Why it’s the End of Democracy as we Know it

- Rod Osthus

For decades, the democratic system of selling to farmers was fairly successful. That is, sales reps set their own sales goals and decided how and when they were going to achieve them. Many sellers were independent dealers who had the freedom to set their own prices and manage their sales territories the way they wanted. Sometimes they hit their sales goals, sometimes they didn’t.

But that democratic system of selling to farmers, though still in place in most ag companies, is not working. As the cost of doing business continues to go up, achieving sales and profit goals is no longer an option. Companies need their sales reps to take total responsibility for hitting their sales targets every year in order to stay in business. Ag companies need to stop being so democratic and insert a system of accountability if they expect to survive the next 10 years.

A couple of years ago, I was hired by an ag company to conduct a two-day training session for 110 of their sales reps. Only 82 reps showed up for the class. Prior to starting the session, I told the VP of sales that I didn’t realize his salespeople worked on commission and had the power to decide which company events they wanted to attend. He looked at me in disgust and said, “They aren’t commissioned, they’re salaried.” I said, “Then why do they have the option not to attend this training session? “He said, “You just nailed our biggest problem and a big reason why past trainings haven’t been working very well. That’s going to stop.”

Some salespeople can operate within a democracy, but most can’t. The cost of doing business today is too high, and achieving sales goals needs to be a more autocratic process, operating under the mentality that hitting goals is no longer optional, but essential to company survival.

When you are asked to reach goals that you believe are beyond your ability or resources, your only option is to rethink and innovate. The majority of ag sellers don’t achieve their sales goals because they refuse to innovate and, instead, make excuses. Innovating to achieve goals means taking total responsibility for doing what your company asks you to do. And that, my fellow street fighter, is not a democracy — it’s your job.

P.S. I just released my brand-new guide, 5 Steps to a Winning Seed Dealership.
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How Is Preparing Your Income Tax Like Seed Quality Testing?

- Craig Nelson

You are likely reading this article around the middle of April, so many of you may be focused on something that grabs my attention during this time of year, taxes! Yes, it is the inevitable annual process of gathering all of our W-2s, 1099s, receipts and charitable contribution documentation, then working through the unenviable task of defining what our financial contribution to our various governing bodies will be. While pondering the mortgage interest credit, my mind drifted off into thinking about how taxes are somewhat analogous to seed testing quality information.

This might seem like a stretch, but stay with me. There are certain components of a tax return that are always required such as your Social Security identification number, the number of dependents you claim and the amount of income you earned as reported on your W-2. It’s the same with seed labeling laws, which require the seed seller be identified with contact information, the germination percent be listed along with the test date and a physical seed purity and noxious weed analysis be documented, along with a list of any seed treatments that have been applied to the seed.

Both of these processes have components that are required for completion. There are also components to both processes that might not be required but are critically important. When considering completion of tax returns many of us rely on various processes to help mitigate our tax liability. We participate in tax-deferred savings plans, such as a 401K or an IRA to help reduce our tax load. Or, we itemize our deductions to identify the various expenses that we incurred to help reduce our tax liability. We give generously to our churches and charitable organizations not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because we can receive a tax deduction for this good deed. These good tax planning practices are analogous to having a complete set of seed testing results to help us have a clear picture of the quality of our seed lots.

While germination and physical seed purity are vital pieces of information and required to be listed on all seed labels, what about the genetic purity of the seed lot? Is the variety or hybrid correct for what is stated on the label? Do seed producers and retailers know if any unwanted transgenic events have contaminated their seed lot? Have they completed an adventitious presence (AP) test? If the seed should contain a genetic trait, such as insect resistance or herbicide tolerance, have these quality assays been performed and reported?

And what about the seed treatment, has it been applied appropriately within the chemical manufacturer’s specifications so as not to over or under apply the active ingredient? Then, don’t neglect the seed health of your seed lot; have you completed a screening for any pathogens that could affect the quality of your seed lot?

It may seem like a lot of additional testing that is not required, so why make the investment in dollars and time to complete all this non-required testing? Well, just like with your tax return, the goal is to have the most complete representation of the process, be it the seed lots that you are preparing to market to your customers or your personal finance representation to the government. If any of the pieces are missing you could be in for a problem, in the form of customer complaints and potentially lost sales opportunities or in the case of the IRS, the dreaded audit.

So when you are thinking about the testing you need for your seed lot, I urge you to consider how you compiled your tax return and be sure not to forget to complete the seed treatment loading rate analysis. Could that be tax deductible … hmmm?

2 Ways a Playoff Bracket Can Help Guide Your Marketing Strategy

- Kelly Saunderson

Ah spring. Seeding is right around the corner. The harsh winter is (almost) in our rear-view windows. Yet, all I can concentrate on is sheets of ice…and men with beards.  Yep, it’s NHL playoff time.

