The agriculture sector across the U.S. can be described as anemic at best thanks to the muddled political world that anyone working in Ag is well versed in. China used to be the No. 1 buyer of commercially grown soybeans in the U.S.; however, that has changed during the last couple years with a tariff-riddled trade war occurring between the two countries.
But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for effective marketing. Let’s dive into the current environment before taking a peek at how you can put digital, social media and video marketing to use to promote and feature your grain marketers.
Put simply, President Trump and his administration promised on the 2016 campaign trail to hold China accountable for their trade practices. Just last week the White House identified China as a “currency manipulator,” which has been argued by economic analysts on both sides of the coin. The reality is that China is not a direct currency manipulator, but they don’t play by the same rules because they have the demand pull on their side.
The U.S. had mastered the supply push of soybeans to China from both the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Mexico until the two countries started slapping tariffs on each other. At first, it sounded like just political rhetoric, but to Trump’s credit, he has dug in and continued to escalate tariffs on imports from China to maximize pressure on the communist country.
China has seen their economy slowdown from these tactics among the current administration, but China tends to strategize over the long-term outlook and is most likely waiting to see how the 2020 elections turn out before proceeding one way or the other.
U.S. steel mills were printing money due to the new barrier of entry of Chinese metal until March, when things took a turn for the worse. Exports are what suffer (e.g., soybeans). The only hope for life in the soybean market rests on poor growing conditions or the off chance that China comes back to the table and buys U.S. origin soybeans.
The bad news is the Midwest experienced a wet spring where acreage that usually gets planted with corn was oversaturated, and farmers ended up planting soybeans instead. Not to mention there will be an estimated 1.05 billion (yes, with a “b”) bushel surplus across the United States before soybean harvest starts this year in October.
All of the above supply/demand scenarios make it awfully hard to get bullish soybeans for the next couple years. The good news is the Trump administration has pledged and delivered monetary relief for rural farmers who elected him into office in the first place.
In other words, prices are bad, but the government is cutting a check so life can go on as usual for those making a living off of the land. I’m still not seeing shiny new combines being driven off the lot of the John Deere dealership or land being bought up by producers of every size. Today’s environment feels like 1,000-acre farmers are making it ok, but the 5,000-plus-acre farmers are expanding operations slowly. All signs point to another strong soybean crop again this year with timely summer rains keeping prices depressed.
It appears Agriculture will have to remain in wait-and-see mode and battle with the cards they’ve been dealt as they always have. Large commercial exporters like ADM, BUNGE, CARGILL and LDC are not profitable in the current environment as grain divisions keep weighing down the balance sheets.
The overall outlook is that the industry will continue to constrict despite massive corporate tax cuts being awarded to Ag companies; all that did was allocate money to a rainy-day fund for corporations. Those working in Agriculture will continue to be told to do more for the same amount of money, or find a new career.
The Mississippi River and railroads in the northern plains are ready to get back to business as usual, but the whole value chain appears paralyzed, wearing a lot of temporary Band-Aids. During the next five years, the two major threats to Agriculture will be global warming, creating extreme weather patterns for growing conditions, as well as trade relations with China.
Yes, the market is volatile, and recent quarterly earning reports – among publicly traded companies at least – point to more consolidation in the industry. In other words, we should see more company mergers, organizational centralization and cost cutting among major players in the industry.
Keep in mind there is opportunity in that shift.
Farmers will continue to try and eliminate risk amidst the volatility. Grain companies are becoming more vocal with daily market recaps before and after daily trading sessions to establish credibility and provide advice for producers.
Eventually, farmers will sign up record amounts of production towards specialty marketing programs that establish floors and ceilings on yearly prices. Every grain company calls these marketing programs something different. Bunge called it the Alliance Advantage Program; Consolidated Grain and Barge called it their Equalizer family of products. They all take risk off the table.
And all of these major players have invested significant amounts of money training grain marketing specialists on the right marketing plan for each producer. Market factors, farm size, production risk and cash flow can steer a grain marketing specialist towards a specific type of marketing contract each year instead of simply holding town hall meetings every spring and summer across the Midwest to establish credibility.
In fact, the days of the vice president of your grain company spending two weeks holding town hall meetings discussing S&D’s from Fargo, ND, to Lettsworth, LA, are over. Ok, maybe you still have a handful of in-person potlucks with your top customers, but why not work smarter – not harder – by advertising your top marketing specialists?
