Category: Marketing

Kate Miller: I Will Not Thank a Farmer

MARCH 8, 2019 12:39 PM

By AgWeb Guest Editor
AgWeb

Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Kate Miller, and do not necessarily represent the views of RanchersEdge.com

I was dining alone at my favorite local Mexican restaurant. I was covered in mud because it hasn’t stopped raining in Arkansas since October. I was freezing because the heater quit working in the tractor mysteriously, and I misplaced the bungee cord that closes the farm truck door. As I was scrolling through social media, I could identify with the numerous posts from ranchers I saw who begrudgingly were fighting the elements, be it blizzards and record setting temperatures or this never-ending monsoon and mud in the south. There were multiple posts about “thanking a farmer.” After spending months, tied to a tractor and sick calves and worrying about weather, I could identify with wholly that sentiment.

Having finished my beef fajitas, I noticed a sign the owner had placed at the register. It read: “Please accept our sincere thanks for letting us serve you. We greatly appreciate the fact you have chosen to do business with us. And in return, we pledge our continuing efforts to offer you the best service possible”

It struck a nerve.

The owner of this establishment did not demand that I thank him for his efforts to produce this dinner. He thanked me for choosing to do business with him.

In my mind, I scrolled through the Twitter feed I had witnessed. For how long have we as the ag community demanded that our customers thank us? When was the last time we thanked them? Are we operating from a place of entitlement, where we believe that our professions are somehow sacrosanct in the scheme of the economic ecosystem?

But wait, we toil in the hot summer sun and the cold winter snow—every single day. Yes, but so do the oil derrick hands in Odessa, Texas. But we cannot skip a day because living beings rely on us. Yes, doctors face the same challenge. We work 24/7 and never get a day off—no one just gives me a salary! Yes, so do most entrepreneurs. Yes, but we are underpaid! Said everyone the whole world over.

Even within the industry, other segments of our own business do not take to the Twittersphere and demand praise and thanks. When was the last time you saw any one who worked in a plant demand to be thanked for the 12-hour shift on the debone line?

What is abjectly worse is that by our own admissions we feel that we farmers and ranchers are the most important members of the value chain—we criticize packers for their margins. We pay the vet bill, eventually. We mock consumers for their ignorance and again for the demands they make upon us. And then we turn around and have the audacity to ask everyone to thank us?

When was the last time we showed any appreciation to anyone who chose to do business with us? When was the last time we thanked a feeder or a packer or a distributor or a grocer?

By our own standards–if we are going to thank the farmer, we need to thank the pen rider who doctors sick cattle in heat and blizzards, right? We need to thank the veterinarian who amassed six-figure student loans to answer your call at 2 am because you can’t get one pulled. We need to thank the immigrant who feeds his family by spending 6 days a week surrounded by death, cutting the jugular of 1000 head a day. We need to thank the USDA inspector who earned a master’s degree to work in below freezing temperatures, who worries if another government shutdown will impede her salary.

We need to thank the line supervisor who can speak broken Spanish and Swahili and Burmese to make sure the job gets done right. What about thanking those same production line workers who do the same repetitive cut day after day after day? We need to thank the blast freezer fork lift operator who works alone at sub-zero every day of the year. We need to thank the truck driver who misses his son’s first t-ball game on a run to Amarillo. We need to thank the sales manager who takes the cussing from a chef and loses his bonus because of a rotten injection site lesion in a round because a rancher ignored Beef Quality Assurance (BQA). We need to thank the sales rep whose paycheck depends on the yield of brisket from week to week.  We need to thank every single person who touches our product once it leaves our farms. We need to thank them for the work they do that makes our livelihood possible.

But mostly, we need to thank our customers. We need to thank the people who buy our product, who put their faith in the chain and decide to buy beef to serve their families. We need to thank a chef for serving beef in their restaurants. Instead of asking them to thank us for arguably doing our job, we need to thank them for giving the product we raise value. Without the customer putting beef in their shopping cart or without someone choosing as steak on a restaurant menu, we would cease to exist.

