New Products Help You Grow Market Shares

Product launches are an exciting time. New products mean new ways to help current customers and grow your customer base. But use caution, don’t simply move your current customers from an existing product to a new product. Position the new products so current customers will find value in using it as part of their year-round program. Additionally, leverage the new products to grow your market share and gain new customers that you’ve never had before.

“I always tell dealers, we’re not looking to swap business, we are looking to grow business,” said Justin O’Flaherty, ASM who represents Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. “When it’s time to grow market share with new products, it is time to think outside of the box.”

O’Flaherty likes to have a list of scenarios ready to go before she sees her dealers-in person so they can collaborate the best way to market the new products. She said being prepared saves time and assists the dealers when it comes to ways to growing market share.

Britney Creamer, ASM who serves Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, said that VitaFerm® ConserveTM will open doors for a lot of growth for producers who have seen the benefits of including Amaferm® in their herds’ diets, but didn’t always think they could afford a high-quality mineral program. She is excited about the potential growth of customers who will now be able to get Amaferm and a complete mineral program at a price point they feel comfortable with.

“Often, producers think, ‘can we feed our family, or can we feed our cows mineral?’ We are now making Amaferm available to a larger crowd of people. I think people will be surprised. There are a lot of producers who have watched the VitaFerm line and what it has done over the years and wanted to be a part of it but didn’t think they could make it work, so I think now we are going to gain a lot of new business,” she said.

Creamer said the great thing about introducing Conserve, while already having a premium product, is that progressive end-users that are proponents of A.I. and E.T. are not very likely to switch products and will continue to use VitaFerm Concept•Aid®.

Get Out of Your Zone

Another way to grow market share is to look for ways to introduce products to customers you might not have originally thought of. For instance, O’Flaherty recently visited a cow-calf operation to discuss the VitaFerm and Vita Charge® lines with the producer. While she was there, she also saw a barn full of opportunities.

“I’m not a horse person. I went and met with an Angus breeder earlier in the week, but he had a barn full of horses. I’d much rather talk about cows, but I saw an opportunity. The more you talk about things you’re uncomfortable with, the more you become familiar. The same thing with HydraBoost. We have so many pigs and chickens in our area. If you become more comfortable with the uncomfortable, you’ll be more comfortable and be able to grow market share by expanding your product offering and getting out of your comfort zone,” O’Flaherty said.

New products are a great way to grow market share.

Effective Action: Communication is Essential to Education

New product launches call for sharing information about those products long before they become available to the dealer to order and sell. BioZyme® has launched three new products in May and June, meaning much of the education needed to be disseminated while a majority of the country was sheltering in place.

Regardless of their lockdown situation, two Area Sales Managers agree that they would typically communicate about new products with their dealers prior to an in-person meeting. Britney Creamer, ASM for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, said she likes to start with the customers who the new products will specifically impact and starts reaching out to them over the phone or through email, although she does admit she prefers face-to-face meetings. Then, she makes sure to follow up with everyone else.

“Before I talk to them about a new product, I think about how it will fit their customers they service or want to service,” Creamer said. “VISION and company e-blasts are great tools, but they don’t always get to the person that needs that information the most. Some of my dealers like text messages, some prefer email. I try to put three to four bullet points together for them to highlight products that may be coming down the pipes and how they will be useful for their customers. A face-to-face visit is always useful, but as we know the last few months that hasn’t always been feasible.”

In addition to the bulleted list, ASM Justin O’Flaherty has found that the fliers and visuals are useful resources to share with her dealers and she encourages them to share those with their end-users. O’Flaherty, who represents Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, uses social and digital media, including texting, email and Snapchat, to communicate with her dealers and said they will always have some new product information from her prior to their in-person meetings.

“One thing I do for new products, is if I think it will fit a particular demographic, I will send those dealers an email. I like to give them a heads up, and they will usually respond. I try to keep open communication lines all the time. I try to stay in constant communication. If we are on a call or get new information, I will take a picture and send it to them. I try to stay in front of them, so they know what is coming,” O’Flaherty said.

