In the book, “What is a Superhero?” Stan Lee, the iconic comic book writer who created Spider-Man, says a superhero is “a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t.” Want to be a superhero to your customers? Then, paraphrasing Lee, you must service your customers with courage and confidence and do it better than anyone else.
Superheroes possess superpowers to overcome the most formidable villains. In your case, the villains include dynamic market conditions, uncertain weather and a poor labor market, to name a few. The perfect superpower to overcome these nemeses is flexibility. You can help support your customers as they weather uncertainty when you stay adaptable, resilient and aware.
Help farmers diversify
Most farmers know having all their eggs in one basket isn’t a good idea. Diversity on the farm helps manage risk and uncertainty. Will it be a wet year, or will drought conditions limit production? When will diseases develop this season, if at all? When it comes to the environment and growing conditions, anything is game. Help growers hedge their bets by recommending consistent-performing seed products and spread risk by suggesting hybrids and varieties that vary in maturity and agronomic characteristics.
Some farmers may look at a diversified cropping strategy to benefit their operations from an agronomic and revenue-generation perspective. Help farmers understand how adding a new crop, like sunflowers, canola or hemp, could impact their farm. Build your knowledge beyond the traditional row crops in your area so that you can provide value as your growers expand their operations.
Finally, consider offering services that help farmers prepare for ecosystem-based market opportunities, including carbon markets, to further diversify their operations. In a 2022 study by Farm Journal and Aimpoint Research, 27% and 23% of surveyed farmers said that sustainability programs and carbon market enrollment, respectively, are important services for ag retailers to start providing. Be prepared to flex your service offerings to stay ahead of industry trends.
Keep an entrepreneurial spirit
Most entrepreneurs have a strong drive and passion to solve a problem or provide a better way of completing a task. This entrepreneurial spirit and vision should inspire your organization, even if you’re an established corporate entity. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box to help your customers solve problems. Bring in consultants from outside the industry to offer a fresh perspective on how you manage your ag retail business. Employ ways to survey your farmers to understand where they need more support, and then use that intel to adapt your product and service menu.
Farmers want to see that you’re thinking critically about their businesses and taking action to keep them relevant in a fast-changing industry. Maybe that means offering more farmer-friendly ag input financing terms or overhauling your volume discount program to match the market conditions. Perhaps you should adopt apps for farmers so they can manage farm inputs more efficiently and effectively. Or, maybe you could start a program to help farmers recruit seasonal workers in your area. Be flexible to adapt and have the courage to bring novel ideas forward to support your farmers.
Expand your reach
Another way to showcase flexibility is by expanding your reach beyond your brick-and-mortar locations. An omnichannel sales approach is becoming more important as younger generations, more comfortable with technology, take the reigns on the farm. Expanding your ag retail business’s reach is a win-win for you and your customers. You’ll gain access to new markets and potential customers, and farmers can get the products and services they need at prices that align best with their budgets.
Even if you don’t have an online presence, it’s still possible to expand your reach using the GROWERS Retail Network. When you become a member of the GROWERS Retail Network, you join a group of agriculture retailers and cooperatives that meet GROWERS’ standard of service, reputation, and commitment to serving farmers. You’ll be connected with farmers who use the GROWERS App and can receive requests for bids for products and services they need.
As part of the GROWERS Retail Network, you’ll have more sales opportunities sent directly to your business from farmers. That enables you to grow your revenue by providing a new way to interact with your current customers and win the business of new customers.
Have you ever noticed that your favorite superhero doesn’t waste any time taking action when the stakes are high? That agility isn’t just valuable in comic books. It’s also a necessity on the farm. When you and your customers align on plans and backup strategies, it’s much easier to pivot when market conditions, in-season weather or a tight labor market challenge productivity.
Did your farmer plan to forego fungicides this season, and now tar spot is running rampant in fields? If you’ve briefed your customer about this possibility and developed a backup plan, it’s easy to make in-season adjustments to avoid yield loss. Similarly, your superhero powers will shine when your farmers find that they have the labor to keep up with harvest this season because their crops aren’t all maturing at the same time, thanks to your seed recommendations.
The bottom line is that flexibility gives farmers more control to deal with uncertainty. They’re not tied to the decisions they made seven months ago when conditions looked much different than they do today. Circumstances can change quickly, and being locked into decisions puts farmers in a vulnerable position. Farmers want business partners who are reliable, responsive, flexible and easy to work with. Show them you live up to their expectations by strapping on your cape (or field boots) and letting your superpowers shine.
Subscribe to the Elevate newsletter to get more content like this delivered to your inbox.