Why am I talking hockey in a column about content marketing? Well both hockey and content marketing have talented ‘creators,’ plenty of available data or statistics and expert opinions. Yet, the outcome is uncertain. Winning is a calculated gamble. One has to experiment and take risks to find when skill, strategy and a wee bit of luck align.

Using the NHL playoffs as inspiration, consider a playoff bracket as a tool to guide your content marketing strategy.

Here’s two ways to do this.

One involves taking existing content and having your own team ‘bet’ on which content was the most popular. Find content where you have some audience data. Data may be number of: views, visits, print volumes or sign-ups. Select two to four pieces of the same content type – newsletters, sell sheets, social media posts, webpages or videos. Have your internal team bet on which piece had the most traction or audience feedback. Look to the data to announce a winner of that bracket and move to the next bracket. What this approach does is two-fold; it gets your team thinking about content and how it’s used, and it gives you an idea of what content resonates since your team is an indirect target audience.

The second approach to the bracket challenge aims to engage your customers/audience. Set up a bracket where there’s an option between similar topics (Or products. Or anything that is relevant to your business). Have customers vote on their favorite. The ‘winner’ of one bracket moves on to the next round, which could be different topics or just another layer within the same topic. Post the bracket challenge in your retail location or launch an online version. This approach is basically a fun, topical, and unique way to survey your customers. Done right, this approach could give insight into your customers’ needs, wants or ‘pain points.’

Tailor the bracket structure to your business. Obviously, the bracket doesn’t have to be as large as the NHL’s 16-team bracket.

So, who do you have in the final?

Is Your Brand Functional?

- Glenn Friesen

In my last column, I wrote about the need to ensure your brand is connecting with people on an emotional level. If you make a quality product but the competition is besting you, it’s because your brand isn’t attractive to people. You need to find out why, and then fix the disconnect.

There is one reason, and one reason alone, why a brand doesn’t resonate with people: they don’t feel the brand aligns with their values.

Research tells us that a brand truly connects with people when they feel the brand reflects who they are. People choose brands they feel reflect them as a person, some examples being brands that reflect certain identities such as “conservative”, “athletic” and “hip”.

Think about your favourite brand. What do you feel it says about you? Why do you choose it over other brands? Sure, maybe it’s partly due to quality, but there are plenty of high-quality products on the market under different brand names. You’re loyal to that brand in large part because you feel it reflects you in some way.

If your brand isn’t doing that for others, it could be for several reasons:

  • You’re forgetting who your customers are. Your target market may have changed over time. With every new generation comes changing demands and customer preferences. If you’re a company that’s been around a long time, you may not realize that your primary customers are now primarily younger people. Younger people are highly tech-savvy and gravitate toward brands that match this part of their identity. How tech-savvy are you?
  • It’s all in the message. What’s the primary attribute of your brand that you communicate to people? Once you determine what that is, ask yourself this question: are you actually doing what it is you claim to do? If there’s a disconnect between what your brand says it does and what it actually does, that’s something that could be hurting you.
  • Are you engaging? People like to purchase brands from companies they feel challenge them in some regard, or that are interesting to them for various reasons. Yours may have become a bit stale over time. Strategies that worked 10 or 20 or 30 years ago may not work so well today. It may be time to make yourself more relevant.
  • Looks matter. Has the look of your logo or product changed over time? Or have you kept it the same? Your logo and the images and colours associated with it are what people associate with you when they hear your name. You may need to think about making some changes.

Once you decide what to fix about your brand, you need to figure out how to go about fixing them. Stay tuned!

Lean Transformed Oliver’s Processes, Decreased Lead Time

- Joe Pentlicki

The simplest definition of lean manufacturing (lean) is to systematically focus on eliminating waste in every process within an organization whether in manufacturing, sales, marketing, engineering or administration. Each process has a series of steps. Some steps add value, some don’t. Lean’s focus is to improve or eliminate processes that do not add value to the customer or the business.

Oliver began looking at lean philosophies around 2008. We focused on product and informational flows to minimize waste and to make each process more effective. Following this analysis, we changed the layout of manufacturing flows. We consolidated some assembly operations; redefined and implemented a new accounting process; implemented pull production for inventoried items and first-in, first-out flow for make-to-order items.

As a result of these changes, we elevated on-time completion of new machines to 95-100 percent on a consistent basis. We also reduced lead times by 38 percent and inventory by 55 percent.

Team Support Essential for Success

To be successful, lean must be supported by all levels of senior leadership. Team members at all levels had to be educated on what lean entails. We had to be open to both change and failure. Some changes don’t work as expected. We had to leverage those failures to learn and re-evaluate the process to make continued improvement.

