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Editor's note: We invited leading ag market research firms to provide an update on their services. Following are comments from those who chose to participate.
When a producer receives a phone call from a researcher, he is asked to make a leap of faith. They're asked to tell a stranger about their views on farming, business and other issues.

"It's a fact that farms are getting larger, and therefore smaller in number," says Dennis Block, CEO of Doane Marketing Research (DoaneMR). "Today, a smaller pool of farmers are receiving more and more research contact."

s there a way through today's 'contact haze'? Block believes the answer starts with old-fashioned trust. When farmers hear the DoaneMR name, their reaction is built on many previous DoaneMR contacts over the years. They've come to associate the DoaneMR name with integrity, courtesy and impeccable data stewardship.

Block notes that DoaneMR's close relationships with well-regarded organizations provide further assurance. "We're working with grower organizations to help them gather important data, such as compliance reporting," says Block. "It's a win-win. We gain improved access to hard-to-reach producers, while DoaneMR provides a necessary and low-cost service to the organization.

"All these steps create trust in the DoaneMR name," says Block. "It takes time to earn genuine trust, and we have spent the past 50 years doing exactly that."

For ten years Beck Ag has helped agricultural marketers drive the adoption of products and services through the use of Word of Mouth marketing strategies that use peer influence selling, advocacy building and education via facilitated experiential dialogue. One of the ancillary benefits to any strategy that includes in-depth dialogue between ag professionals is the unfiltered feedback generated about the products, services, etc., that are being discussed. Typically the user and marketplace feedback that marketers receive is filtered through internal channels. Not so when an ag marketer has the opportunity to listen directly to a customer and prospect engaging in a dialogue about the specific marketplace issue, product or service offering.

It was this characteristic of Beck Ag's programs that stimulated our clients to encourage us to offer programs specifically developed to generate more in-depth marketing research data and marketplace feedback. Understanding the target audience and their perceptions of a product or service is the first step to a successful marketing strategy.

The USAgriculture Brandfile survey annually collects brand use and production data from 120,000 large-scale U.S. producers with more than 150 data points. The 2006 survey edition will include extensive product-use profiles from farmers raising corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, cotton, peanuts and rice. For the second year, soybean rust questions are also included. Select cattle, dairy and hog herd data will also be collected. Many ag marketers include their proprietary brand-use questions, as well.

Currently, Brandfile data are available for 1998-2005. Historical or multi-year analysis offers data modeling opportunities to discern market trends and helps marketers plan future marketing campaigns based upon current and past behavioral analysis.

All available Brandfile survey data, Farm Progress magazine subscriber demographics and additional producer data are accessible in myriad rental formats from the USAgriculture Masterfile. The USAgriculture Masterfile producer database offers marketers insight opportunities to strategically target marketing campaigns, mailings, telemarketing lists, research samples, demographic updates or appends, etc. The USAgriculture Masterfile carries 2 million producers with 200 demographic and brand usage data points.

Marketers can easily track seed and crop protection brandshares with the new 2005 USAgriculture Brandfile Bookshelf CD References. The National edition carries composite brandshare reports by crop and product type and the Midwest version reports product brandshares by state.

Market Directions is a brand performance consulting firm whose goal is to help companies develop their brands and grow their businesses. With a heritage in marketing re-search and communications, Market Directions is strong in discovery, analytical and strategic processes.

Our organization is made up of professionals who know what it takes to build strong brands that grow effective businesses. Lead by a senior staff of brand experts, our clients look to us to help them increase the performance of their brand, and to provide a plan to help them continue to succeed in their businesses.
Qualitative tools explore the customers' habits, mindsets and lifestyles in relation to your brand.

Quantitative tools offer detailed insight into a desired market, customer base, competition and many other aspects that influence your brand. Competitive intelligence tools enable you to better align your strengths with the needs and interests of the desired customer groups to deliver what is important to the customer — better than your competitors.

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