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

Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Update
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump Tower Pilgrimage
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Trending Articles
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
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
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
Latest News
Eric SfiligojNo Alternative Facts: Dicamba Cropping System Applicato…
January 23, 2017
During President Donald Trump’s inauguration, much fuss was made over the use of the term “alternative facts” vs. some of Read More
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
ManagementDeere-Precision Planting Update and the Ag Secretary Wa…
January 12, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj provide the latest on the court date for John Deere/Precision Planting and the quest Read More
Monsanto sign
Seed/BiotechMonsanto, NRGene Form Agreement For Big Data Genomic An…
January 12, 2017
Monsanto Co. and NRGene have announced that the companies have reached a non-exclusive, multi-year global licensing agreement on NRGene’s genome-analysis Read More