But the reality is as well without the pen rider, the vet, the packer, the line worker, the truck driver, the salesman, the marketer, the grocer—we would cease to exist as well. Cattlemen are a link in the chain, and some of us can argue that we are the endangered species in the ecosystem. (But anyone trying to hire an experienced meat cutter or a driver might argue differently.) The best way to preserve our way of life, the best way to ensure that cattle remain in our pastures is to make sure that beef remains on tables of consumers.

Everything else is noise. Everything else is shouting into the void. We can disagree on Checkoffs. We can disagree on Country of Origin Labeling. We can disagree on BQA. But at the end of the day—without the consumer—none of that matters.

I urge those of you who use social media to interface with the world at large to stop demanding that consumers heap thanks upon you. Instead take a moment to listen to their questions, to answer them without condescension or reproach, and then thank them for the opportunity to tell your story. Then thank them for their patronage, ask them how you can help them have a better beef experience and be a representative of your commodity. Check your entitlement. Start a dialogue. You never know, you might find that by extending grace to the community that supports you—you’ll find the appreciation that you seek.

Bio: Kate Miller is the managing partner for IMB Cattle Company, a third-generation ranch in Southern Arkansas which just celebrated its 51st anniversary. With over ten years in protein marketing including domestic and export sales, Kate continues to try and bridge the ever-widening gap between production agriculturalist, the food production industry and consumers.

RMC’S TEN FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF SUSTAINABLE RANCHING

  1. TRANSFORMING your businessBEGINS WITHTRANSFORMING yourself

    Transforming your ranch into an effective business involves changes in land management, animal husbandry, money management and in the way you interact with the people in your business. But the biggest change isn’t to the land or the animals. The biggest change is in you.

  2. IT ISN’T SUSTAINABLEif it isn’t  PROFITABLE

    Profit is to business as breathing is to life. A ranch that doesn’t produce an economic profit isn’t a business. It’s a hobby … an expensive hobby.

  3. FOCUS ON effectivenessNOT EFFICIENCY

    Efficiency and effectiveness are not the same thing. It doesn’t do any good to do things right if you are doing the wrong things! If something is efficient, but not effective, stop it immediately!

  4. GET IN SYNCHwith nature

    Most ranch businesses are structured to fight nature. That’s expensive and exhausting. Businesses that match enterprises and production schedules to nature’s cycles are more profitable, less work and more fun!

  5. YOU DON’T GET harmonyWHEN EVERYONE SINGS THE SAME NOTE

    In any business, especially family businesses, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Our decisions are improved when we bring different perspectives and ideas to the table and engage in constructive debate, as long as we agree that, at the end of the day, we all ride for the brand.

  6. WORK LESSand  make more

    Unsustainable effort is unsustainable. Period! Planning is the key to simplifying enterprises, increasing profit and reducing labor.

  7. RANCHINGis a business

    We often act as though we have a choice between ranching as a lifestyle or a business. The lifestyle of ranching improves when the ranch is a successful business first.

  8. WORK ON YOUR BUSINESStwo mornings a week

    It’s not enough to work IN your business, you must work ON your business.

  9. WEALTHY on the balance sheet& BROKE AT THE BANK

    The misallocation of capital is the biggest financial problem in ranching. At the Ranching For Profit School you’ll learn how to capitalize and concessionize assets to increase profit and improve the financial health of your business.

  10. RANCHING FOR PROFITis NOT an oxymoron

    Many ranchers seem to think that profit is dictated by prices and weather…two things beyond our direct control. Ranching for Profit graduates prove every year that the key to profit is management.

The Language You Need to Be Using in Your Marketing

By   /  September 10, 2018  /

You’re Not Selling What You Think You’re Selling…

Most farmers think they sell grass-fed beef, or raw milk, organic chicken or fresh flowers.

But when it comes to marketing, that language won’t help you stand out.

It looks just like your competitor!

What you’re selling is a solution to your customer’s problems.

You’re selling ‘that thing’ your product does for your customers — the reason they buy it.

For Example….