A lean environment must be open to talk about problems, focus on root causes and implement changes to eliminate those root causes.

One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome was gaining an understanding of waste as it relates to individual jobs. A team member might have to go and retrieve parts from somewhere. Since they have always done that task, they viewed it as a natural part of their job. In reality, this is a transportation waste. Getting members to fully understand that just because something was always done that way does not mean it adds value from a customer’s perspective.

To be a value-added step, an activity has to change the fit, form or function of the work product. It has to be done right the first time and it has to be something for which the customer is willing to pay. Getting too attached to what we do impedes our understanding of waste in the spirit of its elimination and adding the most value for customers.

Do Your Employees Share the Company’s Vision?

- Jim Schweigert

Growing a business is hard. Hiring the right people, making the right capital decisions and countless other obstacles can stand in the way of an expansion strategy. Chief among them is, “Do all the employees understand and share the company’s vision for growth?”

This is one of the more overlooked elements of growing a business: getting employees comfortable with the change that comes from growth and contributing to the overall goals of the business. Some may wonder how a growing business could have challenges with employee relations. Company growth is good for employees, right? Fact is, even the most successful businesses have employees who wonder, what’s in it for me? It’s an understandable question.

Explaining the Why

Sales growth charts, better margins and major capital improvements are great for the company’s future, but do employees believe it helps their future? Many of metrics a business uses to measure success aren’t shared by employees. They focus on wages, job security, meaningful work and being appreciated. “Explaining the Why” means connecting the company’s vision to what the employees value. Making this connection means giving it more than lip service. It means truly showing employees tangible, personal improvements to their jobs and lives.

It also means showing them how their efforts help create company success. Describing to employees how unique projects have been the key to bigger opportunities encourages them to take on those new projects. When employees are motivated, by purpose, to go beyond standard expectations, the customer and company benefit.

Without this connection, company success can be seen as more of a negative than a positive. Company growth can translate to less time with family, more stress and not being appreciated for their contributions to the business. Connecting the company’s growth with direct benefits for employees like job stability, opportunities for advancement and better pay will help employees support the company’s expansion efforts.

When employees know that company success means personal and professional success for them, the results can be overwhelming.

ABM’s Successful Model for “Sustainable Food” Marketing

- Dan Custis

I have been involved in grain and livestock farming all my life raising corn, soybeans, wheat and hogs. I can tell you from experience that farming and the desire to feed the world never leaves you.

Since leaving the farm I have been involved in sales positions that kept me close to the farm. Most of my product exposure was with legume inoculants and chemical seed treatments. I always knew there was a better way of maximizing the yields of crops by integrating natural products with traditional mainstream farming practices. I got my chance to prove my theory was correct.

In July 2000, we started Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) to introduce natural seed treatment products to mainstream farming in the United States. Since then ABM has developed a world-class line of proprietary natural seed treatments and legume inoculants.

The products ABM manufactures are designed as companion products to chemical seed treatments. Even though our products are approved for organic farming, our main market is the traditional commercial seed market.

The key to success is having “buy in” of key influencers by country, region, and local centers and people of influence. Influencers are foundations, non-government organizations (NGO’s), heads of state, ministers of agriculture, clergy, regional officials and Local officials. Influencers are key to successful completion and execution of this model. Initial marketing program must be targeted to the above centers of influence.

There are a number of keys to success for the small stakeholder farmers. The first is getting the logistics worked out so the farmer receives the critical inputs to successfully get a crop planted. How is the farmer going to receive these inputs?

Secondly, the farmers need high-quality seed (adapted to the growing region), fertilizer, herbicides, seed treatments, inoculants and insecticides to plant 1-2 hectares of farm ground.

The third piece is access to top-notch agronomists to provide advice and expertise on how the crop should be planted and cared for. That training must include:

1) Soils types

2) Annual rainfall in local area

3) How to grow specific crops in local area

4) Beneficial Biologicals

5) Fertilizer requirements

6) Pest control

7) How to monitor crop

The companies and individuals that get the agronomy, seed, pesticide, soil science, precision planting, biological science, logistics and local farmers working in harmony will capture the markets for food sustainability and food security around the world.

Is It Time to Certify Seed Conditioning Equipment Operators?

- Jon Moreland

If you are involved in any aspect of the seed industry, at one point you will find yourself at the heart of things … a seed conditioning facility. The conditioning facility is where the magic really happens (which I suggest can be made less magical and more scientific).

Each year I have the fortune to visit a great number of these conditioning facilities, which run a wide variety of seed species from alfalfa to zucchini and everything in between. Although some are extraordinarily organized, managed and operated, many have room for improvement. Many are consistent in design and components but fail to provide consistent results. What are we missing? Set aside input on engineering or equipment solutions, and focus on something often overlooked: the opportunity to improve efficiency, margins and most of all seed quality through more consistent equipment operator training.

