The problem with most rural marketing is it skims the surface. The posts, blogs and content I see and read talk in “we” language not “me” language. They serve their own needs rather than those of their customers. They stay superficial, shallow and self-serving rather than deep, specific and relevant. There's no compelling why.
The single best ingredient I can share with you that makes your rural marketing matter most is this:
Having and taking a granular view of your customers is what will set you and your rural marketing apart. I’ve worked in this sector for a while and know the difference that granularity can make in strategy and execution.
It means getting down into the detail of what makes your customers tick and the marketing messages that matter most. It means truly understanding their drivers, triggers, patterns, needs, fears and desires.
The problem is granularity is it’s hard work, which is why so few rural marketing managers I meet do it.
It takes a ton of time, effort and energy. Not to mention budget.
Like all things that are worthwhile in life, there are no quick, easy fixes.
You have to work at it, dig deeper and understand what your customers are thinking and feeling. And to do this right, it takes a commitment of more time and more money.
Here are the top six mistakes rural marketers are making that stop them from achieving granularity and success with their rural marketing:
Mistake #1: Taking Shorts Cuts
“Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.”
There are no short cuts when it comes to understanding your rural customers at a deep level.
Understanding customers at a granular level requires a commitment of time and money, not a once over lightly. You need to know what they are thinking, feeling, saying and doing.
This is the fundamental truth:
The best marketers know their markets better than the market knows itself.
True rural marketers see this as their cause, profession and purpose. They care greatly in taking the time to understand what makes customers tick.
Great marketing creates the same conversation customers are having with themselves. But says it better.
When you do this, you will connect and convert more customers because they will feel like it "speaks to them". Funny that.
Not taking short cuts requires discipline, like not finishing your reps at the gym. The big, alluring temptation to "get to market" can dismiss the need and diligence for a deeper dive.
If you take the time to understand your customers at a deeper level you stand a far greater chance of your marketing messages connecting with your customers.
Take the time. It pays.
Mistake #2: "Shot Gun, Not Sniper"
Getting granular in rural marketing is hard and not for the faint-hearted. This is why so few rural companies do it.
Too many opt for the easy option: 'hit n’ hope, spray and pray' advertising campaigns (as I mention in this blog) that waste massive resources and miss the mark by a long way. When this happens and it doesn’t hit the desired target, it depletes company budgets meaning less resources to promote themselves with. And so the sick downward spiral goes.
What puzzles me most is when a rural company has been obviously under-performing in sales and marketing for years yet demands instant, immediate "quick wins".
A professional athlete doesn't suddenly turn around and improve their performance overnight. They have to train and commit to making hard changes to improve their prospects. Changes that involve them practicing new skills, drills and behaviours that they've never ever done before. Blood, sweats and tears even.
Why should it be different for a rural business?
Quick wins don’t always win. Do the distance.
Mistake #3: A Lack Of Immersion
Great rural marketers know their markets. Like great territory managers know their territories. You have to immerse yourself in the minds and lives of your customers to truly understand what's happening in their worlds if you want your rural marketing to matter.
What are their pain points?
What are they worried about?
What are they struggling with most?
What do they fear?
What do they hope for?
What needs are not being met that need to be?
Who are they listening to most and why?
Who do they trust?
Why do they get the majority of their information from?
What questions are they asking themselves?
What do they dream of achieving?
What do they want the most?
What are the obstacles getting in the way of their goals?
Walk with them and talk to them. Walk a mile in their shoes if you can.
Mistake #4: Using Quantitative Over Qualitative
Quantitative research is all well and good but only after qualitative.
The differentiation and deliniation between the two is incredibly important to understand:
Quantitative gives you the "what" whereas qualitative gives you the "why behind the what" (you can read more about why qualitative kicks quantitative's arse here).
Quantitative works well for benchmarking and NPS but it doesn’t provide a deeper context to why they said what they said. An online survey (notwithstanding survey fatigue) won’t give you the rich or deep answers you need. It will get you a tick box compliance exercise at best.
To get context and to understand their response at a deeper level you need to be with them, talking to them and preferably observing them.
This is why the marketing giants of P&G, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson spend hundreds of millions of dollars on customer observation. They want to see how their product is consumed, stored, used and replaced. They place an immense value on customer insights to inform new product development so they don't miss the mark.
Mistake #5: Using Your Own Assumptions, Not Customer Truths
All of us think we know what our customers are thinking right?
Wrong. Often our assumptions come at great risks.
As humans we're prone to guessing and making assumptions blinded by our own biases (something I’ve written about here). We're fallible over-estimating our ability (it's called overconfidence bias).
When we do our own research here at Agrarian, some will say “we knew this so you’re not telling us anything we don’t know”.
My answer is simple: if you knew it, why aren’t you doing it?
The knowing-doing gap is alive and well my friends.
In Charles Duhigg’s brilliant book The Power of Habit, he tells the story of Procter & Gamble making a massive assumption about their new product Febreeze. Having spent hundreds of millions on product development and launch they found out that its deodorising smell wasn’t being used to mask smells in the home as they had assumed it would be used for. It was being used to celebrate and sign off the chore of cleaning. It wasn’t until they visited the homes of their customers and watched them using the product did they notice how their product was actually being used.
There is immense value in validation.
Mistake #6: Mistaking A Generalist For A Specialist
If you have major surgery, you don’t chance it with a generalist. You demand the specialist.
You want a professional trained specialist whose core area of expertise and lifetime has been dedicated to growing their knowledge in one specific specialism. They won’t have dibbled and dabbled across many disciplines.
Just because they know a bit about cardiology doesn’t make them a heart surgeon. Or just because a provider has worked on a handful of rural accounts doesn’t make them an expert in rural marketing. Only when it’s their core business and specialism can they claim and prove this authority. Choose carefully.
If you’re a business owner, with your business at stake you don’t want “junior doctor” doing the ward rounds learning on the job. The risk of misdiagnosis is high and in medicine it's called malpractice. You shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of training someone whilst they get up to speed. Better to be business owner to business owner.
More of us need to take our own hippocratic oath: do know harm.
The Devil Is In The Detail
Specificity = Success
Details do matter. Specificity is key.
When you don’t pay attention to the details you can miss something that was said, or rather not said.
In a sales call, sometimes it’s the one word that was said by your prospect that told you exactly what they value most (if you're lucky they will mention it a few times). But you weren’t paying attention because you were thinking about your next question. In a farmer panel someone might mention an event or situation but you didn’t delve into it deeper and probe the why.
Sweat the small stuff and pay attention to what’s being said, and not said.
Granularity is great because when you achieve it, so many others aren't. This is what will set you and your rural marketing apart.
ps: I hope you find this useful and helpful for your next rural marketing campaign. What mistakes have we missed from our list?
My mission is to champion life-long learning among rural business owners using education-based sales and marketing content that teaches them and their teams how to be more productive and profitable.
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