Can Inbound Marketing Really Help You Sell Tractors to Farmers?

There is no doubt that the way the general consumer makes purchase decisions has drastically changed.  As well, there has always been a stigma that, when it comes to agriculture, marketing is 10 years behind everyone else.  The reality is that’s an excuse not a fact.  In today’s technological age, digital marketing, and more specifically inbound marketing, is as effective in selling tractors, seeds, and animal genetics as it is when it is selling to the Fortune 500 companies of this world.

How things have changed

Let’s take a look at how a typical producer would approach buying a new tractor.  Considering that the smallest  new tractor   starts at about $15,000 and, with size and add-ons, can go well over $200,000 it not surprising that producers  want to do all their homework before making this significant purchase.  In the past this, meant going to the local dealership and talking to the sales representative about the different available models.  Then if they had a neighbor who had recently purchased that make and model, they would ask them about what they liked about it.  The decision to focus on a certain type of tractor was largely shaped by test drives, advice from friends, commercials and magazines.  Access to certain tractor brands was cost prohibitive because driving from dealer to dealer was time consuming.  Especially when certain makes and models could not be found nearby.

Fast forward 50 years and that has all changed.  Instead of going to the local dealership, they are jumping online where they find all of the information is at their fingertips.  They also can access full reviews of all tractors as well as join forums and ask other producers from around the world what their experience has been, both positive and negative.  They can even go online and find a Tractor Buying Guide from companies like John Deere.  When they’re ready, they can even shop around for    their financing options to find the lowest rates.  These will probably not come from the local bank as it did in the past, but from wherever they find the lowest rate available in the state or even the country.

This process is a great example of the way control has shifted from the salesperson to the consumer.  No longer is the salesman the knowledge expert. Today they are more of a customer service agent than a salesman.  It’s is estimated that buyers do not reach out to the salespeople until they are about 70% through the buying process.  This means that tractor dealerships are no longer involved in creating the buying criteria, but rather find themselves trying to compete on price with dealerships from a much larger area.

John Deere the original inbound marketer

In 1895, agriculture equipment giant John Deere began publication of a magazine called “The Furrow” and sent it out to farmers to share information about farming and the latest practices they should be implementing.  When the farmers read this information and decided they needed new equipment, the first place they would consider was naturally John Deere.  This is inbound marketing.  It builds relationships between your brand and customers by attracting them with valuable content in the same way that “The Furrow,” did.  “The Furrow” is still in publication today.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Most dealers allocate a high percentage of their overall marketing budget toward outbound marketing.  That was effective at one time, but not anymore.  Newspapers are being replaced by online news.  Radio is replaced with iPods.  Billboards are being replaced with online banner ads.  And direct mail is being thrown in the garbage.

Instead of spending all this money on outbound methods, tractor dealerships and companies need to start focusing on inbound marketing tactics such as the following:

Google Ads

With the power of Google AdWords you can target producers from a very specific region (say 100km from your dealership), who search online for very specific keywords such as a tractor make or model, or the name of a competitor.  All of these are strong indicators that your prospect is in a buying mode.

Targeted Facebook Promotions and Campaigns

Facebook not only has the power for you to gain likes and followers, it also has a very robust ad platform.  You can run ads targeted at producers from a very specific region who have keyed in specific interests.

Start a blog

A blog establishes a presence.  It’s like having a neon “Open” sign.  The challenge is getting people to come in and feel comfortable.  This is accomplished by responding to comments and continually having new posts.  It’s important to blog about the issues that your prospects are facing during their buying process.  This will not only help educate them but will also develop brand affinity.

The Bottom Line

There is no question that the way producers buy has drastically changed.  They are no longer only speaking to those individuals that are located within a few miles.  They are now talking with fellow producers from around the world.  The power of the Internet has drastically changed how they buy.  The problem is that many agribusinesses have not changed their marketing tactics.  I often hear about how agriculture is 10 years behind the other industries.  I would argue that is not the case at all.  Producers are just as involved in the digital age as any other profession is.  The problem is agribusinesses and the Ag marketers that work with them are the ones who are 10 years behind.