In a very disciplined manner, you can coordinate a digital and social media marketing plan that drives farmers towards your company and experts. Setting up monthly spend budgets and targeting the right geographic areas stop costs from getting out of control and put less strain on your employees.
Let’s say you have a grain marketing specialist based out of West Memphis, AR, who covers northern Mississippi to Cape Girardeau, IL. Digital and social media marketing requires less in-person attention, and allows you to cover more ground for the same price as paying for monthly travel and entertainment.
If you still had money in the budget, you could supplement digital marketing and social media campaigns with a direct mail campaign that has the same look and feel, and drives the messaging home through multiple media.
You could also create a professional video of each grain marketing specialist that links to a landing page with a form fill to schedule an appointment to learn more.
Interested in learning more about how to put your marketing budget to the best use? Reach out today; we’d love to chat with you more to understand how we can help you do just that.
Did you know that 96% of employees who are happy with their benefits are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs?
So, how do you ensure employees not only know which benefits their employer is offering, but also understand those benefits to make an informed decision about their health and voluntary benefits selection?
As you gear up for your clients’ – or your own employees’ – fourth quarter open enrollment, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
And then when you think you’ve communicated too much, communicate again! Remember the Rule of Seven: People need to see or hear your message at least seven times before they take action. And this becomes even more important with benefits communications, when education is crucial.
When you’re communicating, change up the way you share your message. Don’t assume everyone will see the table tent on the lunch table or the poster in the hallway. Use email, social media, the intranet, instant messaging, desk drops (yes, the old-fashioned paper kind), direct mailers to the home to engage the spouse, group meetings, manager meetings, one-on-one meetings – and more! The sky’s the limit. Just make sure you change up your media.
Are you talking to a Baby Boomer? A Gen Xer? A Millennial? Or maybe a Gen Zer? Each is going to need different info – and each will react to your messages differently. It’s imperative to vary your messaging within your media to hit each audience.
No, not Ghostbusters! This time, it’s needs to be your company’s benefits expert: Someone in HR, your broker, the president of your company, etc. Determine who can answer employee questions about their benefit package – and do it in a timely manner. Employees need to know they have someone they can turn to with their questions before open enrollment.
Think about how employees would be most inclined to participate in open enrollment. With a dedicated benefits expert on hand to help and answer questions? With their spouse at their side to discuss? Think about how you would want to enroll, and what would make the process seamless and smooth for you. Then consider how you can make it just as easy for employees.
Enrollment isn’t finished when the applications are all submitted. Not by a long stretch. It’s time to follow-up with surveys for all! That includes not only the employees who enrolled, but also the HR and benefits staff, managers, marketers, senior leadership and anyone else who was involved in putting the program and process together.
By putting some extra thought into the planning process and marketing efforts, you can pull off the best open enrollment you’ve had to date!
Want to talk more about how best to communicate, promote, educate and market before, during and after open enrollment? Reach out today – we’d love to chat more.
As always stay tuned until the next time we go Off the Radar.
Recently we shared how social media is quite different than traditional marketing. This marketing effort is intended to build awareness, drive engagement, develop loyal brand ambassadors and serve as a key facet to your integrated marketing plan. And it’s table stakes in today’s socially savvy world.
Millennials and Gen Z account for more than one-third of the workforce, with that figure expected to increase to more than half in the next decade, making the younger generations the most dominant in the workplace. And keep in mind 48 percent of younger generation managers are your decision makers at a director level or higher.* As consumers and business decision-makers continue to get younger and younger, having a solid digital marketing and social media marketing game are the crucial first steps in your marketing foundation. They are what everything else should be built upon.
Think about it like a house. You wouldn’t build a house by simply adding rooms on top of stilts without a solid foundation in place because they would all tumble to the ground in a heap. The same thing is true for marketing: Focusing on marketing tactics without building your website and social media foundation first ends in the same result. And by the way, we can help with both! Just give us a holler.
So, how do you ensure you’re following social media best practices for your business to stay on point with your brand’s personality and the expectations of each social platform? You can start by checking out this social media best practices infographic we put together, or even reach out to us to help with your entire social media strategy, campaign and editorial calendars, execution, community management and analytics reporting.
