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.

Master Dealer Training Program Provides Resources

Information is power. The more informed you are when talking to your customers and potential customers, the more empowering you will be. Although there is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t have an answer readily available and you will find the answer, you are going to shine brighter and perhaps snag that sale when you have top-of-mind product knowledge ready on the fly. That’s why BioZyme® developed the Master Dealer Training Program and Advanced Master Dealer Training Program to help empower and train its dealers.

Since its inception, nearly 200 dealers have completed the Master Dealer training. More than 100 of those have finished the second phase – year 2 of Master Dealer Training. The Master Dealer program is a series of online training modules that cover a multitude of topics. A passed quiz must be completed with each module in order to complete the training program. In addition, a dealer must carry three out of four product lines every six months. Currently, Vita Charge® and Vitalize® are grouped together as one product line.

“This is a great training tool with helpful information on Amaferm®, all product lines, nutrition, effective marketing and overall business tips for all new dealers and great brush-up information for existing dealers. By completing the Master Dealer and Advanced Master Dealer programs, our dealers have more confidence to go out and promote BioZyme products and their business,” said Jennifer Miller, Outreach Support Manager.

Getting Started

The Master Dealer program allows individuals to complete the program at their own pace, and it allows multiple employees from the same dealership to participate. To get individualized employee login-ins to the Online Dealer Center, contact Miller or your Outreach Support Coordinator.

Educational modules for Year 1 include overviews of each product line and how Amaferm works with each of the of the various segments and each species. Year 2 covers topics that are more business and marketing oriented as well as more in-depth on selling specific products.

Once an individual has been a Master Dealer for one year, he or she will receive an email that reminds him or her to enroll in the Year 2 program. On-demand courses are also created and launched with new products or product changes, like transitioning from paste to gel, to keep dealers in the know.

The Benefits

In addition to adding to your knowledge base and becoming a more empowered dealer, there are other benefits to achieving the Master Dealer status. Once a dealer or an employee within a dealership passes all the courses and meets the product requirements of carrying three of four product lines, that dealer will show up on the BioZyme Dealer Locator with a Master Dealer logo. You will also receive a Master Dealer Kit, which includes a Master Dealer jacket and a Master Dealer sign you can hang up in your dealership. Remember, each employee who completes the training is eligible to receive a jacket.

Once a dealer has completed the Year 2 courses, he or she will receive a Master Dealer Yeti cup and VitaFerm® caps. Press releases about both the Master Dealer and Advanced Master Dealer achievements are written and distributed to ag media in the state of the Master Dealer by the BioZyme Marketing Team each month.

Information is power. The more information you have, the more easily you will be able to talk to the users and potential customers in your area. Become a Master Dealer today. It’s a simple way to train your employees and help them be more effective when it’s time to reach out to customers.

Digital Marketing Is An Efficient Way To Reach Customers

Marketing is essential to your growth as a business. Yes, many dealers rely on word-of-mouth as their number one marketing tool, but as more people become connected via their phones, tablets and even smart watches, digital marketing efforts are increasing. The BioZyme® marketing team has several ways it can work with dealers to simplify this cost-efficient method to reach existing and potential customers.

Promoboxx

Promoboxx is a digital tool that connects BioZyme’s national marketing efforts to its local dealers. The BioZyme marketing team creates social media content for its product lines each month and generates posts that dealers can publish on their own Facebook business pages. It saves time and resources of your already limited staff, and if you sign up for “auto share” in settings, the posts are automatically posted to your page.

“The biggest benefit to our dealers is that it is content that is going to marry up with what we say on a national level and because we do such a good job of pull-through national marketing, this is going to look like something their customers are going to have seen before. So, people are more likely to click on it and engage with it because they probably also like our Sure Champ® page, for example, and they are very comfortable with the look and the feel and how that content is presented,” said Ashley Fitzsimmons, BioZyme Inc., Regional Marketing Manager.

