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VIEW FROM THE TOP
BASF RENEWS ITS COMMITMENT TO AGRICULTURE
Editorís Note: In July 2000, BASF Corp.ís acquisition of American Cyanamid was completed. The newly formed management team quickly initiated plans for blending the two organizations for the benefit of their customers and to ensure a smooth transition into the 2001 growing season. Rick Patton is BASFís marketing manager, customer strategy. He and George Fennell, marketing manager, product strategy, were instrumental in leading the charge to organize sales and marketing in the new management group. American Cyanamid is just one of BASFís recent acquisitions in the agricultural industry. The company also has acquired Sandoz, ExSeed and MicroFlo to strengthen its ability to serve the agricultural market.

AM: How have your marketing efforts been received thus far by customers?

RP: Our customers have been very positive about the "new" BASF. Itís easy to say youíre going to be customer-focused, but our approach to the market ensures itís more than lip service. We have designed a clear program that demonstrates our commitment to agriculture. Customers have told us that our programís clarity has helped them plan for this growing season and that they appreciate the clear-cut expectations weíve outlined.

Our Performance Guard program also has reinforced our message of customer commitment. It defines specific weed-control recommendations. If those recommendations are followed but retreatment becomes justified for labeled weeds, BASF will pay for herbicide costs. This has been especially well-received by farm managers as they look to minimize risk.

AM: What challenges do you face as your company has significantly more products in its portfolio and attempts to create unique marketing strategies to separate itself from the competition?

RP: One benefit of this acquisition is that we have a much broader array of products. Itís also a challenge, as we do have more products that "fit" similar markets. Having this product mix has allowed us to segment our products based on geographic needs. Weíve prioritized the various products and communicated this with our distribution channel. It has helped us all stay focused.

Weíve spent a lot of time with our sales force determining the best way customers can benefit from this expanded product mix. By offering a three-tiered incentive structure that clearly defines differential financial rewards, the channel should recognize the portfolio focus we have created by aligning the products with corresponding service, market, resources and sales force.

AM: How are you marketing products to growers? Does the Internet play a role?

RP: BASF is committed to the traditional dealer network. Our channel partners are a critical factor in our success, and we are strong advocates of the role these people play in the success of agriculture in general. We see the Internet as an excellent marketing tool. We are focused on e-marketing rather than on e-commerce. We have specific Web sites for some products, including www.extremecontrol.com and www.pixplus.basf.com. These sites enable growers to access product-specific information on their own terms.

AM: How are you using your Web site to communicate product/service news and information to customers?

RP: Our corporate Web site, www.agproducts.basf.com, provides product information, press releases, technical manuals, safety data, tradeshow schedules, etc. Growers also can submit questions and get answers from technical representatives within 48 hours or less. We have a new Web site for our Harvest Partners preferred customer program, www.harvestpartners.com. This gives dealers and growers an opportunity to access their account, check their Harvest Points award credits, order premium items and learn how they can earn more points.

AM: Spring planting is fast approaching. Any advice for marketing professionals on rolling out a "new" company in a short amount of time?

RP: The key to successfully rolling out a "new" company in any amount of time is having a clear vision that is supported from the top down and throughout the organization. You canít roll out a new company in a vacuum. BASF had an overall plan, and everyone worked off the same plan. Marketing, sales, logistics, systems - we all shared the same vision and worked together to ensure that BASF was ready for the 2001 growing season. BASF is truly committed to agriculture. Itís demonstrated by the success of this rollout and by our acquisitions of companies like American Cyanamid, Sandoz, ExSeed and MicroFlo. Our shared corporate commitment to agriculture has made this rollout a success. AM


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