We often get asked to share social media best practices with our clients as part of our marketing engagement or social media marketing strategy work. So, we thought, why not make those same best practices available to you?!
It all starts with the right approach, which looks like this:
Develop a social strategy that not only supports your overarching marketing strategy, but also your business goals and objectives. Everything should align from top to bottom.
Determine overarching key messages that reflect your brand’s personality and attributes, while ensuring any content you develop reinforces your primary messaging, keeping everything consistent in your marketing efforts.
Craft your editorial calendar by month, showing all platforms, date/day, subject, copy, call-to-action, hashtags and any associated links. This ensures you have the full snapshot of the month across all platforms – again, to ensure marketing consistency.
Post unique content on each platform. Let me say that again: Post unique content on each platform. This is important. Why? Because each platform has its own language and expectations, which we dive into in the infographic. It’s also important to ensure your content varies by channel because chances are the same people will follow you on all your platforms, and they’ll quickly lose interest or unfollow you if your content is the same across the board. It’s okay to post similar topics, but vary your copy.There is one time when it’s acceptable to cross-post the same content: If you have a social media channel and do not have the resources to devote to it, but want it to stay active, you can cross-post to ensure there’s activity on the channel.
Be consistent in your posting schedule. Due to the way the platform algorithms work, consistency is king. After 30 days or so of consistent posting, the algorithms will realize you’re being active, and recognize your content as ‘valid.’ This helps with organic visibility, as well as helps your audience know when to expect new info from you.
Engage with your audience. This is not a post-it-and-forget-it kinda gig. If you want a loyal audience and attract the right kind of followers (those who will engage with your brand), then you must engage with them. It’s called ‘social’ for a reason.Think about your social channels as a cocktail party or networking event. You wouldn’t walk up to someone, and say: “Hi, my name is Bob, and I sell widgets. Wanna buy one?” You’d ease into that. Get to know more about them and their interests. “Hi, my name is Bob. What’s yours?” You engage them back, ask questions, get to know them, understand them, and that will help you eventually present your products/solutions.And keep in mind, the rule of thumb on social is: Post nine non-product- or solution-oriented posts to one that ‘sells.’ And please don’t brand your posts. Organic social is about connecting – not selling/advertising. Save that for your paid social or digital ads. The more authentic and real you can be, the better.Additionally, your audience may have questions or comment on your posts. Answer them, comment back, engage with them, and you’ll start to develop a much more loyal following.
Monitor quarterly analytics/trends. Quarterly is the key in that sentence. Social media is fickle. One month engagement and impressions may be up, the next down. Typically, you’re going to see a fluctuation of 5% either way, which is considered ‘static.’ The objective is to grow the KPIs positively, and keeping an eye on the analytics quarterly allows you to see trends and adjust content accordingly.
So, check out the rest of the best practices to keep in mind by channel in the infographic, and then feel free to reach out with questions, to request a social media audit or even engage us to take social off your plate!
As always stay tuned until the next time we go Off the Radar.
*How millennials and Gen Z are reshaping the future of the workforce, CNBC.
You know what they say, an emoji a day keeps the doctor away. Well, there aren’t any emoji prescriptions just yet, but symbols are enhancing written language and becoming an essential part of modern communication.
Words are important, and emojis are just as powerful. If you aren’t using emojis to communicate with your customers, you’re missing out on a free and useful marketing tool. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to a very… emotional time in my personal life.
I was a freshman in high school. I remember staying up late one night thinking about my boyfriend at the time. This was the early 2000s when texting was new and expensive. I typed out three very short but heavy words on my Nokia 3650, “I love you,” and pressed send.
Seventeen years later I still clearly remember that night. I never got a response, and he broke up with me the next day. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if I had switch out the word “love” for “<3” before pressing send.
Today we not only have heart emojis ❤️, we also have a rainbow of colors – 16 to be exact. So how do we use these symbols to benefit our brands and relationships? Like a lot of symbols, emojis pack a lot of feeling into one character. You can use them to express heavy emotions without seeming too needy, aggressive or boy crazy (in my case). They lighten the mood. You can say things you would never be able to express in written words without looking crazy.
Now that we have established just how important emojis are, let’s dive into some best practices and how to use them to elevate your brand’s communication without getting broken up with – or worse, unsubscribed from.
