PINPOINTING TODAY'S CUSTOMER
The unprecedented addition of nearly 15 million corn acres has dramatically altered the demographics of many agricultural producers.
Producers who have never grown an acre of corn in their lives are now in the marketplace. Traditional 50-50 corn/soybean rotation producers are moving to corn-on-corn. And, there has been a cutback in other crops.
So, agri-marketers wanting to get their message in front of today's producer have a challenge on their hands if the data they are using is pre-2007. They may completely miss a new corn grower, be sending messages to producers who no longer grow a particular crop, or find their database doesn't include large acreage growers who added acres.
Farm Journal Media, Philadelphia, PA, started to notice something big was afoot when it began picking up a lot of crop switching comments that were being posted on its www.AgWeb.com Web site following the 2006 harvest. "Then, when we began collecting 2007 acreage data, we really started to see the shifting of crop acres that was happening," reports Executive VP Steve Custer, publisher of Farm Journal and Top Producer magazines, who also oversees the company's database division and circulation efforts.
"In early March, we decided to speed up our data collection," Custer says, "we expanded our data collection staff to meet the goal of making over 400,000 grower calls by the end of August."
Cotton growers, in particular, made a big move to corn, according to Allen Moczygemba, Sr. VP/Publishing and GM of the organization's Database Strategies unit. "They are shifting more than double the acreage to corn as are soybean growers. Since cotton growers are larger than other crop producers, their average switch to corn was larger as well, averaging 411 acres
per producer. "Moczygemba adds, so far, they have found more than 4,000 brand new corn growers who account for over one million new corn acres.
In addition, they have found geographic differences of where the additional corn acres are located. Although the traditional corn growing states had the largest total gross acreage increase, in percentage, the shift was greatest in states that normally aren't large corn producers, such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas where acreage more than doubled.
To assist marketers in reaching their intended audience, Farm Journal Media makes available its database for direct marketing purposes and offers highly sophisticated demographic and geographic breakouts in its publications.
Andy Weber, Pres/CEO points out the enormous business opportunity the historic shift presents. "Perhaps at no other time in agriculture's history has there been a change creating such opportunity for agri-marketers to capture market share," he says. "But if they are relying on data collected prior to 2007, they won't be targeting the full potential this year presents. It's that simple." Weber adds that Farm Journal includes the currency of its data by crop and size of producer in its Publisher's Statements and is the only publication to do so.
Other departments within the company are making full use of the data as well. VP/Editorial Charlene Finck says, "We are monitoring the data closely to help chart out the topics we are covering editorially. In addition, we will be expanding the 'Corn Navigator' series that has been running in Farm Journal and Top Producer since 2005 into a multi-media series that encompasses U.S. Farm Report, AgWeb.Com and live events."
Finck says, "The Corn Navigator series helps readers adopt the 'systems approach' to maximize yields advocated by Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal's field agronomist. Having our own test plots enables us to provide our readers hands-on advice in dealing with the agronomic issues they face."
Farm Journal's TV shows also utilize the data, reports VP/GM of Farm Journal Electronic Media, Brian Conrady. "We use it to identify the stories we need to be covering and ag producers who can be sources for our shows."
Its Pro Farmer market advisory service utilizes the data as it is received to analyze trends and assist in its market forecasts. "Last January, we conducted our annual poll of the newsletter's readers to determine their crop selection," says Chip Flory, Pro Farmer Editor and Publisher. "When we received the updated data from a broader market segment, it confirmed what we were hearing and thinking."
"We've anticipated a major trend to corn for several years in response to growing demand from ethanol and the need for protein in developing countries," says Flory, "This will be the largest U.S. corn crop since 1944 and it won't stop here. We're estimating we'll need another eight to ten million acres by 2011 to meet demand."