The top-down solution to this issue requires more than a facility-by-facility or manufacturer-by-manufacturer approach. It warrants a certification for professional seed conditioning experts. The industry would benefit greatly.

Certification Benefits

Customers would benefit by receiving the highest quality seed and knowing that a standardized level of conditioning has been provided.

Seed companies would benefit by improved seed quality, increased efficiency of operation, higher potential margins and, heaven forbid, happy customers. Seed companies might also attract talent to the industry by providing a career path and credentials for the operations staff. If you are a seed company committed to improving staff, this could also be marketed to your customers. Let them know you are doing everything possible to provide the best possible product.

For the operations employee, certification credentials would provide a host of benefits including increased skills and knowledge, a commitment to the job and industry, greater self-esteem and recognition among peers. Certification would also provide a career path where professional operators have the ability to improve themselves and their earnings.

Effectively creating a Certified Seed Conditioning Professional credential would take advantage of institutions already in place. I envision a three-cluster approach, combining the industry expertise and know-how of a powerful association, such as ASTA or IPSA; seed-oriented universities such as Iowa State, Purdue and UC, Davis; and private service/equipment providers. This would allow for the creation and offering of a balanced and valuable training curriculum.

The curriculum should include classroom-based and hands-on training. The initial sessions could be held at industry events, such as ASTA’s Corn, Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference in Chicago or at IPSA’s Annual Conference where a large gathering of products and service providers, as well as experts to lead the training, already exist. Eventually the training could culminate in hands-on training at a seed facility or manufacturer’s test facility. Think “open water” certification like the program used to certify SCUBA divers where the final dives are completed somewhere other than the pool at a resort.

We already use certified mechanics to service vehicle fleets, as well as certified diesel technicians to keep tractors and harvest equipment maintained. Maybe it’s time we pull a page from the playbook of other ag-related industries and deploy the idea internally. Who knows, it might even work!

5 Reasons to Treat Seed Real Time

- Jason Kaeb

More than ever before, we are living in a “real-time world.” CEOs and managers expect to be able to see their financial data or inventory numbers in real time, no matter their location. Consumers expect to login to a computer and see what’s in stock on their local grocer’s shelves. Most recently, Amazon opened its first store and it doesn’t have cashiers. There’s no waiting; checkout is done real time as customers grab and go. Shoppers are happy because they don’t have to wait in lines and cashiers can be used in other areas. Amazon says they are going to use them to prepare more fresh food options for shoppers.

Farmers are no different; they don’t want to wait on seed when it’s time to put the planter in the field. They want the ability to change their orders if the Mother Nature throws a curve ball. They also expect to be as efficient as possible, and expect the same of you. Here’s five reasons why you should be treating seed real time:

1. You don’t have to worry about reconciling last minute changes to seed treatment packages, be it the actual treatment or even quantity. It gives you flexibility to change and adapt as your customers need to modify their planting intentions based on the weather, market price or land transfers/acquisitions.

2. You don’t have to worry about over treating or having excess treated seed. For example, a few years ago, we had a really wet spring and in some areas the ground never did dry up enough for farmers to plant. By the time they got to plant in other areas, many farmers opted to forego their seed treatment package, and dealers got stuck with a lot of treated seed. Dealers can return seed that’s not been treated. Once a seed is treated, it has to be planted or properly disposed. For proper handling of treated seed, please reference the Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship {link to https://seed-treatment-guide.com}.

3. You don’t have to worry about the shelf life of inoculants or biologicals. Dealers that pre treat seed often have to run it through a second time to apply inoculants and biologicals. This adds to labor and seed handling costs. It’s also common for these treatments to be added in the planter box or with a spray nozzle, which are not as sophisticated or efficacious. You lose efficiency by not doing it all at once.

4. You don’t have to worry about storage space, which costs money. Space is valuable, and it’s not needed if you’re doing real-time seed treatment. Ideally, you want to handle the seed as few times as possible.

5. You don’t have to worry about your ability to deliver large orders. If you’re pretreating the seed, it’s likely being put back into mini bulks or bulk boxes versus going directly into a seed tender. Plus, the larger the order that you’re able to run, the more accurate the seed treatment application and the easier it is on equipment (less stopping and starting). More and more, customers are looking to increase their efficiency and don’t want to handle boxes and mini bulks.

Is your seed treatment process as efficient as it could be? Do you feel the need to pre treat to stay up with customer demands? Does it take a long time to treat 500 units?

Remember: With the technology available today, it’s possible to treat and deliver seed real time, in turn allowing you to increase your efficiency and accuracy. This also gives both you and your customer more flexibility in the decision-making process.

