The Power Of A Niche

With multiple retailers in a region vying for grower dollars, what’s a manager to do to capture customers’ attention? One method is to offer something other dealers don’t, including unique products that increase clients’ bottom lines.

Finding such a treasure isn’t easy. The dealers we talked with scour research findings, trade shows and publications, industry meetings, and the Internet. But some unusual products actually come looking for a market, as was the case with AVAIL phosphorus fertilizer enhancer from Specialty Fertilizer Products (SFP). Leonard Long, agronomy manager with Rangeland Coop, located in Logan, KS, first heard about the product six years ago when Dr. Larry Murphy of the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation clued him in on this possible hot newcomer. “I knew it was probably a good product just for the fact that Dr. Murphy has a good reputation,” says Long, but the dealership was not ready to invest in the equipment to impregnate AVAIL on dry fertilizer. Two years later the time was right — and another fertilizer aid called NutriSphere-N, a nitrogen manager stabilizer, was also ready for release from SFP.

“We’re not a real big company and are in competition with several big, local co-ops. I thought that if these work well, they would set us apart from other retailers in the area,” says Long.

Curtis Hora, manager of Mettler Fertilizer in Hurley, SD, says few of his company’s competitors can offer such enhancers “or don’t want to, as it can slow them down in the busy fertilizer season. These products have to be ‘impregnated’ onto the fertilizer, just like a herbicide would be,” he explains.

Long says AVAIL keeps phosphorus from being tied up in the soil so “it’s a lot more available to the plant the first year, and what doesn’t get used up will be available for other plants and crops the next year.” (NutriSphere-N, a water-soluble polymer additive, works under a similar principle, keeping nitrogen nearby for crop needs.)

In fact, the visible results of such phosphorus availability really sold Marc Price, manager of Southern States’ Simpson County Co-op, Franklin, KY, on AVAIL. In a test plot in 2006, he and a grower customer not only saw healthy corn but a vibrant wheat crop planted after it.

Convincing The Customer

While many compounds on the market today make great claims, dealers say they need to find ones that truly work hands-down. “You have to make money at what you do, but you also have to make sure your customers benefit,” says Long. “If we save a grower money or make him money, he’s going to continue to come back doing business with us. We’re offering him something that hopefully will help him continue to grow his business and keep in business.”

In the case of AVAIL, Price sees increases in corn yields of 4 to 12 bushels, while Long regularly sees 10- to 12-bushel gains. Hora has recorded yield increases of up to 15 bushels/acre in corn and 6.4 bushels/acre in winter wheat. In addition, Price says plant health and standability are clearly improved. Plus, reduced fertilizer application rates pay off. It’s not usually recommended that growers reduce the amount of phosphorus they put down, but Long has found by using AVAIL his growers could cut back by as much as 15% without a decline in yields.

AVAIL and NutriSphere-N each cost growers about $4/$6 to $7/$8 per acre for treatments — and customers often buy the two together.

The business impact of these niche products for dealers has been sizeable. “AVAIL has helped bring in people who heard about it and can’t get in from our competitors. It’s helped grow our business and add a lot of extra revenue to the bottom line,” Price says.

Long is equally pleased. Three years ago, 3% to 5% of customers were using SFP products; today, the percentage is up to 25%. “Every year it grows and helps my year-end margins,” he says.

To treat his dry fertilizer, Long says his Ranco blenders needed a pump/metering system that carefully sprayed the AVAIL. He purchased three different systems, at a cost of about $3,500 each. To keep the plant more efficient during crunch times, both Price and Hora pre-treat fertilizer as time permits, returning product to bins.

How do you convince a customer to try unfamiliar products? “You go out and find some growers to put in some test plots,” advises Price. Long would agree: “Do your own test plots with your aggressive growers.”

The Right Data

When proving results to customers for a compound such as AVAIL, Price says don’t just look at the plant above ground. “You’re going to have to dig it up and look at the root system.”

Hora uses yield data to persuade growers to try SFP’s fertilizer enhancers and “show them that we can put more bushels in their bins and more profit in their pockets by improving the efficiencies of the dollars they spend on fertilizer.” He says Mettler Fertilizer has had success with other specialty offerings, including WolfTrax micronutrients, CoRon controlled release foliar nitrogen fertilizer, Elemax ENC precision nutrition products, and Hydra-Hume soil humus products.

A company representative can also be invited to talk about a product at your grower meetings. This approach worked for Mettler in the early spring of 2007, when the dealership made a full-scale launch of AVAIL to its growers. “Response was excellent, and sales have really taken off,” Hora says.

Finally, word of mouth is a powerful advertisement for a niche item. “We’ve got several growers who are telling their neighbors what they’re doing because the health of their crops is so much better with AVAIL and NutriSphere-N. Neighbors are asking, ‘What did you do different than I did?’” says Long.

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More

Trending Articles

Matt Hopkins15 Best New Agriculture Apps Worth Downloading In 2014
December 16, 2013
These latest agriculture apps are sure to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2014 and beyond. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Eric SfiligojEntering Agriculture’s New Phase
October 13, 2014
The market’s giddy ride the past few years might be coming to an end in 2015, warns one industry insider. Read More
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Add To Farm Sustainability
October 10, 2014
Farmers nationwide find cover crops to be a tool that helps groundwater, prevents erosion, builds soil quality and complements existing best management practices. Read More
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
StewardshipEDF Launches Initiative To Reduce Fertilizer Pollution …
October 9, 2014
The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced. Read More
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And …
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More