O’Flaherty said two-way communication is vital to her because she thrives on collaboration.

“I ask for a lot of feedback, especially if we are thinking about something new or different. I will pick their brain because one of my favorite things to do is collaborate. If I have an idea, I will bounce that idea off of a lot of people,” she said.

Creamer encourages all dealers to share information about the new products with their end-users who would find benefit from the products as soon as they have the information they need. Use the bulleted list or graphic flier that your ASM provides, and if you need more information, reach out to your ASM or the Outreach Support Center.

Additionally, all content in the Master Dealer, years one and two, has been updated to reflect the new products and any discontinued product lines. Be sure to take the time to review those Master Dealer segments for more information.

Although most dealers prefer to host in-person producer meetings, O’Flaherty has conducted some Zoom online training meetings with her dealers to educate them on the new product lines. Reach out to your ASM if you are still social distancing and would like to learn more about any product via this technology.

Most importantly, when reaching out to your customers, remember to mention these new products. Creamer advises that if you do have a store, to post “new product” signage next to your new product. You can even list the key benefits on the sign so the buyer or potential customer can see them.

Promoboxx is another free and simplified tool to use to promote your business. The Marketing Team at BioZyme has created “new product” material that you can share on your own social media or take pieces of to share on your social media.

New products are exciting! Learn about them. Share them. And sell them. Reach out to your ASMs if you have questions and remember we are here to help you succeed!

The Benefits of Introducing New Products

Launching new products is an exciting time for a business. Multiply that times three and we have had big excitement at BioZyme® during the last 60-plus days. New products don’t just happen, but when they are finally ready to launch to the dealers and subsequently the end-users, we know that “care that comes full circle” has been implemented, and the benefits will be numerous.

Let’s explore some of the benefits to the customer and the business when a new product or service is introduced.

Company Growth

Introducing new products is vital to a company’s growth. Without new products, you likely won’t grow market share and your business might turn stagnant. New products demonstrate to customers that a business is not satisfied with the status quo and wants to grow. While the company grows, it often times creates a product that has been missing in the marketplace or can provide a solution to a common challenge in a particular industry segment.

Fulfill Customers’ Needs Developing and marketing new products shows that we care about our customers and are continually working to meet their needs.

VitaFerm® Conserve™ was purposefully crafted with the producer in mind as an economical line of vitamin and mineral supplements for the beef cattle herd that complements our existing products during the times of year when reproduction isn’t the primary focus,” said Jack Oattes, Area Sales Manager, during an online introductory meeting to dealers about the new product.

VitaFerm Conserve is just one example of how a product will meet the needs of a customer base that we haven’t yet reached. It will allow producers who want to give their cow herd the Amaferm® advantage during a time when they don’t need a breeding mineral.

Stay in Tune with Seasonal Demands

May seemed like an ideal time to launch two new HEAT® products as both cattle and sheep producers were planning matings and getting ready to breed females and keep them bred through the summer temperatures. Timing is everything, and customers definitely notice when companies are strategic in these launches.

Build momentum this summer with selling the new VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® HEAT® and DuraFerm® Sheep Concept•Aid® HEAT® so your customers will be asking about them again next spring and summer.

Build your Reputation

A company that creates new products or improves products is often looked upon by its peers and its customers as creative and innovative. Stand out from the crowd with your new products and be sure to share with your customers how these products will benefit their animals, and ultimately their own bottom line. We want our customers to know we care. We hear their needs and their concerns and when feasible, we create a product that we think will help them help their animals.

Part of your reputation and ours comes from the feedback we receive from satisfied customers. When possible, get testimonials from your customers that are using these new products, especially the seasonal ones and submit them to your ASM or the Marketing Team so we can use those testimonials next year when it is time to start promoting these products again. Remember, often times customers like to hear the success their peers had with a product.