If I Google “Grass-fed beef near me” I find things like this:

“Beef — 100% grass fed and grass finished. Versatile Dexter breed. Call to purchase”

…or, “We raise our cattle on pasture that’s been fortified with minerals that most soil is lacking. The cows are rotated to fresh grass every 24 hours and they are never fed any grain.”

Unless you’re a farmer and you know this lingo, your eyes have glazed over and you’re ready to click on Facebook for something more entertaining.

But you stumble on my farm’s website and read through everything, finally landing on my Products Page where I describe what I sell.

You read, “Ground Beef: Easily the most versatile product we provide — you should always have plenty to spare for those nights you feel totally and completely uninspired and have no intention of getting there. Grill it, loaf it, fry it up with some kale and sweet potatoes for the ultimate Paleo dinner without much effort.”

And then, “Pastured Chicken: The ultimate in buying bulk, one of our chickens will feed your family for two nights with the effort of only one.  Roasted chicken the first night, lettuce wraps, enchiladas, or soup the next.  You’ll have enough time on the “leftovers” day to schedule that pedicure your toes are desperate for.  And the family still eats!”

In this case, I’m NOT selling Ground Beef and Pastured Chicken.

I’m selling the solution my product offers: quick, easy, healthy meals that any busy mom can make.

How do I know what my product does for people?  

I ask them!

When I ask you what you sell, I don’t want to hear that you sell grass-fed beef. I can run down the street to my local grocery store and find grass fed beef, so there’s no reason to drive out of my way to buy from you.

But if you sell a way to get a super healthy dinner on the table fast…or a way to feed their adopted baby formula when they can’t nurse… you are selling so much more than the products you raise.

You are selling a solution your customers are desperate for!

Since this may be a new concept for you, I’ve created an email template for you with the exact questions you can ask your customers to help you discover what your products do for them. Once they respond, you can use their words to market your product to all your other ideal customers.

You can download the email template here. You’ll also find a video I did about how other farmers are using this knowledge and language in their marketing and how they’re attracting new customers because of it. The video is only available for a limited time, so if you’re interested be sure to head on over!

In today’s world, where everyone is looking online for solutions to their struggles and help reaching their goals, you need to make sure your words on your website, your Facebook page, and your Instagram posts, are all connecting with your potential customers in this way.

So, if you’re ready to stand out from every other farmer, grocery store and home delivery meal service, check out the email template and video, and let’s get started.

As always, thanks for being here

UNL Cow-Q-Lator

An Excel worksheet with Examples comparing the cost of TDN and Crude Protein in different feeds considering transportation and handling costs with losses. It also calculates the feed needed and total cost given herd size and days fed.

This is the Goto software that will give you the Best idea on using your available resources to combine them – Making sure your Livestock are getting the right balance in their DIET – while keeping your costs Low.

Click Here for Link to Cow-Q-Latro

The Perfect Business Model

I have a great idea for a business!  Let me give you some of the details and then tell me if you will be willing to invest! My idea is to have a grocery store with about 70% less square footage than all my competitors.  We are going to do no advertising in the community; no newspaper advertising, no radio or TV, no mailers to local households. Our selection will be limited with no nationally known brands like Campbell’s Soup or General Mills, in fact we will only have our personal brand or brands you most likely have never heard of or seen before. Oh! And by the way, we will have only 1/10th the inventory available at a full-size supermarket. Are you ready to line up and hand over your money?

I didn’t think so and neither would I, if I didn’t know “the rest of the story.”

The grocery chain I just described is Trader Joe’s. The chain was created almost by accident or fate! The original Joe was Joe Coulombe, a Stanford University graduate who went to work for Rexall Drug Store, a national chain. In the late 1950s Rexall came up with a novel idea, they would start a “convenience” type store that had small square footage and sold necessities (Yes, we are talking a 7-Eleven style convenience store). Their test market was a chain called Pronto Market and started with half a dozen stores in the Los Angeles area. Joe was over the project and firmly believed it was a great idea.

Unfortunately (but fortunately for Joe!) Rexall gave up on the idea in 1958 and instructed Joe to shut down all the stores.  Instead he raised money and bought all the stores (Rexall was happy to get rid of all the locations).

