Outstanding in Their Field: Using Field Reps to Shape Better Ag Content
When creating content for the ag industry, immediacy is everything. Unless you have a boots-on-the-ground connection to the very earth itself, you constantly run the risk of your content being outdated or irrelevant before it’s even proofed.
As ag marketers, we’re often at a remove from real-world conditions. When helping a client market a brand, product or service, we can easily find ourselves many links “up the chain,” meaning that we’re crafting messages based on information that has been diluted with time and email forwards. And in ag, information that is old news can be as useless as yesterday’s weather report.
We’ve found that this is why close client relationships are vital, perhaps more in ag than any other industry. We like to partner with clients who trust us with access to their most reliable sources of information, those who aren’t always on the front lines of marketing communications creation. We’re talking about the sales force. The field reps. The technical personnel. Y’know, the people with their hands in the dirt and their ears to the ground.
No matter the topic, we cannot stress how useful it is to be able to dial up a partner who just left a diner 75 miles west of Omaha where he or she was confabbing with growers who quite possibly drove the tractor to breakfast. The sales and technical teams of our ag partners can be our eyes and ears when it comes to really knowing what’s impacting our audience at any given moment. They help us generate better, more informed topics on a timely basis. And, since they’re often out in the field, quotes from these kinds of sources can add expertise and credibility that (in most cases) rings more authentic than some faceless spokesperson.
The people who know the people
It’s perhaps unfair to label a “sales force” as such. They’re not just out there selling. They’re learning. They’re building. Their daily interactions with customers and influencers provide perspective on issues that our target audiences (growers, crop consultants, retailers) face on almost a moment-to-moment basis.
For instance, let’s say a client requests a blog post about white mold in soybeans. This is a broad topic that can be narrowed with just a little bit of knowledge. We can hone it ourselves by answering a few prelim questions with a little bit of research: Where are we in the season? (Will this be a “prevention” piece or a “solution” piece?) Have conditions been conducive for white mold? Basic research can cure a lot of ills. But it can’t tell you what the growers are feeling. For that, you need to talk to those people who know your clients’ interests and audiences, but also have a direct relationship with those audiences. Does Joe from near Omaha have any concerns about white mold? Has it been better or worse than last year? What else is he hearing about it? And how’s that tractor running?
In-house experts out in the field
So when we try to create a piece on the topic, we can run it by the field reps and tech people simply to see if our angle — or the topic itself — will ring true with the “real” people in the field. They can help us shape it even more. Tell us what’s important, what isn’t, where we might need to find more info, where something could change in an instant. They might tell us that our topic is entirely irrelevant; maybe delayed planting due to spring flooding means that growers have other things on their minds at the moment.
Having sources who intimately know the nuances of regional farming can be vital, as well. For instance, as content creators it’s almost impossible for us to know the nuances of the complex growing regions of California. Conditions that affect North Coast grapes might not have anything to do with what Sacramento Valley strawberries face.
These are pieces of information that you can’t get by Googling or reviewing FDA reports. We can only do so much from our research when creating content. We need relationships with the people who talk to the people to really be authentic. And in ag communications, authenticity is almost as important as accuracy.
Drinking from the tap
When creating content for a client, it’s simply easier to be able to hear it from the source. Contacts in sales and R&D can help us explain a very technical subject in a way that is relatable to our target audiences — make it relevant to, say, a grower’s day-to-day operation, speaking to the issues that he is trying to solve in regard to his bottom line. If you want to get someone to read your blog, watch your video or open your newsletter, you need to know how to make it relatable to the end-user.
Many technical and sales experts are also well-respected and well-known among your audience members, so just including them can add credibility that you might not otherwise have as a marketer. These folks can often provide insights, perspectives and valuable advice that keeps readers or viewers coming back for more.
Have direct relationships with the field reps means that you can also leverage their relationships to enhance your content. These people are often trusted members of the community, and that trust can help open the door to connections with client customers —growers, retailers, university experts, etc., that we otherwise couldn’t access. Some of these folks might be reluctant to talk on the record or on behalf of a brand, but with their trusted field rep vouching for your work, they often open up and tell their stories.
We’ve often been in situations where we would not have been able to get on the farm — let alone conduct an interview — without our strong field rep relationship greasing the skids.
They’re door openers. They’re in-house experts who are out in the field. They’re walking testimonials. And they just might know what Joe from Omaha had for breakfast. Client field reps are possibly the most important source you have when creating ag content. Build relationships with them, and you’ll be outstanding in your field.
Want to learn more about building relationships with vital ag sources? Give us a call.