New products equal big excitement! We’ve supplied the products, the resources you need to sell the products, now go share the benefits of these products to your existing and potential customers. The benefits are there for everyone!

Help Youth Succeed Through Remote Learning

Remote learning. It’s the phrase that students, parents and teachers did not expect to add to their vocabulary this spring when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. However, with each new update and each governor’s recommendation, remote learning became a part of daily lives in households across the country. School districts devised lesson plans, some delivered their students’ packets via the bus route or mailed and emailed lessons to students on a weekly basis.

Youth might have missed out on the chance for building relationships with their peers and mentors, state FFA contests and conventions, spring sports, prom and more activities, but for those in agriculture, it provided an opportunity to work more with their livestock projects, help out with calving and lambing and perhaps even help prepare for spring planting. Remote learning and sheltering-in-place has allowed many families to spend more time together, learning and working ahead on junior national contests or county fair projects – both livestock and nonlivestock related.

When schools started closing their buildings this spring, online learning and virtual tours seemed to pop up almost instantly. Farm Bureau organizations, breed associations and other ag companies shared content that ranged from simple coloring sheets and word-searches to online judging contests and virtual ag tours.

What did we do?

We were ready. Before the chaos ensued, the Sure Champ® in the Classroom program existed. This online resource offers a variety of learning ideas for educators and parents.

Sure Champ in the Classroom offers various information about cattle, pigs, goats and lambs. Educational information ranges from selection, feeding and nutrition, caring for and preparing for shows and showmanship. General nutrition information is also available as well as quizzes with answer keys for assistance to learning. Educational videos are online for cattle and pigs that detail showmanship, feeding, animal care and reading pig notches.

In addition to the Sure Champ in the Classroom resources, a regular feature of the Sure Champ digital efforts includes an online judging tool, Mark that Card, complete with judging classes and official placings with cuts and reasons. These have been very popular on the Sure Champ social platforms and are all archived at www.surechamp.com.

Local Resources

What can you as a dealer do to help provide some information and resources to your customers in this time of remote learning? Maybe you had a spring livestock clinic planned; don’t let social distancing spoil your plans. With today’s technology on phones and handheld devices like tablets and iPads, it would be efficient and effective to record something from your local store or barn to post to your website or social media to help educate your young customers.

Talk about animal nutrition and break down the various feed ingredients in a ration and describe what they do. Record your own showmanship or clipping clinic. Perhaps you can offer resources for those youth preparing a speech for their junior national or their county club days. Or, you could offer to listen to that speech over the phone or via FaceTime to give some pointers on content or delivery. Offering your time as a resource is a valuable tool to a young person; they won’t forget time that you give them.

Share with us and your fellow dealers what you are doing to serve as a resource and help your young customers #preptowin during this time of social distancing. Post your ideas and your results on the BioZyme Dealer Facebook page so others can learn from you. We are all in this time of uncertainty together. Let’s work collectively to help our young people.

Effective Action: Let’s Lend a Hand Every. Day.

Have you ever noticed how people show up in times of crises or particular times of year? Food and toy drives ensue during the holidays for those in need. Elderly and disabled were encouraged to post a red, yellow or green sheet of paper in their window during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place to indicate if they were fine or needed assistance. And blood drives are ramped up during particular seasons. All of these are great causes and worthwhile efforts, but what if we provided a helping hand year-round and really demonstrated care that comes full circle.

Be present.

During times of uncertainty, perhaps the most important thing we can do is be present. Now, maybe this doesn’t happen if you’re in isolation or separated by miles from friends or family. However, technology has made it possible to keep the lines of communication open and even “see” each other. Technologies like FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger and Marco Polo allow you to “chat” virtually like you’re in the same room with your friends or customers. Sometimes just a simple check-in, even via a phone call, with someone to see how they are doing will brighten their day.

Listen and watch.