Do No Harm, Protect Your Seed’s Genetics

- Roger  Rotariu

Seed varieties and hybrids that produce astounding yields have all their genetic yield potential the day they are sown. Growers achieve record-breaking yields by removing the environmental barriers, which would otherwise prevent the seed from achieving its potential. Seed treatments play a primary role in protecting seed from environmental conditions that keep the seed’s genetic yield potential from being realized. Seed treatments don’t increase genetic potential, they protect it.

The key is to know your genetics, know your environment, and find the seed treatment plan that fits best. Apply the same precision farming practices you would in determining which herbicides or insecticides to apply to a field. Assess the seed’s genetic disease and insect resistance profile; today’s genetics are much more inclusive of solutions than they were 10 years ago, even the non-GMO products. Focus on the remaining problems the seed is not genetically equipped to handle.

Then assess the target fields to understand the environment where the seed will be planted; not all seed-related diseases and pests are present in all areas. Know what problems will challenge the plant’s ability to achieve its potential. Finally, determine which products are best suited to counter those problems.

With precision in mind, it’s important to avoid the notion of throwing the “kitchen sink” at potential issues. Be intentional about your choices and find the supplier that will give you the flexibility to meet your local demands, not necessarily the demands of someone in another part of the country. Find the provider that is willing to offer you more than just a convenient bundle; you make the final decisions.

Remember, seed treatments are used to reduce the impact of the seed’s growing environment in allowing the seed’s genetic potential to be realized. Your job is to find a provider that can give you the best solution for protecting the seed from your local conditions.

Does Anyone Really Like Your Brand?

- Glenn Friesen

We all have a favorite brand. Whether it’s a brand of soda pop, a clothing line, a particular brand of shoes, or what have you, virtually all of us are loyal to one brand or another.

Why do we love the brands we do? Our initial answer might be “because that brand tastes better,” or “those clothes looks the nicest,” or “those shoes are more comfortable than the others.”

But are any of those things true? Surely there’s a soda pop out there that tastes just as good, and clothes that look just as nice, and shoes that fit just as well. The answer, of course, is that brand loyalty is as much about psychology as it is about objective factors like quality. Much has been written about the psychology of branding, and it yields some fascinating insights.

Two university researchers — Jennifer Escalas of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and James Bettman of Duke University in North Carolina — found that people purchase certain brands as a way of creating their personal identity. The greatest incidence of this was seen in people who had found a brand that they felt most reflected their own values, such as “conservative”, “athletic” and “hip”.

Companies that understand the psychological factor that goes into branding tend to be the most successful, research shows. When a business understands why their customers purchase their brand, they can create and promote products in ways that ensure those customers keep buying the brand.

This, of course, creates a big challenge for businesses. First, you need to understand your business — both its strengths and its weaknesses. This is especially critical for businesses that produce a whole suite of products. Who’s buying those various products, and why? Are you giving them what they want on both an objective and emotional level?

Yes, it’s great to be known for quality, but even the best-made product won’t sell if your brand isn’t attractive to people on an emotional level. No one has ever said, “I don’t like their brand, but that company makes such a high-quality product that I always buy it regardless.”

If you make a quality product but the competition is besting you, it’s because your brand isn’t attractive to people. You need to find out why, and then fix the disconnect.

I’ll be following this up with a mini-series of four columns dedicated to the topic of brand transformation. Are you doing all you can to ensure your brand is psychologically attractive to people? Stay tuned!

Are All Your Teams Pulling in the Same Direction?

- Vincent Veneziale

The main drivers of business growth are:

· Increase in new customers

· Increase sales to new and existing customers

· Produce more products and even increase the range of products

· Deliver more services to your customers

· Be on top of your finances and accounts

This means that all four business functions (marketing, sales, operations and finance) must work together and be aligned to the same goals. There will be an increase of activity in each of these areas and things will need to be more standardized and repeatable to accommodate this increase.

There is a risk that each business function will independently evolve into separate silos within your organization. This is dangerous because each of these teams will not have the visibility they need across the business to ensure they are all pulling toward a common goal.

Often each of the functions develops its own processes and implements its own systems with a focus only on its own processes rather than on the overall goals and needs of the business.

This can make communication between teams fragmented and frustrating, allowing more things to slip through the gap and increase the time it takes to do the fundamental thing that your business relies on — converting orders into paid bills. This can have a dramatic effect on your business performance.

From a technology point of view, using multiple systems for different functions makes it difficult to ensure information is passed successfully between teams as integration and security become a challenge.

To achieve a robust and scalable business, you need to have all functions aligned in a coherent way with joined up systems and processes. By unifying your business information into a single, centralized platform, you can secure information with everyone working off the same data set. Everyone can see the status and progress of work throughout the business.

