Understanding Your Customers in a Challenging Ag Economy

by Mark Smither
August 30, 2017

“We don’t need to worry about talking to customers. We need to increase our sales right now.”

Believe it or not, this is a direct quote from the CEO of a multi-million dollar agribusiness. The current ag economy seems to be testing everyone’s patience and ability to think rationally. In this challenging climate, the desire to “do something” often supersedes the diligence to think clearly.

If you aren’t targeting your best prospects and customers with the right message in the right place at the right time, you are overspending on your marketing efforts.

So, what should you do? The answer is to understand better what your customers are thinking.

Study Your Customers and Prospects

If your sales are slipping, ask your customers, “Why?” Are they cutting back and finding an alternative solution? Is your competition offering better service at a lower price? Has technology disrupted the way your product is bought, sold or distributed in the marketplace? (Look how Amazon has changed retail sales.) What is their motivation to buy your product in the first place? Do they understand your value proposition?

Customers will tell you what they’re thinking—all you have to do is take the time to listen. Through in-depth conversations, online surveys and social media monitoring, you will be in a better position to spot evolving consumer trends and respond proactively.

Move Toward Customer Segmentation

Not all customers think and act alike. Take a closer look at your existing sales data to learn more about your customers and prospects—who they are and how they behave. Now you can start segmenting your customers into unique profiles based on age, gender, income, geography, purchase patterns, attitude, etc. This information allows you to customize your marketing messages as you steadily improve your customer conversion rate, your customer retention rate and, of course, your overall profitability.

Solve Your Customer’s Problems

If you think about it, you are not just selling a product or service. You are offering a solution. The solution may be a lower price point or a better customer service experience. Perhaps it’s how fast you can deliver that product to your customer’s front doorstep. It might be your industry expertise, which conveys a higher degree of trust and confidence. The point is, your customer experience has to be more than transactional. You must be able to solve a problem in a way your competition cannot.

If you are listening to your customers and analyzing your data, you will have a much better idea of how to solve their most pressing problems.

Yes, sales are important, especially in a tight ag economy. But, the key is to spend more time learning what your customers want—so you can spend less money trying to win the sale.