Farmers Are Businesspeople, Too

A farmer’s ultimate goal is to maximize his or her profits. For any business advertising new services or technologies to the farming community, that’s a critical point to keep in mind.

Farmers are stewards of the earth. They care for the land and for their livestock. They work to harvest the food that the rest us work to put on our tables. And they’re always looking for new and better ways to grow better food more efficiently.

But at the end of the day, their ultimate goal isn’t providing as much food as possible — it’s generating as much revenue as possible. And while you might think that maximizing yield would be the simplest way to maximize profits, the truth is a bit more complicated. For example, applying a new fertilizer might result in a 3% larger crop, but if it requires an expensive new sprayer to apply it, the costs could outweigh the potential benefits brought by a bigger harvest.

This difference between maximizing yield and maximizing profits might seem like a small one, but it’s incredible important to understand if you’re a business that’s advertising to farmers. If you want to sell somebody a new piece of agtech, your product has to do more than live up to its value proposition — it has to make business sense for the farmer.

Explaining the Cost of Improved Yield

When you’re marketing an agtech product, it’s easy to forget that your audience isn’t as focused as you are on the particular aspect of farming to which your product is dedicated.

Let’s say you’re a soil company: the farmers to whom you’re advertising obviously care deeply about the quality of their soil. But for them, making the soil as fertile as possible isn’t synonymous with profit like it is for you. Farmers don’t just need to know that your product will improve yield, but what the total cost of that improved yield will be, keeping in mind that there are often direct and indirect costs involved

It’s possible that your potential customer will have to take out a loan in order to buy your product — before they make an investment like that, they’re going to want to see a balance sheet of your product’s costs and benefits. How are they going to pay for it? Will they make their investment back in a year? In two years? The answers to these questions are just as important as the promised benefits of your product.

A lot of the farmers I’ve talked to at conferences and events like last May’s Davos on the Delta in Memphis say they’ve got a shed full of abandoned tools and technologies they’ve purchased in the past. Some of them get scrapped because they just didn’t deliver on their promised benefits, but others simply cost too much to put into regular use. Others still can be operated at a reasonable cost, but take up so much time to use effectively that they become altogether impractical. That shed is going to be the first thing on farmers’ minds when you’re advertising your product to them, so it’s in your best interest to carefully explain not just what they can achieve with your product, but how much it will cost to achieve it.

Meeting Farmers Halfway

According to the Climate Corporation’s President and CEO Michael Stern, “Over the course of a growing season, farmers make 40 to 50 key decisions that affect crop performance.”

Each of these decisions can drastically impact the performance of the farm, which means that each of them need to be seriously and thoroughly considered. The barrage of new agtech solutions reaching the market today all intend to help them boost performance, but they also make these choices far more complicated.

That’s why ag businesses advertising these solutions to farmers need to go out of their way to understand and demonstrate how their product impacts the farm’s bottom line. Farmers are under an immense amount of pressure to make these decisions, and those companies that are clear about both the costs and benefits of their product are more likely to earn their trust, and hopefully, their business.

None of this is to argue that yield isn’t critically important, but in an industry where incomes are dropping (subscription may be required) despite record exports of food, it bears remembering that the difference between yield and revenue has never been clearer to farmers. As an ag business hoping to not just make a sale, but improve their customers’ livelihoods, recognizing and speaking to that gap could make all the difference.