The short answer: YES! But, emojis are most effective when combined with text. If you can effortlessly replace a word with an emoji for emphasis, your copy will be draw attention, pack an emotional punch and get your message across quickly.
With that being said, you rarely see emojis grouped to create a phrase or an entire sentence. That would be the equivalent of all caps and multiple exclamation points at the end of a written sentence. The sweet spot when it comes to emojis is adding one or two naturally into your copy; don’t go overboard. Less is always more.
Today you rarely see a social media post that doesn’t include an emoji. The old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words still holds true. Images are a critical part of social media. They delight and entertain your audience while grabbing and (hopefully) keeping their attention. Powerful visuals are a must when it comes to social media, and that includes emojis. These tiny pictures make your message look less cluttered and more fun!
And there is more good news: Emojis cross language barriers because they are international! Who doesn’t understand the basic message behind a smiley face? Your brand can take advantage of this and not only attract millennials but customers and followers from all over the world.
Here are a few rules to remember when it comes to social media and emoji use:
Using emojis in email subject lines let you quickly express your message without adding more clutter to your customers’ inboxes.
Many brands are now picking one emoji to include first in every email subject line they send so their customers can quickly identify their emails in the hundreds they receive each day. Certain emojis are becoming a natural extension of many brands. These colorful graphics can help your emails stand out in the sea of unreads.
Here are a few rules to remember when it comes to emails and emoji use:
Start adding a few emojis to your social media and email subject lines. Step up your communication game, and use the free tools that are at the tip of your fingers. Emojis allow you to say the things you never thought you could say before while simultaneously seeming more approachable and fun!
Stealth Creative boasts a social media and digital team that’s wired into the internet.
Drop us a line if you need our help…We <3 U
Social media is quite different than traditional marketing. It’s intent isn’t to drive sales – at least not directly – but instead to build awareness, drive engagement, develop loyal brand ambassadors and serve as a key facet to your integrated marketing plan.
You’re probably thinking: What’s the point then? If it’s not going to have a direct impact on my sales numbers, why bother?
The answer to that is simple: It’s your foundation. It’s expected. NOT having an active social media presence for your business – whether B2C or, perhaps even more important, B2B – is like conducting a conference call with a bag phone. It’s risky at best.
Social media is here to stay. It’s not a fad. It’s not a gimmick. It can drive true marketing and business results. It’s time to understand how your company can take advantage of this amazing marketing tool.
Before we tackle how to develop your social media marketing, we need to first talk about its purpose. It’s not like traditional marketing. Instead, the intent of social media is to drive brand awareness, improve engagement with your brand and support your other traditional marketing efforts.
The idea is to build connections and relationships with your audience in a way traditional marketing doesn’t – and can’t – allow. This is a much more personal marketing avenue. So, take advantage of that.
Use it to showcase your company’s personality – to humanize your brand.
Now that we’ve talked about the purpose of social media, we can turn to strategy. This is one of the primary things we talk about with our clients: The importance of having a well-thought-out social media strategy that:
1) Supports and complements your marketing strategy.
2) Supports and complements your business strategy.
Without a strategy that aligns with both your marketing and business strategies, social media simply becomes a marketing tactic. And that’s a waste of time, effort and resources for everyone – and will not deliver the intended results.
So, what should your strategy include? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
We have our clients walk through both a brand personality and brand attribute exercise to define who they are and who they aren’t, and which attributes best describe their company’s personality, which is key to ensure style and tone are on point for the brand.
This is always a fun – and typically eye-opening – exercise, where the leadership team often finds themselves thinking the exact opposite on certain attributes and personality traits. If your leadership team isn’t in agreement, there’s no point in proceeding with any marketing efforts because there’d be no way to define expectations or meet those expectations given everyone’s starting on different pages.
Once you have your strategy defined – and everyone on your leadership team is in agreement – it’s time to narrow your focus.
Determining your social media marketing campaigns for the year – at a high level – will help define your topics, messaging and goals for that time period. We work with clients whose industry changes quarterly to focus on different topics – and we develop different campaign topics for each. Conversely, we work with some clients whose message stays the same for the entire year.
You’ll need to decide what makes the most sense for your business and industry – based on what you’re wanting to communicate to your potential and current clients and customers, taking into account:
Now that you’ve defined your campaign(s), it’s time to crack open the laptop, pull out that tablet or charge up your phone to start crafting that calendar! The content should reflect the specific campaign for the timeframe, following the key and supporting messages you defined, as well as the calls to action.