In addition to the similar look and feel to the national advertising, other benefits include the fact that busy dealers don’t have to create and plan a social media calendar regularly, and fresh content comes out monthly for each of the six product lines. For dealers that are interested in Dealer Reward Points, Fitzsimmons said 250 points are rewarded per quarter for dealers who engage in Promoboxx for that quarter.

Dealers who use Promoboxx are not limited to only the content on Promoboxx. They can use a combination of the BioZyme-created content from Promoboxx while also posting their own organic content on their Facebook page. And, if the brand has provided downloadable assets as part of a campaign, you can download the assets and publish/post them via your social channels outside of Promoboxx, so the post looks like it is an original from you.

Since BioZyme started making Promoboxx available to its dealers, dealer engagement through Promoboxx as a marketing tool has grown 270%, Fitzsimmons reported. It’s not a one-size fits all approach, and each dealer uses the tool at his or her comfort level.

Email Marketing

“I think email marketing is fantastic, and it is super underutilized,” Fitzsimmons said.

In an age where every marketing dollar spent counts, and reach and engagement matter, email marketing makes perfect sense. It is a free tool, that when used properly, can help you reach a large audience with little effort.

Fitzsimmons encourages dealers to create and build their customer email list. Once a customer database of email addresses is built, it is simple to send reminders about your in-store promotions, new products or product updates, or producer meetings. By using a platform like Mailchimp or Constant Contact you can also see analytics and determine effectiveness of your email blasts.

“Email blasts are a great way to more quickly and easily talk to your customers about the advantages of the BioZyme products or new product alerts. It doesn’t cost anything, but some time to build your customer database. It’s a really great tool when used sparingly, and we’d love to help you with it,” she said.

Website Banner Ads

A final digital tool that Fitzsimmons reminds dealers about is the use of the web banner ad. She said she has worked with several dealers who have a good web presence to create these ads that when clicked on, link to the BioZyme website for more in depth information, without bogging down the dealer’s web page with all that information.

“I’ve had some dealers who have been able to convince customers to add Amaferm® into a custom ration based off the information received off those click-throughs,” she said.

Again, web banner ads are an easy way to communicate and educate customers and potential customers about your products without spending resources and they can help you reach a potentially larger audience who is always connected to the online world.

For more information about any of these services, contact your Area Sales Manager or read more in the Online Dealer Center.

Nurturing Your Network Can Pay Dividends

Growing your business is important. Establishing a brand identity, promoting yourself and growing your customer base is imperative for growth. But, do you know what is even more critical to growing your business? Making sure your loyal customers remain satisfied and are treated with the best services and experiences possible. You simply must nurture your current network to experience growth.

Think about the last book you read or new restaurant you took your family or clients to. Did you make those purchase decisions based on an advertisement in a newspaper or did you make those decisions based on the recommendation of a person that you know and trust? Chances are you based your decisions from a friend’s recommendation because word-of-mouth messaging is so strong.

Studies show that the probability of selling to an existing customer ranges between 60 to 70%, where the chance of selling to a new customer is only 5 to 20%. Furthermore, it costs more than six times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current, happy customers. So, keep your current customers pleased, and they will likely start singing your praises to others in their circles, who might also become your customers.

Steven Shapiro, an innovation consultant and speaker writes, “I’ve found that sometimes simply calling or writing a past client to say hello is enough. In doing so, when a new need arises, they think of me first. I often introduce clients to one another so that they learn about innovation from a peer, not just me. Sometimes I’ll send a small, personal gift. Or if I find a relevant article, I mail it. The key is not to sell to these customers, but to provide value. You want them to view you as an ally, not a vendor. And this repeated, friendly contact keeps you front and center in their minds. Should they (or a colleague) require someone with your skills, they will think of you first.”

Providing value is just one way of nurturing your network. When you provide value, your customers will remember that. Providing them a quality product that helps them reach their production goals is another way to provide value, as is delivering products, staying open later one or more nights a week and reminding customers when it is time to order certain products for specific production cycles.