Agriculture is a rocky road, and many of your friends and customers are likely struggling. When you do check in with your customers, friends and family, take time to really listen. And more importantly, watch their actions. We can all agree, agriculturalists are a humble group who don’t like to talk about themselves, so if they are having challenges, you might be able to tell that just as much by their actions and what they don’t say. And, if you sense a genuine concern for their health, reach out to them or someone else close to them to try to help them.

Offer resources.

Yes, food drives around the holidays are great. But, what about the other 10 months of the year? As summer approaches, fresh garden produce is typically bountiful, so why not share in the bounty. Maybe you have a place for a garden, but not the time, offer your garden spot to someone to use in exchange for some veggie sharing. Perhaps you’re like me and love to garden, but don’t like to can. Offer your garden goodies to friends and neighbors for the picking. And although fresh produce is nice, make sure people have other things they need year-round.

Give back to the youth.

It is nice to show appreciation to the youth who buy their feed and supplies from you. Likely, many of their parents are your customers too. Hopefully, summer shows will not be canceled like so many late winter and spring shows were. Offer a show supply credit if they buy x-amount of show feed or supplements. Or if the summer shows are canceled, offer to buy one of their animals to supply your own family (and maybe others) with some fresh protein.

Volunteer.

There are always ways to give money and resources; however, one resource that most everyone has to offer is their time. No matter how big or small your community is, there is likely a way for you to give your time. Volunteer opportunities exist through community, school, church and civic organizations. They can be short-term or long-term. Giving your time can be one of the most rewarding things you do. Be sure you are giving to something you genuinely care about and that you volunteer with a good motive and not just self-recognition.

Care that comes full circle. It’s not just a motto, but it’s a simple way we should all chose to live. You can make a difference in your neighborhood or community 365-days a year by giving of your time, talents and resources and simply being present. In many of our rural communities, people became more friendly during the “shelter-inplace” time. People waved and smiled as they met you on the road. They reached out more. School kids wrote letters to shut-ins. The world became friendly. Let’s keep these smiles going and continue to lend a hand, every day.

Communication is Key During a Crisis

In times of uncertainty, fear is a common emotion. The national and world health crisis of this spring has left everyone with several questions. Will summer events be canceled or postponed? When will we get to see elderly relatives? Will our kids ever go back to school? Why didn’t I buy more toilet paper? With so many uncertainties in the world, the routine of having a job to come to each day gives people some peace of mind. However, many businesses have changed the way they operate. With the need for essential workers in the agriculture industry, you can help your employees cope by increasing communication and ensuring them that everything will be alright.

Hinda Mitchell, president of the Inspire PR Group, shares seven ideas on how to communicate with your team during these challenging times.

Overcommunicate. But keep it simple. Your employees are on information overload right now, so keep your messages short, to the point and upbeat. Mitchell suggests using both the push strategy and pull strategy for disseminating information. Push information out via email, text messages and even a private website dedicated to the particular crisis. Provide additional information that might be useful to employees so they can pull from that information when needed. At BioZyme®, a private webpage was started for employees that discussed new safety and health protocols, how and when to report any sickness, who to ask for help when working remotely and offered updated information from the CDC and WHO that employees could look at as they wanted.

Focus on health and safety. Personal health and safety of your employees and customers should come first. Make sure you are providing the resources needed to keep your team safe: disinfectant sprays and wipes to gloves or masks. Encourage your staff to continue a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and exercise; spring is a great time to be outside and get some fresh air.

Provide extra support. Everyone has a unique situation, and it is imperative to be understanding during these times. Identify the circumstances of each individual and offer them resources that might be helpful. This could range from needing childcare due to school closures or caring for a loved one.

Clarity is key. “Be crystal clear on your employee expectations, benefits and other personnel matters during this time. What are they supposed to do if they or a loved one falls ill? What is your PTO, sick time and absentee policy? What have you done to change or enhance benefits to address this unique time? Now is not the time for rigidity; flexibility should drive as much of human resources decision-making as possible,” Mitchell writes.