We recommend creating content one month at a time; so you can see the full view of how your channels look for the entire month. A few things to keep in mind:
It is okay to post the same topic on multiple platforms – just make sure you change up the caption and the image.
With your content calendar in hand, you can easily use a third-party scheduling app to schedule your posts in advance, and then supplement them as things arrive either posting natively (within the social app itself) or within the third-party app.
Take time each day to review your feed on each platform, and engage with or respond to your audience. This helps drive that connection and engagement, and shows them you care enough to like, share or comment on their posts.
How much engagement is enough? There’s no magic number, but interacting with at least 50 posts a day is a good rule of thumb.
Should you have customers or clients reaching out with questions or concerns, make sure you have a process in place for addressing those. Best practices are to respond publicly to the comment, and ask them to contact you directly (non-publicly). Then, make sure you have an escalation process in place for customer service to be able to address the concern and alleviate it.
Once the question has been answered or the concern addressed and alleviated, often times the person will post a follow-up positive comment to their original comment, demonstrating your responsiveness and willingness to help them – turning a potential negative into a positive.
So you have your social media strategy, campaign(s) and content calendar, and you’re engaging with your community, but all of that is for naught if you’re not keeping an eye on which content is working well and if your key performance indicators (KPIs) are trending in the right direction.
Now it’s time for analytics. Using your specific social media channel apps, you can capture tons of analytics that will help you understand how well you’re doing on engagement rate (the most important KPI), impressions/views and followers.
Speaking of followers, it’s better to have 100 super-engaged followers than 10,000 unengaged and uninterested followers. You need the right followers. It doesn’t do any good to have followers who aren’t engaged or loyal to your brand. The intent is to attract followers who are interested in and value the content you’re sharing, and who will engage with that content (like, share or comment).
One other thing to note regarding followers: Often times, a company’s geographic limitations and/or niche market may mean they have a finite number of people who even would follow them. For example, a company that markets in only two states or one that sells high-end luxury homes will not be marketing – on social media or any other marketing avenue – nationwide. This limits your pool of followers from the get-go – and that’s okay.
So, rather than focusing on how many followers you have, focus on how engaged they are instead.
We recommend developing a quarterly reporting schedule. Social media is fickle. And squishy. And not concrete like traditional marketing tools. This means it’s important to look at trends, not get hung up on the monthly numbers.
By pulling your KPIs quarterly, you’re able to focus on those trends to see if you’re heading in the right direction. A standard fluctuation of 5% up or down is essentially ‘static’ and normal. If you start to see drastic drops (e.g., 20% or more), it’s time to start questioning why.
Look into your specific posts to see which ones are performing well, and reassess your content calendar to develop more of those posts. Research the specific channel to see if there were any algorithm modifications or other changes that may be impacting your results.
Social media is often trial and error to see what your audience responds to, what they like, what posts are going to resonate more with them to increase engagement. Don’t be afraid to experiment. See what works for your company – and your audience.
But always remember to have fun – and to be social! After all, that’s the whole point of this medium: To demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership, educate people about your products and services in a fun, engaging way, and above all, showcase your brand’s personality!
Stealth conducts onsite training sessions and hands-on workshops to help companies and groups better understand social media. Reach out to us today to get more info.
And, if you’d like a team of experts to help you develop your social media strategy and develop/execute your content, help with community management and provide quarterly reporting/analysis, we’re always ready and willing to help! Contact us today to learn more.
If your business has a social media strategy that includes Facebook, you may want to consider scaling way back or even bailing on the platform altogether.
We’ve heard the legend too many times to count. The lone social media marketer, clicking away at their phone keyboard deep into the night. They are essential, but your company – and that lone wolf – deserves more.(more…)
With nearly 4 billion active users on social media, not having a presence is like conducting a conference call with a bag phone.
Whether you’re marketing a super-exciting new product, or providing an essential, everyday service, a strong social media plan should be one of the fixtures of your marketing strategy.
But for all the convenience and connectivity social media offers, it might seem tricky — even daunting — to wrap your head around forging a plan to use it effectively for your business.(more…)
Like it or not, an effective marketing plan is only complete with a well-thought-out social media plan.