Joe Coulombe grew Pronto Markets to 17 stores before Dallas-based Southland Corporation (creator of the 7-Eleven brand) expanded to Southern California, Joe knew he could never compete with the marketing muscle and economies of scale of 7-Eleven locations. Legend has it that Joe took a trip to Hawaii and came up with the idea of a new kind of grocery store that was laid back and sold specialty items that were organic, quality and well-priced.  He named his stores “Trader Joe’s.” The first store opened in 1967, about the time of the “surf movement” and a new generation of laid-back Americans (especially in California) came along. His timing could not have been better and over 20 years he opened one store per year, all with Hawaiian tropical themes. Yes, his employees wore Hawaiian shirts!

In 1979 Trader Joe’s was bought out by a German grocery magnate named Theo Albrecht. He persuaded Joe to remain and did not change the successful model. So how well has the “no marketing, no advertising, limited choices, off brand” concept worked?  Well, the average Trader Joe’s is twice as profitable per square foot of store space than the large national chains. To its many loyal customers, it is almost a cult. One customer in Kansas City who traveled to California would fill up a large suitcase on each visit. He even set up a Kansas City Facebook page to try and get a location started in Kansas City. By the way, he was successful!

Trader Joe’s management and ownership refuses to give interviews or release any information to anyone and refuses to do any media interviews. They are now up to over 470 locations in 44 states and growing. Here are a few facts about Trader Joe’s:

  • In February 2008, BusinessWeek reported that the company had the highest sales per square foot of any grocer in the United States.
  • The May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports ranked Trader Joe’s the second-best supermarket chain in the United States (after Wegmans)
  • In June 2009, MSN Money released its third annual Customer Service Hall of Fame survey results. Trader Joe’s ranked second in customer service among all companies, not just grocery stores.

A former employee who had owned an advertising agency sold it and, on a whim, went to work for Trader Joe’s with the intent of writing a book. Mark Gardiner became a “crew member” as employees are called but resigned before he published his book knowing the secretive company would fire him.  His book, “Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s” reveals what Gardiner believes to be the success factors of this remarkable and loved company. (The drum roll please!) Here they are:

  • They only hire friendly people with relationship-oriented personalities (okay, that makes sense but why doesn’t everyone do it?)
  • When you ask for help you are not pointed without emotion to aisle seven, half way down on the right. The crew member, with a smile, walks you to the product, picks it up for you and even gives you details about the product. Before the crew member leaves, he/she offers further assistance.
  • If you don’t like what you bought you can return it at any time, no questions asked for a full “cash” refund.
  • They pay above average wages and offer solid benefits to employees (Yes, that’s right, employees are treated like customers!  Crazy idea!)
  • There are no automatic checkout lines (Yes, you have to talk with friendly people! Going to Trader Joe’s is like going to meet a friend).
  • They encourage interaction with customers.  If you are stocking a shelf you stop what you are doing to assist customers.

Okay, let’s simplify all of this to one thing, “The customer is treated like the most important person in the world while in the store.” I know, too simple, there must be more to it.

Actually…not!

Ken Blanchard, the famous business writer and consultant said it best, “Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.”

In today’s world, happy customers are your best source of new business, are more powerful that any advertising campaign, and will allow you to grow your business with the greatest profit margin. Happy employees make all this happen! When Circuit City decided to cut staff to save money and cut salaries, they were bankrupt in two years. One of the most powerful brands in the world, Sears, followed the same path and they are on their last breath.

The simplest truths always prevail, put your customer first and the rest falls in place. There is no magic formula, only magical people who go the extra mile and truly care about others.  Look for these people and hire them! You won’t be sorry! (by the way, give these magical people the right to make decisions on the spot to help customers) Are you ready to invest? Me too!

Bootstrappers Guide to Business

Innovating our Operation

As ranchers and farmers we rely on our ability to Innovate.
Everyday we face challenges that require us to use our Brain
to come up with a solution.

So as innovators we are also consumers of information and Ideas.
These Ideas can come in the most unlikely sources.
One of these sources is SETH GODIN.

Seth has ideas and innovation that will open your Brain to an
innovative way of looking at the challenges we face.