Little things matter. Show your employees you care with a catered lunch, a small note of appreciation, a gift card for gas or groceries or even a verbal thank-you. If you see or talk to a person who doesn’t seem their normal self, ask them if they are alright and offer to get them help. Sometimes being a listening ear is all a person needs. Your gesture doesn’t need to be substantial to be remembered.

Do the right thing. During any crisis it is imperative to follow the orders of all government officials – local, state and federal. It is also important to exercise patience with your employees. Reassurance about their jobs, the industry and the state of the world is always a good thing during times of chaos.

Remind them the challenges are temporary. Although every day might seem like a scene from the movie “Groundhog Day,” this is a short-term challenge, and normalcy will return. There is always a storm before a rainbow, and though the times might seem tough, brighter days are ahead.

Communicating with your employees is critical to keeping them informed, calm and feeling like part of the team during any challenge. Be sure that you stay calm and level-headed. Don’t panic or use harsh language. Be the leader they need in a time of uncertainty to show that you care, and you will be able to get the best back from them. That is what “Care that Comes Full Circle” is all about.

Effective Action: Personal Service is Key to Great Experiences

Great customer service can make you or break you. High-quality products are important, but even more important are the services offered by you, the dealer, to ensure when the customer is paying for his or her product, that customer is getting more than just a product that could have likely been purchased down the road from another business. Be sure to set your company up for success by distinguishing it as the company with great products and exceptional personal service.

In an era where many things are becoming automated, don’t let your service become one of them. Customers and prospective customers still want that face-to-face interaction – a smile, handshake and acknowledgement that a human with a heart is listening to and hearing their challenges while thinking of ways to help. There are several ways that you and your employees can differentiate your business by providing the best personal service possible. Here are four we highly encourage you try out.

  1. Listen. Yes, this seems so simple, yet sometimes we really don’t pay attention while the customer is speaking, and yet we think we have all the answers. On my recent flight home from the Cattlemen’s Convention, my flight was delayed. However, just one gate down, there was a flight to Bloomington that was on time. I asked the airline customer service agent if I could be rebooked onto that flight. He said that airport wasn’t close to my “home” airport and argued that he could rebook me to Wichita. Bloomington might not have been close to my original airport, but when you live in Western Illinois, you know your airport options, and it was a lot closer than Wichita, eight hours away. However, this agent wouldn’t listen to me. He only would look at his computer and offer to rebook me to a place that was not feasible.
  2. Use Names. Names are the most personal possession, and when we use a person’s name it shows we care. A recent study shows that our names are so important to us that hearing them triggers an entirely different part of our brain than any other words. And when we use our own names, that makes the relationship even more personal, like when making a phone call or sending an email or letter. Wouldn’t you rather get an email or note from “Joe” instead of “The Feed Store”?
  3. Know your customers. For most people this comes as second nature, but as you grow your customer base and get busier, don’t forget that customers are people. Asking about their family, their cow herd, and new horse they’ve purchased or even their pets will spur on conversation and show that you care about the person, not just the customer. And maybe you can’t remember the kids’ names, but you read an article about them in the local paper, ask how the kids are doing. That will be enough to make a proud parent’s visit.
  4. Respond quickly. Nobody likes to wait, or even worse be put on hold. Now, there is no way to get to everyone’s request the minute they make them, but do be cognizant of the time it takes you to respond to a customer. If they are on the other end of the phone, and you are looking for a product or a person to put them in touch with, suggest calling them back as soon as the answer or person is found. That way they are not wasting their time on hold, and you are not feeling rushed. Try to return phone calls and emails each day and be prepared when you do.

“Personal service” isn’t just a buzzword created to add to your already busy life. It is an important, valuable concept that can help you grow your business. Happy customers will tell their friends and peers about exceptional service; but they will tell everyone about poor service, something you don’t want to be the topic of!

Providing personal service isn’t hard. In fact, it is something most people do every day. Just remember, it can pay off by distinguishing your business and leading to growth.