A happy customer is the best marketing tool you can have to grow your business. Perhaps you could offer a customer loyalty program, where a loyal customer receives a gift or percentage off for referring a set amount of business or so many new customers. A satisfied customer will sing your praises to their friends and neighbors. However, they will likely share their discontent even louder, so make sure to keep your customers happy. Nurture your network and watch your business grow.

The Advantages of a Testimonial

It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday life of selling products to help your customers achieve their goals. But do you know what can make your marketing efforts more effective and simplified? Testimonials from loyal customers or respected industry individuals will go a long way in selling your goods and services. Testimonials are unbiased, often unprompted and come from peers in the industry that have often faced that same challenges as your prospective customers. Yes, you can relay all the benefits of a product, but those benefits become more meaningful when your prospect hears that the Rocking S Ranch improved its conception rates to 97%, especially in a year of drought.

There are several ways to incorporate testimonials into your marketing strategy. You can use testimonials in your advertising campaign. Post them to your website, even having a dedicated space for testimonials like BioZyme® Inc. does. You can feature testimonials on your social media each week using the hastag, #TestimonialTusesday. Or, often satisfied customers are glad to talk to others on behalf of your company and your brand at events like trade shows or producer meetings.

When compiling a testimonial, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep it genuine and effective. Remember, the purpose of testimonials is to create reliability and to convert prospects into new customers. Follow this 5-step approach to build up your testimonial strategy.

1. Be Selective. 

The key to testimonials is that they include specific product benefits that help prospects decide if they want to try your products or not. Therefore, your testimonials need to include specific information, not just “I like VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® and my cows do too.” Provide a testimonial that tells the benefits of the product: “We have been feeding VitaFerm® products for several years. VitaFerm Concept•Aid® plays an important role in the performance of our breeding cows and heifers, as well as our bulls. We see increased conception rates of our embryo pregnancies by 23%, and on our bulls, we see an improvement in semen quality.”

2. Add a Face.

Remember to include a photo to each testimonial to give it a persona. We might not always remember Tim Smith’s name, but when we see the man in his signature pearl snap shirt and beat up hat, we remember him as the guy who gets top dollar at the sale barn each year. Adding a face to your testimonial makes it more real and significantly increases the trust factor. Research has shown, that on web-based testimonials, adding a picture increases your click-through rate significantly.

3. Use them Everywhere.

Once you’ve got a testimonial, use it. You can add it to your print advertising, post it to your website, use it on social, make posters to hang at businesses around town, and even use it in mailers and texts.

4. Remember your Audience.

Be sure to capture testimonials for each potential customer you are trying to reach. You are trying to grow your market share in the cow-calf sector, be sure to get some testimonials from cattle producers. Perhaps, there are several horse farms in the area. Talk to an equine enthusiast who uses the product to get a testimonial from them. It doesn’t do any good to have one testimonial for one product line when you are selling multiple lines.

5. Never Be Fake.

The most important thing to remember is that testimonials are designed to establish trust and credibility. The most important rule in sharing testimonials is to use real testimonials from real customers. It’s not worth the risk to fake anything in your marketing plan, especially testimonials.

Testimonials are a great way of using established relationships and growing your customer base. Follow these simple steps to create your own testimonials and convert prospects to new customers.

Effective Use Of Producer Meetings Can Grow Your Business

Any time you get a group of like-minded people in a room to talk about solving their challenges, you will likely have a successful producer meeting. However, you can use the relationships you have already established to create an even more fruitful meeting. There are a few ways that using existing relationships when planning your next producer meeting can help build your business. Let’s explore.

  • Cooperate with another agricultural company.

Have you considered co-hosting your next producer meeting with another complementary agricultural company? Sure, the companies might have some overlap in customers, but you each will likely have some unique customers who could benefit from the other company’s products and services. Perhaps you could partner with an animal health company. And, for those young producers who are interested in show livestock, you might feature the Sure Champ® and Vita Charge® products during a youth workshop co-hosted by one of the show supply companies.

