Changing The Conversation

I recently participated in a webinar where the topic was “becoming a customer conversation centric company.” Customer conversations are a major focus for companies in diverse sectors, including finance, telecommunications, consumer, and business-to-business. This focus has intensified as companies strive to transition from marketing (mostly telling customers something) to developing communities where customers feel part of the company and want to provide input to it. Clearly, a community of customers based on shared mutual interest is stronger than a company whose relationships with customers are mostly transactional.

Your customers talk about you every day. The tone of the conversation is based on the experience your customers have when they encounter the quality of your service. Negative experiences create Detractors who talk poorly about you. They won’t recommend you, and your share of business will decline over time. They eventually defect to another retailer, taking years of potential profit with them. On the other hand, customers with positive experiences become Promoters, who enthusiastically recommend you and feel your success, and these are joined. You win together. These customers are loyal and give you a large share of their business.

I have two questions. Are you part of the conversation your customers are having about you? And if you are, what are you doing about it? Which brings us to the topic of this month’s column about changing the conversation.

I have been describing a process companies are using to listen to their customers, make changes based on this input, and then communicate these successes to encourage prospects to join their community of Promoters. This is the mothership of loyalty and income. AgKnowlogy’s retail clients are intent on joining, and then changing, the conversation with their customers. In this column, I am going to give you a glimpse into how one of these clients is moving past the initial listening phase to making changes that directly impact customer loyalty and share of business.

Learning To Listen

Like many full-service retailers, our client is concerned about growing the company’s seed business. Customer measurements we conducted revealed the client’s major seed competitors were well-established farmer-dealers. Growers in the trading area were very loyal to these farmer-dealers and were highly willing to recommend them to other growers. In other words, our client’s farmer seed competitors had more Promoters among their customer base than his company had. We knew the impact on market share and willingness to recommend was not just related to technology, as both our client and its competitors have access to high quality seed products. We recommended our client needed to change the conversation with the company’s customers and prospects to prime its seed business for growth.

Becoming more aligned with customers typically requires change at both the strategic (what’s our focus), and operational (how do we implement) level. Our client identified the company’s precision agriculture program could be used more effectively to sell seed. This became the strategic thrust of several planning sessions involving us and all levels of management. In the spirit of full disclosure, we have a corporate sponsor on this project of helping retailers become more aligned with their customers. This company participated in the initial two-day planning meeting following our customer measurements and has provided encouragement throughout the subsequent steps.

Employing The Strategy

Once our client identified the strategy of more closely linking its precision agriculture program and seed marketing efforts, a whirlwind of ideas and plans was released as the client evaluated all the elements the company currently has in place or needed to put in place to implement its strategy. Our client realized it didn’t have an easily understood value proposition for precision agriculture and front line staff lacked tools to communicate the seed-driven yield benefits of the company’s precision agriculture program. Changes were made across the organization, including providing more detail on invoices, a new precision agriculture training program, and an analysis of seed plots that showed the company’s DEKALB lines were out-yielding the targeted competitor’s lines by 11 bushels per acre over several years. Additionally, our client has made staff changes to address weaknesses we identified in our customer measurements. Many of the changes made are forward-looking, with their impact only beginning to be felt. Nonetheless, the client is immensely pleased — its corn sales are up almost 130% over this time last year!

One of the things I know to be true about learning and change in business is that if it was easy everyone would do it. I am delighted to see real progress being made by retailers who are using proven techniques to listen to customers, and then re-engage with them in a new conversation designed to improve loyalty and share of business.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementARA 2016 Report and Crop Mix for 2017
December 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting and the projected acreage mix for Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Corp. CEO interview
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Trending Articles
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Latest News
ManagementARA 2016 Report and Crop Mix for 2017
December 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting and the projected acreage mix for Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In …
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Ryan Bartlett
Crop InputsCompass Minerals Appoints Vice President, Innovation An…
December 8, 2016
Ryan Bartlett, Ph.D., has joined Compass Minerals as vice president, innovation and product development. Dr. Bartlett will be responsible for Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2017: New Cropping Systems Set For Debut
December 7, 2016
Herbicide-resistant weed are inching ever-closer to a potentially frightening saturation point here in the U.S. Heading into 2016, USDA planting Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
December 7, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
Fertilizer storage The Andersons
CropLife 1002016 Fertilizer Report: Another Really Rough Year For A…
December 7, 2016
In many ways, the fertilizer category cannot seem to catch a break. During the early part of the 2010s decade, Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Winter wheat
HerbicidesTalinor Herbicide Approved For Wheat And Barley
December 7, 2016
Talinor herbicide from Syngenta has received federal registration from the U.S. EPA, giving wheat and barley growers a new option Read More
Forage Sorghum
UncategorizedMilestone Achievement Continues For Dow AgroSciences, A…
December 7, 2016
New and innovative forage products are on the horizon driven by continued collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longev…
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More