3 Ways To Make Sure You Outperform You Competition

Differentiation is what sets your business apart from the four other farm stores, feed dealers and on-farm supplement suppliers in the tri-county area. But how can you set yourself apart in the marketplace? Just think about what makes it on your 10 o’clock news each night – besides politics and viruses. Stories that are unique, controversial or innovative find their way in front of the viewer audiences. Companies that offer unique or innovative products and services that leave customers something to talk about will attract business and create consumer awareness.

Differentiation is to your strategic advantage. Here are three ways to distinguish your business from your competitors.

Make Your Offer Compelling

Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Compelling companies are leaders. They are the talk of the town, and this buzz allows the business to gain momentum and grow sales. Now, you’re probably asking yourself what you can do in your particular industry to create buzz. That’s where your innovation and creativity get to thrive. Perhaps you offer a timely promotion for your customers once a year on a product that most everyone uses. Or, you could offer a customer appreciation incentive based on volume of business or number of new customer referrals. Providing education through a producer meeting or open house often sets your business apart, as people appreciate being kept in the know on new products, how to solve challenges in their businesses and learning of new services your business might offer.

Remember, making your business stand out starts with a good product, but also needs to be complemented with exceptional service. That’s why it is important to hire and train employees who are knowledgeable that can show their passion for what they do.

Climb the Reputation Ladder

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it,” said Benjamin Franklin.

The words spoken by Mr. Franklin could not be truer, especially in a digital world, where one wrong move is recorded and can be shared globally via text message or social media with the click of a button. Being known as a reputable company that really cares about its people – both customers and employees – is the first rung in the ladder of trust. And, building trust is the foundation to any long-term relationship. According to inc.com, “creating a good business reputation means honoring a product-returns policy; delivering on time; providing timely and friendly service; publishing accurate ingredients, as well as keeping factual records; and ensuring that goods are safe for consumption.”

Earn Big with Premium Services and Products

The problem with offering products or services similar to everyone else is that it turns your company into a commodity business. Show your customers that you’re a value-added company by explaning how your products add value. It doesn’t take many testimonials or much math to show your potential customers the ROI on a premium product like VitaFerm® Concept•Aid®. Track your customers ordering habits and remind them when they are likely low on the products that they need for the particular season they are in. Offer delivery or stay open later for “after work” pick up. All of these things might seem small, but to the customer, they add a premium and a value, making you stand out from the competition.

Distinguish your business. It’s better to stand out from the crowd, especially when you are differentiating yourself in a positive light. Be unique. Be innovative and uphold the kind of reputation that will make your customers want to come back time and time again.

Identify Your Customers’ Pain Points and Help Eliminate Them

Physical pain is never good. However, for people in business, trying to make a living there is another pain that needs to be addressed. Did you know that in the world of marketing, your customers experience their own pain points? Although these pain points may not cause physical pain, they can still be challenging to “diagnose.” As a business owner or leader, you can distinguish your business by discovering pain points your customers have and providing a solution.

What is a pain point?

Pain points are specific problems that your prospective customer faces or simply put, challenges. Challenges come in a variety of forms and can be as different as your potential customer list. Some challenges can be prevented or eliminated due to proper management. Other challenges, like the environment cannot always be predicted, but can still be helped. Although a multitude of pain points exist, WordStream.com groups pain points into four broad categories and describes them as follows:

• Financial Pain Points: Your prospects are spending too much money on their current provider/solution/products and want to reduce their spending, or see a better ROI.

• Productivity Pain Points: Your prospects are wasting too much time using their current provider/solution/products or want to use their time more efficiently. With our audience this could be that they want to shorten their calving window or simply find a way to increase efficiencies.

• Process Pain Points: Your prospects want to improve internal processes. For our customer base, this could mean they want to treat fewer calves or they are looking for a more stress-free way to wean their calves and get them started on feed and water.

• Support Pain Points: Your prospects aren’t receiving the support they need at critical stages of the customer journey or sales process.

Once you start thinking about pain points in these four categories, you should be able to start to plan your positioning in a way that will address each of these pain points to show that your company is the best solution to their challenges.

