Planting the Right Seeds: What Farmers Can Teach You About Marketing

One thing that many people don’t know about me is that I grew up on a farm. By looking at me, I suppose I don’t strike people as a small town girl who grew up working with hogs and walking beans.

But, it’s true.

And, I have plenty to stories to tell about it! But, we’ll save those for another day. :)

Now that spring is here, my family is making preparations for planting season and getting the crops in the ground. In fact, just last night my family was tilling the garden, spreading fertilizer and planting seeds for loads of yummy vegetables.

Marketing lessons from farmers

In talking to my mom and listening to my family work in the garden, it made me realize that there is a lot that marketers can learn from farmers. Here are few key lessons that farmers can teach us about marketing.

1. You must plant the right seeds (and in the right place).

Successful farming relies heavily on choosing the right seeds for the right location. Different hybrids of seeds will perform better depending on the type of soil and how much moisture that location gets.

With marketing, we too must think about planting the right seeds. In other words, we must consider the most fertile ground for our marketing efforts and selecting the tactics that will do well in each area.

That’s why marketing strategy is so important. It helps you figure out which marketing tactics will produce the best results. 

2. There are many things you can’t control.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about farming is that there are so many variables you can’t control – especially, the weather. Everything from too much rain, too little rain, devastating winds and flooding can wreak havoc on a crop. Last year, much of the country suffered a severe drought. And, there was very little farmers could do about it.

Although most businesses don’t have to contend with the weather, there are still plenty of variables that can affect your company’s success. For the past couple of years, we’ve had a struggling economy. Businesses have had to learn how to innovate or adjust to survive tightening budgets. Marketers must determine how to do more with less and find the efforts that will pack the biggest ROI given the circumstances around them.

You won’t always be able to operate under perfect market conditions, so figuring out how to overcome challenges and adapt to changing variables will help you be successful.

3. You must have patience.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from farmers is patience. After all, seeds that you plant today won’t be ready to harvest until the fall. Sure, there is plenty for farmers to do in the meantime. But, they won’t see the results right away. It takes a good six months before they see the fruit of their labor.

Marketing works much the same way. Oftentimes, it takes six to 12 months before we begin to see the results from our marketing efforts.

For instance, the other day, I received a call from a prospect who was given my name by someone who heard me speak at a conference almost nine months ago.

When it comes to marketing, there are very few tactics that will get you an immediate return. The best marketing strategies often focus on creating a long-term path to growth. That’s why you must understand that your efforts won’t always pay off right away.

4. You must understand the market.

So much of farming is not about the technical aspect of getting seeds in the ground and harvesting them, but instead about marketing your grain and learning when to sell it. Certainly, there’s as much art as science to this.  Farmers must understand what’s happening in the global economy and how that’s impacting supply and demand.

What factors impact your customer’s ability to buy? What is happening in your community, your state or country that’s affecting your business?

Understanding the outside factors that may impact your company can often be critical to your ability to be stay in business. Don’t lose sight of the competitive marketplace or what’s happening in your industry – doing so could have extremely adverse effects.

5. Success requires hard work!

Perhaps this goes without saying, but farmers are some of the hardest working people I know. When it’s crunch time during planting and harvest season, it means getting up with the sun and staying in the field way past dark. It means rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty (literally). It means eating on the go and working through meals.

I certainly don’t advocate for working like this all the time, but I think marketers and business people of all stripes can learn a lot from farmers’ ability to push hard during crunch time to get the job done. That kind of work ethic separates the wheat from the chaff in the business world.

Do you know any farmers? If so, what lessons would you add to the list?

Image credit: Erin McKeage – This is a photo my sister snapped of my grandparent’s farm a couple of summers ago. 

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  • http://ne-mm.com/ Michelle Quillin

    Laura, I remember you telling me you grew up on a farm! I’ll link to your list in the post I wrote on this topic last year.

    I’ll add “collaboration” to your list! The farmers I know who are doing well are collaborating with local restaurants, getting the names of their farms in the menu descriptions. For example, one local restaurant has menu descriptions like “homemade whipped cream made from fresh cream from Cabot Dairy” and “farm-fresh raspberries and strawberries from Schartner’s Farm.” Both the restaurants and farms are taking advantage of the movement to not only shop local, but support local farmers.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Oooh! That’s a good one, Michelle. Your examples are different than the kind of farming my parents do, but the premise still applies. My dad still goes to meetings for growers and regularly talks to other farmers about what they are doing. Partnerships and collaboration are good things!

      Thanks for weighing and for the link love too! :)

      • Brendon

        I thinking farmers are collaborating less local than ever before. They are learning from what other farmers of similar size are doing across the country and even the globe.

        • Brendon

          And if you want to apply this to marketing, you could say the same thing. I know agencies that have networks across the globe that do not directly compete, but pool ideas and share resources. Twitter and blogs also allow marketers to easily share and collaborate online.

          • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

            Thanks for weighing in, Brendon! I can’t speak to what farmers are doing, but I can attest to global collaboration from the marketing standpoint. I’ve got colleagues and friends I’ve worked with across the country and across the globe. It’s pretty amazing how technology has enabled that.

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  • http://uncommonlysocial.com/ Sarah Mason

    I didn’t know you grew up on a farm! That explains your work ethic. :)

    I grew up in upstate New York in a farm town and you’re right — farmers are the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. This is probably more of a productivity vs. marketing tip but farmers get ahead of the day every day by getting up very, very early. They get more done before breakfast than most people accomplish in a day!

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      This may explain why we have so much in common! Yes, farmers definitely know the value of getting up early (and even working very late). My Dad isn’t very much of a morning person, but during the crunch of planting and harvest, he forces himself to be out the door early. Even if you can’t do it all the time, if you can learn the value of doing this, it can make a big difference!

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