Overcome the challenges impacting B2B agriculture in 2023
Agribusiness is entering the recession with additional challenges: supply chain issues, inflated input costs, global economic issues and market volatility. The economic hit growers and ranchers take has a percussive impact on the entire value chain that will be felt by all B2B agriculture businesses in the market. An effective marketing strategy is key to succeeding during the downturn.
Unfortunately, many businesses respond to a recession by cutting their marketing budgets to save costs. While this may result in short-term savings, doing so affects the ability to bring in sales and puts even more pressure on margins. It decreases a brand’s visibility and share of the market. And it will make it more difficult to recover when we move out of the recession.
Let’s look at the two biggest marketing challenges currently affecting agribusiness companies and how to solve them.
To provide you with expert insights, we spoke with Executive Director of Strategy and Marketing, Ryan Gould, who has 20 years of experience in agribusiness marketing strategy.
Current issues impacting agribusiness marketing
Changing a conventional mind-set
Agriculture is a broad industry that’s relational and community focused. Many companies are operating on handshake deals in this traditional space.
The mindset of your brand’s decision-makers. In a downturn, some ag businesses will feel the squeeze more than others. Those that try to forge ahead from a traditional standpoint are going to find traditional boots-on-the-ground sales tactics won’t work as well as they used to.
“A conventional approach to sales and marketing means missed opportunities to promote solutions and missed opportunities to reach prospects where they are,” Ryan warns.
The mind-set of prospective decision-makers. During a recession, messaging must move from a product benefit focus to a value focus. To reach conservative decision-makers, you must clearly communicate how your solution improves outputs, adds operational efficiencies or cost effectiveness.
Misaligned digital efforts
Add to this list the fact that many businesses, including agribusiness, were unprepared for their compulsory digital transformation during the pandemic. The scramble to digitize siloed processes agency-wide has created misaligned digital efforts. Some businesses chose cost-leaders over more effective solutions, others implemented digital processes too hastily without a proper plan. In the end, this translates to digital transformation that isn’t supplying the expected results.
In a traditional space like agriculture, it’s tempting for decision-makers to look at these efforts and say, “we tried it, and it didn’t work,” especially if they’re cutting nice-to-haves and low performers. But this would be a mistake. To get the best results, agribusiness firms need to evaluate their martech stacks to ensure proper attribution identification and effective tracking of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Lead (SQLs) and conversions so return on investment (ROI) and return on ad spend (ROAS) can be reported.
Key agribusiness marketing strategies to weather the 2023 recession
An effective marketing plan is critical to get the best return on your marketing dollars. Let’s look at marketing solutions to address the above issues.
1. Don’t cut your marketing budget
Quite simply, cutting your marketing budget in a recession is like cutting your fuel budget to save money. You may see short-term savings, but you won’t be going anywhere. When we enter a downturn, any business that sees marketing as a cost center is going to struggle to drive revenue. In today’s economy, marketing is about presenting your message to your audience, wherever they are.
2. Move to modern marketing methods
- Reach your audiences where they are. Agribusiness decision-makers aren’t just B2B buyers from 9 to 5. They’re consumers at heart. The way to approach them is by reaching them on the channels where they spend the most time.
Radio ads have been successful in agribusiness for years. Today, you’re going to reach ag buyers using ads on online channels like Spotify, satellite radio and podcasts.
- Save traditional printing costs. Not only are returns on printed materials difficult to measure, but the cost of physical printing keeps going up. While there is a time and place to use printed material, it is no longer the end-all-be-all of marketing.
For example, let’s look at the cost to communicate geographical value for a national organization that develops a fungicide product line for a variety of climates and applications. Do you present your entire portfolio to a distributor in California and a grower in Florida, who fight entirely different fungal issues? No. But printing materials that are specific to each geographic area can quickly spin costs out of control.
Instead, you develop white papers or case studies that are individualized for those regions. Digital makes it possible. Then you can switch out those digital ads. They’re disposable. Create new ads, experiment until you find the one that resonates with that audience. Not only is it cheaper but you’ll be reaching them where they are located.
- Optimize campaigns. Not only does digital marketing put your prospects within reach, but the metrics it provides enable you to streamline and optimize your campaigns for the best returns on marketing investment. The measurability of digital is vital in a down market.
Agribusinesses that have already adopted more modern marketing efforts will benefit from narrowing their targeting and focusing on the channels that will provide the best return.
3. Change conventional mind-set with strategic messaging
It may seem simple, but messaging is the foundation of successful marketing efforts. To communicate value, your messaging must be more strategic than ever before. You need to know how to speak to different decision makers in different verticals, with solutions for specific geographies and climates.
“A grower isn’t going to see value in a solution for a region that’s a zip code away. They have different challenges, different opportunities. They’re interested in a conversation centered around their own output efficiencies and ROI. The closer to the dirt you get with it the more individualized it needs to be. To the region, to the grower, to their struggle,” Ryan explains.
Support your messaging with data, research, internal experts, partner experts, cross-promotional sharing, external validation, in-market research. Business-minded decision-makers want to see real-world results that are statistically significant.
4. Align your martech stack for the best returns
In an economic downturn, your marketing must be precise to bring in a greater number of high-quality leads. There’s increased pressure to prove marketing attribution. For this to happen, it’s critical to align your sales and marketing efforts at key touchpoints along the customer journey.
When you have alignment, you can track ROAS and ROI, and optimize and improve your campaigns to get the best returns.
If your digital transformation isn’t bringing in the outcomes you expected, most likely, your efforts are out of alignment.
“It all comes back to the funnel. You don’t get sales without putting something in it at the top. It starts with awareness and moves into consideration and decision. Especially when you’re talking about your livelihood. By virtue of that, when you’re putting these opportunities in the top and being able to measure it, if you don’t have the right martech stack you’re going to have an ineffectual program for measuring the impact of your marketing efforts,” says Ryan.
5. Choose an agency partner that specializes in B2B agriculture
Work with an established B2B agency that specializes in agricultural marketing. With over 20 years of marketing experience in the ag industry, Elevation can help target your unique audience with the right message, across the right channels. We can help you synchronize your sales and marketing to bring the results you expect. Contact us to learn more about how our agribusiness marketing services can benefit your company.