Craig M Dick

My slanted perspective on agricultural marketing

Category: Agriculture (page 1 of 2)

Why Farmers Should Play More

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and I am not a doctor. If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health issue, please seek professional help. This article is for informational purposes only.

The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.

Or another way to look at it is, excessive workloads could be a major cause of anxiety and depression in the farming community. As a marketer I want to understand my customer. How they think, what motivates them and why they make the decision they do.

One thing that has always puzzled me is when people ask for help, then they struggle to make a decision. Is it fear of the unknown or something else? While listening to the James Altucher Show episode 234, it hit me when Charlie said “The opposite of play isn’t work, its depression” I immediately thought of the farmers I know that have struggled with real depression, those with severe anxiety and many I have encountered that struggle to make decisions. Is there a link?

Farmers work more than any group I have ever known. My experience growing up on the farm is there is more work to do than one person could do in a lifetime.  Farming isn’t just a job. It’s a person’s complete life. Its 24/7. You live at the office, at the factory. Its always there. And there is always more to do. This can lead to bouts of anxiety.

The workload, the financial pressures, poor weather, sick livestock, and poor harvest can compound, leading to real depression. Farming has not been this difficult since the 1980’s, clear thinking, sound judgement and calculated risks could be the difference of making a profit or a loss.

Studies show that depression erodes confidence, hope and clear thinking of persons dealing with depression.  That reduces motivation and the capacity to work effectively, and drags people down. Depressed persons tend to be negative, unable to move ahead with tasks, withdrawn and sometimes unpredictably volatile.

Farming is also a socially isolated career with small, close knit communities of neighbors, co-workers, and families. Imagine a farmer that was going to a shrink, what would his neighbors say, his family, or worse, his land lord. On top of that, famers are typically raised to be tough, self-reliant and not complain about problems. How would it look to seek help?

Unfortunately it’s this lack of support that causes those that suffer to close down even more.   When you feel you can’t talk about or show depression, its just a step deeper into the darkness. So most farmers ignore the symptoms. If asked if everything is ok, he might say, I am just tired, of self-medicate with alcohol or other substances.

This downward spiral, the self-medication coupled with a feeling of having nowhere to turn for help leads to the idea of suicide as the only way out.

Studies have shown that compared with non-farmers, farmers have a higher prevalence of depression, particularly the male farmers, who also had higher anxiety levels. This is related to longer work hours, lower income, higher psychological job demands and less decision latitude compared with non-farmers. In the U.S. the rate of farmer suicides is just under two times that of the general population.

Could less work and more play be the answer?

Growing up on the farm I was taught to do your chores first, then play. Luckily even though we worked hard, there was always time for friends and sports. Now that I am older I find there is always more to accomplish. I find personally less time for play.

What if the secret to getting more done, being more successful was strategic play

From James Altucher:

Charlie was overworked. He was working 22 hours a day to keep up with his boss.

Feeling burnt out, he took a week off to recover. That week turned into a year.

He sought medical help. He refused the drugs they prescribed. He tried deep breathing exercises, therapy, journaling, all different supplements, exercise, psychedelic drugs, volunteering, prayer. He even took a course on “How to Overcome Anxiety.”

But none of it stuck… “Every day he felt like he was going to die.”

Then he read , “The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression.”

“The research is pretty clear,” Charlie said. “They have done experiments. They’ve deprive animals of play—they give them love, nurturing, food, shelter, all the things they need to survive— but they deprive them of play, the animal inevitably grows up to be socially and emotionally crippled.”

Charlie calls it “chronic-play deprivation.” And I think many people suffer from that.

Sound like any fathers, uncles, or brothers who farm that you know?

Charlie said he was approaching life “so seriously and joylessly. And very much in terms of what’s the output, what’s the income, what’s the money pay-off.”

There never was a pay-off.

James asked, “How did you learn to play again?”

Charlie said playing every day IMMEDIATELY had an effect. “Not just on how I felt but in how people responded to me.”

Check out the James Altucher Podcast to hear the full story.

If you have any friends or family you think may be dealing with anxiety or depression, please encourage them to seek medical help.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terezia-farkas/why-farmer-suicide-rates-_1_b_5610279.html http://www.farmandranchguide.com/entertainment/country_living/farm_and_ranch_life/understanding-managing-depression-critical-for-farmers/article_916c7af4-9684-11e4-af93-33ef37fbca72.html http://www.farmerhealth.org.au/page/depression/depression-the-facts http://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-interferes-decision-making-stop-intruding/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201603/how-does-anxiety-short-circuit-the-decision-making-process https://neuroscience.stanford.edu/news/opposite-play-not-work-%E2%80%94-it-depression

 

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Plants Have Feelings Too!

plants have feelings too!

Via https://www.reddit.com/user/Randyotter

Is eating plants less cruel than eating meat? I am not so sure.

After all science shows us that the simple act of mowing your lawn, a past-time many Americans take pride in, is downright barbaric dismemberment. That lovely fresh cut grass smell is your lawn, aromatically shrieking to its brethren that it’s being attacked and needs first aid.

You are causing plants serious anguish and they are changing their behavior because of it.

Yes plant behavior is now a thing

Plants can make decisions based on the perceived level of risk

They communicate with each other in 5 ways:

Plants call for help, they eavesdrop, they defend their territory, they recognize siblings, and can communicate with mammals.

Plants care for offspring

Orchids are downright liars

Since plants have the ability to suffer, they feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, and motherly love. Whenever we consider doing something that would interfere with their needs, we are morally obligated to take them into account.

Let’s face it, eating fruits and vegetables supports cruelty to plants. Those idyllic verdant fields are really concentration camps crammed with flora that will never know what it’s like to care for its offspring. Eating vegetarian supports the killing of billions and billions of plants each year.

Ok, yes I am kidding, I don’t care what you eat (provided you are properly and humanly caring for your food source, animal and now vegetable). This was really just an exercise on taking a unique perspective on a topic to allow a shift in mindset.

Is your current product, idea or message not taking root with your customer? Perhaps looking at your problem from a different mindset can provide the innovative answer you need for growth.

 

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Agriculture

Agriculture is the art and science of sustaining lifeAgriculture

The original tech is Agriculture

Agriculture is complex; applying every scientific discipline

What you grow and how you grow it is a market and still agriculture

Agriculture’s future is ecologically restorative and life advancing

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Emerge  –  Expand  –  Evolve

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

 

EmergeEmerge

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

 

ExpandExpand

You must expand to survive

New ideas, like freshly emerged plants are fragile

You must grow

 

EvolveEvolve

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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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?

Connections.

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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