Area Sales Manager Ty McGuire said he likes to work with animal health companies who have the same goals for their customers as he does when planning a producer meeting. He adds that another benefit to cooperating with hosting these meetings is the cost savings since both companies will be sharing in the meal costs.

Building on these already established relationships gives you a leg up. It shows your potential customers that you are easy to get along with. It also provides an unspoken endorsement on the products and services you provide.

  • Encourage your customers to bring a guest.

Your customers are already likely attending, but you could offer an incentive for bringing a guest who has the potential to become a new customer. McGuire said he will go through his contacts the week before a meeting and text everyone within a 30-mile radius with a reminder about the meeting and encourage them to bring a guest. He likes to raffle off a product at the end of the meeting, which serves a dual purpose. First, it gets the attendees excited and engaged; next, it provides McGuire and the host dealer new names with contact information to follow up with.

“I like to raffle something off. It gives everyone an incentive to bring a guest. A 50-pound stress tub is the perfect raffle item. It’s something everybody can use,” he said.

  • Engage with the audience.

McGuire said he has a pretty good handle on the crowd before the meeting starts because he has either built a relationship with the customers through the dealers or met the customers during the meal. Once he starts his presentation, which he always begins by talking about Amaferm®, he will use the attendees’ names and engage with them during the presentation. He said calling them out by name and talking about their specific operation – cow/calf, club lamb, etc. – helps build trust and respect between those in attendance and himself.

  • Call upon your allies.

Word-of-mouth and testimonials go a long way in building trust and securing new customers. McGuire said he likes to have a veterinarian who either uses the products or is familiar with the products at each meeting and will extend a personal invitation to ensure his or her attendance. Veterinarians are trusted resources who will speak up about a product’s benefits and substantiate how the products work. It is also a good idea to have a well-respected producer who has had good results give a testimonial if they are attending. McGuire said he’s found he can build trust with prospects because of his own experiences in his own cattle operation.

Producer meetings are an efficient way to show appreciation to current customers and establish relationships with potential customers. Building on current relationships at these meetings makes them even more effective and gives the dealer a leg up in building their business. Like any other enterprise, use your resources, count on your relationships and use those relationships to grow your customer base.

Effective Action: Always Offer Great Services

Offering exceptional customer service seems like a given to keep your customers happy and returning to your business. However, offering outstanding service and offering great services are two different things. And to stay relevant in today’s business world, you need to also continually add services in addition to products to help your customers succeed in their businesses. Luckily for the BioZyme® Dealer Network, a variety of services are readily available for you to officer your customers to help add value to their experiences and will keep them wanting to return to your business.

  1. Nutrition Services
    At BioZyme, we realize that knowing what supplements are most important to your animals’ diet depend on what they are already getting in their feed. That is why we offer a forage testing service along with ration balancing to keep your customers’ animals getting the proper amounts of nutrients they need to strive and survive. Your ASM can help you get started with collecting samples and getting them submitted for analysis. Once the samples have been analyzed, and the results are produced, the Nutrition Team will work with you and your customer to determine a ration that will best fulfill the animals’ requirements for a specific production period.
    In addition to the hay testing and ration balancing services, your customers might like to access the Hay Analysis Tool online. This tool allows customers who have had their hay tested to input three numbers to help them calculate the additional energy and protein needed. All that needs entered is the amount of crude protein, amount of energy and the month you will start calving.
  2. Online Calculators
    Let’s face it. At the end of the day, the most important thing to our customers is profitability, and we’ve created tools that will help you help them become more profitable with the BioZyme products. There is a suite of Cost Calculators that will help you show your customers the advantages of the products and the money they can save or make by using the products. Calculators include a Gain Calculator that helps figure the additional gain advantage from feeding VitaFerm; a Conception Calculator, used to calculate the additional advantage per calf from VitaFerm; a Forage Savings Calculator, to compute the hay savings per pair from VitaFerm; and an Amaferm® Value Calculator, used to determine the additional advantage per day for your herd from feeding Amaferm.
    One of the most beneficial ways to remain profitable in the cow-calf business is to have shorter calving windows. BioZyme has also provided a Gestation calculator and a Gestation table to help producers take the guess work out of breeding and calving dates.
  3. Educational Resources
    For the livestock exhibitor, 4-H leader or FFA advisor, www.surechamp.com offers an array of educational checklists, articles and videos on animal selection, care, feeding, fitting and showing. These are geared toward beginners, but also provide timely information on current industry trends, a glossary of terms and are suited for all levels.
  4. Additional Expertise
    Perhaps one of the best parts of being part of the BioZyme Dealer Network is you’re not alone. Regardless of your location, there is always someone who is available and willing to assist you and your customers with a question. Reach out to your ASM, the nutrition team, marketing staff or anyone you’re comfortable visiting with to ask questions and get them answered. You can also search questions that have already been asked and get yours answered on the Message Board in the Online Dealer Center at www.biozymedealer.com.

