Growth Points: Becoming “grower-centric”

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As the dog days of August yield to the Friday night lights of September, thoughts for many involved in precision agriculture move from the current crop to next year’s. For most retailers, what can be done to improve a grower’s prospects this year are over. Now it’s time for a quality harvest—both crop AND data—and setting the stage for planning.

Updating software, checking cables and calibrating yield monitors are all important activities to undertake as harvesters emerge from dormancy and before the grease gun gives way to the shotgun. If teeing up this data collection is important, so is thinking through the steps toward making quality decisions for next year’s crop.

As you’ve perhaps read in this column before, “Let’s just sell more stuff,” is still the temptation for many in crop production value chain. It’s easier for a retailer to take an order for fertilizer, (or crop protection or seed) than to integrate all of these, and more, into a thoughtful, whole-farm solution.  

Customizing a “site-specific” solution is not based solely on the GPS coordinates that one is “specifically” considering. That specific site must be understood within the coordinates of the grower’s mindset—farming philosophy, family situation and life goals. That’s a move toward “customer-centricity,” or “grower success” to bring it closer to home.

For retailers, it can be an important move. The consulting firm Booz Allen studied product and service companies in North America and Europe and found that businesses that successfully combine value-creating customization with cost-effective delivery outperformed their industry peers two-to-one in revenue growth and generated profit margins five to ten percent above competitors.

“However, to deliver these results, organizations really have to walk the talk,” reads the report. “Only then can companies evolve from pushing product to delivering genuine value to the customer and the company.”

Walking the talk with precision agriculture services means moving to the grower’s side of the table, seeing his operation as he or she sees it and offering solutions tailored to that specific grower’s vision for success. It means integrating all the product decisions into your proposal.

Because your solution is “whole-farm,” chances are that you will need to do some silo-busting of your own. Your own seed, weed and nutrient experts will need to come together to offer your grower the full measure—the full value—tthat your company represents to achieving that success.

If you are a full-service retailer, you must move beyond the traditional mindset of “We sell seed, chemicals and fertilizer.” The minds of all in your company must be more toward “We can help you improve your yield and reduce your input cost per unit raised.”

Where is your company in the transition from product-selling to solutions-provider?  It’s a difficult question for many organizations and people within them.    

At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, I suggest that you “be the change you want to see.” If you are on the front line with customers, you are the portal through which service is experienced. The image they have of you is what they have of your company. 

As harvesters roll, the data is collected and you plan your “planning season,” think about the relationship you are cultivating. And, what it means to put the grower at the center of your business solar system.

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