Ag Retailers Need to Commit to Excellence in Wake of FBN Threat

Ag Retailers Need to Commit to Excellence in Wake of FBN Threat

It can be a little bit dangerous when you rely on informal reader surveys and polls to help you formulate an opinion, especially in the era of social media.

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I was reminded of this fact just this week when a work acquaintance and reader of our “stuff” hit me up with a reader poll on Twitter.

Looking at it, I could tell the intent was to formulate a somewhat veiled shot at a competitor through what my friend thought would be favorable results, and to bolster his own marketing efforts. I was interested, so I retweeted it and waited the requisite 24 hours for the results.

The survey was going according to expectations for a while, but at some point the tide started to turn. And while the results were still favorable to my friend, it was not nearly as favorable as expected.

Then, as the poll closed, a tweet emerged from the company who was the target of the poll, seeming to indicate that some sort of ballot stuffing may have occurred.

We’re not immune to it here by any means. Annually, our sister publication CropLife IRON presents a Product of the Year award for retail equipment. And — as hard as it may be to believe — Editor Eric Sfiligoj is annually required to go through and sort out the ballot stuffers from the real votes to get a clearer sense of the audience’s intentions.

So, to nobody’s surprise, surveys bereft of science must be taken with a grain of salt, or you risk looking silly, or worse, incompetent.

As it should be with the Twitter poll I fashioned in preparation for this column, which asked a simple question of our CropLife® magazine readers: “Which statement about Farmers Business Network’s (FBN) plan for input and seed distribution aligns with your view of the threat to your biz?” See the results below.

Now entering my 20th year of covering this market, I can almost set my watch by how this market will react to uncertainty, and it happened again — one-third is dismissive of FBN’s ability to sustain business, one-third believe it will survive, and another one-third don’t
know.

It is interesting to me, though, that a solid 37% indicated not really knowing what to expect — which I might interpret as: “Well, they lasted longer than I thought they would already, and investors keep throwing money at it. Maybe there’s something I don’t see right now?”

My feeling is that FBN might be able to sustain itself by consolidating the broker market in inputs. That said, the company has aspirations much higher than moving product, so who knows where it goes?

As I’ve said in this space before, retailers need to take the threat to input sales profitability seriously. Communicate the benefits you provide in terms of storage and availability of product, as well as your commitment to stand behind performance. Focus on building and delivering value-driven services. And remind them of the asset your business is to the community. We’ll be right there with you, helping to build a responsive and sustainable distribution channel.

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John says:

Waste of time. FBN will lead in markets where companies have become complacent and feel as though they own the farmer. Companies with high touch and long-term staff won’t lose much to FBN, but the revolving doors of Cargill and ADM who made it all about price 30 years ago will now reap what they sown. Customers demand higher levels of service for higher prices. Buying inputs from China isn’t new and those farmers who have gotten only crappy service from their local providers have been buying Chinese chemicals for years. Companies will either learn to make their employees the focal point or continue with management practices of the past where “everyone is replaceable”and dwindle out of business. Sorry Mother Blue but sit in your ivory tower in Chicago all you want keep sticking your head in the sand, it’s what your good at.

Steve says:

So who is “Mother Blue”?

Steady Eddy says:

It is up to the manufactures the Monsanto, Bayer, Dow DuPonts, BASF, Syngenta, Valent, FMC not to sell to these FBN guys or to the broker market. They are the problem. We the retailers are the hands that feed them corporate cubicle employees and have no idea what happens in the real world! All they look at is numbers, returns to the stock holders, and how dam big their bonus check will be!

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