused by you or your product will not stop.

Meeting attendees is just like making friends. Trouble is, in adult life it just doesn’t work to walk up to someone and say, “Want to be my friend?” But this is what most people try to do at a tradeshow. And it’s why most attendees refuse to make eye contact with people in booths. Prospects need lots of exposure to you and your company and products before they will be comfortable stopping at your booth.

The best marketing facilitates a connection with the attendees/prospects. To do this quickly in a tradeshow atmosphere, you must pre-market.

Pre-marketing begins with ensuring your company/product website clearly states what it is you (or your products) can do for customers, and the added value your company or products can provide to them.

Next in the show guide, make sure the description of your company and products match the message that appears on your website. Finally, depending on the show, send customers and prospects a mailer and/or email telling them why they need to come by your booth and what is in it for them if they do. Doing this properly doubles – or even quadruples –  your exposure to the attendee, before the tradeshow even starts. This is because they are now aware of you, they know you’ll be at the show, and they know what to expect when they stop by your booth.

Prepare for the show by taking the time to make sure your display is unique and  matches your website’s look. It must clearly identify your company and state what you do and the value you can bring to the customer. You’ve invested in pre-marketing to boost interest in your product, you don’t want the attendee to show up to your booth and be disappointed. You only have milliseconds for attendees to be attracted by your booth.

Once the customer or prospect has stopped, take the time to nurture the relationship. This requires adequate staffing at your booth, meaning that you have enough of your people to handle the flow of show attendees, and that these people are properly trained.

Now that the show attendees have stopped to visit, engage with them solely to build connection. To do this:

  • Be genuine
  • Pay attention
  • Ask questions
  • Provide help
  • Be happy
  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Be unforgettable

If a connection is made, make sure the attendee knows you will follow up with them after the tradeshow. Write down the best way and time to contact them. Then be sure you do it.

You did all that work for the tradeshow, but proper follow-up is where it pays off.  I recommend this article from Spear Marketing for a follow-up campaign.

My key take-a-ways are;

  • Most tradeshow leads are ignored by sales (I have been guilty of this).
  • Follow up first with an email that has a clear call to action. Don’t ever ask people to learn more. They hate that. Invite them to do a demo, download a white paper or watch a video.
  • Have a plan for on-going follow-up.

By taking the time to prepare a proper tradeshow marketing plan, you can increase your exposure and engagement to the attendee by 4-8 times.

Proper engagement and proper connection is the way to grow your sales.


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Three Reasons You Are an Agtivist

Three Reasons You Are an Agtivist

Yes, Agriculture needs to tell its story.

Yes, we need to feed a hungry world.

Yes, there is a lot of science that backs up conventional farming practices.

Trouble is, most  consumers do not care about any of that.

Ignoring the interests of the consumer makes you Agtivists not an AgVocate.

If you do these three things your are an Agtivist.

#1 You are part of “The Agricultural Echo Chamber”

Most Agtivist talk about agriculture from their view point and/or via sound bites from large corporate ag interests that consumers don’t trust. Consumers who “don’t get the science” are often shouted down. This further closes off the discussion, until it is only the hard core Agtivist talking to each other about how great they are. That doesn’t influence anyone.

#2 You are too “self absorbed”

Agriculture is doing great things, but so is the Automotive industry, and so are other industries. Outside of ag, I couldn’t name one of those things. Why? I am busy and so are consumers. They don’t care about what you are doing, and they are not going to care about it. Consumers don’t care about farming’s “adoption of technology,” efficiency, or production problems.  All they care about is their own interest.

#3 You are a “Data Gun Slinger”

If you whip out data factoids faster than Doc Holiday whips out his six shooter, stop. Just stop. Stop confusing people with data. More discussion of the science behind modern agriculture is not the answer. Agriculture has this backwards. For most people, decisions are made emotionally, then rationalized. When you lead with the cold, hard facts and science, you ignore the heart. Great marketers know you have to win the heart first. Food is very emotional for people, so we need to lead with emotion to win.

How do you stop being an Agtivits?

To effectively engage consumers, connect with them first. Start by by asking more questions about what is really important to them in regards to their food, rather than pushing your agenda. They need to know you get them, that you care. Once you have connected emotionally and have earned their trust, then you have earned the right to have a conversation about agriculture. Then you can AgVocate.

By ignoring the hearts of the consumers, they will grow to despise us.


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Agricultural Advertising is Boring

People do not pay attention to boring.Agricultural Advertising is Boring

No one ever says “what’s old.”  We crave new.

People are wired to notice the new, notice movement. It’s what has kept us alive for eons.

Most ag marketing/advertising all looks the same: a farmer in a field looking to the horizon in triumph.

We’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s lost any meaning. It’s killing your business.

And we are moving on without even noticing which company is providing higher yields.

Talking about your brand and bennies doesn’t work. No one cares.

People love to be delighted, to be surprised, to be entertained.

We hate being educated and most people don’t want to learn more.

You need to emotionally mule-kick someone in the head. They need to get excited about what you are doing.

Your company and your products have a persona. If you don’t know what it is, your customer does.

Own who you are and be very honest about what you do and who your product is for.

No, you don’t provide higher yields.

No, not everyone gets to be your customer.

To really interest the people you’re trying to reach, you need to start with a great story, add a twist to the normal and take some risks.


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