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.