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RHEA+KAIER: CAN URGENCY AND STRATEGY COEXIST IN MARKETING TO FARMERS?
By Diane Martin, Rhea+Kaiser

There is always time for strategy. In fact, the more urgent the issue the greater the need for strategy.

When a new competitor takes a bold stance or the market heaves in response to harvest reports from Brazil, ag marketers tend to get reactionary. Some believe strategy is too slow and methodical and a barrier to nimbleness, responsiveness and action. We believe actions without strategy are tactics gone wild.

Sure, strategic process can be protracted, especially when the process of strategy takes precedence over the purpose of strategy. BUT being strategic should neither complicate nor impede your ability to achieve your goals even when facing new or unexpected challenges - whether due to the economy, the weather, the government or your competition.

What do we mean by strategy?

You can find many academic and convoluted definitions of strategy. In our world, strategy is simply evaluating and selecting informed options to achieve measurable goals based on the available intelligence and resources.

Yes, robust market research and testing to inform and validate strategy are best practices, but most ag brands must work in less than ideal conditions. You can expedite strategy and action - even in the most urgent circumstances - by clearly defining the problem, assessing the situation along with farmer state-of-mind and defining criteria for success.

Without a strategic foundation in your marketing, you're at best committing random acts of marketing and most likely are in a constant state of crisis as you react rather than plan and anticipate. A smart, strategic foundation enables a soybean insecticide to be in-market when Chinese aphids attack, while supporting broader brand and business objectives.

Reacting without strategy could have unwanted consequences.
In marketing, we have adapted Newton's Third Law of Physics: For every action, there is a reaction (but maybe not equal and opposite).

When you have gut reactions to market dynamics and shoot from the hip, you may not get the desired reaction... especially in the long-run. For example, mid-season discounts may slow uptake of a generic BRD treatment, but you may be preconditioning ranchers to expect deeper discounts when the next generic enters the market.

If you have a high tolerance to risk and enough brand equity and big budgets, then a little wild, wild west may work for your situation. It would probably be more prudent and less expensive to assemble your team for a couple of hours to run best-case and worst-case scenarios on your new direction.

There is always time to be strategic. Strategy doesn't have to delay urgent, market reactions. It doesn't always require extensive proprietary research, endless meetings or zippy PowerPoint presentations. It does require a concise, accurate assessment of the situation and a clear understanding of the immediate prize, while keeping an eye on the long-term goal.

Marketing built on good strategic underpinnings enables brands to bob-and-weave through the toughest punches the economy, competitors or even Mother Nature can throw. So even when you're trying to respond to a competitor's price cut or widespread crop devastation, strategy can and should be part of in-market response and course correction.


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