We sell great products every day. But when you add great services to those products, you are keeping yourself relevant in the business circles and staying ahead of your competition. Customers appreciate both a great product and the services that seem like you are going an extra mile. But with these services already available, you’re ready to take that step.

Leadership Steps To Keep Your Business Top of Mind

Keeping your company relevant is about change. And to make effective change happen, you have to have strong leadership that is willing to take the necessary steps to move forward. Although staying viable in the industry you serve is all about providing goods and services to your customers and helping them with the challenges they face, you must first have a leader or leaders who embrace the following four steps.

  1. Plan Ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a crystal ball? We could see what tomorrow would hold; and even the days to follow. However, we don’t have the luxury to predict our future, so we need to lay our own groundwork to plan ahead. In agriculture, there are some variables out of our control, but we can still study history, read, talk to those heavily involved in each segment and continue to plan ahead so our business stays sustainable and we help our customers succeed.
    If you haven’t already, now is a great time of year to implement a strategic plan that can help you grow. As you develop your plan, think about what is important to your customers during the different times of year, and plan to have products available when they need them instead of waiting. Plan your marketing and promotions accordingly. Finally, plan some time to engage with your customers at different times of the year to hear what is on their minds.
  2. Communicate. Communications is a two-way street. However, we are often times guilty of doing all the talking, and not enough listening. As you plan producer meetings and open houses, set aside some time to ask your customers questions. Hear what is important to them. Do they have a common challenge among them that your business can help solve? Is there a new product that a customer could benefit from? It’s vital to listen and hear what your customers are saying. When you make sales calls or deliver product, take the time to find out what is truly on your customers’ minds.
  3. Get Involved. For most people in our industry, this should not be a challenge. However, for some less hands-on businesses, getting involved and becoming engaged with others is a struggle. If you are in a managerial position and spend a lot of time behind a desk or on the phone, it’s time to get up and be seen. Get out in the store to see how customers are treated. Visit the warehouse to see how employee morale is, and check on the efficiencies of loading and unloading orders. Visit your customers. Talk to your employees. Chat with truck drivers to see what they have seen or heard or how your business can work to create more opportunities. A little bit of movement and a whole lot of engagement with others will help you hear and learn about things your business can do or shouldn’t be doing to stay on top of its game.
  4. Be Responsive. All the listening, engaging and being active in your business means nothing if you don’t respond. Do you need to act on every suggestion? No, but if you hear the same suggestion more than once, maybe that deserves further research. Have you heard that there are better more efficient ways to get things done in your company? Perhaps that is worth looking into. If you rest on your laurels, and are afraid of making any changes, you will stay the same. Your competition will likely grow, and unless you are the only game in town, you could lose customers and ultimately watch your business decline.

Being complacent is not an option if you want to stay successful in the business world. If you want your business to stay relevant and grow, effective changes are needed. Don’t make those changes on a whim, but make sure they are driven by sound business practices and doing what is best for your company, employees and customers.