Marketing can see which customers have bought what and where there is more opportunity. Sales can see what stage their customer’s orders are in and will know when bills have been paid or when accounts are on stop. Operations will see new orders allowing them to plan production, processing, inventory and shipping appropriately.

From the technology angle, you can reduce operational overhead by reducing the amount of systems you need to maintain, backup and upgrade. Training becomes easier, and there is less information loss or unnecessary duplication of data and effort.

To best ensure that all areas of the business drive toward the same business goal, you need to ensure a single, consistent view of the business as a whole. One source of information. One version of the truth. One common goal.

Investing in software is really an investment in your business’s future success.

The Importance of Fatty Acid Profiling

- Joseph Zalusky

Throughout the oilseed supply chain, a fatty acid composition profile provides critical information for valuing oil seeds and processed oils. Fatty acid profiling, technically described as analysis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), is also used by plant breeders and producers to determine oil composition of oil and oil seeds.

Fatty acid profiling allows sunflower, canola, soybean and rape seed growers, grain handlers, processors and oil producers to understand the oil composition of their products and to verify oil and oilseed quality as products are traded from producer to end user. The analysis is performed by automated, high-throughput gas chromatography (GC), which provides straight-forward, objective results.

Plant breeders can use fatty acid profiling as a screening tool to determine which lines to advance. With a sample as small as a single seed, a FAME test can provide a quantitative analysis of the seed’s oil composition. The plant breeder can use the analysis to check progress and as a selection method for the desired oil profile. A 20-gram sample for analysis is recommended. Because a crop’s oil profile can be influenced by environmental conditions, proper sampling is very important for whole grain profiling. Even in a single production field, multiple samples should be taken to obtain reliable results.

Fatty acid profiling can be used before harvest to determine if growers are producing a quality product that meets contract specifications. Grain elevator operators can make sure the product they are shipping meets the buyer’s specifications. End users can verify they are getting the product they are paying for.

Liquid oil can also be analyzed. A grower, elevator or processor, for example, may use a fatty acid profile to determine the quality of oil seed before processing and of the finished product.

Procedures for calibrating the gas chromatograph to determine fatty acid profiles are defined by the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS). Eurofins BDI tests are performed by experienced AOCS registered chemists who are available to answer customers’ questions about fatty acid profiling. Eurofins BDI’s laboratory procedures are 17025 ISO accredited. Results are identified and reported either as a percent by weight or as a percent by area.

Want to Connect with Growers? Consider Your A.U.D.I.E.N.C.E.

- Kelly Saunderson

At Issues Ink we talk a lot about audience, message and channel. Know who you are talking to, clearly define the message and identify the best possible path forward. Effective and engaging communication starts with taking the time to analyze the target audience.

Identifying ‘growers’ as the audience is just part of the process. Anyone and everyone in the industry will say growers are their audience. Content marketing is about engagement. To foster impactful engagement, you need a deep dive into your target audience persona so that you can assess what content will resonate with them.

Author and speaking coach Lenny Laskowsi created a terrific acronym — A.U.D.I.E.N.C.E. — that serves as a tool to help you with that deeper dive. Consider the following when developing messaging and content:

A – Analysis. Start with a general identification of who your audience is. Are you targeting another business, or creating content with growers in mind?

U – Understanding. What is their knowledge on the subject matter?

D – Demographics. Go beyond simple considerations like geographic region, age, or gender. Draft an audience persona. Consider their business profile, as well as them as individuals.

I – Interest. What is the audience interested in that you could provide? Why would they consume your content?

E – Environment. Are there external topical or environmental issues facing the audience? For example, is the audience facing drought conditions? Or, has a new competitor entered the market? How may this influence your content development?

N – Needs. What are the audience’s needs? What are the ‘pain points’ that you may be able to solve?

C – Customized. What specific needs should be addressed in the content? Keep messaging simple and focus on one need at a time.

E – Expectations. What are your audience’s expectations of you and your content? How can you meet or surpass them, thereby creating a deeper engagement?

Understanding your audience is the crucial first step in content marketing. You need an in-depth appreciation for your audience before you can tailor the message for them, and before you decide what channel is best to reach them. If you’re trying to communicate and connect with everyone, then your content is actually for nobody.

Give Yourself a Round of Applause

- Jason Kaeb

In a fiercely competitive market, we are always looking at strategies to improve product performance, how to get that next sale and a leg up on our competitors. Too often this keeps us in tunnel vision, and we forget to step back and look around to see what’s changed.

During winter travels, I’ve had the chance to do just that, and I want to applaud the industry as a whole for moving the needle as it relates to grower education and seed treatments. It’s clear to me that growers are taking note and paying attention to the many seminars, educational sessions, one-on-one conversations, brochures and other resources offered.

