by Bob West
For the last two years, the agency folks at Adfarm have produced a two-day conference called AgCatalyst. You don’t need to be an Adfarm client (or media company!) to attend — the event is open to anyone in ag marketing communications looking to advance their own marketing knowledge and efforts.
Both years’ agenda have largely centered around the two hot topics in marketing: social media and content marketing. The ideas shared are not earth shattering, but they are forward-thinking for most in ag and likely to challenge most of our own clients’ current practices.
I don’t believe any of our clients were included in the roughly 150 attendees at this year’s event, so here are my three biggest takeaways for you:
1. Content marketing has to be part of the marketing plan. If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know I believe in content marketing. Attending this event only solidified those views (and made me kick myself for not doing a better job of it myself).
In B2B markets, customers and prospects have to trust their suppliers. Information helps that happen, especially for potential customers. Your prospects are business professionals searching every day for new ways to boost sales or cut costs. Effective content marketing can help them understand and value the solutions (not products!) that you offer to help.
2. Social media may hold more value than you (or I) thought. I visited clients in California and Minnesota en route to AgCatalyst, and social came up in each of those conversations. As is typical in our markets, the discussion was about how these companies didn’t see the value in social and couldn’t make a case to put marketing resources into it.
I didn’t entirely agree with them, but I understood their point. Then I attended a presentation by Hannah Godfrey of Brandwatch, a social media ‘listening’ platform. Wow! Many of you may understand or even use social media monitoring tools. This was one of the first times I’d ever seen one really demonstrated, and I was shocked at the intelligence that could be gleaned and the amount of dialogue happening about brands without a social media presence.
Brandwatch is a fee-based service, but Hannah recommended companies like SocialMention as a free service companies can use for some basic social media monitoring. I really think anyone responsible for marketing / communications at their company simply has to at least do this much to understand what people are saying about their company or part of the industry.
3. Marketers in our markets have a great chance to differentiate. As one speaker noted, “The old marketing tactics just don’t work the way they used to.” But the old marketing tactics dominate in our markets — print media, catalogs and trade shows, in particular. Consider the fact that only about 20% of our clients bought any digital media in 2014 — that means 80% of the industry is not taking advantage of the fastest-growing digital medium over the past 15 years!
Clients constantly ask us for ‘something new / different / innovative.’ Then they buy print and miss the chance to truly standout and take a different approach to the market that can grab attention.
The folks at Adfarm said they plan on producing AgCatalyst again in 2015, likely in Minneapolis once more. Whether you make plans to attend this event or look for some other way to enhance your marketing efforts going forward, I hope you will challenge yourself and your team.
Bob West is the director of interactive sales at Meister Media, and a two-year veteran of AgCatalyst. He can be reached at 440-602-9129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.