As anyone in the ag industry knows, acquiring new customers isn’t the only important metric for growing a business. This industry thrives on brand loyalty and establishing strong relationships. Even though increasing the number of new clients feels like progress, expanding and strengthening business with current customers is the best way to build long-term success. After making a sale, it can be tempting to move on to the next one quickly, but keep in mind, repeat customers are far more profitable than new ones. In fact, 65% of a company’s business comes from its existing customers. This stat makes it pretty clear that establishing a meaningful connection with customers after closing the deal is crucial to increasing engagement. In fact, it’s just as important as making the initial deal because it increases the bottom-line, strengthens your partnership, and ensures customer loyalty.
But how do you build and maintain that relationship authentically?
Consider Them Partners Not Clients
A huge challenge for any sales team in a company is figuring out how to add the personal touch to a sales conversation. But why not make the whole process personal? Personal selling allows for those face-to-face conversations that ag retailers already excel at. However, just having direct contact isn’t the only factor that makes this approach personal. Instead of trying to make a sale at all costs, ag retailers who are engaged in personal selling shift to a problem-solving attitude, one aimed at helping farmers find solutions to their pain points. Of course, their seed products play a big role in the solution, but it’s a crafted effort to explain to the farmer how they can benefit from using the products. Now, because the entire experience has been so humanized, the farmer is open to a longer narrative.
When it comes to strategic business relationships, we all like to feel we have a team behind us, and farmers are no exception. A challenge for seed dealers is transitioning from “order-taker” to something more hands-on and long term. In order to create more value, strive to become an extension of the farmer’s operation by offering them more than just the product. Try providing them with quality recommendations, ask what their biggest needs are, and offer ways in which your business could help address those needs. Shifting from being just a ‘stop’ on the customer’s farm to being a partner will establish that your team doesn’t just fill supply orders but are trusted advisors.
Provide Value to Their Data
Providing value is not the same as providing friendship. They are likely to have already seen the latest stats on hybrid performance or the newest commodity price postings. And, probably don’t need to be reminded of these numbers again. Instead, take that data, and demonstrate how it can be translated into a successful growing season. Turn that information into actionable and strategic actions that have tangible results that they will find valuable. As an ag retailer, you have the opportunity to create a real impact through using data and emerging technology as a resource to increase success metrics. Helping farmers develop a bottom-line approach to their business with data and then providing guidance and support is a great way to increase engagement.
Keep the Conversation Going
Part of what it means to maintain a high level of engagement with customers is to dialogue with them consistently. To do a great job at this requires a more in-depth conversation about how to add sustainability programs with growers. Crop diversity, soil health, and climactic zones mean that no two growers are alike. Having the knowledge, resources, and access to tools for more meaningful conversations around this will strengthen your value. It’s important to note here that while the ag industry does see the most success with in-person conversations, there are alternative ways to keep the conversation going when being onsite is not an option. It can be done in the form of a personalized check-in email, phone call, or even video chat. Any platform or media can be personalized.
The Bottom Line
Engagement works best when customers feel like they have a genuine relationship with a brand. It can’t happen in a single transaction, but an ongoing conversation. You can’t expect your customers only to tune in when you have a new seed to sell. You need to have a constant presence and help them understand that there is a real value between your businesses. Don’t bombard them with data and no context; tell them a success story. At the end of the day, treat them as a partner, provide real value to the information you’re giving them, and nurture that partnership. Do those three things, and consistent engagement will always feel authentic.