How to Identify the Pain Points and Find a Solution

Now that you understand the four broad categories of pain points, how do you tell which pain point your potential customer is facing? Chances are, there are at least a couple of pains points that have your potential client reeling. So be ready to address their needs to set your business apart from the competition.

The best way to identify pain points is to have a one-on-one conversation with your prospects. Ask them directly what their challenges are and how you can help solve those challenges. Really listen to what they have to say before offering a solution. Although many prospects and customers will have similar pain points, everyone will have some variation on how they plan to manage to fix or solve those challenges.

Perhaps your customer is troubled with spending a large sum of money on a consumable product like mineral. This is a great time to have a conversation about the investment that customer or prospect will be making in the nutrition and overall health of an animal. Talk about the ROI for that customer, if he or she spends money on a product like VitaFerm® Concept•Aid®, and how that investment can produce more live calves, and therefore generate more income.

If the pain point involves support, you can offer numerous solutions based on the goods and services you offer while providing outstanding customer service. The personal services that back a product are sometimes just as important to the customer as the product itself.

We don’t want to see anyone in pain – physical or otherwise. By discovering your potential customers’ pain points early in your conversation, you can set your company apart by offering solutions to their challenges and helping to ease their “pain.” This should ultimately differentiate your business, and you can watch your business grow.

Technology Can Assist With Customers Service Success

There’s no doubt technology has evolved a lot in the last decade; even the last one to five years, we’ve seen and experienced technological advances that our parents or grandparents never would have fathomed. A lot of these advances have made life and business more efficient, and as the technology continues to evolve, those efficiencies will also continue to increase.

However, when it comes to doing business, especially in agriculture and rural areas, the value of a firm handshake and face-to-face interaction can’t be replaced by any amount of technology. Yet, there are some advances that can help simplify your business and help you create more time for those personal interactions.

Customer Databases

If you don’t already, you should have a customer database system to track your customers and their orders, keep their pertinent information and log your interactions with them. Several software options exist, but if you are just getting started or have kept these details on your handy yellow legal pad for years, consider even a simple Excel spreadsheet.

Keep track of all family member names, contact information including address, phone number and email, record important dates like when they purchase particular products, when they host their annual production sale and even their birthdays. Track when you’ve communicated with them or if they have asked questions you need to follow up on. Keeping track of your communications will help you remember to check in on them on a regular basis without seeming overbearing or pesky.

Portable Technology

Keeping a tablet or iPad with you when you make a customer visit is a smart move. And with Internet connectivity getting better with 4G and plans of 5G later in 2020, the ability to access those tools will become even better. Perhaps you are visiting a customer who has questions about the products or wonders what kind of Concept•Aid® to use, you can pull out your tablet and show them the Concept•Aid® Product Navigator or other online tools. We realize that not every corner of the countryside has these capabilities, but if you do, it will make talking to a customer a little easier and help answer questions as you go.

Data Security

Some folks are just downright leery of anything that comes through the world wide web. And really, who can blame them? However, since news of data breaches have entered the mainstream media, consumers have developed a greater awareness of how their data is treated, and there is greater corporate responsibility around data privacy. New security tools are emerging for both companies and individuals, and as long as people remain aware, it is now becoming easier to do more business online with these increased security measures.

Text Messaging

An increasing amount of communication is being done via text message. Many people still prefer a phone call or face-to-face conversation, but the younger generation relies on texts to have the written reminders and the ability to respond on their time. Texting can be an effective communication tool if you are sending a reminder about a meeting or order, or if you know the person has a busy schedule, it is a good way to request a call back at their convenience. And, texts will always be there in the hand or on the wrist of the recipient.

The need for personal interaction can never be replaced, but with the help of some of these technological advances, you can work smarter and not harder. Consider technology your office assistant that allows you more time to talk to customers and potential customers. With more time to make sales calls, you will be able to reach more people and watch your business grow.