More and more, farmers are taking an interest in seed treatments and seed treatment equipment. They are stopping and asking questions. They are knowledgeable. They are interested and inquisitive. Most are not looking to buy their own seed treating equipment or to bring that function in house. Rather, they’re examining what their dealer uses and if it’s up to par with the rest of the industry.

They’re looking to better understand what separates different seed dealers in their network. They might have a dealer that uses an older, manual seed treater and another dealer that uses a new, fully-automated seed treater. They want to know if this matters as it relates to seed quality, seed protection and ultimately yield … and then there’s that little nugget, cost.

Increased competition in the seed and seed treatment market has challenged companies to better communicate their message, a part of this strategy is grower education. As with many markets, customers have access to what can be an overwhelming amount of information; they can easily become “experts” on their own through internet research, networking and looking at your competitors.

The questions I hear growers asking are:

· What is actually going on my seed? Is it better than a generic option? If so, how?

· What makes your seed handling and treating equipment better than what I can either purchase and use myself, or get down the street from someone else?

· How can I verify that what you say is going on my seed is actually going on my seed?

· How important is seed treatment accuracy when it comes to the efficacy of my seed? Can you prove the accuracy of your system?

How these questions are answered will shape the future of your business, and the industry as a whole. As seed and seed treatment technologies continue to advance, it’s important that seed dealers and retail locations take the opportunity to answer these questions. Lean in. If these questions are ignored, growers will go somewhere else or end up treating the seed on the farm.

Remember: Keep up the good work and don’t shy away from questions. It’s these very questions that make us better at what we do, sell and offer.

New Laws Present New Opportunities

- Christian Burney

Could we be a missing piece of the puzzle? The puzzle being Colorado’s hemp value chain. As I chewed on this question, I started online research and trying to spark conversations within the team here at Oliver, but it wasn’t until a farmer came to us in January and asked if they could use some floor space at one of our manufacturing facilities for testing different equipment.

You see, even though hemp itself is hundreds of years old, as an industry it’s in its infancy. It wasn’t until the 2014 Farm Bill that the growth of industrial hemp was legalized in states that regulated the crop. It’s really like the wild, wild West. You’ve got people trying to deregulate, you’ve got people trying to regulate, you’ve got people trying to grow, you’ve got people trying to process, and you’ve got rogues who are just winging it and hoping for the best. But all of this comes with a lot of risk, because state and federal laws send mixed signals when it comes to financing, crop insurance, USDA’s farm programs and land use, and moving seed and end product across state lines.

When you look at the value chain (breeders/seed producers, growers, processors, and buyers), the last two are great big fat question marks. It’s thought there are a great number of buyers; however, without being able to process the hemp, it’s really hard to gauge true market demand. And that’s why Colorado hemp growers have bales stacked up in their barns or fields — they don’t have a way to process it.

On the seed side of things, there are about 13 groups in Colorado alone working as breeders and seed producers. They, too, are uncertain of what types of equipment already exist for seed processing and how they handle hemp seed.

Enter Oliver Manufacturing. Since that initial conversation in January, we’ve sparked up many more conversations with breeders and seed growers, and members of the Colorado Hemp Co-op to further explore how we might help add to the puzzle.

We’ve been working with a few local hemp producers and using our Westrup machines to test and demonstrate the processing and conditioning capabilities of hemp seed.

Right now, it’s lots of meetings and talking with people to find out what their needs are and explain who we are and what we do. Through these meetings and working with the Colorado Hemp Co-op, we’ve been able to work with hemp seed, get experience with it and find out what works and what doesn’t. So far, we’ve produced fantastic results with our Westrup and Oliver equipment.

Hemp seed is incredibly easy to separate. The healthy seeds are dark brown, and any underdeveloped seeds are light green, so you can visually see if the equipment did its job. We’ve not observed any troubles whatsoever in processing hemp seed.

We will be attending a few expos in the coming months and continue to engage with the people of this blossoming industry face to face.

There’s a great deal of people interested in the market but just aren’t sure what tools they need or what is even available. Part of what we’re doing is just letting them know that tools do exist to separate, process and condition seed. It really is like a puzzle and finding what pieces fit where.

Long-Term Relationships Are Worth More Than One-Time Deals

- Jim Schweigert

Every week, I receive the latest deals from satellite TV providers. They offer incredible “introductory” rates for switching to their service. While these deals are likely effective at customer recruitment, how do current customers feel? Should a new customer be rewarded with a better deal than a current one? Why don’t loyal customers get a deal?

The timing of these questions could not be more relevant for seed companies. More than 80 percent of the U.S. corn and soybean market is going through consolidation. Sales staffs are being merged and brands are being consolidated. Relationships between seed companies and customers are changing more now than in any other single year.

