As I near my 8th year at Tracta, I’ve found myself questioning why digital marketing technology is not being utilised by the vast majority of agricultural brands. In an industry where customers place such high value on understanding, personalisation and service, it’s perplexing as to why such little consideration and investment is given to adopting integrated digital systems to streamline and enhance the customer journey and sales process.

By ‘digital systems’, I’m not talking about websites, Facebook or TikTok. I’m talking about the adoption of integrated digital CRM and marketing automation systems that hold marketers and agencies accountable to ROI, link advertising channels, track user engagement, create customer profiles and direct qualified leads to dedicated sales teams or retail networks. Most importantly, they unite marketing and sales functions around a centralised customer experience.

From “IT doesn’t allow it” to “Our customers are traditionalists” and “We have no budget for another system”, I’ve heard it all when it comes to digital aversion. Most however, continue to invest significant amounts of budget in awareness advertising, only to then serve up a fragmented and confusing inbound customer journey that encourages customers to become discouraged and drop off. I liken this situation to a hospitality owner rushing to advertise their restaurant only to ignore the furniture, menu, ambience and staff training. In other industries this would be considered crazy, so why is it so prevalent in Oceania agribusiness marketing?

Here’s our take:

  • Lack of understanding – although systems such as Salesforce and HubSpot have been in existence for decades, very few rural marketers are trained in implementing or using them to their full potential. Our belief is that this stems from universities and training institutions failing to keep up with the rate of martech evolution.
  • Siloed business functions – although there is a desire to be ‘customer-centric’, large organisations face ongoing challenges in uniting internal teams and stakeholders around their customers due to conflicting targets and agendas. There needs to be buy-in from the top table to make an implementation effective.
  • Perceived cost and complexities – many agribusiness brands do not have a direct-to-consumer business model, with most transacting through a retail distribution network. It is therefore perceived that these systems would be expensive, difficult to implement and not justifiable from an ROI perspective. Truth is, today’s digital marketing systems can be relatively cost effective. They also actually bring brands with complex environments closer to their customers and increase the amount of referral business they direct to their distributors.
  • Undervalued discipline – ag sector marketing is arguably an undervalued discipline. Where in other sectors – even other B2B verticals – we’ve seen marketing evolve into a strategic discipline which brings the consumer voice into the organisation, in the ag sector this hasn’t happened. So aligning and fuelling the customer experience tends to play second fiddle to product innovation, sales processes and operational efficiency, and the investment simply isn’t ringfenced for CRM infrastructure.
  • Digital ‘tactification’ – there continues to be an on-going obsession with digital ‘tactification’ (yes, we made this word up), where businesses invest significant sums in a single digital tactic or tool (like a website) but fail to think about where the tactic fits within the wider organisational strategy or customer journey. This is an expensive and often ineffective way to go about utilising digital technology within the marketing function.

When implemented correctly, we have seen integrated digital systems maximise marketing spend (and reduce the need for heavy advertising investment), streamline marketing resource workloads and bring agri brands closer to both their retail customers and end customers, which we know is something that they have battled with for decades. We’ve recently been exposed to a small minority of agribusinesses who have made the leap, have implemented well and are winning big in the process. If this is something that your business is battling with, we should definitely talk.

Tracta | Champions of Agribusiness - Rural Specialist

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