Check his Bootstrappes GUIDE – It will come in handy when meeting those
Challenges.

 

Market cows and bulls rather than cull

Market, Don’t Cull
  • Updated 

Fall is the time for breeding cattle inventory reconciliation.

Factors such as the availability of feed, labor and desire will be part of the review. The outcomes of this review really set the future for the cow-calf enterprise and the degree of managerial pressure through cattle numbers a producer places on the land resources available.

This is a big deal. Individual animals will be scrutinized critically and selected for next year’s production herd. The decisions will set the future marketable production of the breeding herd but also will help capture maximum value for market cows and bulls. This an important facet of cow-calf operations, especially as inventories are adjusted to bring in younger cows.

BeefTalk: Market cows and bulls rather than cull

The marketing of cows and bulls no longer needed in the herd (often called culling) is similar to the annual sale of calves and yearlings. Once completed, the producer and herd settle in for another production year.

If one reviews cattle history, the term “cull” should be dropped from cattle vocabulary. But first, let’s take a closer look at market cows and bulls. I reviewed the executive summary of a publication titled the “National Beef 2016 Market Cow and Bull Quality Audit” that was published by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The previous (2007) audit encouraged producers who “recognize and optimize cattle value, monitor health, market cattle in a timely and appropriate manner, prevent quality defects and are proactive to ensure beef safety and integrity.” Within the industry, steps were taken to address the 2007 goals.

A review of the 2016 executive summary notes a successful outcome of the targeted goals for commercial beef producers when marketing cows and bulls. The implementation of the 2007 goals deserves a pat on the back because market cows and bulls are a significant part of a commercial cattle producer’s marketable pounds.

How much? Let’s look at the CHAPS (Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software) benchmarks from those producers involved with the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA). The CHAPS benchmark shows that for every 100 cows exposed to the bull, the producer would have 91 calves in the fall.

If the male-to-female ratio was 45 steers and 46 heifers, this producer would have approximately 25,785 pounds of steers (573 pounds per steer) to market and 24,932 pounds of heifers (542 pounds per heifer) available as potential replacements and/or to market at 193 days of age. The 15 replacement heifers (14.9 percent) would account for 8,130 pounds, leaving 16,802 pounds of market heifers.

Approximately 13.2 percent of the cow herd inventory also will be reduced, accounting for 18,057 pounds (1,389 average cow weight for 13 marketed cows). If a bull also is replaced, more than 2,000 pounds of market bull would be available for this assumed NDBCIA herd of 100 cows.

If a producer marketed calves at weaning, approximately 42,587 pounds of calf would be available to sell and 20,057 pounds of market cows and bull would be on the auction block. This is no small piece of change because 32 percent of the production weight is market cows and a bull.

So think positively. Market, not cull, animals.

Back to history: The word “cull” was probably an unfortunate term associated with fall herd reduction. A scan through some computer dictionaries or Webster’s Dictionary shows the definition of the word “cull” as rather offensive. Webster says that if we use the word “cull” as a noun, we are referring to “something rejected, especially as being inferior or worthless.” The word also can be used as an action verb meaning to “select from a group or to identify and remove the culls.”

When producers say they are culling, the statement is still true; however, the days of removing inferior and worthless animals should be historic, not current concepts of the process. More correctly, cattle removed today are market cattle, and the livestock markets actively sort and present excellent market cows and bulls. The culls, that is, those cattle that are so inferior as to be worthless, never should be marketed.

A managerial talking point certainly is created when nonmarketable cattle arrive in the sale pen. In terms of marketing alternatives, producers need to strive for zero tolerance by marketing all cattle in a timely manner. Holding some cattle through the grazing season when they should have been marketed the previous year is poor management with serious consequences.

When cattle arrive home from summer pasture, sort, resort and market bulls and cows without delay. The concept may seem simple, but understanding the roots of the process means changing a very deeply embedded concept that has been long established in the cattle industry. No herd should have any cull cows or bulls. Now go read the 2016 executive summary.

May you find all your ear tags. — Kris Ringwall

(Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701-483-2045.)