Caitlin Robb, Account Executive, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Seasoned marketers are intimately aware of the four P’s – Product, Place, Price and Promotion. But new managers thrust into marketing roles and executives in small companies without a dedicated Marketing Manager might think the four P’s stand for Perplexed, Panic, Paralysis, and “Please Help!” Good marketing is essential and it’s a science that can take years to properly master. But there are basic steps that new marketers can take to improve their odds for success.

Talk to your customers. Understand why they chose your products or services, what they like about your company, and what they don’t. Ask how they learned about your company and how they compared your offerings against your competitors. Getting to know as much as possible about your current customers will help you devise strategies to reach out to new prospects. This customer intelligence gathering can be a formal process with panel groups, surveys, and customer feedback mechanisms, or it can be as simple as reaching out to a few key customers on the phone and asking for their opinions.

Scope out the competition. Document their products and offerings, especially any promotions or sales programs they offer. Learn what you can about their advertising strategies; sales reps at ag publications and broadcast companies will generally tell you how often and when your competitors advertise, although they likely won’t divulge how much they’re spending. Having a good feel for what your competitors are doing might illuminate some weaknesses that you can exploit as you create your marketing strategies.

Get your website ready. This is the “front door” for anybody who’s interested in your company, so you’ll want to make sure this first impression is a good one. Your site should be easy to navigate and visually appealing, with more photos and graphics and fewer long text blocks. Remove any company jargon, such as corporate acronyms that prospects won’t understand. Key words and phrases – such as topics that your customers will be searching for ­– should be placed prominently on pages. This helps ensure that search engines such as Google will point prospects in your direction.

Create a marketing calendar. Instead of trying to promote your company everywhere and at all times – which few companies can afford to do – focus on a few key events. Start by creating a 12- or 18-month calendar that lists your sales events and promotions, in-use seasons, customer events, and farm shows or industry conferences you attend. Concentrating your efforts and dollars on a “blitz” before, during, and after a few milestones is more effective and considerably easier than spreading your promotional dollars thinly over a full year.

Choose your weapons. Customers today consume more media in more ways than at any time in history; with thousands of media vehicles and strategies available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. First, understand that not all touches are equal. Then improve your chances by focusing on a few effective and relatively inexpensive media. Read through the following and check out this article for a deeper dive on the pros and cons of the different media.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Most Marketing Managers will tell you that if they only had a dollar to spend, this is where they’d start because few if any tactics will drive more traffic to your website. SEO is basically the process of driving your company’s link toward the top of the page when prospects search on the web. Making sure that you use the same terms on your website that customers use when they search will help; improve your odds even more by paying for ads or sponsored links. Search “How to use Google Ads” for a quick and easy primer on how to get started.
  • Pay-per-click Advertising. This is particularly effective for companies with online sales. It’s generally cheaper than print, radio, or television advertising, and you can draw a straight line that connects sales to your advertising efforts.
  • E-mail marketing. Most companies already have a list of customer e-mail addresses; the key is determining what to do with them. The most profitable bet is to send e-mails with coupons, discounts, or during sales events; some studies show that e-mail marketing can generate as much as $40 for every dollar spent.
  • Social Media. It’s not free, despite what many people believe, and it’s not necessarily easy to execute … but social marketing is a terrific way to generate awareness of your company, products, and services, as well as to foster community among your fans. Not sure where to start? Here’s a good article to get you going.
  • Newspaper/magazine ads. We may live in an online world but print ads – especially those in industry-focused regional publications and local newspapers – are still the best way to get your name in front of farmers and agribusiness customers.
  • TV and Radio. As with print, focus your efforts on local and regional outlets. News programs and weather reports are the best times to advertise. Take advantage of respected farm broadcasters to carry your messages whenever possible.

Still not sure where to start? Let’s have a discussion. Rooster can help with a one-time review of your media plan or with ongoing support, as much or as little as you need.