The market is churning and the opportunity to acquire new customers seems ripe for the taking.

However, in the excitement for new customers, it’s imperative that existing customer relationships aren’t ignored.

Your Current Customers are More Important Than New Ones

Farmers are receiving compelling offers every day to switch brands. Those that are likely to make a change will be those with the weakest ties to their current supplier. While you can’t prevent your customers from receiving the offers, you can make sure they see your company’s value over the others. By defending your current customers with as much effort as you put into recruiting new ones, you demonstrate how valuable you are to their farms.

Long-Term Relationships are Worth More Than One-Time Deals

Long-term relationships are the hardest for another company to break. Building these should be a core element of your expansion plans. Further, customers acquired with “one-time” or “new client” deals are the less likely to be loyal. They are more interested in the perks from changing brands than in a long-term relationship. Loyal relationships allow both parties to share information and invest in each other for mutual benefit.

Every current customer is a potential new customer to your competitors. Showing your customers their business is valued and that loyalty has benefits, encourages them to pass up on the latest great deal to switch brands. You’ll know you’re succeeding when every new offer from a competitor ends up in the same place you put your last satellite TV mailer … in the recycle bin.

Who Owns Your Seed This Year?

- Rod Osthus

The secret to success in seed sales is staying in control of the sale. If control is not maintained, the chance of getting the seed you sold planted decreases dramatically. Every year there are seed sellers who struggle to meet sales goals and this year is no exception. Because of their inability to get farmers to buy earlier, competitors are now offering late-season deals to your customers. They’re trying to appropriate the orders you’ve already written. So, how do you protect the orders you’ve worked so hard to get from late-season vultures? There is only one way — establishing seed ownership.

Seed ownership is best described as the time when a seed booking turns into a true sale. It’s when the customer takes full responsibility for the varieties he orders and begins to regard those varieties as non-returnable property. The customer believes the seed no longer belongs to the company supplying it but, instead, belongs to him.

So how do you get customers to take ownership to virtually guarantee the seed they order from you is planted? First, assign every variety you sell to the field in which it will be planted.

Sales reps continue to write orders instead of variety-by-field plans. Until each variety is assigned to a specific field, the grower doesn’t consider that variety an integral part of his production plan. A cropping plan is the prescription you write for the customer to ensure that he raises the best crop possible on that field.

Moreover, companies believe their sales reps can sell seed without a price. They can BOOK seed without a price, but final transfer of ownership to the customer cannot occur sans payment.

A lot of time, effort, and resources are wasted because companies price too late into the selling season. Sales reps are untrained on how to handle the easiest objection there is— price. Pricing is delayed in the hopes that sellers can somehow reconcile the non-ownership issue later. On top of that, companies don’t offer enough incentive for farmers to pay early. Early pay incentives have to be large enough to turn even the most conservative banker’s head.

Seed ownership takes place when a customer makes a psychological shift from ordering to owning. Until he takes ownership of the seed he orders, inevitably only one thing can happen — the seed reverts back to its original owner.

3 Ways Technology Supports Business Growth

- Vincent Veneziale

Investment in software and technology can help to transform a business’s processes and data to really support driving value and growth.

3 key things that software and technology can drive growth through are:

  • Improving efficiency and increasing productivity
  • Strengthening data utilization
  • Better service to your customers

For this you need software that can:

  • Help reduce the time wasted on mundane administrative activity, re-keying data into multiple disparate systems and eliminate manually tracking the flow of work through the business.
  • Bring all the data your business relies on together into a centralized data source so that it can be easily accessed for inquiry and reporting.
  • Plan shipments more effectively, track inventory availability and quality, and price and process invoices and settlements accurately so that your customers always receive high-quality product on time.

Having the right software is not the only thing that delivers these key drivers. Of course the software needs to be focused on the specific requirements of the business, but also it needs to be customer-centric and configurable to the specific needs of each business. All this does not just come “out-of-the-box”. You also need a technology partner that really understands your businesses needs and works closely with you to help realize your goals with the software.

Through our continual engagement with our customers we respond to evolving customer needs and develop new features and products that add value by focusing on the same key drivers that our customers do to help them succeed.

We take the same approach when we are implementing our software to ensure that the software is tailored closely to the customer’s needs and delivers real value. The same level of attention to our customer’s needs continues in our customer service aftercare, ensuring that we remain always engaged with our customers. We see this as a partnership that makes our products and services the foundation of our customer’s success.

If you are investing in software to help you run your seed business, it’s not only about choosing a product that meets some basic need in a single area of your company. You really need to think about how the software will help drive efficiency, productivity and decision making so that it helps improve the whole of your business and exceed expected growth and with that a technology partner that will help make all that happen. Investment in both the right software and technology partner is really an investment in your business’s future success.