Get social with your network
Bennett emphasized that older customers and staff can be as hungry for the technology as anyone. That said, it was a younger staff member who took on the challenge to develop internet capabilities. “Tanner Sheahan is a big gadget guy who really likes this kind of stuff,” said Bennett. “He did the research on options, came up with how we could do it and did the design. It is his baby.
Although CPS is a traditional brick and mortar business, it is actively involved in adopting digital tools appropriate for its customers. He is a good writer, and he makes it look good.” Having a young fieldman also interested in social media and digital tools was a win/win for Dannen and Bennett. It satisfied a business need and gave an employee the added challenge and fulfillment. What they didn’t do was create a new position or change duties. Although the added work took Sheahan’s time and attention, he continued servicing customers, and the rest of the team adjusted the workload around the new tasks.
“We operate as a team, and we all have duties that affect everyone else,” said Bennett. “We all have our own customers, but we operate as if every customer is ours as a team. He does this because he likes it, and everyone else does their share elsewhere.”
Adopting the Appropriate Tools
The first step was to go digital with the branch newsletter. Setting up www.tangentcps.com using Blogger, a Google product, allowed the branch to have a website-like presence with easy access by the entire staff. “It’s a central place to post information and links to articles of interest, update growers on meetings and such, as well as review research and highlight our agronomy division,” explained Sheahan. “I do the management of the site, updating and revamping the information. Most of the staff pitches in to write things. I tend to write a bit more about agricultural technology.”
Sheahan is quick to adopt useful tools. Frequent contributors have direct access through their Google+ account, identifying them when they post a blog entry. Another Google tool called Feedburner automatically sends out e-mails to the viewer list when there is new material posted. Gathering the list was key to success. Staff made every effort, and continue to do so, to gather e-mail addresses at meetings or when talking to growers. Blog visitors can add theirs.
Timing for the social media effort turned out to be ideal. Within months of establishing the blog/website some four years ago, stripe rust was discovered in a previously resistant, select wheat variety. Tangent CPS staff were the first to post pictures and to report on the advance of the disease. Growers and others noticed.